You Can Take the Gnome Out of the Raid

Tarecgosa roaring in front of Wyrmrest Temple.

But you can’t always take the raid out of the gnome.

While I’ve been meaning to write a keybinding guide/exploration, or perhaps a post on any number of topics, the holidays and wrapping up the last couple weeks of my job have been slaughtering my motivation to blog. However, one thought has really stuck in my craw enough to make me write a blog post.

Last night, my little social guild grouped up and did their weekly LFR run together. This is a lot of fun for us; we sit on Mumble and crack jokes on bad players, talk about other stuff and sometimes even alcohol is involved. It is a great way for us to see raid content together but the stress of people feeling terrible or unused to raid mechanics is gone. I consider it preparing people gear-wise and knowledge-wise for an eventual 10man. We cleared through both segments of Dragon Soul fairly handily. On Ultraxion, I won the chest tier piece. I was shocked! I have been running LFR for quite a number of weeks now and aside from my guildmate giving me the Insignia of the Corrupted Mind last night, this was the first piece of gear I had won fair and square. I was so excited!

Except then a druid piped up that I was wearing a 391 tier chest from Firelands. I was, wasn’t I? The tier pieces from LFR are 384. I immediately felt stupid. Did I forget that LFR gear isn’t necessarily* better than the 391s I was dripping in? Or the legendary staff I have strapped to my back? I probably looked like an overentitled jerkbag just then. As much as I’d love 2 or 4-set tier bonus for the delicious haste, is it really better mathematically than the 391 Tier 12 I’m currently wearing? What struck me immediately after that thought was this one:

Does it even matter?

I always made this argument when I saw people in various communities who only ran heroics complaining that they didn’t have access to raid gear. If you didn’t do raids, why would you need that level of gear. I find myself in this position now. While everyone has access to raid gear now via LFR (which is awesome), the fact of the matter is that I am no longer raiding but outgear the LFR in most ways, and find myself without even so much as a casual 10-man now. Do I really need to be doing LFR at all?  This is a question I wrestle with now. I’ve been part of the gear grind for so long, that long eternal lock-step of BETTER, BETTER, BETTER, BEST-IN-SLOT that now I have no idea what to do with myself. I’m not pushing content even on normal and theoretically I don’t need the gear out of LFR to do heroics. While running LFR is nice for capping valor points or updating certain slots, I sorta wonder (for the first time since 4.3) dropped what I really am going to do with myself. It’s been nice to have free time but I feel suddenly devoid of things to do on my main. I’ve been leveling a tank alt in my free time as well as my second mage, but this is the first time I feel like I’ve “finished” a character.

So for as much as I have “quit” raiding, some part of me still hasn’t. I think last night was a bit of a wake-up call.

 

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Dealing With Intolerance

Trigger warnings: Homophobic/sexist language, anxiety

As much as I hate for one of my errant posts while the festivities of work and holidays keep me out of blogging to be relentlessly negative, I feel like this is something I should post. I feel that often the hardest part of being a woman in a sexist world, especially as a feminist, is putting your values ahead of you. It’s very hard to navigate what is still an openly hostile world and still stick your neck out for what you believe in. I had a situation last night that I dealt with, and while I don’t feel that I was the assertive, unabashed feminist I could have been, I feel like the appropriate people got taken to task and I got out of the situation as fast as my gnomish legs would carry me.

A recap:

Since 4.3 came out, I’ve pretty much quit progression raiding. I recently completed my legendary staff, killed Deathwing via LFR. I’m not left wanting for excitement or content at all right now. I’ve really relished the free time I have, that I’m no longer part of a 25man that actively dislikes the game and can focus on my friends, blogging, and having fun.

That being said, I happened to pick up a casual 10man group made mostly of alts/socials from a top 10man guild on my server. Interested by the prospect of low-stress normals raiding with a decent team of people, I started going along with them. First it was one night, one-shotting most of Siege and then adding a second day for working on Madness bosses. Most of the raid (if not all) is dudes, of the decently nice sort but a couple of them are a little “rough around the edges.” Not surprising, but not terrible. 

However, here and there sometimes they would slip up and say something a little rude or use a slur – mostly things like calling someone “fag” or n-words. Just every so once in a while, and I reported it to the raid leader who said he’d handle it.

Well, we got into the raid tonight and it was just one weird convo on Ventrilo after another; one talking about what cereal looked like vaginas, and how someone in the raid was a whore. I just felt really embarassed and weird. I kept making weird emoticons because despite all of my crowing about how amazingly strong and feminist I am, I’m still cowed by a large group of men online apparently. 

Then right before we pulled Zon’ozz, one of the louder guys said, “If you f*****s don’t all one-shot this boss tonight, I’m going to yell!” and started laughing. I had enough and told him not to call me that, and he shot back like, “See, I don’t understand why a woman would get offended by that.” I whispered the raid leader, told him I was sorry but I couldn’t handle it, apologized for leaving before a boss and peaced out of the raid.  I whispered the other mage later on since he’s always been super nice and said he could talk to me for magely wisdom That’s the only contact I think I’ll have from now on.

My hands were shaking and I got off Ventrilo in a hurry. I have legit anxiety/panic problems with confrontation and this was just piquing it all over the place. I feel not the slightest bit aggrieved that I won’t see normal content or loot, but that’s what LFR is for. I’m just sad that I forgot momentarily that the world outside of my awesome guild is still shitty in the World of Warcraft. I’m also sad that I’m still kinda a scaredy cat when it comes to socially dealing with people who are being offensive.

I feel that sometimes in our rush to uphold the ideals that we want to see in the world, that we forget that we’re all still human beings and things like anxiety, aggression and consequences still exist for those who speak up. While there’s no imminent threat of physical violence for telling some dudebros on Ventrilo to stop calling people fags, it can still be hard to stand up. But I’m glad I did. I still urge everyone who can to do it, and to feel proud about it. You’re definitely not alone. Even though I was scared, I still did it anyways. I feel like I might not always have the power to change the world overnight, but I still have the power to change the world in my immediate grasp. I do this by speaking up when I feel things are going wrong, and building a really amazing guild that’s full of people that respect eachother. It might be small, but I feel it’s a good first step.

Thoughts on 4.3 – Transmogging, Casual PVE, Darkmoon Faire and More

Apple Cider pew pews Mannaroth in Well of Eternity.

It’s been a week, WoW fans. A week and we’ve already gotten our teeth deep into 4.3. I have been enjoying myself, especially now that I can enjoy a patch that offers me gear, dungeons and not have to worry about raiding much on top of that. This is my first new content patch where I haven’t been raiding since Burning Crusade started. It is a weird feeling, to be honest. Thanks to the efforts of my social-but-very-enthusiastic guild, we’ve been working on retro raids for transmogging gear, achievements and even stepping foot in Firelands to get me siphoned essences to finish my legendary*.

Overall, I’ve been having fun and have a lot of thoughts to what 4.3 has offered us thus far.

My priest stands in T6 gear at the character screen.

Transmogrification

I have always relished the idea of transmogrification. Even though I never played any MMORPGs prior to WoW, where such things as vanity layers or costume layers existed, I have been deep in my  heart a fashion nerd and roleplayer. I like having appropriate clothes for the occasion, especially since my real life self is a little too self-conscious and destitute for such things. My earliest memories of gear on my mage was that they “all matched” and being chided gently by guildies that I needed gear that was better than what I had on, rather than just all was the same color. (You can’t take my Mistscape Wizard Hat of the Owl AWAY FROM ME!)

However, when given the world of armor to play with, I found myself falling a little short on ideas (No gnome jokes, please.) Everyone else had must-have sets and creative uses of color, style and theme. With the exception of my priest, even my RP character concepts didn’t lend themselves to “iconic” gear for their personality. I had reams of gear in the bank saved because of how it looked and memories it held, but I’m still not sold on most things to wear. It has been fun to play with and to disguise horrible gear in the case of my shaman, who had a lot of trollroic armor. So while transmogging is quite possibly the best thing to happen to WoW in a long time, I feel so disappointed that I’m not taking advantage of it as whole-heartedly as everyone, even if I am the perfect person to do so. I will endeavor a little harder to come up with pretty sets, but I am glad that Blizzard implemented the feature anyways.

5 Man Dungeons – End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight

In a word: exciting (and I get to be TALL!)

While I feel that some of the trio are less exciting than others, when taken all together, they are a very nice mixture of new boss mechanics, immersive storytelling and gameplay. The very obvious standout is Well of Eternity, which I have a feeling was supposed to be part of the rumoured War of the Ancients raid. It feels so complete and filled to the brim with interesting things that it feels almost a little out of place with the other two dungeons, which are still laid out around Wyrmrest on familiar ground. They also aren’t nearly as punishing as heroics have been immediately upon release, unlike in the past. Sure, I’ve seen a few PUG groups wipe on Tyrande, but nothing like the hours of frustration from trying to learn Ozruk.

Most of the dungeons feel fun and invigorating for a couple of reasons, I believe. First – less trash and it is more pragmatic and directed. In End Time, you basically make a big ring to clear out the boss area, or push forward to where the boss is, not long twisty hallways to get to a small room. It feels like a progression, not a crawl. Secondly, there’s a better mixture of mechanics designed to mess with ranged vs. melee, healers versus tanks, and some that just require smart use of mechanics that can be done by most group compositions. Not every fight requires heroism, not every fight requires 3 ranged. Most people have decent interrupts now and while some have been given longer cooldowns, most of the casts that need to be interrupted are on timers that don’t feel impossible to catch. There’s lots of stuff to not stand in, but it isn’t a 360-degree chain cleave, nor tons of puddles out at ranged while the melee gets to whack on the boss. Everyone feels responsible for their own mortality in some ways. Third, newness in both the fight mechanics and scenery. There’s things here we haven’t played with before – such as the hourglass feature on Murozond. It is commonly remarked as the most fun boss fight so far out of the three dungeons just because of it. I have even brought people back to life using it and I find that a little liberating, especially to people who are newer healers and feel pressured to keep everyone alive.

Additionally, there’s lots of nice new gear to be had in the dungeons and gotten with a minimum of fuss. You clear all three dungeons in roughly an hour and a half and due to less trash and less ridiculous bosses, it never feels like a slog. I’ve already managed to VP cap my mage and shaman for the week, which will make quick work of gearing up the other 85s I never play (due to heroics being boring as hell.) My only bone of contention is how limited the loot tables are for each item slot in your armor class. There’s not a lot of leeway for you if you only gear yourself via heroics, but I think that’s because of…

Looking For Raid

Now featuring Yor’sahj the Unpuggable!

Admittedly, my experiences so far with the Looking For Raid feature have been small. Last night, a small group of 8 or so guildies and I dropped ourselves into LFR (one of them as the main tank). We breezed through every boss (including said Yor’sahj) with nary a death or a wipe (until we lost a couple of people to the ice wall on Hagara) and finished in an hour and a half. This stands in stark contrast to some of my boyfriend’s exploits via the finder, which include every group wiping to Yor’sahj, but I digress. LFR seems like a reasonably good idea. It gives people the ability to legitimately see raid fights in a smaller, more forgiving environment, as well as collect gear and valor points. As my friend the main tank put it, “It is like pugging a heroic but with 24 other people.” I think that he had the right of it as well; while there may be more people, the atmosphere is roughly the same. Most people are quiet participants, there are occasionally boisterous and unhelpful ones and overall the experiences can vary. But it seemed to us last night that if you mix in a little bit of your own social group, that it can go quite smoothly and make it very fun to participate. One of us got two very good loot drops and I got to test my hand at raid healing without the stress of trying to learn Firelands fights or freak out that no one was directing assignments. Granted, I think our positive turn at the LFR was mostly due to a lucky bit of competency out of the raid (the other tank, most of the healers, DPS knowing how to target swap), but I think overall, this has the potential to ease people into raiding or give people end-game choices. I know some people who have long maintained that PUGging and casual raiding has ruined WoW, but I think my ability to have fun last night is more important than their opinions on the matter.

The Darkmoon Faire

Finally, after testing it extensively on the PTR, the faire is here. So far it is exactly what it promised to be – fun dailies, lots of vanity items like mounts and pets to acquire, as well as added mysteries and bonuses that you can gain while doing PVP and dungeons. Ticket generation seems a lot slower than I’d like for a week-per-month event, but as Rickiep00h from Something Awful posited:

If it were permanently open, it would be Molten Front 2. Enjoyable at first, but ultimately another annoying grind.

It’s a compelling point, and not just because of the fact that Molten Front fails in all the ways that DMF succeeds – the rewards are not meaningful to progression in quite the same way that MF put them at the time, especially to casual players. However, they are meaningful to people as much as they want to make them. People who enjoy vanity rewards or transmogging sets for gear make them purposeful and have value, those who do not enjoy them do not have to participate. It helps both alts and mains in different ways – one way is via trade skill points (imagine getting 5 points once a month to get you around a tricky spot between 285-300) and one is money and loot. This means you have different goals and reasons to bring more than one toon to the Faire, unlike doing the same dailies for the same thing in the Front. It also lays out the path of tasks very concretely and without much effort – the quests are short, fun, and require very little exertion in terms of killing mobs, even the Grisly Trophies quest. It doesn’t consistently open more and more dailies to keep you occupied, like in a hallway full of infinitely opening doors that lead to nowhere. DMF is a return to a lot of the old fun seen in earlier quest design and development before Titan was a thing – anyone remember Isle of Quel’danas? Sure, not quite the same carrot-on-a-stick there but I can feel a familiar tingle of the fun. The Faire seems to hold fast to the idea that it is a magical, mysterious and slightly sinister fair in the woods. Molten Front gave us an illusion of choice and individuality and left us with nothing but a bad taste in our mouth.

So in short, get out there and fish yourself up a Sea Pony. I got both it and my rare fish achievement in the same hour. Many more are reporting the same thing with the Steelscale Crushfish, so get yourself closer to Salty!

*Art courtesy of Aly Flock.

The End of an Era

Raid fights Taerar the world dragon.

I’ve been quiet the last few days, and for a lot of reasons. Well, not just because I had five days off from work, but also because as of last night, my 25-man raid decided to finally call it quits for good. My raid has ostensibly been together since UBRS, in one form or another – 10-mans, 40-mans, and then 25s. We’ve fielded 10-mans, done achievements together, even squeezed out a server first or two along the way. We were never the most progressed all the time, or the most well-known, but we had been around a very long time. I’ve only been in it to some degree for five years now, a lot of the older members have been in for 6 or 7 years. It almost felt like it was never going to die, that we’d just keep going on because that’s what we did. That was our notable aspect.

Not anymore, however. It saddens me greatly to see something of an institution that weathered raid leader change-ups, absentee DPS, raid attunements, guild perks and even people in our raid passing away, go the way of the buffalo. I felt like we were a raid team that still held onto some immutable shred of what life used to be like back before paladins had 30 minute blessings and you could summon your entire raid into the raid instance. Unfortunately, time and familiarity doesn’t hold things together, it pulls them apart. Even rocks get worn down into dust after long enough. I felt that a lot of our members were playing a game they hated solely out of respect and loyalty to a raid they cared about. So while I am sad that this has to break apart, it had to happen and it means that we can all go on to be happier (and dare I say more productive) people.

The question here to be asked is this though, “Do I dislike raiding now?”

Raiding has made me the mage I am today, and I’d never speak ill of it. Even when I wanted to quit, give up and start crying because I’ve historically done (in my mind) less DPS than I ought to be doing every step of the way, there’s not a single moment I can think of where my raid team didn’t force me to improve – whether it was using macros, looking at spell rotations and theorycrafting or BIS lists. There’s no way this blog would even exist if it wasn’t for these people that have supported me and definitely carried me through more content than your average raid. Even when I hated it, or them, or the content, or myself, I still did it.I raided late into the night, even as a backup, when I had to be up for work at 4:30 AM. I raided when I was sick, exhausted, or on medication. I’ve missed maybe 3 boss kills from Burning Crusade to Cataclysm. Because that’s just what you do. Raiding has a way of getting under your skin. As much as it has eaten up my time and stressed me out to no degree (especially as of late), I still love it. I hope to be doing it in one form or another for the rest of my WoW career, as long or short as that may be.

Is it time for a break though? Possibly. I have a few loose ends to tie up, however, namely a staff. I’m 75 siphoned essences short of a legendary and I’d also love a purple flame bird. How will I achieve those things? Not sure right now. A few 10-mans might shake out of this for the time being. I might go to someone’s alt runs. I might PUG it. Who knows. After that, 4.3 will come and I will make the decision to raid or not at all. I might take this well-earned vacation to focus on making myself a better mage and enjoying myself. I might hit up LFR. I might just go fire for the end of my days and force you all to read about it (mwahahah!) Maybe I’ll go onto bigger and better things myself.

As sad as I am now, I know that I won’t be sad forever. And the raid might be breaking up, my memories and connections to these people I’ve spent more time with than boyfriends or jobs will never go away. We’re going to still be friends in one way or another, I suspect, and I think that’s what truly matters in the end – not the bosses you’ve downed, but the people who were alongside you when you did it. Their names will never be forgotten, much less their intrinsic personalities – they have made me both who I am and everything I’ve grown to be.

My hats off to all of you, you know who you are.