Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Bear? I Don't See Any Bear

Other than an irritating case of insomnia, I'm not really sure what posessed me to do this, but for some reason I'm in the mood to make a blog post. I don't know if anybody actually still subscribes to this (as I sincerely doubt anyone would read this if their feed reader didn't pull it in for them), but eh, what the heck. And to ensure nobody ever checks back here ever again, I'll write about the most boring topic I possibly can. . . what's been happening these last 6+ months.

Well, first of all, the reason it has been so long since I last posted. I primarily used this blog as a way to keep my mind busy while at my mind-numbingly secluded and boring job. This job, as I'm sure I mentioned at least once, was as a research engineer for General Motors. Well, anyone who knows how to turn on a TV or read a newspaper headline knows, american car manufacturers (and in fact the economy in general) are in the toilet right now. And as a result of this, I, and about a third of my fellow contract employees, were flushed as a result. And as of right now, I still don't have a job (and bonus points, my wife lost her job about a month later. We have Gov. Patterson's crack economic decisions and education budget slashing [that is, decisions made while ON crack] for that one), but I'm forever looking, with renewed vigor every time the bill collectors get more aggressive (like, for example, the power company employees I chased off today as they tried to shut off our power). And as a bit of cruel irony, a large part of our current budget woes comes from the car payments we are making for our GM-built car we bought last year.

Anyhow, one plus side of being unemployed is that when I've exhausted my job search options on any given day, I have LOTS of extra time for WoW. As it turns out, Jasminne won the "election" for WotLK main character. The deciding factor? I also left Prophecy, opting to fully dedicate myself to The Ugly Future. Alas, that guild kinda fell apart as people got burned out on the game, but just before that happened, I reunited with some of the folks I really enjoyed the company of in Prophecy, so when the call was made to disband, I already knew where my new home would be. It wasn't long before I found myself in an officer position again (despite having promised myself I would never be a guild officer again, given some. . . unpleasant experiences with guild leadership), and we're now well on our way in Ulduar, having defeated everything on the way to, and including, Auriaya. And bonus, our small 10-man raiding guild is growing well, and we're just about big enough to become a 25-man raid guild. I must admit, I personally enjoy the 10-man runs much more (and my computer has MUCH less of an issue rendering them), but I am a bit of a gear whore (really, you have to be if you're a tank), so still look forward to being able to get the higher quality 25-man gear.

As for my other characters? Well, after getting Jasminne to 80 and geared, I figured it would be a good idea to have a healer ready for when tanks are abundant, but healers are in short supply (you know, the days ending in "Y"). So I cranked Kornaq through Northrend, specced him resto, and, while I much prefer tanking, I have to admit he's kind of fun to heal on. I just wish boss' hit boxes weren't so big in ulduar, whenever I try to chainheal the tank to get some heals on the melee, nobody is actually in range of the jumps! I also levelled up Kibler, my hunter, to have a DPS toon, but mostly because he also became my only miner, as I dropped Jasminne's mining to pick up blacksmithing (yeah, I'm one of those min/maxed profession tanks, so sue me). As such, I just finished levelling up my warlock, Kirari, and have just started trying to gear him up to be my new primary DPS toon (Yes, I could dual spec Jasminne to ret, and I HAVE dual specced Kornaq elemental, but I really enjoy the affliction warlock playstyle, and I HATE melee DPS).

Unfortunately, I just can't drive myself to gear up my little gnome. I just haven't been able to get my heart into PuGging heroics. Part of it is that I've already geared out 3 level 80s, and was already working on a fourth, my wife's priest. But more importantly, I'm feeling more and more like an emo kid each day, and ironically, depression does NOT make me want to play a class that cuts itself on a reglar basis. Go fig.

Anywho, I guess this was the part where I wrapped up my typing, hunted down a semi-topical image to put on the post, and filled in some keywords. I'll go ahead and get on that. And who knows, maybe I wont take half a year to post again next time. Maybe.

Continue reading 'What Bear? I Don't See Any Bear'

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Next Engineering Mount

So, for those who haven't heard, the latest beta push has introduced a long-awaited schematic for our engineering friends -- Motorcycles. And from the looks of this screenshot (which I'm borrowing from WoW Insider, as I don't have beta access myself), it's going to be a pretty sweet ride. I had been considering dropping engineering on Kibler for some other profession, but now I'm pretty sure I want to stick with engineering so I can ride a Hog (Which begs the question of why hunters can't use their pet hog as a mount, but I digress).

Something is missing, though. Motorcycles and Choppers are great and all, but while we now have no wheels and two wheels covered, it seems to me engineers need a four-wheeled mount. And with the new mechanic of taking riders, it seems to me the perfect addition to the engineer's reportoire would be a taxi cab!

I don't think the cab should work like other mounts. For one, I don't think it should go in your mount spellbook like other mounts will, especially since that gives engineers an unfair advantage when it comes to getting the mount-based achievements coming with the expansion. Instead, I think making the cab should culminate with a soulbound whistle that goes in your inventory.

Now, most mounts just kind of appear when you summon them. Not so with the engineer's taxi. When you whistle for your cab, your character should literally put two fingers up to their mouth and whistle for a couple seconds, after which the cab drives up from off-screen. Of course, the animation would need to only be visible to the person summoning it, or else other people would see cars randomly materializing on their heads, but I think that a custom summoning animation would be damn cool.

If you look at the picture above of the motorcycle, you can see that the license plate says "Pwn". A nice touch, to be sure, but I'm not so fond of just taking some random phrase out of gaming culture. Instead, I want to have a license plate that says something about the mount. I'm not 100% decided on what that should be just yet, but as this is a fresh new idea, how about "FRESH", at least for now.

I'd also like to steal an idea from the epic chopper. As I'm sure most of you know, one of the parts required for an engineer to make their epic flyer is a hula girl doll purchased from Griftah in Shattrath. And if you look at the actual mount, sure enough, there's a hula girl on the control panel. Now, a bobblehead doll would work for the cab, too, but I don't want to steal something quite that directly. So what else do you think of when you think of car ornaments? An air freshener would work, but frankly, this is a taxi cab, it's supposed to smell bad. What else? Why, Fuzzy Dice of course! A pair of dice hanging from the rear view mirror would be perfect! And as with the hula girl statue, you'd have to buy a couple to make the car. I'm thinking you could buy them from the guard at the cage in Gadgetzan, with the backstory that he's a compulsive gambler, and has been betting on dice and cage matches for years.

Oh, one other thing. I want to let even low-level characters build a taxi. I think it would be thematically appropriate, a low level character driving around in a taxi, just trying to make enough from tips to save up for the gear he needs to become a true adventurer at 80. Thus, I don't think this should be an epic mount. Frankly, I think the epic quality car should be some sexy sports car. So the cab will be a rare mount, only.

Whoops, I almost forgot to put the cut in today's entry . . . continued after the break.

So, to recap:

You whistle for your cab, and when it comes near
The license plate says "FRESH" and has a dice in the mirror.
If anything, I would say that this cab is rare.
On second thought, nah, forget it. Yo homes, you've been Bel-Air'd!

Continue reading 'The Next Engineering Mount'

Monday, September 15, 2008

Election '08 -- Meet the Contenders

No, I'm not going political on you guys. I'm not talking about THAT election '08, but something much, much more important. Ok, ok, so it's not really more important, but it's nonetheless a big decision I've been struggling with: Which toon to make my main in Wrath.

As someone with 6 level 70 toons (and a shadow priest that may or may not get there as well), I have plenty of options. Some are mainstream candidates. Others, just third party options that are about as likely to make the cut as Nader. But in the spirit of fairness and disclosure, lets meet all of the candidates.

The Incumbents: It's really hard to decide which one is the true incumbent. One was my main throughout most of TBC progression, as well as during vanilla WoW. The other is technically my main at the moment, but hasn't really done much while in office.

Surania (Druid, Feral): The namesake of this blog, and my longtime favorite. With Surania, I would return fulltime to the tanking scene, and that is a situation the polls say voters (IE: Me and, to a lesser extent, my guild) want to see happen. While Surania at one time seemed to have this election in the bag, recent concerns regarding her ability to tank in Northrend have muddied the waters. Resolution of that problem, alone, could settle this race once and for all!

Kirari (Warlock, Affliction): While he currently holds the title of main, his support has been slipping lately. While he represents the largest constituency out there, the DPS party, the voters tend to want somebody from outside the mainstream. He's not giving up without a fight, though. Over the past months, he's come out with a solid platform of change for the affliction spec, including DoTs that crit, Shadowbolts that. . . can crit, and a very promising, albeit dead, running mate.

The Challengers: While it's most probable that either Kirari or Surania will be taking top billing on my WotLK play ticket, there are some challengers waiting in the wings that still have a chance.

Jasminne (Paladin, Protection): She's not currently a resident of the United Toons of Prophecy, but this gal from The Ugly Future is still eligible. While it would be hard for her to uproot from her kobold family to return to Prophecy, she would not have a problem being accepted there, as she has already performed some threat-keeping missions there. Her biggest strengths are her ability to go head-to-head with Surania as a tank, and her ability to dress appropriately (We hear Surania plans to wear DPS leather, a rather brazen move). She would have the stigma of being an apparent guild flip-flopper to contend with, though, as she would leave TUF in a bit of a bind.

Kibler (Hunter, Survival): A surprise contender in the race, Kibler has started to hint at possibly throwing her hat into the election ring as well. Another member of the DPS party, she has an ace up her sleeve to differentiate her from Kirari: Some of her cabinet members are tanks! Being such a forward thinking bipartisan is a huge plus in today's election, as Polls show that the voter (singular) is very attracted to the tank side of the aisle, but at the same time knows that there's really very limited room for the tanks in WoW Raiding, with only one or two in your average 25-man quorum.

The Green Party: Don't get me wrong, I do like my mage and shaman, but I just don't see them as main-toon material. Even if I wanted to play Chalith as a main, he is currently the leader of the First Bank of Dave, a hard position to give up, especially when it affords you the title of <Grand Magus>. As for Kornaq. . . well, lets face it, resto shamans just aren't doing well in the post-Wrath debates, and Kornaq is the least experienced of them all, to boot.

So, that's the current field of eligible 70s, in a nutshell. And as much as I'd love to enfranchise my readership, I suspect that you all would be a tad biased toward a certain four-footed fleabag (Four Footed Fleabag. . . that sounds like a great Blog Title!).

Oh well, at least if I make the wrong choice, I'm not stuck with it for another four to eight years, eh?
Continue reading 'Election '08 -- Meet the Contenders'

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Raining. I Swear!

So, while I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to blogging on a regular basis again, I really feel inspired to write at the moment. Lately, I've been feeling the urge to return to my furry roots when we start moving into Northrend (Which means The Rambling Bear will likely REMAIN The Rambling Bear, not the Rambling 'Lock or some such). However, I've also been keeping a close eye on WotLK developments, and the current feral druid situation in the beta has me very, very worried. After reading today's installment of the Big Bear Butt (from which today's title comes, by the way), I've come to the point where I have to speak my mind.

Now, before I start my ramblings, let me make one huge disclaimer. I am not in the beta. Nor am I a psychic. And I realize that feral druids are still due a major second pass by the development team. I know that what is currently on beta is not what will be going live. But I also remember what it was like to be a horribly underpowered spec that people laughed at.

The reports I've been hearing from the Beta are bleak. The most poingant of them comes from a guildmate of mine who plays a healer, and has been in Naxx10 with a variety of tanks. In short, Warriors and Paladins are rock solid, and a breeze to heal. Death Knights are a bit squishy, but their self healing abilities help to mitigate some of that. But bears are about as resilient as a wet sponge, and are a huge pain in the ass to keep alive.

This doesn't surprise me, though. Blizzard has taken away bears' one true claim to fame: our huge amounts of armor. In fact, they've stopped itemizing for feral druids altogether, we now have to wear rogue gear. I read somewhere that a bear in the best set of level 80 blue gear has somewhere around 29k armor. Meanwhile, my T4 geared arse sports 33.5k. On top of that, we no longer get an extremely high Agi->Dodge ratio.

"But Surania, look at all the awesome tanking talents we're getting to make up for that!".

Ok, lets look at those amazing new tanking talents:

We get another 6% "baked in" dodge for three talent points. Adding that to the 4% we already had, that gives us a total of 10% avoidance from talents. Guess what, folks, Warriors and Paladins get that, too, though half of theirs is parry. Our only advantage here is that we only spend 5 talent points, and they spend 10.

We get 12% across-the-board mitigation for three talent points. Warriors have this, more or less, as a base ability. Theirs (Defensive Stance) is only 10% mitigation, but they get a talent that boosts their spell mitigation to 16% (And judging from what Magisters' Terrace looks like, I expect to see more and more spell damage getting flung around in the expansion). Also, we can lose this mitigation during fights, while warriors can not. I don't know if you still get the full bonus if a party member dies, but I imagine it starts dropping if one of your allies gets mind controlled, and wouldn't be surprised if you suddenly lose some mitigation if a raid member loses connection suddenly during a fight.

We get an emergency button on a 5-minute cooldown for our 51-point talent. Last stand, to be exact. It's actually a bit stronger than the warrior ability, in that it has a shorter cooldown (8 minutes for warriors). And it also boosts our ability to generate threat while active, which is a nice side effect for sure. But I'm not worried about threat, really, I'm worried about survival. So great, we get last stand. As a sidenote, Paladins are getting a shield wall of sorts, themselves, in a re-tooled Divine Protection which only reduces damage taken by half, but does not drop aggro any more, and is on a much, much shorter cooldown than shield wall. And it also stacks very nicely with Ardent Defender, since SW tends to get popped when low on health to begin with.

We get crushing blow immunity. As do all tanks. The mechanic has been changed to only happen when mobs are 4+ levels above you. We also retain our crit immunity, as SotF has had its effect doubled.

We do still get a bit more armor than our plate brethren. The figure I've read (which I don't have a link to at the moment) seems to indicate bears will have about 6k more armor than plate wearers, 28k armor to 22k armor. Nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but it's nowhere near what we have now. Oh, and we still seem to have slightly more health, too, an extra 10% or so.

So, we're looking like plate tanks with extra armor, right? Well, kind of, except our one advantage (~6k more armor, and a slight health advantage) is offset by lots of things we DON'T have:

We don't get a block mechanic. Sure, blocking is no longer as critical as it once was, since bosses will no longer crush tanks, but at the same time, blocking has been seriously buffed via a revamped strength->block value formula. I haven't seen any numbers as far as how much a level 80, geared warrior or paladin blocks for, but I imagine it's probably breaking 4-digits per block. That, alone, will likely make up for our armor advantage.

We don't get parry. This alone wouldn't be a problem, but since they're also taking away druids' favorable agi->dodge conversion, and not giving us bear tank gear with +dodge or even +defense on it, our ability to avoid attacks is far lower than our plate brethren.

We don't get as many "Oh, shit" buttons as warriors. I'm not saying we should, but the fact is they get both shield wall and last stand, while we only get the latter.

So, basically, we get to be more-or-less on par with plate wearers as far as mitigating each hit goes, but we also are getting hit a lot more often. I have a solution, though, and it would, I think, both be thematically appropriate (as bear fur really shouldn't be harder to penetrate than iron plates) and a fair tradeoff.

Make Nurturing Instinct apply to all forms. I really think it's as simple as that. We get hit, say, 30% more often than plate tanks, but it's 20% easier to heal us back up from those hits. Combined with our health pool advantage, I think this simple change would make bear tanks able to compete with warriors and paladins, but without overshadowing them. We'd retain a bit of our flavor, as we'd be slightly less resistant to death by spike damage (due to the health pool), but would take a bit more mana to keep up under normal circumstances.

Think about it, Blizzard. The best solution to a problem is often the simplest, after all. Continue reading 'It's Raining. I Swear!'

Monday, August 18, 2008


So, in case it isn't obvious by now, I really haven't been doing much in the way of blogging lately. In part, its because I really overdid it in the beginning of the year, and kinda ran myself out of passion (and topics I was passionate about). In part, it was this damnable "summer slump" limiting my play, which I expect to transition smoothly into the "pre-expansion slump" those of us who played pre-BC are familiar with. Part of it stems from the fact that I've been stressed out over some recent guild issues regarding our future as a raiding guild. Part of it is the fact that I've been dealing with a long period of depression, something I've dealt with on-and-off for many, many years now, the most recent bout being closely tied to our country's not-gonna-admit-its-an-economic-recession, and the subsequent uncertainty in my job with an already-faltering General Motors Corporation. And part of it, of course, being the burnout I had with bear tanking, or more accurately cat DPSing with the occasional add to tank.

I do plan on bringing back the blog eventually, though, and will of course leave up what I already have here. Hell, if all this developer talk of "bringing druid tanks up to the level of main tanking" and "realizing being great at offtanking isn't an enticing raid role" come to fruition, I might even find renewed interest in Surania! While I put very little faith in Blizzard's ability to fix hybrids usually, I have to admit they made great progress with TBC, so anything is possible.

Anyhow, until then, keep on burninating the peasanties! Continue reading 'Hiatus'

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Yet Another PvP Gear Rant

Yep, again. This time, I'm moved to speak by a recent post by the guy who (indirectly) got me into blogging: The Big Bear Butt himself, who seems to have a number of misgivings about the gear system, himself.

Now, while I've spoken a number of times about how I dislike the alternative routes by which a person can obtain epics of equal or greater value than the raid gear available to myself, I feel like I have yet to really hit the nail on the head. Not only do I feel like I keep coming out of it misunderstood and misrepresented, but I feel that I have yet to even fully pin down why I loathe PvP and badge gear in my own mind. I just know that I do. But bear with me, while I try once again.

I've come to realize that my problem isn't that the PvP gear system is "E-Z mode Epix", but is instead that most people seem to BELIEVE thats the case. And because of that, everybody and their brother, especially these days, seems to do nothing but grind out PvP gear. Now sure, there are plenty of people who enjoy PvP, but I see people who hate it even more than I do in there, every stinking day, grinding out honor and Arena points (And shush, I know you can't truly grind out Arena points, just like you can't grind out Vashj drops). And while 90% of my guild, and the server as a whole, is in doing PvP instances, my PvE oriented self rarely, if ever, gets to do a 5-man instance run or, god forbid, a Kara badge run.

Quick sidenote: I still hate the fact that there are badge rewards better than the T5 gear I currently wear. I absolutely loathe that I have to grind Karazhan to keep up with my guildmates in gear, even if I make it to every single raid we have, simply because you can get better gear running Kara than you can running SSC/TK. But, as BBB said, "If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, to use an old Marine (or Navy) saying… meaning, if you’re not using every advantage you can to win, you didn’t deserve to in the first place." Of course, that requires actually getting badges, which requires getting people to do PvE instances (unless, of course, blizzard decides to replace battleground tokens with heroic badges, which ironically would both enable me to upgrade my gear more easily, while simulatneously making me hate the system even more).

So anyhow, its not that I begrudge people that want to do PvP the opportunity, but instead is the fact that the people I used to run instances with (On, mind you, a PvE server) are no longer available because they're too busy grinding in PvP for the next "Phat Purp", because for a server like mine, PvP gear is the best raiding gear you're going to get your hands on. Sure, if you happen to be in a guild that has Illidan on farm and is working through Sunwell Plateau, the only reason you need to PvP is if you want to be good at PvP, or get PvP gear for, you guessed it, PvPing. Though honestly, I haven't compared the season 4 gear to top end raiding gear, so even that may not be true any more *shrug*.

Wait a second, this sounds familiar. A die-hard PvEer, complaining that the people that do PvP get an unfair advantage outside of PvP? Now is it just me, or was it only a couple years ago that the PvP community was constantly complaining that raiders, in their shiny T2/2.5/3 epics, had an unfair advantage in battlegrounds? I mean, I could be dead wrong here, having never been a PvP-oriented person myself (Like I would be a druid back then if I was . . . ), but I'm fairly certain I remember hearing a rather loud volume of QQ over the gear imbalance back in the day. And while it isn't completely the same (Top-end PvP gear is comparable to top-end PvE gear, as opposed to towering over it in quality), I think the similarity bears mention.

But there's another factor in play here. Like I said, people used to complain about top-end raiders decimating PvP with their overpowered gear. That was before resilience. Nowadays, raiding gear is really only good for raiding. PvPing in raid gear these days is like healing in a moonkin set: It's technically possible, and better than nothing, but if you want to be any good you really need to get a set of gear tailor made for the task at hand. The reason for this is resilience. When Blizzard introduced resilience rating to the game, it changed the face of PvP forever (well, not quit forever, but we'll get to that). It used to be that a huge health total was the hallmark of a good PvPer. Nowadays, that huge health pool needs to be augmented with a huge chunk of resilience rating to do you any good. And guess what, 99% of raid gear has exactly 0 resilience on it. So while your 50% crit rate and 4000 attack power might have made you a ganking God back in the day, the guy you just attacked with 350+ resilience is going to /laugh and /spit in your face when he absolutely rips you apart.

Now, to a degree, resilience also limits the usefulness of PvP gear in raiding. After all, resilience eats up item budget, but is a (near) useless stat in PvE. However, as any decent feral druid will point out, having a part of your item budget spent on a useless stat *coughintellectcough* does not necessarily make an item useless. Missing a vital stat entirely, on the other hand (Sunwell T6 feral pieces with no stamina during beta testing, anybody?) does. Thus, we have this double standard, where the PvE gear I get from raiding wouldn't really help me in PvP, should I decide to cross over, the Gladiator gear Joe Schmoe got from PvP allows him to keep up with my raiding gear rather nicely. But, from what I hear, that won't last forever. . . supposedly, Blizzard is looking to remove Resilience in WotLK. A move which, ironically, will help raiders more than it helps the PvPers who complained about the stat in the first place.

So, there you have it. My current two complaints about PvP gear: it kills (or at least seems to kill) the instancing pool, and PvP gear functions much better in PvE than PvE gear does in PvP.

PS: The next time someone tells me I should just go grind PvP gear to equip my alts, instead of complaining about a lack of people willing to run 5-mans, I'm going to smash my keyboard upside their head until they hear me when I say I don't like PvP in this game, I do not like it Sam I Am. . . er, wait, what?

/equip flame retardant suit

Continue reading 'Yet Another PvP Gear Rant'

Friday, June 20, 2008

When Is a Bear Not a Bear . . . Part Deux

I post today in hopes of soliciting the opinions of those that read my blog.

As you know by now (unless you're just reading my blog for the first time), I have been grappling with a general loss of interest as far as my main character, Surania, is concerned. I won't bore you all with a rehash of what I've already said, as I think I covered everything in my first post by this name. Today, instead, I want to hold a sort of informal survey regarding the future of this blog.

The fact of the matter is, this blog has veered from its original focus, and probably wont be coming back to it. I'm 90% sure that my warlock, Kirari, will be becoming my new official main once WotLK comes out (if not much sooner). I've only been raiding on Surania when there is a definite need for another geared tank, with Kirari coming the rest of the time. And doing pretty damn well at it too, I was #3 on damage on Leotheras last night, not bad for a slightly undergeared affliction 'lock on a fight with constant aggro resets! But I digress . . .

On top of that, one of the other intended themes of this blog, Guild Leadership, has fallen by the wayside. The truth of the matter is, when you come online at a time when only the other guild leaders (all night owls) are on, there isn't much to do in terms of leadership. I don't even get to go to half of the officer meetings, because I never go to the raids (Technically we don't have officer meetings, they're "Post Raid Wrapup" meetings). Things are picking up for me a bit right now in terms of being Loot Officer, but that's because I'm starting to look into re-designing our DKP system for the upcoming expansion.

What I'm getting at here is that I'm no longer really blogging as a feral druid, nor as a guild leadership. Instead, I've mostly been focused on random alts as of late, and will probably have more to say about warlocks than anything once Wrath hits the stores (and you'd be insane to think I WONT be at Wal*Mart at midnight again this time around, being one of the first people in Outland was awesome!).

So, finally I get to my question for you all. Should I essentially "re-brand" myself? New name (Either a Warlock-themed one, or one that emphasizes my possession of far too many alts) and new banner, with perhaps a new color scheme to go with it? Should I keep my current name and theme? Or should I do both, by starting a new blog, but keeping the current one as well? All three of these options are possible, each disagreeing with a different side of me; Practical, Sentimental, and Lazy

First off, my sentimental side says to stick with The Rambling Bear. Surania was my first character, and I've played her for over 2.5 years now. She is a part of who I am, at least in a gaming sense, and that's hard to give up. Heck, I doubt my guildmates will ever stop calling me SuraBear and Papa Bear, that sort of nickname just sticks with you. Keeping TRB the way it is also appeals to my Lazy side, but from a practical standpoint, I just can't seem to justify it.

In terms of being practical, re branding makes sense. If I'm going to write primarily about a warlock, it doesn't make sense to be called "The Rambling Bear". I should revamp the site, get a new banner, and make it official. A warlock/alts site with the TRB name is just likely to get ignored and forgotten about by those who would be most likely to read it (Warlocks and 'lock aficionados). But deep down, I just don't want to stop being TRB.

The third option appeals to both the sentimental and the practical. I could simply start up a second blog, and use that for my warlock-themed posting. Though I have two problems with the final option: First of all, I'm lazy, and getting a new blog up and running sounds like a lot of effort. And second, I barely post enough these days to warrant ONE blog, let alone two. But, I put the option out there anyhow.

So, what do you guys think? Would the Rambling Bear sound silly talking about Warlocks and alts all the time? Or does it not really matter what the name is, only the content? Will Snidely Whiplash succeed this time? Tune in next time!
Continue reading 'When Is a Bear Not a Bear . . . Part Deux'

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Class DON'T You Play?

PSA: In case anyone was wondering, no, I have no plans whatsoever to discuss the alpha talent/spell information being circulated around the intertubes. Some interesting stuff, to be sure, but its far too early to get excited over any of it. Though I have to admit, some of the things out there are really droolworthy, like Tiger's Fury GIVING you energy (via King of the Jungle), feral druids getting a sick-as-hell 51-point talent (Berserk), and Survival of the Fittest's effect getting doubled (the latter I suspect will, in fact, make it into the game, both to help feral PvP woes, and to shut us up about the whole lack of defense on leather issue).

So anyhow, in my boredom with the midnight-at-level-70 scene on Steamwheedle, I've taken up levelling yet ANOTHER alt. This time, my focus is on my shaman, currently level 32 and enhancement spec. I've actually had the character for a good six months now, but had abandoned him a number of months ago at the young age of 26 when I started focusing on the paladin. And it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Kornaq became my sixth level 70 character.

The question becomes, why a shaman this time around? Well, mostly its process of elimination. There are only four classes I don't have at 70 yet, those being shaman, priest, warrior, and rogue. I really want to have an end-level healing character, especially since the paladin (who was SUPPOSED to fill that role) got pulled to be a second tank. That cuts me down to shaman and priest.

The decision to lean toward shaman came down to two points. First of all, I already have access to a level 70 healing priest, should I ever want to play it, since my [strike]fiancee[/strike] wife plays a holy priest, and as of a couple weeks ago is finally the big 7-0. Second, and more importantly, I found I really don't like killing mobs as a priest, and with the lower levels so barren, I would have no other choice. I found this out when I played my own priest (Tornaq, whom I still have) to level 35, and I reaffirmed that when I was helping the wife on the final stretch to 70, where I found I really couldn't stand grinding on her character (though I do much enjoy healing with her). In fact, the shaman was originally rolled with the intention of replacing my priest, hence the similar names.

There is a third factor which I'm slowly realizing, though. Levelling as enhancement is very, very similar to what I remember levelling as a feral druid being. I kill things via burst DPS (albeit as a druid, I got to control when the bursts happened, not so much with windfury weapon), and when I need some health back, I simply toss a spell or two and keep going. Hell, both classes even get travel forms! The biggest difference I'm finding so far is that I do have to drink occasionally with the shaman, whereas I never really had to with my druid, but thats mostly because I actually get to use my mana while DPSing for things like lightning bolts (to pull), shocks (to interrupt spells, or to augment DPS when I get a focus proc), and totems.

There is one thing about this new character thats driving me nuts, though. The Auction House price gouging has gotten more and more absurd. At level 32, I'm looking at having to pay 10+ gold for green leather pieces with any amount of strength or agility on it. Now sure, I could go and farm some SSO dailies to get that kind of money, but I made a decision not to fund this character at all. So my gear is pretty crummy, save for my weapon (and in 8 levels, weapon*s*). On the plus side, my decision to go dual-gatherer with this (and likely all future) character has been paying off, and I've made about 70 gold since level 26, just from selling herbs, skins, and the occasional green (generally for about a gold).

I'll be completely honest, though, I'd much rather be raiding on my current 70s (even the hunter, as much as I dislike the character now).

Continue reading 'What Class DON'T You Play?'

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When is a Bear not a Bear

So, you all may have noticed lately that not only have I not been posting much, but when I DO post, it hasn't been about druids. Lately, all I've been talking about are my paladin and other holy men (Well, technically I was married by a judge, but thats neither here nor there). And while I imagine most people who read this blog find other classes to be interesting, the general idea behind a druid-themed blog is, in fact, discussion of the druid class.

So, whats with the absence of bear-tanking goodies lately? Well, I have a confession to make . . .

I'm bored. In a general sense, I'm a bit bored with the game as a whole, mostly because of my inability to participate in the activities I really want to be a part of. I haven't been able to attend our thursday/friday raid nights for a long time now, and those are our boss farming days (at least I don't actually need any gear from the farm bosses on Surania due to a combination of crap itemization and obscenely overpowered badge gear). Weekend raiding in Prophecy has been largely hit-or-miss lately; I haven't seen the inside of a 25-man instance for three weeks now.

Heck, I can't even get into Karazhan raids half of the time, as everybody-and-their-mother runs it while I'm at work on tuesdays. The midnight run I once hosted has fallen prey to earlier runs, summer schedules, and a general apathy which seems to have been caused by a combination of people jumping to Age of Conan, an early-onset pre-expansion (hyphen-inducing) slump, and the start of summer. Poor Jasminne is still in fairly crappy gear (though she did finally save up the 75 badges for that sexy paladin tanking chest).

Honestly, that takes away half of the reason I play the game these days. 5-man content is nice and all, but I've done every damn instance so many times that the runs bore me to death. PvP . . . well, if I really wanted to PvP, I'd probably join the folks jumping ship for AoC. And low-level content? Yeah, I'm rolling yet ANOTHER alt just to fill my WoW playing time, but honestly its about as engaging as farming gold (which I also detest, by the way). And as for the other half of the reason I play? I love my guildies, and hanging out with them, but alas, most of the folks who are usually online when I can play have started a set of Horde alts who I have no hope to catch up to.

All of that contributes to my lack of posting in general. But there's one other thing. Something that is hard for me to admit to, especially here amongst my fellow Druids.

Surania has been boring the crap out of me.

Thats right. I'm bored of my druid. I haven't completely hammered down why I've lost interest in playing Surania, but I've come to realize a number of contributing factors:

1:) I'm a spoiled brat who misses the limelight. I remember the pre-BC days, when getting to occasionally offtank an add in a raid was a huge deal for me as a bear tank. Compared to those days, I have it damn good. But I'm selfish, and miss the days when Prophecy was young, with just a handful of 70s. Back then, I was THE go-to tank, the best geared and skilled meat shield. When we couldn't take down Prince Malchezaar because he kept killing the tank in phase two, *I* was the big gun called in to take the hits.

I didn't know it back then, but that Malchezaar kill was to be the last guild-first I would ever get to maintank. I was on Shaman duty the day we downed Maulgar. Gruul himself was being tanked by me when he died, but only because our actual maintank bit the bullet halfway through. The two T5 bosses guides commonly suggest using a bear tank on were tanked by warriors; I was cat DPS/add offtank the first time Tidewalker fell (despite trying to clue in the raid leader to bears' superiority in the MT role on that fight), and wore bark the first time we cleansed Leotheras of his inner demon for good.

I know, druids are the ideal offtanks, not main tanks. And I know that my limited play schedule means I really SHOULDN'T be getting the premium tanking gigs. But God damn, I miss the rush of adrenaline as the big, bad boss who was beating on my furry hide fell for the very first time. Its an incredibly addictive feeling.

2: The class no longer challenges me. Perhaps there will be new challenges when we start progressing full bore into T6 instances, but right now we're preparing to tackle the old 3/4 - 5/6 T5 gatekeeper bosses (Kael'thas and Vashj, for those who didn't know), and my tanking roles have been boring me. "Take [insert add name here] over to that corner and keep him busy." just isn't all that exciting, especially when said add is weak enough to be tanked by a fury warrior in half blues (that is, the majority of non-boss mobs, including many bossfight adds). Half of my tanking assignments, I could literally smack the mob with a mangle, move them to my spot, and then go AFK, autoattack generating ample threat to hold the mob until it dies.

Yes, I will admit, I HAVE done that during raids. So sue me.

3: I have nowhere to go from here. I look at loot lists for the bosses my guild is killing and shrug. I see plenty of gear I'd die for on my Paladin, or my Warlock, but nothing I give a crap about on Surania. Sure, I could definitely fight for some upgrades to my cat DPS set, but since I wear my tanking gear more often than my damage gear on raids, I've never felt right in taking the gear over rogues, hunters, and DPS warriors (assuming we had any, all our warriors are tanks for some reason). And anyhow, even if there were upgrades to my tanking set available, I don't earn much DKP (as most of it is earned on the farming nights, which I can't attend, or by farming raid materials, which as I mentioned earlier, I detest).

Not that getting upgrades would make much difference these days. Like I said, I'm usually tanking stuff that could be tanked by fury warriors in half blue gear.

So, in short, the class I once absolutely adored now has me absolutely a-bored. What's a guy to do? Well, I'm not 100% sure yet, but its looking more and more likely that, once WotLK hits, Kirari (my warlock) will become my main character. I never used to be much for straight damage-dealing characters in games, but I've become rather addicted to the affliction warlock lifestyle. And, on the plus side, if blizzard continues bringing out encounters like Shade of Aran, Teresian Illhoof, High King Maulgar, and Leotheras the Blind, I'll have plenty of interesting challenges that I, as a warlock, will be uniquely equipped to deal with.

Thats a decision to set in stone later on, though. I refuse to change mains before the expansion simply due to the fact that Surania has benefitted greatly from her time raiding with Prophecy in terms of gear. I would feel like I was cheating the guild if I did not continue to use said gear to further our raiding efforts until such time as said gear becomes obsolete. Not to mention, I'd never be able to catch up in gear if I switched mains now, I can't attend the raids Kirari's upgrades would drop in.

I'll try to come up with some druid-related topics to discuss in the future, I promise. I just don't want to bring you guys some half-assed, uninspired posts simply because I'm not feeling it.
Continue reading 'When is a Bear not a Bear'

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Paladin Tanking. E-Z Mode? Not So Much.

If I have learned one thing from playing Jasminne, it is that my jealousy over their ability to "Easy-Mode AoE Tank" is more perception than truth. I suppose I had bought into the cries of "Paladin tanks have it so easy, why can't we AoE tank like Paladins" that I see often from warriors (nothing against warriors, mind you, just the ones that yell the loudest on the forums). While it is true that Paladins have the easiest time of AoE tanking big groups (with the added advantage of being able to actually do it while others hit said group with AoE DPS), Druids and Warriors are each perfectly capable of tanking large groups if they know what they're doing (and the DPSers know enough to use single-target DPS), and Paladins give up a lot of what we take for granted.

Now, before I go any further, let me clarify one thing. Paladins are perfectly viable tanks. In no way is what I am about to discuss intended to imply that Paladin tanks suck, or that they can only be used successfully in specific situations. In fact, my point is the opposite. I have great respect for those who walk the road of the Prot Paladin, and would never think twice about standing behind one on any of my characters, in any situation (Well, except maybe for those damnable "prot warrior only" fights like Reliquary of Souls).

For those who haven't played a paladin tank before, such as myself, you may think they have it easy. Chuck a shield at a group of mobs, keep a consecrate on the ground and holy shield up, and watch as the mobs die around you. And frankly, sometimes that really is how the prot paladin plays. Six mob pulls in Shattered Halls? Talk about a yawnfest. Some instances, like SH, play very well to a paladin's strength: Standing in one place, tanking big groups.

Not all fights in WoW are like that (thank God, we'd all get bored to tears if that was the case). Fights that require the tank to constantly be on the move are tough on a paladin. Take, for example, Grandmaster Vorpil, the third boss of Shadow Labyrinth. The standard method (at least on my server) for doing that fight is to have the tank pull Vorpil around all of the voidwalkers that he spawns to a safe, clear area. Not an unreasonable thing to ask a tank to do (in fact, I really enjoy that fight on Surania), but with a Paladin tanking, this means DPS has to slow it down a bit, because unless that pally stands relatively still (which he can only do once out of the spawns), his Consecrations are only getting to tick once or twice every 8 seconds, if he even bothers blowing the mana on casting them at all. Meanwhile, a druid or warrior tanking that fight can continue full threat generation.

Second, an issue I'm sure everybody is at least somewhat familiar with: Mana. Prot paladins have to focus a lot on standard tanking stats like defense, dodge, stamina, armor, and block. As such, we tend to be lacking on caster stats like mana regen and intellect. Jasminne currently has a little over 4,000 mana, and no form of passive mana regeneration at all. The only way I get any mana back during a fight is by taking large amounts of damage, since Paladins' Spiritual Attunement gives back 10% of all outside heals as mana. Unfortunately, if I'm trying to maximize my threat generation, I'm spending 82.5 mana/second on Consecration, 19ish mana/second on Judgement, 32.5 mana/second on Seal of Righteousness, and 28 mana/second on Holy Shield. 162 mana/second to maintain max threat, meaning if I'm taking less than 1.6k damage EVERY SECOND, I'm either running OoM or using a lower-threat cycle to conserve, most often either dropping/downranking Consecration, or swithcing either my seal or judgement (or both) to wisdom. All three of which reduce my threat generation drastically. I can't just spend 2 seconds autoattacking and get enough mana to pop out a Consecrate the same way I autoattack on Surania once and get the rage for another mangle or swipe.

Even when mana isn't limited, however, a paladin's ability to crank out threat can be diminished signifigantly. I had already mentioned mobility fights, where consecration (which at my gear level generates about 200 threat/second) can't be used as much, but what about crowd control? Usually, with good CCers, and a good plan of action, you can find a way to make it viable, but more often than not, you'll find yourself in situations where the mage was asleep at the wheel, the hunter couldn't peel his mob off of you, or the warlock isn't paying any attention to where his seduced mob is going to go after it breaks, and you suddenly have a moon, square, or diamond-marked mob in your face (at least if you use my marking system). If you're able to handle the extra mob beating on you, then you'll probably just continue to consecrate and tank the mob (while the CCer gets annoyed that you keep breaking sheep/seduce or building threat on trap). If that mob, however, is one of the caster trash mobs in SSC, for example, you must instead move said mob out of your current Consecration, wait for the aforementioned CCer to recast, and then move AGAIN before you can continue to use your signature threat ability.

Casters are another treat. Instead of making it impossible to Consecrate, casters tend to make yet another big aggro builder ineffective: Holy Shield. Some casters, like Kael'thas, will still swing at you from time to time with their staves, giving you at least a few procs of holy damage. Others, like his warlock trash mobs, do nothing but spam spells, thus denying you of a lot of threat (Did I mention every time I block on jasminne, I generate 5-600 threat, depending on my choice of buffs at the time?). On the plus side, casters also tend to do more damage to tanks, allowing your healer to refill your blue bar so you can continue to spam consecrate. Yeah, welcome to the mindset of a paladin tank, the only folks I know that actually use their /sit button as a TANKING TOOL

So, whats my point in all of this? Its simple really: Paladin tanking isn't my bag. Any e-peen envy I may have had for paladins is all but erased, and I am quite happy to do any tanking that needs to be done on my druid (though I do plan to keep Jasminne prot until the expansion, at which time she'll probably go back to her original intent of being a healer).

Now, if only I could tank murlocs and solarian adds with swipe. . . oh, right, then I never would have been a paladin tank in the first place. . .
Continue reading 'Paladin Tanking. E-Z Mode? Not So Much.'

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