Announcing the Warlords of Draenor Strategy Guide

Before I get to BlizzCon, I wanted to make a quick note of a special project that I and a few of my friends and colleagues around the community have been working on. A few months ago, I was approached to help work on the Priest section of the Warlords of Draenor Strategy Guide from Brady Games.

Anne Stickney (@Shadesogrey) put together an all-star team to help get you started in Warlords of Draenor when it goes live next week.

I borrowed the full list from Alaron himself, Druid extraordinaire. He’s also giving away a complimentary copy of the guide.

Death Knight: Magdalena (@MagdalenaDK), of the self-titled Death Knight blog Magdalena’s Musings.
Druid: Master Archdruid Alaron of the Fluid Druid.
Hunter: Eyes of the Beast’s Bendak (@BendakWoW), who blogs at and keeps trying to tame me, despite repeated growls.
Mage: Manalicious’s Vidyala (@_Vidyala). Also the artist behind the webcomic From Draenor with Love.
Monk: Video Cast Monk Meditation‘s Chaithi (@WoWMonk).
Paladin: Righteous Defense‘s Rhidach (@Rhidach).
Priest: Just me.
Rogue: Ravenholdt.net‘s Rfeann (@Sveltekumquat). Also check out his blog: Red-Hatted Rogue.
Warlock: Poneria (@_poneria) of Fel Concentration.
Shaman: Totemspot‘s Binkenstein (@Binkenstein). Quite possibly one of the smartest folks in the game. Or at least, the most spreadsheet-est.
Warrior: Matt Rossi. Together, we made up WoW Insider‘s team Matt. (@MatthewWRossi)
Editor: Finally, Anne Stickney (@Shadesogrey). No words can describe the hard work and effort that she invested. Truly an inspiration.

It just occurred to me that I can now say I literally wrote the book on Priests. Anyway, I suspect it’ll be fully outdated by the next patch!

Anyway, more on pre-BlizzCon thoughts when I get back. People are already lining up to obtain their tickets and passes.

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Raiding Epiphany

You know that time when you’re working on a new boss and it just seems like you keep hitting that same block over and over? For us, it was Blackfuse. We’ve been working on the guy for the past month now. We kept bringing him down to about 65% but we’d keep consistently buckling during that first magnet phase. It was a combination of fires, mines, overload, or something else that was seemingly unavoidable.

Then all of a sudden, the clouds part.

Sunlight shines right through.

The players are struck with a wave of epiphany.

Our attempts improve dramatically. We made it past the the first magnet phase, then the second magnet phase, and now we’re breaching below 50% more often than not.

It’s like being able to breathe again after having clogged sinuses for so long.

That’s kind of where we’re at now. I call it cautious optimism, but if this level of improvement continues, then we’ll be on track.

Retooling and rebuilding

Not long after the proposed schedule went out, I had a few members express their inability to commit to that schedule. As a result of that, I did end up losing some fine players and friends.

It’s a little funny how things work out though. I was approached by a previous raider who’d been out of the game for a while and with a different group. Turns out the players in there were looking to move on up and get into some of the more top tier content in the game. Instead of trying to transition from a 10 man to a 25 man guild, they were toying with the idea of flat out signing on with a 25 man guild.

The beauty of the current state of raiding is that players can easily cross-realm on any difficulty. For the past month, we’ve been raiding with many of these players and they didn’t have to change servers at all yet. A few of them made the leap earlier on because they liked what they were seeing. Some others are still holding off for now, but it seems an amicable solution for everyone.

Conquest veterans can be rested a little more on the earlier encounters to conserve energy and mental fortitude for some of the more challenging bosses like Thok and Blackfuse.

Newer players are embracing the challenge and accessibility of heroic raids. Many of them actually fit right in with no problem. Of course, a few of them are understandably upset since they used to be the top dog in their former organization but are now being completely out DPS’d by sheer differences in gear alone. But that’s obviously an easy problem to resolve.

Our raid has received a notable shot of adrenaline, at least!

A post-Blizzcon release

How about that cinematic, eh?

Along with the November 13, 2014 release date?

That’s quite some time away! I was really hoping for an earlier release but it wasn’t meant to be, I guess. Blizzard’s stated time and time again that they’re committed to providing a more timelier expansion release.

What are your thoughts on the 2.5 week leveling period? Raids don’t open until week 1 of December. In previous expansions, raids opened up exactly a week after. I understand their rationale for Warlords in that they didn’t want to release the game during Remembrance Day (November 11th) and then there’s the American Thanksgiving holiday the week after. In theory, I could relax my levelling speed a bit.

But c’mon, my pride is on the line here.

I was beaten to the level cap in the guild for the first time in Mists when I had been the sole title owner from Burning Crusade, to Wrath, and to Cataclysm.

By a non-Asian, no less!

Need to regain my title here!

For more thoughts on the levelling process and the release date, check out the recent episode of The Edge!

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BlizzCon: Networking 101

When the first set of alpha invites came out for Warlords of Draenor, I couldn’t help but notice that there were plenty of disappointed people. Hey, completely understandable. Everyone wants to get in and take a sneak peek at the upcoming expansion even though it’s all partially developed and incomplete.

Here’s what bothers me though.

I observed on my Twitter stream (among others) that many people felt that they deserved to get a shot at it. They blog about the game. They create videos for it. They’re an influencer or someone who is up and coming in the community.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself “Who are these people?”. Yes, it’s one thing to produce quality work. Yes, your work should speak for itself. But no one’s going to know how awesome you are unless you network and promote yourself. I get that as gamers, many of us tend to be introverts. We shy away from large crowds. We don’t like doing the hand shaking or the high-fiving.

Actually, even if you’re not some content producer and you want to meet some terrific individuals, then this is a post for you.

If you really don’t give a fajita about meeting other people at all, then skip the post.

If you want to maximize your BlizzCon experience and build some terrific memories and relationships, for cryin’ out loud keep reading.

Really though, you can take these guidelines and apply it to meeting just about anyone. It could be a Blizzard employee, a cosplayer, shoutcaster, a blogger, YouTube personality, or what have you.

The preparation

Shower. It’s a wonder I even have to mention this. But please shower and apply some deodorant. For the men, I recommend Old Spice (but not Fiji because that one’s mine). Go easy on the deoderant spray. Holy hell, let’s not turn BlizzCon into the boys locker room where people were spraying Axe willy nilly. It should go without saying but, brush your teeth too. Actually, just practice good hygiene in general.

Know who to engage. This is a bit of a no-brainer. I’m assuming you have an idea of who you want to go up to and say hi.

Dress to impress. Don’t dress up like a slob. Luckily, you’re at BlizzCon so the dress code isn’t too formal or strict. Literally anything that’s a t-shirt or better will do. For the men, if you want to go one-up, shoot for polos or a dress shirt. Shorts, jeans, or slacks will suffice for the bottom. If you’re Canadian like me, then you’re limited to shorts because damn it’s hot. You’ll be doing a ton of walking and standing around, so pick shoes that will help you feel at ease.

For the women, I asked BlizzCon veteran Elke (@plumwd) for her thoughts. First thing she said to me was to think comfort during the day! Wear comfortable shoes, because walking on the concrete inside the convention center will quickly kill your feet after a few short hours. Save the heels for hanging out afterwards.  If you’re frequently cold, be sure to bring a light jacket or sweater to wear inside the con. Despite the masses it can get chilly (at least, for her it does). Ultimately, you’re going to want to be comfortable because you’re going to be standing in many lines or sitting for a long time waiting for your favorite panel. If you wear makeup, be sure to bring what you need for touch ups with you such as oil blotting tissue, lipstick, powder, etc. You’ll be happy to have it handy.  Plan outfits for both day and night. Think more causal and comfort for while you’re inside the con, and then maybe something dressier for the evening. You never know who you’re going to meet or the opportunities that may present themselves for adventures in the evening. I always bring at least one business casual outfit just in case.

Best practices

Approach from the front, not the sides or rear. Chances are, the person you want to speak with is already in a conversation. Wait for a gap in the conversation. Make eye contact or even do a little wave. It usually catches their attention.

Have a conversation starter in mind. It’d be a little embarrassing to go up to someone, introduce yourself, and then have nothing to say. Have a conversation topic or two in mind. Remember, that you’re at BlizzCon and you’re there largely because you’re passionate about Blizzard’s universes.

For example, if I were to meet my buddy @Elvinelol for the first time I’d say something like “Hi Elvine! I’m Matt! I wanted to thank you for establishing the LF BlizzCon site. It really bailed out some of my guildmates who almost couldn’t make it”. If you’re really not sure what to talk about, just remember you’re both at the same convention.

Potential icebreakers include:

  • What did you think of that panel on [game/feature]…?
  • What are your thoughts on [feature/hero/gameplay aspect/character]…?
  • What inspired you to start getting involved with [project/video/blog/game]…?

A firm hand shake. Don’t be limp. Don’t lock them into a vice grip either. Since you may be drinking, ensure your beverage is in your left hand. You don’t want your first handshake to be super cold to the other person. If your hands are clammy or super sweaty, wipe them on your pants first.

Know when to disengage. Have you ever had a friend overstay their welcome when you invited them over? You’re all relaxing and having a good time watching Game of Thrones and sharing stories about your recent escapades. The next thing you know, it’s 2:30 AM and they’re on your couch completely oblivious to the time still expecting you to entertain them. Look, you’re not going to be the only one going up to and saying hi to your favourite personalities. Give them a bit of space. Keep the time of day in mind. It’s one thing to approach a person you admire during the day. It’s another when it’s late in the evening. Ask them for a card or their email if you wish to continue to stay in touch. If not, close off with a “It’s great to meet you!” and meander away. 

I would not end a conversation with a hug unless the other person initiates and if you’re comfortable with it. I’ve witnessed many “oh god, oh god, oh god, why am I being hugged” faces and it did not look fun. Hand shakes, fist bumps, or waves are acceptable.

(Seriously, personal space).

Body language matters. Chest out. Shoulders wide. Smile. Doesn’t have to be a cheesy or fake grin. But a half smile or a slight smirk will make you look more approachable. No one’s going to want to talk to someone who has their arms crossed and shoulders hunched over with a frown on their face. You’re oozing signs of “I don’t want to talk to anyone, leave me alone”. Look approachable! Your mental state has a subconscious effect on your body. When you’re down, you tend to look a little more dejected. You might have a slight frown. But little known tip, it works both ways. Faking it till you make it can trick your mind. Adopting a more confident and cheerful stance seems to have an impact on mood. Works for me, it might for you! If you’re apprehensive out there, stand up straight, force a smile, and throw out your chest. You might feel like an idiot but it’s a good thing people won’t be able to tell what you feel by looking at you. They’ll see a confident and inviting person who just might be cool to get to know.

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There’s a slight progression from George to Michael. But it’s all natural. No grins or anything but a slight smile is all that’s really needed to feel at ease. No one’s really showing any teeth here, except for Mila. Even then, it’s just barely noticeable. God, I love her.

Stupid Ashton.

Have a business card. If you think people are going to be able to recall your email or Twitter handle after a few days of partying and drinking, you’re sadly mistaken. Get a few business cards printed out. I suggest Moo Cards. Have your name, your website, and email or Twitter handle. I try to make an effort to email and message the individuals I’ve met up with as a follow up and to acknowledge their contributions to the WoW community.

How to make an introduction. I actually did a whole lot of this in previous years (@Itsxia and @Kristin can attest to this). I had friends and guildies who wanted to meet certain Blizzard staff or podcasters who I already had met before. Not only do you look like a hero, but you’ll help break the ice. “Hi AWESOME PERSON, I’d like to introduce you to my friend. She’s a big fan of your YouTube channel and plays a Priest. If you have a moment, she has a quick question about being a PvP player.” Then politely and quietly disengage out (and hit the bar).

Assume good intentions. This is a big one. Most of your interactions tend to be in the evening. Some people will be tired after walking around all day at the convention and might not be in the mood to talk right now. Maybe they’re giving you the cold shoulder. Try not to take it personally. Try to catch them later.

Accept defeat. Sometimes, you’ll run into someone who just isn’t interested in getting to know you. No matter how hard you try, they’re sending out all the wrong signals and just want nothing to do with you. It’s not your fault. It takes two to tango, remember? If you can’t dance with this partner, go find another one. Again, it isn’t your fault. This isn’t a game. You can’t simply just level up your social skills by annoying people. Going up to someone repeatedly when they turn you down isn’t going to make them want to open up to you after try number 30. These kinds of individuals are rare. For the most part, everyone I’ve spoken to has been polite and cordial at minimum.

Follow up. This is a big one. Once you’ve arrived at home, follow up with the people you met! Follow them on Twitter if you haven’t. Drop them an email. Send a message saying that you were delighted to meet them in person and mention your own blog or project for them to check out.

Nerves getting to you? Take a drink. Loosen up a bit. Remember that everyone is there to have a good time. The ones that don’t want to meet people usually bolt to their rooms or are off to the side somewhere within their own fortress of friends. No big deal.

At the end of the day, the BlizzCon experience is entirely what you make of it. No matter what happens, have some fun! Don’t be discouraged.

Of course, you’re free to say hi to me at any time. I promise, I won’t bite.

To the veteran con go-ers, what other pointers would you offer to the wid-eyed, bushy-tailed first time BlizzCon attendees when it comes to meeting new people?

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Shadow Priest Warlords Leveling not as Easy

As you might have guessed, I was one of the privileged few to have been offered a slot in the Warlords of Draenor friends and family alpha that went live a few days ago. I was quite intent on making my mark in Wildstar’s Nexus but I’ll have to put that on hold.

Unfortunately, only the Horde side is available for play meaning I had to create a Blood Elf priest.

I’ll need to take a long cold shower after this play session.

I feel so filthy.

Anyway, I’m not going to delve too much into garrisons too much. The only base building I can do effectively is in Starcraft 2. But, head over to BlizzPro for their hands-on with garrisons.

Just as I’ve done in previous expansions, I plan to blitz my way to the max level as quickly as I can. Each expansion brings with it new tools, new systems, and new spells to help that process.

spriest-leveling

For Shadow Priests, Warlords made it a little tougher. The changes to Shadow and the loss of certain healing spells slowed down leveling. No Renew means I can’t simply keep refreshing Renew whenever it wears off. It means I have to stop and eat more to replenish my health. Flash Heal is obviously no help since it wasn’t designed to top a player off quick in Shadow. Prayer of Mending’s cast time means it can’t just be applied on the run either. Divine Star also lost the healing component.

Thankfully, I can still rely on Power Word: Shield to soak at least some of the damage. Vampiric Embrace, glyphed Psychic Scream, and Dispersion are going to be workhorse cooldowns during the grind.

At the moment, I’m capped at level 92 but level 100 talents are unlocked and can be selected. Auspicious Spirits is a neat talent but Clarity of Power seems to be useful when grinding or farming mobs since you can just go straight to Mind Flay instead of applying a DoT that isn’t going to last the full duration anyway.

draenor-perk-unlocked These Draenor perks are actually quite nice. They offer bits of quality of life improvements. I managed to obtain the Enhanced Shadow Orbs perk quickly after hitting 91 and Enhanced Mind Flay at 92.

More to come later! I’ve got a Shaman I want to try out.

I have never seen healing or DPS numbers this low in a long time.

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Stop Covering for Other’s Bad Play!

The other day, I wrote a post on BlizzPro outlining the problems I had with people comparing themselves to others and that it compromised their own performance.
Today, I want to write about actually covering for someone else’s mistakes.
In a word, don’t.
Let them fail. It’ll be the only way your guild can grow stronger. If a player in raid consistently fails to execute a given role, one of these outcomes must occur.
  1. The player successfully learns and succeeds at a given task with enough time.
  2. The player fails and is subsequently replaced by someone who can.
Either way, the boss phase or mechanic that was inhibiting the raid from moving forward is no longer a problem. Now the raid can progress and deal with the next obstacle and repeat as needed.
Survival of the fittest, right?
If you find yourself constantly interrupting or CC’ing someone else’s assignment because they missed it, stop.
If you find yourself consistently sprinting to one of Malkorok’s puddles to prevent a raid explosion when it’s not yours, don’t.
Weaknesses in raids have to be exposed and identified in order for the group to grow stronger.
As a healer myself, I am extremely prone to not listening to my own advice. I will shield players who are standing in fire. I will Leap of Faith anyone who’s about to get destroyed by a Malkorok breath.
The thing is that I’ve ingrained myself to bail people out. The hallmark of a good healer is to be there when your team needs you. What I must continue to instill in myself is that it isn’t possible to be there every time. If the same player keeps failing to the same type of mistakes or sloppy play, the best thing I can do for them is to stop covering for them. My problem is that this is a habit I picked up in my younger years as a goalie. It was literally your job to help your team and make up for a defensive lapse.
It’s even worse for a GM or raid leader. You want so desperately for the raid to move on to the next boss and get to the next fight. You don’t want to wipe to the same thing repeatedly because you know if you do, morale is going to sink lower. Wiping to fights that were previously on farm? What a joke. What a waste of everyone’s time. We all want to wipe to the new stuff not the garbage that has been consistently cleared. So the GM puts everything on their shoulders. They find a way to put the raid on the back because it’s success at any cost and that’s the bottom line. Because if there isn’t success, it could eventually lead to a cascade of failures and a chorus of frustrated and annoyed players leaving for greener guilds.
In this day and age when recruiting is akin to fighting for scraps, GMs have to do everything they can to try to keep the veteran players around as much as they can and as long as they can. It often means doing some behind the scenes raid work and hiding the mistakes of other people from time to time. But there’s only so much that can be done.
I have watched guilds ahead of us disintegrate simply because their leaders and veteran players did everything they could to give their underwhelming players a chance to flourish. Whether it was due to a lack of caring or skill, the ones who tried just couldn’t do it. For whatever reason, they could not rise to the challenge. Seven years ago when I started this guild, I would’ve said I didn’t believe it. I would’ve said every player has the chance and the capability to succeed and match what was asked of them. Now, I’m not so sure.
Maybe I’m just getting bitter with every passing day. I was too blind to the reality that maybe, just maybe, some people suck. Call it a crisis of confidence. Not everyone can be a heroic raider. For the first time in my stewardship, I just don’t have a damn clue. Maybe the problems start at the top with me. Maybe a fresh change in vision in leadership is needed. Sports clubs undergo GM and coaching changes. It started off as just a whisper. Something tugging away inside in my head that maybe I am the problem. I just don’t know.
Anyway, back to my original point: Give your players the chances and opportunity to excel. But you can’t always be there to pick them back up.
Patch 6.0 can’t come soon enough.

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