Sunday, December 28, 2008


A few days away from the game can be a dangerous thing; Leaving me to my thoughts about the game and as a result, I can come up with all kinds of crazy ideas. Here are a few of the assorted ideas I've come up with during this holiday break....

- New zone/instance ideas
- People are going to laugh when I tell them the origin of this first idea, but what the heck? I had WoW dream the other night where Avouz was trying to battle his way up a mountain. Occurred to me that might make for an interesting outdoor zone, one whose geography was not based on the horizontal, but the vertical. We've already seen this in instances (Kara, UK, DTK, etc) but not outdoors. With flying mounts and phasing, the idea could have a lot of potential.

A great mountain, held against by the forces of light by whatever villain you want to put in it. Quests would allow your faction to advance up the mountain, unlocking new quest hubs and even flight points. Those with flying mounts could do bombing runs on caves higher up to help the advance. Eventually, you'd have to face off with the boss at the very top.

Obviously, it would need fleshed out a bit, but I still think it's an intriguing concept.

I've also been thinking about a truly underwater instance. BFD was cool, but only small portions of it are actually underwater. I'm thinking one where only a very small portion of it is above, probably as little rest spots to allow casters to eat/drink. Put Naga or Murlocs as the villain. You'd have to find a way to give parties water-breathing for it to work (outside of having specific classes to cast those spells, which Blizz now wants to avoid.)

- Legacy items - One of the coolest ideas Blizz has implemented in Wrath are the legacy items, items that are bound-to-account and scale with level. It occurs to me that this might be the way to go to reward those players who have gone the distance in the past to get one of those rare and near impossible items in Classic Wow.

I'm talking Thunderfury, Quel'Serrar, Chromie's quests for armor, the lvl 60 hunter bow, Anathema/Benediction, and others . Remember all those? Obtaining any one of these items put you in the elite. They were not easy to get, even if you got the necessary drops. There was either a huge and difficult quest chain that followed after, or you were forced to farm incredibly rare items like Elementium, Blood of Heroes, or Abomination stitching, or both.

The release of TBC made all these items nearly obsolete, which I'm sure was frustrating for folks who actually put forth the effort to obtain them. The solution: make them scalable like the new legacy items. Given that the legacy items are roughly equal to a blue of their level, it's not likely they'll trump epic drops from the later Wrath dungeons, but you'd still get to see the fruits of your efforts for a time. Might even give folks a reason to go back and do those quests again, keeping some of the old content still valid.

What do folks think? Is Nord off his rocker or are these actually some pretty good ideas? Comments/criticism welcome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas...

..Happy Holidays, Festive Feast of Winter Veil, all that from us of Ordo Serpentis to all of you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Searching for Pawn Scales

Recently, I was introduced to an awesome mod called Pawn. Pawn makes gear selection easier by giving you a quantifiable item value right on your tooltip. Each character can have multiple pawn values so that you can judge an item across roles from PvP to PvE, from Tank to DPS, etc. Thus, it allows a player to determine a need roll or a quest reward based on a straight value comparison instead of having to take time to weigh each stat separately. That's great when an unexpected item drops.

Here's what it can't do. It can't simply be loaded and run. Values must be customized to get real use out of the mod. Values must also be tracked and updated when game mechanics are changed in patches. Thus, it's not for the truly casual player. It's also not for the truly hardcore player because calculator spreadsheets like Rawr still (based on my reading) provide better itemization. It also doesn't take into account the "intangibles" of an item like survivability stats for a DPSer. Finally it can't calculate the value of flavor text, use activation or set bonuses. You still have to consider these things for yourself.

That sounds like a lot of things it can't do. Trust me, it's still awesome. If your math (or someone elses math) is valid then it will protect you from the "oh that looks cool" need roll that everyone hates. It will also keep you from piecing together the wrong gear, crafting downgrades or buying junk on the Auction House. (We've all done it.)

Now, there are two ways to put together Pawn values. Option one is to do your own math and then manually enter each stat. That's great if you're a mathematician or a stat-junky. I've actually been accused of being both, but I'm too lazy. Enter option two: Find someone else to do the work for you. The great thing about option 2 is that people are nice enough to put the values in an easy cut-n-paste format. Here's some that I've found.

Hunter DPS direct from the Hunter DPS Spreadsheet v80 on Elitist Jerks.
( Pawn: v1: "Hunter": ArmorPenetration=0.323, RedSocket=9.204, CritRating=0.373, Intellect=0.937, MetaSocket=12.08, Agility=0.575, HasteRating=0.258, BlueSocket=4.045, YellowSocket=8.648, Rap=0.369, HitRating=0.506, Ap=0.369, Mp5=0.432 )

Feral Druid values compiled by Flyv.

( Pawn: v1: "Cat (Toskk)": ArmorPenetration=1.0161, RedSocket=37.312, FeralAp=1, ColorlessSocket=37.312, Strength=2.332, MetaSocket=103.21, HasteRating=0.7236, Agility=1.6992, ExpertiseRating=1.0362, BlueSocket=18.66, YellowSocket=26.92, CritRating=0.83, HitRating=1.0334, Ap=1 )

( Pawn: v1: "Bear (Toskk)": RedSocket=113.7, ExpertiseRating=1.306, DodgeRating=2.685, ColorlessSocket=172.4, MetaSocket=329, Agility=3.429, Health=0.411, BlueSocket=172.4, YellowSocket=101.3, DefenseRating=1.885, Armor=1.066, Stamina=7.185 )

Now keep in mind that Flyv & the folks over at Elitist Jerks will all say that gear ranking is an ongoing process. These numbers may not always be the best ones. Theorycraft changes. Patches get released.

I plan to keep searching for good sources for not just my characters but toons played by all my friends and post them here.

Now that the newness has worn off

In which I rant about everything I don't like about Wrath of the Lich King.

I'm concerned that Wrath is quickly losing it's new-car smell. It's such a shiny, creative place with all those poop quests but where are we? Looking for more poop quests? Lovely!

Getting my druid to 80 was not hard. Heck, the only real challenge has been finding enough time to play with all the holiday & end of the year madness.

I've pushed through to 435 leatherworking and replaced most of her gear already (the value of only having T4-equivalent gear.) I'm so over-geared for some of the stuff we're doing that I'm tempted to stop skilling to 440 because I just don't need those sweet looking epics.

I've done enough quests in Borean Tundra, the Dragonblight, Howling Fjord, & Grizzly Hills to earn each zone's questing achievements. That's half the continent done. Sure, there's a ton of content to go. I've been alternating between Sholazar Basin & Zul'Drak while searching for prime leather-grinding spots. I've been to all the regular instances. The only real challenge has been the last boss in the Oculus. It's a complete gimmick fight using the dragon instead of our own abilities. Our group just wasn't getting the hang of it. More on this later...

There's been some cool stuff along the way like the quest chains in Dragonblight and the Culling of Stratholme instance. Beyond that, it's in danger of becoming monotony.

What's worse is the reports from my friends. Typhia's guild, Edge is "farm clearing" Naxx. QSS is doing very well there as well. Some fellow Bears are reporting being bored and unchallenged by what they are seeing. In other words, the hardcore players are not being challenged. The middle-ground players (like myself) aren't being challenged. Worse yet, it's making us all sloppy players. Why learn to do things the right way when you can just muscle through everything?

The other day, I had a long discussion with Cainam where he pointed out that the place feels like it's a "gamma" release. He's right on the money. Ferals are still being heavily adjusted. DPS warriors are way too powerful with titan grip. Hunters are so OP that I've not been playing mine. I think hunters are in for a rude awakening when the 3.0.8 nerf gets pushed. Content is fun and colorful, but easy. Instead of balancing the game, they rushed it out the door for the holidays. Sure it's "fun." Sure it works. Sure they can fix it on the fly. It's one of the beauties of the ever-changing content of MMO's. But is this really the game they wanted?

Then there's vehicles...

I haven't tried pvp vehicles yet. I'm hoping that I enjoy that more than my other vehicle experiences. Sure, it's different and adds a new dimension to the game. But, really? I worked 80 levels and countless hours to learn my "craft" and now, I'm forced to abandon it to finish a quest or a boss fight? Who here didn't hate Gorefiend? It's the fight where one person can wipe the raid because they simply can't get the hang of a gimmick. I'm not talking about fight intricacy. Shade of Aran was a proper "idiot check." I don't mind facing off against a hard boss or a difficult process. I don't mind the concept of everyone having to pull their own weight. I don't mind wiping. I do mind when the game tosses out a player's effort to learn their class and their role. Places like Oculus are cool looking and add flavor to the game, but bleh, I don't like it.

I'm not saying that vehicles are hard to use. No, once you figure them out & adjusted your UI properly, they are rather easy. But, vehicles tend to be mindless process having little to do with actual skill. I either succeed on a vehicle with ease or I fail on a vehicle without having a clue why. How's that fun?

I get that there's some Heroic content that should be inviting and challenging. I get that there's more content to come. I love what they've done with the look & feel of the game. I even like the changes to tank threat-gen. I like the new swipe! I mostly like AE pulls. I don't like everything being an AE pull. I don't like getting to a boss, just to have it roll over and die. I don't want things to suddenly get harder. I wanted things to progressively get more challenging. When I was level 72 and slept through Ahn'kahet as the tank, there's a problem with the game.

Blizz swung the pendulum to the hard end when they released Burning Crusade and now it's swung to the easy end. Find me a happy middle and soon.

At this point, I'm almost looking forward to the 2 weeks away from home for Christmas vacation. It should make me miss the game and come back with a renewed desire to grind my professions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not to be outdone...

What They Don't Teach you in Mage School

So as I look at the toons in Ordo Serp I notice that there are a number of people with Mages as alts in the Ranks. So I figured I'd put together a little list of tips that folks may or may not have thought of.

1.) Have a Sheep Macro. I use a focus macro to set my target as the focus and then sheep it. This is a macro that can be found pretty easily just do a google search. In a group it's important to be able to keep something sheeped and not have it be a large effect on your DPS. This macro helps tons.

2.) Have a counterspell macro, or 2. The basic counterspell macro is simply:

/cast counterspell

Typically when you need to counterspell you need it now and when you finish casting your current spell it will be too late. You can also build a focus macro like the sheep macro, although it's only situationally useful.

3.) Know your Nukes. Mages have a number of spells that could be classified as nukes. However, for each build there are usually only one or two that are truly effective. Know what spells you are casting and when. Whenever you cast a spell you should know why you are casting that particular spell. Have a reason. (Even if the reason is wrong it is still a reason and now you can learn from it.) If you don't have a reason to cast a spell that is different from your primary nuke, you should proably still be casting your primary nuke.

4.) Know your Gear. For the most part, Spell Damage is greater than anything else. If given the choice between spelldamage and something else, usually, you take the spell damage. Hit is Key vs bosses. It only take a little hit to hit a level 82, it takes a lot more to hit a level 83. Haste is a good DPS increase, but it also increases the rate you burn through mana. Crit is an increase in DPS with no increase in MPS. However, Crit does not scale very well, even in the crit heavy builds, like Frostfire. It's still worth aquiring, but don't sacrifice too much to get it.

5.) Know your builds. THere are 5 Builds that seem to work pretty well right now. (Well or will as of 3.0.8)
Deep Arcane w/frost: 53/0/18 (or similar) Should be viable come patch 3.0.8. Very Mobile spec. Good damage. Has +6% hit. Complex rotation and mana management. Does not bring the 10% crit forthe party/raid. Primary Nuke: AB - > ABAR

Deep Arcane w/fire: 53/18/0 (or similar) Very similar to the Arc/Frost build. POM Pyro is satisfying, but not worth basing a build around. Has improved scorch to bring the 10% crit buff. The loss of persoanl DPS makes this a hard pill to swallow, but if no one else can bright the 10% crit may still be worth it. Primary Nuke: AB - > ABAR

Deep Fire: 18/53/0 Not the king of DPS it once was but very powerful. At the end of the day it's still a fireball spam build. Primary Nuke: Fireball

FrostFire: 0/53/18: Currently the spec to beat. Big Crits, Simple playstyle. Long range. No Focus magic. Primary Nuke: Frostfire Bolt

Deep Frost: 18/0/53: Simpler playstyle with Frostbolt spam. Water elemental. Can work in some survivability talents without cripling damage. Primary Nuke: Frostbolt

Find a style that works for you and run with it. Your playstyle and how well you play the spec will matter much more than which spec you choose. Once you choose a build look up how they value certain stats and gear appropriately. (For example Arcane benefits from Int more than other builds while Frostfire gains more benefit from crit than the other builds.)

OK so that's enough to get you started. I can post more if folks are interested.

Deciding #3

(Congratulations to LRNs and to all the Ordo folks who've hit 80 in the past few days.)

In the build-up to the release of any expansion, we players always make plans. Oh, I'm going to level toons A,B, and C in that order, and then work on a few other things. Most of the time, like battle plans in contact with the enemy, these ideas get thrown out the window once the expansion actually hits.

I am so there right now.

Admittedly, I did stick to some of my guns. I did keep to Stofnar as my "main" and he's now just a smidge short of level 80. My #2 was originally going to be my hunter, but then I rolled a DK and Avouz is now in Dalaran at level 74.

So, who becomes my #3?

The question hinges a lot on which 51-point talent I think is the coolest, least likely to be nerfed, and fits best my vision of the character. Here's the debate.

Hunter - Beast Mastery - Odds are good, Ellote's going to be seeing some revamp soon. I like the exotic pets, but the novelty has worn off for me. I'm actually eyeballing the Imperial Eagles in Grizzly Hills and thinking they might be a cool new pet once I get to 73-74. Will I keep a BM spec, even though the eagles aren't exotic, or go Marksman? Not sure yet.

Warrior - Titan Grip - The most broken ability in the game right now. Blizz clearly has no sense of how to balance this ability. Each 2-hander in the game is designed to be double a 1-hander in terms of DPS and stats, so each warrior with TG is getting the equivalent of 4 weapons worth of stats and damage. Nord is only going halfway with TG at the moment, keeping a Mt. Hyjal dagger in his off-hand for rage generation. But once I get a good second 2-hander, watch out.

Mage - Arcane Barrage - Jhera was often a frustrating character to play, since it seems mage has way too many options. Most other classes tend to spam a limited number of abilities. Mages have nearly a dozen spells to choose from to form that list and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what combination works best. Arcane barrage changed all that for arcane mages. I spam barrage and missiles, repeat until mob is dead. Fire off a POM-arcane blast when clearcasting comes up. It's so simple now.

Warlock - Haunt - Khera's proving to be just as powerful as before. Haunt, curse of agony, siphon life, corruption, drain life or shadowbolt until mob dead. Haunt is nice in that it does good initial damage, a decent dot, and then a heal when it expires, all of which enhance the dot-o-matic nature of affliction locks. I've heard talk that the felhunter is the new affliction pet, but I find keeping to the old imp-as-mana-battery strategy still works fine.

So things are up in the air. One of the things I hope to do once Stof is 80 is start collecting badges to get some of the legacy shoulders for these toons. +10% XP will accelerate leveling all of them, but what order I go in is still up in the air. There are times I envy LRNs and those folks who only have 1 or 2 major toons. I'm an altaholic and I've got six toons level 70 or higher. This is a problem of my own making.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blizzard Announces Paid Sex Changes

There has been a lot of interesting stuff to post about recently. There's the feral druid gear/tanking debate. It's a hot-button topic right now as exemplified by Kalon's recent blog post. There's the upcoming Hunter nerf. That one has me torn. I love my OP Hunter, but damn I'm OP.

Then there's the issue of the evil quests of late. Nord's recent post here is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The other day, the wife and I were killing what looked like American Bald Eagles for their eyeballs. Then we were cutting down all the remaining trees in a Harpy zone. Anyone else wonder if the reason for Harpy harpy-ness is the way we treat them?

Oh and let's not forget the growing feeling by a lot of long-time WoW players that the game is becoming a bit too easy (unless Blizz doesn't want you to kill a specific mob, then it becomes uber-powerful no matter what level you are...stupid Ruined Stone Giants!) Let's face it: Has anyone really been truly challenged? Remember when you first got to Ramparts in HFP? Remember Karazhan? Northrend is cool and different, but challenging? Grab yourself a good tank, a decent healer and AoE instances 2-3 levels higher than you. Seriously, who hasn't?

But today's topic is about none of that. Instead, I want to talk about paid sex changes. Oh, I'm sorry. I mean "character re-customizations." How insensative of me. OK, I'm a gaming snob. I get all snotty about people with stupid names like Imaboomkin. Real name! Search the armory if you don't believe me. Heck, QSS is filled with names like that. Some are good players, and even great people, but completely lame names. I hate it. Maybe I should move to a Role Playing server. But I digress...

So, now you can get a quicky "recustomization" for only $15. And why not? Beroth & Rhus have switched roles (main vs alt.) Maybe Beroth should get a quick snip. And Rhus spends 99% of her time in cat or bear form. So would it really matter if she was male or female? Blizz makes no gender distinctions for shapeshifting. Heck the only real "wood" in the game is resto-druids.

I put perhaps too much emotion into the idea of identity into characters. My image of people I know, in game, is shaped largely by their mains. Karthis is a bear. Poortyr is a hunter. Their personalities are often reflected in their toons and the way they play them. Sure, a lot of my friends and guildies often play toons that do not share their gender. This leads to hilarious moments when you see a "sexy" female rogue and then hear a baritone voice for the first time over Vent. Intentionally or not, it shapes a reality just as much as the quests.

This isn't a social commentary on gender identity, but instead a question about the nature of identity in the MMO world. Is a person's character completely irrelevant? Is the game just a game? And if so, why not let me change everything? Screw it. I don't want to play a male night-elf hunter anymore. Instead, let me pay to be a female forsaken priest. Aside from the issues of faction and ease of leveling, why not? If the game is "balanced," *snicker* then it makes no difference.

And yes, I know the answer to that question. Gender is cosmetic in WoW. Everything else has real "rules" issues including factions, purchased skills, etc. So, is the cosmetic part of the game important? Even on a pure PvP or PvE server, isn't the game an RPG? And if so, do these "character re-customizations" mean something?

This isn't to knock folks who simply rolled up the wrong character and have been suffering with a crappy name and the wrong look for 2 or 3 years. It's about what drives us to the game. Doesn't our character shape the experience? If you don't like your character's gender, doesn't that have the potential of shaping your game-play? Sure, you may just abandon your toon. But who hasn't abandoned toons? Heck, I've leveled more toons to 30 and gone "meh" than I have toons over 70.

Remember when I said this wasn't a social commentary? Yeah, I lied. Art can reflect and inform life. Remember the scourge plague and the debate that caused? WoW is, in many ways, one massive social experiment. Questions of fairness, equity, morality, and even sexuality are all playing out in front of us. The game is just a game. And yet, opening ourselves up to the game within the game, makes things a lot more interesting.

The one really interesting take-away here is the possibility that the game reflects a growing understanding that race, gender & gender identity can also become less important in the game of life. Wouldn't that be a great take-away?

Still, I hope that this doesn't lead to a generation of gamer-parents who come up with crappy baby names.

"Have you seen the pictures of their new baby 'Imaphilliesphan'?" Ugly kid, but man...what a name!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Role-playing Torture

Ordo Serpentis plays on a non-role-playing server, Garona. Most of us however have a background in actual tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and I, for one, will often put together a brief background that defines who my toons are.

For instance, Korathnord is an orphaned barbarian who was raised by high elves after the Scourge destroyed his people. This influences a few of my decisions in game. He chose Scryer as his Outland faction because of the blood elves, for example. He also now sports a "blood elf" hairstyle thanks to the new barber shop. But that's about as in-depth as this "role-playing" gets.

Enter Northrend and some of the new quests. Some folks have been commented on the sheer number of "poop" quests in Northrend. I've noticed an almost disturbing number of torture quests.

"Here, hit this guy with this pain wand until he talks."

"Here, feed this stuff to the prisoner downstairs."

"Here, stand by and watch as I torment this undead with holy pain."

"Ok, worgen, talk or I shoot your wife."

I'm not quite sure what to think about this. In real life, I have some pretty strong opinions against torture. I know this is a game, but I find these quests unsettling. I've sort of resolved my ambivalence by asking myself, "Would my character mind this sort of thing?"

It's bringing the role-playing aspect of my toons back up. Some would, as I understand them. Some would not. Stofnar, my new main, is a paladin and I still think of paladins as "holy warriors of virtue" from D&D. He would oppose this sort of thing. Nord wouldn't care. He's a barbarian after all.

Most people probably don't think about this, but it does add a disturbing aspect to the storyline. It points out something folks who are big into lore have known for a long time. Just because the Alliance is made up of the "good" races and the Horde the "evil" ones, it doesn't mean that the Alliance is all virtue and light and the Horde all evil and darkness. The Alliance can be quite villainous and the Horde very noble.

And now Stofnar has some soul-searching to do.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


In response to my recent email to customer service, Blizzard has returned the remaining gold, over 3k of it, to my account. I'll good to go.

So, it pays to speak up. I still advocate dealing with customer service in a polite manner and letting them do their job. Just make yourself heard and make sure they know your frustration.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tis the season to be hacked...

Fortunately, I think I caught this one before I ended up like LRNs. Unfortunately, I think this one may have had some very ugly side effects.

Ok, now to confess my idiotic noob moment. I'm far too trusting and clicked on a message from an old high school classmate in Facebook, thinking it would be some cool nostalgic stuff from the old days. Nope, it was a loader for Infostealer.gamepass, a MMO password stealer. Dumb I know.

But I caught my mistake and immediately began running Norton to wipe the thing out. But here's my problem, a full system scan on Norton takes about 2-3 hours and it was 11pm when I caught the bug. So I let Norton run and went to bed, figuring I'd finish dealing with it in the morning.

Woke up this morning to a non-functioning computer.

I've changed my password to my WoW account and Armory seems to indicate that my account has not yet been breeched (I still have my stuff according to it.) I did all this on my wife's computer, since mine is dead...dead..dead.

The thing I can't figure out is how a password stealing keylogger could blow up my CPU. There's no mention on any internet articles about it having such a malicious side effect. It's just a password stealer. I suppose it could be that my computer was just ready to give up the ghost anyway, but that seems pretty unlikely also since it's less than 2 years old.

So Nord is out of action on WoW for the foreseeable future. No clue when I'll get my computer fixed or replaced.

Update: Good news. Turns it out, odds are good it wasn't the virus that fubar'd my machine. It was the virus checker itself, which scanned my active RAM and apparently stumbled onto a defective or loose memory chip while doing so. That's what caused the crash and the subsequent headaches.

I've reconfigured my hardware, shuffled the chips around, and everything seems to be working again. Virus has been eliminated and I'm running further scans to make sure it's gone for good (FYI, it was Koobface, not infostealer.)

Should be back up and running shortly. Sorry for the false alarm, but this was likely to be an issue in-game eventually anyway.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Restoration Conclusion

After 13 days of waiting, with minimal contact from Blizzard, I received 1850 gold today and an email saying that they were done. I'm still missing over 2,000 gold.

Note: My horde toons were also wiped clean, but I let that one go since I never play any of them.

In response, I sent them some "feedback."

To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for your efforts in restoring most of my account possessions. After an excessive amount of time (13 days) I finally received the following email regarding the conclusion of my account restoration. I am still missing over well over 2,000 gold from my other characters. Am I to conclude from this message that I will not be receiving it?

We are both victims of a crime. Since, it's obvious to me on the front-end that I'm still missing gold, how difficult (after 13 days of looking) could it be for you to not see that it was taken during the hack?

I was taking all reasonable steps to secure my account. Cyber criminals are constantly taking advantage of new and creative exploits to steal from us. On the day of the hack, my system was free of viruses & trojans. My software was completely up-to-date. I don't share my password. I don't play other places. My only obvious failure was not changing my password for several weeks.

But, clearly the password rules put in place are not secure enough. So, since the hack, I've taken additional steps to buy an authenticator keychain.

And that's the bottom line here. Your loyal customers are being robbed but the nice little "Terms of Service" lay the blame on us, the victims. I understand the need for these legal protections. At the end of the day, however, you are a company selling a product to your consumer.

Customer care should be a higher priority than 13 days of minimal contact, "partial" restorations and hiding behind legal documents. I don't need to have "everything" returned. I don't need daily updates. But, more of both would have been better.

I am not oblivious to the chaos you are facing with the expansion. I am not insensitive to the impact of hackers on your business. I simply question the level of customer service I have received in this matter.

That done, I'm moving on. I have to. In the end, it doesn't matter. I got my gear back so I can play. I have friends who covered me for gold over the last 13 days. Those same friends will give me more if I run out (and not even ask for it back.) Heck, I will make more gold.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Friendship, Distance & Political Protests

I'm about to write in several paragraphs what I could easily write in one. Verbosity may or may not be my problem...shall we discuss?

OrdoSerp is more than a blog or a little alt-guild. It's a group of friends trying to remain close. Unfortunately, one of our friends is having a major disruption to his expansion excitement and it's like nothing you've encountered.

The amazing thing about the internet & MMORPG's is the way they shrink our world. Twelve years ago, Cal and I met Nord when he stumbled upon us playing Magic the Gathering in a common area at grad school.

Note: Cal swears that the ink on Magic cards have addictive properties. Also, Blue decks were Nord's kryptonite.

Over the years, we integrated into Nord's geek social group. It's that social group that serves as the backbone of the OrdoSerp guild. The years and countless miles have not been able to weaken the friendships we've made. In many ways, World of Warcraft has been one of the major reasons. Perhaps it's because WoW enables us to keep from going outside and meeting new people...

...which are two things that are very difficult for computer geeks and D&D nerds....But I digress...

Reminiscing and self-deprecating aside, WoW is important to us. Left to our own devices most of the individuals in our group might have long-abandoned Warcraft for other activities. As it stands, we struggle with real life time commitments, differences in play-style & leveling speed. Some of us are raiders, some are not (and none for the same raiding guild.) Needless to say, Wrath was highly anticipated not just because it represents new challenges & new content, but also because it's the closest thing we have to a "level-set" without rolling yet another group of alts.

Alas, none of us were prepared for the impact of political unrest in a foreign country.

Our dps warrior, Mardigilian lives in Thailand. For those of you who've been leveling all your toons non-stop and/or simply never look at international news, there are major political protests in Thailand right now which have shut down the airports.

Now, why does this matter? Well, Mard's dad pre-ordered and then express shipped Wrath (at great expense) here in the states so that our friend could play WoW with us ASAP. His game, for all we know, could be sitting at the airport waiting to be delivered to his home.

Now obviously the inconvenience of waiting for a video game is nowhere near as important as the thousands of travelers stuck, the protesters who were killed, or the political upheaval. But, it's also a lot worse than my 2-day lockout due to my account being hacked. In fact, it probably trumps all of our OMG, I can't get Wrath immediately stories due to store glitches, lines, hardware issues, & install problems combined.

Of course, hindsight being what it is, Mard could have gotten the game through other "slower" means except for the large quantities of money already poured into getting the game "quickly."

So, next time when see someone has leveled faster than you or gotten to see new content before you, think of Mard who's still doing dailies in Outland waiting for political stability so he can get his game.

As I prepare to post this, events in Thailand are rapidly improving. With any luck, Mard will have the game in time to celebrate the King's Birthday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Something for the Gamer Who Has Everything

I saw a story about this on my favorite environmentalist blog, Treehugger. I thought this would make the ultimate WoW player desk and had to share it.

Anyway, the company website PCE is good for a laugh. Part of me thinks it's an elaborate hoax and part of me wants one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Secure Than My Bank Account

Two Blizzard Authenticators arrived in my mailbox today. I got the PTouch out and labeled them so we could tell them apart. Then, I set them up on our systems in seconds. The process was easy. The extra step of getting the random secure number and entering it is fairly painless. The price included shipping and was reasonable @ $6.50 each. Of course, now I'm more nervous about misplacing them than getting my account hacked. For now, we're keeping them at the bases of our respective monitors. I was thinking about getting some retractable keychains like people get for keycards at work. Heck, we probably have some lying around.

Monday, November 24, 2008

When Bears Fly

Frantically Flying Flvy
Now, with Kung Fu Action!

I couldn't resist. Gratz on bastard!

Flawless victory. Fatality.

You knew someone was going to do it eventually....

Scorpion's "Get over here" for Death Knights using Death Grip

(This is the sort of thing I get to do for the next week while I'm in WoW withdrawal, look up goofy little add-ons and read blog posts about the game.)

I'm Back

Account is back up and running. I think I've gotten all my gear. I'm still missing my gold, all 5k worth of it, but Typhia is covering me until it is. I've taken this time to follow Blizzard's request that I clear my UI settings & mods. I'm doing it not because I think account settings & addons caused my issues. Instead, when faced with the opportunity for a clean slate and a chance to wipe bad settings, I might as well take it. Unfortunately, I'm a pack-rat. So, the mountains of items that I now have to sort through is insane.

There's only one real problem now.

My inlaws are in-route for Thanksgiving visit, eta 2 hours. I really love my inlaws, but I really want to organize my stuff and get back to leveling. Sigh!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Well, I'm still locked out. I've received an email stating that most of my items have been restored with a long list of said items. I've received an email with a temporary password. The password page tells me that my account is still locked out but the time stamp is for several hours ago.

I've watched all of my Netflix films, my team has played football (although I wouldn't call that "playing") and even done some Christmas shopping. I've got nothing else. The book I've been reading isn't very good. I've caught up on my Heroes viewing.

The time away from the game itself isn't so bad except that it's the 2nd weekend since the expansion and the last weekend before things get nuts for the holidays. Rhus is sitting 1/2-way to 74 & Beroth is 1/2-way to 72.

Then, there's the wife. She's been cleaning all day and is looking forward to a nice evening leveling her druid or mage. So basically, I need to find something to do away from the computers or spend my time watching her play without me.

The good news is that the security software on her system was not compromised and she didn't get hacked too. It's small comfort, but I'll take it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Posted by Picasa


Well, it finally happened. My WoW account has been hacked. I verified from my wife's bank alt, that OrdoSerp's bank has been totally cleaned out. It had over 2k gold, stacks upon stacks of healing & mana potions, & a ton of Burning Crusade crafting items that didn't get sold durning the expansion run-up. OrdoSerp kept the gold access confined to just my account to protect us from random hacks like this. Heck, I was on my account less than 6 hours ago checking my Auctions before bed. I run full system scans weekly, keep up active scans, worked in IT for several years and am, to say the least, very careful with all my information.

My account has a 24 hour ban on it while they investigate, so, I won't be playing or seeing the damage anytime soon.

Update #1

I've just finish a complete system scan (virus/spyware) on all 3 computers...nothing. I ran scans using other programs...nothing. I've been skimming the forums looking for examples of issues...nothing.

I changed my wife's password info on her computer just in case.

I surf using Firefox w/ NoScript running. I suppose I could have turned off security on a website, but my security software scans should have caught anything. I don't use my WoW password for anything else. And I don't log on to any computers other than ours. I, unfortunately, haven't changed that password in over a month, but usually I do. The only change I made this week was downloading some quest addons. But those shouldn't have gotten my account hacked. Besides, addons should not cause a hacked account, only their source.

I use a Merc keyboard running the ZBoard engine & I use WoWMatrix. But there are no reports of issues with either of these.

There's nothing remotely suspicious running on my task manager either.

Everything here is behind a router/firewall and I keep Windows Firewall on. Yes, Windows Firewall isn't the most secure software firewall out there, but it should be "fine" being run in conjunction with a hardware firewall.

I am at a complete and utter loss here.

I just have to wait and see what Blizzard says. Not that they will tell me anything.

Update #2

My account was hacked at approximately 3AM EST. I assume everything is gone.

After several hours of extensive system scans, a conversation between my wife & and in-game GM, several searches through the forums, and a lot of bad words, I have found nothing...

Absolutely nothing except one tiny "low threat" cookie that seems to be getting past my NoScripts filter currently.

Could something have gotten past FireFox, NoScripts, CA Security Center, Window Defender and remain completely undetected after extensive searches? Yes. Could it have happened weeks ago and since been removed? Yes.

The thing that is really upsetting me is not the part about being hacked, having my virtual stuff stolen or even my account being temporarily banned. It's the not finding anything on my system or any evidence of something on my system. I would much prefer I find something and chock it up to bad luck.

Instead, I've got that nagging feeling like I've missed something. And if "they" hacked my blizzard account, should I worry about my other online accounts like email, iTunes, Amazon, ... , bank accounts? Which, again, I rigorously secure, just like my WoW account.

I've purchased a pair of the authenticator tags for us. They should arrive in the next week or so.

Update #3

They have reset my password, but my account suspension looks like it's going to remain in effect until tomorrow afternoon. No WoW for me. Not that I would want to WoW if all my epics are gone.

Update #4

This is the last "update" I'll add to this thread. I've reinstalled my "stronger" software firewall and have been looking things over. My conclusion? There's nothing here. A few weeks ago, I logged onto the game on the "entertainment" PC connected to our TV. I detected a Trojan on that machine last week. That's when it must have happened and the goldspammers only got around to using my password last night.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Professional Frustration

Now that I've been working heavily on leveling up a death knight, I've also been trying to figure out what professions to give to him. With my large stable of alts, he's going to overlap with someone else no matter what, so I figured I'd go with something that Avouz could benefit from himself: Enchanting.

Enchanting is easy, if a bit tedious, to level. You buy up a slew of mats and just hit your bracers, gloves, and whatever else over and over again to level your skill. The problem is you eventually run out of mats, namely around 250 skill or so.

This is because no one runs the old Classic endgame dungeons anymore. They skip to Outland immediately at level 58, which means stocks of enchanting mats like Eternal essences and illusion dust are pretty scarce. When they do show up in the AH, the prices are outrageously high.

So, my only recourse to grind Avouz those last 25 points or so is to send Stofnar into Scholo and Strath and have him farm those places for green drops. At level 73, he should have no trouble, but it's annoying. Only enchanting really has this problem. Low 50 folks can mine thorium and skin rugged leather and all those sorts of mats, but GEEs and illusion dust only come from those occasional lvl 55+ green drops that aren't from Outland.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learn to DPS n00b!

Rhus, my "little bear," is a small-group tank. I've raided enough on her to know I like it and would like to find a part-time (as my health permits) off-tank role in a raiding guild, preferably QSS but I'm keeping my options open. My only concern is dps. The role in a 25-man I'd like is one somewhere in that #3-4 tank/dps slot. Except I am so accustomed to solo-cat/group-bear that I've spent next to no time dps'ing. I need practice.

Enter Typhia, the Death Knight tank. Typhia is power-leveling for his guild, Edge.

This should be a win-win situation for me. OrdoSerp now has two mains who tank as their preferred role. Having Typhia around for group activities or for 10-mans when we get to them, means I have no pressure. For a while, I was the best tanking choice for OrdoSerp. Sometimes, however, that meant I was the only tank available for our group. Now, I can tank, off-tank, dps, even off-heal. Tonight, we blasted through Azjol-Nerub & Ahn'kahet. Typhia tanked and I dps'ed. We've done the opposite in both places with great success.

Now, let me emphasize that I know tanking. It's instinct. I rarely even look at my abilities/spells. I just click the right key in rhythm with the global cooldown. If I knew then what I know now, my first toon would have been one that could tank instead of my beloved hunter.

Furthermore, Bear tanks dish out a lot of damage right now. I'm out damaging other party members on AoE pulls. I also know my group. I react to their presence instinctively. I know that Stofnar, the Retadin, is durable, boosts my damage and can take take orders like "Protect the healer" or "Heal me" with great responsiveness. I know that Sofea, the Frostmage, will inevitably pull the #5 mob in an AE pull off of me. I know it so well, I can usually plan for it. I know that in "wave" fights, Calendriel's dots are always on someone, making it a safe bet that I should move toward her when mobs spawn.

Unfortunately, none of this is true when I switch to cat and take a dps role. Getting behind a single target and staying there is surprisingly disorienting right now. There's absolutely no time to get into anything like a rhythm. By the time I get a few shreds in and pop a finishing move, not only is my target dead, everything else is dead. The AoE took care of that. My damage & dps is dismally low in these fights. The truth? I feel like I'm spending more time trying to find the ass-end of a mob than I am fighting. That's just frustrating.

Boss fights or complex pulls with extra adds, it does get more interesting. On those pulls, things happen. I could end up cycling through a real attack rotation on a "stable-positioned" boss. I could end up switching to bear to help the DK pick up some mobs, even steal them from him while the healer tops him off. I could pop up to remove poison, back-up heal, or become the shit the party looks bad "tranquility!" The healer's in trouble. No problem. The healer's dead. No problem. My weak trash damage become forgotten thanks to pure utility.

Clearly, there's life for single-target cat to raid and put up good numbers. What I lack is experience in this role. I will get it. The question is about my real place in raiding. Is that what I really want? Do I really want to be the "extra" Off-tank because my class is so naturally good at it? Or do I need to be true to myself and say No! I'm a main-tank or #1 off-tank kind of guy. I'm the kind of guy who focuses on bear talents and bear responsibilities.

I will need real, honest opportunities to slay dragons. I need to pounce and shred them. To build combo points using max-dps rotations. I need to do this in such a way that I am making the most out of my situation in the new world of AoE instancing. Because there's no such thing as a sheep pull anymore.

The easy answer tonight would have been for me to bring Beroth. He would easily put up 1.2-1.4k dps on trash pulls instead of my weak 6-700 dps). But Beroth is like an old shoe. I know everything there is to know about the toon. I don't plan on raiding with him. There's no lesson learned. Rhus is the best choice.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Triumphant Return...

Everyone goes into a new expansion with certain expectations. Oh, I'm going to focus on this character and this character, work up my professions, play in these zones, etc.

In many ways, I've not deviated from my intended path all that much. Stofnar is now officially my main toon. He's hit Uthgardt Keep and the Nexus. He's just a smidge short of level 71. I'm getting compliments about how my DPS is competitive in a way it never was when I was playing Nord.

It's a nice payoff. Stofnar was one of the very first toons I rolled and he's been a labor of love ever since. Emphasis on "labor." Prior to the 3.0.2 patch, paladins were a chore to play. I kept at him out of stubbornness more than anything.

But the one toon that's been missing from my retinue all this time is my usual namesake, Avouz. WoW is probably the first game in ages where my central character has not been someone based off of my iconic D&D toon from back in the day.

It's not that I haven't tried. I rolled an Avouz around the same time as Stofnar and Nord, a night elf rogue. Got him to the early 40s, but hated rogue. Deleted him. Rolled him again as a warrior. Got him into the 20s before I realized he was just not going to be different enough from Nord to be interesting. Deleted him again. Horde night on Malfurion gave me another incarnation, this time as a blood elf paladin. Here, I ran into a lot of the same trouble as I had with Stofnar and eventually we abandoned our toons on Malf to focus on Garona.

Enter the death knight. I wasn't sure this was going to work, since the roleplayer in me wasn't sure that Avouz would work as an undead monster turned good again. But I rolled him anyway.

Wow. Not only is the death knight starting zone some of the best storytelling WoW has offered yet, but the class is a lot of fun to play. I'm still trying to figure out what to do next, since I hardly use half my abilities. I don't need to. I feel way overpowered and I'm just kicking ass wherever I go. Having a blast doing it.

So, odds are good my #2 toon in Wrath is going to be Avouz. Typhia's pretty keen that we stick to our guns in terms of leveling our mains all at once, rather than split our group time between all our alts. He's got a good point, so Stofnar will be my group toon. But my solo toon, the toon I play when everyone else is either offline or otherwise occupied, is going to be Avouz for a while.

Forces of evil, beware. He's back.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh, yeah, they did....

My wonderful friends in Ordo "arranged" for a copy of Wrath to show up at my house today. Of course, my wife got it first and now I have to make nice with her in order to play. But hey, that's a bonus too. Awesome new game and time with the wife.

Of course, not quite sure where to begin in-game. I had all these plans to occupy my next two weeks in Outland.

Nice problem to have. Thanks guys.

It has begun!

(No apologies to Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat)

Well, Wrath went live at midnight and already the signs can be seen. I logged on this morning to post and check auctions with my bank alt. Stormwind was as empty as I've ever seen it.

A few Wrath items are already appearing on the AH at highly inflated prices. (20g for a single lesser cosmic essence?)

Haven't seen a death knight yet, but I'm guessing they're all still working their way through the starting zone for that class.

I don't envy those trying to level in Borean Tundra right now. I'm sure those Northrend zones are insane right now. Maybe there's a silver lining to not getting the expansion at launch after all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Still Down

Before the first expansion there were times when server maintenance ran a long time. But now, with the servers still down at 11:15 AM EST on Wednesday, I can't remember when the servers have been down for this long. The expansion will be available to purchase/pickup in less than 13 hours!

Good luck Blizzard. Hope the servers are up soon. I hope your tech people get some sleep soon.

Tough Choices

So far the hardest decision to make regarding switching mains from warlock to death knight has been what race to pick. In fact with less than 24 hours to go I still haven't settled on anything. My first instinct was to go with Draenei since I think they are visually the most polished race Blizzard has put out so far. Normally that would be sufficient for me since the racial abilities really only make a difference at the cutting edge of PvE/PvP play. But now, 2 days before Wrath releases, the leadership of my raiding guild has decided we should be a top 100 guild. Our server first Kil'Jaeden kill (it makes me cry that it had to come after the Great Nerf of '08) got us a U.S. ranking of 172, and a world rank of 403. So we will definitely need to step things up if we want to get into the top 100 U.S. This makes me think my racial bonuses could be a little more important than just icing on the cake. So, the big question is now, what is my raiding role with a death knight? I'd like to be one of the guild's MTs (and the night elf racial is going to be huge for tanking), but there are 4 others in the guild that are interested in MT roles (one of each tanking class) and all of them have experience from the entirety of BC as MTs (though the other death knight's experience is as a feral druid tank). Realistically this means I will probably be at best an OT for trash, and will mainly be doing melee dps. I'm fine with that, but the night elf racials don't really do anything to help with dps, whereas humans and draenei have good dps racials. But then what happens if we lose a tank and they decide to recruit outside the guild since I didn't roll a night elf and will be at a disadvantage tanking? Sigh.

First instincts are probably the best to go with, and Draenei chicks are really hot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Building for Wrath

I've been doing a lot of research tonight (damn broken servers) on tweaking Rhus' build. I've changed my talents a few times since the patch so I could play with stuff like Infected Wounds (meh) and Berserk (love it) but it's not streamlined and it's time for me to choose my path from 70 to 80.

The insane number of options is killing me. I've reviewed various recommendations from all the best feral bloggers including Kalon, Karthis & Flyv.

Leveling Specs - Flyv
Core Bear Talents - Kalon

Unfortunately, as much as there's synergy & consensus, there's uncertainty & choices. I wish I could squeeze 85 levels worth of talents into 80 levels worth of Rhus.

Tomorrow, OrdoSerp is going to try and clear Kara & part of ZA with 6-7 players as fast as we can as a last BC hurrah. For it, I may load up on bear talents before my "final" expansion respec. But after that?

It's clear to me that I want to try and eventually get all of Kalon's "core" talents by level 80. It's also clear that I want to shift my focus to include more cat/dps talents both for leveling & for a potential life as a feral dps/#4 raid tank role.

Here's how I'm leaning.

0/50/11 - PvE Leveling Build

This build includes Shredding Attacks, Predatory Instincts & Omen of Clarity. The next steps, I think, are to take Rend & Tear (5/5), Berserk (1), Protector of the Pack (3/3) & Natural Reaction (1/3).

Do I miss much as a level 80 tank not having 3/3 Natural Reaction? And if so, what could I possibly give up? One option would be Shredding Attacks, but wouldn't that significantly nerf my dps? Isn't the ability to dps my "in" when applying to for a role as an end-game raider?

Since level 80 is at least a month away (maybe more with holiday family obligations) I'm sticking with this plan until then. I suspect that someone will have theory-crafted the hell out of this by the time I'm raiding. I'll make the necessary adjustments then. Until then, I think I have a plan.

With only one more day to the expansion, I feel like I need a "24" countdown clock running somewhere.

Wrath @ Midnight

My local GameStop, where I pre-ordered copies of Wrath for the wife and me, is doing a midnight release party.

What do I do? What do I do?

Bear Goes to Tempest Keep

For personal reasons, I stepped away from raiding this summer. I also stepped away from my hunter at the same time. I focused on my Feral Druid and helped OrdoSerp get into Heroics & 10-mans without having to pug dps or beg someone to jump on their tanking alt. It's been great. I missed the excitement of raiding but not the stress. Soon though, I started to wonder how I would do tanking in a real raid. Could I handle it? Would I enjoy it? Would it be less stressful than dps'ing?

Last night as I sat down to watch a DvD, Cainam called me up and begged me to bring Rhus to Tempest Keep with QSS. Cainam has been trying to get his mage, Sofea, in on a Kael'thas kill in TK for months. With only a few days to go before the expansion, this was, perhaps, his last legitimate chance.

The problem with "best friends" is that sometimes you have to get up off the couch with your freshly popped popcorn & just-queued DvD and actually do something for them.

And so, there I was in TK on Vent with people I haven't spoken to for months off-tanking mobs in my Bear's first 25-man raid.

I had several things working for me. First, the entire raid consisted of seasoned raiders who knew the instance. Second, most of them were on their mains with T5 & T6 equivalent gear. Third, I was the 2nd off-tank with very low pressure. Fourth, I know TK from my time on Beroth. And finally, the place has been majorly nerfed.

So, how'd I do?

I discovered early on, with the help of Flyv (on his alt-hunter) quietly whispering advice to me, that my Glyph of Maul needed to be destroyed. I inadvertently broke a sheep when I fired off some Mauls on my tank target. Oops! No harm, no foul. Or should I say Fowl. It was Sofea's penguin "sheep" I broke.

I was not standing close enough to the edge of my first platform assignment for Al'ar and only lived thanks to a ton of health and a smart healer who called out in Vent for me to reposition myself. But, I did well tanking Al'ar during the ground phase and even held threat against the T6-geared Pally off-tank.

We then went and killed Void Reaver. I learned there that there was no way that I could keep up in a threat race with two T6-geared veteran raiding tanks for threat and could have just cat-dps'ed for the fight.

As we downed VR, it suddenly hit me that I had only the vaguest clue about my job on Kael'thas would be. Hell, when I stopped raiding, Beroth had only seen 3 phases of the fight. What do I do? What do I do???

Whisper-spam Flyv, "WHAT DO I DO?!?"

Thankfully, Flyv is an amazingly standup guy and I had nothing to worry about. I did my job almost flawlessly. (I'm as shocked as you are.) It took 3 pulls to get him due to some dps errors. That was fine for me, because with each pull I learned more stuff about the role of a feral druid in raiding. I shifted form throughout the phases, tossing battle res's, doing cat dps & dealing with my tanking assignments.

After we downed Kael we went on to put a smackdown on Solarian. I got no gear (I was out-rolled on the VR shoulders by 3 points) and I didn't care. A friend, also on an alt, lamented that they didn't get any gear. All I could think was "OMG, I can raid-tank! OMG, I finally got to kill Kael'thas!"

It was a very good night.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What to do while everyone else is in Northrend leveling...

Real life financial realities being what they are, odds are good I'm not going to be able to purchase Wrath when it releases this Thursday. In fact, I'm likely not to see it until my birthday at the end of this month.

So while all the other members of Ordo dash off to Northrend to begin the war against the Scourge, I'm stuck with Outland and Quel'Danis. Thankfully, being a "alt-aholic" as LRNs points out gives me a few options.
  • Raid the AH for Northrend greens. These should be upgrades for a lot of my toons. Granted Nord with his T4/T5 level epics isn't going to find much, if anything. But Stofnar (my new paladin main) still has a few green items, as do my warlock and my hunter.
  • Level a few lowbie alts. I've got a low-40s druid and a mid-20s shaman waiting in the wings. I could put a few levels on them in the meantime.
  • Level my hunter's pets. The new feature that dings pets automatically to 65 is a great help, but a level 65 pet vs. a level 70 mob is still pretty weak. Ellote's a beast master and has picked up two new exotic pets, a silithid and a core hound. Lots of work to get them to 70 and ready for Northrend.
  • Grind rep. Stofnar is an alchemist by profession and he could really use those fancy alchemist stones that are available at exalted SSO.
  • Achievements. Got a few lowbie dungeons that I don't have credit for on my various alts. Some of these can be soloed by toons at 70.
So, while all of you are enjoying your new content, I'm playing catch up on alts back in the "old" world. Remember that....

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Return to Karazhan

I've been playing this game almost since launch (I came in right after the Maraudon patch, for those who remember those days.) In the course of that time, I've been a part of four different raiding guilds. I've also had to deal with pretty much every possible problem that comes along as a part of said guilds.

I've had to deal with pissy guild leaders, prima donna officers, attention whores, lackluster performance, overzealous raiders, and the often inevitable implosion/disintigration of the guild. A lot of this comes about because of the annonimity of the Internet, where people can be jerks in ways they wouldn't face-to-face.

But we put up with it, because we want raid content. We wanted to kill Ragnaros. We wanted to farm Nefarian. We wanted phat lootz, like Ashkandi and Tier pieces and whatever else.

TBC changed the dynamic somewhat by lowering the maximum raid size from 40 to 25. Fewer people to get pissy about raiding, the more stable guilds would be. Less dead weight, etc. Well, things didn't really change all that much, so now in Wrath, you're going to be able to raid with as few as 10 in every raid instance.

We've been putting this concept to the test in Ordo by hitting TBC 10-man content with our little guild. We don't have 10. We have 8, and one of them is still leveling to 70. Technically, we're tearing through Kara and ZA with only 7.

And we're kicking serious ass. Our first run last week cleared Kara of all bosses save Netherspite (and he is so not worth it.) We also took out 3 of the initial bosses in ZA. Last night, we repeated our success, clearing Kara through Shade with only a single wipe due to a botched Curator pull.

On average, we're not overgeared with Tier 6 equipment. We have some folks with that stuff, but we also have virgin 70s with instance blues and AH greens. One of our real advantages is years of raid experience. We know these fights. We know how to beat them. And the potency given to every class in the 3.0.2 patch doesn't hurt.

We're hoping to carry this over into Wrath. Can we take Naxx with only 7 or 8? Who knows? But I'm eager to try.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Keyboard Layout

I'm planning a more detailed post about ergonomics for gamers, but I'm really excited about this and wanted to post this for my friends. My Merc keyboard arrived yesterday. I was able to spend just enough time before the server maintenance to unbox it and try the WoW pre-made keyboard layout. I immediately hated that layout. The layout was clearly for easy access to various windows like bags, character screen & spellbook. That's completely pointless. So after some tweaking, some reading and some tests, I figured out a good configuration for me.

In conjunction to the Bartender4 mod, I'm maximizing my access to the most needed spells and abilities. I'm also planning on mimicing some of the button postions with on-screen layout. Visually, I want 1-6 & 7-11 to match the positions over the directional keys. The layout matches (almost exactly) the layout I prefer on your basic QWERTY keyboard, only button postions are easier to reach.

When the game comes back online, I'll take some screenshots for Rhus & Beroth to show you what I mean.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Switching Mains

One of the frequent questions players have to face is what to do when you discover you like one of your alts better than your main.

I've been playing Korathnord since Day One. He was the very first toon I rolled in WoW. That, in of itself, is a bit unusual. But the time has come for me to consider switching to someone else.

This has been building for sometime. When TBC came out, Nord was an arms DPS/off-tank warrior. He did okay in that form, but after the first round of druid nerfs it became clear that Ordo needed Nord as a full tank. Then the problems became apparent. I just wasn't very good at tanking. I got better with practice, but was never comfortable playing that role.

Then came endgame and the desire of several Ordo folks to move their mains into raiding guilds (for most of us, it was Que Sera Sera). I became the odd-man out. Most raiding guilds don't need tanks and don't want DPS warriors, and, unsurprisingly, QSS didn't really need either. I specced fury and held my own for a time, but as the raiding content got more complex and difficult, I got left behind for rogues a lot. I spent a lot of time on the guild wait-list for raids. Eventually, I gave up and requested that I become what QSS calls "F&F," friends and family who are members of the guild, but not raiders.

And Nord went into the dustbin for a time as I leveled alt after alt. I got my mage to 70, then my hunter, then my warlock, and now just last week, my paladin, Stofnar.

So I have a broad list to choose from, and somewhat interestingly enough, it is the last of these that is most likely to become my new main: the paladin.

Part of that is, of course, the fact that post 3.0 patch, retribution paladins are way overpowered. It's fun slaughtering my way through hordes of mobs even as badly undergeared as I am. But even with nerf after nerf, I'm finding my enthusiasm holding fast.

Here's a big part of the reason. Before, both with Ordo and with QSS, I was locked in as melee DPS. Stofnar is not so limited. Even as ret, I can spot heal. I can tank. I can DPS. I can fill multiple roles and be useful. I've got versatility I lacked with Nord.

This is particularly handy in small guild gaming like we do here in Ordo. When you've got an eight person guild, and when it's anyone's guess who is going to be online on a given night, it's real handy to be able to fill any role.

That doesn't just apply to five-man content either. LRNs has been lauding our efforts in Kara and ZA this past week. Stofnar was along for much of the Kara run and it did help that I could swap to healing or tank gear depending on the pull.

In Wrath, I intend to level all my toons to 80 eventually, even Nord. But odds are good Stofnar will be my first to do so and will be my main toon for most 5-man and raiding content in the future.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Old Friends

One of the true marks of a long-time Beastmaster is his or her attachment to their pets. Before patch 3.0.2, many of us worked really hard to pick out and tame just that special someone to call our "best friend." Now with the new power of "exotic pet," these beauties are getting dumped into the Stable or even *gasp* dismissed. Here's to you Aslan and all the pets we loved before. Perhaps someday, (after they nerf hunter again) I will try out the new Marksman or Survival trees. Until then, rest oh king.
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Virgin Raider

Mardigilian has never raided. He's never been in a raiding guild. He's one of our few "mains" who is actually a member of Ordo Serpentis. Last week seven of us went to Karazhan to kill Attumen the Huntsman & try the temporary event boss. Thanks to the recent changes we were able to stay and do a full clear with just 7. Amazingly, only 2 of our party were in T5 or better gear. Most of the party still had a mix of Kara-level gear or PvP gear on. This screen shot is for him.

Grats on your first "Raid!"
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Managing the Guild Within the Guild

Another "relevant" re-post from Beroth the Hunter

How did you get into World of Warcraft? Did you do it by yourself? Did you do it to meet people?

If you're like me, you did it with a group of friends. Two or three of us started, but then the rest of us joined in. We live hours apart. WoW brings us back together. I've nearly quit the game dozens of times, but my friends keep me playing.

Even now after joining an end-game raiding guild, my friends figure prominently on my game-play decisions. Which raids will I sign up for? Which days will I reserve for them? When will I go do RL stuff and when will I log on simply to hang out and chat with them? The good news is that most of them are in the same guild with me. For the most part, the guild schedule is "our" schedule.

The drive to progress in end-game raiding can be all-consuming. When I'm not raiding, I'm often doing quests or farming materials with one goal in mind: Prepare for Raiding! I need to pay for potions, repair, new gear, and contribute to the guild bank. There are weeks when all my game-play is consumed by the raid or the raid-prep. Where do my friends fit in when this happens? Do I play to raid or do I play to do stuff with my friends?

If you're like me and the answer is a resounding BOTH, you've got your work cut out for you! Here's some of the stuff we do to maintain the balance. Some of it might seem *Duh* obvious. Sometimes it's the no-brainer stuff that's easiest to overlook, but makes all the difference

The Guild Within the Guild
aka The Alt-Guild

The Friends Channel
Everyone has these channels. It's the conversation within the conversation. In our case, it's a lifeline. Even when all of us happen to be in the same guild or party channel, we inevitably hold our group conversations here. Now that we've spread to more than one guild, we still maintain our channel. It's essential. It keeps us all in contact. When one of us needs something, we come to this channel first before going to the guild.

The Alt-Guild
Even while our mains bounce from raiding guild to raiding guild, our Alt Guild remains constant. All our bank toons & non-raiding characters are members of our Alt Guild. It provides us a haven from the "responsibilities" of being in a larger guild.

Alt Night
Along with the Alt Guild is Alt Night. For a long while it was "Horde Night," but we finally abandoned that to remain on the same server and in the same channels. Right now, alt night is just getting fired back up for the new year for a group of toons we have in the 30's. This year's "project" is called OPERATION ALT-SQUAD!

Alt-Guild Issues

Our biggest issue is numbers. Our guild w/in the guild is about 8 people. Guilds & groups in WoW work best in multiples of 5. If I had a dollar for every time we had 6 of us logged in and someone had to be excluded, I'd be rich. The best way to deal with this is to find ways of being inclusive. Here are some things we've tried with mixed results:
  • Instead of running an instance, split into groups of 3 and quest.
  • Split into the groups and then ask members of our various raiding guilds to join us. Just don't ask me to LFG! I hate pugs (even when 1/2 of it is friends.)
  • Never let the same person sit out two nights in a row.
The second is schedules. Two of us are in different guilds with very different schedules. Frankly, it's not gone well, but it has solved our first issue. Right now, schedules have created a situation where about 5 of us are online together regularly. That's been fun for us, but unfortunate for our other friends.

Staying Focused
Because we have two different foci,* it's really easy for us to drop one for the other. I do our Alt Night scheduling. There are weeks when I really need to farm something up for Beroth OR the raiding guild needs Beroth for a run that I didn't sign up for. It's so easy to go do those raid-related things and forget Alt Night. The same thing happens for the rest of our group.

Moving Forward w/ Operation Alt Squad
Over the weeks ahead, I plan to share stuff about Alt-Night and our progression. Our first hurdle is adjusting to the new "old" game. With the last patch, Blizzard changed a lot of level requirements. We're re-learning the levels of instances, mobs & general progressions.

Our goal this time around is to enjoy stuff we might have missed the other times we leveled toons. We're hoping to eventually hit some "old" end-game instances that we never really got to enjoy for various reasons.

The first hurdle is that our group is not as level-tight as we'd like. Our Tank, a feral druid named Rhus (me) is level 36, but our Priest is only 31. This was fine when we hit the Scarlet Monastery Graveyard on Monday, but I'm not sure how far we should go without shrinking that gap.

*RANT! Foci is the plural of Focus. Stupid blogger doesn't know that. It wants me to use focuses. I acknowledge that somewhere along the line general stupidity won over and made it focuses acceptable. I don't have to like it, but I accept it. Still, for the spell check to not recognize foci...Arrrgghhh!!

Now, I can go back and point out the numerous grammatical corners I regularly cut in this and other blogs. I think it's part of the nature of blogging. Sometimes, I purposefully cheat to maintain a conversational tone. I admit to an insufficient level of editing. I often catch really ugly mistakes days or weeks later. That's all part of blogging.

All that said, it still bothers me that the English language is becoming such a wasteland of inarticulate, dumb-speak.

Life of a Bank Alt / Guild Master

Today, we delve into the life and times of Narah, my bank-alt. This is a repost from the old blog, but ironically Narah is also OrdoSerp's current Guild Master. It's just easier that way. Mains swap from guild to guild, but level 10 bank alts never go away.

Hi I'm Narah the "failed" experiment. I hit level 10 and like a cold slap in the face, LRNs stopped playing me. I'm not sure why he stopped. I've got hot cans and a great rack! Is he the only heterosexual male who actually prefers male toons? Seriously, that's so lame. What's wrong with him?

Anyway, after months of living in cyber-limbo worrying that I would be deleted and replaced by some skeevy gnome or a hairy dwarf, poof! I'm back! At first, I'm so like "Where are we going?" But then I was sorry I asked because guess where I ended up? Ironforge! Instead of being replaced by a hairy dwarf, I'm shopping with them?!? Actually, I think I'm developing a thing for short men, rawr!

OK, where was I...Ironforge, right!

So, you may ask, why Ironforge? I know I did!...loudly, often and until I got tired and looked for a Starbucks...

Turns out that instead of a life of adventure, I've been turned into a supply-whore. Actually, not as bad as it sounds. Seriously! On one hand, I'll never see the world. On the other hand, I'll never have to pick up spider ichor! BLEH!

Also, I'm a professional shopper! Wahoo! Now, I know what you're thinking because I thought it too! Neiman Marcus here I come! Baby needs a new pair of shoes...I mean, Beroth totally needs an extreme makeover! Yeah, not so much. Turns out I spend most of my day talking with Auctioneer Lympkin. After work, we like to grab some banana bread from Myra and then see if we can get men buy us drinks at the Stonefire Tavern. Watch out for the Dwarven Stout, it'll put hair on your chest! Really, you don't want to get your boobs waxed it's...painful!

Wow, talk about diarrhea of the mouth! I'm soooooo sorry. I'm supposed to be giving you suggestions about living as a bank alt/personal shopper!

The reason I didn't get booted off to cyber-oblivion is that having a bank alt is a serious must for raiders. Note: It's not that he doesn't like my curves; he just doesn't want to play a priest. Go fig! I'm so easy..wait, I mean, I make things so easy! I'm not one of those sluts...I mean night-elves! Woah! Gotta focus...

Think of it this way, I'm like having an extra bag at every mailbox. I also allow you to run your utility addons like Auctioneer. The value of doing your Auctions here with me, instead of out on your main is that I protect your raider from dreaded addon bloating! There's nothing worse than starting a Tidewalker pull and feeling bloated! Or so I'm told. I'm not going near him unless someone gives him a couple bottles of Beano!

A bank-alt is also great for the dreaded "stock-pile." After a while, even the minimalist end-gamer acquires too much crap. The obsessed player might have 3 or more every-day toons. Someone's got to keep them organized and focused. That's where I come in. Not only am I a personal shopper, I'm an office manager! I keep this ship afloat. See, you thought I was just a bubble-head, but I'm more like "Legally Blond" only with short red hair and no way I'm wearing that much pink!

So, here are my survival tips for surviving the mean streets.

- First off, a girl can never have too many bags. Make sure that sugar-daddy of yours sets you up right!

- Don't let him undress you as make you dance all day for coin. It might sound fun at first, but it's really degrading. Let those night-elf witches do the dancing! You're here to shop! I got myself a nice White Traditional Hanbok from Lisbeth's place in Stormwind. It turns heads without saying "Look at me, I'm a slut!"

- Learn to report spammers and slap that ignore button hard! Seriously, those bastards should be sent to the third ring of hell or Molten Core. I can do it faster than you can say, "Amex or Visa?"

- Start your day off right. Fire up Auctioneer do a scan. It goes something like this, "Yo Lym! What's hot today!" Then you buy low and sell high! Those shirts on Wallstreet got nothing on us girls in the trenches of Ironlag!

- Always shop in the most accessible places like Ironforge or Undercity. Seriously, too much running around and you can get big calves. There's a reason why Darnassus and Thunder Bluff are empty. They are like really bad Outlet Malls....too far away and with bad prices.

- Unless you want to go all Carry, turn off General Chat. Seriously, it'll rot your brain. Heck, I'd turn off Trade for all the morons there, but you never know when a sweet deal will crop up. Just try not to pay attention to the dorks that yell all the time. They are Trolls. The first time you yell back you end up in a shouting match and they win. The second someone yells more than 4 or 5 times in a row, give em the ignore-slap! Speaking of a full ignore box, I just delete the spammer names after a while to free space. No reason to grab another addon. Addon management is too much like work as it is.

Wow, have I wasted this much time? Goodness, I've got to go see what the prices are like for Heavy Knothide Leather. If I don't sell this stuff soon, Beroth will let Relan* start shopping. That moron might know how to wield a sword, but that doesn't mean he's ready for the auction house!


*Relan is my "abandoned" warrior. I gave him a tux & a big-ass samuari sword. Now, he carries excess Leatherworking mats for me.


I will be dropping a series of "greatest hits" re-posts from Beroth the Hunter to get this party started.

It's a Brand New Day

First posts on a new blog are always really exciting for the author and usually extremely mundane. Not wanting to buck that trend, I present the introduction post to "OrdoSerp."

OrdoSerp is a blog about the life and times of a small band of World of Warcraft players. The Ordo Serpentis is an Alt guild on the Garona server. This blog is the successor to the hunter blog, Beroth the Hunter. Beroth was my main toon & raider for a long while. Now, with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion less that 2 weeks away, I am moving to shift full time to my feral Druid, Rhus.

This blog will be a home to screen shots, experiences, personal stories, and tips from the various members of OrdoSerp as we move from Outland to Northrend.