Friday, October 19, 2012

The Unexpected GM

A few months ago, <Zen> held officer elections.  It's a strange system for selecting officers, and not one I'm entirely certain I agree with--it tends to promote the people who are best-known and best-liked, not necessarily the ones who'll do the best job at being officers.  The intent was to select three new officers that would help the guild through what was assumed to be the content-related slump that was the last few months of Cata.

By some bizarre misalignment of the stars, I found myself in one of those positions.  Originally intended to be handling Logistics, an uncertain term that involves scheduling and the-gods-alone-know-what-else, I ended up as the Recruiting Officer.  Of the people I've found since, some have stayed, some have left, and some have vanished outright, their toons abandoned since Mists released.  And the guild slowly but surely began to show signs of life again.

And then, about a week and a half before MoP came out, I had a bomb dropped on my head.  I logged in on Hera after an evening of PuG raiding with my shadowpriest on Moon Guard (Valineria), and found myself almost immediately promoted to GM of Zen.  Login spam, login spam, login spam, login spam, Heraqawa is now the Guild Master, login spam.

It was quite a surprise.  I'd had, up to that point, only about a month's actual experience as officer; I'd been Assistant Cat Herder, helping to raid lead with the Vhelaire Tar'qui on MG, but there's quite a difference between pointing casual raiders at bosses and being the GM of a guild with aspirations the size of Zen's.

But I've managed.  I've had people to vent to, people whose very willingness to listen was refreshing.  We're not over the hump--this week we pugged seven on Tuesday night and five on Thursday night.  We have the start of a very solid core, though.  We're 2/6 in Mogu'shan Vaults, and making steady progress on Gara'jal.  Is it the progression Zen would have managed with the A Core of five or six months ago?  No.  But considering everything this guild has been through, I think it's quite solid work.  A boss a week, with that many unfamiliar people, sometimes missing key buffs?  I'll take it.

And I'll keep recruiting.  We have two tanks, myself and a very, very solid DK whom I just promoted to Assistant Raid Leader.  We have a damn good healer--a Holydin who's going to make me spoiled, because I now will judge all other healers by his standard and so few of them are going to measure up.  We have two hunters, both BM, which gives us amazing buff flexibility, with the nice added bonus that both of them do close to chart-topping DPS, even though hunters are generally close to the bottom of the sims.

I'd like to add to that two more healers--ideally a monk or shaman as the other full-time healer and a priest with a strong Shadow offspec to be our third.  I'd like a strong mage--ours still hasn't hit 90.  And I'd like two melee.  We have two DKs and a warrior in the guild; for all three it's just a matter of gear.

And then experience--experience with raiding in general, experience with running together as a guild.  How people work together is always the great unknown of a guild.  At this point, I think it's very unlikely that we'll clear even half the heroic bosses during T14, if Blizz is being even partially honest about the speed at which they're going to release the content.  But if people work well together and are willing to learn and accept constructive criticism, we'll get all the normal modes down and hopefully get a few of the heroic ones as well.  And if we can head into T15 with a full guild group, I think we'll be poised to do much better overall.

Because no matter how good pugs are, the very fact that they are pugs is damaging to a guild's progression.  They're strangers, attempting to find a place in a culture that isn't theirs and they for the most part have no long-term interest in--being a pug is about immediate gratification, it's about what's in it for me, tonight, this raid.  This is not a bad thing--indeed, these people usually come in very devoted to success because of it, and I've gotten some very helpful strategy tips from pugs.  However, different groups do things differently.  Different strategies, different breaks, different patterns of damage on different tanks, even different ideas of what's acceptable talking during a boss fight.  The purpose of a guild is to get a group of people together who smooth out these differences, making the group more likely to succeed.

Nevertheless, I'm proud of my people, my guild, my Zenners.  The last few weeks of Cata were extremely rough, and I spent much of it as the guild's sole officer (come to think of it, this is probably why I got promoted).  But we're coming back.

We are not dead.  And I will accept that victory--as a place to start.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Quick Prot Thoughts

Just some quick thoughts on Prot Pallies after the 5.0.4 redesign.

The Good:
--Yey, we have permanent Consecration back!  9 second duration, 9 second cooldown.
--First tier talents: Pursuit of Justice feels really nice for having the permanent speed boost, but the additional boost per point of Holy Power feels weak.  Either make it 10% more per point, or let it stack all the way to 5.  As it is, I could strongly see taking Speed of Light for specific movement-heavy encounters (Blackhorn, I'm looking at you).
--Second-tier talents: Tanks with their own CCs.  Need I say anything more?  In a guild group, I'll swap out for Fist of Justice, but for randoms?  Repentance all the way.
--Third-tier talents: Sacred Shield stacks; if you have a Holydin in your raid with this talent, you get the effects of both!  Which is really awesome.
--Fourth-tier talents: Unbreakable Spirit is really the only choice for tanking here, what with the CD reductions on both Lay On Hands and Divine Protection.  The Divine Shield bit has niche usage, but may see use for fights with stacking debuffs--BoP out of it twice as often!  Extra useful if you take...
--Fifth-tier talents: Holy Avenger!  The ability to "burst survivability" is probably one of my favourite things about the new style of tanking.  Plus, it has amazing synergy with Unbreakable Spirit, as gaining Holy Power faster means you also spend it faster.  Neat trick: pop this off during Bloodlust, or macro it with Lifeblood, though the latter's not quite as effective.  The result is a nearly-3-second CD on Crusader Strike, because of Sanctity of Battle.  This enables you to have only slight gaps in Shield of the Righteous uptime.  Carry a boss swing timer (Quartz has one built in), and you can ensure that it's up for every hit.
--Word of Glory has no CD.   With the Bastion of Glory buff fully stacked (5x), I can heal myself for 85% of my HP off of one Word of Glory.  In other words, I can not-quite-Lay On Hands myself about ...once a minute.  More if I'm willing to use Holy Avenger to speed things up.
--Shield of the Righteous is off the GCD!  This makes timing it around boss swings so much easier.
--Mana management is an absolute non-entity.

The Bad:
--I lost count of how many CDs I now have.  I'm afraid having that many layers of complexity to tanking is going to intimidate newcomers and scare them off, until they find someone willing to mentor them.  PuGs are going to be absolutely vicious to them--and very critical of every tank, as a result.
--It's pretty scary to think that server latency will now play a role in how survivable I am--that's how crucial the timing can be on SotR.
--Sacred Shield is on the GCD, which is very annoying.

The Ugly:
--Threat generation has been nerfed all to hell.  For AoE situations, you have two options:
A) Burn them down before it can matter who tanks what.
B) Mark targets and proceed with extreme caution.
For single-target situations, you have one option: Holy Avenger and no quarter.  In a guild group, you can ask that people hold off blowing their CDs for four or five seconds, and have a reasonable expectation of compliance.  In a  The reason for this is that most of our damage is based off of Vengeance, the amount of which isn't terribly significant before we've taken two or three hits.  As a result, it's really easy to lose aggro to over-zealous DPS in the first few seconds of a boss fight.  Shamans seem to be the worst--one theory is that Ele's so good right now compared to what it was before that they've never had to worry about aggro issues before and have no clue what to do.  Then again, we didn't have our Hunter last night to Misdirect, and that may have made a serious difference.  We shall see.
--My DK still feels more survivable than my Paladin.  I was running a heroic with her yesterday, and the healer dropped group during Thrall's Gauntlet in HoT, the one before Asira.  The new healer didn't join until after Asira, and we had no off-healer--DPS were hunter, warrior, mage.  Nobody even came close to dying.  The scary part is that her iLevel is 20 points below Heraqawa's.  I've no question at all that I couldn't do any such thing with him--at least, not yet.  Maybe in a week or two, when I'm more comfortable with him, I will be able to if needed.  Maybe the issue is that DKs hardly changed at all, and Prot Pallies did, and I'm still adjusting.  We all are.

The Sad:
--They took away most of my ability to heal--I only have Flash of Light and Word of Glory left.  No more emergency Holy Radiance on Blue Platform, after Mutated Corruption dies and Elementium Bolt explodes, leaving us all stacked and low HP and OMG TENTACLES AND BLOODS at the same time.
 --Major glyphs--and many of the talent choices--still don't really feel like there's an actual choice to be made.  Yes, the "right choices" are different per-fight, but there is still a right choice.  So from that sense, it's really no better than the old talent and glyph systems.

More later.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Great UI Redesign!

So with Ulth's extremely-relaxed raiding schedule (cancelled again, ARGH!), I decided to take a few nights and rebuild my UI.  I'd been using the Blizz default UI for most things since discarding my warlock as my main at the end of BC, and it was time for an update.

There were a few elements that really mattered:
1) Better placement of main "rotation" abilities and CDs, for tanking, DPSing, and healing.
2) Flexibility, the ability to use mostly, if not always, the same UI for multiple characters across all three roles.
3) Not a resource hog, as my comp can overheat, and framerate drops to about nothing on resource intensive LFR fights such as Ultraxion (cast all the shinies NAO!).
4) Compact, or able to be made fairly compact, as I don't have a very large screen.

The results?

Jere finishes off LFR-Ultraxion, Holy-spec:

While soloing, on Val, Shadowpriest (as she dings 83):

While tanking a dungeon on my brand-new Prot Warrior, Rahnuqaar:

So, the basic elements.

I've been using HealBot for a few months as a raid frame--it shows me things I can dispel, lets me click to dispel, and also lets me click to Righteous Defense/Raise Ally/Rez/Assist.  I don't have extensive click-casting (that whole no-actual-mouse thing, what with this being a laptop), but I like the adaptability of it, and the fact that it's so small and conveys only the information I really need--who's got aggro on anything at all, who's debuffed that I can do something about, how much health people have, who's dead, who's being rezzed.  Plus it doesn't bug out like the default raid frame.  Major plus, that.

Recount, Omen, and DBM I've had for a long time, and I knew I was keeping them.  Rearranging DBM placement of things was probably the most time-consuming part of this project.

SexyMap enabled me to move the minimap and objectives from the right side of the screen (easier to look at, and so an ideal spot for raid frames and other really important stuff) to the left, a good spot for things I don't need nearly so often.  TipTac also enabled me to move my tooltips over there, since I rarely need to look at those.  Prat has added some functionality to the chat window, and I'm not sure how I lived without it.  WIM handles PMs, holding them until after combat and keeping 29753894920852348 whispers from clogging up guild-chat.

Bartender was a standard in a lot of the UIs I've seen, and after playing with it a bit, it's rather obvious why.  The ability to move my bars to a place where I can see them better is marvellous, and I'd strongly recommend this addon to anyone.  Jere's screenshot was taken while I was still doing the initial arrangement of his skills, but by the time of Val's I'd come up with a scheme: main rotation on the bottom bar, CDs on the bar just above it, and heals (for Val) or buffs (for everyone else) on the top bar.  For Val, top and bottom bar switch if she pops out of Shadowform, enabling me to heal without doing a bunch of annoying clicking.  The bar on the side is full of professions, rarely-used abilities, and "static" buffs that don't wear off.  I can turn that one off if I need to, and usually do in raid.

Healbot's great for a raid frame, but it doesn't show me myself, nor hostile units, so for that I went to Shadowed Unit Frames.  I like the ability to show total, remaining, and percent-remaining HP all at once, which the stock unit frame can't do.  Particularly important for Val, with SW:D, but useful for anyone.  Also the fact that it shows boss and my target, makes it much easier when healing to figure out how to structure the next bit of the fight (can I make it through this last 10% with the mana I've got, or do I need to pop a CD? whereas before I was guessing about how much of the fight was actually left).

Aura Frames is my buff/debuff wrangler.  Once I moved the minimap, my buffs had somewhat of a Lost In Space feel, so that just moved them over.  And then the debuffs ended up underneath HealBot, so those had to move.  Very useful.

OmniCC and Quartz aren't visible, but are probably my two favourite addons of the whole set.  Quartz replaces the default castbar, showing custom latency timer to let me time my next cast just right.  It also includes swingtimers for both me and the boss, very useful when tanking.  I think it also contains the DoT timer that mysteriously appeared on my screen, and which increased Ges' DPS by 20% and her threat generation by a similar amount (boo to the loss of her T12 2-piece).  The fact that it shows boss casts even when I don't have the boss targetted (hi, Ultraxion, this is the healer who used to mis-time Fading Light, and screw you) just catapults this to beyond awesome.  Put that addon on the list of things that I will swear by for the rest of my life.  OmniCC is a very simple, plain, unobtrusive addon--it shows the CD of things digitally, rather than analog--real, actual numbers!  But dear sweet gods, such a useful thing!

Also invisible is Addon Control Panel, which makes it possible to disable and enable addons with only a /reload ui.  How did I live without it?

You can't see LuckyCharms either, because I only have it enabled as a high-level tank--doesn't matter at all for Rah's 20-something dungeons.  I've lacked enough keys to bind target-marking macros to for a while, and despaired.  LuckyCharms shows the marks in that little spot under where Jere's Omen is, to the right of the actionbars and beneath the rep bar.  Target the mob, click the appropriate marker, done.  Also makes it really easy to announce what the order of things is.  Bonus: I can announce Purple-Yellow-Red to LFR much more easily.  Shouldn't we have figured this out by now?

Postal manages my mail.  Auctionator handles auctions.  MRP does RP things, as does GryphonHeart Items (blue bag in the lower right corner).  Altoholic tells me what my alts can do, and combined with ArkInventory, tells me what they have.  PlayerScore/GearScore reminds me that I forgot to enchant my damn cloak (again).  AckisRecipeList, Advanced Tradeskill Window, and LilSparkysWorkshop help with professions, what recipes I have, and what's the most valuable to make with the mats I've got and the mats that are the easiest to farm.  Archy and ArchaeologyHelper interact with GatherMate2 to track digsite spawns just like ore/herb node spawns are tracked.  BlizzMove enables me to drag Blizzard's windows around, which is invaluable.  AtlasLoot tells me where I find the transmog drops that MogIt showed me looked awesome together.  BloodShieldTracker is Ges' tanking addon that tells me how much Death Strike will heal and shield me for at any given moment, and how much absorption I've got left.  HearKitty tracks Jere and Ulth's Holy Power and Val's Shadow Orbs, the former of which shows up very small on SUF; this addon turns it into a sound for each stack, and a sound for when you lose your stacks either through spending or timeout.  SellJunk sells junk, and IgnoreMore lets me ignore more people.  RandomMount is the gryphon in the lower right corner, and it gives me a random zone-appropriate mount.

Screenshots brought to you by MultiShot!

So, I'm still playing around with some elements of this, trying to find the ideal positions for things.  I don't think this is the sort of project one ever finishes, really.  There's always something that could be just a little bit better, somehow, and you go off in search of the fix, and you find it and it leads you off to something wholly wonderful that you don't know how you ever lived without.

All addons available at CurseVranx's site was also invaluable in this project.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Wow, been a whole month since my last post--ack!  Didn't mean to go nearly that long.

Jerexain is now decently geared and running LFR as a Holydin, and working on getting there with his Ret kit with about a 340 iLevel, pulling about 11k.  In a metaphorical leap well off the deep end, I've decided to take him tri-spec, heals/DPS/tanking.  The goal is to be competent and well-geared enough to complete LFR in all three specs, with the possibility of filling in for friends' raids.

Healing with him is a LOT of fun--my previous experience healing had mostly been with Heraqawa/Ulthnar who occasionally healed while levelling if the queue called him as heals instead of tank, and Val (see below), who levelled through most of the 60's as Disc, a process which was alternately OOM! or yawn-worthy, depending on the quality of the LFD tank I happened to be stuck with.  Pally healing is very reactive except for very brief periods--there's no HoT/Shield and forget.  The closest we can come is Hand of Sacrifice + Divine Shield, or Blessing of Protection, through which some classes can't attack--you can only cast through it.  I may have, ah, misused this a few times, placing threat-happy DPS in 'Pally Jail' for eight seconds because they kept pulling things and yanking aggro.

Yeah, that's me, saving your life by any means necessary, even if it pisses you off.

I'm rather excited about this project--I've been looking for something to occupy my time in the lull between expansions, and this may well fill up a decent bit of it.  My knowledge of Ret, and my knowledge of the finer workings of Holy, both still leave a great deal to be desired, and I'm firmly of the opinion that knowing how to fill alternative roles makes you better at your main role.

I've also been levelling Valineria, my former-warlock whom I rerolled as a Shadowpriest for RP purposes at the beginning of Cataclysm.  Well, partially RP reasons--but in truth I was horrifically un-thrilled with the state of warlocks at the start of Cata (go check out Cynwise's series of posts on the State of Warlocks, and bring Kleenex, you might need them).  Val was no longer my main, having been replaced by Ges with her oh-so-in-demand tank spec.

So I rerolled her.  And it's taken me this long to get to 80ish.  Up to 68 or so was quite a grind, with me questing as Shadow and running dungeons as Disc.  I really sucked at Shadow until I got into Northrend and early quests in Howling Fjord presented me with more difficult mobs and forced me to work out a better rotation.  It was worth it.  I go OOM a lot less, and I haven't died since then.  I ran Northrend in about three days, I think--it was definitely very fast, friends commented on it.  And now Val is 82 and in Deepholm and 485 Jewelcrafting and mining her own Elementium to prospect, and she's doing JC dailies!  I'm very excited about it all, and I've decided that her project is going to be getting her legendary staff.

It's exciting playing a caster again, after a year and a half (more, really, since I wasn't terribly active with her in Wrath).  It forces you to pay attention to entirely different things than tanking or playing melee DPS.  I'm not sure what her second spec is going to be, yet--right now it's Disc, of course, but I may go PvP Shadow.

PvP has, of course, been on my mind a fair bit lately, for a few reasons.
1) Transmog!  Some of those season tiers look amazing, either as sets or with other pieces.
2) It's something of a final frontier for me--I've raided, I've farrmed, I've played the AH, I've soloed old content, I've healed, tanked, and DPSed.  PvP's a different skillset, totally new.  For a long time it's intimidated me, but I think I'm ready to get over that now.  And what better time?  There'll be no new raid content for a few months, and no major class changes until MoP.  Plenty of time for me to get comfortable with something.

So, that brings the "gap projects" to the following:
1) Tri-spec Jere.
2) Val's legendary staff.
3) Learn to PvP, if only for Jere's tanking shield transmog which requires 7800 earned Conquest Points.
4) Stable of alts to level.

Ulthnar's guild continues to clear DS-Normal in one night (Thursday night).  There's no talk, currently, of adding heroics--that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

The Vhelaire has got Hagara down, and we hope to work on Ultraxion this Friday.  I took Ges into a Madness PuG this past weekend, one of those last-minute things.  We wiped five or six times, mostly on Kalecgos' platform (we went Green-Red-Yellow-Blue, a fairly standard Normal order), and mostly due to the same things.  It was the only Normal raiding of anything I got to do all week (Ulth's group was cancelled because of technical issues), and I had an absolute blast.  When you've been a week and a half with no raiding, even wiping is cathartic.

Fuck that.  Wiping is cathartic in itself, because it's an end.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


So I apologise for my scarcity over the past week and a half.  I've been working on two projects.

One, unexciting in the extreme, is the remedying of the error with Ulthnar's CTC that I posted about before.  I thought this was going to be an easy fix, but trinkets decided to elude me.  Indomitable Pride, I'm talking to you.  Would it kill you to drop for me?


The other project has been much more exciting, and here are the results!

Yes, Jerexain the Holydin has hit 85, and the gear grind has begun.  He's currently sitting at 334 iLevel equipped in Holy kit.  I'm unbelievably thrilled to have my third (third!) 85, and to be able to fill an additional role if needed in my Horde-side group.

A DK and two pallies.  I seem to have a thing for plate.  I think it's my priest (Valineria) who'll be my next project.

In other news, Ulthnar's DS run seemed less tense tonight, even though we 9-manned the first six bosses since we were shy one DPS.  Spine and Madness tomorrow night.  Here's to hoping our roster issues are worked out.

Still working on improving my reaction time--it felt like I was doing <i>slightly</i> better with Focused Assault on Hagara this week.  I'll be looking into UI options this week--I think part of my issue is that my screen is so cluttered that I can't make out DBM timers from raidframes from my skilltimers, and I'm losing valuable time finding the right piece of information.  A friend suggested Lui, another suggested Tokui...

What I'm looking for in a UI:
--Small.  Real estate is at a premium, as I play on a laptop.
--Not based on click-casting, as I only have two mouse-buttons, and in order to reach them, I have to take hands away from my keybinds.
--Multi-functional, preferably.  If not, something aimed at tanks.  Tanking's what I do with Ulthnar the most, and I need a UI that puts the elements I use most close at hand.
--Better ability/skilltimer management.  Right now, most of my abilities are keybound, and they only show up on the screen because most of them are on CDs.  Unfortunately, the default UI tends to put them front and center.  I'd like to move that out of the way somewhat, make it a little smaller.
--Is there any way to make DBM timers show up a little bigger?  They're awfully hard to see...
--Better raidframes.  I'm experimenting with HealBot on Jerexain, might have to play with this on Ulthnar (right-click = Righteous Defense?).  There are some interesting possibilities there, certainly...

More later, perhaps.  I need sleep.

Friday, March 2, 2012


So, I just realised something today.

Over the past two months, I've been working the combat table, attempting to get block-capped on Ulthnar, my pally.  It was a struggle, and I was really proud of myself the day I managed to make full CTC coverage.

Except, today I realised that that day wasn't quite so exciting as I made it out to be.  I'd forgotten to factor in the 5% miss chance into my calculations--and have therefore been 5% OVER full coverage for close to a month.

The error has since been remedied, but not before I managed to feel enormously stupid.