Monday, July 21, 2014

7/14H, Challenge Modes, Pet Battles, Soundtracks

  First, some listening music from the Mirror's Edge soundtrack:



  <Egalitarian Misanthropes> is 7/14 Heroic in SoO as of yesterday. We were debating whether we should attempt Iron Juggernaut or skip ahead to Nazgrim (which we'd already gotten once last week), and we even voted on it, with only 1 person abstaining and everyone voting to skip. Someone suggested poking it just to get an idea of the fight, and a few wipes later, we got it! Sometimes you just have to go for it.

  We were missing a couple people, so we had to bring some friends in, and there was a bit of a debate whether we were carried or not. They were the top two DPS, but the two we were missing are our top two DPS, so... Who even cares? No amount of DPS is going to pass a heal check or keep people from standing in fire, so I don't think it was a carry at all.

  We're getting to a point in progression where everyone is going to have to collectively step up. Early heroics are outgeared, I think, due to the ilevel boost of 4 upgrades along with fairly optimized gear across the team. We're pushing into the next level, between heroic Dark Shaman and Malkorok, and some specific problems need fixed. I'm not going to air out my guild's dirty laundry, though, at least not now.

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  I also got roped into doing challenge modes on my Warlock, an alt that I had retired and wasn't planning on playing anymore in MoP. My gear isn't optimized. Not every piece has mastery, I have no ToT weapon to use an extra gem on, my trinkets aren't great. I hadn't even done the dungeons on heroic on that character. I didn't ask to be there, I was asked to come, so any complaints fall on deaf ears. I'm topping the charts anyway. I'm only going along with this to be a team player and to get a preview of the fights. One of my goals before WoD is to get all Gold CM's on my Hunter or Rogue or both.

  My personal WoW time management philosophy is to have 3 plates spinning at any given time, because I don't like playing more than 25 hours a week. I focus on quality, not quantity. If I'm failing at something, I'm not inclined to brute force it with time+RNG. I'll expound more on this in a future thinking post, but for now I'm just making the point that stretching one's self too thin is a surefire path to burning out, especially for a tank. Currently, my primary plate is raiding. That's about 8 hours of raiding and 2 hours of valor capping, ect. a week. I've read up on all the fights already, so there's not much outside-the-instance tasks for my Paladin to complete each week. My second plate, reluctantly, is challenge modes. My third plate is a mess.

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  I've made good headway on leveling my Druid (level 78) and I've started a Mage, which I will level to 60 and boost (20 so far). These are my last two classes to level.

  Additionally, I've started doing some pet battles. I'm almost done with Battle Pet Tamers: Eastern Kingdoms. My 1-2 knock out combo so far has been Lil' Bling and Clockwork Gnome, currently level 15 and 16. They both have self-heals and dots (Make it Rain and Build Turret), so that's a significant edge. If Bling has the speed advantage, I keep him out and spam SMCKTHAT.EXE, if not I keep Clockwork out for more uptime on turrets. My third pet has varied, usually chosen to fill a gap that having two Mechanical pets leaves, but in practice I haven't found any of them necessary so far, as I've defeated most of the trainers using only Bling and Clockwork. The ones I did use are Mountain Cottontail (S/S, renamed Speedster) and Bonkers.

  I'm going to have to change my line up to defeat Durin Darkhammer, though, since two of his pets are strong against Mechanical pets, and are level 17. Up to now I've been beating the trainers two levels below them. I'm thinking I'll try a couple Critters for the defense boost.

  Special mention for Panther Cub and Sapphire Cub, which I renamed Critter Killer and Swishy. They're only level 8, but I've had fun with the two.

  My plan with my Mage was to do pet battles between bouts of PvP, but I think my pets too quickly outleveled the zones I can survive in. I could just level extra pets through the lower levels for the XP, but I think the most efficient use of my time is to decide what this third plate is. Leveling alts or leveling pets?

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  I like to listen to all different kinds of music while leveling alts or making gold, so some strange associations have been made for me. Listening to Pretty Lights reminds me of leveling my Hunter in Wrath, for example. Currently I'm on a soundtrack kick, and a few that I really like are Bastion, Journey and Mirror's Edge. I haven't played Bastion or Journey yet, but I will when I have the time and money.

  I'm learning some of the songs from Bastion on the guitar. They don't jam well solo, but playing along to the music is fun. The style is called Frontier Rock, as I've learned, and the tuning is D Modal, which I can strum loud and clear for a very full and open sound.

  Journey makes me very nostalgic for Iraq, oddly enough. It's orchestral, with a lot of cello, but according to Wikipedia, the music was made "as universal and culture-less as possible." I guess what the music and visuals are reminding me of is all the time I spent walking through the desert in real life. The last song I Was Born For This adds vocals, and after 53 minutes of instrumental music, the vocals add a sense of finality and accomplished purpose to the whole set. It's very emotional music.

  Mirror's Edge is a very fun game. If you haven't played it, you're missing out. I've never attempted parkour or free-running or whatever myself, but I am an avid runner. Being able to do that in a game in a creative and engaging way is very satisfying. I'm also a former member of the military-industrial complex, so playing a futuristic, stick-it-to-the-man storyline (with limited violence as a bonus!) was part of my break from that a few years ago.

Rebooting

  Ah, the cliched post about how I should post more. But seriously, I'm going to pick a theme and stick with it, and I think 2 posts a week ought to be a good start. My tagline has been "My thoughts and experiences in the World of Warcraft." for over 2 years now, but I've been stop-starting regular posting using various tricks, to no avail. I've also attempted guides and that Alt Appreciation theme, but never finished. I think what I need to do is return to the core reason why I started this blog. I want to express my thoughts so that my head doesn't explode, but in a way that doesn't overwhelm Vent or guild chat.

  Going forward, I've got two weekly posts I'm going to do. Mondays are now my "Here's what I've been doing" posts and Fridays will be "Here's what I've been thinking" posts. I'll supplement with some cooking posts here and there as I experiment with new recipes. It's good to have the occasional off-topic post, I think.

P.S. I was Navispammed!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Black and Blue

After taking a side trip on guild fun runs of old content (these people like achieves), I ran all the errands and got my 5th cape.

My latest transmog wasn't going to match it though, but I like it so I'll show the outgoing set.


Now the legendary cape goes better with the old Scouting outfit I was running with through Cata. I think the headdress hints at a Wildhammer heritage.




My other 4 alts at 90 are all at the Sigils stage of the questline, so I think I'm going to forgo doing legendaries on all alts and focus on preparing for Warlords. I've got a Druid to finish leveling, likely zooming to 80 soon this week. I've got a Mage to either boost and level more profs on or level then boost. I guess it's a decision between what takes more time, leveling to 60 or leveling 2 profs to 600?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Green, Green, and Green!

I got my transmog ready beforehand, though it surely could use tweaking:
Horns of the Left Hand Path 
Lightning Infused Mantle 
Coldtouch Phantom Wraps 
Shadow Council Gloves
Netherweave Belt
Rod of Corrosion
Book of Clever Tricks 
Blade of the Wretched (sword option)

Then I got green fire, which is nice. Now I have the cape, Xing-Ho, Breath of Yu'lon! Here's some shots:







I like it. I also tried the Glyph of Verdant Spheres, but it got too cluttered looking, and having only one above my head at times looks too dorky. Anyway, cape #5 this week too on my Rogue.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Green Fire Achieved



  I just did Infiltrating the Black Temple today. A couple resources I used were a Youtube video by Adam Becker and Icy Vein's Kanrethad Guide by Ackthal. Many thanks to the two!

  I got it just fine, and it was an enjoyable experience. I feel compelled to say this is a post-nerf kill, seeing as how my ilevel was 537. I killed him in the second Imp phase and felt a brief moment of "That's it?" which was fully replaced with evil glee very soon afterward!

  I popped some cooldowns at the start (Doomguard, Berserking, trinket proc+Chaos Bolts) and Feared the Pit Lord (glyphed) for even more DPS at start. Just as Fear wore off, I Enslaved (also glyphed) the Pit Lord and continued attacking. My macros were:

#showtooltip Enslave Demon
/target Pit Lord
/use Enslave Demon
/targetlasttarget

This gets the Pit Lord in action right away.

#showtooltip Incinerate
/use Incinerate
/use Fel Flame Breath
/use Demonic Siphon
/petattack

This keeps the Pit Lord's abilities on cooldown.

/target Kanrethad
/cast Charge

This interrupts Cataclysm and I put it right next to my Chaos Bolt.

  When the Imps came out, I just kept Rain of Fire on them and used another macro:

/target Fel Imp
/use Fel Flame Breath
/targetlasttarget

  Before the Felhunters came out, I sent the Pit Lord behind the gate using /petmoveto and avoiding my Incinerate macro until all three Felhunters were out and aggroed onto me. I used Havoc>Chaos bolt to kill two and DPS'ed down the third normally, no problems. In one of my failed attempts, I lost the Pit Lord to Felhunters because I didn't aggro them.

  When the Doom Lord came out, I just had the Pit Lord attack it, used my gate to drop aggro, and continued DPS on Kan.

  Overall, I just stayed out of fire and kept DPS going, using Singe Magic on cooldown and the occasional Ember Tap to stay up. I had some problems with Demonic Circle not working sometimes causing me to wipe, so I just started using my gate to avoid Kan's Chaos Bolt.

  Looking through Damage Taken: Excruciating Agony for 539k and Seed of Terrible Destruction for 254k, so more Singe! One Chaos Bolt hit me for 460k, and I didn't even notice it. Rain of Fire damaged me for 101k, so I'm not perfect on getting out of fire.

  All in all, not bad. I liked the story a lot, too. It was very informative about the nature of Warlocks.


Monday, June 2, 2014

How I View Gearing Up, As It Is

  I'm particularly bothered by a certain mindset in WoW. It has to do with the way gearing up is perceived, and it seems to me it's most commonly perceived as such:

ToT LFR>ToT Normal>Timeless>SoO LFR>SoO Flex>SoO Normal>SoO Heroic

  At this point in the expansion, new players and new alts alike get Timeless gear and from that starting point, all of ToT is ignored, even though ToT drops upgrades for the Timeless geared player. Instead, the focus is on getting into SoO LFR to get to SoO Flex to get to SoO Normal. This makes sense, of course. Why go through the hassle of a ToT Normal, with all the logistics involved, with varying gear/skill/experience levels likely present? Why do all that for ilevel 522 gear, old Tier sets and old trinkets, all of which are likely to be replaced by SoO 528 gear and current Tier sets and trinkets? Just as soon as you get to 496, you can start hitting the loot pinatas of SoO LFR and get newer, higher ilevel gear.

  Except that higher ilevel isn't necessarily better. Newer Tier sets and trinkets aren't necessarily better. Also, choosing between SoO and everything else is a false dilemma. There are many options for gearing up.

  The way I approach gearing up is by embracing the complexity and exploring options. First, I think this ordering of content itself is wrong, and very counterproductive. As such I arrange content by ilevel and add a few other sources of gear (world bosses excluded, as they are random):

JP Vendors, Timeless 489-496>ToT LFR 502>Heroic Scenario 516>Valor Vendors/Crafted 522>ToT Normal 522>SoO LFR 528>Timeless 535>ToT Heroic 535>SoO Flex 540>SoO Normal 553>SoO Heroic 566

  And now for Adventures in Paint!



  That would have been so much easier in AutoCAD, but I do not have that.

  Anyway, what that graph shows is the relative distance between ilevels. There's 3 groupings that I will call A, B and C.



  Group A gets a player out of leveling gear. It serves as a base from which to get gear from Group B. There are also a few pieces that are particularly strong for their ilevel, and should be considered even when gearing up for SoO-N

  Group B is a mix of ToT, SoO, Valor, and crafted gear (I forgot to note the crafted, sorry, moving on). This is where the bulk of effort should go if SoO-N is the goal.

  Group C is largely only available to people who are already raiding, unless they get lucky with world bosses, have enough gold for crafting, or have people who can carry them.

  For illustration, I'll give the gearing up plan of action I'd recommend to a new Prot Pally, freshly dinged 90, in leveling/questing gear, and wanting to get into raiding SoO Normal ASAP

Gearing from Group A


  Before anything else, get good trinkets, a weapon and a shield. There is one item I highly recommend getting, not for it's ilevel, but for it's performance. Lao Chin's Liquid Courage is very well itemized, compared even to ToT trinkets. It only costs JP to get, but don't waste VP upgrading it. To go with it there's: Relic of Niuzao, Alacrity of Xuen, Ghost Iron Dragonling, Iron Protector Talisman (463), Iron Protector Talisman (450). It's not the ilevel of any of these trinkets that keep you alive, just their performance. For a weapon, Maki's Mashing Mace, a quest reward from The Arena of Annihilation is good enough to run ToT LFR with, but you'll eventually want something better for SoO. For a shield, get Daylight Protectorate.

  Get the quest Heroic Deeds and hope something nice drops from the Cache. Do the quest Path of the Last Emperor for Sabatons of the Humble. Then get as many Timeless items as possible, using Burdens of Eternity on off-set pieces, i.e. bracers, belt, boots, rings, neck. Prot Pally needs Tier gear in Tier slots, since having 4 pieces of 528 Tier gear is better than 4 pieces of 559 Warforged pieces (source). As such, 535 gear in those slots is inadvisable, as they could likely get replaced by 528 gear. Then go to the Justice Point vendors and fill in the gaps. Don't bother getting Vaporshield Medallion/Medallion of Mystifying Vapors, since even the 450 version of Iron Protector Talisman is better. If you have extra JP, buy it for the ilevel boost but use something better.

 After getting Timeless gear, run ToT LFR. It makes capping Valor easy and gets rep with Shado-Pan Assault, which you'll want at friendly. You'll also likely get a better weapon and shield. If you get Fabled Feather of Ji-Kun or Ji-Kun's Rising Wind, they're third behind Lao Chin's and Relic in performance so far. If you get other 502 trinkets, just keep them in your bags for the ilevel boost. Mogu Runes are only 1,000 Timeless coins each, so getting a few and rolling on bosses that drop weapons (Jin'rok, Iron Qon) and shields (Primordius, Lei Shen) may be worth it.

  Cap Valor every week, but don't spend it yet. Save it for better gear.

 Gearing from Group B


  Once at 496 ilevel, the goal is to get 4 piece Tier and good trinkets. Run SoO LFR and as much Flex as possible. Get Vial of Living Corruption, which is BIS at any ilevel. If you are hesitant about surviving SoO LFR at only a 496ish ilevel, run as Ret or Holy and put your loot spec as Prot or Ret, depending on what the boss drops. With a good weapon, shield, trinkets and some skill, though, you should be fine.

  Heroic Scenarios can get the last bit of Valor you need per week, if you don't care to run ToT LFR anymore or do Timeless Isle quests. The gear you get is random, but if you like doing them, you can replace 496/502 gear with it.

  ToT Normal or Heroic is an option, if you have the opportunity to get in a guild achievement run or a group on Open Raid or something. The advantage is that you'll likely be running with people who don't need the gear. The disadvantage is that, while it's not as random as Heroic Scenario gear, it's not much better either. It is an option, though. If nothing is dropping in SoO LFR, run ToT as well for more upgrade opportunities, even if you don't need the Valor.

  Run Flex SoO as soon as you can get a group that will take you at whatever ilevel. You'll definitely want to down Garrosh for an heirloom, which will likely be a major upgrade. Also, you'll get more chances at gear every week, and practice with the mechanics of the fight on normal without as much difficulty. Spend a Warforged Seal on Malkorok as Prot until you get the Vial trinket, but also start saving up to 10 so that you can spend more on normal mode later.

  Once you get close to capping Valor, spend enough every week to avoid capping, but save 2,000 for upgrading 553+ gear. The first slots to upgrade should be shield, trinkets, and Tier gear. Also, the Shado-Pan Assault vendor will allow you to replace any remaining 496/502 gear with 522, but only spend Valor there to avoid capping. An item of note, if you have been very unlucky with trinket drops, is Brutal Talisman of the Shado-Pan Assault.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Steak Taco Night


Salsa Verde ingredients:
chopped onion
chopped cilantro
tomatillos
2 cups water
minced serrano pepper
minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin


Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover.


Beans and Corn ingredients:
chopped onion
chopped bell peppers
black beans, cooked until soft and rinsed
frozen corn, thawed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
2 minced serrano peppers
1 lime, quartered


After tomatillos have simmered 10-15 minutes (until soft), puree the tomatillos with water in batches.


Saute the onions until they start to turn clear, then add peppers and spices and saute until peppers start to soften.


Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes. I like to squeeze the lime wedges over the pan and put the wedges in, cause I really like lime.


Toast corn tortillas in a dry pan.


Slice another lime, and combined with the meat I prepared yesterday (no pictures, sorry) and the rest of the cilantro, I have steak tacos with salsa verde.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Priorities vs Values

  Shortly before I was promoted to Sergeant while in the Army, I was told many things to prepare me, but one thing that was especially reiterated over and over was the Sergeant's Motto: "Mission First, Soldiers Always". It was also strongly stated that the two never contradicted each other. Never would any NCO ever have to decide between accomplishing a mission or valuing their soldiers.

  This took time for me to understand. I don't take well to arguments from authority, so I just had to see for myself. Over the four years I was a Sergeant, I never had to choose, and neither did I ever see, or even hear about any other NCO having to choose. That's just me and my observation, though. How, then, can I really know it's true?

  The difference in the wording. The mission comes first, i.e. it is prioritized. Soldiers are always cared for, i.e. they are valued. There is an important distinction between a priority and a value, and I've found it best to explain through illustration.

  Consider all the things you might do before walking out the front door to go to work in the morning: Eating breakfast, showering, shaving, brushing teeth, checking e-mail, etc. These are priorities. If you are running a bit late, you start to skip some items, because being on time for work is prioritized over checking e-mail or eating breakfast. However, there is one thing we all do before walking out the front door every morning: We put clothes on. We value modesty. Values don't get set aside when priorities are reassessed.

  There are many applications for this distinction, in all walks of life. Valuing employees is a natural reapplication. Valuing principles is another. Many companies have mission statements and core values of their own. Many I've seen are amalgamations of trendy buzz-words and catch-phrases. Not all are, however.

  Blizzard's core values are:
  • Gameplay First
  • Commitment to Quality
  • Play Nice, Play Fair
  • Embrace Your Inner Geek
  • Every Voice Matters
  • Think Globally
  • Lead Responsibly
  • Learn and Grow
  I observe that it's not a numbered list. They are, I strongly suspect, mutually supporting. One is not above any other. Gameplay First "...to make our games as fun as possible for as many people as we can reach" is supported by Every Voice Matters "Great ideas can come from anywhere."

  I say all this to show that Blizzard already cares about diversity. Perhaps it isn't obvious to those who walk the fun house mirror maze of "Social Justice", but to those who seek out real diversity, i.e difference of opinion or experience, Blizzard has that in great supply. There's certainly ways in which they can improve (Learn and Grow), but my point is that the company is on the right track. Each misstep along the way can be blown way out of proportion by professional umbrage takers, but if the majority of voices are rational, honest expressions, rather than fits of self-righteous indignation, the dialogue can be constructive and everyone gains. The community and the company both can grow bigger and better, and the game can improve. We are already going in the right direction.