Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lessons Learned from WoW

Auzara goes off on tangents about online leadership and how GM'ing for a guild teaches a person real-life applicable skills. You know what? She's right. But it's not just GM'ing. Ironically enough, playing WoW has taught me a ton of lessons and skills that I can transfer over into my everyday life, whether it be in the workplace or just in general. And in other cases, it reinforced or provided context for previously learned ideas and notions. You can learn from a video game, I'm living proof. What are some of the golden nuggets of wisdom I've culled from playing WoW?

1. Processing a lot of information quickly is tantamount to success
Do you play any arena? You know how when the gates first open, you get your first glimpse of what's on the other side and then you and your partner(s) discuss what's the most logical target, or the team lead calls out which squishie to squish? There is quite a lot of thought that goes into that first target call, and it must happen in a relatively short period, as that other team is going to come barreling across the arena floor pretty soon and will try to stick you or your partner(s) with the pointy ends of their stabbing sticks.

Consider this. In a 5v5 match, there are a number of different combinations of classes and specializations that a team can cobble together to form a strategic strike force. Every change in specialization, every swap-out of classes, and even the minute difference of using a paladin healer instead of a shaman healer for the opposing team will alter what gets called out as the first target. Upon first glimpse, as a team lead, I need to diagnose every class we're facing and what spec they are, and make a decision in less than 10 seconds so that we can saddle up and smack something in the mouth. And that's not all. Every team will choose something different. If I'm on a physical-heavy team, the first target will almost always be a cloth or leather wearer. If I'm on a caster-heavy team, the call will most likely not be one of the "squishies," as they aren't quite as squishy to magic damage.

Not a PvP'er? How about a raid example then. Illidan is in his demon form, blasting away at the warlock tank with shadowy death stuff. He just summoned his demon nasties, and they are barreling toward 2 of the warlock's healers. Oh no! Without healers, the warlock will surely die, Illidan will turn toward the raid, and he'll eat the shadow priests and proceed to nomnom all the raid! Disaster! "We need to save the healers," Mr. Ret Paladin extraordinaire might say.

No, you don't. There are most likely DPS'ers nearby who are popping cooldowns to get the demons done-did-dead right quick. If you go blundering into range of that shadow demon thing, and Illidan's next Fire Blast happens to go off while you're next to those DPS'ers who are likely taking care of the situation, guess what happens? You mighta just gibbed 'em.

HOWEVER, if you deem that you can get into melee and then back away from everyone before that next Fire Blast goes off, maybe you should go help! This is a split-second decision you need to make, considering the distance of the shadow demons to your healers, the distance of you to the shadow demons, the DPS power of the assigned DPS'ers, and the time until the Fire Blast. See? DPS is not just "mash dah butt-on 'til the baddie fall down." There are crucial decisions to be made, and they must be made in seconds with constantly changing information.

If you don't think that critical thinking and accurate snap decision-making abilities aren't applicable in the real world, you're crazier than I thought.
2. Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing at all.
Here's the scenario - Illidan again. The raid just pushed him into his last phase, where Maiev shows up and starts yapping at 'im. She just dropped a trap not so far away from the tank. "Great, I'll just alert raid to its location, the tank will drag Illibeans into the trap, we'll avoid an enrage and I'll get a big ol' pat on the back afterwards for a job well done!"

Not exactly.

During a raid encounter, especially a frantic one where there are several things to keep track of, both raid chat and voice chat are likely to be cluttered with information overload. Deadly Boss Mods will be flooding raid chat and raid warnings into your chat box every few seconds. Several people will be yammering over Ventrilo for who's got what, who should be where, and that-guy's-on-fire-heal-him gogogogo. Also, more than likely, at least ten other people saw that trap get placed, and had the same impulse. What would happen if all ten of them acted on that impulse? Ten more voices would be added to an incredibly noisy Ventrilo channel, the message would be garbled and several people might get confused. What if the tank heard go to the trap, and the healers didn't catch it? Tank starts moving, healers don't anticipate it - tank moves out of range of heals, Illidan enrages before he gets to the trap. Slash smash whack thock boom. Wipe.

And what if you do get your message across, but you're not the appointed trap-caller? What if you tell the tank that the trap is slightly to his south, between Illidan and the raid, and going toward the trap would involve the tank turning his back to the raid and backing over the trap? "Psh, no problem, tanks can backpedal and tank." Yea, but not in this case. The tank backing up toward the raid when tanking Illidan would allow Illidan a window of opportunity to use his life-draining ability on more than one person, since it's a conal AoE. What? You didn't know that Illidan had this ability? Yea, I know, you didn't need to, but the person who's leading did, and the person who's calling the traps does. Unless you have all your facts straight and you are a pre-approved leader of men for the raid, sometimes it's best just to keep your trap shut. In other words, sometimes it's best to hold your tongue for the good of the team.

3. Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.
Okay, I knew this ol' proverb way before I started playing World of Warcraft. But you know what? I got first-hand experience on both sides of the fishing give/take relationship while playing.

When I joined my first raiding guild, I was a complete and utter paladin nooblet. I thought that melee'ing and healing at the same time and being effective at both was possible; I thought that having strength on my healing armor was good for "when I needed to do some damage," and consequently that spell damage on my melee armor was good for "when I needed to throw some heals around"; I didn't know how to install/operate/use add-ons; I didn't understand the mechanics of melee hit/miss... the list goes on of things I didn't know or understand fully, or hair-brained, half-baked notions that were floating around my muddled yet moldable mind (mmm, alliteration...).

The guild had a few "veteran" paladins, ones who had been level 60 for a bit longer than I had. However, the paladin lead was kind enough to chat with me and give me pointers on what's a good idea and what's a bad idea, and explain his reasoning behind his answers. I didn't always take what he said to heart, as I was young and brash and thought I knew better, but as I let stuff sink in, over time I embraced the little nuggets of wisdom I received. His explanations made sense.

In contrast, in the next raid guild I went to, the paladin lead was a lot less personable and involved. If you had a question, he answered the question and no more. He didn't go into depth as to why he said what he said, or explain his reasoning. Needless to say, my skills did not improve much while in this guild.

Let me give a more specific example. Later on in my career, I became the paladin lead for a guild. When doing Zul'gurub with a paladin who was new-ish to the guild and to raiding, I explained his duties on the spider boss to him as the raid prepped with buffs and such. In previous outings with this paladin, he tended to use his two heals almost exclusively and only use his other abilities when told to expressly by someone else. So, taking it upon myself as the designated guild paladin expert, I told him to use Blessing of Freedom to get the tank out of the web ability. He did, but not reliably. After the raid was over, I took him aside for a few minutes and explained that he should use all of his abilities to their fullest - how using Blessing of Protection on non-tanks when they pull aggro instead of healing the damage they take would save him a lot of mana, and how Blessing of Freedom on a tank would allow him/her to get back into melee range very quickly, saving the tank headaches and sparing the cloth-wearers some damage. He scoffed at the BoP comment, but I went on to say that he's got a bunch of tools in his utility belt, and he needs to apply more of them in an array of situations to be a more complete paladin.

You know what happened? He started informing me of which trash mobs were susceptible to stuns from Hammer of Justice (because a stunned mob deals no damage, and therefore makes healing easier!), and later on he was the one who suggested to me to use Blessing of Sacrifice on the tank for Maiden of Virtue to break out of the room-wide Repentance incapacitate and continue healing. If I had left it at "use Blessing of Freedom more, and improve your reaction time," he might have been content to coast by not using other paladin tools creatively. In effect, he had learned to fish.

4. Love what you do.
Min/max'ing aside, if you are performing a group function that you do not enjoy, you likely won't do it as well as you could.

I hate healing on a holy paladin. Despite what I said in #3, oftentimes in raids I used to find myself chain-hitting my 4 key (Flash of Light) and interspersing it with random bouts of pressing 3 (Holy Light). That encompassed the bulk of my raiding experience at level 60 - there wasn't a lot of moving around or using other abilities, most of the time it was find a spot where you can see your tank/a majority of the raid, hunker down, and start spamming my 2 heals. I was decent at it, and the raid benefitted from having me add to the total heal count, but my heart wasn't in it. It was just something I was doing because the group needed it. Every time I went to a raid, I felt my mind wandering, and I knew if I kept on healing raids, I'd eventually stop raiding, since it was boring!

Something I really enjoyed, though, was tanking Stratholme. I didn't have a taunt ability, or real "tank" armor, or sometimes any points in the protection tree, even, but it was a romping good time. Mind you, this was at level 60, before Burning Crusade, when paladin's got actual tanking abilities and a mana regen system from healing received. I was totally gimp, but getting the attention of a bunch of skeletons and keeping them from mashing the dress-wearing warlock behind me was so very, very fun for me. I tanked Stratholme whenever I could, even just for kicks.

So what did I do? When Burning Crusade rolled out and the protection tree got buffed, I committed myself to tanking. I stopped saying "I can heal it" when people asked for instance runs and instead offered myself as the meat-shield. I made it clear to guildmates that I was a tank, and despite possessing heal buttons, I was a tank first, and a healer second. Early on, I didn't get taken to Karazhan as a tank, but as I honed my skills, and displayed my zeal for what I was doing, people started considering, then appreciating, and then eventually wanting me to tank for them. I was a lot happier too.

How does this one apply to real-life? Well, I work in recruiting currently. My job gets a bit boring (hence why I troll forums and read blogs all day). I would enjoy my work a lot more if my duties were more diverse. So, not being one to sit on my haunches and accept the situation, I went and applied for a master's program to expand my skillset. I start next month! And when I'm done, I'll have more skills, and will be able to snag a job that will make me happier and have a fuller day. People have always said stuff like "if you don't like something, go and do something about it" to me. But it took my experience in finding my (previous) true calling in Azeroth to make me realize that it's not all just talk.

Closing Thoughts
World of Warcraft is first and foremost a source of recreation - it's a game, set in a fictional world, played with digital avatars and mythical creatures. But, that doesn't mean that it's completely frivolous. It's a MMO, and therefore you need to interact with other people, even if it is within the confines of a game. Because of this, you have the opportunity to learn from others, teach others, and share with others. It can be a social experience. It can be a learning experience. It can provide you with self epiphanies. It can motivate you to improve yourself. It can open your eyes.

Just because Warcraft is a game, doesn't mean it's "just a game." It is that, and so much more. I just wish that more people realized that, instead of scoffing when myself or others reveal to friends who don't play Warcraft that I spend an inordinate amount of time battling demons and the forces of the undead with a glowing hammer and encased in plate armor with 24 other creepy gamer types several nights a week.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Boss Spotlight: Illidari Council

In a continuing effort to educate the community on how Retribution Paladins should approach fights that pose specific difficulties to the class, E4AE proudly presents another "Boss Spotlight!" In today's crosshairs: the Illidari Council.

The Illidari Council is the 8th boss of Black Temple, and is the final stepping stone on a raid's path to Illidan and legendary loots. This group of 4 Blood Elves are comprised of Gathios the Shatterer (ret paladin), High Nethermancer Zerevor (tri-spec mage), Lady Malande (holy/disc priest), and Veras Darkshadow (rogue of supreme annoyance). Each have their own set of abilities, and they share a collective health pool. Once you kill one of them, they all die.

Why are we talking about this boss?
The Council fight has been referred to by many as the "Super Bowl of not standing in things." You know how there are fights every now and again where random stuff spawns on the ground or overhead and you need to not stand in it? Supremus's volcanoes, Al'ar's flame patches, Gruul's cave-ins, Rage Winterchill's Death & Decay ability... these ringing any bells?

Well, if you love that fight mechanic, you're in for a treat. In the Illidari Council fight, there are no less than 3 separate AoE abilities for you to dip, duck, dive and dodge! The mage's Flamestrike and Blizzard, and the paladin's Consecration are all very dangerous and can kill anyone who is not constantly aware of his or her surroundings. You don't need to know everything about this fight to do your duties as a ret paladin, but if nothing else, you need to know when the AoE's are happening, and what they look like.

What to do when facing Illidari Council
The job of a ret paladin in this fight is simple on paper: kill the paladin, Gathios. Each of the other mobs in this fight are melee-unfriendly - the mage has an Arcane Explosion that he casts when people get too close, the priest has a reflective shield that will toss damage back at the attackers, and the rogue vanishes periodically, making him hard to continuously target. The paladin, in comparison, has a "wimpy" Consecration ability that he uses every so often. So, the DPS'ers are punished the least when attacking him, despite his considerably higher armor. Of course, it's not quite so basic as "smash the pally."

The pull will most likely start with either you or one of your fellow paladin's casting a Blessing of Protection on one of the raid's mages, who will then get the attention of the Council and begin mage-tanking the mage mob. From there, tanks will grab the other three Elves. You will make a bee-line to Gathios, stick Judgement of the Crusader on him, and beg other paladins to apply JoL and JoW. As soon as an aggro lead is established, feel free to pop your cooldowns/trinkets and really lay into Gathios - it's a long fight (8-15 minutes, depending on your guild's DPS and coordination), so you'll be able to use your wings 2-4 times if you start early. *Special note: if you're paying attention to Gathios's buffs, wait until his Devotion Aura fades to pop cooldowns when you can - it ups his armor considerably, so you'll see better results if you hit 'im hard while his armor is lower.

Gathios is definitely not tank-and-spank, however. His Consecration ticks hard, for over 2k per second. It has the same coloration, animation, and range as your Consecration - as such, do not use Consecration on this fight. If you let loose with your own Consecration ability, you are going to freak out your tank and the other melee and they'll think it's Gathios's. Don't be that guy. Make sure when you see Gathios use his Consecration to disengage and move out of it's range, and then re-engage when the tank has moved out of the Consecration.

In addition to not standing in Consecration, you must watch your feet and your head for mage abilities. High Nethermancer Zerevor will use his Blizzard and Flamestrike abilities with reckless abandon, and can target anywhere in the room with them. Their animations are just like a player character's ability animations, so they will be recognizable. If you see shards of ice falling on your head, or the ground underneath you turn a lovely shade of red, haul ass away from the area. Step out of range of the affected ground patch, maneuver around the danger, and then re-engage Gathios when the tank is in a safer area.

There are other random damage abilities flung around by the boss mobs - the rogue uses Envenom and the priest has a holy spell + DoT (Divine Wrath) that hurt like all get-out. If you ever find yourself low on HP, whether it be from one of these or because you were a dumb-dumb and didn't move quickly enough out of an AoE, use your health pots or healthstones. With Consecration and Exorcism not in your ability cycle, and with the random damage (and subsequent Spiritual Attunement return from heals) you will take during the fight, I'd be surprised if you ever saw your mana pool fall lower than 85%. Your mana potions are useless here, don't be afraid to gulp down a red one.

Lastly, be ever-mindful of your positioning. Since the tank will be moving Gathios around fairly frequently, always make sure that when you re-engage him, you are attacking from the back. He can hit fairly hard, and a lot of the healers will be split up and assigned to different people, so extra damage from a parry-hasted attack is wholly unnecessary and possibly fatal to the tank.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Votes Have Been Counted...

... and the public has spoken! Tomorrow you shall have a Boss Spotlight: Illidari Council post. I'll get to the others like Gruul and Al'ar at a later date.

Today's post is going to be a rambling mess, hold onto your hats.

The guild took down Kalecgos in short order and has BT clear, we're spending 4 hours with the big bad Brutallus tonight. Joy.

PvP this weekend was brutal (get it? Brutal? 'Cuz this season all the gear is... oh nevermind). 2v2 I tried another incarnation of BM Hunter/Ret Paladin - the BM Hunter was PvE specced (max damage) and threw on some PvE gear, as did I. We tore apart some clothies, and lost to any double plate team we saw (MS Warrior/Holy Paladin in particular). We spiked up to 1600 or so and then fell back into the upper 1500's. It went all right.

After the raid last night, I ended up leading a 5v5 cleave team into battle. ShS Rogue, Enh Shaman, Ret Paladin, Disc Priest, Holy Paladin. It wasn't an ideal make-up, and there were a few alts involved. It was the priest's first time as discipline as well. We ended up stomping a few teams, and getting our faces smashed in by a few. Spiked up to 1600 and ended back in the upper 1500's (hmmm... familiar story...). The night was capped by us facing off against a poorly coordinated 5's team with only 4 on our side - the enh shaman disconnected as we started to charge in. Despite that, we nearly won. Nearly. We ended up losing 18 points to them, which hurt.

How important are [Elixir of Demonslaying] for Brutallus? I failed to gather (read: buy from the AH) any in preparation and plan on using my usual flask o' killstuffquicker, which persists through death.

My plans for the (WoW-related) future might be shifting in short order. I recently was accepted into a master's program for this coming fall, and the classes will be at night. This would totally bork my raiding schedule. If so, I'm not sure what to do with Cathmor. Do I keep the account active? I almost certainly won't be able to raid, unless classes are ridiculously easy and only on Tuesday and Thursday, which is unlikely. With a 9-5 job and master's classes at night, and research/papers/projects to do, will I have time to play at all? I'm not sure - it would certainly save me a little money to cancel the account, which would then be applied toward, ya know, the essentials - pizza for late-night study sessions and alcoholic beverages for dah wimmenz. But there are several things I have yet to accomplish in the game, and I wants them done. The list?

  • Kill Illidan Kil'jaeden
  • Notch a faction leader kill (Thrall, Sylvanas, Cairne Bloodhoof, or even the blood elf dude guy)
  • Buy the arena season 3 retribution set shoulders
  • Equip a [Corrupted Ashbringer] so I can see the Scarlet Monastery event firsthand
  • Kill C'thun
  • Kill Kel'thuzad

It's not a terribly long list, as I've accomplished a lot of my goals in the game. But, there are loose ends.


I dunno, my mind is a-flutter with thoughts on what to do. And I'm sleep-deprived from doing 5v5 after the raid instead of sleeping like a normal person.

The worst part for you, fair reader? I might have to send you off to another blog to get your daily dose of retribution reading. If I ain't playing, I certainly won't be bloggin' 'bout it.

Stop crying, here's a tissue.

Thus concludes today's edition of "this morning in Josh's head." On behalf of our entire staff, I hope you enjoyed your tour. Please exit to your right and enjoy our links section, we have an array of destinations for you to visit. Come back soon!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Arena Woes

Okay, so, I'm not anti-social. I try to participate on my realm's forums, I mingle in the PvP scene some by doing 2v2 and 3v3 with random pick-up partners as well as guildmates, and I'm generally a nice guy. But, despite all that, I fail at arena.
This season, I haven't seen any of my teams rise much past 1620 rating, despite my best efforts. I've played some SL-SL Warlock/Ret Paladin 2v2, some BM Hunter/Ret Paladin 2v2, and some ShS Rogue/Ret Paladin 2v2, and hell, even a bit of Resto Shaman/MS Warrior/Ret Paladin 3v3.

"But Josh," you might ask, "why are you not succeeding in arena? You've got great gear, know what you're doing, and are handsome and suave to boot! What's wrong?"

At this point, I can't tell if it's me or my choice in partners. The 2v2's have been mostly pick-ups that were searching for teams at the same time I was. None of my guildmates that make favorable 2v2 make-ups play PvP enough to make it worth my while. And my PvP rep on the server is either low-profile or secretly terrible, because no one approaches me for teams, and when I approach high-profile PvP'ers I get turned away. Every time I've stepped into the arena with a team that I assembled this season, it has fallen on its face, no matter the combo. Is it because my partners are generally unskilled? Is it because I'm really a PvP noob and don't realize it? I don't know! I haven't played with anyone generally accepted as "good" consistently enough to gauge where the disconnect is.

I've been applying steps 2 and 3 of Meg's guide to arena mingle since before she mentioned them. I have a topic going on my realm forums advertising myself for 5v5 teams that I bump periodically. I have a guildmate who is willing to play a rogue or warrior with me in 3v3 if I find a healer, but have been unsuccessful in convincing any semi-talented PvP druids or shaman (shamans? shamen? seamus?) to give the team a shot - it'd be a rogue or warrior in full season 3, shoulders and all, and myself with a season 3 weapon and everything but shoulders for PvP gear.

But, despite my best efforts, I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in cobbling together a stable, working team for any bracket. My best success has been in a 2v2 team that should never, ever win games - double ret paladin. It's pretty sad at this point.

It's like I'm back in high school and I'm not in the cool kids' clique. I'm fun to hang out with, I know what I'm doing, give me a shot!

What more can I do to find a stable, successful arena team?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Itch

I suffer from MSD. It's a terrible disease that is neurological in origin, but manifests itself physically. Those with MSD are compelled to spend large sums of money to sate a hunger they cannot explain and is constantly waffling on what it really wants. The hunger is unpredictable, and is a constant pull on the mind of the affected. Some mistake its symptoms for that of withdrawal.

What is MSD?

Multiple Specialization Disorder

I've flip-flopped between protection and retribution several times throughout my Warcraft career, and WotLK is going to present a crossroads for me, and another opportunity for my MSD to rear its ugly head. The amount of gold I've spent respeccing back and forth, enchanting and gemming multiple gear sets, and repairing my armor after back-to-back-to-back chain instance runs to acquire certain gear pieces is obscene. Both protection and retribution will be receiving wholesale alterations, and the newly tailored trees and abilities are going to make both of them more interactive, exciting, dynamic, etc. I enjoy the nuances of both specs, and when the expansion hits shelves, I don't know which one I'm going to like better.

Retribution is getting a few new toys to contribute to group/raid utility, and its damage is getting bumped up. What's the advantage of being a ret paladin? Well, questing/leveling is a bit easier, since you don't have to pull 10 enemies to achieve efficiency. The disadvantage? Finding groups is a bit more difficult for instances - needing both a tank and a healer who can a) pay attention, and b) locate their main abilities on their hotbars, is more of a problem than many think.

Protection is getting a host of new abilities too, though. A new instant attack, a shield slam-y thing, and other goodies. What's the advantage of being a prot paladin? Instancing becomes a simple equation - find a decent healer and you're pretty much good to go. No waiting for a tank to come along. Disadvantage? Solo play becomes noticeably slower, unless you're adept at AoE grinding, and PvP becomes a chore.

If there is any truth to the rumor that players will be granted the ability to swap between two talent specs in the future, this might all be just a pointless rant by me. I'd set my two specs to be a ret and a prot variant, and swap between them for solo'ing/instancing. However, when I hit 80 I'll be presented with the same problem again - tank or DPS?

I've done both in The Burning Crusade, and love them both. I frequently get "the itch" to spec tank and plow through Zul'Aman, or have a hankering to grab my two-handed mace, team with a shaman, and start mashing things with a Windfury Totem down. As retribution in raids, I feel like I'm contributing something indispensable (Judgement of Wisdom), but when I'm protection, I feel as though I truly am the glue that holds things together.

What should I do?
I feel silly saying this on my retribution-focused Warcraft blog, but when the Wrath expansion gets released, and I load up my pre-ordered install discs (you better believe I'm pre-ordering that shizzy), I'm not sure how I'll progress my paladin through Northrend. I did a fair bit of both questing and instancing in Outland, so I didn't have a lean one way or the other. I don't know which way the itch will nudge me, though, when my boots hit the frozen soil to the north.

Boss Spotlight: Leotheras the Blind

In a continuing effort to educate the community on how Retribution Paladins should approach fights that pose specific difficulties to the class, E4AE proudly presents another "Boss Spotlight!" Stepping into the box today: Leotheras the Blind.

Leotheras the Blind is one of the middle bosses of Serpentshrine Cavern (SSC), the 25-man raid instance in Coilfang Reservoir, located in Zangarmarsh. He is being held captive by the naga there because he went batshit crazy insane when he was training to become a demon hunter under the command of Illidan.

Leo is essentially a demon hunter, akin to Illidan Stormrage in his current state. He dual-wields glaives and can turn into a large, fire-slinging demon every so often. However, that is where the similarities with Illidan end.

In his human form, he whirlwinds, which will put a nasty bleed DoT on anyone who gets caught in it, and resets his threat after each whirlwind. Whirlwind has a 12 second duration and a 15 second cooldown. This phase last for 45 seconds.

He also transforms into said crazy demon thing, which is a phase that lasts 60 seconds. His aggro resets (again), and he starts throwing Chaos Blast around, which does fire damage to his target and anyone around his target. Chaos Blast also leaves a debuff which increases fire damage taken. This phase is normally tanked by someone in fire resist gear. Leo also will summon "Inner Demons" during this phase, which will be linked to single raid members. Each raider that gets targeted by Leo's Insidious Whisper and has a demon spawn on them must kill their demon as quickly as possible, as they are the only ones who can target/kill said demon. If a raider does not succeed in killing his or her demon before Leo transforms back into his human form, the player is mind controlled for the remainder of the fight.

At 15% health, his human and demon form separate, and the raid must deal with both at once. The demon will be at full health, so the DPS must be focused on the human. The human will continue to whirlwind on cooldown, and the demon will continue to Chaos Blast, but the Inner Demons will no longer spawn.

Why are we talking about this boss?
Because of the nature of Leo's whirlwind ability, you will constantly need to run into and out of melee range, long enough so that the Judgements will fade and possibly so long that your Vengeance will run out. These are both terrible facts of the fight. As such, you will feel very handicapped and a bit gimpy in this one. In addition, the constant threat resets after whirlwind and phase changes make managing one's threat a painstaking task at times.

What to do when facing Leotheras the Blind
For his human form, you will likely have to tell your fellow paladins to concentrate on their own tasks and forego their judgements. Otherwise, they'd end up re-judging after every whirlwind. For simplicity's sake, and for maximum raid benefit, judge wisdom and keep that up. Be sure to keep an eye on the whirlwind cooldown and haul ass away from Leotheras before he starts his blade dance of death.

If you, or anyone around you, gets smacked with the bleed DoT from whirlwind, you can use Blessing of Protection to remove it. Divine Shield also removes it. The DoT ticks hard, don't let that wound fester. Get rid of it.

Take it easy during the human phase. Since aggro will reset after each whirlwind, the tank will have to re-establish a lead each time while moving Leo back to the center of the room. It's touchy, give him time. You likely won't do a whole lot of damage during the human phase.

When he transitions into demon phase, lay off to let the fire resist tank grab him. Once aggro is established, dump your cooldowns into him and go nuts. Usually guilds will use a warlock in fire resist gear to tank the demon phase, since he won't melee anyone. Warlocks can build crazy aggro, even in resist gear, so once a lead is established, you can feel free to blast that bastage's behind. If you get an Inner Demon, never fear! Hammer of Justice, Judgement of Command, Exorcism, Crusader Strike, and an auto-attack should take care of it right quick. A paladin should never fear the Inner Demons - they're especially vulnerable to holy and susceptible to stuns.

If at all possible, save your Divine Shield to the end of the fight. When the split at 15% happens, you'll thank the Light you did. You can use your Divine Shield to stay in melee range when he whirlwinds and continue to DPS - getting him down from 15% as quickly as possible is imperative, as the healers will have to be concentrating on two tanks instead of one, and the fire resist tank will eventually get too many debuffs and get one-shot by the Chaos Blast.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More WotLK Randomness - Seals & Judgements

Both Rohan and Siha are in the Wrath of the Lich King beta, so I'd highly recommend keeping an eye on their blogs for updates concerning the expansion and how it affects paladins. Rohan especially is committed to bringing paladins the latest and greatest from the test servers concerning updated skill mechanics. She recently gave us some juicy new info regarding the new seal & judgement system.

I think, based upon the info with which Rohan is coming to the blogosphere and forum community, that my worries about losing Sanctified Judgement were totally unfounded (yea, duh, I know - I didn't have a complete picture, and I still don't). It seems that Blizzard is completely reworking our combat system - seals and judgements are not linked at all, as there will be separate skills for each seal and judgement. For example, you can activate Seal of Command, and then use Judgement of Wisdom to put the JoW debuff on your target, cause holy damage from SoComm, and all the while keep your seal active without incurring a global cooldown.

Hot diggity damn.

Onto the topic I started that paragraph with, Judgement of Wisdom/Light now scale with AP/Spell power, so as gear gets better, mana gains will increase from JoW. You know how "imba" the scaling is with warlocks and their Life Tap getting more mana back with more spell power? Yea, well now we get to tap into the same mechanic. Increase your AP, get more mana back per swing. Plus, we won't have to re-seal every time we judge, so less mana spent in that department.

Can't wait to see what comes out of the beta next!

Another Realization Concerning WotLK

So you know how some tanks on really crazy PvE raid fights have been seeing buffs get pushed off? Like vs. Brutallus, they'll see their flask buff drop because they went over the personal buff limit with Inspiration, Ancestral Fortitude, Power Word: Shield, Renew, Regrowth, Rejuv, Lifebloom, random procs, scrolls, food, totems, and raid buffs all up at the same time?

What happens when all these party buffs go raid wide? Now you'll have extra auras, shouts, and totems on everyone in range.

Is Blizzard going to up the personal buff limit to compensate?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Raid Composition in WotLK

Raid-wide auras and totems! Oh my!

The extension of previously party-only buffs from paladin auras and shaman totems, coupled with the banishment of Blessing of Salvation, Blessing of Light, and Tranquil Air Totem from our spellbooks, is going to forever change class balance in raids. No longer will 3+ paladins be required in a 25-man raid to ensure everyone gets Salvation, Might, and Kings (or Salvation, Wisdom and Kings for you caster-folk). However, it does free up raid spots for death knights, and provides more flexibility in raid composition, which I can't argue with. Plus, I might actually get Blessing of Wisdom on a regular basis, which my mana pool can't complain about. I am not sure if Battle Shout, Commanding Shout, and things like Ferocious Inspiration will go raid-wide as well, but if they do, holy moly pass the cannolis, that sounds delicious.

I had previously made two posts about my idea for the "perfect raid" in current content. The addition of the death knight class coupled with party buffs becoming raid buffs and lots of class tweaks will make those two posts ancient history, relics of the past like the 40-man raid comps we no longer speak about. There will be ten character classes and 25-man caps on raid instances - you're looking at a 2.5 character class limit on each raiding class. In the interest on retaining raid balance, you won't want more than 3 of any one class, and hopefully no less than 2.

What will a raid look like? Let's assume you bring 3 "tanks," 8 "healers," and 14 DPS. Well, there are 4 tank-capable classes, so 3 tanks won't be a problem. Every class can spec for DPS, so no issue there. The healers though... 8 healers, 4 heal-capable classes. Raid leaders are going to have to double up (or even triple-up) on healer classes, and that will exclude certain off-specs from the raid. It's numerically impossible to bring no more than 3 of a single class and incorporate all 3 spec possibilities if you have to bring 2 resto druids - either the boomkin or the feral are going to get sidelined.

The 25-man cap, 10 class options, and the heal requirements of raiding, unless they change, are going to wreak havoc on raid composition. Guilds will have to make critical choices - boomkin or elemental shaman? Arms warrior or ret paladin? Fury warrior or another death knight? I don't envy raid planners/leaders with this in mind.

The numbers are problematic. If you try to adhere to the "no more than 3" rule, and bring 8 healers to the raid while fitting in hybrid tank/DPS from the heal class ranks, you're looking at a raid with 2 holy paladins, 2 resto shaman, 2 resto druids, and 2 holy/disc priests. If you're sticking to that "no more than 3" rule, you now have to choose - prot paladin or ret paladin? Both got major buffs when the beta info is considered, but unless you stack 3 healers from one class (and thereby exclude enh/ele shamans, feral/boomkin druids, or shadow priests), you can't have your cake and eat it too in this case.

Now I'm worried. I pray that some devs at Blizzard have read Rohan's treatise on why raid should be tuned around 5 healers (to which I cannot find the link right now), or we're going to have some serious issues when it comes to raid composition in Northrend.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Talents

Yes, I have seen the new paladin talents.

No, I'm not at liberty to comment on all of them yet - I want the beta to extend a bit and I see what else they do to them.


  • They gave us Mental Quickness v2 (Sheath of Light).
  • Gave us another strike (Divine Storm), which whirlwinds and heals allies.
  • Got rid of Blessing of Salvation and made all the tactical blessings become non-blessings so they wouldn't overwrite actual blessings.
  • Gave us all sorts of crazy damage stacking talents (The Art of War, Righteous Vengeance).
  • Got rid of Sanctity Aura and folded the improved version into Retribution Aura, in addition to giving Ret Aura an additional talent to add haste to it.
  • Got rid of Judgement of the Crusader and made its improvement talent affect all debuff Judgements (I had long thought this was a good idea!).
  • Buffed Improved Hammer of Justice (hellooooooooo PvP fun!).
  • Got rid of Precision.
  • Got rid of Sanctified Judgement for some crazy raid mana-return talent.
  • Gave the faction seals to the other faction under different names.
  • Moved Divine Strength to tier 1 protection tree and bumped it up to 15% at 5/5.
  • Repentance eligible targets expanded, and duration extended (1 minute in PvE, 10 seconds in PvP).
... and a whole host of other stuff.

Siha has a good list of all changes to date. MMO Champion has the latest updated talent calculator. Rohan, as always, has some good thoughts on the changes thus far.

My overall impression? Optimistic for retribution, hopeful for protection, and happy I'm not a healer.

My biggest concern? Mana return for retribution. No Sanctified Judgement? A new strike to drain my mana? How will I keep myself with a full blue rage bar?

My second biggest concern? Threat. No Blessing of Salvation has me worried. I'm going to have to hope our protection buddies become huge threat monsters, 'cuz I think I'm going to be riding their asses.

Sample PvP spec - Sample PvE spec

I'm going to look so totally noobtacular with a 0/5/66 spec for PvE, but jebus monkey balls, would you look at the bottom of the ret tree now?

Hopefully a few weeks down the road I'll hear how some of the beta paladins are faring and what else gets changed, and I can put together an actual reaction of all of this.

I hate giving EA more money, but...

... apparently it was confirmed at E3 that Electronic Arts will be producing a Knights of the Old Republic MMO.

Let me run that by you again. EA, in partnership with BioWare and LucasArts, will be developing a massively multiplayer online role-playing game based in the KotOR universe. If you never played either of the KotOR games, or are not a Star Wars game fan, I can understand how this would not titilate you. For the (in)sanely geeky among us, on the other hand, this is huge news.

The article quotes Riccitiello as saying, "... the one that people are dying for us to talk to them about -- in partnership with Lucas, coming out of BioWare, which is, I think, quite possibly the most anticipated game, full stop, for the industry at the point when we get closer to telling you about it." When directly asked if this was confirmation of Knights of the Old Republic Online, the executive said simply, "yes".

I require more information. I hope they do this right. 'Cuz an MMO that does Jedi right that's not Star Wars Galaxies sounds amazingly awesomely amazing. Have I ever mentioned that I love Star Wars/Jedi? Well, I love the Star Wars universe, and especially Jedi lore.

I know this is, again, a non-WoW post. I'm sorry - I've been very busy in that thing called "real life" so I haven't had a chance to play, let alone blog about it. Consider this my solemn vow to get back to WoW/retribution-related posts next week.

But, I'm very truly crazy happy about a KotOR MMO. I shall be keeping a close eye on this development.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Evil League of Evil

Well, Joss Whedon is at it again. The creator of TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer and cult favorite Firefly collaborated with the awesomeness that is Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion (of Firefly fame), and Felicia Day (of The Guild) to create Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog.

NPH stars as Dr. Horrible, a super-villain struggling to make a name for himself. He has a crush on Day's character, whom he sees at the laundromat frequently. Horrible's arch-nemesis, Captain Hammer (Fillion), mucks things up for our evil doctor, as any superhero should do.

I've watched the first two acts, and the third is set to air (stream?) next week. As with most anything Whedon does, there's a lot of blog buzz out there, so I'm probably late to the table on this one, but I figured I'd throw my hat into the ring. I love it. Whedon has a great touch for tongue-in-cheek humor that I savored in Firefly and Serenity. That, and I love watching Fillion and NPH interact, as the two of them portray their characters pretty well. Needless to say, I eagerly await Act III.

I'm interested to hear what others think of Whedon's latest endeavor. Have you watched it? Do you like it? What'cha think?

Why Eye for an Eye?

I put a little thought into naming this blog when I started it. I didn't want it to have just a random name that was appropriate but forgettable. Why is this blog named "Eye for an Eye" then, instead of something like "RetPallyLOL" or "Crusader Strike?"

Well, the obvious reason for choosing "Eye for an Eye," and one that factored in to the decision, was the Eye for an Eye talent in the WoW paladin retribution tree. I wanted the blog title to directly relate to retribution paladins in the World of Warcraft, as that is my blog focus, and short of naming (and subsequently stealing the name from Firelight) "Retribution," the best way to tie the blog to retribution paladins was to name it for something recognizable about Warcraft paladins. Each tree has talents that really scream "holy" or "protection" or "retribution," even if they are not the defining talent of the tree. The following are all my opinion of course, but for holy, it's Divine Favor, while for protection it's Ardent Defender and Avenger's Shield. For retribution, it's Vengeance and Eye for an Eye.

Next, Eye for an Eye is a phrase that is steeped in tradition and history, and is known as the phrase that embodies "retributive justice." For a blog about retribution spec for paladins, I'd say that's pretty appropriate. From Wikipedia (source):

The phrase "an eye for an eye", (Hebrew: עין תחת עין‎) is a quotation from Exodus 21:23–27 in which a person who has taken the eye of another in a fight is instructed to give his own eye in compensation. At the root of the non-Biblical form of this principle is the belief that one of the purposes of the law is to provide equitable retaliation for an offended party. It defined and restricted the extent of retaliation. This early belief is reflected in the Code of Hammurabi and in the laws of the Hebrew Bible
The Wikipedia page goes on to describe the tit-for-tat nature of retributive justice. This definitely fits with the knightly paladin theme, as paladins are known as defenders of the realm. A protector would not exact pain or suffering on another unless it was warranted, as in, the offender did something to deserve it. In that case, a paladin would use as much force as necessary to uphold justice and, in true Hammurabic fashion, right the wrong. Despite the offensive nature of retribution specialization for paladins, the mindset of many paladins is still that of the protector - one who acts in defense of himself and others, spurred to act by advances of others against him and his. Either that, or the mindset of the avenger - one who seeks vengeance on behalf of another. In both cases, any offensive actions taken by the paladin are based in a reactive response, which is in line with the Eye for an Eye code.

Lastly, it sounds cool and abbreviates well. Can't argue with that!

The blog, when I first started posting, was named "RetLOL." I was definitely not happy with that, but I was so eager to get my thoughts to virtual paper that I needed a name to post under. The first thing that came to mind was the history of in-game prejudice toward retribution paladins in both PvE and PvP, and the penchant for players to emote /lol at them or respond in kind when were considering a paladin for a group who revealed that he was retribution specced. "lolret" or "ret, lol" were commonplace things to hear on the matter. Hence, RetLOL. But, I much prefer Eye for an Eye, and now you know why I chose it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Add-on Spotlight: Pally Power

WoW Insider recently did a review of the Pally Power add-on, which I'd say is nigh-indispensable for large-scale raiding. Since Pally Power is a pretty simplistic add-on, WI hit upon most every major point regarding its configuration and use. I highly recommend clicking through the link and skimming it - you might learn something new about our "beloved" (*read: reviled) essential add-on. For example!

I did not know the keybind combination to assign an entire line of paladin blessings to one person - I had been assigning all blessings one by one to all 3-4 paladins in my guild's raids. Mass-blessing assignments can be made through shift-clicking or shift-mouse wheeling. (To be fair, one of my paladin guildies told me how to do this last week, but we'll pretend I learned it from WI.)

I also did not know that it was possible to assign 10-minute blessings to other paladins other than yourself. This will save me some breath/text in our guild's paladin chat channel!

*Many people dislike Pally Power because it is clunky and gets buggy if the paladin tries to cast blessings through the add-on interface while in combat. It could be coded a lot better, but there are no better alternatives out there - sadly Pally Power is the best option.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Update: Good Times, Good Music, Good Concert

I had sent personal messages to Julia and to Lauren over YouTube, asking quick questions of both - both of them responded! The answers are...

Julia: Yes, "Regrets" is on the next album. (She said nothing of Roles Reversed though...)

Lauren: "1988" will be available in mp3 format in the near future, but she doesn't know when exactly. It's one of her top priorities as far as what to record next. And because of the CD sales at the concert and the pitcher of money that got passed around, she has enough to buy her own guitar so she doesn't have to use Julia's.

Patch 2.4.3 and You

Patch day! What's important and applies to you as a Retribution Paladin?

  • Dispel effects will no longer attempt to remove effects that have 100% dispel resistance. This means that if you enjoy PvP'ing with a 0/20/41 spec that includes 2/2 Stoicism and 3/3 Sanctified Seals, you might want to consider dropping to 2/3 Sanctified Seals. Why? 2/2 Stoicism + 2/3 Sanctified Seals grants 96% dispel resistance for your seals, which means they will still be eligible dispel targets but will have extremely high resist rates. The alternative would be to have your seals be ignored by dispel effects and have Purge start hacking away at your Blessing of Freedom, which only has 30% resistance.
  • Equipping an item will now cancel any spell cast currently in progress. The implications of this change applies to libram swapping, if you swap gear for heals. You must swap gear in and wait for the GCD to complete before starting the heal to gain the effects of the gear. Until today, it was possible to swap a healing mace/shield/libram on at the last second before a heal completed and gain the effects.
  • When a stun wears off, the creature that was stunned will prefer the last target with the highest threat, versus the current target. Now when you do an instance, you won't need to worry about the tank complaining when you Hammer of Justice something while he's building a threat lead! Or not really, since if the tank is rage-based, he'll still need to get hit to generate rage to build threat, so keep laying off the early stuns.
  • Cheat Death: This talent has been rebalanced significantly. Killing blows are no longer 100% absorbed. If the Rogue is below 10% health, the killing blow is still completely absorbed; if the Rogue is over 10% health, enough damage will be absorbed to reduce the Rogue's health down to 10%. For the following 3 seconds, damage is not always reduced by 90%; it is now reduced by a maximum of 90%, depending on how much resilience the Rogue has. The damage reduction will be four times the damage reduction resilience causes against critical strikes.
    Sinister Calling now increases damage to Backstab and Hemorrhage by 1/2/3/4/5% (down from 2/4/6/8/10%.). Rogues will now be semi-spikable in PvP, and will do less damage as they will need to wear more resilience and had their Hemo hamstrung. If you manage to catch 'em with their pants down (read: without Evasion active), you might, just might, spike their leathery behinds down with some well-timed random crits 'n procs. Rejoice!
  • Curse of Shadows: This spell has been removed.
    Curse of Elements: This spell now applies to Arcane and Shadow damage, as well as Frost and Fire. Minor change for us, but this means that in raids, we should see Curse of Recklessness on bosses more often with less warlocks in the raid. Before, depending on raid make-up, Shadows and Elements might have been the preferred curses before Recklessness. Now, there's a one-size-fits-all curse for all the casters. For those not in the know, Curse of Recklessness reduces the armor of the target, which in a raid environment gets stacked with other armor-reducing debuffs. If you didn't all ready, start including it in your armor penetration theorycraft.
  • Rocket Boots Xtreme and Rocket Boots Xtreme Lite can no longer be used in the arena. These no longer have a failure chance. I didn't use them, but this makes me sad. I all ready couldn't use my Poultryizer for an interrupt/temporary silence, and now I can't use my boots to go ZOOM across Nagrand Arena and away from that crazy frost-slinging mage who's trying to throw ice lances up my plated butt. Engineering just became that much less useful for PvP retribution paladins.
  • Zoning into an instance on a PvE realm will now drop your PvP flag. No more raid AIDS! You can do arena/battlegrounds before a raid and not have to remember to drop your PvP flag! This, of course, only applies to PvE realms, but I play on one so this is important.
  • Pendant of the Violet Eye: This item will again work correctly with Holy Light and Flash of Light. This is not retribution specific, but this is great news for our holy brothers and sisters. The [Pendant of the Violet Eye] is great for holy paladins, and that it works correctly is definitely a plus, as it's one of the best mana regen trinkets out there.
  • Righteous Defense will now properly check for range when a mob is selected. Go ahead, taunt away. They're fixing stuff with Righteous Defense every day.

This of course is not the complete list of patch notes - these are only selected notes that I feel impact retribution paladins or would be interesting to retribution paladins in some way. Go to WoW's main page for the complete list.

Tag! You're it!

Thank you for boarding E4AE Flight 7/15, non-stop from New York to the Azerothian Blogosphere. This is your captain speaking. If you look to your right, you will see the labels section of the blog. These label tags have been recently edited for your searching and filtering pleasure.

If you have any questions, the flight attendants will be coming around shortly to attend to your needs. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Funniest Guild Application Ever

The awesome-tastic ladies of Girls of Elune posted recently about some interesting characters applying to their guild, and it reminded me about the best guild app my guild ever received. Yes, that's me posting this exact thing in their comments. The following was actually posted in our guild-only application forum, and is quite hilarious. It doesn't necessarily apply to Ret Paladins, but it's my blog so I get to do what I want. Don't like it? Tough!

... okay, maybe I'll make it up to you with a Ret-related post later. Please love me!

Character Name: Pancakes
Level: 5 High
Class: Delicious
Spec: YU/MY/UM

BT/Hyjal Attunement:
Vashj? yes
Kael? yes
Alar? yes

The following are our raid nights, how often can you attend them?
[Wednesday 7-11 servertime]?: Maple
[Sunday 7-11 servertime]?: Blueberry
[Monday 7-11 servertime]?: Strawberry, too!

Have you installed:

CTraid/oRA?: yes
Omen?: yes
Deadly Boss Mods?: yes

Are you able and willing to use Ventrilo? yes

HEALERS/DECURSERS: Do you understand mouseover targeting? yes

What other guilds have you been in, and why did you leave?
An Ode to Pancakes:
Pancakes are delicious
and if I had three wishes
it would be for some more
stacked ceiling to floor
with a whole bunch of syrup
I would eat them and burrrrup
but I’d say ex-cuse me
so please don’t abuse me
’Cause I mean no harm
I just love when they’re warm
But when they need heatin’
I still can’t stop eating

What is your level of raiding experience on this character?
Pancakes are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal (…even a salad!) In fact, they’re known as the ”hearty-man’s salad,” and a short-stack should be eaten with every meal (or snack) to ensure proper daily nutritIN MY FACE PUT PANCAKES THERE NOW I MUST HAVE MORE PANCAKEYS IN MY FACE-HOLE! PAAAANCAKES!

Tell us something about yourself, either in-game or IRL, that we wouldn’t think to ask.:
I’m a vegetarian who enjoys yoga, walks on the beach, and origami. If you think we sound like a match, pleasSTICK PANACAKES IN ME BWAAAAAAAAAH PANCAKES PAAAANCAAAKES GIVE ME PANKNKNKNKNCAkSE! POUR DA SYRIP IN MY GODLESS ORIFICES ALL OF WHICH THROUGH I SHALT DEVOUR PANCAKSE!!!oneelventyuno

Common alts to contact?: Flappyjacks (Warlock)


Now is that pure, unadulterated win or what?

Good Times, Good Music, Good Concert

I know TJ is jealous. I went to the Lauren O'Connell / Julia Nunes concert on Saturday, which was very, very good. I dragged 3 friends along who had never heard either of their music. To be honest, I had not listened to more than a minute of Lauren's stuff either, despite listening to most everything on Julia's YouTube page multiple times (and having a copy of her album from iTunes...). At left you can see me (on the right) and two of my friends waiting for the concert to start.

Both of them had great senses of humor, played very well, and there was even audience participation in a few of Julia's songs. Lauren managed to break one of the strings on her guitar early in her set, though, as she rocked out a bit too hard. Which is impressive, since she plays solo acoustic guitar. She then went on to reveal that it wasn't even her guitar (it was Julia's), and one of her friend's in the audience of about 50-75 at the venue took a pitcher from the bar after the set and started collecting for the "buy Lauren her own guitar so she doesn't have to borrow Julia's" fund. She also told the audience that she works at Blockbuster and was probably being fired for not showing up to work and playing this show instead. All very funny, even though a bit tragic if she really does lose her job. Later on, during Julia's set, some of her friends from [her college] (name withheld to protect to the popular) brought the noise for Julia.

Lauren was great, which I'm afraid got overshadowed by Julia's e-stardom. I especially liked one of her songs called "1988,"

It's not on her CD (which I bought), but I can forgive her.

The whole experience was very... what's the word I'm looking for... I want to say intimate, as in close and friendly and warm, but that's not the right term. Julia and Lauren even hung out near the merchandise table after the show to sign stuff/take pictures/talk with fans. I wanted to ask Julia if Regrets, First Impressions, or Roles Reversed are on her next album (which will be coming out at the end of the summer, for those interested), but I totally got deer-in-headlights syndrome when I got up to her. I did manage to get a friend to take a picture of me an' her though.
That's me, holding up the t-shirt I bought for TJ (which says "TJ <3, Julia Nunes" on it but I didn't spread it out correctly for the pic) with Julia. And I keep mentioning TJ because she's the one who introduced to Julia through a link on her blog. So you could say I owe her for linking me over to awesome music.

I did feel very old being at the concert though. Both Lauren and Julia are 19 and just finished their first semester of college at [name removed]. They kept talking about dorm life, and college this, and coffee house that... I miss that time in my life now. Being [number removed] years out of college, I sort of wish I could do it over now. Cliché, I know.

After seeing them one after another, I think Lauren is a great talent on guitar and as a songwriter, and has a beautiful yet familiar voice, while Julia is a personality who is creative and charismatic. I loved the concert, and I hope my friends did too.

I know this is a long shot, but if anyone knows whether those 3 songs of Julia's that I linked are on her next album, I'd love to know. I want them on my iPod. Like, now.

I hope the t-shirt I bought for me isn't too small. The large seems smaller than I need, now that I look at it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to find an envelope large enough to send TJ her t-shirt.

EDIT: And, funny side note, this post has generated links to my blog from Google searches entitled "julia nunes in concert." Apparently E4AE shows up on page 3 of said Google searches. I bet anyone wandering here from a Nunes Google search who checks out the rest of the content is asking themselves what the bork I'm babbling about.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I has CC

Browsing the WotLK info page, I noticed a juicy tidbit that will definitely, absolutely, and most certainly help Retribution Paladins in finding groups in Northrend. From the Paladin page, under "Changes" -

Cooldown on Turn Undead and Turn Evil removed.
Freaking sweet. Now Ret Paladins will have a renewable fear effect instead of one with a slight gap before it can be refreshed, giving the dangerous CC'ed mob a window to eat someone before getting re-feared.

What was one major hurdle to Ret Paladins getting into 5-mans, after general prejudice? Lack of crowd control ability.

What's Turn Evil? A crowd control ability that just became viable for general use on demons/undead mobs.

What is there a lot of in Northrend? Undead things to use Turn Evil on.

Tremble, before the might of the Light. Retribution is at hand!

On an unrelated note, WoW Insider linked me yesterday in reference to my Azeroth armageddon post. Hai2U WoW Insider! Thanks for the linkage, it bumped my page views to a new one-day high.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Justice is Served

Well, the recommendations of the court in the Jack Thompson bar trial were handed down today. The Judge disagreed with the Florida Bar's recommendation of a 10 year disbarment for Jack-O. Her Honor instead said that Mr. Thompson should be permanently disbarred, and fined $40k+ for the costs the Florida Bar incurred in litigating the trial.

I'm sure Jack will try to contest those recommendations in some way, but wow, permanent disbarment. I agree with it, and whole-heartedly support it, but that's a heavy bat the Florida court is swinging. I didn't think they had it in 'em.

Violent games can be a little over the top sometimes, but Mr. Thompson often took his crusade against violence in video games five steps too far. His personal attacks on Gabe and Tycho over at Penny Arcade were especially heinous. I think gamers everywhere will chalk this one up as a win for freedom in gaming, and one less nutjob trying to kill our fun.

Boss Spotlight: Gurtogg Bloodboil

In a continuing effort to educate the community on how Retribution Paladins should approach fights that pose specific difficulties to the class, E4AE proudly presents another "Boss Spotlight!" On the docket this week: Gurtogg Bloodboil, the fifth (or sixth, depending on when you do Reliquary of Souls in the boss order) boss of Black Temple.

Gurtogg Bloodboil is a raging Fel Orc found in the Black Temple raid instance of Shadowmoon Valley. He is considered one of the first real "achievement" bosses in BT, as the first three or four are widely viewed as easier to learn/master than Lady Vashj or Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider. Ol' Gurty is a marked step up in difficulty from either Supremus or Shade of Akama, requiring alert tanks, heavy heals, lots of movement, and DPS'ers who know when to tone it down and when to crank it up.

Why are we talking about this boss?
This fight is first and foremost a healer check, as there is a ton of raid damage to manage and several tanks taking damage throughout the fight, as well as periods where he can, and most certainly will, try to smash a clothie. You're a Ret Paladin though, this is not your concern! Why should you be afraid of this encounter? Threat. Bloodboil has a Knockback ability, similar to Void Reaver, which will drop the current tank's threat total down by a percentage and usually cause an aggro drop onto the next person on the threat list. The tanks will also receive a stacking Acidic Wound debuff that reduces armor and ticks for extra damage, so they will not only have their threat screwed with by the knockbacks, but they will also be actively trading aggro so that they don't get Acidic Wound stacked too high.

That said, many classes don't have to worry too much about the threat issues on this fight. Rogues can Vanish/Feint, Mages can use Invisibility, Warlocks can Soul Shatter, Hunters can Feign Death, etc. They can actively ditch some threat. Ret Paladins can... ummm... stop attacking? Yea, that reduces threat all right! But it also provides openings for Judgements to drop off of Bloodboil, and the other Paladins will most likely be a) in a healing frenzy, or b) trying to overtake one of the other tanks on the threat list. Thus, you must keep attacking, but keep an even more-than-usually close eye on your threat meter, check where all three/four tanks are, and stay beneath them at all times.

In addition, Gurty has some stinky breath. Every so often during the fight, he turns toward the raid and uses his Fel Acid Breath, which is a conal ten yard attack that leaves a nature-based DoT on anyone caught in it. It has a cast time, so it can be avoided if you're not the one who gets targeted.

What to do when facing Gurtogg Bloodboil
Treat your abilities like a volume control. During phase 1, where the tanks are all trading aggro, turn the damage output down to a three or so. You might even want to just Crusader Strike every ten seconds and then immediately turn off attack during the first phase 1 of the fight, to give the tanks a big threat lead while maintaining the Judgements. During phase 2, the "Fel Rage" phase, dial the knob up to eleven baby! This phase is when he decides to smash a non-tank and the threat table is frozen - you can have your filthy way with his backside. During each Fel Rage, pop everything you have - wings, trinkets, potions - everything. Since threat caused during this phase doesn't count, you want to do as much damage as possible in the short time you have (about thirty seconds).

If you get targeted by Fel Rage, swap to a one-hand and a shield immediately. You want to give the healers as much help as you can, as Gurtogg can crit and crush, so damage spikes are a real danger, despite the HP buff from Fel Rage. Use max-rank Consecration and spam all your abilities, since you will be taking loads of damage (and receiving lots of heals, thus refilling your mana bar).

As for the aforementioned Fel Acid Breath during phase 1, try to either run to the side or back away, farther than ten yards, to avoid it. If you do get caught it in, use your Divine Shield - the healers will be pre-occupied and most likely unable to watch you too. If you don't have your DS available, use a health potion, a healthstone, and then try to throw yourself a heal to counteract the DoT. If you die with mana, you did it wrong.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hungry for some WotLK news...

So, MMO Champion just released an update on the state of affairs as far as skills/talents in the expansion goes. All classes have had their skills and talents updated with preliminary changes, with the exception of Hunters and Paladins. One of the Alpha Devs spoke to why this is the case, as our friend Suicidal Zebra posted earlier this week with screen caps of the alpha forum conversation (here and here). Joanadark also summarized the conversation here. I told myself yesterday that it's fine that Blizz hasn't put anything meaningful as far as Paladin changes into the alpha build - I thought that it meant they were saving the hard stuff for last and wanted to devote full attention to it.

Rohan made some good points today, though, that got me thinking, and they're not points that she hasn't addressed before. Up until now, every fix that Blizzard has made for Paladins have been band-aid fixes, meant to tide the player base over until the "real" changes came and the problems were solved once and for all. Or so we think. I don't remember any CM or dev coming out and saying that rolling spell damage itemization on Ret gear into strength was a temporary thing, or anyone insinuating that giving Prot Paladins an extra stamina booster talent (Sacred Duty) was just a quick fix. To me, these are final solutions that the Blizz dev team made to address the problems. They may seem hasty or inadequate, but they were targeted solutions to specific problems. Let's look at some of the changes that came across in the last nine months:

  • Protection Paladins complained that their HP pools were much lower than Feral Druids or Protection Warriors, as both scaled much faster. So what did Blizzard do? Gave Protection Paladins an extra 6% stamina boost in Sacred Duty.
  • Retribution Paladins complained that the spell damage on their tier gear was a waste, as it did not affect a majority of their damage. Blizz took the spell damage and threw it all into strength, greatly boosting Ret's attack power and making the itemization points valid again.
  • Retribution Paladins complained that a ten second cooldown for Crusader Strike left no room for error on CS misses to refresh Judgments. So? Blizzard drops the cooldown to six seconds.
It may seem like they're just slapping a band-aid on the problem and calling it a day, but another take on it might be that the dev team thinks they have a generally good product out there and the community is just expecting too much. So, they make minor tweaks to address specific concerns. That's how Blizzard works with every change they make. They're not in the business of broad, sweeping changes - they make incremental tweaks so as not to disturb what semblance of balance is all ready in the game.

I don't know that Ghostcrawler (the Alpha Dev in Zebra's screen caps) speaks for the entire Blizz team in saying "... there is a lot we wanted to change with them [paladins]." He might be sugar-coating it for the community, appeasing the calls for massive overhauls. What I do know, though, is that I am very disappointed that everything but Hunter and Paladin talents are open for the public's viewing pleasure. I'm feeling like the last kid picked in dodgeball right now. Are Paladins the fat kid with glasses in Blizzard's world? I guess that would make Death Knights the cool older kid that just moved into town that has the 50 inch TV in his house, since everyone is fawning over them.

Show the Paladin community a little love, Blizz! You say changes are coming - give us a taste, if only to give us something to chew on until you can bring us the main course that you just served up to everyone else at the table!

Perhaps that was a bad analogy to use, 'cuz now I'm hungry. Hmmm, what to have for lunch...

Remember the Titans? Psh, I'd rather slay them.

Blizzard announced Diablo 3 at their latest convention. Most of the Blizzard-attuned world knows this by now. I'm psyched - I played Diablo 2 and its expansion into the ground. What did I play in Diablo 2? I'll give you two hints and three guesses: my character wore plate armor, and he had auras.

All right, guess away.

... get it yet?

... okay, you caught me, I'm a Pally4Life. I had four high-level Diablo 2 characters, and two of them were Paladins - a Hammerdin and a Zealot.

However, as you might have guessed from the picture above, I'm not talking about Diablo 2 or Diablo 3 today. I'm talking about THQ's take on top-down click-fests: Titan Quest, and its expansion, Titan Quest: Immortal Throne.

For veterans of Blizzard's Diablo franchise, Titan Quest feels very familiar. You pick an initial class and allocate attribute and skill points, take care of yourself with lots of potion chugging, and click furiously with both left and right mouse buttons to trigger skills and attacks, wading through hordes of monsters. There are quests littered throughout the game, but none of them are very intricate - it's mostly "go here and kill that thing" or "go speak to this guy in some town, and oh by the way you're going there anyway." It's a very linear progression, the game leads you through the plot as long as you keep forging forward across the map.

I picked this game up last week to play with a few college friends and thus far have not been disappointed. The game is a bit more intricate than Diablo 2, having a lot more class options than its Blizzard counterpart. There are eight or so "masteries" to choose from, and you can choose two and combine them to create your own flavor of class. For example, hunting mastery plus nature mastery creates a ranger, but hunting mastery plus rogue mastery creates a brigand. Both operate similarly as they share hunting mastery, but they have defining capabilities that separate them. The class combo I chose was hunting plus nature to create a ranger - ranged attacks with limited healing capability and the ability to summon pets to aid in combat. I have wolves that keep the enemies at bay while I rain death from a distance. My friends are a spellcaster and a melee attacker, respectively, so I figured this would fit well, and I do like the archer-archetype.

The game's plot is based in mythology, taking place during the time of ancient Greece. It centers around the Greek gods' war with the Titans - the hero (player) is tasked with stopping the Titans from obtaining certain artifacts that would allow them to return to Olympus and kill the gods. The plot is not anything to rave about, and the voice acting for some of the characters is god-awful (half the Greeks sound Russian - it was kind of distracting). But, it's still a romping good time and a change of pace from slogging through dailies, PvP'ing and raiding in WoW. Plus, it'll get me in the mood for Diablo 3! ... or get me sick of top-down action games way before D3 hits shelves. I'm just about done with the normal difficulty at this point. Either way, if you're itching for some clicking, Titan Quest is worth the price. I think I got the game plus the expansion from Amazon for $20 plus shipping. Not bad at all!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sound the Blogging Horn!

I'm a dedicated Alliance player, as you well know. I've been playing as a Human Paladin since 2006, when I first installed the game, on the same character. His name and server have changed, but it's the same avatar and the same character I started with, and the only character I've taken to max level.

"Josh, you've said this all before at least twice. Get to the point! Stop dancing around it with a re-introduction of your background, we've heard it!"

Gosh, sorry! I have a need to qualify everything I say, it's a habit.

Anyway, as an Alliance player, I only know what I play - I can speak to life as a denizen of Stormwind, chew the fat about Alliance versions of quests, and babble on for an hour about Seal of Command and its interaction with weapon speed and damage range. What I cannot talk about with any semblance of accuracy or personal experience is life on the other side of the faction line - I grab my sword and fight the Horde, you won't catch me saying "Blood and Thunder" or "For the Horde" any time soon. But, unlike Holy or Protection specs, Retribution is a different animal for Horde Paladins. The use of the racial ability Seal of Blood instead of the talent ability Seal of Command as a raid DPS seal changes many things about effective skill rotations, gearing, and the like.

With that in mind, I'd like to add another author to the Eye for an Eye team. If you've been itching to share your thoughts about Retribution Paladins but don't want to maintain a blog all your own, here's your chance to speak to a (small) readership without the fuss and muss of going it solo!

What am I looking for in an E4AE contributor?

  • Candidates must have a level 70 Blood Elf Paladin whom he or she plays as his or her main.

  • Paladin must be played as Retribution spec for a majority of play time.

  • Candidates must have at least deep tier 5 level raid experience, with a strong preference for deep tier 6 or Sunwell experience. This is to counter-balance anything I might post with regard to upper tier raiding, so that any nuances of Horde raids or the Blood Elf experience can be fleshed out, and vice versa for Alliance raiding.

  • A command of the English language is a must. It does not have to be the candidate's native tongue, but fluent written English is required as this blog is primarily read by English-speakers.

  • An affinity for investigation and explanation, and a curious nature are big pluses. A main focus of this blog is shining light in dark places when it comes to the mysteries of how to gear/spec/play a Retribution Paladin, and oftentimes how to min/max a Ret Paladin in a raid environment. Doing a little digging on forums, WoW-related fansites, and other such resources is part of the experience.

  • Higher-rating (1900+) arena experience as Retribution would be highly desirable, so that the PvP'ers out there can get a window into life as a serious arena-competitor.
Some among you are thinking "Feh, if I wanted to blog about Ret Paladins, I'd make my own blogspot site! What would joining E4AE do for me that my own blog wouldn't?"

Well, since you asked...
  • You would be afforded carte blanche to post as much or as little you like as long as some effort goes into blog posts with regards to veracity of information, linking to reference sites, and the occasional related image embed. There would be very little expectation/pressure from me or the readership to post on a regular basis. Of course, if you wanted to post regularly, I'm sure no one involved would mind!

  • Full authorship status would be granted - I'd put your very own "About the Author" section on the front page and separate it from both myself and the "Welcome" message, so you would establish your own identity on the blog and be instantly introduced to the community.

  • You get to address a semi-established readership! E4AE averages between 150 and 300 unique page loads per weekday (when most of my material gets published), which means you would be able to dive head-first into the blogosphere and speak to an audience without having to build a reputation first.

  • You wouldn't have to build your own blog! This could be seen as a plus or a minus depending on how you view it, but you wouldn't have to go through the hassle of securing your own web space or formatting pages (unless you want to do that for E4AE, in which I'd be very happy to hear your suggestions. I'm an HTML noob and am generally too busy to fiddle with the coding).
Interested? Here's what you do. Send me an e-mail via the link at the top right of the page with your character's name, server, and armory link, and give me a little background on you and your character - who you are, how long you've been playing WoW/your current main, why you're interested in joining E4AE, and any other pertinent information you feel would give me insight into the zen of you. After that's written up, include a sample write-up for an article entitled "Boss Spotlight: Leotheras the Blind." You don't necessarily have to model it on my Kaz'rogal write-up as far as format goes - I'd like the article to display your usual writing tone, your knowledge of Retribution Paladin in raids, and your descriptive & explanatory prowess. Images are not necessary for the sample, but appropriate in-line linkage for reference sites are encouraged and appreciated.

If you have any questions, please direct them to me via e-mail, or send me a quick e-mail requesting my AIM screen name for further discussion.

I look forward to your e-mail!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Boss Spotlight: Kaz'rogal

There are some raid encounters that play to a Retribution Paladin's strengths, and some that plain make life a living hell. If you've been following along with this blog and think you have a handle on the mechanics of Ret, you've got a grasp of the simple stuff and could probably do pretty decent damage on bosses like Anetheron or Morogrim Tidewalker (assuming you have appropriate level gear for the task). Those fights are tuned so that the melee DPS'ers really don't have to move and they can really get into a groove with their skill rotations.

Other fights in the game though, they are not as nice to the Ret Paladins. Today, we'll be examining the doomguard boss Kaz'rogal in the Caverns of Time: Battle for Mount Hyjal raid instance.

For veterans of vanilla WoW or explorers of the upper reaches of Hellfire Peninsula, Kaz'rogal will seem very familiar. He is very similar to the current world boss Doom Lord Kazzak, another Burning Legion doomguard who resides in Hellfire Peninsula, and his former form of Lord Kazzak when he stalked the Blasted Lands.

Why are we talking about this boss?
Kaz'rogal is a special fight of note for Ret Paladins because of one ability: the Mark of Kaz'rogal. Besides this ability, Kaz'rogal does not do anything special. He hits fairly hard, does a stomp that hurts anyone in melee range, cleaves anyone in front of him, throws a Cripple debuff around that's bothersome but not game-breaking. The Mark of Kaz'rogal, however, is a big deal. This ability hits everyone in the raid at certain intervals in the fight, and drains 600 mana per second for 5 seconds. That's 3000 mana gone in two blinks of the eye. How much mana do you have in a raid? 5000? 6000? And how much do you use just doing your regular rotation with Judgement of Wisdom on the boss?

The nature of Paladin mana conservation makes it very difficult to regain mana once it's gone, and the Retribution cycle (when pushed into high DPS mode) can suck the user dry even when chain-potioning. Special precautions must be taken for the Kaz'rogal fight in order to not go OOM (out of mana), especially considering what happens if you do - you explode for ~10k shadow damage on everyone around you.

What to do when facing Kaz'rogal
There are two schools of thought when battling this baddie - kill him before he drains you, or weather the drains with resist gear. The Mark of Kaz'rogal is a shadow-based debuff, and is resistable if you wear a bit of shadow resist gear. It would be prudent to wear ~100 shadow resist when learning the fight - cape and necklace are easy spots to use for this. The BT attunement quest necklace, [Medallion of Karabor], gets you halfway there, and wearing a [Night's End] with a shadow resist enchant can cover the rest. If you're going for maximum damage against Kaz'rogal and trying to kill him before he drains you, that should be enough resist gear. If you are trying for a bit more longevity, put on some extra resist gear, greenies or Shahraz resist gear, whatever you have. Don't know who Shahraz is? She's a shadow-based boss deep in Black Temple. You'll run into her later. I generally put on max resist gear (365 with Prayer of Shadow Resistance) for Kaz'rogal because I'm a scaredy-cat.

Whether you've got 0, 100, or 365 resist, the method to managing your cooldowns is the same against this boss. You will want to blow your Avenging Wrath as early as possible - as soon as Kaz'rogal is positioned and you have a 3-stack of Vengeance, hit it. This will get your Forbearance out of the way for later. Watch your mana pool intently - if you ever dip below 3k with no way to regain mana or actively avoid a Mark outside of Judgement of Wisdom, stop attack and run away. At the first Mark, if you get the debuff, potion once you have a 3k deficit. At the second Mark, your Forbearance should be gone. If you get the debuff, Divine Shield immediately to avoid any mana drain. At the third debuff, your mana potions will most likely be off cooldown, so use one to counteract the mana drain.

Hopefully, you're wearing a bit of shadow resist and you will resist a few debuffs so you can use your potions on your terms. However, it's random, so you just have to be aware and alert. For this fight, it would most likely be best to use Consecration rank 1 instead of a higher rank, just to save some mana.