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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