Site Meter Curse of Senility: 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Life Tap Too Far

Earlier this morning, it was announced on that a new Warlock columnist is required. The brilliant among readers of this proclamation deduced that I am no longer filling that role. And, since I'm the kind of talky-fellow that likes to blather on endlessly when nobody is listening, I figured I'd give an explaination to the endless tubes of the internet.

Working at has been one of the coolest experiences of my life thus far. The people I worked with there were not my coworkers and bosses; they were my colleagues. The work I did there was not drudgery; it excited and challenged me. And even the flames and trolls directed at me are not something I will look back on with scorn; they were my teachers. They gave me some small glimpse of what it means to write professionally. I would be lying if I said they never got to me--I remember a handful of comments which continued to mock me within my own mind for days after they were posted. But looking back, there's not a single one that I regret.

In fact, has absolutely nothing to do with me resigning from my position there. Rather, I resigned because I had to accept that my disinterest in World of Warcraft wasn't going to go away anytime soon. In fact, I haven't played the game for its own sake since patch 3.1 dropped. I won't try to explain why I'm not interested any longer--attempting to express what it is about the game that keeps me playing would be a seven thousand word digression from a five hundred word post.

I kept playing, and I kept writing, because I loved working with I loved the people, I loved the challenges, and I loved what I learned. But over the last few months I've run dry. One can only keep writing about a subject they don't care about for so long before they need to recognize that their apathy isn't the passing phase they wish it was. So I regretfully informed my editors--who are far cooler than any bosses I'll ever have again--that I couldn't write anymore. And that, is that.

In a way its a bit of a relief. The biggest barrier between me, and writing actively, has always been guilt. It's the reason I stopped writing on Live Journal several years ago, and it's largely the reason I've been writing so sparsely lately. The guilt I was heaping upon myself because of columns I had failed to finish was like a vice on my brain. Now, perhaps, I can get back to basics, and start producing some things worth reading again. Probably not here at Curse of Senility of course--though I actually do have a few non-Warlock related WoW posts that I might pop out over the next few days.

I wish only the very best of luck to in the search for a new Warlock writer. And to whoever gets the job: don't forget how lucky you are, and try to learn from those who degrade your work, rather than allow them to wound you.

Thanks for giving me a place to put my words.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Online Equivalent of a Major Life Decision

As I mentioned in my last post, I was forced to disband my raid group recently, largely due to scheduling problems. And since then, I haven't logged in much. I didn't even participate in Noblegarden--so that's at least another year until I can get my hands on the violet-proto drake. It's actually kinda funny; I always get into a slump this time of year. This is the third Children's Week since I started playing the game, but I've never actually participated before. Though, since there's no Children's Week achievements directly related to finding a new raid group, I guess I'm pretty off topic right now.

Raiding with friends is great. Sitting down with 10 of my pals and trying to take out 'Count Monsterton, the Evilest of the Bridge Trolls,' is part of why this game still holds any appeal to me at all. Unfortunately, schedules don't reconcile with one another just because people are friends, not unless everybody thinks it's important enough to plan their lives around. I've spent the last 18 months, off and on, trying to schedule raids with tanks who quit the game or have to spend every other weekend obliging their family, DPS whose work schedules fluctuate so much that it's impossible to raid with them unless you're willing to change the time of the raid every week, and healers who have to get up at 7 in the morning to make it to our 3pm raids, due to time differences. It doesn't work. I've tried every reasonable course of action I can think of, but half the time or more I end up sitting in /2 recruiting DPS who have deluded themselves into thinking that their 900 DPS is actually 4k DPS.

The worst part of it is that these players are not just my friends, they're the best damn tanks, healers, and DPS I know. I wish I could have them there on every run, because when I can actually get them into the same raid with one another, things are amazing. This is a group that full cleared Naxx in two attempts, even with some of our best players missing. But without consistency, it becomes difficult to maintain the level of knowledge I feel Blood Pact deserves.

So I'm faced with a simple question: how do I get the raiding I need? There are really only two answers. The first is most obvious: join a raid group. Or, failing that, start my own raid group. Of course, I could just wait around in trade every week for somebody to starting shouting "LFG DPS," but I don't think I need to waste my weekly wordcount on explaining why that's a bad idea. So, we come to the meat of the article. Join a raid group, or start one?

Join a Raiding Group


1) A lot less work for me than the alternative. Which is good, because I'm a rather busy fellow.

2) Easier to shop around. If I join a raid group, run with them a couple times, and discover they suck, then it's no big deal. I tell them thanks, but it's not for me, and I shop around a bit more.

3) Experienced players. I'm not arrogant enough to think I'm the best. Hardly, there is a lot I could learn about how to raid and how to play. Not every group is going to have much of substance to teach me, but thanks to point #2, I could make such a quality one of my search criteria.

4) A ready-made raid group would be proven. Unless I do a terrible job of selecting who to run with, then I can be relatively sure I'll be able to clear significant amounts of content right off of the bat.


1) Loot distribution isn't up to me. I'm quite used to, what I consider, the perfect loot system. I've never actually run into another guild that used it, though I know at least some other people do. Finding those people might be difficult though.

2) If something is going horribly wrong, then all I can do is make a suggestion. If the raid leader doesn't like it, I have to deal with mounting repair bills while he fumbles to find a solution.

3) Availability. Most good raid groups have spots that open and close as applicants join, and groups that accept anybody anytime are usually absolutely atrocious. This might make Pro-point #2 a bit difficult.

4) I'm a leader. That's not to say that I'm the best leader, but being in charge of a project causes the project to bring me an immeasurably larger amount of pleasure (or pain) than simply being a component part of the project does. That's not to say I can't handle being subordinate, nor that I can't enjoy being a subordinate. It's just not my strong suit.

Screenshots haven't worked so well since 3.1, but here's a picture of me, as the only member of my potential new guild, rocking the DPS meter in Kara!

Start a Raiding Group


1) I like being the guy in charge. And sure, it sucks balls when I fail to do things right, I've demonstrated in the past that I can do things right.

2) Any success is something I can feel much more proud of than I would be able to if I joined a raid group rather than formed my own.

3) Loot distribution will be up to me, so I'll be able to stick with the system I'm most comfortable with.

4) I can continue raiding with those members of my old raiding group who are able to commit to the raiding times I set.


1) Mistakes are my mistakes. Obviously I can't know everything, and sometimes things just...go wrong. But if a group is bad, then it's the raid leader's fault for putting together a bad group.

2) I would need to do somewhere between a shit ton and a fuck ton of work to keep everything running smoothly.

3) It would take a lot of time to actually get a group together.

4) Even if I force everybody in the raid to go through an interview process that includes a few heroics, I can't be sure of how well they'll work together in a larger group.

I've been wrestling with this decision for a week now, and I'm still no closer to a real decision. At first, I was determined to find a raid group I liked, and try to join it. It would be fast, and I would finally be relieved of all the stress that had built up over the last few weeks. But at the same time, I knew I was coming off of a string of failures, and wasn't in the best emotional state to make that decision. It didn't take much time for me to realize how much I would hate dealing with being some other raid leader's subordinate. It's a weakness of mine, but it's not one I can simply wish away.

Over the last week, I've been talking with friends who have known me and raided with me for a long time about what they think I should do. One of my friends told me that I should join another raiding group, at least for awhile. His rationale was that I could learn a lot about how other people manage their groups, and it would help me progress more quickly than starting my own group would. Another friend finds the idea of me playing any part in a raid other than leading--or at least assistant leading--almost laughable. Talking to her, I'm surprised my pals haven't organized an intervention for my power addiction.

Even without input from my friends, I've had a tough time settling on a decision. For the last seven months or so, I've had a lot of ideas I wanted to implement in a new raiding group, and this is a golden opportunity to put those ideas into practice. But the process of finding people interested in joining the group, making sure they're fit to be part of the group, and getting started on clearing content will take time. A lot of time. A problem I wouldn't have if I joined another person's group.

Whatever I choose, it needs to be soon. I haven't killed KT in almost a month, and that's just silly. Haven't even seen Ulduar yet.

Any suggestions would be keen.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Old people hate change

So, long time readers may recall a post I made earlier this month, where I noted that I was having difficulty keeping Curse of Senility and Blood Pact separate, and that Curse of Senility was suffering because of it. The whopping three posts I've made this month attest to this being a continued problem. But luckily for people who are masochistic enough to read the drivel I post here, I'm a philosophy major! Solving problems is what I'm trained to do. Sure, most of the time the problems I apply myself towards are so convoluted, difficult to support, and obscure, that there's no real solution to be had. But as far as I'm concerned, that should just mean a problem with a solution will be a cake walk!

So here's the deal. Blood Pact will continue to be updated weekly,'s my job. I will officially commit myself to posting on Curse of Senility at least once a week. Posts will likely be somewhat shorter, but the alternative is that I simply abandon the project, and I'm still not ready to let go. Not quite yet.

This arrangement, however, has me writing roughly 3k words a week. And that's a pretty weak weekly quota. So, I've set up a third (or seventh...>.>) blog, which I intend to be a daily work. I might eventually start taking weekends off. The idea is to carry on the spirit of what I tried to do with Curse of Senility when it first started: produce publishable, interesting material on a frequent and regular basis. The content of this new blog will be a mixture of creative essays, short stories, poetry, and the interesting kind of philosophy. It's not just about writing, it's about writing something that people want to read.

If that interests you, check out my little reincarnation of Wearing Black in the Back. If not, keep checking back here, there will be some content for ya.

And on the theme of change, I find myself temporarily without a raid group. My little PuG group, which I love to death, has really had some scheduling difficulties lately. Our Main Tank is a long haul trucker on occasion, one of our healers and best DPS had power outages that lasted for several days, and so on, and so forth. Little by little we had to fill too many spots with untested scrubs who drew the group down (though I did find a gem of a tank who probably thinks we were the worst group ever.) Long story short, I informed the group today that I would be taking a brief break from raiding, to start working on the foundation of a more formal, and strict raiding group.

Cane-shaking good times.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Old Man Sentai's Pedigree

When I started Curse of Senility, I had a mission statement of sorts. It wasn't particularly detailed or anything, nothing like the mission statements they tell you to write in those worthless business classes. Really, it was just a short list of things I did not like about my past attempts at self expression, which I wanted to avoid in writing Curse of Senility. One of the things at the top of that list was that I wanted to be more open about my flaws. Which isn't to say I feel my previous writings were too arrogant, or that they were deceitful. Self deprecating humor has long been a fundamental element of my style. None the less, there was a time when I would not have written about how I caused a wipe on my first Naxx run by killing the Grand Widow's add before she enraged.

As part of that openness, I'd like to disclose an uncensored history of my raiding experience. I want to do this for several reasons.

1) I don't know how well I've actually done with this whole 'openness' thing. And while it shouldn't be, the brevity of my raiding history is something which makes me feel somewhat inadequate sometimes.

2) A large part of what I do, here at CoS, is offer advice. And now that I work for WoW Insider, I do so from a position of relative authority. It's only appropriate that I hang my degree on the wall, so that everybody can see I got it from a Russian correspondence school.

3) Many people, most people even, assume I've got a hell of a lot more experience than I do. I blame this on the authority I tend to inject into my speech, and the compulsion I've always had to get into the history of a thing before actually getting into the thing itself. I'm that guy who gets nostalgic for things he wasn't even around for.

So here goes;

I was born in a log cabin in Illinois...wait, wrong one.

I rolled my very first character sometime during spring quarter, my sophomore year attending college. So that would have been sometime in March 2007 or so, after Burning Crusade shipped. My primary interest in the game, at that point, was just to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn't terribly interested in participating in the group content, but doing some role playing really appealed to me. I wasn't the speediest leveler, and the fact that I had to re-start my character once he hit level 32 or so (he should still be on the armory; Sentaigresk of Silver Hand) didn't help. Still, I managed to get to 70 by...September I think it was.

But the day I ding'd 70 isn't exactly the day the story of my raiding began. The roots of that can be found somewhere in Sentai's late 40s, early 50s, when I started < Entelechy >. Originally it was an RP guild, but as time went by and our membership grew, I became more and more interested in instances. There were some people in the guild, mostly those who could never level a character past 30, who weren't so fond of this shift in interest. But instance after instance, the core members of the guild really seemed to catch on to the idea. And by the time we were all level 70, we were calling Entelechy an RP / Raiding guild.

Heroics were our thing at first. Actual raids seemed like an impossibility for us, something hardcore players did. So we 5-manned, and we 5-manned, and we 5-manned. It was somewhere around here, in September of 2007 that I realized I was terrible. I had discovered DPS meters, and I wasn't happy with consistently being ranked third or even fourth. So, my own instincts having failed me, I did research. Mountains of it. I read everything I could get my hands on, and when I was done with that, I posted a thread in the warlock forums titled "I suck at this class." and asked for people to tear into me. They did, though with one exception it was surprisingly civil. I improved, I was even pretty good. We started Kara -- it was late 2007.

We had an eclectic bunch in Entelechy, and there was something of an unofficial code of honor about how we did Kara. We didn't want easy victories, we didn't want to group up with a bunch of BT raiders and clear the place in four hours. If they had offered we would have said no. We didn't just want to clear Kara or get geared up, we wanted to make Karazahn ours. And we did. We scratched and clawed our way through bosses, week after week. First time in, we one-shot Attunemen and got Moroes on our second try (would have one-shot him if our pugged priest knew where his shackle button was.) By our third or fourth week, we were knocking on Shade's door. But the guild was becoming strained--the RPers weren't happy with the raiders, and aside from our core group of six or so people the raid was never really capable of getting anybody to commit. People started to drop off. And shortly after my first, or maybe second, Prince kill, I left the game.

I don't really want to talk about what happened to Entelechy after I quit the game -- largely because there's no reason to open old wounds. Suffice to say that it doesn't exist anymore.

When I returned to the game in late summer of last year, I did so with a new sense of clarity. The time away from the game had allowed me to distance myself from my warlock playing habits, and I was able to approach the class from an objective perspective -- while still pulling on my experience and research. My style and overall damage output improved dramatically, and when 3.0 hit I was able to out-perform every other DPSer who was willing to compete with me against test dummies.

When Wrath hit, and my girlfriend bought it for me (sweet girl that she is) I decided that I would use it fresh start to approach raiding from a more object-oriented standpoint. I want to be a the best warlock I can be, and I want to clear as much content as I am able. And those are the principles I've been operating on since then.

With almost all of my raiding buddies scattered to the wind, I had to start from scratch. I made that part particularly difficult on myself, because I can get really anal about what kind of raid groups I'm willing to raid with. I'm not willing to kiss some guild's ass for the privileged of rolling on loot dropped by a boss I topped damage on. I'm kind of an asshole that way.

I've raided with several groups since Wrath hit. Originally I ran with a guild on my server called . That didn't last terribly long, unfortunately. Great guild, but they had a "guild-first" policy for raid signups, which isn't at all unreasonable. But, once there was a larger pool of level 80 characters for them choose from (I leveled to 80 quicker than most people did) I was faced with the decision to either join their guild or look for another group. And if I ever leave the guild I'm currently in, it will be because I want to take another crack at running my own guild.

It took me a little bit of time to find another group after that, but the one I found was a gem. My healer buddy, Sidrea, introduced me to a Death Knight named Jyssana. Jyss was a master at putting together functional PuG groups -- I think there were only 2, maybe 3 people I saw at all (or almost all) of his raids. He ran both 10 and 25 man Naxx, and while we never got a full clear out of either, we did have a lot of good times and gained a lot of experience. I know that I personally learned a lot from Jyssana. His style of raid leadership was very unique to my experience, and I incorporated much of his style into my own.

I don't rightly know what happened to Jyssana. One day, Sid and I noticed he wasn't on our friends list anymore. Nor on the lists of any of the contacts we had made while attending his raids. Armory searches revealed nothing either, until a few days later when he started showing up. Turns out he and two of his R/L buddies had transferred to an Oceanic server. I can't really blame him, dude lived in Japan.

Round about this time, two of my old buddies from back in the day got their characters to level 80, and based on my now slightly more well-rounded group of possible raiding contacts, I decided it was time to take matters back into my own hands. I set up a calendar event for Naxx-10, carefully selected PuGs for the empty slots, and in our first attempt we cleared 3 wings. By our second attempt, we had full cleared. We continue to run the instance weekly, with a few exceptions, and now that Ulduar is out, we're looking forward to seeing if the group coordination we've been building will pay off.

And that's it. I'm not the most experienced raiding warlock out there. Hell, I've never full-cleared anything save the easiest max level raids available to me. At least, so far. I'm just a guy who likes warlocks, and tries to get the best performance out of the class that he can.

Cool story, huh bro?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Patrick Von Peabody is No Friend of Mine

Before I even begin approaching the preamble to the prologue which will lead-up to this post, I want to make something absolutely and painfully clear: I am not qualified to speak on this topic. I've always tried, with this blog, to avoid speaking with absolute authority on anything, because there's always some elitist jerk who knows more than I do and will be quick to point it out. But I've also kept my writings rooted rather firmly in what I know: Affliction PvE DPS.

Playing a Warlock, or any class, in PVP never held even enough appeal for me to bother buying the Insignia of the Alliance / Horde. To be frank, I'm not very good at it. I've never been particularly skilled at playing games against other players, though I usually enjoy a few matches, even if I lose them. But by the time I started playing WoW, resilience and twinks essentially meant that the only way to participate in PVP at all was to spend a bunch of time getting the gear to make your character capable of doing so. I'm not willing to spend a bunch of time on something that only holds a small amount of appeal for me. I try my best to avoid owning any gear with resilience on it.

That said, every now and again, I do queue up for a battleground.

Stupid geezer! There are two pallies!

Battlegrounds are my favorite kind of PVP. Arenas are a pain in the ass to get into. You need to find a team and pay for a charter, then you get to wait 30 minutes for a 30 second match to start. And not only can you not participate in them on a whim, but you've entered into an implied contract with your teammates that you'll be around to help them get their ten games a week or whatever it is. World PVP would be my favorite if it actually worked. But on non-PVP servers nobody has the balls to flag, and on PVP servers I can count the number of times I've been attacked by somebody who wasn't 10 levels higher than me on one hand. Those few times are good memories though. Some of the most memorable moments I've had playing the game, actually. That leaves Battlegrounds, most of which I really can't stand. In fact, to be honest, the only PVP I really do is Arathi Basin. It's my favorite basin in the game.

For most of the time that I've played WoW, I've been content to pop in there for a few games now and again, utterly fail at it then get bored and not PVP for a few months. However, for reasons I might discuss in a later post, I'm something of an achievement fiend. And a few months back, when I was working on getting the Merrymaker meta-achievement, one of the tasks required was to get something in the ballpark of 50 honorable kills while wearing the gnome costume. A costume which disappears when you die.

I seriously considered skipping this achievement, but I decided instead to power through and get those HKs. It was rough going at first. I was lucky if I survived long enough to get 2 HKs before slowly waiting for the AB to end so I could go re-costume. Frequently I died before getting my first kill. Since continuing on like that would have meant DAYS of work to get the requisite HKs, I eventually had to develop a system.

First, I set up an alternate action bar I could switch to when I PVP. Nothing fancy, just a different arrangement for the first row. I designed it around speed, rather than optimal DPS.

It starts out with Siphon Life, since that's an instant cast and it helps keep me alive, at least a little bit. Then comes Corruption, for the massive DPS output, and Curse of Agony, because the more DoTs I can get on a target while running away the better. Unstable Affliction and Immolate are the next ones up, though as of the next patch I'll have to choose between one or the other. Once a target is covered in DoTs, if I'm still alive for some reason, I start spamming Searing Pain as fast as I can. If I was actually going to put together a set of gear for PVP, it would be all about haste.

Thank. Fucking. God.

I find that I don't use Fear or Howl of Terror as much as I probably should. It seems like every time I try to cast it, I either get stun-locked while casting, or my target has some trinket / racial to get out of it. I could of course simply cast it a second time, or a third time, or as many times as it takes for them to run out of ways to cancel it. But fear doesn't last very long, and I find players often turn their ire on opponents who CC them. The last thing I need when I'm trying desperately to survive a battleground is some bastard with 500 resilience deciding to make me their special project.

I use the imp as my pet most of the time, to take advantage of the superior health. Nether knows I need it, since my PvE gear is based on stacking useful stats, rather than stamina.

And that's pretty much the strategy. It's clunky, inelegant, and serves only to barely keep me alive more than my previous strategy of flailing my arms wildly did. But at least it's a strategy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Be quiet you damn kids! I was trying to sleep!

Well, that was a lovely, restful, and entirely unannounced vacation. Actually, the only one of those adjectives which applies is 'unannounced.' But whatever happened yesterday is in the past, and now it's time to get back to waving my cane and casting my dots. As something of a rejoinder, I guess I'll talk about stuff that has changed in my personal game-life lately. This post won't be long or terribly interesting, but is intended as a quick stretch before I start posting more regularly again.

I've been running Naxx10 and fully clearing it weekly for over a month now, and our group has managed to get our time down to about 4 hours, give or take 15 minutes. I'm exceedingly happy with our progress. Deaths are uncommon due to our fantastic healers -- though Heigan still drops a few people each time around. We've had a bit of difficulty maintaining a regular set of tanks, but I'm relatively assured at this point that the two MT ready tanks, the the one OT ready tank we have will be reliably available for most of our runs. The only thing really left to improve at this point is the overall output of the DPS, which is getting higher and higher every week. An unfortunate number of them have even started to out DPS me on most fights!

The group has also made an attempt at Malygos, which was long overdue. It took us a little while to get the Death Gripping down, but once we did our Death Knights were able to do it almost without fail. Those times when Malygos managed to chomp on a spark probably fell more on the shoulders of the tank than the Death Knights. We only got to phase 2 once, but I think we'll be able to do better if we get more members of our regular group in there. That attempt was almost half friends-of-friends.

Phase 2 kinda threw us for a loop...

I'm also trying to get used to casting Drain Soul instead of Shadow Bolt once a boss is below 25% health. I'm having an atrocious time remembering to do it, though. Near the end of a boss fight I'm usually so deep into the rhythm of my casting rotation that changing it around just slips my mind. Still, below 25% Drain Soul ticks for roughly the size of a small Shadow Bolt crit (5-6k) so it's certainly worth using, even if the damage takes an extra .5 seconds or so of casting time.

I've also taken a stab at using the Doomguard in fights where it is appropriate. The extra ~500 DPS is certainly welcome, but a little frivolous in my opinion. At this point I've little doubt that my group could lose 2 of our DPS, and still kill Patchwerk before he enraged. So I don't see why everybody seems so gung-ho about the Doomguard. I certainly liked breaking my personal best DPS record (without situational buffs, such as on Loatheb or Malygos) but the Doomguard feels like a fun little gimmick that can be pulled out now and again for extra DPS, rather than a useful class mechanic. Maybe in Ulduar, if there is a boss similar to Patchwerk with more HP and a shorter enrage timer, it'll feel more useful.

Never broke 4k on my own merits before. Very cool.

The only other news that comes to mind is the I finally replaced my last blue. Sentaigrehsk is now in full epics, which feels like such a hallow achievement in light of how easy some of those epics were to get, but meh. Interesting thing is that my newest epic is the Tier 7 shoulders, which, when combined with my Tier 7 chest piece, gives me the 2-piece set bonus. Now, it's not the first set bonus I've had by a long shot -- but it's the first one I've had that actually feels as though it will have a positive impact on my DPS. Every tick of Corruption or Immolate (both of which I'm casting now, though, after 3.1 I'll only be casting Corruption) has a chance to increase my critical strike rating with my next Shadow Bolt by 10%. Additionally, each Shadow Bolt crit in turn increases my shadow damage via the Improved Shadow Bolt talent. I haven't had a chance to do any good tests since I got the set bonus, but it seems like the proc is going off nigh-constantly when I'm casting corruption, so I have little doubt that this set bonus is going to cause at least a moderate jump in my DPS.

Not a huge fan of the Tier 3/7 look, but it's good to see Sentai looking epic again.

I should also perhaps note that at the moment, Curse of Senility is in something of a limbo in my mind. While I greatly enjoy writing for this blog, I find it somewhat difficult to write two separate warlock blogs at once. Not only do I need to worry about overlapping content, but my WoW Insider blog, Blood Pact, and Curse of Senility require significantly different frames of mind, which I'm obviously having a bit of a difficult time switching between.

What I'm considering at this point, and it's still only a possibility in my mind, is sticking with Blood Pact for most of my writing. Meanwhile, I'll start a new blog with a new subject matter, and I'll focus on writing there regularly. When I'm struck with the desire to write about World of Warcraft, those posts will still be put here, but I wouldn't hold myself to any sort of schedule. I wouldn't be entirely happy with this arrangement, but Curse of Senility was never meant to be a permanent thing. I will of course make note of it in future posts if I decide for or against this idea.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How you too can be a mediocre warlock like me!

Applying all necessary scientific standards and rigor, I have come to a most startling of inductions: switching from making posts a big deal, to making them quick little things is not as easy as it sounds. There's this whole mental battle involved, where my brain is like "NO, WE MUST TRY HARD TO BE AWESOME, IT'S WHAT WE DO," and then my other brain is like "STFU NAB, IT TIEM WRITE NAO" but the first brain is quick to reply "NUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU." And then I usually go cross-eyed and pass out. I am losing SO much time to these frequent blackouts. Fortunately there is less than 24 hours left in finals week, so for better or for worse I'll have more time on my hands soon.

But you didn't read this far just to hear me bitch.

I've been thinking a lot about gear lately. More specifically, I've been thinking about gear that can be acquired relatively painlessly after hitting 80. This thinking really started after the criticisms I received after my first post at WoW Insider; Gearing your Warlock for Naxx-10. But more recently it has been fueled by the fact that my good buddy Kolrawn is fast approaching 80, and I'd like to get him geared up as fast as I can so I have somebody to compare myself against.

Hey, that's not warlock gear!

With that in mind, I took a look at my armory page to see how much of my gear I could get into his hands ASAP. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I'll be able to get him geared up, and was hit by a fresh wave of disappointment over how easy it is to get geared up in this expac. So without further ado: my gear, and how to get it.

The Mantle of Deceit, Azure Cloth Bindings, Rod of the Fallen Monarch, and Woven Brace Leggings all have an extremely high chance (25%-50% according to armory) off of the end-bosses in heroics. Which I can easily drag my buddy through.

The Plush Sash of Guzbah, Ward of the Violet Citadel, Sundial of the Exiled and Band of Channeled Magic are all purchasable from badge vendors (the last one is the only one which requires 25-man badges) for a decently small number of badges.

Both the Ebonweave Gloves and the Deathchill Cloak can be crafted by yours truly, or purchased off the auction house. And speaking of purchased off the AH, my Chain of Latent Energies was a BoE drop in 25-man Naxx, so it's probably on the AH every now and again as well.

And lastly, the Sandals of Crimson Fury I have come from exalted reputation with Wyrmrest Accord.

When all is said and done, you need to do a surprisingly small amount of work to get all of that gear, and if you do get it all, you're more than ready to be a valued participant in full-clears of Naxx-10 or 25. But of course, there are a few pieces of gear I have that can't be acquired quite so easily.

My main hand weapon, the Grieving Spellblade was an extremely lucky drop the first time I was in Naxx-10, but the Flameheart Spell Scalpel from being revered with the Kirin Tor is an excellent hold over until you get similarly lucky.

Just over the weekend, I got two new pieces of gear in Naxx-10; the Heros' Plagueheart Robes and the Cowl of Winged Fear But before I had those I wore the easily craftable Ebonweave Robe, and the Argent Skullcap -- which is a reward of one of the easiest quests ever.

All that leaves of mine that isn't easy to get is my second ring, the Ring of the Fated from Naxx 10, and Dying Curse from Naxx 25. But there are more trinkets and rings in the game for warlocks right now than I could possibly count. Mark of the War Prisoner and the Signet of Hopeful Light both come to mind, but there are tons more out there.

Muuuuch better...

So yeah, that's what's been on my mind as of late. I'm actually glad I took the time to write this down too. This will serve as a check-list for when my buddy Kolrawn finally makes it to 80. And who knows? Maybe if you thought the list I made for WoW Insider was too easymode, this will be more to your liking. Though I don't know if any of my readership actually overlaps.

...DAMNIT. This was supposed to be a short post. I really suck at this.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What the fuck is this shit?

So I did some doodling last night. It happened to be a warlock, and I thought to myself 'huh, I could not post this, and have a day without content, or I could post it and have a day with content that people will make fun of me for.' And since I'm all about your entertainment at my expense, I present to you "Dumb looking, petless, Level-23 warlock"

I assure you, this will never be an art blog.

I totally didn't mean for him to look Asian. When this was still black and white, I thought I'd give him unusual facial hair. Then I decided to color it with my colored pencils, but I don't know where my good colored pencils are. So, I only had a handful of colors at my disposal, and I'm no good at color mixing. This was all that was available for the face. W00t for incidental racism.

I'm actually reasonably happy with it. I'll never be able to draw anything more than bulky doodles, but this is one of the first times I've done a pose, without extensive reference. And while there are certainly things that could use improvement, it overall turned out a little better than expected. The hands turned out much better than hands I draw usually do, though one of them got messed up while I was inking. The hat is also a low-point. The idea was to make a relatively classic looking, villainous warlock, and I've always liked the witch hat look. But it simply didn't work at all. On the bright side I think I figured out how I could have done it better, so maybe I can fix it next time I attempt something like this.

Regularly scheduled word crafting will resume next time I decide to write.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thoughts on 3.1 Affliction

Aside from briefly popping online to prepare for a work related project, which I obviously can't write about here, I haven't logged in since the Naxx run detailed in my previous post. Well, actually, while running a standup comedy night on ventrillo I did spend time grinding water elementals between Arathi Basin matches on Arnoux -- who ding'd 38 by the way. But her recent adventures have hardly been worth writing home about. Or worth writing the internet about, as the case may be.

Doesn't stop me from arbitrarily selecting this screenshot to break up the wall of text though!

After the comedy-a-thon was over though, I spent maybe twenty or thirty minutes talking about my thoughts on the future of affliction warlocks to my buddy Kolrawn, who has been too busy tanking for me on his prot pally to really keep up with all the warlock rigmarole. After working through all my thoughts on the matter, I realized it might be something you, my imaginary groupies, might be interested in hearing about.

As a disclaimer, I should note that I haven't been on the PTR, so I haven't actually been able to get any testing done. Any opinions I hold at this point are largely speculative, and based on the latest warlock changes that I'm aware of.

Blizzard's aforementioned intention to simplify the affliction rotation has, unfortunately, come to pass. Not only is Siphon Life being removed as a damaging spell, but now Immolate and Unstable Affliction occupy the same 'slot' on a target, meaning only one of them can be active per warlock at any given time. These changes effectively remove two spells from my active rotation.

What's left is Shadow Bolt > Haunt > Corruption > Curse of Agony > Unstable Affliction > Shadowbolt Spam. Corruption is obviously removed from the rotation after the first cast, meaning that affliction will become roughly a 4 button spec. This is starting to feel a lot like the 3-button days of Burning Crusade.

Particularly annoying is the sudden lack of timer synergy between dots. Right now Siphon Life and Curse of Agony are cast together, because they have similar timers. Same thing with Unstable Affliction and Immolate. The way this caused the rotation to work out was something like two shadow bolts, then haunt, then two dots, then two shadow bolts, then haunt, then two dots, and so on. Very comfortable and easy to work with. Now that the timers of each dot are so astoundingly disparate, it seems likely that switching between shadow bolts, haunt, and dot refreshment may become a bit hectic. But it's far too early to actually say.

Supposedly the upside of this simplification is that it will allow affliction warlocks to do better damage on bosses that require a lot of moving. The oft-heard complaint about affliction is that it is the 'Patchwerk-spec,' and that it doesn't really excel in any other fight. Speaking from my own experience however, I've found this to be absolutely untrue. I certainly do my best damage on Patchwerk -- find me a class that doesn't -- but I frequently top the meters on a variety of other bosses. Sometimes I don't, but that's just the way the game works. Different classes and specs excel in different situations. It would be terrible game design if one class was able to top DPS 100% of the time.

I actually ended up in second place overall for this fight, but the fact that I was able to lead by a significant margin after such a large percentage of one of the most rotation-jarring fights in the game is a clear indication of affliction's versatility.

Frankly, since this change will cause a larger percentage of our overall damage output to rely on Shadow Bolt, I think we're going to see a DROP in DPS for fights which require a lot of moving. At least dots kept on ticking away when we were too busy to cast. But again, such speculation is perhaps getting a little ahead of myself; particularly considering some of the other buffs the tree is getting.

I might say that I look forward to figuring out the best rhythm for the new affliction once patch 3.1 hits the live realms, but that would be a lie. The longer I get to play with my belovedly complex affliction spec, the happier I'll be. I mean, I'm a crotchety old man; you expect me to welcome change?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Repo man, here for your dread citadel!

It took me awhile after Lich King hit to really get back into the swing of raiding. My guild had largely fallen apart in the last few months of Burning Crusade, and many of my raiding contacts from those days have yet to actually hit level 80. So Lich King was almost a fresh start for me, save for the few close friends of mine who stuck by me. My raiding progression was further pushed back when the raid leader of a group I was starting to raid with semi-regularly decided to uproot and transfer over to another server -- taking several other members of the group with him.

So a few weeks ago, quoting Godfather III the whole time, I decided it was time to start raid leading again.

Bigglesworth didn't like my post about Addons. He thinks Necrosis is awesome.

Between the group that actually stuck around, a few friend-of-a-friends that have started running with us, and even a pick-up-player or two, we've actually assembled a relatively reliable group. It's not perfect of course; I maintain my proud tradition of never being able to find a fucking mage, and our group has such variable schedules that getting us all together can be hell. That said, the two runs of Naxx-10 we've done so far have gone remarkably well. The first time we got together, I scheduled 4 hours of time, and considering that many of the group members had yet to see Naxx at all (some were still in level 70 raiding gear) I predicted to the tank beforehand that in that time we'd clear spider wing, and possibly plague wing. I figured we'd pop over and kill Patchwerk at the end of the night, as a nice easy note to go out on. As it turned out we absolutely tore through Spider, Plague, and Military wings in the allotted time, and took out Patchwerk as well.

We had some difficulty with the schedule, but this Saturday just past we went to Naxx for the second time. This time I scheduled 5 hours of time, figuring that given our previous success, it would be wise to give the group some more leeway to really see if we could clear the content.

The group managed to clear the first 3 wings in only 3 hours total, edging out our best time from the previous week by an hour. (Though I DID die on Heigan, ending my perfect record of dance-survival) With two hours to spare, the abomination wing was about to become our bitch. I think there were two wipes in all; one on Grobbulus and one on Gluth. Thaddius went down like a chump; one-shot by the kickass peeps it is my privileged to raid with.

Abom wing was new content for the group though, so it took us a bit of time to clear it. By the time we were done, we were only fifteen or twenty minutes away from the eight o' clock end time for the raid. But we were running high on the adrenalin that comes from clearing content smoothly, and decided to extend the raid time a bit to try our hands at frost quarter.

Saph was easily one-shot, despite only two or three of our people actually possessing prior experience with the fight. Kel'Thuzzad took a tad bit longer, but after four or five attempts, Naxxramas was ours. Full cleared after two weeks.

I think I'm going to stick with the skull theme, as I rather like the aesthetic. But I'm going to do some serious cleaning in the plague and spider wings. Get those wall fixed up, and remove the giant mushrooms. Maybe turn them into guest quarters and a dining hall respectively.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Generic QQ

Those of you with sherlockian deductive abilities may have noticed, Curse of Senility didn't update yesterday. Or the day before that. Or indeed, CoS has hardly updated at all for awhile now. What it breaks down to is this: when your 50 hours per week school program requires a lot of writing, and your job requires a lot of writing, and your hobby requires a lot of writing -- guess which one of them gets the shaft during a crunch period? It's horrid, really, because Curse of Senility is by far my favorite writing project at the moment. There's something about submitting your work to be graded, be it by professors I respect, or by ravenous hordes of commentators that I don't, which kills a little bit of my writing spirit. But you don't want to listen to me QQ, and I don't want to subject you to it.

And let me assure you, gentle reader, that the purpose of this post is not to tell you that I'm giving up, or that I'm taking a hiatus, or even intending to lower my ideal post frequency (which is about 3 times a week.) I'd be rather ashamed of myself if I accepted any of those alternatives, and indeed, am rather ashamed of myself for how little I've posted here as of late. However, I must be reasonable. I have been posting a great deal less, despite my sincere desire not to do that. I would be a moron to think it's even an option to change nothing, yet still do a better job of making myself proud than I have in the past. Something has to change.

The solution came to me a moment ago when -- right as I was about to post my analysis of the warlock changes in patch 3.1 -- Pike informed me that there are a bunch of new ones. Thus making my post obsolete before I even set it to go live. I internally went through a miniature version of the stages of grief ("oh shit no," "I took too long," "FUCKING BUSY SCHEDUEL," "Maybe I can post it anyway," "Well, I guess that's that.") then decided that it was time to make some alterations to the way I view this blog. Always before I was wary of any post under a thousand words, thinking that perhaps I selected far too narrow a topic. However, producing 3k+ words of well edited and interesting material every week, while maintaining my other more necessary writing projects has proven to be too demanding. At least, too demanding for my current level of self-discipline.

So as a compromise, I'm going to change my standards for what constitutes a worthy topic on Curse of Senility. Things I previously avoided writing about, such as specific instance runs, brief anecdotes about my game related experiences, and commentary on WoW related media I find around the internet will start appearing on Curse of Senility within the next couple days.

This does not mean that I intend to stop writing the longer and, in my estimation, more interesting posts I've written up to this point. Those posts are far more fun to write, and I would rather stop writing this blog altogether than abandon them. That said, writing seems to me very much like eating is. If you insist that all your meals be gourmet, then you're going to go hungry sometimes, or you might even starve. In the interest of avoiding starvation, I've decided to be willing to hit up Pizza Hut now and again. (Starvation in this metaphore is me giving up on the blog.)

Thank you for reading, and for your continued patience.

(TL;DR: I'm going to start posting shorter blog entries.)

Oh, and as a final note on the 3.1 changes that I was going to comment on; I will probably be posting on them sometime soon. But, in the interest of getting to the fucking point:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

An ADDONis among posts

Over the weekend, I got my very first email from a reader of Curse of Senility. It may seem silly, but it meant a lot to my old-man brain that somebody took the time to write me. Better yet: it wasn't even hate mail! It was a request! And as though to top it off, it was written in proper English. So, since the request should actually make a relatively interesting post, here's the breakdown of my interface addons:

The funky way my character portrait, target window, and raid information are displayed can be attributed to X Perl, a classic unit frames addon. There are more uses for X Perl than I could possibly make use of, much less cover here. What I do use it for is to display more information in less space. For example, you'll notice that rather than my buffs being in the upper right, they're right under my face. What's more, I can see all my party's buffs, and the target of every person in my party, as well as the casting bars of everyone in my party. It also gives me a lot of customization in how my debuffs are displayed--which was immensely helpful before I started using Dot Timers. More on those later.

One thing about having so much information on my screen at once is that, while it is extremely useful, it can be overwhelming if I need to access a specific piece of information in a split second. To take care of that, I use ArcHUD2, which is the reason for those half-circles on either side of my character. From left to right, starting with the red bar, is my Target's health, my health, then the health of my pet in the small crescent, and on the other side of me my pet's mana, then a casting bar which appears whenever I cast, then my mana. For me, ArcHUD is for my eyes what the home-row on a keyboard is for my fingers. It's the default position my eyes return to after they glance somewhere else for some tidbit of info. [EDIT: I messed up what some of the ArcHUD bars do. They're fixed now.]

One of the most difficult thing about playing the game, for me anyway, is figuring out what abilities do what, and how well they do it. I throw up a DoT, and I'm left to gauge it's effectiveness based roughly on how fast a monster dies. I can look at my combat log if I like, but the combat log is a giant mess of numbers representing dozens of different things. Scrolling Combat Text and SCT Damage keep me in-the-know. Those two addons are responsible for what most people dub the 'clutter' on my screen. And perhaps it IS a little cluttered -- but I always know where to find any information I need, so it works for me anyway. To break it down, scrolling downward to the left of my character is the damage I'm dealing, to the right is a display of things like healing and mana replenishment, and scrolling upward above my head is a representation of all the damage I'm taking. Using these, I can see in real-time what the difference is between Corruption, Corruption with Haunt, Corruption with Curse of Elements, and Corruption with both Haunt and Curse of Elements. Extremely useful for working out your DPS.

This is how 'cluttered' my interface is outside of combat.

While in the past, I refused to use addons to help me time my dots, affliction eventually reached a level of complexity that forced my hand. And honestly, I'm happy it did. The depth of the current rotation requires a quick tactical sense and a good sense of rhythm in order to make the most of it, and DoT Timer just looks plain sexy in the bottom center of my screen. Dot Timer shows countdowns for all over-time effects on a targeted creature, and moves effects further toward the bottom of the list depending on how little time they have left compared to the other dots. It goes a long way toward helping a player create that all-important rhythm that goes with playing affliction these days. And as an added bonus, it keeps track of your cooldowns!


It has always pestered me that Blizzard gives some classes more abilities than can possibly fit on an action bar. Most people are fine with this. They simply don't put their useless abilities on action bars, keeping only the most essential buttons easily accessible. I, however, am certain that one of these days I'm going to suddenly be in some sort of situation where Curse of Weakness is useful, and I don't want miss the moment while I'm digging around in my spellbook for it. So, to supplement my action bars, I use Bartender 4 to give me the extra space I need. It also allows me to move the action bars into the corners, giving me some more real estate on my screen. (Bartender is also what let me move my reputation bar to the top of the screen.)

Prat 3.0, while it doesn't directly help me be a better warlock, helps me be a better group member because I'm not chewing my fingers off while trying to manipulate the clunky default chat interface Blizzard gave us. Well...I guess that would mean it makes me a better warlock, since I doubt I'd be very good without fingers. Prat has a multitude of useful features, including the ability to use a wheel mouse to peruse chat, as well as showing the level and class of anybody who says anything, so long as you're familiar with them. And perhaps my favorite feature is that when I'm talking in one of the /# channels, Prat remembers that I'm doing so, and next time I hit the 'enter' key, I don't need to re-type my channel number.

Similar to Prat in the way it helps me avoid a stubby-handed fate, cartographer is a much needed escape from the positively evil default map interface. I've hated that interface since day 1. You can't move while it's up, unless you were already moving when you brought it up. And that hardly matters anyway because you can't turn, or see where you're going. With Cartographer, I can resize the map, move around while it's up, and it even gives me handy tidbits of information about the zones I'm hovering over.

Then of course there are the essentials. Recount, in the lower right, is my damage meter of choice. Below it is actually another recount window. That one displays my personal DPS in real-time. And of course, if I click on the little purple bar with my name on it, I can see a pie-chart style breakdown of my damage. All of them helpful tools to maximize my usefulness to a group. In the upper right, between my minimap and my target, is Omen, my threat meter. And Sir Not-Appearing-In-Any-Screenshots is my handy-dandy raid-leading helpamajig: Deadly Boss Mods. Everyone, regardless of class or role, should probably have these three addons (or an equivalent) if they plan to do any raiding.

This example of recount's pie chart feature was taken during a brief experiment as destruction.

Those aren't all the addons I have installed, but the rest are either dubiously helpful, silly, or are going to be uninstalled whenever I stop being lazy. If I missed anything that you're terribly interested to hear about, or you have an addon you'd like to recommend I try, please feel free to comment!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Curse of Reform

So as the hardcore fans I pretend that I have probably noticed, the rotation being used in the screenshot I posted recently is different from the one I advocated in my post on casting rotations. And for the non-imaginary among you, you'll note that I'm using Curse of Agony instead of Curse of Elements. In forum threads entitled "LS has sold out!!!11eleven" the more astute of my imaginary idolaters no doubt pointed out repeatedly that there is clearly a boomkin in that party, rendering Curse of Elements pointless, and freeing me up to use Curse of Agony instead. And while this is very true, it's not actually the reason for the change in my preferred curse. The truth of the matter is, I have reformed.

As part of my reformation, I've decided to use only level 70 gear from now on.

Before the imaginary flame wars continue, let me explain myself. The catalyst for my decision was the recently announced changes to affliction. Most notably among them, the fact that Corruption and Siphon life are going to be combined into a single casting time. This change comes in response to the fact that Blizzard believes the current affliction rotation to be 'too complicated.' And in truth, affliction warlocks have possibly the most complicated rotation in the game right now.

I love that complexity though. I realize the removal of one global cooldown from the active rotation won't completely kill that complexity, but it will simplify it somewhat. It will make affliction more accessible to all the people who stopped playing their warlock because it became 'too hard.' And before that happens, I wanted to get in a few hours of play with the most difficult rotation I'll ever be likely to have. And I wanted to kick ass with it.

So does this mean that once the rotation is simplified, I'll go back to using Curse of Elements like a good warlock? Nope. While I will, of course, still use it if I feel the situation calls for it, I've noticed that, as of late, I seem to be the only one benefiting from it much. My group/guild is positively notorious for never once having a max level mage that wasn't 'too good' to run things with us, and most of the DPS we DO have is of the physical variety. Hunters, Death Knights, Rogues, and so on. Curse of Elements certainly helps them a little (arcane shot comes to mind) but given the rather significant increase in personal DPS that I've seen since talenting and glyphing properly for Curse of Agony, I think it's time for me to officially replace CoE with CoA*. Not to mention the fact that the boomkin I ran with in that screenshot seems to be playing much more actively again, so this might not be the last time I run with her!

Note the prominent percentage of damage CoA did

So, for those imaginary fans of mine who strive to emulate my play style to the best of their ability, here's my new casting rotation. It's been modified for my newfound lack of trinkets with use function, as well as my new curse preference:

1) Cast one Shadow Bolt, causing the Shadow Embrace effect.

2) Cast Haunt, causing both that debuff, and a second stack of the Shadow Embrace effect.

3) Cast Corruption (I now have this bound to Ctrl+3, since if haunt is re-applied properly, it only needs to be cast once in any given fight. Moving it here allows me to keep my subsequent rotations rooted in keys 1-7. 8 is a little hard for me to reach.)

4) Siphon Life

5) Curse of Agony

6) Unstable Affliction

7) Immolate

8) Re-apply dots as necessary, avoiding clipping (re-casting a dot before it has 100% completed.) Cast haunt whenever it's up--don't worry about clipping it. If not otherwise occupied, be casting Shadow Bolt. Life tap / Dark Pact when you've got a moment of free time too short to cast a shadow bolt in.

*I honestly never thought I would say that.

How LS became a whore:

After I finish writing this post, I'm going to sign up for Google's ad service, and start putting advertisements on Curse of Senility. Actually, first I'm going to finish writing tomorrow's post, THEN I'm going to put advertisements on this site.

Now usually, I wouldn't feel it necessary to inform readers of such a thing. I put a lot of work into this blog, and while my primary satisfaction comes from a job well done and from making the lives of my readers just a tad bit more amusing; I also need to keep a roof over my head. And for the record, that's exactly what it has come down to: keeping a roof over my head.

The reason I decided to make a post about this is because many of my readers found me through my girlfriend's blog. And in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if at least a FEW of my readers are only following me so they can wait for me to mess up badly enough that they might have a chance with Pike. Not happening guys. =P

Getting back to the heart of the matter, Pike has taken a firm stand against advertisements on Aspect of the Hare. It might appear to some people that Pike's boyfriend allowing advertisements on his blog somehow weakens that stand of hers. Somehow makes her a hypocrite, simply by association with me. I'd like to nip that idea in the bud before it lifeblooms. (GET IT?) Pike and I have always had extremely disparate goals for our respective blogs. Aspect of the Hare is, for pike, more of an end in itself. While Curse of Senility has always been a means to an end for me. When I first started, it was a means of forcing myself to write regularly in the hopes that my style would improve. Now that it has taken off the way it has, I'd like to see if maybe it can be a means towards my next meal.

Know that I will do my utmost to ensure that none of the advertisements placed here are at all intrusive. And I encourage anybody who notices any popups or noise-making advertisements to inform me post-haste so I can rectify the situation with great immediacy. Thank you all for your understanding, and your continued readership.

P.S. By the way, to make up for last week's lack of posts, I'm attempting to post every day this week. This post, of course, does not count.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RP so hardcore, it walks OUTSIDE of town

It would be a lie for me to say that I'm an active Role Player, but I still like to RP in my mind. Thinking about my character as more than a 'toon' goes a long way towards deepening the gameplay experience for me. I enjoy considering their motivations, their histories, and the way the world around them would appear to a fellow who wasn't looking at it through a 17 inch CRT monitor. I don't always hold to my character's opinions on things. In character, Sentai thinks Varian Wrynn is a tyrannous bigot, and I've gone into self imposed exile in Dustwallow Marsh. Out of Character however, Stormwind is still my favorite city in terms of layout, so I spend a lot of time there.

As of late, I've greatly enjoyed thinking about my spells from this semi-RPing perspective. I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about my spells as pure mechanics. They are piles of numbers representing casting time, base damage, damage modifiers, and so on. But they do have names, icons, and fancy animations. Rain of fire isn't just an area of effect spell which is channeled over 10 seconds and deals 2-3k non crit damage to every enemy in a 15-yard radius every 2 seconds. It's fucking FIREBALLS falling out of the SKY. So lets dive in shall we?

FIREBALLS FROM THE SKY! (Damn, level 70 numbers, amirite?)

Haunt, as has been made clear in this blog before, is one of my favorite new spells. Based on the fact that it's called haunt, and the way it makes my dots hurt the target more, as well as how it returns to me when it's done, I like to think of haunt as a 'controlled release' of one of the souls imprisoned in my soul shards. My warlock imbues a shadow bolt with this soul, and launches it at the victim. The tormented soul then haunts the body of my target, exacerbating any debilitating ailments their host has, as some kind of blind revenge for their own suffering. They are then forcefully drawn back to me, unwillingly healing their own tormentor.

Corruption corrupts. It rots away the insides of my victims. Premature decomposition--a necrosis, if you will, of the intestines and stomach and so forth. Those afflicted by this spell frequently gush forth liters of bloody vomit--as is depicted on the spell's icon.

Curse of Agony doesn't actually cause any physical damage to the target. It is rather, an affliction of the mind. Over the duration of the spell, it causes the victim to feel exceedingly severe sharp pains, every second or so. The agony the afflicted suffers becomes still more painful with each burst of pain, mounting one on top of another until even the most stoic of warriors is left in the fetal position, weeping.

A soul stone is like a temporary phylactery that can be applied to a living person. I drain the lucky target's soul from their body, and place it in the soul stone, and I replace their soul with one of the souls imprisoned in my soul shards. Given as the soul-sharded soul is bound to my will, I can allow the soul of my friend to remain in command of their body, despite no longer inhabiting it. After the spell runs out, or the body dies, the imprisoned soul--having done his duty--is set free to return to the afterlife, and the Soul Stone crumbles, forcing my friend's soul to return to their body.

You can't tell me RP isn't awesome.

Long before I started playing WoW, I created something called a Blood Mage for Dungeons and Dragons. The idea was that it was a constitution based caster class (constitution being the equivalent of stamina) who took damage every time they cast spells--the more powerful the spell, the more damage they would take. In character, the Blood Mage carried knives, and made cuts on their body. Their own blood then became the reagent for the spell they would cast--and they could keep casting for as long as they had health. Given that bit of history, my masochistic interpretation of Life Tap should come as no surprise. I don't figure life tap is actually a cutting-upon-one's-self thing though, rather I think it's just an immense physical pain--similar to what curse of agony causes--and that suffering is converted into mana.

Damn...writing this post makes me feel like a bad person. Sentai Grehsk is a nice guy! Honest! He's all about peace and love, and he only fights when he believes the cause of world peace will be served by it. Arnoux is pretty mean though...Astien too. They'd be perfectly okay with how horrible these spells are. >:D

Monday, February 16, 2009

slash roll 100 >.>

Gee willickers, midterms can sure have a way of showing you when you've bitten off more than you can chew. Turns out updating a blog 3ish times a week through thick and then, while also attending university full time isn't a walk in the park. This round of midterms is done with now, however, and I'd like to get back in the swing of things by adding to my ever-so-slowly-growing collection of posts that might actually be helpful to somebody. So, in the spirit of being helpful, lets talk about gear.

Gear selection is a contentious issue for many warlocks. Hell, if you've ever debased yourself by visiting the official forums you should know that for many people, gear selection is tantamount to one's worth as a person. Rubes of the official forums aside, though, there is more than one school of thought about how to select gear. Some of them are absolutely terrible (we call these "Stamina Stackers") while some of them have a legitimate case to make. Since my goal with this blog has absolutely nothing to do with objectivity, what follows is an approximation of how I select my own gear. It seems to have worked pretty well so far.

*Cough* >.>

As a forward to my discussion on gear selection, I want to reiterate--for those who have never read my blog before, or those with a poor memory--that I'm talking about PvE affliction gear here. Usually I go ahead and leave that unstated, since it's implicit in the way I talk about things. However, when discussing gear that distinction is nowhere near as clear--and far more important. PVP warlocks, PvE demonology warlocks, and PvE destruction warlocks have different priorities for each of their stats--even if we all use the same ones.

I'd also like to say, before I start, that I could have simply written about specific pieces of gear I think a person should get, but that wouldn't really be helpful in the long run. You might say that rather than giving you a gear-fish, I'd like to teach you how to catch a gear-fish. Gear-fishing, however, is no simple matter; there's MATHZ involved. And while a good WoW player should never be too lazy to play with the numbers, I think there's a threshold where it becomes acceptable to approximate and move on. I call that threshold the "damn, where the fuck is my old calculus textbook" line.

Having said all of that, lets start to break this down. Selecting gear is, essentially, a choice between various stats. There are seven stats a warlock should care about, and every other stat is absolutely and utterly pointless for a PvE affliction warlock, and should be completely ignored. Each of those seven stats serves a specific purpose, and should be weighted according to the importance of that purpose.

Spell Hit is of paramount importance--at least until you get 446 of it. This is a pretty standard requisite for all the DPS classes but frequently I hear some young warlock proclaim something akin to "I never miss anyway, so I don't need spell hit." To which I must respond that anybody who thinks they never miss isn't watching their combat log closely enough (May I recomend Scrolling Combat Text Damage?)

Consider this: haunt is the groundwork for any affliction rotation, and it has a nice big 8 second cooldown on it. If haunt were to miss, then that's at least 8 full seconds of unbuffed dot ticks--a massive blow to any warlock's standing on the DPS meter.

Stacking hit isn't very fun, though. In fact, it's pretty boring to stack compared to things like crit. Fortunately, there is relief if you spec correctly. While it is true that without talents, you must get 446 hit rating to be hit-capped, if you put even 1 point each into Suppression and Cataclysm (in the affliction and destruction trees respectively) that will bring your requisite hit rating down to 420 to be hit capped for all of your spells. If you put TWO points in each, the hit-cap is lowered still further to 394! And if you're able to put a total of six points aside for putting 3 in each of the two talents, then the hit cap goes all the way down to 368. Obviously those talent points might be better spent elsewhere, but they are a nice cushion that can allow you to play a bit above your gear level.

Spell Power is a warlock's bread and butter. There really isn't too much more that can be said about it. Gearing up is largely the quest to make this number higher and higher without getting un-hit capped.

Spirit was, until very recently, utterly useless. However, in patch 3.0.2, things changed! Not only does Life Tap scale with this stat, but (far more importantly) 30% of our spirit is turned into Spell Power by our Fel Armor! This isn't horribly significant, but it is worth keeping in mind if you're ever faced with a tough decision. Lets say, for example, that you're trying to choose between two pieces of gear. One has 30 spell power, and the other has 100 spirit and 10 crit rating. Now, spell power is always preferable to crit rating for an affliction warlock, but, that 100 spirit will be turned into 30 spell power by fel armor, meaning that the second piece of gear effectively has 30 spell power and 10 crit--a clear winner when compared against the first piece, which has only 30 spell power.

Crit Rating is everybody's favorite stat, and thanks to Pandemic, now affliction warlocks can play with it too! That doesn't mean we're allowed go go wild, however. But thankfully, most pieces of endgame gear have at least two green stats (Spell Power, Hit Rating, Haste Rating, or Crit Rating) and once one has gathered enough hit rating, it's a perfectly legitimate strategy to use mostly Spell Power / Crit Rating gear. In fact, that's precisely what I do.

Intellect is to crit rating what spirit is to spell power...sort of. Intellect has two primary uses. First, more intellect means deeper mana pools, which means less life tapping and more pew-pewing. More relevant to the aforementioned relationship however is that intellect raises crit rating. To be precise about it, 167 intellect translates into 46 crit rating at level 80. 46 crit rating being the requisite amount for a full 1% crit chance. So, much like the example I used with spirit above, enough intellect can make up for losing some crit rating on a new piece of gear--and in fact, it's preferable to get your crit chance off of intellect, since intellect also increases your mana pool.

Haste, I will be honest, is a bit of an enigma to me. Rather than try to sound like I know what I'm talking about when I don't, I'll say this: it makes your spells go faster, this is awesome. However, in most cases it seems like you must choose between gear with spellpower/haste, or spellpower/crit. Which either means accepting a very low crit chance, or balancing out the two stats and having them both be mediocre. Personally, I stack crit rating. This may well not be the best choice, as I have seen spreadsheets that imply haste to be the superior stat. I am slowly building up my haste, and hope to get a better idea of just how much it helps my DPS in the future.

Stamina happens. That's really all there is to say. Yes, stamina is an important stat for warlocks, it keeps us alive and it allows us to do mad life-tapz...but it doesn't need to be considered. Sentai's unbuffed HP has fluctuated from 14,000 to 18,000 and back again, and it doesn't matter. All gear has loads of stamina on it these days, and a piece of gear would have to be an absolutely titanic loss of stamina in order to warrant even a passing consideration in the decision making process. In honesty, the only reason I even included it in this list is because there are PVE affliction warlocks out there, the bad ones who showed up to Kara in Gladiator gear, who think stamina is the absolute most important stat for warlocks. It is not. At all.

And that's the four-one-one on warlock gear selection. The most important thing, of course, is balance. 446 hit rating is worthless if you've got 100 spell power, and by the time you've got 1800 spell power you should probably have at least 15% crit, or a nice bit of haste if you decided to go that rout. I'd like to thank my warlock-buddy Kolrawn for helping me work out the best way to break this all down, and I hope that it ended up being helpful.

A closing note on spell penetration: It's essentially useless. Here's what WoW Wiki says on the matter:

PvE, targets of a higher level than the caster have a base resistance (2% of mitigation per level difference) which cannot be overcome by spell penetration nor by any other stat. Otherwise, very few mobs and raid-level bosses have a substantial amount of resistance to overcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Personal Norris

So, it turns out breaking down gear selection into a pleasurable read isn't as simple as I was expecting. Do I break it down into simple 'this stat is always more important than that stat?' No, that would be wildly inaccurate. Do I give weighted averages and graphs detailing a particular stat's effectiveness in conjunction with other stats? No, cuz then I might as well just copy paste a spreadsheet. So I'm trying to work out a balance for the post, and while I've been doing that, this blog has gone five days without being updated--oops!

So, lest I allow myself to be considered a poor host, I'll bake you a delicious cake as an apology for my lack of productivity. This cake just so happens to be made of words. Words on a web page. Words on a web page which appear to be 'humorous anecdote' shaped, rather than cake shaped. Words on a web page which probably taste like electricity and death if you try to take a bite out of them. Still, it's a delicious cake damn you!*

From about level 45 or so, and on through Karazhan, I was a member of a close-knit group of friends who instanced together. Very much at the heart of this group was our tank; a warrior who went by the name of Espado. Espado is a lovable, artistic fellow, who becomes an absolute bear of a man when he tanks (not literally, that's druids silly.) Tank is hardly even an appropriate word for what he did for our group. This man was a combine harvester, who shredded his way through groups of mobs while the DPS and the heals tagged along behind him, never fearing that anything would escape his massive pile of aggro.

Espado and I pause for a moment after a fierce battle--can you tell I was a clicker back then?

I'll not list all the many exploits of my good tanking friend because my reader's heads would explode, and I rather enjoy having readers with heads. Instead, I'd like to fast forward to last week, when Espado and I were hanging out together, talking about art in the manliest possible fashion, and at some point, I asked him if he would mind if I leveled his toon--which has been neglected due to how very boring he finds Wrath of the Lich King (I told him not to level in the Boring Tundra!) He readily agreed.

He got me logged into his account, and I stepped into shoes that I would attempt to fill by using approximately one metric fuckton of tissue paper. I promptly logged back out again because who the heck plays using the number pad!? Rather than mess up his settings, I installed bartender so I could set up my own action bars--which I populated primarily with things I already understood from the 28 levels of McJiggins I've played so far. And, since my understanding of the class is pretty much limited to tanking--and because it's ESPADO--I decided to tank something. I found a level 76ish healer, two level 71ish DPS, and headed off to Utgarde Keep!

Words really don't do the rest of this story much justice, so I'll turn it over to a more visual medium:

Huh, those first dozen pulls weren't so bad! The death knight only pulled from me a time or two, and he's REALLY good...maybe I can pull this off after all!

HOLY SHIT I JUST TANK'D A LEVEL 70 INSTANCE WITH ONLY A SINGLE DEATH! (Wasn't my fault either, the lock got hit by too much AoE!)

My accomplishment filled me with such exuberance that I started shouting Espado's old catchphrases! PANTS OFF, GAME ON!

That was one of the most fun things I've done in World of Warcraft in MONTHS. And I've been to Gnomergan.



*Anyone found iterating 'the cake is a lie' in the comments just because cake was mentioned will soon find me on their doorstep with a notarized document from a judge, which grants me the right to harm him/her for the e-crime of repeating that god-awful phrase.