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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!

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June 5, 2013
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Winning at the waiting game

I may have already had the meta equipped before he got the chance to say that.

I am not a patient man (this is an understatement). For the first few weeks in Throne of Thunder, I was very lucky with my Secrets of the Empire drops. Four one week, five and so on, until I had reached lucky thirteen. Then the torrent slowed to a trickle: one a week, two if I was lucky. Finally the week before last, I had four to go and (of course) I scored three, putting me one away from finally completing the quest. This week it took until Megaera on the Saturday LFR to nab that last Secret, but that was all she wrote, at last.

Once the LFR was out, I turned in the quest and proceeded to head over to the Isle of Thunder to do the solo scenario with Wrathion. I had heard that it was considered difficult, so I cajoled Antigen into walking me through it on mumble, him having done it just the week before. (It’s what he gets for starting the quest two or three weeks before me and finishing one week before.)

In hindsight, I can’t help but feel the scenario was pretty doable as prot. I did it as DPS, per Antigen’s recommendations, but the Sha Amalgamation seemed pretty killable even with much lower DPS. I think I would have appreciated the extra health/survivability as well for the second half.

No way this chain of events will ever bite me in the ass.

Either way, after a lot of panicked DPSing I came out the other side with the Lightning-Tempered Spear. The next challenge, how the hell was I going to find a Nalak group to bum off of on a Saturday? I went over to where ol’ Sparky hangs out, but he was just chilling, with not another soul in sight. Combine my EST play hours on a PST server with the “medium” pop we are afflicted with, and you have a very deserted Isle.

In desperation, I tried pulling it by myself and just running for it. I could make it for about 10 seconds, with Divine Shield’s help, but eventually Nalak would zap me to death with his “someone better be in goddamn melee” mechanic.

So then I asked Antigen to throw on his under-construction prot set and spec and try to buy me some time. We did one try that didn’t go very well. Though, that was not his fault, imagine if he needed me to burn down a mob as ret within 30 seconds. I’d probably end up accidentally killing him instead.

Anyway, then Voss was super kind enough to hop online and give me a hand. The groveling I offered didn’t hurt, either. He and Antigen both distracted Nalak for just enough time that I was able to kite the spark and steal Nalak’s essence, or whatever it is we were doing there.

I then excitedly bounded off back to Wrathion to present him with an Artifact of Untold Power which will not possibly even come back to bite me or the rest of the world in the ass. Nope, not at all.

How appropriate that everything is so orange.

And in exchange he deigned to grant me a trinket as payment for a job well done. Thanks, bud.

I have no idea how much longer we have until 5.3, but I doubt it’s enough time to get all the Titan Runestones before the patch drops. I am perpetually behind!

Regardless, I’m just excited to have my legendary meta and to be finally done with that phase of the questline. It felt like an eternity ago I began collecting those damn secrets, and it was getting pretty frustrating to kill twelve bosses over the course of a week and see only one or two. My luck with any kind of drop has been abysmal for the past month or two, and I was getting awfully tired of feeling like I was being knee-capped by my terrible RNG.

Jin’rokh still hasn’t dropped his axe, and I still can’t get any epic shield to drop for me this expansion (seriously, if I didn’t buy Sultiru’s I’d still be using a blue) — but at least I finally have my legendary meta. That feels good.

Empty cavern, down!

On a different front, raids this week started pretty slow, but we made up for our bad start in a very strong way. On Wednesday, we had some issues on Council, taking forever to drop what was a one-shot for us the week before. I’m not sure what exactly the issue was, but it felt like everyone was just taking way more damage than usual. Something was off.

We managed to knock that down and then get two cracks at Tortos before the night ended (the downside of two-hour raid nights). That left us last night with the task of killing Tortos quickly so we could get more progression in on Megaera.

It took us about two attempts, but we killed Tortos and moved on through the endless gauntlet of trash to have just over an hour to get some work done on Megaera. I swapped around my talents and glyphs (unglyph Divine Protection, spec into Hand of Purity) and steeled myself for another dance with Meg.

Last week’s work on Megaera was a painful exercise. I was making full use of every tool at my disposal, and even that didn’t feel like enough. Over the course of the night, I made an effort to get a good rhythm to my cooldowns, what to use when, to smooth out the most dangerous parts. Like tanking a blue head with four stacks of its “Stop Ignoring Me” buff, or just tanking the red head in general.

Our best attempt of the night was a wipe at 4% on the very last head, which was very trying, thanks to us ignorantly deciding to do the red head last. Woops.

So last night, it was determined that red would be second to last to die, then green or blue, to prevent stacking the deck against ourselves so much once again. We then pulled, and I fully expected a hectic wipe, but instead we killed it on the first try.

I know I said I thought we were on a good roll, but that was ridiculous. Everything clicked, tank damage felt much more manageable (I hardly used any cooldowns until tanking red as the second-to-last head), and as a whole everyone executed near flawlessly. I love this feeling of momentum. Hopefully we can keep it going and get Ji-Kun down in short order. The sooner we get to Primordius, the better.

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May 14, 2013
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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.

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April 18, 2013
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My guild, casual or hardcore?

Stoneybaby of Big Crits/ was asking on Twitter for posts regarding the variations of play and commitment between casual and hardcore guilds (to steal his wording). Through his tweet I realized that this is something I’ve always wanted to write about, but could never build up the courage to force myself behind a keyboard and expound upon, if only because I wasn’t prepared for the time investment such a topic requires.

Considering it’s now officially timely, I’m forcing myself to take the plunge. But only lightly… it’s more like dipping my toe in the pool. I won’t go into too many specifics, but I want to speak a little bit on the gaming “philosophy” that guides our guild and why I think that our MO has delivered the success that we currently enjoy.

I don’t want to get into the whole messy business of defining what is casual and what is hardcore, because I think such a task is sisyphean at best, and impossible at worst. It’s completely subjective, ultimately. It varies from person to person, much like the taste of Soylent Green.

Like the old saying goes, “it’s a recession when my neighbor loses his job, and a depression when I lose mine.” Well–one could say a common definition for many is “a guild less progressed than mine is casual, one more progressed is too hardcore.”

If I had to–subjectively–define my guild, my first answer from that dichotomy that comes to mind is “casual”. We only raid ICC-25 for 7-8 hours a week, two days out of the seven, we don’t maintain a military-like discipline when raiding, and we don’t always approach fights 100% optimally. And yet, we’re ranked 2013th in the US. We’re 9/12 ICC-25 HM. Obviously, we’re not that casual.

But then again, I guess casual isn’t so much the results, but rather the approach… right? If that’s the definition, then yeah, casual all the way. If not, then I guess we’ll wear that hardcore label, though we’re surely not as hardcore as many others.

Hell, we used to be a lot more hardcore in terms of our schedule, with far sparser results. Up until March we were running a schedule of raiding Tuesday to Thursday, which sucked, frankly. It was too much raiding, too clustered together. (Woops, my casual is showing.) Finally as part of the first wave of reforms to stem the bleeding we were experiencing at the time–and that’s another post for another time–we cut it back to two days a week. The result unexpectedly paid huge dividends.

We started doing more in those first two days than we did across three. It was like the Laffer Curve, but for raiding schedules.

And why did we cut back the schedule? Because at three days, the general consensus was that it was too hardcore! People didn’t want to spend three days straight in front of their PC. The vast majority of my guild’s raiders have RL commitments: significant others, spouses, children, night jobs. It was onerous for us to raid so much.

Of course, there is a downside: only raiding for those 7 hours limits how many progression shots we get on a boss week to week. We spent 2-3 hours every Wednesday for weeks while learning the LK fight. Then we extended the lockout to get a full 7 hour block on the guy, only to down him the first night of that week. Likewise, we’ve been pouring our energies into Heroic Sindragosa lately. Progress has definitely been steady, but I can’t help but think we’d have the old girl down by now if we had an extra 3 hours a week to spend on her.

But I digress. Surely the schedule we operate under is a tick in the casual column, with regards to time invested. Now, let’s talk about effort invested.

More of my dps than not read EJ. They do their class research. The two main raiding rogues are total spreadsheet junkies, a discipline that they’ve taught to every other rogue that have joined the raiding ranks. The healers spend their off time thinking and researching about strategies and techniques. Antigen obviously has his own blog, and knows his stuff. Ana and myself write about tanking, as well… as you know. We spend an unhealthy amount of time bouncing ideas off each other and diving through Maintankadin threads.

I think that’s a tick in the hardcore column. Not all guilds have a majority of their members spending time “off the clock” to work on improving themselves and their performance.

But we’re not 12/12 ICC 25 hardmodes. We’re not farming Invincibles. Which is partly why I am hesitant to deign myself fit to don such a moniker as “hardcore”. It doesn’t feel right upon my head.

Yet, ultimately, I think we’ve found a “sweet spot” in the casual/hardcore spectrum. Our input is casual–we don’t raid that often–but our output is in many respects hardcore. We get results, we kill bosses, we get loot. We might do it more slowly than other guilds, but in the end we’ll reach the same destination.

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August 27, 2010
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Into the breach!

As I’m leaving work today (er, this being post-midnight I suppose it was yesterday) I noticed Rilgon tweet rather cryptically in a fashion that altogether hinted he had received a beta key. In short order, he confirmed this great news with a blog post and named his mysterious benefactor: Curse. In a fit of pique I tweeted them asking if they’d be so kind as to hit me up as well. I figured it was a shot in the dark, closed my computer for the day, and left the office to begin my weekend.

About 20 minutes later while in the grocery store with my girlfriend, I noticed my phone buzzing a few times as if I received a few emails. At the booze aisle I finally checked out what the hub-bub was, and spotted an email from Anafielle saying “YESSSSSSSSSS” and another saying that @cursenetwork was following me now.

I put two and two together and immediately began hyperventilating. “What, what is wrong?!” the gf questioned as I began foaming at the mouth. I stammered the word “b-b-beta” and launched Twitter to make sure this wasn’t some delusion of grandeur.

Yet, there it was. “Holy crap!” I then finally found the breath to spit out, “I’m in the damn beta!” The gf then congratulated me, though we both knew she had no idea what I was talking about. She means well though.

Anyway–you, gentle readers, you understand the magnitude of this! We’re about to embark on a grand journey of math, and screenshots, and endless hours spent in front of test dummies with World of Logs running. I’m going to bloat this blog to the seams with every manner of factoid and tidbit I can of the rollercoaster ride that our class and spec is taking this beta cycle.

I’m beyond excited that rather than just saying “this sounds bad, but I have no idea” or “I bet this would be great in person,” I can actually confirm these changes first hand. I’m also beyond honored that Curse deemed me worthy of receiving this beta key. I’ll do the community proud in presenting some amazing and in depth coverage to justify my presence there.

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July 30, 2010
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Art for the sake of awesome art

I first saw Vidyala’s artwork on Anea‘s blog (whichever one of her many sites she was operating at the time, haha) and I was immediately struck by how great it was. At the time, I was looking for a new header image for Righteous Defense. Something other than Graccus, that stalwart TCG character. Something of my own that couldn’t be forced down with a C&D letter one day.

So I hit up twitter, and asked if anyone knew someone taking art commissions and Vid (of Pugging Pally fame) dm’d me back in short order offering her services. I took her up on it and I am so happy I did. As you can see above, I have definitely gotten the deal of a century. I’m pretty sure Italian princes used to have to pay small fortunes to get this kind of quality back in the day.

I’ll stop before I get accused of flattery.

In any case, if anyone is wondering the meaning of the new banner above, it’s a drawing of yours truly standing before a burning block in Stratholme, looking all righteous and “defense-y”. Fitting, I would say.

If you’re looking for someone to do an art commission of your character for a blog, or what-have-you, I cannot recommend Vidyala enough (you can find her email address on her about page). The whole process was a joy to proceed through, and Vid was very patient with my many, many tweaks and requests. She took my bizarre and vague description of what I was looking for, and turned it into the amazing banner that now adorns the top real estate of this blog. All in all, I could not be more satisfied with the process or the final result. Thanks Vid!

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July 16, 2010
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Taking it to the next level

This is a pretty exciting night we have ahead of us. After our epic defeat of the Lich King on 25man mode last week, we’ve finally unlocked hardmodes and all the lovely iLevel 277 pieces that come from them. Like Rilgon said in the LK kill post, everyone knows that Heroic Lootship is the second half of the Lich King’s loot table. Like the old guild joke goes, two words: Loot. Pinata. I can’t wait.

Likewise, it’s pretty exciting when you mull about in your head that you’re around to join that elite upper tier of raiders that will be sporting gear 13 iLevels higher than everyone else. Falowin always talks about how he wants to look different than other raiders in his gear, how he wants to look special. I used to deride him as an elitist… but, gawd, that feeling is contagious. I can’t wait to sport an all-blue tier set.

As a guild leader, I think one of the most satisfying parts of this fleeting moment is how it’s given a second wind to our 25man raids. We spent the last few weeks slowly slogging our way up the top of the hill, finally peaking with the crushing of the Lich King, and now get to enjoy a downhill ride littered with progression and amazing loot.

Everyone is more excited about raiding than I’ve seen them in a while. It’s a totally gratifying feeling from this perspective.

Anyway, I look forward to reporting back tomorrow with tales of epic progression and only tank loot dropping.

(A man can dream!)

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June 15, 2010
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Scaling up, scaling back

Vidyala asks “How much is too much?” While she’s speaking more existentially, I wonder the same with regards to tanking. How much survivability is too much? At want point do we achieve effective immortality–alphabetically the next step after EH–and no longer fear death?

In my earlier post about armory data mining, there were many folks honestly disagreeing with me on the merits of my recommendations based on the level of content they are tanking. Some stick to heroics and thus seldom, if ever, experience tank death. Some are raiding ICC 10 or 25 and thanks to the buff are pushing past 60k hitpoints.

Those two experiences are like two sections of the same tanking möbius strip. Vastly different content, but the same indelible question: at what point do I hit diminishing returns on my survivability stats?

Actually, let’s scale back that question–is there such a think as too much survivability? Many might say yes, some of them having commented on the data mining post to that effect. I would say there is not. If you think there is such a thing, let me pose this question to you: what odds are you willing to accept for your survival? If you can gear to only die once every 100 encounters, but do 5% more threat than someone who gears to die only once every 1000 encounters, is that a worthy trade-off?

I personally would say no. In my mind I have one primary directive, to survive. Holding threat is secondary. I would always be that latter tank, gearing to prevent as many possible tank deaths as possible even if it means a little less threat. If you lose threat you can always taunt it back, or salv a dps, or what have you. It’s seldom the end of the encounter. If a tank dies, things can rapidly snowball into a wipe. I would posit that 9 times out of 10, a tank death will lead to a wipe more than a tank losing aggro.

So I ask, why would you increase the possibility of the former to prevent the latter?

An example: I saw a discussion of my data mining post elsewhere and someone brought up my commandment not to socket Nightmare Tears. The commenter said they saw a single Nightmare Tear as superior over socketing a single Shifting Dreadstone because, gosh, it’s a lot of stats for one gem. Sure, you lose five stamina, but you gain strength, intellect, and spirit. … And yet, the only bit of that that remotely reduces damage is the 5 block value you get (6.5 after talents).

So the survivability trade-off between a Shifting and a NT is this: Shifting gives you 55 hitpoints, and the Tear will let you ignore 6.5 hitpoints worth of damage when you block (if you block). How does a Tear remotely appeal?

My position is and will always be that survivability comes first. If we’re following the proper rotation and staying caught up on gear and your dps are not knuckle-dragging idiots, threat should never be an issue. We should never have to gem or enchant for threat, it should come organically from our gear. If we need to increase our threat, we put on a cape that has hit, or a pair of boots that has expertise. We don’t regem to gain a few more points of strength.

Coming back to the original question, I would say there is no such thing as too much survivability. Indeed, there’s no such thing as an immortal tank. Even a god can bleed. To that end, I will always gear, gem, and enchant to keep myself as optimally alive as possible. Once I have too much hp, I will focus on mitigation and avoidance. Never threat. That’s not my job.

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May 25, 2010
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Breaking in a new off-tank, &c.

This weekend Anafielle, of Twitter and Tankadin Errant, joined our happy ES family. Tonight’s her first raid with us and I’ve been sitting on a rock, all Rodin-like, think-think-thinking of ways to properly welcome her to our band of misfits.

Now, if I were some kind of jerk tank I’d relegate her all the annoying odd jobs. Like Rotface kiting, maintanking Putricide, holding Valanar, absorbing the Blood Mirror damage on BQL, playing D on Gunship, etc. Problem is, I like those jobs, so that won’t work. We’ve already had our first debate over who gets to tank Festergut first.

Truth be told, I’m really looking forward to this. The two guys that I’ve been forcing to tank our raids since Demogar went on hiatus have been doing a great job, but they were always dps at heart. It’ll be fun to have someone to talk shop with again.

More recruitment

I can feel the Summer Slump’s hot breath on the back of my neck. His sweaty hand clamped firmly on my shoulder. Whispering sweet nothings of doom and raids with only 23 members. I’ve been actively attempting to recruit some more dps to add to the much-needed buffer so even as we shed a raider every two weeks or so, there’s someone ready to step up and get the party going.

The addition of Anafielle and her two healer friends will be key, since it frees up those dps guys so both can stick to dps every raid, rather than one being forced to tank. And the two healers were a load off my mind as to how to deal with one healer burning out and the other going away for a few weeks for her wedding/honeymoon. So that’s one crisis averted, now to add to the raid core.

Anyway, my guild is recruiting dps. If you read this blog and are on the Hoof already, or wouldn’t mind a potential server transfer, check out our recruitment post and maybe app on our guild site if you’re so inclined.

Keeping us rolling

I think right now we’re in a pretty good place in terms of interest from the raid core. We’re knocking on Arthas’ door, so that’s keeping everyone engaged, and we have some ancillary guild goals like Nordic’s Shadowmourne. Once we unlock heroic modes we’ll have that to keep people coming back every week as well. I’m hoping we accomplish that sooner rather than later so we can start rolling in 277 gear.

In the meantime, to add some other activities for some non-ICC fun, I have a list of off-night stuff to drop on the calendar. For example, I think I’m going to push for a white item run of Kara where everyone loads up on common-quality gear then we raid in that, equipping any epics we win along the way. I think it would be fun in the sense there’d be very little danger thanks lvl 80 resists, while not being a complete steamroll if done in current endgame gear.

Things are pretty “steady as she goes” right now. I can live with this.

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May 18, 2010
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Ditching the chicklet

One of my big goals when redoing my layout was to get rid of that uniform, ugly little image that Feedburner provides us to display our RSS e-peen. Rather than having the gross icon taking up some space on my sidebar, I wanted to display my subscriber count as plain text and thus format it however I pleased.

After trying a metric ton of different options and code snippets I finally found one that worked and I’d like to share it with my fellow WoW blogging buddies out there.

NB: This requires you being able to edit a php file in your layout. I inserted this code into the sidebar.php portion of my design (with heavy tweaking). Not sure if or Blogspot allow access to such a file, though any self-hosted blogs should have no problem utilizing this solution.

Here’s the code:


$url    = "
$ch     = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $url);
$data = curl_exec($ch);
if ($data) {
        echo $data;
        preg_match('/circulation=\"([0-9]+)\"/',$data, $matches);
        if ($matches[1] != 0) {
                $subscriberCount = $matches[1];

echo "$subscriberCount"


Just replace “FEEDBURNERNAME” with the username you have with that service. Mine is RighteousDefense, for example. You can get your username just by looking at your Feedburner URL.

The code block will return your total subscriber number as text. Surround it with whatever flavor you want.

I hope this works for everyone and allows you to finally ditch that awful chicklet!

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April 29, 2010