Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stupid Cool Raiding Tricks - Kara Connection Part 1

So many times reality meets the road of strategy and we find that there's just something stupidly cool you can do. Stupid Cool Raiding tricks is my summary of tricks and tips that we've shared within our raiding alliance. This first in the series is three tricks that I've personally learned while leading our group in Kara. Later posts will concentrate on tricks that other guilds have shared with us.

AOE Tanking Druid Style
"Pally's.... we don't need no stinking Pally's"

This is a trick that I developed while tanking. We had grown complacent in Kara and we always had a pally tank. Our pally tank at the time burned out and the AOE packs in Kara just started eating us alive. We'd lose a good 20-30 minutes of play time rezzing and rebuffing people just to the AOE packs. Over time I worked on a ton of different techniques, but the one that worked best is what I use for AOE tanking. This requires a Druid tank in their tanking gear. This also requires healers who can watch you very closely.

Step 1: Line up your tanking position. Know exactly where you are taking the mobs. You will be in caster form for this.
Step 2: Pull the mobs using a Starfire and run back to the tanking spot.
Step 3: Pop Barkskin, then launch a Hurricane AOE centered on yourself or where a majority of the mobs.
Step 4: Channel the hurricane most of the way down and then pop bear form.

"Ice Tomb? What Ice Tomb? These guys cast Ice Tomb?"

Perhaps one of the most annoying mobs in the first half of Kara are the guards right outside of the Opera. Not only do they hit like a ton of bricks, but they freeze the tank and swap to the second agro target. This makes it almost impossible to tank both at once. So one almost always needs to be CC'd. The following technique can be used to avoid the Ice Tomb all together. It does require a shaman. If you have two shaman, you could in theory tank both mobs at once and avoid the need for CC. We learned this from one of our raiders who happens to be a QA tester for software. His mind tends to periodically just do weird things and tested this out.

Step 1: Put your tanks and the Shaman(s) in the same raid group.
Step 2: Ensure the shaman puts down a grounding totem.
Step 3: Pull the Opera guards. CC one if need be.
Step 4: Kill as normal. Note the Grounding Totem will eat the Ice Tomb.

If you time it right you shouldn't ever have to worry about the Ice Tomb again.

Fun With Pillars - Peekaboo... can't see you
"You mean to tell me, he can't see you if you back up a half an inch? You're kidding me right?"

OK most people probably do this, but it bears repeating for those people who haven't ever been in Kara before. As you look at Moroes in his room, there are two tables of AOE packs that have to be pulled after you clear the first table. To make them group up properly for AOE it can be a challenge. However directly behind you are two pillars. You wouldn't think they can help you, but there is a way to use them to group up the AOE. If you stick your tank in the corner behind the pillar the mobs will run around to your tank. Its a tiny corner, but it works... don't ask me why or how. The trick is you must follow some simple steps for survival.

Step 1: NOBODY TOUCH ANYTHING. Don't pop trinkets.. Don't shoot the mobs. Don't do anything till the tank has control.
Step 1a: Its possible if you have one available to cast Prayer of Mending on the tank.
Step 2: The tank pulls.
Step 3: The tank runs back around the little corner on the pillar. Use the right pillar for the right table. Use the left Pillar for the left table.
Step 4: Wait for every mob to run to you and then leverage your favorite AOE tanking technique.

You can expect some more tips and tricks moving forward. Have a great time in Kara folks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Feed Moved

I'm apologizing to anyone who may have feed linked before this post. I mucked around with the details and finally got it ironed out. The feed is kept primarily at Feedburner. Its now accessible correctly at the right please let me know if you have any issues. Totally new to this... so now you can point your finger and scream NOOB :)

Wife, The Universe and Everything

Yes Douglas Adams will be sorely missed, but lets not get into him now....

I love my wife. Hell I wouldn't have married her if I didn't love her. We've had our share of ups and downs, but every married couple has. In the end, we are kind of an anomaly. OK it feels like we are an anomaly. We met in college under what has to be some of the worst circumstances conceivable. We got together. We broke up. We got together. One of us would freak out. The scenario continues..(Insert Random stupidity here) until we realized that one day we just couldn't live without the other one. I can't ever really see divorcing her.

So for years we've kind of balanced each other out. She's like the wind. She's free spirited. She floats in an optimists bubble hoping good things for the world, full of high energy and a loving spirit. I'm like the earth... I tend to ground people. People for whatever inexplicable reason like to come to me with their issues. I don't mind. Part philosopher, part poet... OK who am I kidding... I'm just a normal guy.

We have a lot of respect for one another. However one thing has always been important. Free time.... it took me a long time to get her there, but even after being married for 10 years I always stress that occasionally everyone needs alone time. So one day a week we ensure that the other person gets a night off. With three children its a necessity to maintain sanity. For my wife this typically means she's going out with one of her girl friends. For me, its typically one of my raid nights. On that night I'm free to head down stairs immediately after dinner (or before if I want to feed myself) and just prep for the raid, spend a little extra time farming etc. Its one of the ways I balance my time with WoW.

Now let me explain that my wife isn't a computer gaming person. What I mean by that is that she never really enjoyed playing video games. She's played a few, but mostly they amount to things like Sim City or adventure type games. Playing games as complex WoW weren't ever on her radar. One day after playing for about a year and a half, my wife decided she wanted me to show her this game. So she sat and watched me for a while. I mean I literally don't watch TV anymore. I find WoW way more interesting than some rehashed sitcom. Besides I can get an entire season worth of shows from NetFlix and then watch it in a day rather than tuning in for 40 minutes of commercials once a week.

Next it proceeded to let me create a character and play with it. So I had to delete a character. Yes... I Mr. Altoholic seized this opportunity and deleted one of my lowbie toons. She played for a bit off and on and never really got into it. So I figured it was over. Two months later the idea resurrected itself. So we started again. Only this time I cleared two slots for her. We got her cranking and eventually it turned into a problem. My time was being reduced for playing and I found I was hovering while she played. So after a little bit more gentle coaxing and some nice timing, I finally convinced her to get her own account and her own computer. To this day she never plays as much as me, but I've helped her, I've teamed up and she's attacked the game with the stubborn determination that she will some day reach lvl 70 and she wants to know what its like to raid. And she wants to do it well... I look forward to seeing her at 70. It should be fun.

Have I mentioned that I love my wife.... :P Love you honey!!!

Under the Hood Part 1: There can be only One

Raid leadership takes time. Its not learned over night. It won't be right the first time and you'll screw up almost every time you do it. At least in some way shape or form. Little mistakes get glossed over, but little things can grow over time. Under the Hood is a series I'm going to be working on discussing the challenges a raid leader might face while dealing with their career.

This first segment really spawned out an interesting problem we ran into last night. As part of my ongoing duties, I am trying to prep our guild for WotLK. When the expansion lands, we will have the option of doing 10 man content for all the way to Arthas. There are some very excited people over this change. I know personally I won't be able to dedicate 4 days a week to raiding, but I want to set the stage for those who want to or can. We've been training up and providing opportunities to new raid leaders. So last night we ran into a very good highlight of a problem that many leaders face.

There Can Be Only ONE

Whether your popular or not, as a raid leader, there is only one raid leader. This is not to say there aren't supporting roles for that raid leader. This is not as necessary in a 10 man scenario, but in 25 man raids, the complexity increases substantially. Its more likely you'll have supporting roles such as a healing lead, caller (for calling out boss abilities), Warlock/Hunter/Mage/etc leads, and the list goes on. However for all of these supporting people, there is only ONE raid leader. If you can work out a co leading scenario more power to you, but from an order and coordination perspective, the overall direction, lead and pace need to be determined by ONE voice, ONE person with ONE vision.

Now this doesn't mean that nobody can talk but that one person, but frequently we need to be queueing off of that person. If your a raid leader attending another person's raid, its key that you learn to shut up, sit down and do what your told just like everyone else is expected to do. I had a very good raider who worked with me. I know him personally so he was always good at telling me when I had stepped over the line. One day I was attending another person's raid and quite naturally I started barking out orders. By about mid way through the raid I'd taken over the raid and was driving it. After that raid my friend sat me down and told me what I'd done. Its hard to take that back seat when you are used to leading, but so many times we need to just watch, follow and listen.

Does this mean advice can't be offered? No. Quite the contrary actually. When I'm leading I encourage people offer up cool tricks and ideas. However there's a time and a place. Rewriting boss strategies shouldn't be done mid stream. Ideas should be in the form of a question rather than, "You should do it this way." If you really feel you need to share something with the raid leader and don't want to voice it publicly, then send a tell. However there are key points:

1. During the raid, its the raid leaders way or the highway.
2. Each raid leader has their own style and method of doing things. Just sit down and learn something.
3. Don't take it personally if the raid leader calls on you or fails to call on you for special duties. Their job is to fill roles... their call, their way.

Does this give raid leaders the right to just roll over anyone they like? No, but occassionally you'll have to remind people that its your voice thats driving this. You don't have to rip their heads off and beat them with it, but occassionally you have to step up and remind people who's leading and why you're there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Into The Nexus - Instances in Wrath of the Lich King

First of all, the beauty of being a tank is that generally speaking someone... somewhere needs a tank. Watch general chat close enough and someone is going to spam "LF1M for X instance, need Tank." Its just the nature of the beast lately. I'm not sure why, but tanks are in short supply. Even in the beta they are in short supply.

This last weekend I was able to sneak into the Nexus for my first peak at a WotLK instance. Now let me list my qualifications here so people are aware of my background.

1. Full T4 set of gear.
2. Currently I need NO tanking gear from any T4 instance.
3. Tanked, Hydross adds and A'lar in T5 content.
4. DPS'd in SSC, TK and Mt. Hyjal

I'm not the most experienced in tanking the higher level content per se, but, I've got an extensive background in tanking. I come at it from a druid's perspective, so I'm used to tanking lots of mobs and getting my rage from that and thus hitting the mobs harder and more often.

Lets break this down by the important parts.


Beautiful. The architecture reminds me a druidic base with a very frosty frozen core. Snow falls and drifts around. The floors are iridescent and glow. There are frozen trees, and lots of nice little touches. One section includes a wide open area with lots of glow effects and spinning vortexes. Its all very well done. The zone feels cohesive and flows very nicely from one area to another.

Trash Mobs

For a KZ or beyond equipped tank, the trash is a joke. Hell we had clothies pulling mobs and not dieing. The mobs don't hit particularly hard, but threat is a huge issue. Something right now is all messed up in the mechanics of druid tanks. The threat generation wasn't there. Granted we didn't have Omen to watch, but wow... what a nightmare keeping mobs corralled. Luckily like I said, the mobs weren't dangerous to the group so it wasn't a big deal if one or two got away from me.

Boss Fights
I realize that this is the intro instance for WotLK, but wow... the bosses just seemed kind of meh... Its still early in the beta, but the first bosses in Ramparts were always a bit challenging. There were lots of strategies to use and the end boss just felt difficult at level. I'm way overgeared, but still... they all felt like very standard tank and spanks. Don't get me wrong. Some of them were interesting. One summoned huge crystals that spiked upward. One summoned rifts that you need to destroy. Another basically pulled the Black Stalkers' trick on speed.. (imagine the entire raid being constantly thrown through the air at a high rate of speed.)

Raid leaders are human too!!!

Raid leaders are usually vaunted as a position that almost has god like powers in some people's view. However... to err is human... to really screw it up... takes a raid leader.... inspired by Matticus's post, here's my top errors I've made as a raid leader. This of course is just to prove that we are people too and not above error and a good laugh.

Laundry List of All time Screw ups while raid leading:
  • Battle rezzed another player during Shade of Aran's Flamewreath... then I proceeded to MOVE through the damned stuff insta killing the person I just rezzed as well as half the raid.
  • Fought the first THREE bosses in Karazhan in DPS Kitty gear while tanking. I believe the words went.... "Oops I'm still wearing my DPS gear... sorry Healers..." Followed immediately by, "I wondered what the hell was going on... you were taking a hell of a beating today compared to normal."
  • Brought my HORRIFICALLY undergeared hunter into KZ solely based on the DPS I could do. I believe I had 6500 hp FULLY RAID BUFFED. To this day I haven't lived down the 8 deaths I got on the way to Attumen. The raid had to summon me back TWICE that night based on my repair bill. Rule #1.... your dps drops to ZERO when your dead.
  • Accidentally started to battle rez someone during the Prince fight in KZ while tanking. (Squish dead.) "What happened to you? " "No idea what happened there.... no idea.."
  • On the ledge immediately following Shade of Aran right outside of the room with all of the Shades and Sorcerous Shades I lectured the raid about not backing up too far and falling over the railing.... I immediately backed up in bear form fell over the ledge to my death.... it took a good 20 minutes of hard laughing before the raid was able to compose themselves.
  • While on a run back to repair at the front gate, I did a spectacular jump from the upper level in the Opera... realizing a half second later that this was night one and not night two... the Audience was still sitting in the Opera... and they weren't impressed with our earlier performance.
  • While playing my hunter in the Opera event, I made the mistake of tab targeting and popped off a multi shot into the Audience.... who promptly ran in and ate the ENTIRE raid.
  • Forgot to watch my healers mana, and pulled when they were OOM. This immediately lead to a wipe.
  • Didn't bother reading raid chat, missed that my OT went AFK to get a drink pulled a large pack of mobs promptly wiped the entire raid.

Remember your raid leaders are very knowledgeable people, but to be perfectly honest we are human too. Never put them up on a pedestal so high that they can never live up to it. Plus hey... save that ammo to poke fun at them and lighten the mood.

Monday, July 28, 2008

One Step Back to take Two steps forward

Raid alliances are tricky things to navigate. They can be extremely powerful as noted in PTD's post on the recent success in Black Temple. However they come with some inherent pitfalls and traps that need to be navigated. SLACK is an interesting and long history that trails back into the days of MC, Onyxia and BWL. I would love to give you the long and storied history of SLACK, but the reality is that I'm a virtual newcomer to the Alliance. As I've stated in the past, I got to lvl 60 about two or three months before BC came out.

My original guild, The Crimson Knights, joined SLACK back in the MC days. SLACK was having some issues filling 40 man content and CK was a guild of similar size and similar mind set of the existing guilds. Thus CK was added to the mix. As time transformed and we eventually joined with ISCA Alliance (another long and historic guild on Whisperwind), we find ourselves still a strong part of a guild alliance. Many people have decried the alliance over the years. Some have abandoned their guilds because of it, but overall SLACK has remained relatively strong. Most of the guilds have suffered major guild splits, but they have all managed to recover in some way shape or form.

In our recent travails and progression into further content (T6) and interesting thing has occurred. Several distinct camps have formed. Interestingly enough I think this holds true for a lot of guilds on the verge of progression into further content.

The Progressionists
First there are the progressionists. Progressionists are the type of people who are the forerunners. They are the ones that really drive the raiding for the casual people. All of our guilds are relatively casual, but raiding really would just kind of flounder and die if we didn't have the progressionists. These are the raiding addicts. They manage to farm for their materials to raid as well as providing 4-6 days a week of raiding for their guilds and the alliance. For us casuals, they are the ones that boggle us. They are the ones that we stare at and wonder how they do it, but we must admit that they make our raiding possible. Progressionists are typically marked by top tier gear. They've put in the hours to farm stuff to get BOE's made or for top end professions, BOP gear. They have some of the best drops. They know their specs in and out. They've attended almost every raid. There isn't a boss fight or trash pull they don't know.

Their position is one of progression. They've seen it. They've done it. They are in need to move on. They want/crave further content. Beating down new bosses is important.

The Traditionalists
The traditionalist is marked by one who follows the progression the way Blizzard originally designed it. They want to see it in the order it was originally released. Vash and Kael are critical to progression into T6 the way that Gruul and Mags were necessary to progress to T5. These are critical to their success. Jumping to T6 while skipping the end bosses in T5 defeats the purpose in their eyes. There are important lessons haven't been learned. The time spent grinding on Vash and Kael also serve the important to ensure the raid is set up properly and properly geared before progressing to the next content.

These are critical road blocks that ensure the raid is geared to the nines so to speak before it progresses into the T6 content. For these people in many cases these critical bosses serve as key milestones. They are important from a status standpoint as well as from a standpoint of learning.

The Moderates
The moderates of course live in the middle. Stuck between both camps they are constantly pulled both ways. They feel a need to see the content. The order may not matter, but being geared and ready to progress is important too. Balancing between the two is very difficult. These people tend to end as moderators between the two sides. Pitching in and acknowledging both sides while adding their own middle ground flavor to the discussion.

So whats the deal???
Interestingly enough our progress into BT and Mt Hyjal has been fairly decent. The raiders have pulled some very nice progress and gotten to 3/5 in Mt Hyjal and 2/9 in BT. However the back lash has been somewhat interesting to watch. Several of the front runners have been really trying to balance out our sudden push to T6. Our T5 content work got cut dramatically and T4 Gruul/Mags almost eliminated. Some of the people at the forefront have begun to step back and try to really see if they are geared to progress. So a swelling of back pressure is building to reopen some more work on the T5 content. Some people are looking for some key gear upgrades in the T5 content.

At this time we are introducing new raid leaders and changes as well. So as the drama builds it will be interesting to see how it progresses and to what end. Change is inevitable. It happens to everyone, but as with all things, change brings both good and bad. And history is always written by the victor. At least the history you hear about most often.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anatomy of a Raid Organizer

As I indicated in my initial introduction, I'm the Raid Organizer for the ISCA Alliance. What does that mean? Well... from one perspective, I'm an officer in the guild. So I'm supposed to do what I can to help create policy and process for the guild members. As the Raid Organizer its my job to see that we keep going forward on the 10 man content, organize the occasional fun run, work with raiders to determine when they are ready to move on to further content with our Raid alliance, and train up new raid leaders.

Raid Organizers in casual environments are rather fortunate at this point in time in WoW. Well at least this raid organizer is. We are a mid sized guild. We are just big enough that we can easily get 16-20+ people online on a given night, but not big enough to really run a 25 man raid in house. So our progression in house is capped. We know the limits. We know exactly how far we can go. So from a coordination point, its a very easy schedule to juggle. Two to three kara runs per week and one ZA or fun run. Most Kara runs will clear most if not all bosses. Further runs might just involve running back in to clean up the two or three remaining bosses. Our speed runs typically clear all bosses in just over 3 hours. Its not a bad spot to be sitting in. We can farm badges at a pretty good clip. Further raids come via our raid alliance with other guilds.

The flip side of being a raid organizer is that very frequently people expect you to have an answer for every question. Why is so and so allowed to raid? What the hell is up with X person's spec? Did you see Z? They didn't even bring a flask/pot/elixir/dancing flame today. What's the TS info again? The real key in these situations is to keep it low key and be as honest as you can. Being the heavy comes with the job. It doesn't mean you have to beat the person senseless. Most times the conversations start with things like, "Hey, I looked at your healing last night on the stats. You are one of our top tier healers and your stats looked really off. Is there something going on? Did you change something in your healing? " or "Hey you had a lot of deaths there last night. Your DPS was great when you could DPS, but when you look at how many deaths you had, its hard to DPS when dead. You need to work on a) watching Omen and b) getting more HP." Some times you can fix the problem right away. Other times its a long road of coaching.

I am very strict with myself most weeks. I KNOW I could easily raid 5-6 days a week. However, I understand my nature. If I did that it would consume me. Plus its extremely unfair to my family. So I can't expect them to deal with the fact that I HAVE to be on the computer 5 days a week to do X raid. 1) I have no desire to invest that much of myself into it. 2) I don't want to get a divorce and I actually like seeing my family. So for me, its about balancing, finding the right people to lead raids. So many raid organizers make the mistake of assuming they have to do it all and alone. Having a good team is what really makes your life easy. After a while they just kind of gel and it makes your life a million times easier.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Our guild is a casual guild. We tend to joke a lot. We rag on each other relentlessly. If people have to bail its not big deal, but as time has progressed, even casual guilds learn that raiding is big business. You can do it in a casual way, but to really make it work, rules and regs have to come with the picture. As the organizer its my job to assemble those rules in conjunction with our other officers and post them. Some times its the simple things... YOU MUST HAVE OMEN. Sorry, nobody wants to die because you were too lazy to download a threat mod. Other times its the hard conversations explaining why someone MUST have TeamSpeak. Some people are very resistant to mods. Other people don't like alternate apps like Teamspeak. Raiding is about adventuring for the good of all. Its about downing bosses, working on content, and the best way to succeed is to really pitch in as a team. Most times that may mean sacrificing your personal needs occasionally or your own personal hang ups and really just laying it on the line for the Raid.

From Ebon Hold to the Borean Tundra

First off, let me explain.... Blizzard maintains their reputation based on the extensive hard work of the people who beta test their products. For those of you who are used to the way their products are when they go GA (general availability), beta testing is a whole new world. The beta's only been open for a bit, and its some days very very frustrating. Its definitely not for the faint of heart.

1. Early stages of a beta are riddled with crashes. This isn't a bad thing. It means that Blizzard gets to see what happens to their code when the rubber meets the road and real players are doing dumb things.
2. Not all of the features are live. Not all of the professions etc are fully implemented yet.... so you may have your pet profession and NO way to play with it yet.
3. People get bitchy... sorry but its a fact. There are lots of people out there who have no idea what it means to beta test and they seem SURPRISED when the world server goes down.

Now let me say, Blizzard is still a bright ray of sunshine.... there is a very nice thing they did to make sure you have lots of things to do. The Deathknight area is VERY stable. I have yet to see it crash. So while you are waiting for the reboot of the world server, you can sit down for a nice cup of tea with the Lich King and talk about the state of the world. So here we go... on to....

Ebon Hold
First of all, let me preface this.... I'm NOT a fan of dark classes. Its a personal hang up of mine. I WON'T play a warlock. The reason is because I have problems playing what I deem "evil" characters. Like I said, its a personal hang up of mine. So that taints my experience some... however, that being said, I'm a raid leader and I need to understand how deathknights are going to play out in the expansion. So here we go.

First of all, Blizzard is going to get some major kudos here. The technologies that they leveraged to get it all to work are amazing. They used something similar to Bashir's Landing up in BEM. You know the quests for Mana Cells where you pop into a different phase? They basically did that by about x10. I don't want to ruin the story. Its an amazingly well done story. From that perspective this really takes me back to the Old world content where they had some very well done story chains. You start out with one view of the world. Periodically, they progress the story and you "shift" perspectives on the world. Typically this is done by forcing you to turn in a quest at Ebon Hold. When you return, the world has moved into the next phase. Suddenly you are in a different phase. All of the people are in different spots, the buildings may be destroyed or other things. However behind the scenes people are still working seamlessly on the original content. There are no load screens. Nothing at all... its extremely well done and implemented.

Ebon Hold is beautiful. The architecture is very well done. Its a multi tier floating fortress really. However you have to periodically come back here for the rest of your career to train and to reforge your runes on swords. So you'll get to see it a lot.

Now for the mechanics of the deathknight let me say, I'm not a big fan of how it is today. Now bear in mind it will change potentially a LOT between now and later so I'll periodically go back and do it all over again for a new perspective. You basically have runes and runic energy. Runes work kind of like energy (sort of). You get two frost, two blood and two pestilence runes. Certain abilities use certain amounts/types of runes and they rebuild over time. Runic Power (not to be confused with Runes) functions like Rage... you build it up over time and certain spells take runic power to cast. So as you can imagine you now have to watch both things... what a PITA. You start off with a small number of spells so its really not all that great of a start. You only have about four or five abilities and they are all completely weak because you don't have any talent points. Talent points get fixed shortly and as you progress the story line, but overall its annoying from my perspective... you are supposed to be this big powerful deathknight who can keel over and die easily because you have no abilities.... but the story... the story alone makes it worth going through.

The Shores of the Borean Tundra
I copied my Druid over. She's my main... while I know some people indicated they wouldn't want to bring their main, I really wanted to see what the new gear was like and how the respec would affect my DPS. First of all, the DPS went THROUGH THE ROOF!!! I'm a feral druid and they got some serious DPS love in the current state of the expansion... note that's going to be nerfed before the expansion goes live so you have nothing to fear... I'll be a tame kitty before you see me in game again... Secondly I'm expecting to see that the HP goes up dramatically in the expansion again. Bear druids with 40k hp don't seem that unreasonable to me at this point. I've seen several quest rewards with something like 45stamina or 60stamina... so now I'm pondering if I should keep my KZ/ZA and badge gear... OK my badge gear staff.... you'll pry it out of my COLD DEAD HANDS!!!!

First of all the boat ride in wasn't bad. Stormwind harbor was very cool. You get to see a steamtank and a lot of very nice architecture. The boat ride is nice and smooth and as you come in to the harbor, you immediately get that feeling of being on the front lines of the war. Its rather BCish, but without the large unkillable mass of demons. You see conscription lines and a hold that's being built still. Its really kind of neat. At this point I'm at Valiance Keep in the Borean Tundra. They quickly get you indoctrinated with the Scourge menace and you really see right out of the gate.

Now let me say BRAVO to Blizzard for the graphics touches they've done. Now none of them struck me as being excessively dramatic, but there were so MANY subtle ones that made the world really alive. One of the first quest leads you up to these peasants and I must have spent 10 minutes pondering what the hell was wrong with them.... then it dawned on me.... they weren't human models 1 and 2... one guy had a beer gut. Another guy was skinny as a rail.... the women and men looked different than any models I'd seen before. Suddenly the NPCs felt alive. I liked interacting with them. I wanted to help them out. There are tons of little touches that throw you for a loop as you try to figure out what's different. The textures are very nice. My wife commented how the textures were much prettier and looked great.

Quest wise most of them have felt pretty straight forward. Run here, kill that, etc. Some of them have involved more complex tasks, but this is the warm up... I can feel it. I just got my first quest to go to the gnomish air port so I suspect I'll be seeing that vehicle combat up in Northrend very soon. I haven't had a chance to dip my toes into an instance yet. its been a crazy week and I haven't had the time to dedicate to instance yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welcome to the World of Casual Raiding

Welcome to my very first Blog post.

It’s only fair that I introduce myself and why I’m here. I’ve been a long time reader of many different blogs, but of course some of my favorites include such names as PartTimeDruid, Bigbearbutt and World of Matticus. Really if I had to put my finger on it, Parttimedruid really inspired me to start writing. I’m very similar to his situation in many ways… plus the fact that he’s on my server and in my guild alliance doesn’t hurt either.

So lets get on to introductions and how I meandered my way here. I’m Star… everyone calls me Star in Wow… for one very good reason… try shouting out “Allahanastar” in TS a few dozen times…. It very quickly gets shortened. Since I have a tendency to use “Star” in most of my character’s names, Star became my name. I don’t mind it. I could have been called dozens of worse names. So Star it is.

What I am today is many things. I’m a father of three beautiful kids. I have a wife, a house, a job in the computer field. What I am in Wow is the Raid Organizer for our guild called the ISCA Alliance. I’m currently one of our top tanks and a fervent Altoholic. I also serve as a guild officer and a liaison to our Guild Alliance on Whisperwind called SLACK. Above all… I’m a raid leader. Generally that’s how my brain is wired and it’s what I spend a lot of time planning and coordinating.

All these things are great and nice, but how in the hell did I get here??? About 3 years ago, I spent a lot of time on Monday’s gaming with some friends. We did the traditional geek fun things. Traditional pen and paper RPGs were the soup du jour. All of my friends at the time played WOW. I can’t even describe how obnoxious it gets when you don’t play a game or have any interest in something to listen to them babble on for hours on end about it. So we laid down ground rules… only for the first 30 minutes and once we start, we drop the topic.

I had a 3 year old boy and a 6 month old daughter at the time. So I didn’t feel I had time to play anything that complicated and for gods sake, “Who would want to pay monthly to play anything??” Little did I know…. So after months of discussion, my daughter was old enough to be sleeping through the night and had gotten over her colic stage (colic sucks… look it up if you don’t believe me). I finally broke down and told my friend to give me a free trial so they would shut up and leave me alone.

Did you ever hear the phrase, “The first hits free?” Well this is pretty true. At first I signed up and figured I’ll just play it for a month or two. “I’ll get bored and won’t want to do it after that,” I told myself. Quickly immersed in the game, I found out how much fun it was. I could tell a million stories about it, but that’s why we're here and it wouldn’t do any good to tell you all at once would it???

So I puttered around here and there. I swapped servers a few times and finally came back to roost on my first server ever. Whisperwind is my home. My friends still play there to this day. I got my first character to 60 about 2-3 months before the expansion Burning Crusade came out. I tested out 40 man raiding and found as many hybrids of the day, IT SUCKED!!! When you’re thrust into a 40 man raid, told here, go heal this tank and you realize you have 0 mana, 0 healing gear and zero desire to heal with this character your life becomes a living hell very quickly. 4-5 hours of chain pulls in MC where you don’t know what the hell your doing is not a fun Friday night. I tested out MC, ZG and AQ40 once each. All three experiences played out about the same.

After Burning Crusade came out, I worked very heavily on my feral druid. Itemization was actually there for feral druids. Tanking was a very real possibility. DPS was king. I found I ENJOYED tanking as a druid. So I worked hard, got to 70 and found our guild wasn’t large enough to really run KZ on our own. Long story short, we teamed up with the ISCA Alliance and formed a pact to work our way through KZ. I took on the role of one of the raid leaders. As time progressed I adopted more and more of the responsibility. I burned out a few times. A very weird guild merger later, we were one with ISCA Alliance and we find ourselves pretty much where we are today. We are a very casual group of people with most of us having family commitments and a real life (when we log out.)

As we progress down this dark and slippery road called a blog, I’ll share my insights as a raid leader, what it takes to balance a family with WOW and (Don’t tell… I got a beta key too… so I’ll try to share that as well from time to time..) I’ll probably share some of my rampant altoholism as well… its something we struggle with heavily in my guild some days… Happy reading folks!!!