Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Laziness: Yes I'm Still Blogging About WoW Edition

WoW has slowed down a bit. This always happens in the summer. It's frustrating for me because I have my widdle heart set on a 310% speed proto drake, but it will be removed from the game in a few months. Gotta get the raid together for hard modes! But when you only have 11 raiders, 2 of them being busy with RL means you don't raid. And we never get our true A-team anymore. I really want to recruit so we can keep raiding, but a few people are very resistant to that idea because it means that they might have to occassionally sit a raid. I'd rather have more people than we need and have to sit people later on when things pick back up than have to cancel raids all week. Of course, being the raid leader I'm not really at risk to sit.

The other problem is with everyone playing less is it's tough to recruit. We aren't running pug Naxx 25s and meeting new people like we used to (that's where all of our post-forming recruits came from, actually). And our old friends list seems empty when no one is logging on. So I really don't know how to recruit. I don't want to do it cold. We are only looking to fill one spot, and are such a small group that the personality really has to fit perfectly, and the play has to be up to par, and those things are hard to judge if you haven't raided with someone a few times. And no one wants to go through a lengthly waiting and testing process (longer than for most hardcore 25 man guilds) just to join a 12-person guild, or worse, to be rejected from it. We're averse to using a forum post, and don't have a ton of spare time to pug around.

So I really don't know what to do. Any suggestions?

Anyway, 10 raiders signed up for tonight. It's not the A-team (yeah, 11-person guild has an A-team, we have one person who isn't up to par but we keep around because they are a really good friend and aren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, just not extraordinary like my other raiders). And we actually do have a 12th guildie, he just took a long raiding hiatus and finally has some time to raid with us again this weekend. 2 of our raiders still appear to be gone, meaning that we don't raid unless we get lucky and this guy is free. The biggest danger of running a small guild (though I recall that my old 25-man raiding guild had some doldrums in TBC as well).

But hopefully we can clear out the watchers and Vezax tonight, and get enough together later in the week to kill Yogg (or maybe even try him tonight if another A-team member logs on!) Wish me luck. Have a great weekend!

In the meantime, please to enjoy this lolcat.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

True Blood Season 1 Review

The HBO Original series True Blood’s opening credits play an overtly sexual song, proclaiming “I wanna do bad things with you,” over a montage that mixes images of sensually undulating nudes with those of rotting animals, wild predators, blood, and religious ecstasies to the point that it can, and should, make you uncomfortable. It’s predatory and scary, but also primally inviting. It wants to do bad, fun things with you, not to you.

The show is compelling because it is about that which is forbidden, but at the same time crucially important to us: sex, blood, pleasure, life, and death. The things we aren’t supposed to talk about, yet find ourselves thinking about constantly.

So it is fitting that the main character, a pretty young woman curiously named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, best known as Rogue in the X-men films), is inexplicably able to read minds. While the residents of her small and almost parodically southern town, Bon Temps, Louisiana, put up a fa├žade of respectability and politeness, Sookie is constantly exposed to their darkest and most private thoughts: who they love, who they hate, and who they’d like to screw. Working as a waitress in the town’s singular bar & grill, Sookie must try to ignore the patron’s suspicious thoughts about her, her boss’s crush on her, and the snide thoughts of her coworkers. Like us, as much as she’d like to ignore this darker side of life, it finds her anyway.

And it finds her quite literally when one man (Bill Compton, played by Stephen Moyer) enters the bar whose mind she can’t read. Who also just so happens to be a vampire.

True Blood is set in a version of the present day where, after centuries of hiding, vampires have revealed themselves to humanity and are attempting to become true members of society. This is made possible by the creation of a mass-produced beverage called “True Blood”, which, though unpleasant even to vampires, can mimic human blood’s quality of providing sustenance for them. They claim to no longer need to feed on humans, and can therefore abide by our laws and integrate into our society.

Thus the vampires, who look like humans except for retractable fangs they can pop out at will, make a tidy metaphor for a persecuted minority, while offering an extreme degree of danger and mystery. Humans don’t know much at all about vampire culture, and have little idea of what they are capable of. Over the course of the show, it is revealed that though sunlight, silver, and stakes through the heart are extremely hazardous to vampires, many of the traditional signifiers - such as lack of reflection and aversion to churches – were actually confected and spread by the vampires to make themselves harder to detect. True Blood’s vamps are incredibly dangerous, possessing almost imperceptible speed, massive strength, and the ability to use a “glamour” on humans that acts as a sort of hypnosis, implanting thoughts and even controlling their actions. They are also rumored to be quite good in bed, given the recent rise of the cultural phenomenon of “fang bangers”: humans who go out of their way to have sex with vampires. Which, as you might guess, really pisses off people who feel the need to control the sexuality of others. The reaction of the human community is massive, ranging from curiosity and acceptance to raging hatred, taking the vitriol that is reserved by bigots in the real America for immigrants, Muslims, and homosexuals, and rolling that all into one.

In this setting, Sookie’s burgeoning love affair with vampire Bill, who recently took up residence in Bon Temps, acts as a focusing rod for the issues surrounding vampire/human relations. This is further complicated by a series of murders that hit Sookie and her carefree, womanizing brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) chillingly close to home. The main story thread of the season follows the evolution of Bill and Sookie’s mutual love along with the murder mystery.

Perhaps fittingly, the “A story” of the season is much less interesting than the “B stories” going on under it. The murder mystery is a bit scattershot, lacks urgency, is hard to follow, and is too easily tied up at the end. Some of this may rest on the shoulders of Charlaine Harris, the author of the successful Dead Until Dark series of novels on which True Blood is based, but I haven’t read the books so I couldn’t tell you how close they are to the show. I find it hard to believe that the books harnessed the same primal energy as the show (though I could be wrong!), so I prefer to judge it on its own merits. Either way, Alan Ball (creator of Six Feet Under) masterminded a strong adaptation.

Sookie and Bill exhibit sufficient chemistry, but there is little of interest in their affair. This is exacerbated by the fact that both characters make themselves hard to like (much like Jack and Kate on Lost) by constantly making foolish decisions. The pair barely has any witty or interesting dialogue, basically playing it straight-up soap opera style. Yawn.

Maybe this wouldn’t seem so bad if the supporting cast wasn’t such a treat. Not only is their acting superb all around, but the characterizations are spot on, from the angry, bumbling sheriff to the noble, loyal bar owner to the perfect comic timing of the PTSD-haunted Iraq war vet. It is a dark comedy goldmine that defies description.

The true stars of the show are Sookie’s best friend Tara and her cousin LaFayette. Tara is a smart-mouth in every sense of the word: fast-talking, startlingly clever, and hilariously sarcastic. I can’t imagine this character played by any other woman. Someone give the casting director a bonus for taking a chance on the mostly untested Rutina Wesley for this part. She just brings to life any scene she’s in with a machine-gun wit and a sly smile.

Her cousin Lafayette, being deeply sensual in just about every way, best embodies what the show is really about. He’s simultaneously super-gay and super-masculine, the kind of guy who will call you “girlfriend” while punching you out with his massive muscles. He’s outspoken, brutally honest, and doesn’t hide his opinions. He’s also a man of many trades, simultaneously employed as a short order cook, drug dealer, gigolo, road worker, webcam stripper, and go-go dancer, just to name a few. As such, he’s constantly entertaining, and played deliciously by Nelson Ellis. Watching the show is worth it just to witness Lafayette and Tara go to town.

With a weak primary storyline and cast (but a strong premise), the secondary stories are what make the show’s blood pump. This season, they ranged from strange to stranger, but were always memorable. Jason deals with the effects of a powerful new drug called V (real vampire blood!), leading to zany erectile overfunction. Tara cares for her alcoholic mother, has a confusing and unconventional affair, and eventually gets an $800 exorcism from a shifty voodoo witch in the middle of the woods. And Lafayette - well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

The show has pretty decent productions values, but the cinematography doesn’t stand out. The presentation is mostly utilitarian: nothing special, but also doesn’t get in the way. Visually, the show’s major success is the representation of the characters, with excellent casting, make-up, costumes, hair, and lighting. It’s effective at immersing you in this simmering southern environment and culture. The ambience really works, with the lighting and music lending the show a dark feel without getting gritty or over-serious. It manages to be pretty to look at even when it’s showing you something gross, let alone when the screen is full of hot, young people doing hot, sweaty things.

Despite my criticisms here, the main story is at least as good as most things out there, and the supporting cast just blows away 90% of what’s on TV. The show is very strong thematically and aesthetically, and honest-to-goodness fun to watch while still provoking thought on the themes inherent in all the things we try to keep under our skin instead of gushing out like they seem to so desperately want to.

Give True Blood a try. I bet you’ll want to let it do bad things with you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another explanation for lost interest

Read this thoughtful article over at Splinksville postulating that multiplayer games might have a 4-year shelf-life. It's a very compelling argument, and draws examples from a long history of MUDs and other MMOs. A good read.

The constant escalation of the game's complexity and the solidification of its community very well may be the driving factor behind the loss of interest in WoW as WotLK cools down and stops being all new and shiny. I'd even run with this idea a little and say a big factor might be that it seems like the game's best days are behind it, and there isn't that much to look forward to. After Warcraft 3, everyone was itching to see more of Illidan and eventually take down Arthas. Those characters, along with Thrall, are what WC3's story was about. Any xpac after this will be about things that have had less anticipation built around them, and mostly come from lore built in WoW rather than lore built in WC3. Honestly, anything that happens in this game after Arthas's story ends is just a coda in preparation for the next game. It feels like we are riding out the next 6-10 months so we can be around for the climax, then many more will abandon ship.

Ulduar was late, and as I said last time, it's not enough content to fill out the game for another 6 months while we wait for the understaffed team to finish the next patch. My personal solution is just to do other things, but it's not going to help their business if a bunch of us decide to do other things all the time and stop paying. They need to announce what the next patch is about and start building interest in it in the coming weeks, even if they do so slowly, and they need to get that patch out before Blizzcon (ie in < 2 months). Then they need a massive announcement of the next xpac at Blizzcon and need to start building interest in that. If they don't I think that 4-year itch will combine with the lack of things to look forward to and lack of things to do in the game for veterans, and start sapping slowly but surely away at their playerbase.

The continued lack of alternatives also works in Blizzard's favor, especially with Champoins Online (SADLY!) pushed back to September. But if Blizz doesn't pick up the rate of release, they are going to find themselves seriously hurting when CO and APB come out later this year, and they'll have to fight hard if they don't want the KOTOR and Trek MMOs to make WoW a shadow of it's former self. It's leaking right now and there isn't even that much serious competition!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why are people quitting?

Skeleton Jack today announced that he's discontinuing his blog, following a widening trend in the blogosphere. The two key authors at Egotistical Priest announced that they were quitting last week, and the high-profile BRK and Resto4Life's author quit a few months ago. And this seems to follow a wider trend in people quitting WoW.

I can't pretend to know why they are quitting. But I can tell you why I think interest in WoW in general has waned. I don't know how much this explains recent trends, but I'm just kind of throwing ideas out there.

  1. The solo and 5-man content available was cleared and made trivial within a month after Wrath's release. Nothing new was added (the argent tourney is an extremely tiny bit of grindy stuff) in all this time. All there is to do in the game now is raid or PvP. Anyone who wants to do solo or small group instancing is out of luck. It's almost impossible to even get groups anymore, because everyone is in Naxx gear or can get Naxx gear the day they hit 80, so few are motivated to run heroics any more.
  2. Adding to this, alts are less appealing than they used to be. Players don't feel stalled-out on their mains like most felt at 60 and 70. If you were in a Kara guild, you could level an alt and bring it to Kara. Nowadays, the prospect of getting another character ready for Ulduar makes my brain bleed, especially since the fastest way is "grind naxx pugs" rather than run varied heroics. Perhaps more importantly, your collection of achievements, mounts, vanity pets, and reputations don't carry over between characters, making the idea of playing an alt even more disheartening.
  3. For the first few years, WoW was full of possibility. If you didn't like something, the game was always in a state of flux and improvement, adding new features, etc. Nowadays, most of the game systems are firmly in place, and they've set about merely refining and strengthening them. Everyone knows that 3.0 was a massive balance and game design pass that redefined the game. It's also clear that there won't be a similar shake up again for a long time. If you are unhappy about things, they probably aren't going to change much.
  4. You are encountering a lot more stupidity and childishness because you are pugging more raids. It used to be that you had to save your raid ID for your guild. Now, there are so many raids any one character can attend in the same week that they end up pugging them a lot more, and if you've paid any attention to the community, you'll see that complaints about other members of the playerbase have skyrocketed. I can't say whether WoW has a shitty community, but I can say that it is so huge and the game appeals to such a massive variety of people that we are going to constantly encounter people we can't stand. The more exposure we have to others in larger and large pugs, the less we will like the community. We won't notice the quiet, nice people; we'll remember the douchebags.
  5. The game has been out a long time. Maybe we are all finally just getting tired of it.

So I'm gonna say that my hypothesis is this: the game is floundering because heroics and raids are too easy.

Please don't confuse this with my thinking that accessibility is bad, or that only the hardcore should see raids.

I LOVE the accessibility mantra. I want everyone to get to see Illidan or whoever. I like the new design philosophies about making the barrier to entry easier for raiding, and getting the playerbase at large involved, and showing John Q. Average how much fun raiding can be.

My problem is one of degree: they made it too easy. They could have made it quite accessible without making it a faceroll fest.

My own guild is suffering due to this. We are clearing deep into Ulduar and trying out hard modes, and that's a blast, and a massive improvement to running Kara and ZA over and over because we didn't want to play with 25 people. But we have little to do in between raids. We sometimes work on heroic achievements, or do some PvP together, or go blow through some old world stuff for shits and giggles. But all we have left in heroics are the super-hard achievements (specifically Less-rabi and the 20-min Occulus run), which are more frustrating and less than exciting after a night of wiping on Yogg or Steelbreaker. It's making it very difficult for us to keep interest. We can keep our guild community going if we go out of our way to organize "fun" events together, but it's not like it used to be where there would constantly be groups forming to do different tasks that the members were motivated to pursue for the rewards. Put simply: we are out of things to do except raid Ulduar. Since we have a 3 night a week raid schedule, but most of the guild likes to play every day (just at different times), this is really frustrating.

For one thing, we really need a "Legendary" or "Ultra" mode for heroics that raises their difficulty and drops Valor Emblems and ilevel 213 gear to compensate for the added challenge. They shouldn't even be mathematically attemptible until you are in full 10-man or heroic epics.

Naxx can't really be retuned at this point, but I think upgrading heroics will help.

Third, there should be some way to encourage alts beyond shortening the amount of grinding you have to do to level them (heirloom items, RAF, etc). These ideas would need to be fleshed out, but for instance, you could allow all characters on the same server to share all achievements (or just certain ones). Another good thing would be to allow your main to share some rep rewards with your alts, such as helm/shoulder enchants. Or even give someone a reward that applies to their main once an alt on that server reaches 80. Perhaps when they ding, they get a mail with a bind-on-account mount or something that gives their main a new title, or even gives them a token that let's them choose one reward from a list of items, perhaps even BoE epics or even just flavor items. I don't know, just throwing ideas out there. It would be nice if there were more incentive to roll an alt now that raid progression is easier and 5-man heroic groups are harder to find.

But alts are really secondary. The main thing is that Blizzard needs to get people into smaller groups with their friends again, instead of setting up rewards so that every single person on the server is constantly pugging raids instead of doing 5-mans.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Recent Developments in Death Knighting

There were a couple of patch notes for DKs a few days ago; mostly of little consequence. Note that for now, they only apply to the PTR. Hail of bullets incoming:

  • The Unholy talent Ghoul Frenzy had a 10-second cooldown added. The cooldown was added because the move generated Runic Power. Before a boss pull, I could just sit there and hit GF over and over start the fight out with a full RP bar. Since GF lasts 30 seconds, the cooldown should have no effect on its normal use; it just fixes this exploit.
  • Death Strike has had some confusing changes. The new change makes it do better healing if you are specced for it in the Blood tree. The ability has already been nerfed overall, but still provides some minor healing when you have your diseases on the target.
  • Both of our DPS tier sets had changes to their bonuses. The wildly overpowered 4-piece tier 7 bonus, +10 RP per FU Strike (SS, Oblit, DS) was nerfed in half, and it's still good. Meanwhile, the 2-piece tier 8 bonus was buffed from 5% crit on RP moves (DC, FS) to 8%. Previously, Unholy and Frost wanted to keep 4-piece tier 7 and ignore tier 8. Now, that choice is not so clear-cut, and is going to vary from DK to DK depending on what other pieces you need. In my case, 4-piece tier 7.25 is always going to beat 4-piece tier 8.10, so I won't be rolling on any tier tokens from Uld 10 until everyone else in my raid has them. It seems most likely that Unholy will want to keep 7.25 even over 8.25, while Blood and Frost will find the tier 8 itemization of expertise and armor pen over haste and hit to be more to their liking, justifying the loss of the stronger set bonus. The itemization for tier 8 just isn't as good for Unholy, and Unholy relies on its FU move more than any other spec, making the tier 7 set bonus even better.
  • Tangential effects: the equipment manager will help us dual-role DK's switch gear more easily, and 10-man raiders will now have more access to the awesome crafted belts and boots from Ulduar.
Since writing my guide to Unholy DPS and my guide and tips for Frost tanking when 3.1 first hit, I've discovered a few more things that can improve on those guides. Duck!

Unholy DPS
  • Correct use of Ghoul Frenzy: use it just before a pull, so your pet benefits for the first 20 seconds or so of the pull, and the rune will refresh before you need to it.
  • Use Blood Tap every time it is up. Little-known fact: it refreshes the blood rune as well as making it a death rune. This means that the best time to use it is right after you used both blood runes. The absolute best time is to use it right after you did a Scourge Strike using both blood runes (as death runes). That will mess up your rotation the least. If Bone Shield is down or has less than a minute left, use the "free" death rune on that. If Bone Shield is OK, use it on Ghoul Frenzy. This lets you fit GF into your rotation without hurting your SS spam.
  • Other good times to use GF are when you have a lull in fighting or have to run away from melee range. Any time you aren't going to be able to make use of the unholy rune, hit GF.
  • Spec: my original spec had points in Morbidity, which buffs DC and Death & Decay. There is less aoe in Ulduar, and I've seen math saying that the DC buff isn't worth the points in the talent. Instead of my previously recommended build, put those points in Necrosis. Here are my new recommended Unholy specs: 12/0/59 and 0/10/61.
Frost Tanking
  • I've fallen for the Howling Blast glyph. It applies Frost Fever. Though Blood Plague and Pestilence are still effective, for most aoe pulls this glyph means you no longer need to use them. Instead, you can shoot off an HB, benefit from the disease, use a Blood Boil that benefits from the disease, and still D&D. That's a lot of aoe threat. It fixes the problem I used to have with being unable to use D&D, Pestilence, and HB in the same rotation. I highly recommend it for offtanks especially. If you are your guild's main tank on bosses, it's much less useful on single targets and I've pick up a different glyph instead.
  • Spec: After playing around with the previously-recommended spec, I've moved around a few of the points in Unholy and Blood. I dropped points out of Morbidity (since HB/BB makes D&D's cooldown less of an issue and I never DC in this spec) and Virulence (don't need the minor increase to hit on spells). Instead, I added points to Hunger for Blood, which was buffed heavily in 3.1 and provides a lot of threat by fueling Rune Strikes and Frost Strikes. Here's my new Frost tanking spec, 14/51/6.

As they say in Ebon Hold, "Suffer Well, Bitches!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

10-man Hard Mode Weapons ilevel Increase

Hot on the heels of news that profession patterns will drop off hard-mode 10-man Ulduar bosses comes this even nicer change:
In order to better reward players for completing hard mode encounters in 10-player Ulduar, we will be updating weapon rewards from these hard mode encounters to an item level of 232 in the next minor patch.

Awesome. It's stuck in my craw for a while (I must have a gargantuan craw to be getting so much stuck in it) that Uld 25 normal mode weapons are better than Uld 10 hard mode weapons. Before this change, Uld 10 hard modes dropped exclusively ilevel 226 gear. Meanwhile, Uld 25 normal modes dropped ilevel 226 armor, but ilevel 232 weapons for no discernable reason. Now you can get exactly the same quality gear from Uld 10 hard as you can get from Uld 25 normal, including patterns, badges, and Runed Orbs. The only thing missing is the Legendary, which is only available through Uld 25 hard modes anyway, and would be nice but isn't that big of a deal.

I'd still vastly prefer if 10 and 25 shared a lockout and identical loot tables. I'm also not happy with the relative lack of ilevel 226 drops in Uld 10 compared to Uld 25. Sure, hard modes in 10 drop 226 gear, but only for a few slots. For instance, my DK can only use a weapon, ring, and bracers (and maybe a cape) from hard modes. If I killed the same bosses in 25-man regular mode, I could get a strong 226 piece for every slot. So it's still kind of a mess, though the craftables and badge items help with that. It could be a lot worse, and honestly, Blizzard is doing the best they can with a bad situation (of their own creation). It's too late this patch cycle to truly equalize both tracks, but I'm heartened to see them taking so many steps in that direction. Though I'd prefer things to be totally equal, I could live with the raiding game if it continued with the tier gear difference as long as 10-man hard modes kept up with 25-man normals in every way, including ilevel, patterns, badges, etc.

Thanks for listening, Blizz. You've earned some big points in my mind this week. Keep moving in the right direction. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mimiron is a Big Meanie-Head

So the Ulduar progression train keeps right on running from station to station. Self-congratulations incoming:

My guild is only the 3rd horde guild on our server to down Mimiron in any form. We killed him no May 5th.

I have never server 3rd'ed anything before. But as Ixo so graciously says in his ingenious blogroll button: we are teh 10-man pwnzorators.

I've started poring over Guildox to see concrete proof of our success. As I am extremely fond of repeating until your ears bleed, this raid team earned an Amani War Bear without ever having set foot in BT or Hyjal. In scrub gear, we did something that was supposed to be reserved for tier 6+ guilds. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to see my chiropractor, as I seem to have pulled a muscle in my arm from patting myself on the back so hard.

Anyway, GuildOx tracks progression using achievements, which is way more dependable than stupid wowjutsu's gear-tracking method. The downside is that it can't tell if you've killed a boss unless you got an achievement.

Auriaya was bugged during the first week, and her adds would respawn mid-fight even though they weren't supposed to. This meant that if you killed her that first week, you automagically got the "Crazy Cat Lady" achievement, which allows us to track who killed her the first week, and when. I had to change my pants again when I discovered that we had a server 2nd kill of Auriaya 10. And that's not just horde side, that's server-wide.

On Monday, we downed General Vezax after much wipeage, likely another Horde server third. I have seen Yogg-Saron, and it turns out that he hurts.

But seriously, enough of my bragging. We're doing well at...a game. It's not like we won the Tour de France after recovering from ball cancer and still having single-nut sex with our supermodel girlfriend on top of a pile of million-dollar bills while having an awesome last name like "Armstrong".

Mimiron, like Freya and Thorim before him, was another case where after the first 3 pulls, I thought there was no way we'd ever win this encounter. It just seemed too complex, and the arm section was just brutal in phase 2 (and 4). It was even worse than those, though. It was the first fight in Ulduar that reminded me of the difficulty of old-school vanilla wow raiding, where you wiped on Chromaggus or Twin Emps every night for weeks and loved it.

But just like those other Keepers, once you learn the fight and embed it into your muscle memory, it's quite doable. We downed him last week after 3 nights total of attempts spread over 2 weeks. We cleared straight to him this past week, prepared for another night of wipes. We one-shot him. W. T. F?!?

Still, the hardest boss I'd seen the game to date (I learned how easy he was after trying Vezax). Phase 1 is easy enough if your ranged can just learn to spread out and move when the napalm comes. The healers will need to have tight coordination with each other to heal the napalm victim while keeping the tank up through Plasma Blast, so named because it makes even geared tanks bleed. The #1 killer on this phase was a ranged dps standing too close to a healer and getting them both napalmed. Spread out, and watch where the tank's turret is pointing so you know if you are the next Napalm target. As melee, I just had to position myself so that there was a clearing in the mines right behind me so when I turned and ran from an electric explosion, I wouldn't gib myself on the land mines. If you are an Unholy DK like me on this fight, you have three ways to save your ghoul from certain death from this electric explosion:

1) If he is buffed enough, he can survive it. This requires at least full naxx 25 gear plus Kings, Fort, and MotW on both you and the pet.

2) Huddle. You may not even know that your ghoul has this ability, but it reduces incoming damage by a large percentage for 10 seconds.

3) Little-known fact: your ghoul's Leap ability can target friendly players. Create a macro that makes the little guy leap to you, and hit it once you've cleared the mines. The macro is:

/cast [target=YOUR NAME] leap

Phase 2 makes healers cry. Every time we start phase 2, our healing lead starts begging any god she can think of to please make it stop. The gun turret in the center of the room randomly blasts people, and pulses aoe fire damage, and fires rockets that will land on your head for ONE MILLION DAMAGE (not making that up!), and since that clearly wasn't enough, when he starts "spinning up", you either get behind him or get riddled with bullets. To death.

We finally got the hang of keeping the casters close enough to the boss to easily get behind him. It helps the healers a lot if I pop my defensive cooldowns, like anti-magic shell, when the aoe pulses are happening. The main thing is to call out on vent when you see a big red rocket fire off of his back into the sky, so everyone in the raid can check their feet for a red circle that indicates the spot they are standing on is about to become a nuclear fallout zone. It's pretty safe to just strafe a bit as soon as you see the rocket launch. If it was going after you, you should now have moved enough to avoid it. I do this reflexively now.

And it's on to Phase 3. You can blow through this phase FAST if you do it right. Avoid the temptation to aoe down the adds. Instead, focus single target dps on the Assault Bots, then have a melee pick up the electromagnet off the boss and call for dps on the boss while he's down. Two big tips for this one that will save a lot of wipes: 1) set loot to free for all so I can pick up the magnet, and 2) drop the magnet DIRECTLY UNDER THE BOSS. You can't do what I did at first and just drop the magnet willy-nilly. You have to overcome the difficulty of 3-dimensional space on a 2-D screen and make sure you drop the magnet right under him, or it won't work, and you'll prolong the phase. Just rinse and repeat this 2-3 times as quick as you can. As soon as the helicopter lifts back off, get back on the bot so you can do it again immediately, and just let the tank hold the little adds until the end of the phase. You'll have time to clean them up with aoe while V0L7R0N (hardy har har) forms.

Phase 4 defies description. He has 3 parts that have to die at the same time. There are mines, and double rockets of death, and Pewx2, and OMG RUN OUT. Your tank has to be really careful to strafe slowly and carefully when moving around when the center is spinning up. If he causes the base to move during the spin up, you might end up with the gun pointing directly at your raid. It feels buggy, honestly, and I know we're not the only raid group to think so. Just be careful.

Funny story: he drops greys. Our Master Looter stepped over to loot him, and reported that his corpse contained no shiny epics or badges, just some grey-named engineering-themed vendor trash?

Panic ensued on vent until the boss despawned and we saw that he had been hiding within him a giant glimmering treasure chest full of...treasure.

Having killed Vezax, I now look back on Mimiron and laugh at myself for thinking the robo-gnome was "hard". But I definitely see him being a big roadblock for most guilds attempting this. It takes the raid to a whole new level beyond anything else in Ulduar. Best of luck to anyone attempting him. Your reward is going to a sea of saronite-flavored tears.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A small concession to 10-man raiders

From today's minor patch notes:

"10-player bosses that drop Runed Orbs will also sometimes drop the recipes that use those orbs."


This also confirms that 10-man bosses can drop Runed Orbs, which was a bit of information I wasn't able to find anywhere (likely because no one tested 10 man hard modes successfullly at a time when they were fully itemized). I'm assuming they drop from any hard mode boss in 10-man (as one commenter mentioned, they drop from regular-mode 25-man bosses), but I can't find a confirmation anywhere.

Very nice.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Assholes Make Themselves Hard to Ignore

There are a couple of different schools of thought for dealing with trolls. One popular one is to ignore them. This is much like the advice mothers give to their children about bullies.

This may have been an effective tactic in the 70's, when American culture was a much different place, ruled by a different type of social norms.

Nowadays, if you ignore a bully, there's a decent chance you will get knifed, which is quite difficult to ignore. Back in my day, ignoring a bully didn't work. We weren't quite into the "bring guns and weapons to school" and "bomb threats every few weeks, whenever the bad kids need to skip a day to go get drunk" days, those didn't come until I was in high school. But we were close to those days. In middle school, ignoring bullies just got me into a lot of fistfights. It was far from a slum, but I didn't grow up in the best neighborhood. I never got beat up, robbed, or knifed, but I chalk that up partly to luck, partly to an unwillingness to act afraid, and partly to having a few good friends. It was bad enough that my mom took a job so she could put me and my sisters in private school, which was a monumentally safe environment. I was actually one of the more "bad kid" types there, which was really weird. Compared to middle school, high school was a picnic of nurturing for me, which was nice because it let me come into my own a lot more easily. Thanks, Mom.

As I got older, I found that bullies got even harder to ignore. In the real world outside of school, bullies are usually armed or in large groups, or both. You can ignore the guy who tries to goad you into a fight by calling you a name as you walk by. You can't ignore the guy with a knife, and you can't ignore the 3 drunk guys who start messing with you when you are alone on a dark street at night, either. Once someone crosses a certain line, trying to ignore them just isn't going to work.

But enough autobiographing, my point is that without social niceties or metal detectors to restrain them, bullies will not let you ignore them if they can help it. As an armchair psychologist (well not really, I actually have a Masters degree in psych. Would that make me a "deskchair psychologist?"), it seems that they learned from their caregivers that negative behaviors were the way to get attention and learned from example that attacking others was a way to build up oneself. Unless the likelihood of getting caught and put in jail is approaching 100%, there's no reason for them not to constantly escalate until they get the attention they crave.

So while on the surface ignoring them seems to be an obvious way of denying them the thing they want most, it forgets that our capacity to ignore them is not limitless. In fact, our ability to ignore them likely does not go as far as they are willing to go to get our attention. It' s hard to ignore fists, knives, theft of property, or even defamation. And I maintain that those things shouldn't be ignored, even if it reinforces the bully's desire to do those things to get attention.

And that brings us back to what sparked these thoughts: these two wowblogosphere posts taking different stances on their own varieties of trolls/bullies/sanctimonious asses.

First, Tobold responds to the mob of pseudo-religious zealots who love Darkfall (or what it represents to them, more likely) so much that they'd rather harass anyone who speaks ill of it rather than play the game itself. He advocates ignoring them completely, deleting their comments and pretending Darkfall doesn't even exist, thus locking them in a metaphorical "padded cell".

In this case, ignoring them is a great idea. Don't link to them, don't talk about them, and don't even let them use your space to comment and get attention that way. Just shut them out. There is little they can do to force you to pay attention, aside from the occassional death threat, which so far has only been leveled at the eurogamer reviewer who gave it a 2/10. They can't get close enough to knife you, and you don't have to deal with them from day to day.

But even in those situations, the thing that bothers me is that those people deserve to get hit back. If all I was concerned with was my own feelings, those people would be easy to ignore. They aren't hurting me, so they can't goad me into responding out of emotions. The thing that makes me respond is the desire to bat them on the nose with a newspaper like a bad puppy. What they deserve is to get smacked and told "no" until they stop acting like assholes. They deserve to get disciplined. They deserve not just an absence of reward, but an active punishment for their behavior. So it's inherently unjust to ignore them. It may be the best response available, but the idea of allowing them to cause an injustice to occur sticks in my craw.

On the web, they can't hurt you physically or steal your property. But if no one responds to their wrong ideas then they look like they are right, or we look like we don't have a response. Sometimes we need to stand up to them just to keep other people from getting bad ideas from them, and sometimes we need to save face. On the web, the only thing they can really do to you is pull your name through the mud and spread shitty ideas.

Which brings me to post #2, Ixo's response to an anonymous preachy douche. I really can't do it justice here, please read his post for a good bit of entertainment. The quick summary is that Ixo mentioned, hyperbolically and in passing, that he stayed up late getting drunk and raiding Ulduar, and this Anonymous commentor on his blog started telling him how to live his life in the most sanctimonious and self-satisfiedly assholish way imaginable, telling Ixo that he should be doing something "productive" instead of playing WoW.

Says the guy commenting extensively on a WoW blog. Sheesh.

But Anonymous Preachy Douche doesn't stop there, he goes on to talk about Ixo's family, his fathering, and what his in-laws think of him. Ixo quite righteously (and hilariously) lashes out at APD in retaliation.

Some of Ixo's commentors advise him (Yes, people try to tell him what to do under a post where he eviscerates someone for telling him what to do. Don't ask me what they are thinking.) not to give APD so much attention by making an entire post about him. I think the evisceration was so thoroughly deserved and effectively delivered that it was much better than just letting things be. Besides, it was just. Maybe he got some attention, but he also got to look like a complete idiot, which was well deserved.

Can we generalize these situations to other types of trolls? It depends on the situation. I propose that instead of using a blanket rule of "ignore" or "engage" for trolls, we instead go situation by situation. I plan to consider how ignorable the troll is, and give 'em hell when they go to far. Far more important than ignoring them is never giving them the satisfaction of hurting you. Don't believe anything they say. Don't let them shake your self-confidence. But fight back when it seems like the right thing to do.

In my real life example, you can't ignore someone physically attacking you. But you can do the next best thing: let them know that you aren't afraid. Bullies don't push you because they want a fight, they push you because they want to scare you. Show confidence and fight back, and you don't seem like a very appealing target to them anymore. It worked for me. Sort of a combo of both ideas. It won't always save you from getting your wallet stolen or a rib broken (thought it sometimes will), but you get to keep your dignity and they don't get the satisfaction of getting into your head.

I realize that I've gone in a dozen different directions here, and a lot of this doesn't really gel together. This is more of a first-draft riff on bullying in both the real and virtual realms. I would clean it up and make a better pieces, but in the end I can't spend as much time on this blog as I'd like, and I'm sorry for that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Burnout Gods Hear My Prayers

So, something totally exciting happened to me today (or maybe yesterday, according to my gmail it was 22 hours ago), but I'm legally not allowed to talk about it! I probably shouldn't even be mentioning that it's the type of thing that has an NDA. Maybe it's OK to say that it's something I've mentioned on this blog before?

And it couldn't have come at a better time. Last night I realized something. I'm burned out on WoW.

Well, not totally. I'm not even close to burned out on Ulduar with my DK, or on the occassional PvP with my Rogue. What I'm burned out on is everything even remotely grindy. Levelling an alt or doing jousting dailies just doesn't hold the excitement for me that it used to.

The feeling had been building for a few weeks, but it hit a turning point last night. I like to watch TV shows on and listen to podcasts, but I find that in many cases those things on their own aren't enough to hold my attention. For instance, while watching Lost or BSG requires my full magazine of mind-bullets, I can watch throwaway comedies or something like Kings or Lie to Me (both excellent new shows this season) in the background. I originally got into listening to podcasts as something to occupy my brain while walking to/from work or working at my last job, which involved lots of data entry and cutting/pasting from spreadsheets (the big benefit of this job was that I learned not to fear Excel).

Basically, I have two brains working in tandem: one that does rote tasks, and one that requires constant intellectual stimulation or it will start poking me between the eyes with a stick.

For a long time, I've been winding down in the late evenings by doing something grindy in WoW while watching a show or listening to a podcast, since neither task is enough on it's own to occupy both minds the way raiding, PvP, or a fully demanding piece of entertainment would. Originally, what I wanted to do was level up or do dailies, and the podcasts were just to mitigate the grind.

Last night I realized that now, what I really want to do is lisen to the podcast or watch the show, and WoW has become the vestigial part here.

I ended up just sitting and watching a show by itself (blasphemy!) because I couldn't stomach any more grinding.

Part of the cause for the change is the accessibility of the new raid content. I spent a lot of time stuck in Kara back in TBC, so alts became the the exciting part of the game: taking what little content you were stuck repeating over and over, and make it more exciting by playing from a different perspective and gearing up a new character in epics. RAF was the pinnacle of this alt orgy, leaving me with something like 10 characters across 2 servers over level 60, waiting to be played.

After clearing Northrend 3.5 times, grinding through it again and again just doesn't seem very appealing. With Ulduar's shiny newness available, grinding the same heroics with a new character, or god forbid running Naxx a dozen more times with that character just doesn't have the sheen I thought it would. On top of that, achievements are not shared accross characters. Why have a ton of alts if it means you have to grind 6 characters through every holiday even that you want the title for (not that I'd do this, I try to avoid holidays unless I really really want the title)?

Dailies are in the same boat: I am loaded with cash. Sure, I would like the mounts and pets, but they aren't enough to get me to grind for hours a day.

In essence, the end rewards are no longer exciting to me, so I'm not longer motivated to grind them. I'd rather just do Ulduar with the TV off, or listen to an audiobook without WoW. Unfortunately, this kind of leaves one of my brains in a bad place. What should I do?

This dovetails quite nicely into one of my longstanding opinions: Blizzard will keep paying customers longer by reducing the grind, not by increasing it.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive. Don't they want the players grinding away at timesinks, since that should force them to spend more time paying for the game to reach their goals?

The problem is, if you show players the really fun parts of your game, and then force them to repeat hundreds of hours of content they already did just to get back to those parts that are fun to repeat, they'll give up on a goal rather than volunteer for the timesinks needed to pursue it.

I think that the levelling game is a blast until you max out your first character, and it's even fun to do the second time if you try the other faction or different questlines or zones. But after that, you shouldn't have to do it again just to try a new class. I promise you, Blizzard will keep me longer if I can do Ulduar with a new class than they'll keep me if I have to grind for 50 hours to get a new character to that point. Sure, maybe I'd theoretically spend 50 hours grinding and 80 hours in Ulduar if you make me grind, while I'd only spend 80 just doing Ulduar if you gave me a free 80 of a different class. The thing that you'd be missing is that I'd never spend those 130 hours. Instead, if what you offer me is the grind to the fun part, I'll realize the fun part isn't worth the grind after 10 hours. The choice looks like one between 130 vs 80 hours, but it's actually very likely to instead be 10 v 80 hours.

Blizz have taken some steps in this direction lately, by purposely shortening the leveling curve, offering RAF, and adding Heirloom items. But honestly, they should take it a step further. They should give you a free level 70 character in starter gear on your account once every 6 months that you have a level 80 character on your account and are paying. This will go a lot further toward retaining customers than the current model, imo.

I think this would go far enough to protect the integrity of choices that you make. It's not like you can just switch characters at will. Especially considering that someone who wants to roll a new character can reach 70 in under 6 months. This would actually serve to slow down the number of people switching classes, since they'd have no reason to powerlevel their own character in 3 weeks if they could just wait 6 months for their next free 70. And they are paying the whole time, even if they aren't playing that much! It's win/win!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Death Knight Guide for Beginners

Death Knights: everyone can roll one at 55 now, and even though the abilities are parceled out pretty slowly as you level, it can still be overwhelming to pile on all those abilities so fast as you rocket through Outlands. Plus, you have all those talents that you don't know what they do. Why not put all 61 points in the blood tree?! Plus, their runic resource system is totally different from that time-tested blue bar you're used to.

It can get pretty confusing. Some abilities cost one rune, but some cost 2 or three of different colors, and some cost runic power, but it's not clear how you get runic power, and some cost a kitten and sixpence, which is way more than a bushel.

By this point, many of you have tried a DK, but most lay abandoned in Hellfire Peninsula after you experienced that completely epic starting area and haphazardly spent all those free talent points in whatever looked cool. Now he or she is sitting in the Thrallmar Inn with a free talent reset and you have some free time between Ulduar raids, so it's time to pick that baby back up!

Hopefully in the future I'll find the time to wax poetic about what a design triumph DKs are as a class. But for now, I'm going to try to boil DK mechanics into the simplest form I possibly can.

First, the basics of how Runes and Runic Power (RP) work.

You have 6 runes: 2 Blood (red), 2 Frost (blue), and 2 Unholy (green). You cannot change this, you will always have two of each. Going forward, I will use B, F, and U as shorthand for the runes. Once you use a rune, it goes on a 10-second cooldown, then you can use it again. This keeps you from spamming the same button over and over.

You also have an RP bar (not to be confused with a place to get a drink and meet people named Drzzzztz or Seferothh with Dark Pasts), which normally goes to 100. When you use a rune, you gain RP. If the ability you used takes 1 rune, you gain 10 RP. If it took 2 runes, you gain 15 RP. Death and Decay, which costs 3 runes, gives you 20 RP. Pretty much any ability that doesn't cost RP generates it. There are other ways to get RP through talents, but let's not complicate things with that just yet.

Since using a rune puts it on cooldown, the sooner you use it the sooner you can use it again. So use rune abilities early and often. You should generally wait to "dump" your RP until either a) all of your runes are on cooldown because you were a good little DK and used them all up just as fast as you could! or b) you are about to cap out RP, which would make any further RP generation go to waste.

Now let's build on that by talking about skills. When you start, the game gives you just enough skills to get by: Icy Touch (F), Plague Strike (U), Blood Strike (B), Death Strike (FU), and Death Coil (40 RP)

Already, you can see something interesting. There are no abilities that costs two of the same color rune, and the only two-rune ability costs FU, and no B.

IT and PS each place a different disease on your target: Frost Fever and Blood Plague, respectively. Your Blood Strike and FU moves (like Death Strike) get stronger if your target already has the two diseases on them. Such is life as a DK: in general, you want to open with IT and PS to get your diseases up at the beginning of every fight. Get used to it. Once diseases are up, unload your runes in Strikes, then use Death Coil when all runes are on cooldown. You could seriously just grind to 80 on single-targe mobs playing this way, if talents didn't have to appear and muck everything up.

At base, your other B rune abilities are Pestilence and Blood Boil. They are both only useful in AoE situations, as is Death and Decay. DnD is a strong aoe spell, and Blood Boil is a weak one, but cheap. BB gets stronger if the target is diseased. Luckily, Pestilence will spread diseases around for you. A very strong aoe attack for any spec is to drop DnD, cast IT and PS on a target, then spread the diseases with Pestilence. See how conveniently that uses up all 6 runes? Now you're thinking with portals!

Since your F and U runes are generally tied up in FU attacks or the disease combo, you'll rarely get another ability that uses just one F or U rune, and if so it will be in the talent tree. Pretty much all of your other rune abilities are from talents. You do get the ability to root using Chains of Ice for 1F, but that's mainly used in PvP.

Meanwhile, your other base options to use Runic Power, aside from the direct Death Coil damage (remember, it's different from Warlock's Death Coil because it has no fear effect), are defensive. If you have some RP, you can use Icebound Fortitude for general defense, an Anti-Magic Shell for magic (duh) defense, or use Brain Freeze (an interrupt like Kick or Counterspell) or Strangulate (a silence effect on a long cooldown). Basically, hit IF if you are in trouble.

You'll also have a few abilities that don't have rune or RP costs. These include your summonable ghoul, Horn of Winter (which should be up all the time and gives "free" RP), Empower Rune Weapon (resets all your runes, best for emergencies where you really need a certain ability RIGHT NOW), and Blood Tap (allows you to turn a B rune into a Death Rune temporarily; a more advanced move to master).

And that brings us to Death Runes. Death Rune can stand in for any of the other rune types. So if you have 2 Ds, you can, for instance, BS x 2, or use an FU strike, or IT+PS. They give you more flexibility and options, but they also define your rotation based on what spec you are in by allowing you to use your best move a bit more often than you can at base. The Death Rune talent in each tree, along with the new RP moves in the tree, give each talent tree it's flavor and differentiate their play styles. Here is a quick rundown of how each spec plays when leveling:

The Blood tree overall focuses on self-healing. It uses most of its RP on Death Coils, though it can summon a floating blade that copies the DK's attacks occassionally. This tree buffs Death Strike as it's preferred FU move, and replaces Blood Strike with the more powerful version, Heart Strike. HS does more damage and has a built-in aoe "cleave" effect. Many of the talents in the tree buff HS.

Blood differs from the other trees in that it generates Death Runes from it's FU attack. This makes sense when you consider that per rune, Heart Strike is buffed into being the tree's strongest attack. You want to get more B Runes in exchange for fewer F and U runes. When you use Death Strike, those 2 runes will regen as Death Runes, which can then be used for 2 Heart Strikes instead of another Death Strike.

So, after opening a fight with IT and PS, use Death Strike and 2x Heart Strike. Once those runes cooldown, you'll be able to throw out 4x Heart Strike and a Death Strike. After that, just use IT + PS whenever your diseases fall out, spend B and D runes on HS, and spend spare FUs on DS.

Here is a sample leveling Blood spec. Season to taste.

The best way I can describe the Frost tree for DPS is that it's focused on burst damage. It gives you a number of direct damage abilities, and buffs the hell out of their crit chances and damage. It will use its RP on Frost Strike, which is a supercharged replacement for Death Coil that can only be used from melee range. It also provides an alternative FU move, Howling Blast, for AoE situations, and is the only tree with an AoE CC ability (Hungering Cold, 40 RP).

For Frost, Blood Strikes are weak and really only used to generate Death Runes for your big FU strike, Obliterate. Normally, Oblit removes diseases on the target, but one of the Frost talents prevents this, making the move spammable.

So a Frost rotation would start with PS+IT, Blood Strike x2, Oblit, Frost Strike. Then you'd just spam Oblit x3 once all those rune regenerate (2 normal FUs plus 2 Ds available), FS. Rinse, repeat. No frills, just straight-up big-crit pwnage.

Here is a sample Frost levelling spec
. Best served...COLD!!!

You want frills? Oh, Unholy's got frills, buddy. It's got a perma-Ghoul (your ghoul becomes a controllable pet rather than the passive companion it is for the other specs), a run speed increase, and a mounted speed increase. It can blow corpses up (thought I recommend you not spec into Corpse Explosion). It can summon a Gargoyle for big burst damage. A lot of your dps (20% ish) comes from your ghoul. You'll use your RP to put up Unholy Blight, an aoe damage aura (which is also better damage on single targets than DC), and then spend extra RP on Death Coils in between. This tree provides some protection in the form of Bone Shield and includes a replacement FU move, called Scourge Strike.

Don't let the low numbers on the SS tooltip fool you: it cuts through armor. SS is your heavy hitter, and you want to spam that bitch! To that end, like Frost, Unholy gives weak-ass Blood Strikes that serve only to generate Death Runes to fuel your SS-happy war machine.

The rotation is exactly like the Frost rotation: IT+PS, 2x Blood Strike, Scourge Strike, RP dump, followed by a hefty 3x Scourge Strike.

Here's a sample Unholy leveling build.


As you can see, the DK resource system necessitates dps "rotations" where you apply diseases, then generate Death Runes to set up your spec's heavy hitter, whether that be Heart Strike, Obliterate, or Scourge Strike. Unload DCs or FSs between rune cooldowns, and you'll mow down anything in your path.

You can also augment your performance through gear and glyphs. You can see recommended major glyphs for each talent tree by clicking the provided link to the talents. I recommend all levelling specs use Glyphs of Pestilence, Raise Dead, and Horn of Winter as their minor glyphs. As for gear, focus on Strength first, with Attack Power a close second. Hit and Expertise Ratings are excellent until you get around 8% hit or 6% expertise. Haste and Crit ratings are also strong. Armor Pen is OK, but not recommended for Unholy, and Agility takes up the rear, but isn't useless. Though many of your abilities appear to be spells, please note that Spell Power, Intellect, Spirit, and spell-specific buffs have NO effect on your attacks!


Those are the basics. There is a LOT more to playing a DK well, but this overview should get you off the ground (and out of the Thrallmar inn) and making headway through Outlands.

Enjoy, and Suffer Well, brothers and sisters of the Ebon Blade!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Death Knight Tanking Tips and Tricks for Ulduar

What you have: A DK who wants to tank. If not, then maybe you know a DK that needs a trip to the Academy of Getting Hit in the Face & Sciences.

What you don't have: My extra-special tips 'n' tricks for DK tanking (alas, I cannot find a way to make that "n" backwards). Let's rectify that.

I've been offtanking Ulduar as Frost, with this build and glyphs. High threat, high damage mitigation, and high chance of milk shakes for every 100th customer!

  1. In general, Howling Blast followed by Blood Boil can be very strong snap aoe threat. The glyph of HB is great for this, because it puts a disease up on every target, buffing the Bloodboils. In aoe situations, I tend to not bother with Icy Touch, Plague Strike or Pestilence, instead using those runes for an extra HB/Oblit and Blood Boil (or a Death and Decay). I call this "the IcyHot".
  2. Use the shortest cooldowns early. All else being equal, you should use Anti-Magic Shell first, then Icebound Fortitude, then Unbreakable Armor, then your trinkets one at a time. you can probably weave another AMS in there too, with it's 45-second cooldown.
  3. When tanking a single target (such as a boss), be careful not to be overzealous with your Frost Strikes (or Death Coils if you aren't Frost). It's more important to alway save RP for a Rune Strike than it is to keep your RP near zero.
  4. Get a mod that shows you clearly when you get a Killing Machine proc. Go out of your way to use a Frost Strike with the proc. If you are aoe tanking, use Howling Blast instead, but frankly you should be using Howling Blast every cooldown anyway if you are aoe tanking.
  5. You can do pretty decent dps while offtanking. As long as you have some aoe threat, there's no reason you have to always be attacking the things that are hitting you. When Razorscale is chained down, I just let the adds beat on me and help the DPS on the boss. When tanking Pummelers on XT-002, I just use HB and DnD every cooldown, but otherwise I spend the entire fight DPSing XT or his Heart while letting the Pummelers beat ineffectually on my armored ass. Just make sure you keep the adds in front of you to you can dodge/parry.
  6. Save aoe for the right moments. This is especially important if tanking the arena during Thorim (they invented the word "frantic just so I could use it to describe tanking the Thorim arena. True Story, Webster told me). The first few attempts, I dropped DnD at the start, and it went to waste by hitting only one or two mobs. Instead, watch your rune use and drop DnD when the large group of weak Citizens spawns. On that fight, I tend to save Death Grip for the Runecasters, DnD for the citizens, and Taunt for the Vykrul warriors. Then I just group everything up and spam the IcyHot while dumping RP on the primary kill target.
  7. You can damn near solo the adds on Ignis, especially now that the encounter has been nerfed into the ground. When they first spawn, taunt them off the healers and hit them with IT, then smack them with an Oblit or FS as soon as they get in range to solidify aggro. Then, turn and run directly through the fire patch. Watch the add and snare them with Chains of Ice when they are just inside the fire. Then, you can run around the outside of the fire in a circle, casting CoI every few seconds, to keep them in there. Now that it only takes 10 stacks rather than 20 to make them molten, this is extremely easy. When they have 9 stacks, run into the edge of the water (we have the tank move Ignis in a rectangle around the center line so the fire is always near a pool) and Death Grip, then call for a ranged dps to blow up the add while you run to grab the next one. Repeat.
  8. Use your ghoul to help the DPS. I tend to pop mine every cooldown on most fights, or specificially when Razorscale is chained down. Try to summon it right after a big aoe, rather than right before.
  9. Remember to stay in Frost Presence when tanking. I totally didn't wipe my raid on trash 3 times the other night because I was in Blood Presence. Totally. Didn't.
  10. When you need to switch to dps mid-fight, remember that you can switch presences, weapons, and sigils during combat. I have the luxury of having two separate weapons of similar power, so I enchant one with Stoneskin Gargoyle for tanking and one with Fallen Crusader for dps. If I need to switch to pure dps mid-fight, I equip the dps weapon, and Awareness sigil and switch to Blood Presence. Fights where this is useful include Freya and Iron Council.
  11. In an emergency when all of your other cooldowns are down, you can use Army of the Dead to mitigate a big hit. The secondary effect of channeling the spell is that your avoidance (dodge/parry) gets converted directly into damage reduction. If a Fusion Punch is incoming and all your defenses are spent, you can pop AotD and mitigate 40-60% of the impact.
Next week, I'll make a similar list of tips for Unholy DPS, including an in-depth exploration of how to make effective use of Ghoul Frenzy. Here's a freebie: make sure your ghoul is alive before you use it.

Have a good weekend, I know I will.