Today I left my guild

Today I left my guild.

This decision has been months in the coming and yet, even now, I find myself struggling to type it out. There’s a mental block. A stubborn and insistent demand that maybe, if I don’t say anything about it, the issue will go away. But intellectually, I know this is not the case. I’ve been unhappy for months now, I cannot let fear of the unknown stop me. I am writing this out now, posting it for the whole wide internet to see not because I am angry and not because I want revenge, but because I need to get this off for my own sake. And I need to do it right.

Four years of faithful member and officership.

Over four years ago, I joined a brand new guild established on the idea of connecting the then WoW Insider, now Blizzard Watch fans. I was quickly made an officer, although back then, the guild didn’t have nearly as much structure as it does now. We were honestly more excited that the guild had even gotten off the ground than anything else.

The next year was a honeymoon period. The guild continued to grow and, with the help of the other officers (the corps was now being more established), I helped run social events and coordinate out of game communication. Everything was friendly and perfect and fun, and I know this is the image of the guild that is forever frozen in my mind. When the act of logging in could put an instant smile on my face.

An expansion came and went and eventually, our little guild decided to adventure into raiding. As is unavoidable, the switch from a purely social guild to a raiding social guild was a little bumpy and there was some hiccups along the path. But overall, the transition went incredibly smoothly and I finally got a chance to raid in an organized fashion for the first time. A bit later on and I found myself raid leading for the first time. Everything was fantastic.

Another expansion flew by, and our little guild started shifting again, this time in a direction I wasn’t so keen on. The leadership aspect, which I had always been a part of, started narrowing down to a few certain individuals calling the shots. Areas that used to fall under my responsibility were taken away from me, and I started hearing about big guild changes at the same time as the rest of the guild rather than ahead of time as seemed sensible for an officer.

When I brought up these frustrations, I was at first brushed off. Then, I was screamed at.

That should have been my warning.

But it wasn’t.

I told myself that I had so many other friends in the guild who made it worthwhile, so if I just played my cards right, everything would be ok. Tensions would smooth out. I would be able to talk to certain officers openly again. The honeymoon period would return.

In hindsight, I can see how ridiculous this all sounds, but at the time – and even a bit now – I was afraid of change. Afraid of leaving a guild full of all the people I knew in game. Afraid of the unknown world outside. Afraid of taking that leap. So, in my fear, I stayed, even as things worsened.

The trends which had bothered me before only increased. The size of our officer corps increased again, but the number of people making the decisions shrank. Social events, which used to be the bread and butter of our guild, fell off the wayside as I was the only officer making an effort to continue them. As a high school teenager with a life outside of the game, I just didn’t have time to run everything and no one else would step up. Instead, the focus became almost exclusively about raiding.

I do want to be clear here, I have no problems with hardcore raiding. If anything, the opposite is true, I loved the notion of going into Mythic and chasing that realm first. But what bothered me so much was how we were going about it. Our game plan was unclear and unrealistic. We wouldn’t do enough to proactively bring up low DPS or HPS numbers. And, the part that bothered me most, we were focusing on higher tiered progression raiding almost to the detriment of every other aspect of the guild.

As the weeks and then months went on, my concerns started to transform into something else: the inescapable feeling that I was not wanted. Whether this was perceived or real, I found I could not shake it. Slowly but surely, the game turned from an escape into something I would escape from. Chatting in guild became a chore. Keeping an upbeat attitude on voice chat became a challenge. And finally, raiding itself, one of my favorite parts about this game, became an absolute nightmare.

It got to the point where my guild-related stress was leaking into other aspects of my life, unrelated to video games. I got some pretty major awards recently, including being selected to be the speaker at my graduation, and I found I was so distracted by guild stuff that I couldn’t even enjoy that news. And this was something I’d been dreaming about since freshman year!

The final straw.

The final straw came Sunday evening. While in the middle of an Antorus raid, I happened to check my guild note. Rather than the cheerful ‘Fussypants!’ I had on almost all of my characters, I found something radically different.

‘Fussybitch’.

Someone had edited my note to say ‘Fussybitch’.

I do not know who changed it. I do not know why. But at that moment, I was shattered. In that instant, my guild had turned from a friendly, welcoming place, to one where I would spend the rest of my days wondering just who’d edited my guild note. Adding that onto my general stress and guild frustrations, it was too much. My guild was no longer home.

(I want to be clear here, throughout that time period where I was becoming more and more unhappy with my guild, I was very careful to remain as friendly and cheerful as I had ever been. Whenever I felt I was too upset or emotional to play, I would always log off and step away rather than bring that baggage into the guild as a whole. I am sure those who know me well probably could tell that I was upset, but I made sure to keep that out of the atmosphere. The note wasn’t inspired by that.)

For my own sanity, I can’t keep acting as if everything’s ok. I can’t keep ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away. I can’t keep making excuses, both for myself and others. I can’t keep this up.

So, for that reason, I left my guild today.

To those of you still in the guild who may be reading this, please don’t take this as me trying to get you to leave. What I wrote about here are entirely my own experiences, and they may well have nothing in common with yours. I am not trying to convince anyone other than myself that I made the right choice.

To those of you with whom I was a friend, I hope this is not the end. I truly, truly have enjoyed playing with you guys for these past couple of years, and it is because of you that I stayed around for so long. Please keep me on Battle.net, keep me on Twitter, keep me on Discord and don’t be afraid to reach out at any time. I understand if it is no longer feasible to stay friends but, regardless, I want you to know that I wish you the very best.

What comes now? Well, that, I’m not sure. This guild has been such a huge part of my World of Warcraft experience, that I’m having a hard time imagining the game without it. And additionally, with college coming up, I don’t know how much I will be able to play Warcraft. I want to keep playing, this game has been an enormous part of my life after all, but with this chapter ending, I do not know what the next one holds. I do intend to finish out this expansion strong, but after that, the future is unclear.

But one thing is clear. I am done being passive when I am hurt. I am done being silent when I am excluded. And I am done waiting for a better day to come tomorrow.

I am going to go find that day myself.

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Antorus First Impressions

Today was the day! With rosy cheeks and bright eyes, the raid teams of <of The Queue> descended upon Antorus the Burning Throne in a quest to save all of Azeroth (and also get some sweet, sweet loots). After a two hour raid night tonight, my team got through seven of the eleven bosses in normal difficulty, meaning that I’ve now seen a good chunk of the instance. Despite my lack of sleep (life has gotten very busy!), I absorbed a lot of information during those two hours of pulls!

The biggest thing I noticed right off the bat was that Blizzard definitely learned their lesson from Tomb; the first couple bosses of Antorus were much more in-line with the expected difficulty level. It wasn’t until Kin’garoth that my group wiped, and even there we only got stuck for a couple of pulls.

I will admit that my raid team is overgeared for this difficulty but this only goes to prove that, unlike Tomb, Antorus encounters can be outgeared. That was definitely a problem in Tomb – no matter how good your gear was, mechanics still had to be executed perfectly to avoid some sort of raid wipe mechanic. While I don’t think better gear should allow a group to totally roflstomp a zone, gear should definitely make an encounter easier and smooth over any minor mistakes. Antorus has done a much better job of balancing these two forces.

Partly due to my own bleary exhaustion and partly due to the fact that we tore through them so quickly, I honestly don’t remember a lot of the details from most of the bosses. The general impression that I got though, was definitely a raid with a lot of movement. As a holy paladin who’s built herself around Light of the Martyr instant casts, I was totally digging it! But, I can see more stationary classes not enjoying that as much.

One fight that did stick out to me though, was the Eonar fight. First of all, the room was absolutely gorgeous. Titan glowing technology everywhere mixed with plants and green, it was truly a beautiful room! Unfortunately, the fight itself felt… weird. There was a lot of running around to fight different groups of adds (presumably to stop them from attacking Eonar’s spirit or somesuch like that) and then, very suddenly, an achievement flashes up and we win. No boss, no final adds wave (that I could tell), just finish off this pack and we’re all done here. I suspect that this fight will be a lot more involved in Heroic because in Normal, it definitely felt very “LFR Desolate Host, but there’s actually no Desolate Host”. I honestly spent more time enjoying the scenery and tracking down the group than I did executing mechanics, and everyone’s health was totally fine.

Later on was Kin’garoth, who, as I’ve previously touched on, was definitely a step up from everything preceding him. Dubbed the Soup Boss by a sleep-deprived Pants, Kin’garoth featured not only a beam of death, but also balls of raid-wide AoE, an immunity phase, and two large adds which needed to be burned down as fast as possible. It definitely took us a pull or two to figure out that we needed to focus down the purple construct first as well as how to effectively avoid his almost instant kill zap. Once we got those two things down though, we were all set.

I did notice that there was a little big of awkward mechanics overlap (throwback to Fallen Avatar), but unlike the bosses in Tomb of Sargeras, we could actively control which mechanics overlapped by prioritizing a different add over another. I like that a lot; it gives teams the ability to tailor the fights to the mechanics they can better counter, making for a more engaging experience.

We got one quick pull in on Varimathras before the two hours was up, wiping at about 50% health and lots of mechanics still to work out (I’m looking at you, Misery), but I’m pretty confident that the team will be able to get him down at our second raid night of the week. Unfortunately, due to a metric ton of conflicts, I won’t be able to attend that raid so I’ve got a week to wait before I can jump back in. That just gives me plenty of time to get all excited again, right?

All in all, I’m super stoked for the new raid! Raiding is, by far, my favorite aspect of the game, and as much as I like having familiar fights down to a science, I also really love experiencing new ones! I have good feelings about my raid team’s progression in this tier, and I can’t wait to unlock that final cut scene for the first time (I always try to avoid spoiling it until I can see it myself). Bring on the Burning Throne!

Tomb of Sargeras Recap

It’s Antorus Eve guys! Come tomorrow’s reset (for US realms, at least), the next raid tier will be upon us, bringing us new baddies, mechanics, and, of course, loot! However, before we entirely dive into the next raid, I want to take a moment to reflect upon the retiring giant, Tomb of Sargeras.

While the Tomb of Sargeras did perhaps have one too many soak mechanic and five too many RNG raid-wiper, I have to say, it was a pretty entertaining raid. The instance pretty adeptly avoided the issue of being ‘all demon’ like it threatened to be when announced. Each boss fight was different enough from each other so as to be memorable and independent. There were some spots that were perhaps tuned too tightly and a few mechanics that were incredibly unforgiving, but all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time closing the portal to Azeroth.

However, no raid review is complete without a blow by blow analysis of each raid boss, right?

Goroth

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic, Mythic
Best Known For: Nothing. This boss was a literal cakewalk
Attributes: +5 to Bowling
            +3 to Hide and Seek 
            +2 to Nap Time

I’ll be honest, Goroth was the boss I have the least number of kills on. Not because he’s super hard or anything – actually, quite the reverse is true. My raid team would often kill him before I was even able to get online to raid, that’s just how simple the mechanics were. While I did enjoy bowling for spikes the few times I did fight this boss, overall, he was pretty forgettable. But, as the first boss in an instance, that is just the perfect warm up.

Demonic Inquisition

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Annoying Target Switching (even I, as a healer, knew this)
Attributes: +4 to Dispel Mechanic 
            +2 to Belly Realm 
            +3 to Torment

After the faceroll that was Goroth, Inquisition was definitely a rude awakening. There was some sort of interrupt thing (look, I heal this stuff, ok?) and an annoying target swap along with the classic balancing act of accruing Torment vs DPSing, a lot to juggle while also getting your Calcified Quills out of the raid group so you don’t spike your friends up into the air. There wasn’t anything particularly unique or compelling about the bosses’ models or dialogues, which all in all, made the whole encounter rather bland. Definitely not one of my favorites.

Harjatan

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: HUG THE TANK
Attributes: +7 to Murlocs 
            +4 to Water Puddles 
            +3 to Stacking

While he wasn’t the most original of bosses, I quite liked the Harjatan fight (except for the fact that the druid and shaman healers on my team always whooped my butt on the meters with all the stacking). I liked the fact that everyone took one of the boss’s massive blows to the face, don’t ask me why, I just liked it. The panicked spreading during the frosty bit too, was awesome fun from a healer perspective to drop some massive numbers, before we all got back together to hug the tanks. It was a simple fight, for sures, but gratifying!

Mistress Sassz’ine

Nickname: Mistress Splashyfrass
Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Get in the Green Beams! and The Best Healing Trinket of the Tier ™
Attributes: +13 to Save Your Friends 
            +5 to WHALE 
            +2 to Run around and Panic

I will be honest: the first couple times I did this fight, I absolutely hated it. The mechanics were completely unforgiving in comparison to what had come before. The Hydra Shot damage was immense and very, very spikey. And there was just so. much. going. on! But, as time went on and I got better at the fight, I found myself falling in love with Mistress Splashyfrass. As a holy paladin, I discovered an awesome rhythm to the fight which resulted in that being one of my best bosses performance-wise. The chaos in the last phase was insane, but manageable, and the only person I could kill was myself. And did I mention, there were whales??

However, one piece of loot that the Mistress drops deserves a paragraph all to itself. Sea Star of the Depthmother. For every single healer on our team, and perhaps in the universe, this was the trinket to have. The proc rate was insane, and often off of frequently used spells. It was god-mode. And, unfortunately, I had terrible luck rolling for it. I spent months farming for this trinket. Months. I saved a coin every raid reset, and would consistently pug it when our raid was progressing elsewhere in the instance.

And then finally, one fateful evening, I got it to drop.

(Actually, I didn’t at all, a friend who was with me on the run did and he passed it to me.)

But I got it.

And from that day, everything changed.

Just like the beloved Cake! from last tier, I suspect I’ll be hanging onto my Sea Star for many moons to come.

Sisters of the Moon

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Being a Single Target Fight, Despite Looking like a Multi-Target Fight
Attributes: +3 to Moons! 
            +4 to Absorption Shields 
            +18 to Kill Your Framerates

The room of this boss was gorgeous. Hands down, I think this was one of the prettiest rooms of the instance. The floor… the floor was a moon that changed throughout the fight! Unfortunately though, this beautiful room very quickly would kill my poor ol’ computer, which meant I frequently did this boss with 15 frames per second or less. Not exactly the best experience! On a mechanics level, the Sisters had a healthy balance of fun mechanics and finicky ones. Clearing your stacks of Moon or Shadow debuffs on the floor was fun in theory but bothersome in practice. The pink beam of “Split this with your friends!” was very rarely split with friends because of when it came up in the fight. On the flip side though, I really enjoyed the absorption shield that needed to be healed off (really, any healer specific mechanics are a lot of fun!). Any excuse for big burst numbers is a win in my book!

The Desolate Host

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Split Realms
Attributes: +2 to Adds 
            +1 to Ancient Night Elven Burial Ground 
            +6 to The Hokey Pokey

While this boss was a total maze to get to (and a pain to leave from), I quite liked the Desolate Host. The change in mechanics from Normal to Heroic completely changed the way our raid team did the fight, making it much more interesting from a progression point of view. And I really dug the split realms since it put a lot more personal responsibility on each member of the raid. The fight did seem a bit long, but, on the bright side, once you got to the actual boss, you were pretty much golden. Oh, and Spirit Side is the Best Side!

Maiden of Vigilance

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: COLORS. MOTHER OF PEARL, COLORS.
Attributes: +8 to Identifying Colors 
            +3 to Catching Balls 
            +5 to JUMP IN THE HOLE

Maiden was a boss that was either awesome… or awful. Who woulda thought that identifying colors would have turned out to be one of the most difficult mechanics Blizzard added in this tier? (For those of you who are colorblind, I have nothing but respect because I have no idea how you folks could do this fight.) At first, I really loved the idea of purposefully jumping into the hole at the center of the room, but the novelty of that quickly wore off after a few bugged explosions that resulted in a very, very long fall. Maiden, when it was going well, felt like a well oiled machine of stacking and spreading, running on the rails and collecting the same colors. When she was going poorly, it was a hot mess where one accident led to another, led to another, led to an explosion, and ended in a wipe. The best part: not even when we had her on farm were we safe!

Fallen Avatar

Nickname: Grunty (the Maiden) and Smashy (the Avatar)
Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Terrible Mechanics Overlaps
Attributes: +5 to Grunting 
            +5 to Smashing 
            +9 to RNG

Avatar… was not a fun boss. I’ll go ahead and say it. The fight was tuned rather tightly and the mechanics often overlapped in the most unfortunate ways. You have to run across the room to converge onto one point to burst through the Maiden’s shiel- but oh wait! It’s Unbound Chaos so instead you need to run away from all your allies or they will kill you! The bottom phase was just as aggravating with its Dark Marks throwing people every which way and the tornadoes which always seem to be headed straight for you and just- ugh! Not a ton of fun! There was just too much going on: far too many instant death, and, worse still, raid wipe mechanics. Adding to this, the Maiden’s grunts were just so danged loud! C’mon woman, I know you’re fighting and all that, but could you keep it down?

Kil’jaeden

Gotta get that boss kill shot in for this guy!

Nickname: The Guild Breaker
Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Being Absolutely and Completely Awful
Attributes: +9999 to Soaking Swirlies 
            +9999 to Burning Adds 
            +9999 to Knockbacks 
            +9999 to Darkness 
            +9999 to Weeping

I completely accept that the final boss of a raid tier needs to be difficult. I absolutely understand that the final boss must include challenging mechanics. I 100% buy that the final boss will require a lot of wipes before it is downed.

But Kil’jaeden? That was just mean.

The Deceiver rightfully earned his reputation as the Guild Breaker. The mechanics were unyielding. The timers could so easily go wrong. And even one Armageddon swirl missed pretty much meant a wipe, if not right away, then some point later due to healer mana loss. Kil’jaeden was tuned way too tightly, to the point of being painful rather than challenging. Progressing on him often felt like throwing oneself against a brick wall over and over while praying for change.

I still don’t understand why Illidan made us go find him in that darkness (what a jerk!). I still don’t understand which way the obelisks would do their zap. I still don’t understand why Fel Claws needed to hit like a dump truck going down a steep hill.

Luckily, after tomorrow, I won’t have to.

Despite a very brutal ending, I still have to say, Tomb of Sargeras was a decent raid. The bosses each felt different from the preceding, and with a variety of themes and designs, there was far less ‘demon burn-out’ than I feared. While not my favorite raid of all times, I definitely think that Tomb of Sargeras will be ranked pretty solidly up there due to a number of strong features. Just please, no more Kil’jaedens any time soon!

Onwards, to Argus!

Crazy Raid Tales: The Mysterious Monk

Not pictured: Zong

When you do a thing for a long enough amount of time, you start collecting stories about it. There’s a lot of odd people in the world after all, so you’re bound to run into one at some point. Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite crazy raid tales, one that to this day remains shrouded in mystery. Gather round, gather round and listen to my tale.

A long time ago in an expansion far, far away….

He was a monk tank. Recruited from trade chat, no other connection to the guild, quiet but seemed like a pretty nice guy. Our raid team was consistently attracting more than 30 bodies a night, which meant it was time for the Great Raid Split of Warlords of Draenor. The team that I was to raid lead was in need of a tank. In stepped the newcomer monk, Zong.

Zong obviously had another main guild on a different server and he mentioned as much. But that wasn’t so unusual in itself – many of our members still called a different guild home. No, this wasn’t what made Zong strange at all.

Nor was it his behavior at raid. With strong mitigation and a good grasp on his class, Zong made a fine tank. He was chipper in Mumble and seemed to a pretty nice, normal guy. The only thing you could maybe find against him was his habit of showing up exactly when raid was scheduled to start. But still, nothing out of the ordinary.

Then one day, I get a message from him.

“Hey Pants, just wanted to let you know I might be out the next coming weeks.”

“Oh ok, any particular reason?”

“Yeah, I’m going to be in court.”

Thinking nothing of it, I asked when he expected to return.

“Well, I could either be back in time for next raid night or you may not see me for a very long time.”

“How long is a very long time?”

“Months, years maybe.”

At this point, I was a touch nervous. Did I need to find a completely new tank? And what exactly was going on that would take him away from game for potentially years?

“Mind if I ask why you might be out for so long?”

“Well I can’t really access my laptop in jail.”

“Oh….kay?”

“Yeah so it just depends on how the trial does tomorrow.”

“Well, good luck!”

“Thanks!”

So our main tank was more than just a quiet nice guy, he was also in trouble with the law. Judging by the description of months or maybe years, this wasn’t something silly like parking in the handicapped space. Whatever he had done, it must have been bad enough to land him in jail for years. And yet, he’s been so chipper and open about it. Just who was Zong??

A few days later, I heard from Zong again in an in game mail.

“Hey Pants, just wanted to let you know that the trial went well and I will be able to raid with you guys! See you next raid night.”

I was… torn. On one side, yay! I don’t have to frantically find a new tank in time for the next raid. On the other side, was this really a good thing for society? Was Zong some sort of master criminal just released to break the law again? Who was Zong??

Unfortunately, I never got to answer that question. Zong joined us again for one more raid before suddenly and unexpectedly leaving the guild and cutting all communication. And being me, all I can imagine is that he is now out there, somewhere in the world, mixing martial arts and crime as some super-villan sort of figure. Or maybe he’s sitting somewhere behind bars, digging behind a poster with a pick.

Or maybe he just went back to his old guild.

All I know is he ain’t smashing kegs for us anymore.

The End to Traditional Raid Sets?

Ahh, gotta love some of these earlier ones!

Yesterday, GameInformer released a summary of their Blizzcon interview with game director Ion Hazzikostas. While the article is rather scant on specific detail (I would imagine the full transcript of that interview will become available later), the main piece of news coming from the interview is that the traditional system of Raid Tier Sets is going away in Battle for Azeroth. The article then speculated that the new Azerite system might take it’s place, allowing players far more flexibility in both abilities modified and pieces of gear equipped.

The information about this thus far is really, really lacking (the article was only about three paragraphs afterall), but I have to say, I’m definitely intrigued to see how this change would pan out. Juggling tier and better loot has always been the bane of my existence, a situation that has only gotten worse in Legion. It’s a little soulcrushing to get brand new loot that would be good if it weren’t in a tier or legendary slot. I’m glad to see that Blizzard is awknowleding this problem and working to solve it. However, I think this plan, for what we know right now, has potential goods, bads, and just plain unknowns.

The Good

Gear Flexibility!

Like I mentioned before, removing the requirement to wear certain pieces of gear to maintain a four set bonus gives the players a lot more choice in what they equip. Especially now in the world of Metzenforging (as my guild lovingly calls it), massive upgrades often have to be shelved because they do not proc in one of the ‘Free Spaces’ that is our Bingo board of gear.

For myself personally, I’ve had the same Normal Warforged Tier shoulders on since I got them one of the first nights of Tomb of Sargeras, despite having several sets of shoulders that are significantly better stat wise, in order to maintain my four set. That’s incredibly frustrating. The RNG nature of gearing can already be very irksome, so that added disappointment of not being able to use upgrades is just insult to injury. If I get an ilvl 945 chest piece with enough critical strike to fill an ocean, I want to be able to use it, darn it!

Faster Gearing Up Process! (potentially)

As it currently stands right now, raiders are locked behind a time gate in regards to tier. There are a set number of bosses that drop tier, and those bosses drop a set number of tier tokens (depending on your group size) each week. Those tokens can then either proc Protector, Vanquisher, or Conqueror, locking that item to specific classes. Perhaps one week you get lucky, and the boss drops one of each type of armor. But perhaps you get unlucky, and every token is a Vanquisher helm. And we haven’t even touched on group composition yet; suppose your raid has a ton of people on the Protector token and very little on the Conqueror token. Your paladin tank will get their four piece almost right away, but your hunters and warriors are straight out of luck with so many people rolling on, comparatively, so few pieces.

For many classes, because of the necessity of the four piece bonus, certain tier pieces are their Best in Slots. Players will keep from rolling on other, non-tier pieces in tier slots because they are holding out for that tier drop. But because so many classes overlap on the same token, your Best in Slot chest comes from the same token that five other people do, even if folks are different armor classes or spec priorities. That’s a lot of artificially created competition in an arena that, I’d argue, already has plenty. Chasing after those tier bonuses adds weeks to the gearing up process.

However, if I’m interpreting the article correctly, it sounds as if Tier Tokens might be done away with entirely (since there would no longer be any slots for raid sets). If that is the case, then raiders will no longer have to wait for weeks to get those bonuses. Gearing up would increase exponentially, since an entire extra layer of RNG would be removed. Absolutely, there would still be the RNG-laden hunt for BiSs, but players would be competing with a much narrower pool of competition. The number of potential upgrades would jump from just a few non-tier slot to practically every single one. Even as someone on the often underrepresented Conqueror token, I would have to say that this is a very, very positive change.

The Bad

The Future of Class Raid Appearance Sets Unclear

The article was particularly vague on this topic (and I could have completely misconstrued it), but from what it sounds like, with the move away from tier set bonuses, Blizzard was also going to be moving away from tier set appearances. Potentially. According to Hazzikostas, “the gear will be more heavily themed from the place it comes […] there’s more customization we want to express through the new Azerite system”, which could mean any number of things. Will there still be class appearance sets, but upgrading a specific slot will augment the look and make it cooler? Will they move away from class-inspired sets to a couple of more general raid appearances? And how will transmog for all of this work?

You guys can read the original quote for yourself in the article, but the impression I’m getting is definitely a lot of column B. And I have to say, I’m a bit sad about that. While some sets are definitely more appealing than others, I’ve always loved the look of one unified look for each class per raid tier. There’s an excitement in the initial reveal. And the class fantasy is pretty great (especially for paladin that headcanon’s a very traditional paladin persona). This is absolutely not the worst thing in the world, but if class appearances sets truly are pulled, I will be saddened.

The Unknown

Honestly, for everything that I’ve talked about thus far, the singular unifying idea right now is that there’s just so little information. Without the full transcript of the interview, we can’t get a solid glimpse at what Hazzikostas was describing. It might turn out that all of the ideas I proposed are moot point in just a couple months (although, it’s always fun to speculate now!). Here are some of my biggest questions regarding the switch that I just couldn’t comment on without more information.

⦁ Will the Azerite system act as a replacement with more options?
⦁ Will every piece of Azerite gear in the same slot have the same ‘talents’, or will it vary by piece?
⦁ If the latter, how many different talent options would there be?
⦁ Will talents be changeable?
⦁ Speaking of the Azerite system, how exactly does that thing work?
⦁ Are you planning on adding set bonuses to specific pieces of gear (i.e. a matching ring and cloak would unlock a small bonus)?
⦁ Any retroactive changes to older tier?
⦁ …And a whole lot more.

I’m hoping more information about this will be available soon since this is potentially one of the bigger shake-ups for the raiding scene that Blizzard has implemented. And hey, if I no longer have to scare people off my tier token, I’m down for that!

Tentatively Thrilled to Tank

I never think to take screenshots at the time, so please enjoy these after the fact images

With Antorus on the horizon, we have official reached the twilight hour of Tomb of Sargeras. For my raid team, since we’ve all gotten our Ahead of the Curve achievements, this has meant that we are in a period of relaxation. Our typical raid nights have changed from progression focused to alt focused as we push as far as we can into Heroic ToS in the five hours we have each week.

Even for someone like me, who loves her Holy Paladin to the ends of the earth, these alt-nights have been a fun break from a spec I probably play too much of. Heck, even a fun break from a role I play too much of. For the first couple of nights, I brought a DPS character, and learned that, despite my best intentions, I am not very good at damage dealing classes.

Many moons ago, my mage was my predominant raiding character. I would sling ice at whatever threats faced Azeroth. I eventually switched over to healing full time (and never looked back) but my gnome mage has always held a special place in my heart. And one day, I always hoped to get back into the raiding groove with her.

My triumphant return was a lot less triumphant and a lot more terrible. I’d thought I’d kept my mage pretty well geared and prepped all things considered, but I could barely pull my own weight. Even more embarrassingly, I died almost every single pull. Keep in mind, these are boss fights I have done dozens upon dozens of times. I know them so well I can do them in my sleep. But somehow, I could not make the jump from healing them to DPSing them.

Alright so, mage is a bust, what about some of my other characters? Maybe a melee DPS? I brought in my monk and was met with even worse results, despite the fact that my monk’s gear is a tad stronger. Now this was just getting silly!

I was beginning to think that healing was just about the only thing I could do. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world; there’s enough different healing styles that I don’t think I could ever get bored. But I’m supposed to have a competent offspec for raiding and, judging by my performance, it’d probably make more sense for me to sit than to bring a DPS character.

But then, I found it. My second calling. And it was in one of the most unexpected places.

This past Saturday, more as a joke than anything else, I joined raid in protection spec on my paladin. My gear wasn’t the best in the world but really, the bigger hurdle was that, other than an odd mythic+ here or there, I hadn’t tanked all expansion. I only vaguely knew what my abilities did. I certainly didn’t know what the tank mechanics were other than the ones I had to heal through. And yet, there I was, joke-threatening to tank Heroic Maiden.

Maybe they had faith or maybe they were just as crazy as I was, but my guild gave me the go ahead and I, joined with one of the main tanks, gave it a whirl. And… we didn’t die right away. And then, when we did wipe, it wasn’t my fault. What is this sorcery?

As I discovered, quite literally on the job, Heroic Maiden isn’t too difficult of a fight to tank. The only major mechanic is the taunt off after every infusion or smash (depending on what your own infusion is). A quickie cooldown or Eye of Tyr for each Hammer Smash and I was pretty much golden!

We tightened up mechanics on Maiden a bit and then got her down within the first half hour of raid, no mean feat considering the number of alts and folks who’d never seen the fight before. I even netted a pretty slick tanking trinket (to replace one of my healing ones I’d been wearing because I was suuuuuper prepared). Next up was something a lot harder: Heroic Avatar.

As we’re riding the elevator down, one of the other main tanks who was on a DPS alt for the night whispered me, warning about the difficulties of the next boss. Grunty and Smashy, as they are affectionately called by my guild, are mean like bees and unforgiving to tank error. And, not only was I new to this fight, I was also playing a protection paladin, a spec that had encountered additional difficulties with almost all of the Tomb of Sargeras bosses.

Not pictured: Me flying off approximately 3 seconds later because of his knock back ability

Still, I wanted to give it at least a couple gos. After all, I’d just gotten a new tanking trinket and now had a somewhat stronger idea of what my tanking CDs did! I pulled up my belt, taunted the Maiden, and we were off.

I very quickly learned that Heroic Maiden is a walk in the park compared to Heroic Avatar. The fight features two mobs, the Avatar and a Maiden, that needed to each be tanked by one of the tanks for the start of the fight. The tanks would then switch who they were tanking after the person handling the Avatar got two stacks of Devastate. This is further complicated by the fact that the Maiden has to be dragged all around the room to intercept beams of fel that are empowering the Avatar. And it was all just as hectic as it sounds.

I started with the Maiden and I won’t lie, it took me a few tries to get the taunt swaps mixed with the movement correct. Those first couple of pulls, there was just so much going on that I’d lose track of my own health and then forget to use a CD when I needed to and would very quickly end up as a splat on the floor. But before long, I found a rhythm.

Once I found that groove, I really started to get into it. There was something so steady and dependable about taunting off at the two stacks. And yet, the movement around the room kept the fight interesting and ever-changing. It was fun, and fun in a way I would have never expected. As the patterns got smoother and smoother, the stress of having the entire raid rely on myself began to fade away. I knew what I needed to do and knew how to do it. Unlike my DPS characters, when stuff went wrong, I could instantly identify where the error had occurred.

Even though we were wiping, I could have kept going for hours. The zone, as I like to think of it, is something I love so much about healing – a mindset where I’m totally on top of the encounter but also completely relaxed. I’ve never reached that with DPS characters. And yet, on my first night of tanking, in Heroic difficulty no less, I found it right away.

I’ve tried to get into tanking multiple times. I’ve tried leveling solely as tanks, tried testing it in battlegrounds, even tried throwing myself into mythic+s. But apparently, the push I needed, hilariously enough, was the high stress atmosphere of Heroic raids. That is something I never would have guessed!

The test going forward will be to see if this newfound excitement persists. I’ll probably never move past my love of healing, but tanking is promising to become a close second.  I can’t wait for the next raid!

Returning to Raiding

Our first N Gul'dan kill!

Our first Normal Gul’dan kill!

Last Wednesday, I ended an almost 2 month long hiatus and entered my first raid.  While it certainly wasn’t the triumphant return I had hoped for, I am glad that I chose to jump back in.

Nearing the end of November and beginning of December, I made the difficult decision to stop raiding.  Anyone who’s read this blog or knows me in Azeroth has probably figured out that raiding is my favorite WoW activity.  I like dungeons and I like transmog, but I really love raiding.  But back two months ago, my most favorite activity was rapidly become my least favorite and so I decided it was best to (potentially permanently) step away.

The first reason for this came down to something as simple as timing.  I was just so gosh darn busy that I could only make it to a handful of raids.  In some situations, this might not have been the end of the world but in this case, I found that I was actively gimping the team.  We were progressing through Heroic, maybe looking into venturing into Mythic, and I was one of the core healers.  Me being gone or late every other night was severely impacting progression.  So as much as I might have loved raiding with the team, the reality was, I was bad for the team.

The second reason was a lot more personal.  I’m not going to go into the details for the sake of those involved, but I did not feel welcome at raid.  Beginning even before my attendance started dropping off (so the issue wasn’t created by it), I truly felt as if some members of the team, mainly one person, just did not want me around.  I made a few attempts to talk to the person but it wasn’t getting anywhere.  Slowly but surely, the sense of vague animosity changed raiding from something I loved into something I dreaded.  So once my attendance got spotty, it was a lot simpler to say goodbye to raiding because the experience was already soured.

So there I was.  Maining a holy paladin and yet, not healing a thing.  As my hiatus dragged on, I found myself playing less and less Warcraft.  Not because of lack of time, but rather due to lack of interest.  And what’s worse, the friends I had made on my former raid team began to drift away.  I was still in the guild and still relatively active but because I wasn’t raiding anymore, I was no longer people’s first choice to talk to.  To be clear, I was never ignored or shunted.  I doubt anyone did it purposefully; it’s just when you don’t hang out with someone on a bi-weekly occasion anymore, they can slip out of sight, out of mind.  I don’t blame anyone one bit, but I was feeling incredibly lonely.

This dragged on and on.  It got to the point where I was logging in maybe twice a week, and only for a few hours at most.  Eventually, I sat back and took a good long look at the way things were.  Evaluated the problem and evaluated my part in it.  My schedule had pretty much cleared out at this point, so the only thing keeping me from re-engaging with my guild was my own reservations.  And instead of tackling the issue head on, I had decided to run away from it.

I decided then and there that enough was enough.  I loved raiding, it was my thing! And taking a break from it, while it had been necessary at the time, was not something I needed to do permanently.

And there was never a better time than right now to jump back in.  I started logging in again, gearing back up.  There was most undoubtedly a few bumps in the road but eventually I mustered the courage to approach the raid leader about the issue head on.  And then, I was back on the team, just in time for Nighthold.

The animosity from before was still there, but the guilt about bringing my team down was gone.  I had checked my schedule and found it surprisingly clear for months to come, meaning that attendance would not be an issue.  What’s more, my healing was better than it had ever been.  And, the majority of the team was super friendly in welcoming me back.

Still, I needed to talk to the person.  I delayed it for a few nights, thinking that maybe I was just being irrational and I should let it go.  But as one of my friends astutely pointed out, if it bothers me, it’s a legitimate problem.  And if it’s a legitimate problem, it’s going to need to be addressed.

Finally, I sat down and had the talk that had been months in the coming. I’m not sure how it impacted them (I hope positively as well) but I know it really, really helped me.  By no means is everything solved but I’ve taken a step in the right direction.  After nearly three months, I’m finally back home.

I had no idea how much of an impact raiding had on my life.  It’s kind of a silly thing to admit, “yeah, playing World of Warcraft every Wednesday and Saturday really helps me get through the week, y’know?”.  But it is honestly, so very true.  Raiding is my zen place.  Never do I feel more relaxed, more engaged, and more focused than when I am raiding. I truly do look forward to that two hour block at the end of the night.  And what’s more, I absolutely love my raid team.  I’ve come to realize that they are my family.  We may not always agree but at the end of the day, we’re all in it for each other.

And I’ll be all in it for them.