My Forsaken ladies: Noski, Elsabeth, and Viatrix

Disciplinary Action put together a Warcraft Christmas Cookie exchange, and since I was looking for an excuse to make cookies anyway, I signed up.  Rather than exchanging actual cookies, recipes were exchanged, and I got a molasses spice cookie recipe to make and Warcraft up this weekend.  Unbeknownst to me, my cookies were going to be sponsored by the plague.  (No, seriously, I have some kind of sinus plague going on.)

Given the levels of misery that were to be had this weekend, the extent of my Warcraftification of the cookies was mostly limited to OMGSPRINKLES.


Alliance cookies in the oven

Horde cookies waiting to go in the oven
Alliance cookies out of the oven

Horde & Alliance cookies
There, ah, may have been some PVP involved.  As you can see, the Alliance got raided while waiting for the Horde to get out of the oven.  There's also a bit of a faction imbalance; there were 17 Alliance cookies to start, versus 19 Horde cookies.  Given that the recipe estimated that I would get 24, and I got 36, obviously Gramma's indoctrination of proper cookie size is hard to shake.



I hadn't originally planned to change up Dusk's Firelands gear, since the set really didn't look that bad sans hat.  But then I found pants I really liked, and, well...

Blood Knight/Battleforged, with some Talhide Shoulders and Heavy Scorpid for the pieces I couldn't find.  And my 365 boots since I didn't find any others that worked better.

My priest, on the other hand, I knew what I wanted to do with.  It's not completely done, but I loved my Primal Mooncloth set, so voila!

I just need to find a different staff...



I really did intend to do the new 5-mans yesterday, but I came home and ended up sleeping for two hours.  So while there were no new dungeons run, I did get the formerly Valor Point/now Justice Point neck and ring, then bought bracers for my shaman and warrior.

And of course, I got a boatload of new ponies.

New ponies whose wings flap when they walk, not when they fly.

But anywho!  There were several quality-of-life squee moments yesterday:
  • Putting my trinket collection into void storage.  I had two and a half bags of trinkets in Dusk's bank, and I pushed them all into void storage, along with some older "I got it when it was still in the game" stuff.  I had 47 inventory slots free when I got done!  That means I have 33 slots free in my bank now!
  • Archaeology site tracking!  I initially noticed the sub-menus in the tracking menu, then noticed the archaeology and quest area tracking, and I may have made stupid noises of joy in guild chat for several minutes.  (I get to uninstall an addon because of this addition.)
  • Transmogrification!  Actually, T12 hunter gear isn't too bad, and I'm not going to bother transmogrifying most of it.  T13, on the other hand... (How could they name such an ugly hat after Zeherah?!)  I have both the hunter tier .5 and tier 1 sets in the bank for options, though, along with the Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle, also known as the coolest looking ranged weapon in the game.  For now, though, I've just turned my hat into a better hat.
  • Unbound Squashlings!  I had six I didn't vendor before the patch, and now they're going to go away through the auction house.  Hopefully.  I spent two thousand gold pushing stuff into void storage, and I could use a little cash.
I'll get home late enough tonight that I'm probably still not going to get a chance to run the new dungeons, but I may do some more rare hunting and farming now that I have more than 2 slots free.


Keybinds and Macros

I have an Intellimouse Explorer 3.0, and I love it to death.  Literally: I think I'm on my third.

A lot of my macros use mouse:1, mouse:2, and mouse:3 for targeting the same spell, not just for my hunters, but also for my priest.  (Button:4 is bound to Escape, to stop casting, and button:5 is bound to, ahem, Fishing.)  Mouse:3 is also my Ventrilo push-to-talk key, and has been for five years.  This hasn't been a big deal; I don't use mouse:3 targeting much on my hunters, which are usually what I'm playing when I'm on Vent.

My priest, on the other hand?  Mouse:1 is generally @self; mouse:2 is @focus, and mouse:3 is the unspecified cast, which means whatever I target or whichever party member I hit the function key for or click on.  Most 5-man dungeons I can just get away with Atonement splash healing with Penances on the tank (@focus casting), but raid healing tends to require a lot more direct healing.

I didn't raid heal much in Wrath of the Lich King; maybe three or four times.  In Burning Crusade, on the other hand, my priest was just as geared as my hunter for most of the entire expansion.  She healed for Karazhan; she healed for Gruul's and Magtheridon's Lairs; she healed in Zul'Aman.  Other than the last 800 reputation for the Caverns of Time faction, I even did the reputation grinds to get her the enchanting and tailoring patterns from reputation.  I healed with a hybrid 33/28/0 Discipline specialization, and I actually found it relaxing compared to the pressures of maintaining DPS levels on my hunter.  Karazhan was the raid that pushed me to actually start looking at hunter mechanics and for which my shot rotation macro was born.  For my priest, though, she was one-half of the guild's first two-healer raid through it.

In Wrath we tried very hard as a guild not to end up in the same rut we'd been in Burning Crusade, mostly running Karazhan for three or four combinations of alts and never progressing out of the first tier or tier and a half of content.  This meant I didn't really raid on my priest much, and given how fantastically we progressed through the raid tiers in Wrath, I was content with that.  I missed raid healing, but I would rather see my guild progress.

So now we're running Firelands, and we had been running alt/main Tier 11 raids to get people later to raiding more up to speed.  I had mostly been running on Duskhawk for these when I went, since we had plenty of people wanting to heal, but I took my priest a couple times recently to make the raids happen when we were short a healer.  So my priest has about one and a half Blackwing Descent runs under her belt.  Raid healing is an entirely different strategy from Atonement healing for most fights; a few (Omnotron Defense System, especially, but even Magmaw if I'm tank healing) actually work quite well with it, but many fights end up Prayer of Healing/Penance/Shield focused.

A couple weeks ago we switched from Tier 11 alt runs (waning interest) to Firelands alt runs (more interest and, since we're clearing it in about two nights, more slots per week needed to get mains in).  Like I said, I have about one and a half Blackwing Descent runs under my priest's belt; last Saturday I ended up taking her to the alt Firelands run.

It was terrifying!  I had an awful time figuring out where to stand so I could reach both tanks on Shannox (but I managed not to stand in any traps, woo!), and on Beth'tilac, I was immensely frustrated by Prayer of Healing's party-based targeting.  We tend to run in three groups for her, with the Phase 1 Beth'tilac tank and his/her healer in Group 3 and everyone else over in Groups 1 and 2.  I just couldn't seem to manage Penancing the targeted tank in Phase 2 and to still do sufficient Prayers of Healing on the other two groups in three groups.

The main thing I ended up getting out of that raid (besides a staff) was that I needed to rework my Penance macro to handle tank swaps.  I use default raid frames while healing, plus Decursive, and everything is smooshed down in about a six-by-eight inch area of my screen, by the parts of the toolbars that I use for most of my healing.  My DBM warnings are also dragged down there, along with the timers.  So my set-up is pretty basic, and pretty focused.  My Penance macro, for the longest time, was
/cast [button:1, @focus][button:2] Penance

This was unlike all my other healing macros, which look like
/cast [button:1, @self][button:2, @focus][button:3] Heal
I really didn't need to target myself with penance; I have Alt set as my self-cast button, and I tend to just Shield and Alt:Renew myself if I need healing.  To handle a tank swap without changing focus targets or targeting my non-focused tank, I needed to change up something in that standard macro line.  What I ended up with was
/cast [button:1, @targettarget][button:2, @focus][button:3] Penance
This lets me maintain the boss as my target for Atonement opportunities (because if I can sneak in some stacks to pull out Evangelism, woohoo!), and when I hit Penance with button 1, whatever tank is getting facemelted gets the Penance.  When we did Beth'tilac last night, I was able to manage just fine with the three-group setup.  There are occasional hiccups; I'm pretty sure I Penanced Baleroc at least once last night when I had a tank targeted.

Speaking of Baleroc and mouse buttons and macros:  this is what I actually meant to write about today.  So I got pulled into healing Firelands again last night, and you've seen my healing macro pattern now, and I've told you I use middle-mouse (mouse:3) for Vent's push-to-talk.

Baleroc is a healer rotation fight, at least the way we run it. You spend two cycles healing shard targets and then switch to the tanks on the third shard in your rotation.  Since this means hitting targets as they get the shard debuff (the little blue person icon, I know now - DBM puts marks on them, but as I've said, I look at a 6"x8" section of the screen while healing, and if it's outside that area it doesn't exist), it's a lot of mouse:3 healing.

Mouse:3 healing, which is my Vent key.

As this was my first time ever healing Baleroc, and fourth time this expansion raid healing at all, I was doing a lot of talking to myself and swearing.  About halfway through the fight, I realized:
"You all can hear me, can't you?"
They thought I was asking if they could hear me, because I got a, "You're cutting in and out," response.  I was more concerned that the swearing was coming through, but apparently the "F--- me," that came out during one of my "which tank is getting hit" panics didn't come across.  (I still use oRA2, and my target-of-target for it just creeps into my healing field of vision, so I started using that to pick my tank healing target.)  I temporarily remapped my Vent key for the rest of the raid. >.>

Random coda:  On the drive in to work this afternoon, I realized: Wait a minute.  Baleroc, who has fire and shadow attacks.  Balrog, a creature of shadow and flame.  /facepalm



So, I looked at the page-view stats for this blog for the first time today, and mostly it was kind of depressing, because they're about seven times the stats for my other blog - and I haven't written anything here since June.

There's a really simple reason for that - huntering hasn't really changed dramatically over the course of the past year.  Firelands added some new pet models (and Deth'tilac, as much as I hate spiders, is very pretty), but none of them have tempted me to try taming them.  Heck, I didn't pick up Skoll until this expansion (looking for the Time-Lost Protodrake, of course).  I don't go looking for most rares for taming purposes.  (As much as I love Har'koa and the Zul'Drak quests, her boyfriend is so dead if I ever find him.)

But no, this expansion has been pretty stable for Marksman PVE.  The secondary stat numbers (haste, specifically) for when one's rotation changes (adding a Steady or an Arcane, basically) are so huge that you really don't need to think about them.  It's not like the magic 800 for swapping to stacking Armor Penetration was.

Guild drama has been minimal all summer; raiding has been good; I still don't have the Headless Horseman's pony for Duskhawk.  Brewfest threw daggers to all my toons but my rogue.

Mists of Pandaria was rolled out at Blizzcon last week, and I was stuck at work, obsessively refreshing WoW Insider's live blogs.  I like the talent changes - 3 specs that you get your special abilities just by picking the spec, and then one talent tree of fun stuff that you can put points in regardless of your spec.  I hope improved mend pet ends up a glyph or something.

In the meantime, I've been playing a baby priest Alliance side on another server to play through the quests again - an RP server, at that, although I'm far too shy to have actually done any interactive role-playing.  When I leveled my priest on Bronzebeard, I was fashion-conscious on her to the point of getting ribbed for it - there are some awesome robes out there, and I refused to have shoulders that didn't coordinate.  I also may have used her little pillbox hat from a rare spawn in Hillsbrad well into the 50s.

I'm leveling as discipline again, partly because the dot-dot-channel playstyle of shadow has never appealed to me.  I've tried shadow, briefly, at 85, so that when I want valor/justice points on my priest and there's already a guild healer going, I can still take her, but I much prefer healing - atonement healing, that is.

Anywho, a priesty-comic I did (stick figure art!) a while back, since she's the alt I'm playing right now:


Replay Value

I played through Diablo II (including the expansion) all the way to the end at least four times; I made new characters and played them into the fourth or fifth chapter quite a bit more. Diablo II was a solo player game for me, and I never did its "hard modes" - I didn't take a character I had beaten Baal on and replay the content with that same character.

I did, however, enjoy running through the game with a new character, to try out a different class, or a different playstyle. (Charged bolt sorceress! Woo! Actually, the Amazon with charged-bolt-releasing gear was probably the most fun charged bolt experiment...)

I'm bringing this up for a couple reasons. Firstly, I've got a fairly serious stable of alts: 9 characters on my main server are level 80+. WoW is so much more of a time-sink than Diablo II was; getting characters to similar levels of investment and playability would require more time than my commutes 45-minutes both ways, works 50+ hours a week life allows. Secondly, WoW, to me, is the original Diablo III.

Right, right, Diablo III is still in development, and Azeroth is most certainly not the setting for Diablo II. They're entirely separate franchises.

At the same time, there's a lot overlap in the character classes and basic user interface design; paladins have auras and can heal or tank; barbarians and warriors both have a couple of different fighting styles and utilize various shouts (although I really miss the shout that got me potions... and dual wielding throwing knives, which was awesome); assassins and rogues both use a combo point/finisher style; amazon + druid = hunter + druid; necromancers and warlocks share a few traits; and of course sorceresses and mages.

WoW built on and expanded a lot of what I was already familiar with in Diablo II, which made switching to it as my graphical game of habit fairly easy. (I was replaying Diablo II up until I started WoW, and I've still gone back to it a couple times.)

What WoW didn't initially do was make it easy for me to "replay" it; this wasn't so much a matter of the content not being accessible from scratch, and hey, I could mail my alts money! No, the problem was the time sink. Leveling took time, traveling was slow, and the barriers to entry at higher levels were pretty steep.

For the most part, Blizzard has been really good at improving on WoW's replay value: between changes to the leveling experience and the introduction of heirlooms, a new character doesn't have to repeat content I didn't like, nor do I have to slog through every kill-and-collect quest I did five years ago on another character. Running dungeons lets me collect points for gear, so if I decide to go to alt raids on a character three tiers in, I have a reasonable route to gearing her up.

The biggest remaining time-sink in alt leveling? Reputation grinds. Oh, but there's tabards! Sure, and the tabards help. But I don't run dungeons on my alts nearly as much as I do on my main, and I can hit 85 in two or two and a half zones. Hyjal is nice and fast, and Deepholm is generally the follow-up, at least until I hit a level to go to Uldum or Twilight Highlands.

Skipping out of Deepholm, however, no matter how tired I may be of some of the quests there, locks me out of shoulder enchants on my alts. In Wrath they ameliorated this problem by making reputation based enchants bind-on-account; you could just mail them to alts. It remains to be seen if Blizzard will do so again this expansion. If they don't? I'm pretty sure my alts will never have anything better than the blue shoulder enchant... once I drag them all back into Deepholm to finish the zone and open up the Therazane vendors. I don't do dailies on my alts unless it's for profession tokens.

The Sons of Hodir were the barrier to entry for non-inscription shoulder enchants in Wrath, and you couldn't just waltz into Storm Peaks and start working for them. But maybe three hours of questing and I could unlock their dailies (including turning in boatloads of tokens for fast tracking exalted, prior to the BoA change). Therazane is buried so far in Deepholm (it's the last quest chain, no?) that it takes me much longer to get to and open. The time invested/reward ratio is steeper than my patience is willing to bear six years in.

Don't get me wrong - WoW's replay experience has gotten a zillion times better than it was originally, or (ugh) in Burning Crusade, when running heroics on my alts meant a rep grind again. (Most of them weren't too bad to get to honored, but the heroic dungeons in Auchindoun seemed terrible to unlock.) But tying profession recipes to reputations? *grumble*

For the longest time, Sporeggar was my rogue's (my third most played character's) only exalted reputation... because she was an herbalist and could farm the hibiscus. (Tiny sporebat, omg.) Yeah, yeah, flask recipes on reputation vendors... no, thanks. Don't have that kind of time.

Five and a three-halves toons into this expansion, I really don't have the patience for reputation grinds anymore.


My guild...

... is awesome. :)

We can now rent cars without paying extra for insurance. >.>


So close

Last Monday, my guild hit level 23. At 23, the caps on guild experience come off, and if you're crazy about grinding raids or heroics, you can hit 25 in a very short amount of time.

We're not that crazy - two of our raid nights this week were devoted to Nefarian (a fight I am unexpectedly in love with, despite dying twice on many attempts), so we're sitting pretty about 20% into 24 as of when I went to bed last night.

That 10% discount at level 24? It applies to flight training. That was the push I needed to buy fast flying on the two toons I'm currently trading off leveling.

I took my shaman into Vashj'ir this week to try to get deepsea scales for leveling leatherworking (and guild experience from quests); I hadn't done Vashj'ir on my priest or warrior, so I haven't really touched the place in four months. I still love it. Viatrix, on the other hand, is at level 70 in the Borean Tundra. Fast flying will make Northrend much less painful, and I'm looking forward to hitting Zul'drak again.

I'm eclectic in my WoW loves - female undead animations, tauren architecture and city planning, troll lore, my orc's hair while casting (3-foot wind-whipped braid: awesome). I think most of what I like about my blood elves is that they make feminine look bad-ass.

Level 25 will bring us scorpion mounts and mass resurrection. The mass summon has been pretty awesome so far - raids, "crap, my hearth is still set to Dalaran," "crap, I'm stuck, and can't hearth," etc. It was nice when you could summon someone who fell into a bad spot in a dungeon but didn't die back to where you were, but I understand why they disabled inside-dungeon mass summoning. Mass resurrection is going to make feigning or vanishing despite a bloodlust debuff desirable again, I think.

I'm dubious about the scorpion mounts, though. The stinger is right behind the rider's head.


Moving On: Guild Achievements

It's maddening when the one thing you need to get off your chest is one of those things you don't talk about in public. Long story short, I had a falling out with one of my guild's officers, which has mostly left me sad about how the situation resolved. But I've gotten to where I'm thinking about more than my frustration with the episode again.

One of the things I would love to be more help with, but can't without deleting characters, moving them off server, or paying for race changes, is the Classy achievements. The only up-and-coming I have that will be useful is my Undead Hunter, and my God, but I love her.

I'm actually not a fan of Forsaken policies. No, I'm with Argent Apothecary Judkins: Sylvanas is off her rocker, and I'm not going to spend my undeath helping a Banshee Queen replace the Lich King. But I love all my undead characters - my priest, my rogue, and my new baby hunter. (Well, "new." I rolled her when 4.0 hit. She's 66 now, with a stupidly large number of heirlooms.) I'm torn between changing my warlock to Undead and leaving her a Blood Elf; I love the Undead caster animations, but I like her BElf hair. Silly reasons, but still.

Besides Classy, which is what we need for Bank Tab #8 (oh second deposit tab, how I covet thee...), recently we have gotten done 100,000 critter kills (I spent two or three hours in the bug tunnel in the Plaguelands for the last three or four thousand) and the 50,000 fish caught. The fishing was a guild-wide accomplishment, and it made me happy to see how involved people got with it. The first 50,000 critter kills (for the Armadillo pet) was a guild raid in the bug tunnel - done while I was at work, so I missed the fun. Our Alchemists finished off the flask achievement to get us cauldrons, as well. Several groups have been working their ways through all the older 5-man dungeons.

So March has been hit or miss so far - my guild is awesome, but I miss talking to the officer who left. On top of it, I've been sick for the past two weeks - a cold that became bronchitis and an eye infection. I've been to the doctor more this month than in the past ten years.

PS: I got to see Cho'Gall last night! 47% to go.


Patch love

Aimed Shot is hitting and critting hard enough I was cackling at the target dummy. In fact, it's hitting hard enough I'm finding it worth opening on mobs while soloing - because if it crits, it's sometimes half their health.

One of the paragons of hunter-dom, Frostheim over at WHU, wrote a guide on using Aimed post-buff.

The Chimera Shot and Arcane Shot buffs were also nice - I'm sure the Kill Shot one was, too, but usually by that time in the fight I'm watching things besides my crit numbers. Overall I saw a 2-3k increase in DPS in Baradin Hold without gear (or even rotation) changes.

(The other thing that has made me giggle this week was watching my warrior's new Toxic Wasteling eat critters. She has the best holiday boss drop luck - Headless Horseman's mount and the Wasteling. If only I could have sent them over to Dusk. >.<)


More thoughts on the /castsequence

I'm running with a spec that looks something like this.

Since actually raiding Tol Barad (three times now), I've dropped one of the Arcanes from my macro, due to focus starvation outside Rapid Fire, and finally realized that dude, I can pop Aspect of the Fox during Felfire and keep my rotation going during all the running around.

No, other than the opportunity to raid-test the macro and tweak for focus consumption, my thoughts on the cast sequence have been centered around two of the other Steady Shot-centered talents: Piercing Shots and Master Marksman.

Ignore, for the moment, that Marksman is bottoming out raid DPS rankings right now. We play Marksman because we love it, right? (There is some irony, I think, that the hunter specs are sandwiching that list.) Besides, 4.0.6 will bring us some changes that will help with that. Aimed, Arcane, Chimera, and Kill Shot are all getting damage buffs. We'll be able to Auto Shot while moving.

Aimed Shot is one of the main things I've been thinking about regarding the cast sequence. We really only use it on proc, and the proc is reliant on Steady Shot and the RNG. The only way to really get more Aimed Shots in is to get more Steady Shots in. Add to this the bleed damage both Steady and Aimed (and Chimera) can inflict. If Aimed Shot hits harder, the target is going to bleed harder. Add in a bleed debuff from an Arms warrior, Subtlety rogue, Feral druid, or one of our own pets (I favor the hyena for this when needed), and we're looking at some nice little boosts.

But again, we need more Steady Shots to get more Aimed Shots. If we prioritize Chimera to be every 10 seconds (in a normal rotation; if you use Kill Shot or Rapid Fire or Readiness, the spacing will vary slightly), that means we've got 9 other seconds of global cool down to work with. Getting Steady down to a one-second cast requires amounts of haste that are more or less insane. How insane? Not quite 9000. Yes, with the two hunter haste talents (Pathing and Improved Steady Shot), you need 8817 haste rating to get your Steady Shot down to 1 second with no other haste bonuses.

No, a 1.5 or 1.6 second Steady Shot cast is probably what we're sanely looking at most of the time, without extra haste boosts - that is, for most of our normal rotations. That means that the two bundles of two Steady Shots makes sense, and pairing it with two Arcane Shots will make sure we're not sitting on buckets of Focus.

What about that extra second or so of GCD? We could add another Arcane Shot, but raiding Tol Barad - a fight that is, more or less, the ultimate in stand and shoot fights for 98% of it - has shown that 3 Arcane:4 Steady will leave us Focus starved at points. 2 Arcane:4 Steady makes sure we have enough Focus for our next Chimera. 2 Arcane:5 Steady, however, pushes us past the 9 second mark, towards an 11-second rotation.

At this point I'm going to stick with the 2:4 Arcane:Steady ratio. The half a second is useful for flexibility when you need to pop some extra shot (Kill Shot, Tranq, etc.) or a trap, or perform some other utility action. If you've got the extra time or Focus, another Steady or Arcane can be added, but with the upcoming changes to Aimed, I would lean towards the Steady Shot.

So for now, the macro remains:

/castsequence Chimera Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane Shot, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot


How to 5

Or, an introduction to small-group play in WoW

I read WoW Ladies. I'm not the most faithful or dedicated reader, since I stopped posting to my own LJ years ago, but they're a good bunch, and I learn quite a lot about how other people interact in the game there. One subject that crops up regularly is anxiety or fear about running dungeons with strangers. Having dealt with my own social anxiety issues, I understand where the problem has its roots.

There's a lot of nuance, and etiquette for 5's can vary from server to server and battlegroup to battlegroup. Now that there are cross-battlegroup random dungeon groups, some of that may begin to homogenize. But for someone who has never really grouped with others in a dungeon, it's all new and possibly confusing. The generalities will be summarized here. (Some things may be particular to Bronzebeard-US or the Cyclone battlegroup, but I think most of them apply pretty broadly.)

Group Roles

There are three roles in a dungeon group: one tank, one healer, and three damage (DPS). People who have been soloing almost exclusively are often unaware that the delineations mean that someone who signed up as damage should not try to "help" tank, or such. The biggest point of etiquette regarding party roles? Queue as the role you want to perform. If you don't want to tank or heal, don't queue for the role.

Some things every group member should do:
  • Buff. Regardless of your role in the party, if you can cast a buff, do so. Especially when you're running with people you don't know, you may really need that little extra boost. If you're a hunter and you're not leveling a pet (or using one for specific RP reasons), you might consider swapping out to a buff you don't have if your party has what you give. (I keep running with multiple shamans, so my cat is often superfluous so far as buffs.)
  • Dispel/Decurse/etc. If you can dispel a debuff, do so. Your healer will be happy not to have to deal with it, especially if it's one he can't do.
  • Move out of AOE damage if possible. Some abilities, like Anraphet's Omega Stance, will cover the battlefield, and it's damage you're expected to take. Void zones and most blast-wave like abilities, however, should be moved out of. The common phrase for this is "Don't stand in the fire." (This is why "Stood in the Fire," the achievement for getting killed by Deathwing when he flames a zone, is funny.)
  • Crowd control (CC). If you have a spell that can lock down a mob, and your tank or group leader wants you to use it, do it. A very patient warrior taught me to trap about 5.5 years ago now by telling me where to put traps. If you don't have Trap Launcher yet, a hunter trapping should put the Freezing trap somewhere it won't get broken and pull the target into it. Regardless of your form of crowd control, put the spell somewhere on your bars that you can get to it easily. CC-ing unexpected adds can prevent a wipe.
  • Communicate. If people don't know who's going to be doing what, disaster is likely. Raid markers (Skull, X, etc.) are shorthand for a lot of communication on trash - see common raid marker usage under "Crowd Control" for more. Some bosses are killed multiple ways, and if your group doesn't seem polite to a relative newcomer and you're unsure of the boss at hand, asking which strategy they intend to use may get you a better answer than asking what the strategy is. Going into things blindly can be costly.
  • Repair beforehand if possible, keep a supply of food and/or water on hand, and have some reagents if you still need them for anything. (Glyph of Mend Pet is highly recommended for pet happiness.) If you're going to need flasks or potions, keep them with you. Repairing beforehand is admittedly not always possible if your DPS queue is 40 minutes and you're mid-dailies when the queue pops, but at least repair before you go do your dailies so you have more to work with once you get into your dungeon.
  • Let the tank go first. If the tank accidentally pulls something, the healer is usually most prepared to heal her, and the tank is best able to take the damage. If you're the tank, go first. Everyone is probably waiting for you.
  • Stay with the group. If you go wandering off by yourself, you're likely to die. WoW is not like D&D; the dungeon encounters generally aren't random.
  • Protect your healer. If there's a mob on the healer and the tank hasn't gotten to it, crowd control it, or at least get it off the healer. A DPS dying is generally better than the healer dying, and without a mob on him, the healer may be able to keep you up till the tank gets to it.
A tank's responsibilities are pacing the dungeon by the speed (fast or slow) of the pulling of mobs; pulling, unless a crowd-control or misdirect pull has been arranged; holding aggro on the mobs being fought; breaking crowd control; picking up adds. The tank may or may not mark the crowd-control targets; tanks often do it, but sometimes the group leader will, or crowd-controllers may be asked to pick a mark and mark their own.

When pulling, a tank should not outpace the healer's (or DPS's, but especially the healer's) mana. If your healer has no mana, people die. Dying slows down a run. If crowd control has been used, in many cases the tank will want to move the remaining mobs away from the controlled targets so as not to accidentally break the others early.

A tank is expected to keep the mobs being fought off the healer and DPS. Sometimes you may find that one of your DPS far outgears your tank, and you may not be able to keep everything off him. Usually the vastly over-geared person has queued with a lesser-geared friend, and he should be polite about the vast gear difference. If he is not, ignore him. The only way to improve your gear is to keep running instances, so keep running them. The gear differences are likely the reason for difficulty maintaining threat.

If you have difficulty maintaining threat against similarly-geared players, you should look for a blog or website devoted to tanking, or your class's specific tanking tree. There may be a suggested ability rotation, gem or glyph usage, or stat priority that will help.

Tanks are expected to pick up adds that get pulled (if they don't get immediately crowd controlled), and being able to will make you a more desirable tank. Some fights will have adds by design; sometimes a trash mob will be feared, or a player or pet will be feared, and you will have new frenemies when they come back. Sometimes the hunter will, ahem, accidentally shoot something.

(Note: With the removal of the toggle in Interface Options that allowed a hunter to turn off automatically switching between Auto Attack and Auto Shot, if a hunter hits an ability right when his current target dies, the game will auto-target another mob in range. Even if the hunter manages to cancel the ability he hit, Auto Shot may still go off and pull it. There is much swearing in the hunter community about this.)

Only the tank should break crowd-controlled targets for the group to kill. Druid tanks may want to hibernate something, depending on the group make up and the pull at hand.

Healers are expected to keep a party alive. This doesn't mean that every death is the healer's fault, per se; tanks and DPS should do what they can to keep themselves alive, as well. Sometimes something happens (feared out of range, player won't get out of a damaging AOE) that there's nothing a healer could do to save you. It does mean that a tank or DPS should not be casting healing spells on themselves most of the time, however.

Healers may be expected to crowd control, generally for a pull rather than mid-fight. Healers are also generally expected to remove whatever curses, diseases, poisons, or magic debuffs they can. Being able to effectively dispel while healing will make you a more sought-after healer.

A healer should do what he can to manage his own aggro, either via Fade or Wind Shear, or whatever druids and paladins can do to keep their threat low if needed. Usually threat isn't a problem for healers, but if your tank is undergeared (or rather, you outgear her) or inexperienced, she may need all the help she can get.

Healing takes some practice, and if you're just starting out, it's good to remember that your #1 healing priority is the tank. You are #2, unless you're actively taking damage, and DPS are #3, 4, and 5. (If you want get detailed, you can prioritize the DPS by how much damage they're doing, if their form of CC is especially important, etc.) Basically, if either you or the tank die, the party probably will too. If one of the DPS dies, the fight will probably just be longer. There is a tipping point - if you and the tank are the only ones left, it may be impossible to kill the boss before you run out of mana. Sometimes recognizing futility and dying is a faster road to success than perservering through the current attempt. (I'm looking at you, 20-minute Heigen kill.)

You'll lose some people just starting out as a healer - your gear probably won't have as much haste, crit, or spellpower (Intellect) as you would like, so you'll likely have some DPS die to AOE in order for you to keep a tank or yourself up. If you're having trouble still as your gear progresses, there are quite a lot of healing blogs and sites that will be able to recommend healing strategies, addons, macros, glyphs, and so forth.

Damage (DPS)
DPS are expected to kill mobs, crowd control, and avoid taking damage as much as possible.

Most DPS classes have a way to reduce their threat in some way. (The plate wearing hybrids are the main exceptions to this, and I think Boomkin may also lack a threat drop.) Hunters can feign, priests fade, rogues vanish or feint, shamans wind shear, mages ice block, warlocks soul shatter, cat druids cower. Find your class's spell and put it on your bars somewhere you can get it while panicking. (Yes, while panicking, because OH GOD THEY'RE ALL RUNNING AT ME is often panic inducing.) It's good to use your threat-drop before the mobs actually start running at you.

When DPSing, there are two general methods of targeting: focus fire or area of effect (AOE). When focus-firing, target the Skull-marked mob if there is one, or target the tank's target if there isn't. (Some tanks may say, rather than marking, "Kill X," but not necessarily target it after initial threat gain; focus what the tank asked for.) Focus fire, where the three DPS in the group all hit the same mob, should be your default method of targeting in most groups. Some instances or trash packs of mobs are easier to kill if you just hit them all at once, in which case you can simply use AOE spells. (Many Wrath-content instances are like this.) If you don't have a real AOE, use focus fire methods of targeting. Regardless of what targeting method you're using, don't break a crowd-controlled mob free. If a crowd-controlled mob is wandering among the other mobs of the pull, focus fire rather than AOE-ing.

DPS should debuff mobs in any way they can. This is especially true on bosses, but some trash pulls also see noticeable benefit. Whether the debuff reduces the mob's armor, spell resistance, ability to hit, or whatever, using the tools you have will make the fight that much easier.

DPS with dispel abilities (generally casters) should do what they can to remove curses, poisons, disease, and magic debuffs, at least from themselves, and from others, especially the tank, if the healer can't (either due to class limitations or because he needs all his global cooldowns just for healing).

Usually DPS who are hybrid casters should not be healing. There are some boss fights that may benefit from a DPS switching to heals during a certain period of AOE damage, but most fights need a certain minimum level of damage from all the DPS in order for the boss to die before your healer is mana-starved. Avoid taking damage in the first place if at all possible, instead.

Similarly, even if your class can tank, if you didn't sign up to tank the instance, don't. If you signed up as DPS, damage is your job. If the tank dies, that's when it's okay to switch over, though if you're in tank gear and spec, you're doing bad DPS (usually), so you shouldn't keep it on "just in case." Use a DPS spec and wear any DPS gear you've got. If you have an ability that does a lot of damage but also causes high threat, avoid using it. (Searing Pain specifically comes to mind; I believe Ret pallies also have an ability that's both a taunt and a hard hit.)

Unless the tank asks you to, don't pull "for" them. It's usually annoying to the tank, who may be relying on one of her opening pull abilities for the snap threat to keep the mobs off you. It's especially annoying to the whole party if you and the tank pull different groups.

Kiting is something of a forgotten art, but once upon a time, hunters especially were often called upon to kite mobs. The first classic kiting fight was the last boss in Upper Blackrock Spire, General Drakkisath, a 10-man, often-pugged raid. The two tanks would pick up Drakk's two adds, and the hunter would grab the General and run, heading out over a bridge and back through the halls, often to the Beast's room, but you could take him all the way to Rend's room if you were good before he would automatically start running back. Later fights (the first boss in Blackwing Lair, Gruth in Naxxramas, et al) required some kind of kiting as well. If you are called upon to kite, for whatever reason, just remember: don't fall off the bridge. (You land in Lower Blackrock Spire, among the orc camps on the lowest level. >.> Ahem.) Use any slowing abilities you have and run or strafe; don't back up. Earthbind totems, Ice traps, Concussive Shot, Wing Clip, Hamstring, Frost Nova - all of them can make kiting more feasible. Good kiting can save a party from a wipe after a tank dies, so it's still worthwhile to learn.

Often times a DPS's weakest spot isn't his ability to survive, crowd control, or manage his pet, but his actual damage output. At that point one is probably best served by looking for a blog or website that focuses on your class or spec and looking at talents, rotations, glyphs, gems, and so forth and seeing if you have a bad habit, or lack a good one, that's making a noticeable difference in your damage.


Several classes, mostly DPS, have pets. There are a variety of pet etiquette points for groups that aren't necessarily obvious to a solo player.

Remember to turn off your pet's threat/taunt ability. For hunters, regardless of the variety of pet, this is Growl. If a moving gold border is visible on the icon, the ability's autocast is turned on. To turn off the autocast, right click on it. If you're using a tenacity pet for whatever reason (leveling it, it has a buff you want, etc.), you will probably also want to turn off Taunt and Thunderstomp if you have them talented. Charge is more optional, but the root component can be annoying for tanks, so you may want to turn it off, as well.

If you're using a Tenacity pet regularly in instances for some reason, you can actually make macros to turn the abilities on and off. The commands are basically just /petautocastoff and /petautocaston . So you can use a macro that looks like:
/petautocastoff Growl
/petautocastoff Taunt
/petautocastoff Thunderstomp
/petautocastoff Charge
And similarly make one to turn them all back on while you're soloing. This was more useful, really, prior to having multiple stable slots to tote around, but if you take your bear or turtle everywhere, they may be helpful to have still. The commands should work for any pet that gets an action bar.

It's generally bad form to have your pet on Aggressive in an instance. Defensive used to be a no-no, but it is the default de jour. Passive is always fine if you're worried about your pet wandering off and will remember to send it to attack.

One of the most common pet "oops" moments comes when the party jumps down off something. The classic example was taking the shortcut in Upper Blackrock Spire and jumping into Rend's arena from the balcony, rather than coming through two additional trash packs in the hallway. A pet would not jump, and it would run around and bring those two packs with it. If you have to jump off anything, especially if you're unsure which way your pet would go, dismiss it first. Similarly, pets sometimes have trouble with elevators or other movement mechanics (the whirlwinds in the Lost City come to mind). Dismissing them will let you resummon on the other side, rather than having them stuck out of the fight.

If you have multiple pets available to you, consider switching them out for a buff or ability that will make a fight easier, even if it's a minor DPS decrease. In Molten Core, a warlock's Felhound could be a huge help with Baron Geddon's mana burn, since it would dispel debuffs. Some hunter pets offer buffs now that can affect an entire party or raid. If, like me, you find yourself running with three shamans, it might be worth swapping your cat for another pet, since one of them will probably be dropping a totem that provides strength and agility. (Probably not your wolf, though, if you have an elemental shaman, since elemental oath will provide the crit buff.)

Don't expect your party's healer to heal your pet. Mend pet was made a HoT for a reason. Your pet will probably get a lot of splash AOE healing, and its ability to reduce about 90% of the AOE damage it would take will keep it from getting killed too often.

Crowd Control

Crowd control (CC) is used to make a large pull easier by incapacitating some of the mobs until the party is ready to deal with them. If there are unexpected adds of a type you can crowd control, you probably should. If the tank wants to pick it up immediately, she will.

Good crowd control can make or break a group. Some tiers of content were made with the use of crowd control in mind. (See especially level 60-70 dungeons and levely 80+ dungeons.)

Regardless of who does the crowd control marking, there are a few common conventions:
  • Skull - first kill target; not crowd controlled
  • Red X - second kill target; not crowd controlled
  • Blue Square - hunter trap
  • Moon - mage sheep
  • Orange Circle or Yellow Star - usually rogue sap
  • Purple Diamond or Green Triangle - usually shaman hex or banish (elementals)
I haven't run with a warlock who needed to seduce/banish in so long, I don't know what the mark for them is, but we usually used the same as for the shaman. If you don't have enough of the 'right' marks for the party, just clarify at the start whose mark is what. Mages and hunters especially are used to squares and moons, however.

Not everyone can crowd-control everything. Some mobs, additionally, may be immune to one or more forms their type is normally susceptible to. (Only long-duration, at-the-pull crowd controls are listed here; there are things like Gouge, Frost Nova, etc. that are short-duration, in-combat control methods that may help situationally, but aren't set up using raid marks prior to a fight.)
  • Mage - Sheep (Polymorph) - Humanoids and Beasts (and Critters, but, you know...)
  • Rogue - Sap - Humanoids, Beasts, Demons, Dragonkin
  • Hunter - Freezing Trap - Most things
  • Shaman - Hex - Humanoids and Beasts
  • Shaman - Banish (Bind Elemental) - Elementals
  • Druid - Cyclone - Damn near everything
  • Druid - Sleep (Hibernate) - Beasts and Dragonkin
  • Warlock - Seduce (Seduction) - Humanoids
  • Warlock - Banish - Demons and Elementals
  • Priest - Mind Control - Humanoids
  • Priest - Shackle Undead - Undead
  • Paladin - Repentance - Demons, Dragonkin, Giants, Humanoids, Undead

Taking harmful spells off of party members is often thought of as a healer's job, but several classes, healers or not, can do so. Not every class that can remove one can necessarily remove another, and who can dispel what changed with Cataclysm.
  • Priests - Magic, Disease
  • Mages - Curse
  • Shaman - Curse, Magic (resto talented)
  • Druid - Poison, Curse, Magic (resto talented)
  • Paladin - Poison, Disease, Magic (holy talented)
Loot Etiquette

Loot etiquette is something that varies most widely server to server; whether or not it is considered polite to need or greed certain BOEs, disenchanting, crafting materials, etc. is something best discussed beforehand if there are issues. Regarding boss loot, however, there are some more widely accepted points of etiquette.

If you queue for a particular role, that is considered your "main spec" for that instance. If you normally tank or heal, but queue as DPS, it is generally considered rude to roll "need" against the person actually tanking or healing the instance for items of that spec. Similarly, if you are tanking or healing, it is rude to roll "need" against the DPS in the party for a DPS item.

This does not mean you can't roll need on something - it's better gear is used rather than sharded. If it's not for your active spec, however, ask first. If no one else needs it, it is perfectly acceptable to roll "need." Someone's chance at a shard does not have priority over a piece you will use in your other spec.

Greeding on a piece is generally always acceptable, unless an arrangement is made at the beginning of the instance for some purpose. It is straightforward - you don't need the piece, but may want it for cash or enchanting materials. This is the point of need and greed, and it should broach no arguments.

Skinning, herbalism, and mining in an instance are best arranged either at the beginning or when the first gatherable object is encountered. Gatherers rolling on ore nodes, herbs to pick, or corpses to skin, generally alternating thereafter, is a common arrangement. If you are an enchanter, rolling "need" to disenchant something is extremely impolite, and will likely get you vote-kicked or /ignored. Leveling your professions is often seen as "greed" rather than "need."


If you're playing solo, you probably don't need a lot of addons, unless you like to customize your interface. There are a variety of addons that can make your life easier in group play, however. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other addons which can, in some way, make your WoW life easier, or at least your interface prettier, but they are mostly a matter taste.

Threat meters
WoW has built in threat warnings now, but if you prefer a compact little box with bars representing your relative threat, there are two widely used ones. Omen is one of the oldest and widely used threat meters. Skada, which is also a damage meter, has a threat meter function, as well.

Damage meters
Damage meters can be a blessing or a curse, depending if the DPS are watching them instead of their threat, but they can be useful for finding out how you're doing so far as DPS, dispels, overhealing, threat generation, and a variety of other data, depending on which on you're using. Two common ones are Recount and Skada. Skada is more lightweight and modular; Recount gives you pie charts if you want them. (Mmm, pie...)

Boss mods
Bosses have generally always done their special moves on predictable cooldowns, but there was not always an emote or warning associated with them provided by the game. (Now there usually is.) Deadly Boss Mods and Bigwigs are two of the more common boss mods, which will give you timers for boss ability cooldowns, alerts about events in the fight, and generally help you notice what's going on without you having to watch your chat box for a boss emote. Most are customizable, and you can choose which abilities and bosses you are notified about.

Healing addons
There are several addons which can help you heal in a group, either by changing your party or raid layout, providing pre-written macros for you to put on your bars, or creating special ability bars. Among the most popular are Healbot, Vuhdo, and Grid, often in combination with Clique. Decursive is still popular for dispelling.

Voice Chat

Voice chat can make a run easier mostly by smoothing communication, but if social anxiety is a problem for you, it could be a nightmare. If your group is using Ventrilo or Teamspeak or Mumble but you're not comfortable talking, don't. As someone who has a serious phone phobia, I recommend baby steps. Even if you never get to the point of being comfortable talking, you may be able to get comfortable with listening in. This can be helpful if strategy is getting relayed verbally, but not always entirely transcripting into party chat. Many PUGs don't bother with voice chat, either because it's unavailable, or because waiting for all members to install software or configure to connect to a server is inconvenient.

The common voice chat options are Ventrilo, Teamspeak, and Mumble, and there is built-in voice chat for WoW, although its quality is at times questionable. Skype is probably also an option, but I've not seen it commonly used.

General Resources:

Web sites:
  • WoW Insider - general WoW news, plus class and spec columns, often with links to other resources.
  • Elitist Jerks - theory crafting for all classes and specs.
  • WoWwiki macros - Macros, including links to the class macro pages.
  • Tank Spot - for boss fight strategies and other WoW information.
  • WoWhead - item, mob, and ability database, as well as having write-ups for many bosses and a blog for WoW news.
  • Curse and WoW Ace - common addon sites. CT Mod and Deadly Boss Mods are specific addon bundles, but self-host.
Suggested Google searches: (Replace with the specific one you need; words separated by | you pick one of.)
  • rotation|glyphs|gems|macros
  • tank|heal blog wow|
Examples: hunter marksman rotation; tank blog warrior


Of /castsequences and haste

So, due to my own mediocrity, I am the user of a /castsequence macro. During most of Wrath, with our 1.5 second global cooldown, there was only so much wiggle room in the rotation - you could do one Chimera, one Aimed, and a combination of one Arcane and two to four Steady Shots, depending on your Armor Penetration, talents, and haste.

In Cataclysm, our GCD has dropped to 1 second. One second, with instant-cast, no cooldown but the global cooldown Arcane Shots. Steady Shot still has a base cast time of 2 seconds. Chimera Shot's cooldown is still 10 seconds (since I don't glyph it).

Our goal is four Steady Shots to every Chimera Shot. Why? Improved Steady Shot. We want these four in bundles of two. With 1 second of the 10 second rotation given to Chimera itself (GCD), a maximum of 8 seconds will go to the four Steady Shots. With no haste, that gives you time for one Arcane Shot, preferably between the bundles. When haste pushes your Steady Shot cast down, however, you're looking at extra time in your rotation, and face it - you're probably carrying extra focus. Add in Rapid Fire and your Imp. Steady Shot haste and you're probably rolling in focus and GCD time.

This was what I noticed - my focus bar was always too full. My Steady Shot cast is down to 1.54 seconds - that's about an extra two seconds in my rotation, which is two extra Arcane Shots. Obsessively watching focus consumption in a heroic (the only of two heroics I have successfully completed) got me killed on Anraphet, so it probably wasn't the best idea. I had been popping an extra Steady Shot onto the end of my rotation when my haste procs were up, waiting for Chimera to cool down, but more focus doesn't do me any good. Arcane is a focus dump for a reason.

So! The /castsequence now looks like:

/castsequence Chimera Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot, Arcane Shot, Arcane Shot, Arcane Shot, Steady Shot, Steady Shot

With my usual lines for the engineering tinkers, tooltip, error clearing, and such, of course.

I couldn't leave it the way it was and manually add the Arcanes - I really want to be hitting two Steadies before my next Chimera to assure I have the focus for it. The flexibility comes between the Steady bundles. There's still enough room in this for Aimed procs without losing Serpent Sting, although the shorter Serpent Sting duration due to the glyph change does make things a little tighter.

I would say that my DPS did edge up afterwards, but that heroic was really not a good run to judge one's DPS on.

As haste probably continues to edge upwards, additional Arcane Shots will, at some point, be untenable to add - three in a row seems to be about the limit for the focus pool following a pair of Steadies. Further shots added to the rotation will probably be Steadies, depending how the haste goes.


Unexpected delights

Hm... I was especially emo yesterday, no? Today, something more positively reflective!

With the change to focus, et al, that hunters underwent, quite a few changes didn't become apparent until I'd started playing a while with them. Many of these were awesome.

You can Multi-Shot while moving! For the longest time, Multi-Shot had a built in cast time of .5 seconds, which meant you had to stand still for it. Now you can spam the button as long as you have focus while desperately backing up and hoping that the pet-targeted Misdirect you just cast will eventually stick one or more of the bazillion mobs you're trying to get at range with back on your bear/crab/etc. Multi-Shot is one of my long-time favorite skills, and I was including it in my regular rotation in Burning Crusade before an Arcane Shot/Multi-Shot/Steady Shot rotation was de rigueur. There is nothing quite so satisfying as being the unorthodox player whose methods suddenly become, for your spec, the orthodoxy. True, enchanting my 2-handed weapons for Int, or getting +mana librams on my T1 (more mana = less feigning to drink mid-boss), never caught on, but leveling in "of the Falcon" (agility/intellect) gear was more appreciated once the Int -> Attack Power talent went in. Of course, those days are gone.

That green and orange cat in Felwood is tameable! No, seriously! I've named him Octavian, and he's currently my DPS pet in 5-man's just because the color scheme is so hilarious. I need to team him up with a troll feral druid for something...

Glyph of Misdirect is amazing. I mentioned this in my macro post a couple weeks ago - if you're soloing without Glyph of Misdirect, you're missing out on the awesomeness of sending your pet into a pack of a gazillion mobs, dropping Mend Pet on it, and alternately spamming Misdirect and Multi-Shot. If you are like me, you will forget the first two Misdirects and end up in the scenario described under the Multi-Shot entry above.

Trap Launcher is surprisingly fun, if still clunky to use. I have not yet developed good macros for making Trap Launcher more stream-lined, but being able to toss an Explosive Trap on a tank for non-elite adds, or to throw my Snake Trap over at an add on a healer to hopefully pull the aggro off onto the snakes, is really handy. I wish Trap Launcher + Freezing Trap were more useful for something besides crowd-controlled pulling, but it seems like every loose add I want to trap is bleeding or poisoned or burning or in the throes of agony from a curse. Hence the substitution of snakes for adds on the healers.

Camouflage is quite fun, although I've yet to use it for its supposed strength, PVP. Mostly I pop it on in 5-man's as we're moving towards or around groups to avoid my huge cow ass pulling something. (I had problems with that in Nexus for a long time. >.>) The additional bonus of cloaking my pet is great if I don't have the cat out.

The fox pet dances! I got a Black Fox a couple weeks ago (from Redridge) and named him Hawkins. If you don't get that joke, I am disappointed in your movie tastes. "Play" + "Move To" was highlighted by someone else, but for especial hilarity, go to Thunder Bluff and dance your fox back and forth across the pond. I was giggling way too much.

Scatter Shot is a baseline skill! This wasn't a surprise, but despite having it sitting there on my bars, I had mostly forgotten about it until I went to Tol Barad the other day (successful defense, woo!) and oh, God, Silencing is still on cooldown there it was! It was a favored shot while leveling, and having it around again is great. Hawkeye, the other talent Survival stole from Marksman years ago, also sort of went baseline - most of the damaging hunter shots have longer range, although Multi-Shot, Silencing Shot, and Tranquilizing Shot still seem to have the old base range, which means on fights you're going to need them, you have to make sure to move up enough for them. Basically, the two formerly Markman talents that made me put points in Survival in Burning Crusade and Wrath are now mine for free.

Hey, I can get Improved Mend Pet! I don't know if I'll keep it when I put together a raiding spec (and my devilsaur and worm are doomed to a life in the stables), but it's been coveted for a good four years, so it's definitely staying in my soloing spec.

A non-huntery unexpected delight were the quests in Uldum. I love Vashj'ir - it's gorgeous, and the ecological details were greatly appreciated. The ultra-violet canyon is beautiful, and for some reason the secluded emptiness of the Abandoned Reef makes it one of my favorite places. (It is also where Ghostcrawler roams - beware the Nerfbat.) But Uldum - it took a little bit to get into, but as soon as I ran into Harrison Jones, the quest chain just skyrocketed in its level of awesomeness. The end of the chain (spoiler) was unexpected but had me laughing. The reworked Silverpine and Hillsbrad are also amazing for their quests - Siliverpine for the drama, Hillsbrad for the comedy.

There are always disappointments with changes (Aimed Shot's more or less neutering is one of them - if it's going to be only for opening or a proc, at least make it hit hard enough for it to be special - it's our friggin' specialization skill), but I am enjoying most of the changes.


Notes on a Guild and my (often ham-fisted) leadership thereof

I've been with my guild 5 of its 6 years (we turned 6 on Christmas); an officer for 4.5 years; GM for 1.3 years.

I don't come to leadership naturally (I make decisions slowly - or rather, I admit my decisions slowly), so I don't think I've done the best job of it. On the other hand, we're still here, so I haven't entirely botched it yet.

Problems I've generally handled badly:
  • Intra-officer conflict. It tends to happen in whispers and private messages, so I haven't really found out about it until someone is on the verge of quitting. This is very frustrating, and officers who are all buddy-buddy aren't necessarily the best thing in a guild of 150 people. I don't expect everyone to be best friends, but we all have common goals, and I'd think we could all be at least collegial about it. On top of it, it's very difficult for me to watch two people I like argue. Sometimes there are no ready or obvious solutions. (Sometimes the solution is so foreign to your mindset that it doesn't occur to you that it was obvious until about 6 months too late.)
  • Personality conflicts. These tend to show up blatantly in guild chat, but again, we're a large guild, and they're going to happen. They can be difficult to deal with when, say, the humor is a matter of taste, and someone refuses to believe that while the subject probably shouldn't be in guild chat, it's not a reason to boot someone. (Some things are just flat out, though - racial/ethnic slurs, casual use of 'gay' or 'rape' - not everything is a matter of taste.) I generally handle them badly mostly because I'm not easily offended. (I am sometimes disappointed in how people react to being offended, but it's their loss.)
  • Dealing with the trigger points I do have. There are some things that will set me off. They're generally narrow, specific, and involve raiding. If someone's in the guild, I'm of the opinion that they have equal access to all our amenities (at least on their mains; alts have different privileges so as not to edge out other people's mains). I mean, hell, that's written into our charter. If someone is capable of the content, I think they should be eligible for our raids. Sometimes the metrics for determining "capable" seem arbitrary or capricious. (16 hit rating gem versus 20 hit rating gem, when you only need 12 more hit rating (prior to reforging existing), but our raid requirements would have made you buy the epic. That's a "WTF?" moment for me.) So suggestions of set raiding teams or other methods that would pare our raiding pool of ~45 people down to ~15 irritate me, and I don't always manage to be civil about it.
Things my guild did well in Wrath while I mostly stood by and organized the bank:
  • Raid progression. Oh. My. God. We got past the first tier of Wrath raiding. In Vanilla WoW, we raided Molten Core, Ahn'Qiraj 20, and Zul'Gurub. We took shots at the first boss in Blackwing Lair, but we never got anywhere. In Burning Crusade, we cleared Karazhan and Zul'Aman, and with the lovely Daughters of the Horde, took on Gruul and Magtheridon. Later we managed to kill the Lurker Below and Hydross, as well. That was the extent of our progression, however. In Wrath, we killed everything, most of it on both 10 and 25. (What's missing on 25: Thorim, Freya, Mimiron, Vezax, Yogg-Saron, and Algalon from Uldamon; Sindragosa and the Lich King from Icecrown Citadel; and Halion from the Ruby Sanctum.) We didn't do the hard modes for everything, but some were done.
  • Kept calm and carried on. Even when raid leaders or officers or guild members were leaving (it wasn't often, but it did happen), the guild kept going. Someone always stepped up to help out. Raids happened, bosses died, and we eventually saw the Lich King die. Heroic dungeon drakes were obtained. Alliance faction leaders were slain. Old raids and reputations incomplete were organized and finished.
Cataclysm brings some logistical problems to our raiding - specifically, the 10 vs. 25 debate in that the loot is the same; and single-boss lockouts regardless of raid size, so that if you go to a raid Tuesday, you can't help with the guild's scheduled raid of the other size Thursday. Given what I've seen out of the guild in five years, this is mostly a headache for the raid schedulers, and not the end of the world. I do have constant concern about burnout for those who organize and run our raids; we lost four officers in Wrath after I became GM, and we have, besides me, four left. Only one of those actively works on raid organization, and we have one designated official raid leader outside the officer corps. I think there is room for growth there, but it's unlikely I'll know who will fill those shoes, or even if there are indeed some sitting empty, until we've gotten back into raiding.

There are aspects of Cataclysm I'm curious to see how they work out - rated battlegrounds, later guild levels, longer-term guild achievements, and so forth. Being as old as we are, it's a little bit of an affront that we have to do the guild leveling from the beginning, but really, it'll be done in a couple months, and the real benefit will be for the long haul. Of the large Vanilla Horde guilds on Bronzebeard, we are one of the last handful remaining. Going into the next expansion, probably two years down the road, I would guess there may very well be another 5 guild levels, which we will be poised to start as soon as it launches. Some people, I suppose, would be surprised by an online gaming social group lasting so long, but really, it's no different than a bridge club meeting for years. We're just location-independent.

So... Lessons I learned from...
  • 5 years as a Pirate: Pirates are awesome! I play WoW with some of the best people out there. Even though I have neurotic fits and normally push me away from online social groups after about a year, somehow this group has managed to get around that.
  • 4.5 years as an officer among Pirates: There's always someone who can step in to help, even if you haven't realized it yet. The vast majority of the people who get into the guild are awesome, and the bad apples either disappear quickly on their own or find that they can't really be a bad apple if they want to stay a Pirate.
  • 1.3 years as the guild master of Pirates: I'm not used to overseeing other people with authority. Everyone has different standards for other people, and mine are stricter than some's and laxer than others'. Still learning how to balance that. I think, overall, I've learned that some people I like are going to disappoint me. I won't babysit adults; I will help mediate problems, but people have to let me know there's a problem first.
I decided a while back, when we were going through one of those "where's our raiding going" rough patches, that the one thing I would be stubborn about is that I'm not going to get bullied out of my own guild. (One person in particular tried it.) There are very few points of policy that I'm adamant about; the rest don't affect the flavor we've developed. I could probably better communicate which are the "this is how we are" things and which are the "just my opinion, but I don't really care which way we decide, because it'll all work out in the end" things. There are quite a few of the latter. For the most part, the guild works, and my biggest goal is to not break that.

Oh, God, I've been writing on this too long; I'm starting to edit for grammar and style. Enough navel gazing for now. ;)