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Jul. 5th, 2010


 I've been having so much fun writing about WoW, I thought this blog deserved to become 'real'. Please head over to http://bindinglight.net.nz to find my new and improved home on the net.

Starcaller



I was never lucky enough to get a shot at Algalon the Observer when we were running Ulduar 25 as progression. The guild I was in at the time experienced quite some drama over Yogg Saron hard-mode attempts to get Val'anyr. Not only were the attempts punctuated by wipes and frustrating, but the priest who was to recieve the mace was the person who made the most mistakes. When ToC was patched in I think that the raid team was relieved to simply move on.
 
Our 10 man ICC group recently decided to go after Starcaller so that one of our players could match the title to her Celestial Steed. This reason being perfectly reasonable to the rest of us, we all made our way to Ulduar for the evening. One of our number already had the key, so we were able to skip most of the instance and head straight in after amusing ourselves with FL and a hardmode XT. Those tantrums still hurt!
 
Algalon is still a complex and challenging fight, even for a raid of ICC 10 geared players. The mechanics have really stood the test of future patches quite well, delivering a fight as complicated as almost any in ICC, with one exception - the DPS requirements are now almost laughably low, and as long as we kept most of the raid alive we knew we'd have the damage to down him before the enrage. The real difficulty was going to be in perfecting our execution.



 

Things we got wrong
 
Healing
 
We attempted to two heal the first attempt, and our Paladin healer disconnected almost immediately. The damage going out to the tanks was so high that the second I moved away from the tank to deal with raid damage, they would die. Adding a third healer gave us some breathing room although it did require one of our strongest DPS changing over to her restoration spec.
 
Portals
 
A few players stumbled into portals accidentally - including myself. I managed to survive the experience by running around madly healing myself, but the DPS who did the same thing on the next attempt wasn't so lucky. Our OT also managed to step into a portal accidentally - and then, on the way out, step into another again. 
 
Things we got right
 
Big Bang
 
Every Big Bang went off without a hitch, with all players apart from the tank phased through a black hole, and with defensive cooldowns or pain suppression on the MT at the appropriate time. 
 
Collapsing Stars
 
We had assigned our highest ranged DPS to focus on killing the stars, and he almost did too well by killing the first couple almost immediately - but once he started being able to more accurately predict how much damage they would take, killing stars became very smooth with all healers aware raid damage was about to occur.
 
Living Constellations
 
We had our Death Knight OT deathgrip the Constellations over black holes to explode them. It was a little hard to tell from my white-knuckled healing tunnel vision, but this seemed to be executed quickly and well.
 

 

It's one of the most stressful fights I've ever been involved in, more stressful than any attempts in ICC have been to date. I can honestly admit I was close to tears by the last attempt from the feeling of helplessness as my healing just didn't seem to have enough effect on the raid. I can't speak for the other healers, but I felt more than ever before that I was fighting tooth and nail for the lives of my friends.  It reminds me strongly of the complexity of the Yogg Saron fight on 25 - while the mechanics are very different, the sheer quantity of them to keep in mind at once and the high penalty for getting it wrong creates a very similar atmosphere.
 
Down him we finally did, although I was so far gone in healer tunnel vision I didn't notice the fight was over until the achievement flashed up and the OT flipped off his headphones and started cheering at me. We all gathered in Dalaran for our long-suffering MT to hand in the quest and save all life on Azeroth ... er, again. It's starting to become a bit of a habit, really. 


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Remote Auction House Beta


 
I've spent the last few days testdriving the WoW remote auction house beta and I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. It includes an update to the iPhone Armory application as well as an updated web interface.
 
One caveat is that because the character has to exist on the Armory, there's no support for level 1 AH mules. For now, I'm using my Death Knight as my auctioneer but in the long term I suspect I'll want to level a dedicated mule to 10.
 
The interface allows you to browse current Auctions on your server, bid and buyout auctions, and create auctions. During the beta there is a limitation of 25 transactions a day that will be raised to 200 with a paid subscription to WoW remote. If you have an authenticator on your account, you will need to have it on hand to use the AH functions of the armory. Interestingly, the iPhone client will allow you to see your auctions and browse the AH and only requires your authenticator to create, bid, buy, or claim your gold. The WoW armory web interface on the other hand requires you to use your authenticator to access any part of the AH.
 
Summary


(Click for larger image)
 
The summary screen provides access to the other AH functions as well as showing you some statistics for your auctions. The gold earned is the total of sold auctions, and resets to zero every time you take the gold out of your mailbox. You'll note the ability to select the Neutral AH – no more parking an alt down in Booty Bay or Gadgetzan to corner the market on faction-specific pets. 
 
Browse


(Click for larger image)
 
The Browse function is reasonably self explanatory and works much like the normal AH. One of the enhancements in the armory version is that you can sort by item price, making it far easier to see if those stacks of 20 are a better deal than the individual items listed.
 
My Bids
 
Given I only tend to grab items with buyout prices, I haven't used the bid interface at all. 
 
My Auctions


(Click for larger image)

 
My Auctions shows Active, Sold, and Ended auctions. For those that have sold, a button appears that allows you to claim all of your gold at once. I don't run a mail mod, so I love this feature. 
 
Create Auctions



(Click for larger image)
 
This uses the new AH interface that allows you to post multiple stacking items at once, and price per stack or per item. Items can be listed from your mail, bank, or bags which is extremely convenient.  Expired listings can be reposted at the click of a button.
 
 
I'm quite excited by this feature. As a very time-limited casual player, the ability to do some wheeling and dealing on my phone while commuting or over lunch is very appealing. It requires a change of tradeskill workflow – I've been buying materials in higher quantities, and holding a week's worth of cut gems, runescrolls, and other hot-selling items on the bank alt. My strongest criticism so far is with the transaction limit. I'm no goblin, but I still very quickly hit 25 auctions in a day. The 200 auction limit is probably more realistic even for a casual player and still close to useless for a real AH goblin.
 
Usually I only have enough time to relist auctions two or three times a week. Now I'm managing to do it multiple times every day I'm really seeing the difference in how much gold I'm making. Previously I made around 500 – 1000g a week but now I've managed to make 1000 gold in 3 days, without needing to log on at home. I've also been able to spot some great bargains on saronite ore, my main moneymaker, and grab them all remotely from the office. 
 
Being time-poor, I'm always looking for ways to get the most out of the game without needing to play every day. The remote AH looks like a great means to be competitive with the players who are online every day and earning gold, without needing to sacrifice my personal life to do it. I'll definitely be subscribing when the beta ends.
 
 
 
 

Quel'Delar


I've been tanking the first wing of ICC with a 232 weapon, having trouble finding a group who were willing to go past 4/12 for a shot at a weapon from Rotface. I started saving for a Battered Hilt and had managed to get around halfway there.

I've only seen it drop twice - once the first week the new instances went live, and last night. I won the roll on my mage and immediately mailed the hilt to my druid to complete the quest line. 




Hell yes.

The quests were very enjoyable. We four-manned most of the line, doing the three instance portions of the quest on normal difficulty to make this faster. It was a little sad when I realised that after all their help, my friends weren't able to accompany me into the Sunwell to see the blade renewed.

It was extremely satisfying though to walk out and realise that I was phased to a restoration of the Isle of Quel'Danas. Gone were the hostile mobs, and in their place were elves rebuilding the structures on the island to serene music. 

I found the end of the line a bit of an anti-climax. After seeing Lana'thel appear during one of the first quests, I was expecting more for the finale than 'Here, have a shiny thing'.

I quickly got over my disappointment though. Wouldn't you? 


Tanking as a DK in LFG


So we're at least level 60, wearing shiny new quest rewards and hopefully a few instance drops, and have a sensible tanking spec. Now, how do Death Knights actually .. tank ? Lets take a look at the abilities in the DK tanking toolbox.
 
Frost Presence
 
I'm sure this doesn't need to be mentioned, but I'll cover it off for the sake of completeness. Gear and spec are only part of the picture - Frost Presence is what turns you from a badly itemised melee DPS into a tank. It gives you increased armour, increased stamina, and added threat to your abilities. Always ensure you are in Frost Presence before the instance starts.
 
Icy Touch
 
Icy Touch is a ranged attack that applies one of your diseases, Frost Fever. Since the 3.3.3 changes Icy Touch generates an absolutely obscene amount of threat. If you are having trouble holding onto a target, it's worthwhile using Icy Touch again even if Frost Fever doesn't need to be refreshed. It can also sometimes be the only way of getting a mob back if someone pulls it off you and DG is on cooldown. Its high threat also makes it an excellent ranged pull.
 
Plague Strike
 
Plague Strike applies another of your diseases, Blood Plague. As most of your abilities scale depending on the number of diseases applied you will want to apply this next. If you use glyph of disease, you'll probably only use this once per fight as it's far more efficient to pestilence to refresh diseases.
 
Pestilence
 
Spreads your diseases to other targets in range, and if you are using Glyph of Disease, refreshes diseases on your target to maximum duration. Even on a single target, I'll tend to use Pestilence to refresh my diseases more efficiently if I have a solid threat lead. Otherwise, refresh by using Icy Touch & Plague Strike for maximum threat generation.
 
Blood Boil
 
Boils the blood of all enemies within 10 yards, and does more damage based on how many diseases are on the target (and therefore generates more threat.)
 
Looking at the abilities covered so far, you would think the sensible rotation when D&D is on cooldown would be to use Icy Touch to pull, and then Plague Strike to set up Blood Plague and Pestilence to spread them to the rest of the pack. Only then, would you use Blood Boil to get a solid AOE threat lead.
 
In reality, it goes a little more like this.
 
You pull with Icy Touch, having conscientiously marked targets. The other DK in the group has gotten over-excited and has death gripped a mob to himself. The feral druid is very carefully attacking the third target, which no-one has threat on as it hasn't even reached you yet. By the time you Pestilence, the healer has pulled the fourth mob onto themselves with their panicked AOE heals, and it only gets worse from there.
 
While in a perfect world you'd be able to ask DPS to wait just a few seconds, what will really happen is you'll get abused on the ghost run back for not 'holding aggro'. It seems that Skull you marked was decorative, and really you should have max threat on all targets all at once. Preferably before the DPS have even zoned in, so they are not inconvenienced by your sloth.
 
Unless you know you have an unusually well-behaved group, Blood Boil early even if you don't have your diseases properly set up yet. While that wont save the DPS DK who was daft enough to taunt off you (dude from yesterday: WHY DID YOU DO THAT?), at least your healer and possibly the kitty will be saved and you'll have bought yourself a few precious seconds to go through your rotation.
 
Death and Decay
 
I love this ability. I would like to buy it gifts and do it's taxes for it. The litany of fail in the previous paragraph just does not happen if D&D is up. There's two real ways of using it. Either Icy Touch to pull the group in and D&D at your feet when they get there, or D&D at their feet as you run over, assuming it's safe to tank them where they are. Now, leisurely work your way through your rotation, feeling at peace with the world and even with other DKs.
 
Death Strike
 
Death Strike not only heals you making life easier on your level 60 healer, who is not-so-secretly a Balance Druid, but generates Death Runes with Death Rune Mastery talented. Use it a few times at the beginning of the pull after you've established threat, and any time your health is getting low and you realise your healer is in fact casting Starfall.
 
The self healing really is incredibly powerful when talented for. I've finished boss fights with only myself and one DPS alive purely through careful use of Improved Rune Tap and Death Strike.
 
Heart Strike
 
Heart Strike is your cleave, causing high damage to two targets and so high threat. It's your bread-and-butter strike when you don't have anything that needs refreshing. At lower levels your threat generation will be pretty overpowered so it's not always necessary. On pulls of two I sometimes use Heart Strike rather than D&D to save the cooldown for a larger pack. Otherwise, on large groups, I tend to use Death Strike to keep the Death Runes flowing, and focus on Pestilence and Blood Boil instead.
 
Death Grip
 
Death Grip is a very useful tool but must be chosen carefully. It is our only taunt at level 60 odd, with Dark Command not coming along until 65. It also has a long cooldown. Situations where DG is worth using include:
 
Grabbing single patrols of casters without needing to LOS. BC dungeons were all designed around using LOS, but your party are unlikely to co-operate. Don't raise your blood pressure explaining to the hunter why sending his pet in and pulilng an entire room while you were trying to LOS wiped you. Just Death Grip that mob in and avoid the entire conversation.
 
Packs with casters that aren't safe to tank where they stand are another good candidate for DG. With practice you'll be able to pull off the co-ordination required to Icy Touch the melee, Strangulage the caster and Death Grip the hunter into your D&D more or less all at once. Solid threat on all three, and all three safely where you can reach them.
 
Strangulate
 
Strangulate is also worth mentioning as an effective ranged pull for casters. It has a long cooldown so cannot be relied on for every pull.

 
 
With any luck, you now feel comfortable with the idea of tanking your way through BC without becoming known as one of "those" Death Knights. We've all met one - the tank who turns up with fewer hitpoints than the hunter's pet, and who uses deathgrip as an opener, only to let the rest of the pack rampage around with impunity. Every time a DK queues as a tank in the starting area gear, a Warrior rolls 100 on Bryntroll. And gets wings. Don't be that DK.
 
Hopefully Ailith is proud of me for finally getting a DK past 58!

Gearing a Death Knight for LFG


With the popularity of DKs combined with fast tank queues, more people than ever before are rolling DK alts with the intention of levelling through the dungeon system. Most people are aware that DK starting gear is ill-equipped for tanking, but there is a surprising lack of resource on how to gear a 60 DK that's relevant to the current patch. So, now you've created your DK and gotten through the starting quests - what do you do?

Level to 60

The very first thing to do is level to at least 60. Level 59 brings with it Strangulate, which is a very useful ranged silence for pulling caster packs. While it's not essential, it's very nice to have. What is more essential is Death and Decay, trained at level 60. While level 80 frost tanks can arguably take it or leave it, at level 60 we have a much smaller range of abilities to choose from and will rely heavily on Death and Decay for AOE threat generation.

Another excellent reason to wait until at least 60 is that the mobs in Hellfire Ramparts, the first BC dungeon you're likely to encounter, tend to be 60-61. While the level range for Ramps in theory starts at 57, without levels of hit that are difficult to attain at this level you'll find many of your spells resisted. This will make threat generation much harder, and worse, increase the chance of your life-saving taunt failing and a group member dying. Even against mobs at the same level it's infuriating how often abilities are resisted when one is used to their level 80 hit-capped mains.

Gaining a few more levels through questing is a quick process and will help you with the next topic - gear.

Gear

There are quite a few early quests that reward items usable for tanking. You're going to be looking for items that are "Of the Champion" or "Of the Beast" in their stat itemisation - either Stamina/Strength/Defense, or Stamina/Strength/Agility. In general, focus on items that have more Stamina than Strength. Agility certainly doesn't hurt, adding mitigation and avoidance. Gem for Stamina if you get the chance, and throw a cheap armor enchant on your cloak. Knothide armor kits are a great way to beef up your stamina cheaply - put them on every item that can take one. You're going to aim for around 8,000 HP in frost presence. This is a lot easier than it seems to start with.

Some good early quest rewards to focus on include:

Hellfire Peninsula

http://www.wowwiki.com/Rage_Reaver
http://www.wowwiki.com/Helboar_Carving_Blade

If you didn't take the tanking Axe from the DK starting area, these are probably the easiest substitutes.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Magistrate's_Greaves
http://www.wowwiki.com/Invader's_Greathelm
http://www.wowwiki.com/Protectorate_Breastplate
http://www.wowwiki.com/Defender's_Gauntlets

These are a nice selection of 'Of the Beast' itemised quest rewards that are essential starters to your tanking set. It's also well worthwhile checking the auction house to see if there are any useful items there. Unfortunately "Of the Champion" seems to attract a premium, with items selling as high as 150g on my server - but occasionally you find a bargain.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Circle's_Stalwart_Helmet

It is well worthwhile heading over to Zangarmarsh and picking up the quest Saving the Sporelocks from the Cenarion Expedition. Not only is this helm well itemised, but three sockets are just crying out to be gemmed with Solid Chalcedony or Solid Sky Sapphire. The Sky Sapphire is reasonably cheap on my server.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Jade_Warrior_Pauldrons
http://www.wowwiki.com/Perfectly_Balanced_Cape

These are quest rewards from the quests Heart of Rage and Weaken the Ramparts, which require you to run The Blood Furnace and Hellfire Ramparts. If your tanking set isn't looking all that great yet it's definitely worth your time to queue as DPS and pick up these items, or ask a friend to run you through.

If you are able to get someone to run you through, these instance drops are worth farming for. Not only will you get a refresher course in the layout of the instances, but there are sockets galore. Gem to your heart's content and it's quite possible to hit 11,000 to 12,000 HP by the time you're 63 and can equip them all. Does anyone else remember when that was the bar for a beginner raiding tank to meet for Karazhan?

Ramps
http://www.wowwiki.com/Tenacious_Defender
http://www.wowwiki.com/Ironsole_Clompers

Blood furnace
http://www.wowwiki.com/Ironblade_Gauntlets
http://www.wowwiki.com/Pendant_of_Battle-Lust
http://www.wowwiki.com/Warsong_Howling_Axe

Slave Pens
http://www.wowwiki.com/Unscarred_Breastplate
http://www.wowwiki.com/Bogstrok_Scale_Cloak

Underbog
http://www.wowwiki.com/Hatebringer
http://www.wowwiki.com/Greaves_of_the_Iron_Guardian
http://www.wowwiki.com/Pauldrons_of_Brute_Force
http://www.wowwiki.com/Talisman_of_Tenacity

Talent Spec

Now you have your gear sorted out, it's time to look at a tanking talent spec and some glyphs. All three of the Death Knight talent trees are viable for tanking - don't let anyone tell you that the only option is Frost. Regardless of which tree you focus on, there's 5 points that need to be spent at the base of each tree to make your build truly tanky. Blade Barrier from Blood, Toughness from Frost and Anticipation from Unholy are absolutely required. Once these are covered, you can focus on filling out the tree of your choice. Look for talents like Veteran of the Third War, Frigid Dreadplate, or Bone Shield that will improve your survivability or threat generation.

At early levels, my favourite spec is Blood. It seems uniquely suited to situations where you are almost guaranteed to encounter poorly performing DPS and healers. Expect to see yourself at or near the top of the damage meter unless you have some very skilled alts covered in heirlooms in your group. Blood's self-healing can cover a multitude of sins from an undergeared or inexperienced healer - I had a run recently where my healer was too busy telling me blood DKs couldn't tank to actually heal anyone, and I managed entire trash pulls with no more healing than panicked Death Strikes. After that experience, I immediately went and specced into Improved Rune Tap.

Unholy and Frost certainly aren't terrible choices, and Unholy's shorter cooldown on D&D and DG are very tempting and definitely abilities a Blood tank should consider speccing into at later levels with more points to play with. Frost is a little less attractive at this level, as with the 15 mandatory talents already taken in each tree there's no way of getting Howling Blast, a core Frost AOE threat ability. It's certainly not an impossible situation to manage but you do seem to make far less compromises at low levels in the Blood tree.

There's a wide selection of glyphs that are appropriate here - you'll want to look at your playstyle and what abilities you use more often to make this decision. Glyph of Disease is certainly nice to have as it makes refreshing diseases more efficient. Ultimately though, there are no hard-and-fast rules for tanking at Level 60. Without access to Level 80 talents and abilities you'll find that the popular build and glyph choices are for tanking Death Knights at the moment are just not realistic for you - make the best choices that you can with the tools that you have.

Part two of this series will cover Death Knight abilities used for tanking.

Looking for Group


The majority of my experiences with the random dungeon system have been pretty unremarkable. Whether I'm healing or tanking, I ridiculously outgear the content and the majority of my group ridiculously outgears me. If I'm healing, this leads to me casting the odd PW:S and POM while reading a magazine with the other hand and occasionally glancing at the screen to admire my 30,000 point mana pool. If I'm tanking, I have an extremely intense 20 minutes of chain-pulling to try and generate enough rage to hold threat against the 6k gearscore DPS who are somehow managing to generate 9k TPS. Roll tanks guys. You'd be *awesome*.

While tanking is obviously more stressful for me than healing, in general, when my dungeon experiences go badly it's in a reasonably predictable way regardless. I've had a moonkin roll need on a healing trinket then drop group, or the paladin who got so bored healing me they activated their retribution spec halfway through the Nexus and refused to switch back. One constant though is a really nasty entitled attitude from, in particular, DPS.

When I was starting to gear my bear, I encountered a lot of hostility from geared DPS who were not happy about having to watch their threat. A bear in blues can very easily acheive 38 - 40K HP and high mitigation, but threat generation scales much slower and is pretty miserable if you're wearing mostly ilevel 200 epics and blues with a reputation reward weapon. One particular heroic ToC was a complete nightmare for me from the beginning, with the three DPS who were from the same server and guild constantly abusing me for having to taunt targets back when they unloaded on the wrong target despite my marks every time.

I eventually told them to get over themselves or find another tank - which they did. Thinking themselves very clever they waited until we'd engaged the final boss and then all three dropped group. I guess they were chuckling pretty hard thinking they'd caused a wipe, but the healer took pity on me and stayed. As soon as I was finished blowing defensive cooldowns to buy a few moments, I clicked the dialogue to replace them. Three new DPS appeared, heard the story from the healer, cried 'Those bastards!' and charged in to help me finish the fight.

Unfortunately, sympathy isn't usually that easy to come by. Even in my own guild I often encounter an attitude that shows people don't want to have to play with people who have inferior gear to theirs, no matter where or why. Every day there's at least one complaint about the undergeared people in battlegrounds or heroics who are apparently ruining the entire world for them. It seems low gearscore has an offensive smell that these raiders don't want to be in the same room as.

Usually I'm induced to frothing-at-the-mouth rage within minutes by these attitudes. Not only have these people forgotten that, once, they were new 80's too and that geared tanks do not spring from the ground fully formed, but they refuse to allow for any avenue for people to learn or become geared. If people who don't have high levels of gear yet aren't allowed to battleground or run heroics ... then how on earth can they possibly ever attain gear or experience? This attitude is ridiculously short sighted when one thinks of the shortage of tanks in some battlegroups. In Bloodlust, I have an instant queue as a tank, a 3 - 8 minute queue as a healer and a 20 minute queue as DPS. The only way of making DPS queues faster is to get more tanks into the system - and they're not all going to come fresh from ICC 25 with 60k HP and kingslayer.

So few tanks are required for raid makeup as compared to DPS that the gaps in the system are crying out to be filled by a new breed of tank - the heroics tank. We're starting to see quite a few tanks who are geared through the heroics system and BOE's whose only real raid experience is in tanking 10 man weekly raid quests and the odd ToC 10. As far as I'm concerned, this is excellent. It gets more people experiencing tanking, brings in more tanks for the DPS who need them to farm their frost badges and provides a pool of back-up tanks for lower-end guild content.

Assuming a tank has a willingness to learn and an understanding of their class, the only real drawback is that geared DPS need to settle down a little and pay attention to threat. I'm afraid my sympathy for this dire predicament ran out quite a long time ago. I'm not in blues anymore, with 4/10 ICC and tier 10 gear under my belt but I still encounter far too many DPS who feel they should be able to unload everything on a target that's only barely in my swipe radius and ignore all marking or direction. If we think about the numbers for a moment here, it becomes pretty obvious why this is a failing proposition. Even a geared bear is going to generate less threat on an AOE pack than they do on a single target. If you are going to use high damage single target abilities, then please unload them on the target marked skull. My swipe is designed to hold against AOE abilities that generate low DPS per target as compared to your single target abilities. The target I am focusing on also gets my single target high threat abilities and you wont rip it off me so easily.

This, by the way, is why HoR is wipetastic and you die all the time. Just in case you were wondering.

I'm starting to wonder where all of these people are getting their high-level raiding gear from. No raiding MT is going to tolerate DPS ignoring marks and disobeying their direction on breaking progression fights - do these people know how to play their classes properly in a raid? If so, why can't they elsewhere?

Want your heroics to be fast? Check your bad attitude at the door and follow the tank's direction. Taking fights seriously is far quicker than wiping and having to run back. Otherwise you're more and more likely to find yourself sitting there waiting for another tank to join your party after the first one realises they don't have to put up with you and leaves. Like I'm starting to do.

Sparkles!


Last season Ailith (my husband's current character name) and I tried to arena just for laughs. We only kept it up for a few weeks since while we really loved the game, we had chosen about the worst possible comp we could - Death Knight/Mage. Given our limited chances for success, we hit on a very simple strategy.

We assumed the other team would probably focus my Mage as the easier kill. I would run around in circles absorbing damage and screaming 'Get them off! Get them off!' while taking almost no damage, as a decent Frost Mage is really only a taunt away from being a tank. Ailith would follow, hitting them in the back, and we would see who died first.

Don't laugh. It actually worked a really surprising number of times. This is mostly due to Ailith having discovered a talent for being a frighteningly good PVP DK, and me having a talent for, er, running away without dying.

We decided since it was a lot of fun we'd try to do it properly this time around, and now we're being a little more sensible about it by bringing in a healer. This required me to level my Priest, as Ailith wasn't going to stop being a DK for something so trivial as success.

This season, Blizzard have made PVP gear more accessible than ever before and I'm impressed at how far I've managed to go with gearing up without spending any arena points or needing any rating. It was reasonably painful being farmed constantly in battlegrounds and Wintergrasp until I had some resilience, but definitely a better experience than gearing my Mage the season before. With Relentless (ilevel 245) accessories and Furious (ilevel 232) set pieces available for far less honor than equivalent items the season before, it's at least possible to get to that 800 resilience sweet-spot before stepping into the arena at all.

My only real problem at the moment is that the best weapon I have access to is a ilevel 232 drop from the Pit of Saron. Most of the people we're coming up against in arena have access to drops from ICC - we've seen Bryntroll a few too many times now.

Still, Sparkle Pony have managed to win 20 of their 33 games so far and achieve the dizzying heights of 800 rating. We're hoping we'll get to see 1800 and look at some tier one weapons. Even without a PVP weapon, I'm sitting around 1000 resilience at the moment, with 28k HP self-buffed. It's making battlegrounding so much more fun - and more than once I've reached the end and realised I haven't died once.



Our strategy for arena hasn't changed much though. I still mostly run around in circles screaming - I just occasionally manage to get the odd heal off too. Lets hope we can take that to 1800! A good DK can carry someone that far... right?

"Why get so upset over a game?"


One of the conflicts I've had with playing World of Warcraft is how emotionally fraught playing the game can be at times. People who don't game or who don't game in communities can be quite surprised at what they see as disproportionate emotional investment in a game. 'Why?' they ask, 'get that upset over a game?'

It's a question designed to minimise the experience of the person being asked, and so this along with the demonisation of gamers as immature and anti-social contributed to me not realising immediately that I'm not really getting that upset over a game. I don't tend to leave the computer in tears over a session of Bejeweled, or get angry enough to rant about a hand of Solitaire. I can often feel frustrated at not achieving what I've set out to do, but it's temporary and passes quickly. In WoW, what I'm really getting upset about is people, and the way they treat others.

The social aspects of MMOs are often overlooked and downplayed when the pervasive stereotype of video games and those who play them paints gamers as loners who struggle with interaction. It's almost ironic that these 'loners' feel driven to seek out almost constant companionship of an online form - which is devalued by social norms that refuse to see any contact that isn't face-to-face as meaningful.

Playing World of Warcraft as part of a guild means being part of a community. There's an inherent promise of shared ideals and goals, and that people will work together towards them. Especially in raiding guilds, the well-being of all can depend on each person performing their individual roles. When someone in your community in some way violates that trust, people can feel betrayed.

Even outside of subscribed communities, other players can have the power to really ruin your day. When their little pixels start doing something unkind to your little pixels, the insult doesn't sting any less for the medium it's delivered in. It doesn't carry with it the physical pain of being pushed around by a bully, but the emotional impact remains the same. I'm 8 years old again, furious, and powerless.

Given the analogue of instant messaging and chat rooms, it seems inexplicable that well-meaning friends and family would be unable to see what can be so upsetting about 'just a game'. If anything, it makes the unsympathetic non-gamers who believe they are pointing out your inter-personal impairment look startlingly lacking in empathy and social awareness. How is it so easy to forget that on the other side of the network connection is a real, live, human being? Regardless of the method, it's a real and meaningful interaction that carries with it an emotional payload, for good or bad.

Sticks and stones can't break virtual bones, but names will always hurt me.

Changes


Even though writing about WoW is far easier for me than writing on any other subject (something as a professional writer I find a little alarming) I've been having trouble updating lately. I've just recently changed guilds for the third time in the five years I've been playing the game, for reasons that were too painful to write about while it was happening.

I came to my previous guild during Burning Crusade when transfers from PVE -> PVP servers opened up. A good friend of ours was a member of a raiding guild that was far further in progression than our current guild, and I wanted to raid. I was accepted into their Black Temple group and I loved every moment of it. I wasn't especially well geared, but the raid leadership at the time were more interested in skill than sheer damage output, and I prided myself on always working as hard as I could to make up for my lackluster gear.

I don't remember people talking much about 'DPS' in those days, at least not in my guild, and I couldn't tell you what the ilevel of my gear was. Not long after our first Illidan kill, I took a break from raiding and ended up staying away through most of the beginning of WoTLK, with an unexpected romance to occupy my time.

When I returned to raiding, so much time had passed my guild was now in Ulduar. I joined their Ulduar raid team and again, loved raiding with them. Technical fights that require rapid and accurate responses to cues are my favourite, and Ulduar had enough of those to keep me occupied. Then, we hit Yogg Saron - and stayed there.

I had noticed an alarming tendency in the guild for certain people to become very accusatory when fights didn't go very well. These people were also quite fascinated by DPS, gearscore, and everything the Elitist Jerks had ever written. On every wipe, they would start opining on how the DPS was just too poor and all needed to lift their game, despite the fact that the fight clearly had stability issues that were stopping DPS from being effectively applied. It was pretty poisonous to raid with, and after a certain amount of soul-searching I stepped down from raiding not long after we first downed Yogg Saron.

Unfortunately, the poison didn't stay in the raids. I still clearly remember being accosted by another guild member while standing on the steps of the bank in Dalaran. Out of no-where, suddenly I was being informed by another shaman that my spec was wrong, my gear was wrong, and all my gems needed to be changed. I politely pointed out that I was extremely happy with my performance and in fact felt that I knew what I was doing reasonably well.

Half an hour later, I gave up and logged out to stop him from insisting that I change everything about my character, right there and then.

The attitude seeped out of the core raiding group and started leeching into every aspect of guild life. Our happy-go-lucky alt-raid group, which usually was a tier or two behind our main progression 25, started being run by the raid leader of the progression group with dire results. After one particular ToC 25 run, where everyone performed amazingly well for their gear level but sadly were unable to down Anub'arak, we were told our DPS was appalling and not to expect another invite. To our own raid.

The last straw for me was when I invited an officer of the guild to a PUG weekly raid that was asking to make up numbers. We had a great run, a flawless one-shot kill with no deaths, and no-one taking avoidable damage. Everyone performed admirably.

Except my guild officer, who informed them all they were fail DPS for not breaking 4k. In 10 man Naxx.

I was mortified. I mentioned this to another officer, and was even more distressed when he insisted that I post recount logs to him to prove that the raid hadn't 'deserved' the abuse. It was becoming increasingly clear that the only metric the guild was interested in was raw DPS output, and that there was no room for anyone who didn't have a 5.5k gearscore. Even worse, those who did have a higher gearscore were forgiven any sin. People were being ridiculed in heroics for wearing perfectly appropriate blues and performing adequately for their gear level, and quite a few players left, stating the new elitist attitudes for their reasons. Despite having a high gearscore myself, I hated the way they were treating our casual guild members and fought tooth and nail for an attitude change. Unfortunately, I failed.

I applied to another guild and transferred, and only then realised how much I'd been stressing out over the situation. I found myself logging on less, obsessively checking the forums less, because WoW wasn't taking up anywhere near as much headspace. The first raid I did with the new guild really cemented my decision as the right one. We wiped all night on Festergut with no ill-feeling, no pointed fingers, just a discussion of the mechanics of the fight and encouraging advice on how to manage them. Even though the environment was less strict, the skill and performance of the players was, on average, far higher than that of my old guild members.

Since then I've been part of an Ulduar hardmodes group that is going to go after Algalon. No, it's not cutting edge content, but I am loving every second of it. I'm so glad to be part of a group who think the same way I do - that the game doesn't need to be limited to a race to the highest gearscore.