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So, what to do when, after quitting WoW, one realises that most single-player games are bug-ridden piles of dreck? Why, start playing a new MMO, of course!

Small because for some reason my connection's giving me hell with uploads. QQ.

Small because for some reason my connection’s giving me hell with uploads. QQ.

Weeelll… MMO might actually be stretching it a bit at this point. Face-to-face player interaction is pretty much limited to missions and clan halls.

The game is, at its core, a competent and rather pretty third-person shooter. It adds a few gimmicks like wallrunning and there’s a melee combat system that the devs promise will be getting some polish Any Day Now™. The main divergence is in the classes.

By now it’s pretty much no secret that I’m a raging altoholic. That means when I want to play a game, I want something where I can fire up a different character and have it play like nothing else in the game does. Warframe mixes up the shooter base with unique abilities based on the player’s titular Warframe – that being some sort of bizarre and usually slightly creepy bio-tech combat suit.

Each ‘frame has its own advantages and disadvantages. The starters are Excalibur, a sort of swordsman-type frame with a powerful AoE blind; Mag, a caster-type with magnetic abilities; and Loki, who really has little business being offered to new players, as he’s an advanced tactical stealth frame who really comes into his own once the player has acquired a few mods and knows their way around the game.

Mods? Mods. Mods are basically cards that slot into your frame and various weapons to give bonuses or abilities. All equipment levels up, from frame to melee weapon, but only the frame gains stats as it levels, and ten only at an incremental rate. The real strength unlocked by levelling is that it allows a larger budget for mods on an item. Mods also gain levels from fusing with other mods, and higher levels cost more points. This means that, while levelling, one can either equip a few levelled-up mods, or can diversify and equip several different bonuses.

There’s a polarity-matching system et cetera that’s a bit tedious to explain, but the net effect is that one has a surprising amount of leeway in build.

When starting out, one picks a starter from the three frames above. Other frames with different abilities can be crafted after gathering their parts from the relevant bosses and building them based on a blueprint from the Market. The player doesn’t have different characters for each class; instead everything is shared, and the player merely equips a different frame for the alt experience.

All of this is great. I’m glossing over a lot of depth here for the sake of an overview, but trust me, it’s there. But the frame collection system leads to the inevitable monkey under the rug: this game is free to play. Dun dun dunnn!

Penny Arcade approaches Warframe with their usual tact and nuance. Frames pictured: Excalibur and god alone knows what that other thing is.

Penny Arcade approaches Warframe with their usual tact and nuance. Frames pictured: Excalibur and god alone knows what that other thing is.

As with most F2P games, you can if you like buy most of the weapons and frames available, along with a host of cosmetic contrivances. The difference is that most F2P games don’t make absolutely everything that impacts gameplay available ingame. All platinum buys you is time… with one stark exception. Inventory space reserved for frames and weapons is severely limited, and extra slots can only be bought with plat.

One does get a starting allowance sufficient to buy a few slots, and the slots certainly aren’t expensive, and moreover there’s a thriving ingame economy based around trading Void mission keys and mods for plat, so a player determined not to spend a cent can quite conceivably attain everything in the game. My personal philosophy is that if I’m enjoying the fruits of the developers’ labour, and – importantly – it doesn’t feel mandatory, it’s fair and right to pay for the privilege.

That point about mandatory spending is crucial. I understand that developers produce these products as a business venture, and that at the end of the day it must make money. Too many games thrust this crass commercialism into one’s face, though, with gating of content and grinding for anything worthwhile. What makes Warframe for me is that I don’t feel any of that pressure to ‘donate’, and perhaps perversely, that ensures that I have already made a small purchase and will doubtless make more in the future.

This is more or less what you'll be looking at most of the time, barring maybe all the darkness. Not my screenshot, since apparently I suck at snapping pics while anything interesting is going on.

This is more or less what you’ll be looking at most of the time, barring maybe all the darkness. Not my screenshot, since apparently I suck at snapping pics while anything interesting is going on.

Well, that might be a bit strong. What really makes Warframe for me is the setting. It’s popularly described as being about ‘space ninjas’, which conjures up nineties-era cartoon images. Personally I feel the experience is more like playing a highly agile space commando slash superhero. Reawakening thousands of years after a war which the Warframes – or rather the Tenno – supposedly won, but which left the solar system largely uninhabitable, the player winds their way through the planets and moons now occupied by distinctly posthuman factions. Not a lot is known about the war or those who fought it, since the Tenno apparently can’t remember and those who created them are all dead.

There’s a fair bit of very suggestive backstory, but not a lot of definitive lore. Players can explore the infested derelict ships left behind by those who made the Tenno, and can travel to the Void using special keys to take on the better-preserved structures left behind. What exactly the Tenno are is still a mystery, except that they were cast into the selfsame void as a drastic measure and came back afflicted yet powerful, and were bound to the Warframes as living weapons.

Perhaps this sounds a bit cheesy, but to me it echoes the maxim “Endure. In enduring grow strong.” That’s a pretty good trope to use as a hook, and I’m very interested to see where the story team takes this game.

As far as gameplay goes, some of the early-game is a bit rough – Earth in particular is a massive jump in difficulty compared to the two preceding planets – but it’s being ironed out with some feedback from the community. Despite being a release title for the PS4, officially the game appears to still be in extended Beta, and changes come thick and fast. Some mechanics are a bit rough around the edges, and  there are balance issues between frames and weapons, but overall that doesn’t prevent the game from being fast-paced, frenetic fun in nice manageable segments of 5-20 minutes.

Expect to hear more about it here in coming weeks.

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One capturable pet left. Just one.

Oh seasonal pets, how I despise you

Oh seasonal pets, how I despise you

Upon starting the Zookeeper achievement, I set forth with high spirits to capture blue versions of every pet. That is, until discovering that one f the pets could only be caught during Summer. Around that point I more or less decided “eh, fsck it” and caught whatever specimen was the first to pop up in my beady sights.

Lately, with our raid schedule in flux and le wifelet less interested in playing, I’ve taken to hunting down rares again. Also been doing the Pandaria trainer dailies, which give an average return of 1-2 stones per day. That’s allowed the upgrade of most of my tradeable army as well, barring the beasts and flyers.

It seems sadly ironic that I complained about unusual types’ stones likely rarity via battling. As it turns out, there are far fewer exotic types which need upgrading, but a veritable army of more mundane family pets. If the stone drops for battling those mundane families were more common, that’d be great… but after countless battles, it seems that the drop rate is in fact exceedingly low, even from the highest level pets.

Of course, none of this is news to regular pet battlers. It turns out that some enterprising souls even offer to upgrade tradeable pets, and beast, critter, flying and mechanical stones command a premium above the other types. C’est la vie.

In other news, as a consequence of said schedule flux, I’ve spent a significant portion of the last week gearing my alliance paladin. She’s a little rough around the edges, but at least has some Timeless Isle gear and a coin-bought weapon. Oh, and a classic plate bikini from BC, but that’s neither here nor there.

Apparently I don't love her enough to take screenshots. Whoops!

Apparently I don’t love her enough to take ingame screenshots. Whoops!

Something shocking as a horde player was doing the Underhold and Downfall LFR instances, and finding that much of the more annoying trash – ie. the orc armies with their shredders and turrets et al – were simply skipped by the alliance. This happens in both instances, and was particularly headache-inducing in Downfall – the first two rooms have thus far been responsible for more wipes and group-drops than any of the bosses that I’ve seen, including Garrosh. Yet the alliance get to simply breeze through? I get that they wanted a moment of coolness, but… really? For the difference to be this stark?

That first trash pull sets the tone for the rest of the instance. Horde Downfall runs see players – especially tanks – leaving the instant anything goes wrong, or even looks as though it might. Entire groups will disband rather than face that trash, and this after an hour’s wait for DPS players. Even upon success, the players are taciturn and judgmental to an unusual degree. The overall experience is exceedingly negative.

By contrast alliance queue times are quicker, the players less likely to drop out, and overall are more relaxed. Sure, there are blowhards and elitists and even trolls, but it’s nothing like the horde experience. And the really sad thing is that alliance players probably don’t even know how good they have it.

I’ve maintained for some time now that, despite their continual whining about story focus, alliance players get it way easier in gameplay terms. Seeing that spill over into raids is infuriating to the point of actual sickening rage.

It’s pretty much a fact of life that, while levelling on a PvP server, you’re going to get ganked. Here’s my experience across multiple toons so far, condensed.

Low level zones: mostly safe. Despite CRZ, Cata’s introduction of multiple levelling paths and liberal use of phasing mean that it isn’t really worth it for 90s to go hunting in these areas. You might come across a diehard in Stranglethorn or the occasional fella out levelling a profession, but even the latter of these will usually be inclined to leave a quester alone.

Blasted Lands: deserves its own mention. Really it does. The portal has been a center for ganking activity for ever and a day, though there’s now talk of higher level guards. Either way, there’s often a small contingent of 90s from either side either cautiously keeping an eye on each other or decimating their opponents’ bases in an attempt to lure their opposite numbers away from the portal.

Blasted is, surprisingly, also a pretty decent spot for at-level PvP. Sure, there are a couple of guys hanging out here who’ve already got the stat boost of some Hellfire gear, but it’s also home to any number of legitimate 55 and up players who will cheerfully attack any red tag in sight. I’ve had a few enoyable one-on-one encounters here, and jumped into some unbalanced fights to right the odds – not always successfully, mind you, but I was there.

Hellfire Peninsula: is the worst single area in the game for ganking, and it largely comes down to two things: players relying on the fairly linear Thrallmar quest-lines to get their gear up to scratch, and the indescribably frustrating “collect bonechewer blood” quest that basically creates a straight line down the map that high-level players can repeatedly farm to gank undergeared, underlevelled players. Thrallmar itself is most often under attack, and for some benighted reason the drop rate of blood from fel orcs is ridiculously low. Simply fixing this one quest would provide blessed relief from the biggest issue on this map.

I heartily recommend the small Cenarion outpost near the exit to Zangarmarsh – attackers seem to become less frequent in proportion to one’s distance from the portal. Most alliance players also don’t bother harassing Silverwing point, possibly because they don’t realise it’s there, and possibly because it’s not terribly popular with lowbies anyway and has an unfortunate layout.

Outland in general: tends to have more 90s wandering around than, say, Northrend. Nagrand seems particularly popular. Still, outside of Hellfire it’s rare to see a red tag accompanied by a skull marker.

Northrend: is pretty quiet. That said, I tend to favour Howling Ford as a levelling zone rather than Borean Tundra, and the one time that I did take a character to Borean for levelling it was ganked repeatedly nearby Warsong Hold by a mage with some issues. Hooray for alternative zones!

Cataclysm zones: are weird as hell. There are players of both factions present, but mostly they just seem to want to get through the place as quickly as possible. The most amusing PvP encounter that I’ve had was, amusingly enough, my warrior against a monk who’d beaten my lower-levelled paladin earlier in the week. This monk does seem to attack everything that moves, and has great survivability – but it turns out that a couple of on-demand stuns and the ability to keep her from picking up healy-balls turned the tables quite severely.

Cata in general just flies by, at 5 short levels which take virtually no time individually. I felt pretty much constantly undergeared, since we were levelling past content at a rate of knots. Probably feeds into the lack of enthusiasm for ad-hoc brawling.

Dramatis personae: all of the above may combine to give the impression that there isn’t much ganking on PvP servers anymore. Alas, while it’s not an eternal treadmill of corpse runs into backstabs, there are still folks out there who seem determined to make levelling characters’ lives unpleasant. From my experience, these gankers will generally get stomped flat and disappear completely in zero time at all the moment any solid opposition shows up – hence why I categorically disbelieve any rhetoric about “ganking to draw out mains”.

Gankers seem to follow patterns according to class. So…

  • Druids: have serious issues. Most commonly a boomkin in flight form, who will attack by swooping out of the sky and moonfiring everything in sight repeatedly. Most likely to corpse camp, often resorting to switching for bearform when they’re starting to get bored.
  • Rogues: don’t like to move around much. They’ll often camp on top of the Dark Portal to surprise newbies going through, or stealth out near isolated questing hubs, preferably without guards.
  • Mages: will almost invariably be frost, and in contrast to the above will try and kill every living thing across as wide an area as possible, as many times as possible. After being killed by a mage, keep an eye open – she’s probably not in the area anymore, but will doubtless circle back presently.
  • Warlocks: keep to themselves, which is kinda weird for the “eeevil” class. If you see one in a zone, they’re generally there as a counter-ganking force, called in for other 90s that have been causing trouble. May send a demon after you for the hell of it if they’re on the ground anyway, but by and large more mature than anyone else.
  • Death knights: will do it for the lulz. 90 Dks will invariably chase and grip lower levels on sight, murder them and then run back and forth in circles around the corpse before mounting some obscenely large proto-drake-esque mount and flying off. Invariably. Might help if you imagine Yakkety Sax playing through the entire episode.
  • Paladins: have something against the local wildlife. Most often killing you is more or less a side effect of the thorough slaughter of every quest mob in the general area. Fortunately they’re rare in the wild.
  • Hunters: won’t even wait around long enough for their pets to spawn. While some will land on top of a structure and take the time to charge up an Aimed Shot or similar for maximum overkill, most will drop in for a couple of instants and mount up before their poor dear companion has even figured out what’s going on.
  • Priests: have a bizarre habit of dotting passing flying players, then levitating themselves down. Then again, I only saw this in Outland, so maybe it’s some sort of group behaviour/shared joke.
  • Shaman: don’t acknoledge that lowbies exist. Good for them.
  • Warriors: will generally come as part of a package deal. If there are a couple of players hassling levellers, one of them might be a warrior. Even the at-level fights I’ve had against warriors have generally involved other players, and I levelled my warrior with the wifelet’s priest. If a warrior is on his own, he’s probably mining or the like, but will sometimes charge you down after you think you’ve been spared.
  • Monks: don’t seem to like the world. I’ve seen shaman out in the wild, but they didn’t attack me. Never come across a maxed monk at all. Maybe they’re off meditating?

So that’s the outline of life on the bleeding edge, usually being held by that Dk who dropped in out of the sky. Hark! The blackguard keks a-yonder!

After the last post’s semi-guildrun-thing, we actually got a proper guild group together and cleared Terrace. Go us!

Some folks may be missing because they wouldn't stand still in frame...

Some folks may be missing because they wouldn’t stand still in frame…

What else to do, though? Well, in between about a million interviews and some crushing self-doubt, I’ve been levelling toons on a PvP server again. Got a little warrior as a tank, since I never got the hang of warrior-tanking in Cata and I figured it’d be better now.

Well, it’s… different now.

Not actually relevant, but this quest is hilariously bugged at the moment. "I could have sworn the Banshee Queen was a goth chick... NOPE, HORSE"

Not actually relevant, but this quest is hilariously bugged at the moment. “I could have sworn the Banshee Queen was a goth chick… NOPE, HORSE”

One of the issues with rage tanks is that if you miss your rage-generating attacks then you’re completely hosed. Guess how much hit and expertise there is on low level gear? If you guessed “bugger all”, then full points.

nodamage

OMG OP nerf nao

Warriors still have very little by way of options when pulling from range, and they don’t really have AoE early on. Hell, they don’t have any attacks early on. Up until 26 your only option for a semi-spammable attack is Sunder Armor, which does exactly zero damage. Somehow manages to keep threat, though.

Started a paladin (there’s a surprise) shortly after the warrior, specced it out as tank, and the contrast is unbelievable. Just being able to deal damage from range and having a reliable self-heal makes a massive difference, and having an attack that’s up every few seconds from lvl 7 is so much better. Mobility or not, I can navigate a dungeon so much faster on a paladin.

A lot of the difference comes down to Avenger’s Shield – being able to grab threat from range and keep it, plus the interrupt/silence effect. Makes Heroic (hah!) Throw look like the joke it is. On the plus side, once you hit 30 and get Revenge, nothing will ever out-aggro you again, provided that you can keep stuff in range.

Also been slowly levelling a monk. One of the nice things about monks is that “slowly” is a relative term. There’s a daily class quest at your handy Acherus analogue that grants a buff that increases any xp you gain by 50% for an hour. Stacks up to 3 hours. Each of these quests requires the defeat of a master, but what got me was the comments that the masters use when you challenge them.

This guy, for instance, spends too much time on the PvP forums.

This guy, for instance, spends too much time on the PvP forums.

They seem to be not-so-subtle jabs at some of the playerbase. It’s brilliant. There are also two Master Chengs… a pandaren male and a belf female. That’s… kind of freaky.

Lastly there’s the Brawler’s Guild. At some point, after watching guildies struggle with GG Engineering, I basically plowed my way through the first 6 ranks or so by sheer skill and overgearing like a boss. Rank 7 was kind of fun, with gear not making such a great difference and fewer “haha you’re melee FUCK YOU” fights. Then I hit rank 8. Which meant Hexos.

Allow me to illustrate Hexos with the involuntary help of some random ‘lock who was trying it as well. (since there’s no way in hell I can take screenies while trying the fight…)

WoWScrnShot_071413_223124

This ain’t so bad, I don’t see the big… uh…

 

...deal... whoa...

…deal… whoa…

 

...ohshiii wtf...

…ohshiii wtf…

 

...GG lol.

…GG lol.

The fight is literally playing this game while running your rotation well enough to manage 100k DPS. It’s… insane. Oh, and tends to bug out for pet classes if Hexos goes for your pet first, so there’s that. For those who don’t want to click the link, here’s the breakdown: if you’re facing any of those pink bits when they get to you, it’s over. Instant death. If nothing else, this serves as a warning of how much worse Durumu’s floor maze could have been.

So yeah, not sure when or if I’ll ever make that one. Ah well.

Since I’m not raiding, there’s been a bit more time to level alts and such. Latest addition to the 90 stable is my old friend Bitterwind, the priest I healed on through T12 and 13.

Dot iz vun verra nize hat

Dot iz vun verra nize hat

Well, when I say “not raiding”, I don’t mean “not LFRing”, though that’s cut down to when my anaemic ‘net connection can service a 25-man load. No, Bitter’s already run through the first segment of ToT. Atonement’s very different from how I used to heal, but it’s also a fair bit more latency-tolerant, and I always have the option of spreading bubbles liberally across the raid.

Not dodgy at all

Not dodgy at all

Levelling’s pleasantly improved by the loosening of xp requirements in Pandaria, and even dungeons seem to be slightly less godawfully useless. That said, I have a persistent issue on the last few toons that have gone through the HC dungeon process. You see, I keep forgetting to thrust my impatiently vibrating quest items into Sally Whitemane’s body.

Yeah, that’s pretty much straight off the description.

Had a few characters now who’ve left the quest incomplete for months at a stretch. There’s just something about it. Or I’m getting lazy.

In other news, considering a move with a couple of guildies to a more Horde-friendly server. Transfer special week seems to have decimated the already low red presence on our server. Ran a quick PuG Sha of Fear with a group from Lightning’s Blade already.

The question becomes whether I should keep my fairly well geared main on Lightbringer or move him to get the best performance. Doesn’t feel right moving a toon that was geared by this guild, though. I’ve got some neat stuff, and we were doing okay on the raiding front before attendance killed all progress. Could be this is just a patch we’ll get through in time. Doesn’t feel much like it right now, though… attendance has been our bugbear since day 1, and at least I wouldn’t be alone with a few familiar faces on the other side as well.

This may seem moot when my line prevents stable raiding, but a good PuG presence on another server would mean that I could maybe get into a few raids in those times when the connection isn’t doing its “220 lat lol j/k 700” thing.

Either way, for now it’s levelling of toons on a PvP server to get a feel for the place. I hear Outland’s a blast, what with lvl 90 toons wandering around killing quest mobs and sweeping out of the sky to gank lowbies. So much to look forward to.

Death to all who oppose us

Death to all who oppose us

Council down, and only a week after our first Horridown. Let’s get some detail up in here.

Part 1: in which we present the team

From left to right, we have:

  • Ellaelyra, apparently having bounced away from her elemental
  • Sidhe, hers behaving for once
  • Esirpus, just glad he no longer has to watch energy meters
  • Giac, wearing half a transmog, which is just weak
  • Idie, eyeing the stairs with trepidation
  • Raijin, who seems quite happy with the thunderforged fist that dropped
  • Yours truly, reconsidering that tabard for ranged shots
  • Madrox, not to be confused with his former death knight incarnation, despite both being tanks
  • Delta, presiding over the traditional “What’d he drop?!” ceremony
  • AODPriest, who despite being an Angel Of Death spent the fight healing

That’s two mages, two priests, three paladins and miscellaneous filler. Ideal comp we ain’t, but it works out, probably because of how damn pretty we all are. Well, except Giac.

Part 2: in which we discuss the fight

From the first pull, this fight already felt much better than Horridon. Everything’s up on the table. The issue with add fights is that each add is just another thing that can go wrong in its own special way, and is literally trying to do so at every moment. Horridon feels hopeless because every time you get a handle on one set of issues, a whole new set shows up. We didn’t exactly one-shot the council, but every time we wiped it felt like we were getting closer, like our tactical adjustments were making a difference. Progress felt like progress.

Our first night on the fight was a few pulls after a messy Horridon kill. Last night we approached it with a new tactic: stack ’em all up and cleave them down. If this sounds less than tactical, rest assured that you’re probably entirely correct. Still, it works.

In 10 man, the healing add actually heals for less than its own HP. That makes switching to it and burning it a complete waste of time, and also removes any incentive not to stack all three of the tankable bosses together for cleave damage. Stacking has another advantage if you have a paladin tank: Avenger’s Shield can interrupt Sul and Mar’li in one shot. This significantly reduces damage over the course of the fight.

As the one and only melee, I was assigned to stay on Sul from the beginning and burn/interrupt him until his inevitable messy death. The other DPS also focussed Sul until the empowering add hit a predetermined energy state; 50 for Malakk and Mar’li, 30 for Kazra’jin, since he’s annoying to stay on and using cooldowns is a good way to reflect oneself to death.

The fight effectively has three enrage timers. First there’s the usual one, which is actually pretty generous. Next there’s the empowered energy count per boss, which can be fudged without too much difficulty. And then there’s the one that matters, which is Sul’s turn at being empowered. Make no mistake – allowing him to empower is an enrage. There is nothing in the fight more damaging than Sandstorm, the adds that he summons are tough and will kill people without much effort, the sand-patches that the adds leave behind when they die do a truckload of damage, and to complicate matters, one of the tanks is usually stuck taking a Frigid Assault at the same time the adds show up.

So yeah. The very first attempt where we downed Sul was also our kill. It took a couple of tries to refine, and we did end up with two of the three healers in atonement spec hammering at Sul as well. Once he’s down, though, the rest are just a formality.

Part 3: in which we consider the future

Yeah, having some second thoughts about this...

Yeah, having some second thoughts about this…

So we’re 3/12 now, and facing off against the might of Tortos, who is most assuredly a goat. As that video points out, melee DPS aren’t great on this fight. We tried one or two pulls just to have a look, and for my paladin the outlook is pretty dismal.

I can’t effectively DPS the turtles, can’t kick, and the only AoE slow that I have is also my primary DPS talent, which doesn’t maintain the snare outside its stationary area of effect. I could maybe go with Burden of Guilt, which I used for a while as a PvP talent. Most of my usual utility is useless here.  Perhaps Hand of Sacrifice isn’t, but warriors get the same ability as a talent and we have two other paladins now.

As for specific challenges that we’ve encountered: the turtles spin fast. Despite having two frost mages, we’re still seemingly coming up short on slows. Our ‘lock has no idea what the AoE snare that fatboss mentioned even is. Further, the bats will happily take a tank to the cleaners in the short stun just after Quake Stomp, so we’re going to need an antidote for that. Blinding Light doesn’t appear to work on them at all.

We’ve only had three pulls on the fight, though. We’ll adapt and overcome.

Part 4: in which Leit whines about gear, because he is bad at this game

By halfway through part 3, anyone with a semi-intact cognitive center was probably already going “oh, he’s thinking about changing mains again“. Well, yeah. Altoholic, right here. I hope you’re very pleased by your impressive deductive skills.

Thing is… I finished out t14 without a single normal drop equipped. The couple of drops I did get were tanking gear that no-one else could use. Even LFR refused to give me any slack. Things looked up for a minute on the release of the third segment of LFR ToT, where I suddenly got two whole useful drops in a single week, but before and since it’s been just as barren.

Paladin’s been gearing decently from valour. Started out with a decent nest-egg that’s paid off well, and not having to grind a hundred different reps in order to actually spend my currency means I’m actually motivated to go out and earn it in the first place. Thing is, though, gearing from valour means I only get an upgrade every couple of weeks. Without an edge from raid drops, alts can catch up pretty damn quickly, especially if they’re the tiniest bit luckier than Dry. If the alt in question can bid on gear that isn’t also desirable to other players in the raid, that helps as well.

That last item in particular points to my rogue, who brings decent mobilty, damage equivalent to my better-geared paladin, AoE slows and cast time reduction, a misdirect, good personal survivability and no real raid utility beyond Smokebomb. Unfortunately the rogue’s gearing has sort of fallen by the wayside as I’ve been reconnecting with my warrior, and his only foray into gearing this week resulted in ragequitting after ending up in multiple PoS runs with only Lei Shen up.

Meanwhile, said warrior brings a mean amount of raid utility. The only class that can bring the raid cooldown of Skull Banner, she’s got a raid damage reduction banner as well, an AoE taunt banner if I’m feeling suicidal, excessive amounts of mobility, a raidwide health cooldown, talents for AoE stuns, interrupts, spell reflects, slows and snares, a talented Hand of Sacrifice equivalent, and exceedingly good AoE damage. Where she falls short is in personal survivability and the fact that she’s still rolling on the same plate and strength weapons that everyone else wants. At least she isn’t on the same token as literally 60% of the raid, for one day when that matters.

There are two things that have been keeping me on my pally for the moment: momentum and utility. Now that we’ve got a paladin tank again the second is less important, and I can bring plenty to the table with another class. Dry is still the best geared of my characters, and the one whose ins and out I know best, so he’s still got momentum on his side. But how long before the same frustration as t14 rears its head?

Character re-customisations. Some people won’t touch ’em… it basically takes the character you’ve built up and turns it into someone you don’t know anymore. Others, like my brother, will change names and races as the idea hits them. I’ve generally been in the former camp, preferring to start a new character from scratch.

Have you met my enormous spike?

Have you met my enormous spike?

A little while back I mentioned playing my warrior but not really knowing why. She’s been pretty much neglected since forever, and I had no real idea what I was doing with her. Since then I’ve worked out the Arms and Single Minded Fury playstyles, picked up a Sha axe and a pair of PvP 1-handers, and I can acquit myself at least well enough to pass muster in LFR. Bizarrely, the Arms playstyle that prefer does about the same damage as my somewhat undergeared SMF – got two sets of gear, and SMF is actually almost full PvP gear. I can use my raid cooldowns sensibly, rush across the battlefield like that blasted mosquito that just won’t let you get to sleep, and solo the rares on the Isle of Thunder.

This is all completely beside the point.

Vensters is a she, or at least as close as an unliving atrocity can get. That doesn’t stop me from identifying much more strongly with her than my other characters. She’s slim, moves a little oddly, tiny compared to everyone else. She holds herself a little apprehensively, looks out at the world with an expression that’s accepting but careful. She has agility without much in the way of grace, and seems barely connected to the world at the best of times, hefting her frankly enormous weapons with visible effort. She’s even got a severe case of coder’s hunch.

I end up referring to her as “he” more often than not.

This is starting to get on my nerves. I’m unsure whether I should recustomise as a male undead – males are nearly bestial, stalking rather than running, expressing relentless brutality in their attacks rather than the disconnected violence of the females. Which is not to say that Vensters doesn’t look predatory and dangerous in her combat crouch – quite the opposite – but it’s the impersonal danger of a steel trap rather than the psychotic threat of a slavering rottweiler.

On the plus side, forsaken males also aren’t grimacing, musclebound hulks; merely grimacing. Their faces are pretty much awful, but their /dance is BiS. There are a lot more shoulder options that don’t look cramped, but I’m probably going to have to find a helmet. I don’t know.

Starting a new character is just too much of a mission at the moment – the thought of levelling through pandaria again conjures lights behind my eyes, and I can see my ancestors when I think of redoing all of the work I’ve put in to gear her. No, this is not something that can happen. But if I change her will I still connect with her in the same way?

These are Pvp dailies. Elite dinosaurs are cheating.

These are Pvp dailies. Elite dinosaurs is cheating.