1 0 Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section
post icon


Antigen and I after logging into the WoD demo on the steps of Karabor.

It seems like just yesterday I had booked the hotel, successfully bought the tickets, and began counting down with muted excitement for the day BlizzCon would arrive. This marked my third trip out to sunny southern California for the convention and, two years after the last, it was with a completely different guild.

Personally, I had a really awesome time. I met some amazing people that I only once knew 140 characters at a time, and got to meet up with some great friends that I only get to see all-too-seldomly. And of course there was experiencing first-hand all the WoW news and getting to try out the new expansion and see some of the new content — that was all invaluable. Wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world.


Months earlier, Antigen, Meloree, Theck, Vosskah, Vidyala, and I all agreed to fly in a day earlier for a couple of reasons. The first was to avoid acclimating to all that comes with arrival day along with the thousands of other attendees who’d be showing up on Thursday (there’s something to be said for the peaceful anticipation of the Hilton lobby bar on Wednesday). The second was just to have the day to hang out as a group and get a nice steak dinner — holy cow, that steak — before all the craziness of the con and all its social implications.

On my way out to CA, I had a stopover in New York City for two hours. I finally arrived LAX (which pained me, but cheaper tickets…) somewhere around noon and proceeded to wait for Antigen, Meloree, and Theck for our shuttle to the hotel. Finally there the first objective was to get food. I had only sustained myself that day on some blue chips that JetBlue handed out and it didn’t help that Theck reeked of carrots. At the food court we were soon ambushed by Voss and Vid, back from some shopping trip, and were soon joined by Anafielle before she had to disappear again (that latter bit was a constant theme of the convention).

After lunch we shuffled over to the lobby bar and just chilled out for a few hours, Antigen and I sucking down gin and tonics while Mel and Theck got months of pent-up mechanics discussions out of the way. Hands were waved furiously, I assure you.

Once we had pre-gamed enough, it was time for our reservation at Mortons, and so off we went to that. When we finally got to sit down at the table, we got to enjoy a true feast. Probably one of the top five steaks I’ve ever had, and the company was great too. Totally an excellent capstone to a long and arduous day of travel. Bed followed soon after, we all had a busy day ahead of us.


Started the day off with a nice (though long!) breakfast at the Hilton lobby restaurant with Voss, Vid, Antigen, and (in doing so met for the first time) Hamlet, Perculia, and Sarah Pine from WoW Insider. It was the right start to the day, and was a nice counter from the craziness that would surely follow.

The day before the convention opens is, obviously, the big travel day and all it’s the day of two huge events: the big WoW Insider/wowhead party and the early badge pickup line. The two obligations line up, so choices had to be made of when to tackle each. After about noon there were a concerning number of people beginning to line up for the badge line. This, however, was such a rookie mistake. The best time to tackle the line is typically at the back end of the night, after all the early birds got out of the way. While BlizzCon is infamous for being LineCon, there’s no reason to stand in superfluous lines.

At some point in the afternoon, while everyone was off meeting up with newcomers or ticking objectives off lists, Antigen and I took a cab to In n Out Burger and fulfilled the pilgrimage we had committed ourselves to months ago. Being from the half of the country which In n Out doesn’t exist in, the burger was a rare treat. It was pretty good too — totally worth the cab fare, though that may have been mostly thanks to the animal-style sauce.

When we got back we met up with Voss and Vid, who was handing out some of her business cards to the folks who bought badge art from her. I got to meet some great people as they came over to say hi to her, including Timbersham, Arielle, (guildmate) Elfi, and a few others.
Not long after we got ourselves in gear and headed off for the WoW Insider party before the line got too intense. The group of us, despite having three writers for the site, stood in the line though we apparently could have cruised right through. (Oh well.) Either way, once inside we opened bar tabs and found a spot near the pool that wasn’t baking from all the heat lamps while the deck filled up. And it proceeded to do so, quickly.

I’m going to be charitable when I say there were some interesting characters at the party — there was an awful lot of dudebro-ing going on. And I didn’t envy the tangled mass of people piled up in front of the MC, clamoring for free swag. Not my scene, thanks.

One random rogue cornered Antigen and I and began to level a rant against rogue design in WoW and how he believes that class representation is low because all the specs are the same and they have no utility. When Antigen counterpointed smoke bomb, the rogue compared the radius of its effect to the size of his junk. I asked him how long he’d been waiting to use that line, and he said he’d been delivering it all off the cuff. Yet, once we had escaped him, I’d occasionally see him out of the corner of my eye flitting from group to group like a possessed hummingbird and delivering the same rote rant. It was bizarre.

Anyway, thankfully, there were way more awesome people there to totally set off the throng — including Tikari and Kristin, Hestiah, others whose names escape me — and it was great to get to hang out with them. At one point Voss made the mistake of offering a compliment to me in front of all those lovely people and I immediately tweeted about it. That earned me a smack, but dammit, it was worth it. (I should have recorded it, perhaps made it my ringtone. Regrets.)

After enough time passed we had to rush out to hit the badge line, though reports were rushing in from Twitter that it was still massive. When we finally entered the line, it was parallel with the entrance to the Hilton lobby and we had about 90 minutes to make it through. Thankfully the line was moving really fast by that point — there were so many turns and bottlenecks down the line that it seemed there was enough time for the badge counters to clear people out as new folks stepped up. As a whole it was a ridiculously efficient enterprise. It think it only took us 30 minutes in total to pass through the whole thing.

On the other side, some people (Hamlet and Theck) dodged back to the WI/wowhead party, while the rest of us went up to the suite that Voss and Vid had gotten at the Hilton to hang out. The lobby was already a madhouse, as you’d imagine. Voss played host and ordered food and drinks, and everyone proceeded to decompress and shoot the shit. That’s pretty much how the night ended, with everyone conserving energy for the craziness that would soon follow.

Friday: Day One

If there’s one line that I am absolutely dead set on getting the best spot in, it’s the opening ceremonies line on the first day. That line position determines your seat for the opening and the big reveal of the next expansion and it had to be done right. Antigen was kind enough to indulge me and get in early, skipping breakfast. We weren’t as early as Theck, who was right by the fountain in front of the doors with Kerriodos, Derevka, and other Something Wicked people. Antigen and I snuck through the line and joined up with those folks. Voss and Vid went for breakfast first and were stuck way far away from us by the time they joined the line. Meloree opted to avoid it altogether and just cruise in once everyone was inside.

I severely underestimated how the line would flow — and, sidenote, to call it a line is charitable; they just piled everyone up in a throng in front of the doors, and I was honestly expecting a horror story about a trampling later — and the doors opened probably an hour after we got in line, though two hours before any ceremonies started. We then spent about 15 minutes in the lobby before the doors to the convention itself opened and we barreled forward trying to grab seats. Somehow Kerri, Theck, Antigen, and I stuck together and we grabbed seats on the left side of the main hall. They were decent seats and (I would argue!) better than the row that Voss, Vid, Tass, and Elfi grabbed.

The opening ceremony was great and by the time Metzen started ruminating on the old days of Warcraft and honor and how the Alliance should feel great about themselves (little obvious what they were trying to do) and it was so blatantly obvious that very soon he was going to say the words ‘Warlords of Draenor’. It was only a matter of time. So they ran the trailer for the next expansion and it was awesome. I swear the line about “new character models” was easily the biggest applause point throughout the whole thing. Moreover, I have it on good authority that the first time a draenei appeared on screen, Vidyala began vomiting rainbows.

After that Voss, Vid, and Tass joined us in our obviously superior position for the What’s Next panel. I won’t go too far into that because I want to do a separate post about all the big changes, but suffice it to say, Vid wasn’t the only one vomiting rainbows.

That was pretty much it for the must-have panels, so went out to grab some lunch before the big art panel that Vid wanted to go to at 3:45. Meloree took us down to the restaurants on Katella and someone chose PF Changs. That was amazing, I can’t believe I’ve never been to one of those around Boston before. Then again, I’m a sucker for fried rice.

Back at the con, Antigen and I broke off and checked out the exhibitions. We played the demo for the next expansion, which was painful to do thanks to default UI and keybinds. It looked awesome, though, and the item squish was not noticeable at all. I snagged pictures of the level 100 talents, but everyone else was miles ahead of me on twitter before I had gotten to that.

Later that night, Voss, Vid, Antigen, and I headed over to the Twisted Nether Blogcast party where I got to meet Fimlys and Hydra and eat copious amounts of bar food. I also ran into Glaciel who used to be in Enveloping Shadows, which was trippy. I’m sad I didn’t get more time to reminisce with him. Not too longer after the start Chronis and Kaleri joined us and the group of us huddled around a table and engaged into some awesome, Blue Moon-fueled tank talk. That party was easily one of the highlights of the trip for me.

On the walk back to the Hilton, Chronis seemed to desperately want to call it a night, but no one was letting him off the hook that early. We dragged him back to the Hilton lobby where Voss and Vid bid us good night. Antigen was hopped up on gin at that point and was intent on scoring another hit, so I went to the bar with him. Finally he got the attention of a bartender and got our drinks and then we circled around until we found the Apotheosis folks. I hadn’t met them all yet, so I got to introduce myself to Serinne, Serrath, Colin (I have no idea what your character name is!), Srsbusiness, and a few more. Got to spend some more quality time with Chronis as well.

At one point Ghostcrawler walked by and Apotheosis immediately swarmed him. Serrath kindly offered to take a photo of me and Antigen with GC, so we slipped over to him and asked if he’d take a photo with a couple of paladins. He laughed and immediately offered a “fuck paladins!” With his normal routine, it was hilarious. It was really nice of him to indulge us and take a photo with us.

Me, GC, and Antigen. Sorry, my phone camera is crap.

As it always does, 2am hit and the Hilton staff cranked up the lights and began to herd everyone out. Was a good cap to the night!

Saturday: Day Two

Saturday was a much more quiet day, and much like with regards to writing this recap, the first day had completely drained my batteries. I’m not a social butterfly to begin with, so extending past my natural reticence was beginning to take its toll.

The day itself at the convention was really quiet. There was nothing super critical to get there early for. The live raid is always cool, but I didn’t think it was worth standing up for a while for. I took my time and grabbed breakfast with Voss and Vid while Antigen scooted off to grab some seats for the following general WoW panel.

When we met up with him, it turned out he was in just about the same area we were in for the What’s Next panel the day before. So that was convenient. The gameplay panel, again, I won’t go too far in to it — but the highlight was obviously the stats and design discussion. I am ridiculously excited for some of what they talked about.

After that panel, Antigen and I went to walk around the con. We watched a few Starcraft matches, which I was able to follow despite knowing next to nothing about the game. We tried out Hearthstone on the tablet, and the Diablo 3 expansion on the PS4, and fell victim to how sold out the Blizzard store was.

At 4pm it was time for Pallypalooza at the meeting stone, which was ok. I got to talk a bit with Meloree, Kerri, Colin (sorry again), and Antigen while Theck was swarmed by grateful prots and Anafielle shmoozed with the high-end raider prots like Slootbag and Treckie. We took a big group photo which I was super paranoid I got cut out of because some guy that looked like Tom Hanks on the island from Castaway started to edge me out. Thankfully, I made the cut.

After Pallypalooza, we had the guild dinner over at sushi place way down Katella Ave. It was really, really good. And I was happy to be able to just calmly sit and chat with my guildmates over copious quantities of fish and rice. Vid got the manager to take a group photo, though I’m not sure where that went.

The night ended quietly as well. I eventually crashed after hanging out with the BTers and Jed and his friend for a bit. It was a long week and I was definitely nearly out of steam.


When I woke up the next day, just about everyone was in full “get out of dodge” mode. People were flooding out of the Hilton and surrounding hotels, catching shuttles and cabs, and heading to the airport. Blizzcon was over and it was time to return to normalcy.

Had breakfast with Voss, Antigen, Theck, and Mel, and Arielle joined us a little after. I got to enjoy a little tank talk at the table, mostly listening to Theck and Arielle talk about their blue interactions the other night.

By the time the afternoon rolled around, it was like a bomb went off. Everywhere you went, where the day before there may be hundreds of people filling some spot, there was no one. No throngs crossing the streets at all time, not long lines for Starbucks or the food court, just… emptiness.

Meloree was still around until his flight on Monday and he was awesome to spend the day hanging out with me. Antigen left at 1pm and Theck a little before him, and with Vid at Disneyland and Voss out shopping, it was just the two of us for a while. So we hung out and talked a lot and drank a decent amount of coffee until eventually Voss returned and we went for a long lunch. Then it was just the three of us until finally it was time for my shuttle to LAX, that night. I met up with Anafielle and we hopped in the shuttle and rode off for our respective rides into the sunset.

My plane took off a little after 11:30pm, and as the wheels retracted and LAX faded away in the distance I reflected a bit on the trip while trying to jam those JetBlue earplugs into my ear canals. It was a really awesome week and I think I officially accomplished all I had hoped to, along with a little bit more. Most of all, I’m glad to have gotten to spend time in person with good friends — some for the first time, some for yet another time. But hopefully not the last time.

Leave a Comment
post icon

The end of a long journey


While I haven’t blogged in quite a bit, having documented our other steps in getting all the challenge mode golds, it only seemed right that I write a post putting a cap on the whole thing. Yesterday we finally achieved our long-held goal and nabbed the very last gold ranking we needed, in Stormstout Brewery. It seems like just yesterday we sat down and hammered out a plan of devoting two hours every Sunday towards progressing through that content, and now finally at our destination, there’s a bit of an empty satisfaction in victory.

Armory says we hit our first challenge modes milestone — all bronze rankings complete — on June 28th, and then got our very first gold on August 4th. Before that first gold we were floundering, and the dark suspicion that many of us harbored was that we weren’t good enough to finish CMs. I’m happy that we were absolutely wrong in our pessimism, we just needed to overcome the hurdle of learning how to play challenge modes at the meta level.

Once that clicked, and we got that first gold in August, we started downing new ones every two weeks. After half the golds were under our belt, we began knocking out each of our last four at a pace of one a week. The acceleration there was just awesome.


And so that brought us to yesterday’s scheduled CMs time — 8 golds under our belt, the very last one to go, and only days away from BlizzCon (our not-serious, but sort-of deadline). We were facing Stormstout Brewery, widely regarded as the most difficult CM. And looking back I absolutely agree with that opinion.

As a group, we also decided that we would go a little later than our normal two hours if needed. Unfortunately it was; our first two hours were okay, but we were just having so much trouble with nailing the trash up to the first boss in an acceptable time. Our comp was terrible for any kind of kiting, and yet that seemed to be the best way to do it.

We took a break so Voss could have some tortellini and gather himself (having been saddled with the toughest job in there, he needed some recharge time) and I hunkered down to think about changes to make to our strategy. When we reconvened, I made a pitch that we should appeal to our group’s strength (raw DPS and chaining AOE stuns) and make a point of burning down the seven big monkeys all at once before Voss went and pulled the horde of smaller hozen in the big room beyond.


Using that method, and having only the less dangerous monkeys to worry about for Voss’ limited kite, did wonders. It was much faster than before — and even better, it was totally repeatable. We finally had the first portion of the dungeon down.

From there on we rocketed through the virmen section, and were able to handle Hoptallus in a way that was much smoother than previous attempts where we somehow found our way to him. The Hoppers in particular were no longer really an issue, and they lost all powers of panic they held over me as the sole melee DPS.


We proved to ourselves last week that we could easily nail the last boss in just under a minute, before the little healing adds became to numerous to cover, so thankfully that was never an issue. If anything, the only real hurdle that sat before us at this point was just executing the whole dungeon and all its fights. We had a good handle on each of the pieces, we just needed everything to line up in the same run.

Entering the fourth hour of our attempts, we had an amazing run where we got to the last room with something like three minutes to go. Unfortunately were didn’t coordinate stuns on the swarm of little healing alementals and so we spent way too long on that trash. Likewise I died twice on the trash after that, because Suds are evil.

The attempt after that we had one of those absolutely heart-wrenching wipes on the last boss. We executed the entire dungeon in an okay fashion, but not amazing. It was very tight at the end, we had just under a minute to burn the last boss, and at around 11% both Millya and I died. It fell to the three remaining to somehow cover the healing beams from the little alementals and keep DPS up. Voss called for a wipe at around 3%, because they couldn’t cover the healing and they couldn’t DPS the adds enough to finish the boss off. It was a lost cause.


The timer had also just ticked over to Silver, to add insult to injury.

As we ran back to the dungeon entrance, Voss polled the group: “do we want to reset or go back for the valor poi–”

“No. Reset.” Millya and I both quickly responded, cutting him off.

Valor points can go pound sand, we were at the finish line. Reset and let’s finish this.

For the next attempt we were all clearly on edge. We could taste that gold ranking. It was ours. And in order to keep us all in order and to avoid someone from snapping, Voss adopted his cool-as-a-cucumber raid leading/project management voice and guided us through the dungeon. It’s hard to describe in words the effect his narration had on our gameplay, but, knowing next to nothing about the human body, I’m convinced I could have then and there performed open heart surgery with just that voice to guide me.

We glided through bosses one and two, nailing new records on each according to DBM. As we ran down the ramp to the entrance of the last building, I had this moment of clarity where I just knew that we were going to get the gold. We were operating in total harmony, a full minute ahead of our best previous attempt as we opened that door to those four patrolling mini-alementals. Nothing could go wrong.

By the time we reached the last boss, we had nothing but time, and managed to down it (flawlessly, might I add) with something like 30 seconds left on the clock. That’s all she wrote, our last gold was done.


Glowing, we all rushed off to transmog into our shiny new gear and gushed at one another in Mumble. I effusively attributed our success to Vosskah’s Disembodied Voice of Confidence, though he disagreed. Apparently, if compliments are currency, then in Vossland they may as well be Monopoly money.

Regardless, I think somewhere deep in his icy heart he recognizes how critical his tanking and leading has been throughout the process of achieving all of the gold ranking.

Every one of us has improved as a player thanks to challenge modes — me especially. I was forced to learn to really effectively DPS as retribution, and while it’s not a difficult spec to learn, the DPS mindset definitely was. I’m very happy with how I was able to make a valuable contribution to the group while in an offspec.

Ultimately, I’m so grateful that Blizzard added these in Mists of Pandaria. They have easily been my favorite content of the entire expansion. Now that our journey has come to an end, I’ll definitely miss the adventure of working through this content. Though I must admit I am also grateful I now have my Sundays completely free again.

Leave a Comment
post icon

Going for the gold

On yer marks

I’ve been doing challenge modes for the last few months with Voss (tanking on his DK), Millya (frost mage), Shaen (elemental shaman), and Itanya (resto shaman). Last month we got our first gold, in Temple of the Jade Serpent, which was a bit of a turning point for our plucky band. Before that we had spent the previous two or three months using our allotted two hours on Sunday to collect random bronze and silver medals, but gold seemed too far out of our reach.

So in July we buckled down and decided to really try for gold. We would farm up invis pots, read up optimal strats, change gear around –whatever it would take. We started with Gate of the Setting Sun, widely considered one of the easiest golds, if not the easiest. Unfortunately we found ourselves stumbling in there, always about three minutes behind where we needed to be. When you only have thirteen minutes to begin with, that’s a huge gap.

Eventually we grew terribly frustrated of Gate and decided to — for the sake of preserving our sanity and our desire to do CMs at all — try a new location. We changed tracks and refocused our sights on Temple of the Jade Serpent, which we then proceeded to spend three weeks on shaving more and more time off of every attempt.

What frustrated us most about Gate, I felt, was the beginning with the bombs. The first two minutes of the whole place is a massive storm of stress and danger, and having to do that over and over because someone exploded wore thin very quickly. Temple, in contrast, was pretty “smooth” the whole way through. The trash was dangerous, but there were no insta-gibbing environmental hazards ready to beat you over the head. In short, it felt more manageable.

And it was! We flourished in there. Eventually we were consistently 30 seconds shy of gold, and needed to find someway to make up a good chunk of time. At this point, I was tanking all of the challenge modes and Voss was DPSing and (with all due respect to Voss) we weren’t in an optimal configuration there. Voss had just shifted to a new class (DKs) a few months prior and I don’t think he was as practiced or comfortable with damage-dealing in his new skin.

We decided on a lark to swap things up. He’d go tank and I’d go DPS. I didn’t tell him at the time, but I had a whole boat-load of reservations, from giving up Battle Healer for the group, to my tanking DPS, to my mediocrity with retribution. However, Voss was clearly ahead of the curve, as it was that very day that we ended up getting a gold ranking in Temple. My DPS was higher than Voss’ by a not-insignificant margin and I was able to make up enough time that we got to the Sha with plenty of time to spare. We then knocked him over and celebrated our very first gold.

That gold was a major shot in the arm for our group. Before then we had begun to wonder if we were good enough to achieve the gold times … did we really have any business trying for them? But, yes, our success provoked a welcome dose of new confidence. It was time to really get to work.

Indeed, how fitting it was the Sha of Doubt we had to overcome for that first gold.

Breaking the Siege

After Temple, our next target was the Siege of Niuzao Temple. I was initially hesitant because it seemed like it would be somewhat difficult, but when all was said and done it wouldn’t prove to be that awful.

For the last three weeks we worked on Siege, practicing, reducing timing, learning when to use what when, etc. All those fun things you do when you essentially commit the flow of a challenge mode to muscle memory via rote.

I could close my eyes right now and repeat in my head all sixteen-odd minutes of every action I need to take to do my fifth of what needs to be done for a gold medal in that dungeon. This might be a sickness, I’m not sure.

Anyway, two weeks ago we had a really good set of runs in Siege that allowed us to save a lot of time on our run. The first was changing where we used invisibility potions, to a much safer (less goop-y) place in the top rung of the tree, and secondly committing to getting the second to last boss and blowing up all his trash as part of the fight.

The latter part required a lot of coordination because it was a lot of damage for Voss to be taking. He moved around cooldowns, and I switched around some macros/keybinds to be able to toss and chain Hand of Sacrifice on him with only a single keypress (ditto Lay on Hands), to do my part to level off his damage. I also glyphed Blinding Light to get an AOE stun off to buy him a few seconds.

Initially it was a lot of chew all at once, but in time we got really good at keeping Voss on two feet. It also helps that he’s a great tank and was able to manage the juggling act with tasked him with.

We had one heartbreaking attempt at the end of the night where we had plenty of time to kill the boss, but we lost our healer during the fight, then Voss, and it collapsed from there. That hurt. But, it told us we were just about there.

So this past Sunday we met at the usual time and headed into Siege for our usual “stretching the legs attempt” — the first attempt of the day where we re-remember everything we do and score an easy silver. Despite a few oopses (including me blowing myself up on the bomb boss), we actually managed to score a very easy gold. The group was floored, and also slightly confused as to what we should do next.

That feeling when you're at the last boss and you have more than enough time to spare.

“Well,” I said, “we’ve had a lot of practice on Gate… maybe now’s the time to go finish it off?”

None of us really wanted to admit it, but I think we were all thinking that. So, with a lurch, oncemore into the breach we went.

The sun sets at last

Our first few attempts were on the order of “take the first hallway up to the first boss in two halves, focus sappers, pray for no bomb deaths” and while it worked, it was just too much time to cede to the ever-ticking clock. We had to do that first hallway in one big bite, we needed the extra minute and change it would allow us.

So we threw a few frustrating wipes at it until we came out on the other side with everyone alive. Knocked out first boss, on to second. On the way there’s that pack of three adds — two reavers, one wind shaper — that you’re supposed to game to kill the wind shaper but not his two friends. Unfortunately, there was some kind of bug going on where if we ignored the two reavers and took the elevator up, after the signal fire was lit and the cinematic fired, those two adds would run across to use and pull the two packs of adds between us and the third boss.

I recommended try to poly/hex them before we entered combat and see if that kept us out of combat once the wind shaper dead, and thus those two reapers not disclosed to rushing halfway across the map to kill us later on. During the attempt we tried CC, we were still in combat as we stood on the elevator. Voss commanded us to turn around and kill them, and I just groaned because it was so much time to give up to go back. We paid our due to the clock, and rode the elevator up.

Despite that massive waste of time, we still dropped down to Raigonn with about two minutes left on the clock. We also had heroism available because we only used it at the very beginning once we had bunched everything up in that first hallway, so enough time had elapsed to let it come off cooldown for the last boss. I launched up with Shaen and let forth with all the burst I could command. When I hit the ground the boss was in the high-30%s for his carapace, and it was up to Millya and Shaen to finish off Raigonn’s shell.

In what I would say was probably easily the gamechanger for our gold, we broke Raigonn’s shell in two jumps, rather than three. That left us with a solid minute to bring the big bug down. Child’s play, really:

The bigger they are...

And thus we managed to score two gold medals in one day. More importantly, we got the massive monkey that was Gate off of our backs. A massive relief, believe me.

With three gold medals around our necks that leaves us a third of the way done and with all the hardest ones still to go. We’re feeling pretty confident, though. We can totally get our crazy transmog gear before the end of the expansion. We’re up to the challenge.


Leave a Comment
post icon

A walkthrough of the paladin class cards in Hearthstone

Well met!

As I continue to play Hearthstone, I think I’m starting to get a solid feel for the ins and outs of the paladin deck and the cards that are unique to it. I’m not sure how much of this will continue to be true as the game moves through beta and to launch, but regardless, I wanted to offer what I’ve learned as the strengths and weaknesses of each paladin-only card. For more battle-hardened CCG fans, I’m sure a lot of this will be common sense or accepted practice — but hopefully for greenhorns like myself (and I suspect Hearthstone will attract many who have never touched a CCG) this all could be helpful!

Hero power

Reinforce: I’ve seen players malign this hero power because it only generates a 1/1 minion. While that may seem weak, it offers some strategic flexibility which can synergize really well with many deck strategies. As a paladin, one of our biggest strengths is controlling the board, and the more minions you can get down (to later buff!) the better. Likewise can help you squeeze some extra value out of any card that is modified by the number of minions on the board.

One mana (secrets)

I’m not really a huge fan of paladin secret cards, and I’m currently not even bothering to use them. Secrets, as @SuicidalZebra put it, are strongest against players that don’t know how to work around them. A smart player can easily counter any paladin secret without doing too much damage to their position.

Eye for an Eye: Easily countered by the enemy hero attacking your hero with the weakest minion or spell they control.

Noble Sacrifice: Ditto as the previous. When a paladin has a secret up, it’s folly to lead with your strongest attack.

Redemption: Enemy hero can counter by killing your weakest minion first, if they suspect this is up.

Repentance: This is the only secret I still like. When it works, it works really well. Generally you want to save this for near end of game, and hope that the enemy hero drops a legendary or some other massively threatening minion first. And not some one mana murloc.

One mana (everything else)

Humility: If you draw one of these, keep it in your hand until you need it most. Don’t ever waste it early. I’ve had games where the enemy hero drops a legendary or buffs something into the stratosphere and then I immediately countered and ignored that god-minion with a well used Humility. I would have lost had I not sat on it.

Blessing of Might: Great return for one mana, though realistically it might as well add a taunt effect, because the enemy hero is going to focus down whatever you buff with it. As such, never buff a minion that can’t attack that turn. And because it doesn’t buff health as well, don’t grow too attached to whatever you buff with it.

Hand of Protection: Great synergy if you’re running a Divine Shield deck. If anything it can be useful to let your minion kill an enemy minion without taking any damage in the process. Also good for a hail mary to keep a good minion alive during an enemy’s round.

Light’s Justice: Paladins have some really great weapons at their disposal, and this is not one of them. The durability is nice, but the damage is weak and there are far better options to take up deck space if you want a weapon.

Two mana

Divine Favor: I want to like this card (especially because card draw is so important) but I’ve only had one opportunity to use it where I had fewer cards than my opponent when it finally came up. It’s super situational, but for two mana can be one of the most valuable cards in your deck.

Equality: A game can be made or broken based on the availability of this card in your hand. Paired with Consecration, you can wipe the board at will starting at the six mana round. Do note that Equality affects your minions as well. Regardless, this card is often a gamechanger.

Argent Protector: Great card for only two mana. Especially solid in a Divine Shield deck.

Holy Light: Perhaps too much healing for only two mana, but I’m not complaining. Great to use on yourself, if needed, or to top off a minion’s health after attacking/surviving killing a high-attack enemy minion.

Three mana

Sword of Justice: For a class that’s often dependent on keeping minions buffed and alive long enough to overwhelm the enemy, this is a fantastic weapon. Easily the best of the three that the class offers.

Aldor Peacekeeper: Decent stats on the minion and it comes with a Humility effect to boot, what’s not the like? Definitely worth fitting in your deck, and possibly means only needing to carry one Humility in your deck as well.

Four mana

Blessing of Kings: You definitely want to have both of these in your deck, these buffs can make a huge difference whenever you need to do a lot of damage to a target in a small period of time. Use it to buff a minion and knock down a dangerous tank, for example, and open up an attack against the hero. Usually bad practice to use both BoKs on the same minion, since it’ll because a juicy target for a Polymorph or Big Game Hunter.

Consecration: Pair with Equality for a gleeful board wipe.

Truesilver Champion: A good weapon, but not amazing. Four damage is a good amount, and I usually find myself using this to knock down an enemy tank so I don’t have to spend minions getting it down.

Hammer of Wrath: A good value for four mana, considering how important card draw is.

Five mana

Blessed Champion: An amazing card if it comes to you at the right time. Can allow you to completely overwhelm the enemy player at a moment’s notice.

Holy Wrath: I don’t care for this card compared to Hammer of Wrath. It’s a lot of mana for potentially little damage, even with a card draw. Most of my paladin decks I run a good number of the cards at 3 or less mana, so I’d need a lot of luck to get a really decent amount of damage from this.

Six mana

Avenging Wrath: Can feasibly offer a board wipe, but it’s too random and Equality/Consecration is guaranteed to killing everything on the opposite side of the board. Can be devastating, I suppose, if the enemy doesn’t have minions up.

Seven mana

Guardian of Kings: Definitely always worth having one of these in your deck, at least. Solid minion with a great heal.

Eight mana

Tirion Fordring: I must admit I don’t have this card yet, but regardless it’s easily apparent how powerful it is (it is a legendary, after all). Divine Shield and Taunt means it’s going to occupy two attacks from the enemy, three maybe with it’s health. The weapon it gives you with its deathrattle is very powerful, which is an added bonus. Only downside I can see is if it gets Hexed or Polymorphed — you’d lose out on Ashbringer, and that would suck.

Lay on Hands: I love this card. 8 healing and draw three cards. Even at a cost of eight mana, that’s a bargain. Can be a game changer in the later rounds, especially for the psychological impact it’ll do on the other player. Just be careful that a mage doesn’t Counterspell it or something.

Leave a Comment
post icon

Initial impressions of Hearthstone and the paladin deck

Jaina / wat r u doin / Jaina / stahp

Along with the other writers at WoW Insider, I received an invite to the Hearthstone beta and as a result I’ve been fairly immersed in the game over the last few days. I should note that just about the only prior CCG experience I can speak of is playing the old Decipher Star Wars CCG in middle school. I still have a massive box filled with those cards squirreled away somewhere in my parents’ attic. But other than that I’m pretty much a stranger to this genre. I’ve never played Magic in any of its incarnations, physical or video game.

So, suffice it to say, I was in over my head the first time I launched the game. Thankfully, the tutorial did a good job of getting me up to speed and teaching me what most of the card types were and what they did. I didn’t feel too stranded as a result — I had some driftwood to cling to, and I could paddle to shore from there.

After the tutorial, I immediately focused on unlocking Uther and the paladin deck. I saw some tweets from others in the beta that they were having trouble with him right off the bat, but I must have been lucky because I beat him on the first try. The paladin deck was mine and I could get to work.

Over the past few days I’ve managed to defeat all the basic AIs, the expert AIs, and win enough ranked Play matches to get 2-star gold. Not anything severely impressive, but it’s gotten to the point where I feel pretty comfortable with my paladin deck and I think I’m doing okay for someone who is a complete CCG noob.

Crafting my deck

I’ve experimented with a few deck strategies thus far. When I first built a custom deck, I (in my ignorance) was nearly 1:1 buffs/spells and minions, so I’d have games with HUGE minion droughts. That was quickly scrapped for a better ratio of 1:2 buffs to minions. That seems to give me a better spread across the game. Being able to summon a 1/1 minion every turn helps too.

When I was first picking out minions I favored Taunt and Charge cards, with the thinking that I could immediately buff any Charge minions and get them to do extra damage right out of the gate, and the Taunt cards would cover my back — er, front.

It went ok, but at the same time the Taunt minions kind of felt like a waste. Across multiple games I just didn’t feel like I was getting much value out of them, and it made me feel like I was missing out on offensive potential.

Eventually I settled on my current strategy of favoring two types of minions: Divine Shield types and minion-buffing minions like Raid Leader, Stormwind Champion, or Shattered Sun Cleric. With regards to Divine Shield minions, I lucked into a Blood Knight card and crafted a second — and the wonderful thing about those is they feed off of any available Divine Shields to give themselves a +3/+3 per shield consumed. It’s a really situational strategy but it’s paid off a few times.

Moreover, I like the extra survivability that Divine Shield minions have. It allows me to keep them up long enough so I can buff them on the next turn right before they attack.

The other corner of my strategy is that (and this is my big gamble) I use my hero as my “tank”, relying on Holy Light and Lay on Hands to make up for any incoming damage. All my other minions focus on living, getting buffed, and dealing damage. I try to take control of the board early by flooding the zone and then control the game from there out.

When things go against the plan, the different paladin spells are really powerful in how they help me compensate. Humility can be a real game-changer, if it makes an appearance at the right time. I was playing a game against a priest deck player and they dropped some card (would that I can recall which one) that gains +1/+1 for every card in their hand when it is played. They had been stacking cards and had about seven at that point, so the creature went down at something like 7/7. He then played Divine Spirit doubling its health to 14.

I can only imagine the fury on that player’s face when I dropped its attack to 1, allowing me to ignore it until I could get an Equality card. (Or until the priest drew an Inner Fire card, then I’d be screwed.) Then again, I once had a mage sheep & one-shot a 12/12 Blood Knight I dropped, so I am all-too-familiar with the sadness of having a great card swept aside so easily.

Speaking of Equality, one of my favorite things about the paladin deck is being able to wipe all the enemy minions away with a Equality + Consecration combo. It’s slightly cheap, but at the same time Equality affects my cards as well, so I’m hoping that drawback allows the spell to avoid any nerfs as beta continues.

In general, the paladin deck doesn’t have the same kind of control that, say, the rogue deck does, but it has enough to allow a lucky player to cope with most horrific circumstances that another player may throw at them. For that reason I really enjoy it.

I think my deck-building goals for the future will be to craft a second Equality card, and then probably drop something for either a second Repentance (I’ll need to craft that) or a Blessing of Wisdom (still need to craft my first). For the latter one especially, unless I luck out and draw Lay on Hands (oh a second one of those would be amazing…) I tend to hit a card drought towards the latter half of the game. Indeed, I think that may be one of the biggest weaknesses of my deck, and something I need to work around.

Other impressions

I’ve tried the Arena exactly once and was immediately turned off by the concept. You pay $2 (or a bunch of gold coins) –though thankfully the first try is free — for the privilege of choosing one of three random heroes and then building a temporary deck with them. You then keep going until you lose three times, your rewards increasing for each victory.

For a more seasoned player, that’s probably not hard to work with, but I found it be pretty difficult and pretty stressful. I’ve been focusing on my paladin deck so much that I haven’t practiced with any other classes, and so was pretty fish-out-of-water in my first jaunt to the Arena.

Perhaps eventually I could enjoy it, but as is I don’t see myself giving it another try anytime soon.

I also don’t really care for the fact that Arena seems to be the best way to get rewards in Hearthstone, provided you win enough. I’d far more prefer an Arena where you can choose your custom deck, maybe for a smaller entrance fee, and just play until you lose three times, for a shot at (diminished rewards).

I understand that Arena can be so lucrative because it’s a lot more dependent on skill and knowledge of the workings and general strategies of the game — but it also sucks that it’s just about the only way to earn a decent quantity of rewards in a small time frame.

The other way to earn packs without opening one’s wallet is either earning 5 gold for every 5th random Play win, or completing the daily quest for 40 gold. Both of these require a massive time investment to earn packs — that is, you’d need to win 60 random Plays and complete your daily quest within that to earn one pack a day (or 100 random Play wins without the daily!). That’s way more time than I care invest in the game. The slow trickle of rewards is likely intentional, to bait people into just plunking down the cash for some quick and easy packs.  Oh, free to play games.

Regardless, I think gold rewards need to flow a little more freely.

Anyway, ultimately, I’m enjoying the game thus far. It’s fun to plan out deck builds and strategies and then see those plots come to fruition on the board to the horror and awe of your opponent. The paladin deck is strong, which makes me happy, and I’m really curious to see how it gets iterated as the beta continues. Hopefully it won’t be tampered down too much.

Leave a Comment
August 20, 2013
post icon

Checking in

From the badge art that Vidyala did for me for BlizzCon. (Why is November so far away?)

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks now, mostly because not much has happened. It’s full-on summer doldrums right now. We’re still raiding (which is great, nothing hurts guilds more than extended time off) but we haven’t been pushing anything difficult, just clearing Throne of Thunder week after week.

I’m chuckling reading old posts a-quiver with apprehension about whether we can clear the raid in a single week; meanwhile we’re easily pulling that off with about 30 minutes to spare out of our normal four hours.

Starting next week we’re going to get back to trying some hardmodes progression before Siege of Orgrimmar comes out. We tried heroic Jin’rokh at the beginning of July and it didn’t go very well. The decision was made to just take a month to relax and do a victory lap around the raid for a few weeks and then in August get back to the fight in earnest. So, that’s coming up soon.

Gear-wise I’m in a pretty good position. I am at 52.6% haste raid-buffed, which is awesome. At this point I have just about every piece I absolutely wanted out of normal Throne (so you can imagine I’m chomping at the bit to get some heroics gear).

The last two weeks in particular have been really good to me. Last week I got the sword from Iron Qon, which gave me a bunch of expertise, and then the tier helm from Consorts, which allowed me to get my 2pc from Shoulders + Helm, freeing up the leg slot from a better itemized off-set piece.

I was waiting for the Durumu legs, which were super-kind to drop on Wednesday. In addition, a thunderforged axe dropped from (normal) Jin’rokh earlier that night. Normally that’d be awesome, but I had just upgraded the Iron Qon sword to 2/2. Just my luck.

And because most of my gear is DPS stuff now, all my gems are straight haste, and all socket bonuses are ignored. I can’t say that feels very good. It’s actually really boring — I wish I had a reason to gem more than just haste right now. Unfortunately the damage on 10N is so low at this point that I can gear like a sword-and-board ret paladin and it won’t hurt the raid even a smidgen.

Anyway, that’s where we are. Steady as she goes, pretty much.

Siege of Orgrimmar is probably a month away, maybe less. Looking forward for raiding to be fresh again, so to speak. I love Throne of Thunder, but I’m ready for completely new fights and alien content. And even more haste as the ilevels stack up to obscene amounts!

Leave a Comment
August 2, 2013
post icon

Twisted Nether Blogcast

I was on the Twisted Nether Blogcast this past Sunday, and the recording just went up over at their site. I had a great time, and was even goaded into recounting a bit of the epic history of the prot paladin — though I am legally obligated to disclaim that I made an error in the TBC section jumbling up crushes and crits. Please forgive the error, haha.

Should be a good listen!

Comments Off
June 5, 2013
post icon

Here’s my secret to getting Blizzcon tickets

To stay zen before ticket sales, I went down to the flying turtle emporium that Millya was making to keep HERSELF zen.

Yesterday was one of those magical days that only come once a year where a person gets to put aside all concern for their blood pressure and stress levels and attempt to buy one of the hottest tickets of the year in the world of nerdery.

The last two times tickets went on sale for Blizzcon, I managed to snag my entry passes both times. Of course, the very first time I bought tickets I got place 413 in line, the second 1254, and last night I got 1334. I might be slipping.

Well, regardless, I saw a lot of people on twitter that were sad that they got stuck with such a high queue number that they eventually missed the boat on tickets. In the interest of helping — and with the selfish interest of already having my ticket and thus not shooting myself in the foot — I would like to share my method for buying Blizzcon tickets in the hopes that I can help some other folks get to enjoy the event in person come November.

For starters, do the following pre-flight checks:

1. Confirm your payment methods are correct on the Blizzcon site, to be safe. I know Blizz recommends this too, but it’s really important and bears repeating.

2. Download Chrome if you don’t have it. In my experience (or maybe this is confirmation bias) Chrome is the fastest when it comes to reloading pages. Test it out at the ticket buying site a few times to get a feel for how quickly it reloads.

3. Compliment your F5 key, it’s going to get quite a beating because you must use F5 to reload. If you click the reload icon in Chrome, you will lose precious seconds (this will be a recurring theme) getting your mouse from there to the checkout button. Either way, get familiar with how your hand will rest on the keyboard and what will be the most optimal/least painful way to spam that key.

4. 15 minutes before tickets go on sale, log into your account on and go to the payment methods page and just reload that every 5 minutes to make sure you stay logged in.

5. Check the @BlizzCon twitter account. Last night they were tweeting 30-10-5 minute warnings so it was easy to gauge the difference between my clock and theirs (ie, if I was 1 minute faster or slower than them). Gets you an idea at what point you need to be “in the zone”.

Okay, now we’re 3 minutes before tickets go on sale. This is when you want to start going to town on the F5 key, since you don’t know if some mook at Blizzcon is going to flip the switch to put the tickets on sale early. (This probably would not happen, but in cases like this safe is better than sorry.)

Here is the single most important bit of advice I can impart to you. Look at this screen:


Where that red box is is approximately where the checkout button will appear. There will also be a drop down box where you can change your quantity, but that box is a trap. You hear me? It’s a trap.

You will lose precious seconds changing your quantity on this screen when you need to get into that goddamn queue as soon as possible, scrambling over the thousands of other clambering purchasers and scalper bots. You can change your quantity at checkout before you pay for your tickets.

As you F5, get in the zone so that as soon as that red-orange button appears you will instantly click down on it rather than reload the page another unnecessary time.

I hope this all helps. Good luck on Saturday, you can do this!

Leave a Comment
April 25, 2013
post icon

Quo vadis?


Desiring some quick VP before raid last night, I queued up for a heroic dungeon and was whisked away to the Temple of the Jade Serpent. I must admit, that dungeon gives me a bit of anxiety because for the past few months I’ve been laboring under the delusion that it’s possible to get the achievement Cleaning Up while in a LFD group. And yet, so far, things have not worked out — though my delusion persists.

Without fail, in every run, I turn to head into the library first and some of the group members stop in a haze of confusion and ask where I am going. Some can only muster up the strength to express a single “?” in party chat. I must know, when did it become the default for so many people to head into the pool room first for a little splashy-splashy, so much so that they would think starting with the library was actually an incorrect choice?

Brick Road, the dungeon-building character from Earthbound, once declared that “[his] statistics show about 70% of the people go to the right first.” But obviously that’s not really scientific, and further, I’m not entirely sure his dungeoneering degree is from an accredited institution. He may just be blowing smoke. (I don’t actually think that his declaration is a representation of any real data, mind you).

I only learned of that quote yesterday while reading a dissection of the first dungeon from the first Legend of Zelda game at one of my favorite gaming blogs. The author there was talking about how the designers at Nintendo were guiding the player through the dungeon — which starts with a similar left-right split — with subtle clues that would hint at what may be the correct path. Then hours later I had my Temple run with its similar left-right split at the entrance. Does that count as an example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon?

From a dungeon design or gamer psychology standpoint I’m willing to wager the reason that left seems to be the obvious first path for the Temple of the Jade Serpent is because, between the two otherwise equal paths, the left is distinguished by having enemies visible in the doorway. When you enter a dungeon, you’re on a mission to clear out all the mobs and collect all the loot, so the brain would be naturally inclined to start with the most immediate and clearly present threat.

I can’t speak for the actual designers at Blizzard, but I can imagine that their logic was to make the seemingly obvious path pool then library with mobs as cues, and then the achievement (because they have to involve some kind of flip or reversal) the counter-intuitive opposite. It’s subtle but, if intended, pretty clever in how it manipulates the players. And oh boy are there players who fall for it.

Anyway, just something I found interesting! Now if only I could get queued up with a group that doesn’t have that one dps player who can barely do above 5k dps. One day.

Leave a Comment
April 18, 2013
post icon

A burning love for my new alt

Reach out and touch somebody with a fireball to the face. (Screenshot from wowhead.)

The first pull of the first raid I ever had with Business Time — as Vosskah will proudly recount for you while choking back tears and croissant — I was welcomed by a pyroblast streaking past my head, reaching Sinestra before my glacial, pre-Speed of Light ass could. Thus making me flub that very first pull. That ball of flame was a warning shot across my bow that BT was a different kind of guild than what I was used to. It also seated within me a deep distrust of mages.

Let’s go further back. When I was in elementary school, in the mornings after breakfast but before I needed to get dressed, I’d sit on the floor next to my parents’ old oven and watch the morning news with my dad while soaking in the radiant heat. It was a very shanty-Irish sort of morning ritual on those cold mornings (well, aside from the presence of the idiot box, but you get my point).

Over the weeks after I began that ritual, my mom noticed that the hair on the back of my head had begun to thin. A little after that, my dad had begun to notice a really unappetizing burning smell coming from the oven’s direction in the morning. Considering my mom usually wasn’t up that early, it clearly wasn’t her cooking (just kidding, ma). Anyway, I think you can see where this is going.

Thankfully, before I had slow-motion singed every hair off the back of my head, my parents finally realized what was going on. No long-term damage was done, otherwise I’d probably be playing a hairless draenei right now.

I wish there was some deeper point to that, the secret to great short writing these days seemingly being laying little crumbs of meaning as one goes, and then at the conclusion of your piece squishing them together with two sweaty paws into a muffin of revelation. I have no muffins for you, alas; I just thought those would make for two amusing and slightly tangential anecdotes.

So, yes. Having wasted enough of your time (I do get paid by the hour here), I will get to the point. As I alluded to in my last post, on a whim I rolled a mage alt, which I’ve been leveling with my buddy Dan. After much agonizing at level 10, I finally chose fire spec, having not really been enticed by the other two. I’ve tried frost in the page on a different mage alt in a different life, but it wasn’t for me this time around. In any case, you’d think this decision would provoke some hesitation within me considering past experiences, but I was actually feeling pretty gung-ho about it.

And I must say, 22 levels later, I made a fantastic decision. Fire is a lot of fun, thanks to the Heating Up mechanic. As Dan soon learned, I basically live for the momentary and exhilarating high of a crit. One goes off and those two parallel columns of flame appear on my screen and suddenly the heart is pumping and all the eyes can see are shades of red and yellow and finally my index finger trembles as it presses down on the E key to fire off an Inferno Blast.

With a FWOOM the two columns burst forth into two mighty torrents of crimson flame and I cannot help but bellow I AM A GOD OF HELLFIRE (ok, maybe ‘hellfire’ is a poor choice of words, that’s awfully warlock-y) AND NOW I WILL CHOKE YOU WITH THE SMELL OF YOUR EYEBROWS BEING SINGED OFF YOUR FACE (seriously, buring hair is a gross smell) AND ALSO YOUR FACE BEING SINGED OFF YOUR FACE.

You think I’m joking, but as Dan can attest, that is pretty much the monologue I deliver in mumble every time as I fire off that massive, instant-cast Pyroblast.

From a design perspective, I can’t help but appreciate the simple genius of that system. The closest tankadins come with that is Grand Crusader, I guess, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the same oompf.

So that’s fun. I wish I could say I get hits of the good stuff often, but with Antigen rolling around as a prot warrior, be pretty much shield slams everything to death before I get the chance to do much. Those heirlooms won’t last forever, though, so I suspect I’ll have the last laugh — which will take the form of periodic maniacal cackling at the computer screen and scaring the dog.

This alt also marks a few profession firsts for me. The first time I’ve ever leveled enchanting in tandem with the character being leveled, which makes the process remarkably easier thanks to all the quest rewards I can just melt down. Likewise, the mage is my first tailor, which incidentally is another free source of enchanting materials. The synergy is delightful.

I’m still aghast at how proactive I’m being at not making my life harder down the road and staying on top of professions, rather than dallying and suffering for it later when the professions leveling will be so much harder. I can almost taste the Royal Satchels now.

Leveling has been a blast, thus far, and I can’t wait to see what the new toys I’ll be getting down the road are like. This is the first time I’ve been so enraptured with an alt for as long as I can remember. And I think I’m finally able to make peace with that horrible pyroblast that robbed me of my innocence in Sinestra’s pit so many months ago.

Leave a Comment
March 27, 2013