Big Daddy Olga’s Rules for Raiders Number Three: Bring Food, Drink, Flasks, and Reagents

You eat and drink a lot in a raid instance, especially after a wipe.  Be sure you bring plenty of consumables.  Consumables include:

  • Food, especially buff food.  Know the stats that most benefit your class and spec, and bring plenty of it.  Start with the basics:
    • Healers need spirit food to boost mana regeneration, although intellect food for a bigger mana pool is also a good choice.
    • Caster DPS need intellect food to boost their mana pool and spell power.
    • Melee characters, both DPS and tanks, should bring either agility food (rogues, druids, enhancement shammies) or strength food (warriors, paladins,)

In general, its better to bring food to boost these basic stats than other stats, but for a specific fight, you may want a different buff.  Some members of your raid may be able to place feasts, which feed the whole raid and offer useful buffs.  If a feast is available, it often offers a stronger buff than standard buff food, so its usually better to eat.

  • Flasks or elixirs.  Again, know the stats that benefit your class and spec and bring flasks or elixirs to boost it.  Flasks are usually a better choice than elixirs because flasks offer a stronger boost and last through death;  On the other hand, flasks are more expensive; they require more materials and more expensive materials.  But if you’re chugging an elixir every time you die, you may find that you’re spending as much on elixirs as you would be on flasks.  In any event, get to know your friendly guild alchemists and bring them the mats to make your flasks, since there is a guild achievement for making 10,0o0 and 25,000 flasks, and the benefit of that achievement is the ability to make cauldrons, which supply flasks to the whole raid.  Find out which alchemists are elixir masters, as they will proc additional flasks as well as eilixirs, benefittin both you and the guild.

Don’t forget about potions as well, as they can give a crucial temporary boost.  A well timed mana potion may keep a healer cranking, while spell-power or crit potion provides a critical boost to DPS during the burn phase of a boss encounter.  Again, find your friend potion master alchemist and bring them the mats for your potions, as they proc additional potions.  You mind that a potion master is a little more rare than an elixir master or even a transmute master, since their benefit is not as immediately obvious as the other two alchemy specialties.

  • Reagents.  If your class has a special spell that needs a reagent, be sure you have an adequate supply on hand.  Reagents include ankhs for shamans, runes of portals for mages, and maple seeds for druids.   Be sure you have plenty of reagents on hand for last through the raid.

Always bring plenty of these consumables when you raid.  If you forget or run out, be ready to pay for them , as they can be expensive or time-consuming to obtain.

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Big Daddy Olga’s Rules for Raiders Number Two: Get Your Gear

Bristal asked:

I get very intimidated trying to quickly evaluate if a piece of gear is an upgrade. Often I only have seconds. Are there any secrets other than making exhaustive lists of gear that end up in disarray all over my desk? TBH this was a huge problem when I was a new player, and not so much now, but I think it’s worth touching on.

This is a  great question!  And it’s a terrific lead-in to Rule Number Two:

Get the right gear for your class and spec, add the right gems and enchant it correctly.

Armor falls into four categories, and each class uses a specific category of armor:

  • Cloth
    • Priests
    • Mages
    • Warlocks
  • Leather
    • Druids
    • Rogues
  • Mail
    • Hunters
    • Shamans
  • Plate
    • Warriors
    • Paladins
    • Death Knights

Use the right category of armor for your class.  In some cases, you don’t have a choice; mages, priests, and warlocks are often called “clothies” because the only armor they can wear is cloth.  Plate-wearing classes, however, have a lot more choice; they can wear any lower category of armor.  The order I’ve listed categories above goes from most to least restrictive, so mail-wearing classes have almost as many options as plate-wearing classes.

At one time, it was common to see characters in different categories of armor if it was considered “best in clot”.  So a paladin, for example, might wear a piece of leather or cloth armor if it was the best armor to fill that slot regardless of its category. This practice often lead to drama when a clothie needed ad upgrade, but the armor was also best in slot for a shaman or paladin.

In Cata, however, Blizzard introduced the Mastery stat, which is affected by armor category.  If you’re wearing the wrong category of armor, it will gimp your mastery.  So today, paladins, for example, should not be rolling on and wearing leather or cloth armor. Characters should only use the correct category of armor for their class.

For any item, the next thing to look at is the stat enhancements.  Know which stats are best for your class, and choose the gear that enhances those stats.  For casters, you almost always want more intellect.  Healers also want spirit, which enhances mana regeneration.  (for paladins and shammies returning to Cata after a hiatus, your old standby Mana regeneration is now gone; all healers now look for spirit for mana regeneration).   Spirit really is not so beneficial to mages, warlocks, and elemental shamans, though.  Rogues, enhancement shammies, and kitty  and druids turn agility into higher DPS, while bears turn it into additional armor. Warriors, paladins, and death knights benefit more from strength, whether they tank or DPS.  Know which stats you need, and which you can pass on.

Also check secondary stats, such as haste, crit, hit, mastery, dodge, parry, etc.  Know which you need, which are priorities.  Also know which you can cap, and what the caps are.  For example, once you have pushed misses off the table (a major challenge in these early stages of Cata!) additional hit offers no real benefit.  Once a DPS (or tank) pushes misses off the table, they can focus on other secondary stats.

Consider reforging an item if the stats don;t quite match your needs.  A little short on hit as a DPS?  Consider reforging to convert some of your crit or mastery to hit.  Are you a healer with mana issues?  Perhaps reforge some of crit or haste to intellect or spirit.

Most epic (purple) gear has gem slots, as do many upper-level blue items. If you have a gem slot, fill it.  Most items with a gem slot also have a slot bonus for adding specific colors of gems to specific slots.  Know the gems that benefit you most for each color.  For example, healers typically want spirit for blue gem slots, and intellect for red gem slots; while tanks typically want stamina in blue slots, and dodge or parry in red slots.  Sometimes, though, the slot bonus is less beneficial than simply gemming for a specific enhancement.  Compare the slot bonus to the benefit of simply gemming for a stat that you need or that enhances your effectiveness.

Meta gems currently benefit only head slots, and have special benefits and requirements. Look at the benefits for each, and determine which is most beneficial for your class and spec.  A meta may require a specific number of gems of a particular color, or a specific combination of colors of gems, or more of one color than another.  Make sure you meet the requirements to activate your meta.

Finally, if you are raiding, you should enchant every piece of gear that can be enchanted.  Look for enchants that enhance your spec and role.  Tanks, for example, may want to enchant for stamina, additional armor, and health regeneration.  Casters should enchant for spell power and haste, and either hit (for DPS) or spirit (for healers).  Look up the currently available enchants.  If you know you will be replacing an item, you may want to consider a less powerful enchant, but in any event, enchant all items that can be enchanted.   Don’t be afraid to use an “outmoded” enchant if its more beneficial to your class, role, and spec than any current enchant.

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Big Daddy Olga’s Rules for Raiders Number One: Know Your Class, Spec, and Role

If you ran dungeons at all while leveling, you have at least a basic familiarity with the overall roles in the game:

  • Tank

Keep the monster’s attention.

  • Damage (often referred to as DPS, short for “damage per second”)

Generate damage to kill the monster.

  • Healer

Keep the group alive.

The same roles carry over to raiding.  Your class and spec determine your role.  For some classes, (mages, rogues, hunters, warlocks), only one role is available:  DPS.  They have no real ability to tank or heal.  Other classes take more than one role; for example, warriors can DPS as well as tank, while priest can DPS  as well as heal.  Paladins and druids have the ultimate flexibility, with trees available for all three roles.

Learn the spells inherent to your class and those added or modified by your spec, and learn how to use these spells.  If you are a tank, know which spells generate threat and the relative threat generated by each.  Also know which spells generate threat on only a single target, and which generate threat on multiple targets.  Tanks have a cast  sequence at the outset of an encounter to establish a high threshold of threat on the monster; learn it and use it.

Healers have a standard heal they cast most of the time, a powerful heal with a long cast time, and an instant cast heal (or “Oh, shit!” button) that costs a lot of mana and generates a lot of threat while not doing a lot of healing.  Know when to fall back on these alternate spells, especially your emergency heal.  Also know how to enhance your mana generation while in combat, and any special abilities to boost mana generation.  Most healers now have an ability to generate mana off an attack spell.  Be sure you take the talent that enables this ability, and learn when to use it.

If you are a DPS character, learn the spell rotation that generates the most damage on the monster.  Learn what special abilities become available randomly, what to do when they become available, and how to trigger them or increase the likelihood that they will occur.  (These abilities are often said to “proc”, shorthand for “programmed random occurance”; it sounds like an oxymoron, but it basically means that there is a random chance that the event will occur, usually based on the casting of other spells.  In any event, watch for your procs and know how to respond when an ability procs.)

Every class, and every talent tree, has special abilities, which fall into a vareity of categories:

  • Defensive abilities

These are abilities that protect or help your own character or another character.  For example, tanks generally have abilties that enhance their health and armor to mitigate incoming damage.  Several classes have abilities to reduce aggro temporarily in case they draw too much threat.  Some classes provide a character with abilities to protect another character, such as the paladin’s Hand of Protection.

If you have defensive abilities, learn what they do, how they work, and when and how to use them.  For example, a tank’s defensive cooldowns should generally be used when damage from the monster (usually a boss), spikes or when the monster enrages.  Aggro dumps should be used when a DPS or healer pulls aggro from the tank.  Know how your aggro dump works and how to use it.

  • Offensive abilities

These are abilities that escalate or enhance your damage against the monster.  See the discussion above.

  • Crowd Control abilities

Crowd controls are spells that take a monster out of the fight temporarily.  Most crowd control abilities simply incapacitate the monster, but priests have Mind Control, which actually takes control of the monster, and allows you to use its capabilities against other monsters.  Know what crowd control abilities you have, and how to use them.

  • Other special abilities

Some classes have other abilities that contribute to the fight, such as a tranquilizing ability that may be able to offset an enrage, and an ability to escalate the damage output by the rest of the raid.  If you have special abilities like this, learn what they are and when to use them.

Some classes have unique or special resources and mechanics in addition to or instead of mana.  Warriors, for example, use rage.  Rogues use energy and combo points.  Paladins use Holy Power in addtion to mana, while Death Knights use Runes and Runic Power.  Learn how these reources are consumed, and how they are generated and regenerated, and how you can enhance their regeneration.

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Slow down, you level too fast!

Slow down! You level too fast!

Gotta make the lowbie last!

Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, and I won’t try and parody the rest of the song (OK, I tried, but couldn’t really come up with more; I’ve never been a good poet or lyricist). But I do wish I could slow down leveling on my new alts.

After The Shattering, I rolled a Dwarf Shammy, a race/class combo I’ve been waiting for since Blizzard announced it last year.  I’ve been having a great time with it.  I’ve enjoyed seeing the changes in the early zones, Dun Morogh and Loch Modan; I can almost feel the mud on my feet in the drained loch.  And the quest chains have been entertaining.  I’m having a blast.

But leveling goes so quickly now!  Zone content turns green before you’ve had a chance to finish the zone, and then it’s off to the next zone.  And if you take mining or herbalism as a profession, leveling goes even faster.  More than once I’ve had to go back to a zone after I’ve already leveled out because I need to gather herbs to level my alchemy, which adds even more XP, pushing me further toward leveling out of the zone I’m working on.

I know in the past, players have pushed Blizzard to make leveling faster, and Blizz has responded well. You can now level an alt to max level in a very short time.  I leveled a hunter to 68 in only a couple of weeks while on medical leave earlier this year.  It took me only a little longer to level a mage all the way to 80 (I got bored with the hunter by the time I reached Northrend).

But with all the new content, I’d love a way to slow down leveling.  It would be great to have a toggle so I could turn off XP for gathering, for example.  Or to be able to toggle the XP requirement for each level between the current requirement and the traditional requirement.  Ideally, we could toggle both.  Toggles on XP would allow us to slow down and enjoy the new content at the appropriate level when we want to, or to level an alt quickly if we want to.

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What is the Law of the Sea in Azeroth?

Warning:  This post contains spoilers for the pre-Cataclysm novel The Shattering by Christie Golden.  Read no further if you want to avoid the spoilers.

Conflict between Garrosh Hellscream and Cairne Bloodhoof begins early in The Shattering.  Cairne is dispatched to Northrend to supervise the evacuation of Horde troops to Durotar.  Upon departure, the Horde fleet encounters a nasty storm, and, when the weather clears, discovers an Alliance ship.

“Alliance?  In our waters?” said Garrosh.  “They are in clear violation of the treaty.”

Cairne asks for confirmation that they are in Horde waters, which the ship captain confirms.

Garrosh grinned.  “Then by all laws, theirs and ours, they are ours for the taking!   We are allowed by treaty to defend 0ur territory…including our waters!”

Cairne is more forgiving:

Have you considered the possibility that the same storm that so damaged us blew them off course?  That they are not here to attack. but are here only by accident?

In fact, the Alliance vessel is a virtual derelict:

The vessel was listing badly to port.  It sails had been shredded by the vicious wind….and it was taking on water.

Cairne tries repeatedly to dissuade Garrosh from attacking the Alliance cripple, only to be brushed off by Garrosh, who even ignores outright surrender and launches an attack.

The incident compels me to wonder about the state of international law, and the law of the sea, on Azeroth.   In the real world, international law during peacetime, and even times of truce, call for a warning to a vessel violating territorial waters before attacking.  Moreover, a ship in distress is generally recognized to have rights to seek safety, even if it means violating the territorial waters of another power.  In fact, international law requires assistance to a vessel in distress.  Does law on Azeroth not require similar assistance?  It’s a hypothetical question, really beyond the scope of any of the games or stories that provide the lore of the game.

Even so, Cairne clearly recognizes Garrosh’s attack for the act of piracy that it is.

“Vengeance is petty and beneath you, Garrosh,” Cairne snapped.  “And what honor is there in slaying those about to drown?  You may not violate the letter of the treaty, but you violate its spirit.

Certainly international law is an esoteric concern for a game, although Golden brings it up repeatedly in this passage.  And the game is about conflict, where many rules go out the window.  But cultures at least as far back as the Romans have recognized certain rules about conflict (concepts of jus ad bellum and jus in bello) , and the concept of honor is even more ancient; soldiers and warriors in most cultures have accepted that certain acts are beyond the pale and dishonorable.

This assault is certainly one of them.  With this act, Garrosh goes from the puerile churl of Nagrand in Burning Crusades to lawless renegade.

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A Foolish Druid

The other day,  my troll shammy drew the Sewer Stew cooking daily while waiting in the random dungeon queue.  I had collected my carrots and was hearthing back when something attacked me.  (My shammy is on a PVP server.)  Looking around to respond, I couldn’t see what had hit me, and shortly dropped out of combat.  I began to hearth again, only to be attacked again.

This time, I spotted the culprit:  a night elf druid, who promptly began swarmed me with treants. So I was facing a boomkin.

This was not going to go well.  I was in my healing spec and gear, and I’m no great shakes at PVP anyway.   But, to my amazement, I was surviving, and giving better than I got.  Of course, the druid didn’t help himself much, since he never switched to boomkin form.  A couple of quick heals were enough to keep my health up.  Meanwhile I burned him down with flame shocks, earth shocks, and lightning bolts.

When he died, the mystery of my victory was solved.  Not only had he failed to change form, he was a level 71 attacking a Level 80 outfitted in tier 9 gear.   Some players might be able to win with that handicap.  He clearly wasn’t one of them. It was a foolish attack.

And an unsatisfying victory.

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Name that toon! Part 2: The McManus Effect

I wrote earlier about the Germanic influence on the names of my Dwarf toons.  When I go to play other races, though, that approach doesn’t fit.  I don’t see humans and Draenei as having the same Celtic cultural influence.  So when I went to start creating toons of other races (to start getting a feel for other classes and races), I needed another source of names.  For those names, I quickly found myself turning to one of my favorite writers, the outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus.

I started reading McManus in Field and Stream when I was a kid.  For a few years I was into fishing, and my mother got me a subscription.  (This was when we lived in New England.  A couple of years later, we moved to Kansas where, well, there is no water.  Hence no fish.  Hence no fishing.)  I took to his stories right away, and I loved his engaging cast of characters: the old woodsman Rancid Crabtree, sidekick Retch Sweeney, and general purpose girl Olga Bonemarrow.

So when I was persuaded to start a hunter as my first non-dwarf toon, he naturally had to be named for Rancid Crabtree.  The full name was too long (and would have violated Blizzards naming rules), so I adapted it, and Rancecrabtre, the Draenei hunter, was born.  Along the way, he obtained Matilda Jean, named for the cat belonging to “the Troll”, sister of the stories’ narrator (in WoW, Matilda Jean is a raptor, btw); and Strange, a bear named for the narrator’s (ugh!) dog.

Similarly, when I started a human female priest, I had  to turn to Olga Bonemarrow.  Again, the name was too long, and could run afoul of WoW naming rules, so I needed to dress it up.  Olga’s a Russian name, and I studied Russian in college, so I turned to the Russian term for “bone marrow”, kostny mozga.  “Olgakostnymozga” is still too long, so I began chopping letters out, somewhat indiscriminately.  After all, Olga was a throw-away toon, or so I thought;I just wanted to get a feel for what it was like running a healer (and to have an easier time getting in PUGs for dungeons, which was all but impossible on a hunter like Rance.

I ended up with “Olgakosmga”.  Not a bad name for a throw-away toon.  Little did I know!  What with one thing and another (especially running with a small guild of friends that already had a main tank firmly in place), Olga became my main.  Which is how a bewhiskered, gravely-voiced man comes to be known to most of his friends in game as “Olga”.

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Name that toon!

The Twisted Nether blogcast recently suggested a post theme on how you name your toons.  It’s a good one for me to address, because I get comments on my toon names a lot.

Let’s start with my dwarves.  I have several dwarves because I’ve always been partial to the race.  I’m not sure why (although some have observed that I look a lot like a dwarf; and those are my friends.  Can you imagine what someone who doesn’t like me says?).  But going back to my desultory D&D days (lo, these…many…years ago!), I’ve usually played a dwarf if that was an option. They’ve always appealed to me.

In fantasy literature and in MMOs, dwarven culture is usually portrayed as essentially Celtic.  In WoW, dwarves always speak with a Celtic (predominantly Irish) accent, and other aspects of their culture also lean towards the Celtic influence.

But I’ve always seen dwarves as essentially Germanic.  Again, I can’t say exactly why I see them this way.  And I realize my perception is definitely counter to the common fantasy perception and representation of dwarves.    In any event, I usually give a dwarf a name that seems Germanic, or at least old Anglo-Saxon.  Hence Ulfwaercht, my warrior and primary alt, as well as Ulmbeorcht, my first toon, a dwarf paladin (who sits rather neglected, to be honest).

I also have this concept that “Ulf” and “Ulm” are essentially male prefixes for names, while “Olm” is a female prefix.  Thus my female paladin, Olmgueld, and my female rogue, Olmbruild.

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To 310 or Not to 310

…for me, it’s not a question.

In Patch 4.0.1, Blizzard made 310% riding speed purchasable, rather than tied to specific mounts.  If you previously acquired a 310 mount (such as one of the achievement mounts from Ulduar or ICC, or from the holiday meta-achievement) you upgrade to 310 automatically upon mounting the first time after downloading the patch.  If you don;t have one of those mounts, you can now purchase 310.

But the price is steep:  5,000 gold.

This is a pretty obvious gold sink,  much as the original epic flying speed (280%) was a big gold sink in BC and through most of Wrath, going for that same 5,000 gold.  But the benefit of upgrading from the basic flying speed (200%) to epic flying at 280% was substantial.  A nearly 50% boost in speed got you places noticeably faster.

The upgrade to 310% is no where near as impressive.  A boost of 30 percentage points sounds like a lot, but in reality, it’s a net speed boost of just over 10%.  If you’re flying from one end of a continent to another (say from Valgarde in Howling Fjord to Coldarra in Borean Tundra), the difference might be noticeable.  But how often do you fly that far at once?  And certainly, there are faster ways of making that trip than flying directly, such as hearthing to Dalaran and flying from there.  For the most part, when you fly, it is within a zone, or to an adjacent zone, and that 10% boost in speed is not nearly as important.

I have a couple of toons that got the 310 riding by virtue of obtaining a 310 mount prior to the patch.  For the rest, I’ll be fine flying along at 280%.  The additional 10% boost in speed just isn’t worth 5,000 gold.  I’m sure I’ll find better gold sinks in Cata.

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Starting at a strange time

At this point, coming to the end of Wrath, and with the release of Cata just over a month away, starting a WoW blog could appear an odd endeavor. The game is definitely in pre-expansion doldrums fight now.  Most of those that are going to down the Lich King have done so and are looking for new accomplishments in game, or even turning to other games.  Sever populations are down noticeably, and many guilds, if not most, are in pretty rough shape, having a hard time pulling together to raid.

And yet, that makes this a good time to start a related endeavor like a blog.  With less to engage in game, there is time to start producing some content, developing a site look and feel, and take care of all the technical issues that come with running a blog and a web site.  With that done now, there should be some momentum to continue the blog going into Cata.

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