Site Meter Curse of Senility: April 2009

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.