Thursday, August 27, 2015

4.45. HPWs

Swimming in Death Knights

Heroic progression stagnated after the death of Halfus Wyrmbreaker. Blain's assessment was to narrow our focus onto Heroic: Magmaw at the front of Blackwing Descent. The worm rebuffed us in defiance, its chitinous body squashed the raid as it thrashed about. April turned to May as we burned attempts on Magmaw. To instill the roster with any sense of progression, we started with Bastion of Twilight, mowing across normal bosses for gear and outstanding achievements. On the 1st of May, the 25-Man killed two of Halfus' drakes within 10 seconds of one another, and "The Only Escape" popped up on our screens. They were baby steps. But baby steps were something. Moving forward. Always moving forward.

The tank situation was phenomenally bad. Wrath of the Lich King left us with an influx of death knights, most of whom were spec’d for damage, exacerbated by our server’s PvP designation. Insayno continued to fill as often as possible, and Soot signed up whenever his schedule allowed. A third death knight, Unchained, joined progression in the last week of April; I wasted no time in fast tracking him into the role of tank. But I was about at the end of my rope with death knight tanks. The new blood shield mechanic still wasn’t impressing the healers, and key kit absences were more painful in Heroic: Magmaw than anything we’d dealt with during our nightmarish failures during Normal: Nefarian.

Where were all the druids? The warriors? The paladins?

Recruitment felt like debugging, endlessly scouring lines of code for a smoking gun. Gone were the days of Wrath's abundance of faces. In its heyday, WoW's sub numbers grew to such extremes that we enjoyed a healthy two years in surplus. I worried Cataclysm and its wildly experimental take on accessibility would punish us. I was now starting to feel the shriveled people economy first hand, and the least popular roles were the ones that took the biggest hit. I often wondered if Blizzard felt the trade off was worth it.

I refused to announce recruitment in /general and kept a healthy distance behind the "advertise on the forums" line. Guilds spamming general chat carried a stink of desperation that never washed off. Meanwhile, the forums (particularly Deathwing-US's) dripped with toxicity fueled by the PvP crowd: layer upon layer of unchecked testosterone protecting their soft, chewy, insecure centers. The very mention of raiding drew trolls faster than a Tolkien art contest. I resisted asking for any help on A gun control activist knew better than to spout rhetoric in the middle of an NRA rally. Any inquiry for help would only paint gigantic targets on us.

Always be recruiting.

Easier said than done.

Around the World

With work keeping my focus, and team micromanagement filling my non-raiding hours, there was little time to scour for applicants. More and more, it bled into family time, which I desperately wanted to avoid. The old ways were behind me, and I had no intention of falling back into bad habits. I leaned on old faithful, WoW Lemmings, as a means of finding faces, but there was little ripe for picking. Whenever I sifted through the site, our brethren across the ocean always seemed to have a healthier ratio of recruits.

Too bad we can’t leverage that pool of players, eh?

Oceanic realms were routinely snubbed by the Aussies and New Zealanders, as they were hosted out of a data center in North America; an unfortunate but necessary decision. Thanks to a single Australian ISP diverting its traffic to San Diego before relaying it to the rest of the world, hosting dedicated servers where there be kangaroos wasn't going to provide a better experience -- even choosing a data center in South East Asia, Blizzard claimed, would've been worse. So those players had two choices: Oceanic via North America...or North America.

Some "choice".

You could count DoD's international peeps on one hand. Throughout Vanilla and The Burning Crusade, a warrior named Deathwar checked in. Hailing from Chennai, India, he'd be logging in, just as the majority of us were logging out. Even when restricted to our graveyard shift, Deathwar still felt compelled to hang with a North American guild during extremely inconvenient hours, so DoD was home overseas. Sadly (and unsurprisingly), Deathwar suffered from connection problems as a result of his long-distance log-in, so he was never in a position to contribute to progression.

Blackdodge was our first from the land down under, a mage that poured his heart and soul into PvP, becoming one of the few to earn the coveted rank of High Warlord in Vanilla. Blackdodge spent many a late night (or was that early morning?) alongside players like Annihilation, Creepindeath and Kedavra. He consumed enough Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch to make a casual never want to log in to World of Warcraft again. But like Deathwar, Blackdodge never really had great opportunities nor interest in participating in progression, so my own exposure to playing with him was limited to chatting in /guild, and the occasional screenshot I’d snap of him for the guild’s homepage.

International players were welcome in DoD, but I never actively sought them out -- it was neither realistic nor fair to ask them to endure awful latency and wildly inappropriate raid times, just for the “luxury” of putting the Descendants of Draenor guild tag under their name. I was always surprised when they sought me out anyway. But to seek me out with intent on joining progression under those extreme conditions?

That was impressive.

Mature and Vexx stand a few feet from one another,
while separated by 8,135 miles in real life,

Accentuated Play

Dewgyd's unmistakably british accent was not what threw me off. The culture of gaming nerds was such that hearing someone rattling off Monty Python quotes in their own unique dialect was a rare perk. The real puzzle was why, exactly, he chose to play on a US server when an English-localized European server provided timezone appropriate raids and latency. Dewgyd claimed he had "weird hours", awake all through the night and into the wee morning, translating to our mid-evening raids. From a scheduling perspective, DoD was a closer fit than anything he could find in Europe.

I looked over his feral druid during the interview process. He was adequately geared, and spoke intelligently about raiding and mechanics. Still, I had to ask.

"What’s your ping like?"

"260-280ms. Y’know. Sometimes it pops up over 300, but you don’t see it often."

An image of Death32c immediately popped into my head. I deathmatched the Quake map so many times, guessing how many opponents I fragged would be pointless. 260-280ms was right about the ping I had to deal with at the time, as packets bound for the University of Colorado at Boulder made their way through my 56k US Robotics modem. Oh, how I longed for a 30ms ping, to be an LPB. A low ping bastard. It wasn't in the cards. My 56k modem designated me an HPW. A high ping whiner. But I still made it work. Violent, bloody death still painted the floors and walls of Death32c in my wake. And players were unpredictable, devious, and cunning. A robotic internet dragon following a script didn’t stand a chance...even with a ping like Dewgyd's.

"Our raids are 7:00pm on Friday and 3:00pm on Sunday, 4 hrs. That's…"

"...2:00am and 10:00pm for me."

Dear God. That would make Friday's raid 2:00am to 6:00am. You’re certain you can make all these raids?

He was certain. The brit joined us in February of 2011, becoming a regular in progression for every week thereafter. I don't recall him missing a single raid, but you're welcome to double check.


The internationalism did not end with Dewy. Vexx was a real catch. Brash and uncouth, she kicked open the doors to DoD and walked directly into progression...and I gladly cleared a path. She was the female alter-ego of Annihilation: Vexx spoke her mind, didn’t care who she offended, and was so enthusiastically committed to playing restoration shaman, she never thought twice about getting up at 6:00am every Sunday to join our 3:00pm raid. The fourteen hour difference between Colorado and her place of residence in Australia, she said, was a small price to pay to be a part of a guild that referred to its digital self as "home".

I nearly regretted pinging Anni the day Vexx donned a DoD tabard. The conversation that followed was mind-numbing to the point of hallucinogenic: a drinking contest of sheer vulgarity, each of them determined to gross each other out. The things I heard discussed that day no human should have to endure. Dalans may have "seen things", but reader, I say to you on this day:

I've heard things.

Vexx was geared and ready for a promotion to Raider by the end of May. Like Dewgyd, the difference in time and latency didn't bother Vexx; she muscled through it without complaint -- immediately logging back in if there was ever a disconnection, which was infrequent. It was her loyalty and dedication to the endgame that I had a deep level of respect for. She could have picked any guild. She could’ve blown off disconnections like so many players blaming lag for their sheer incompetence and inability to admit fault. With the same confidence she used in demonstrating those unconventional norms, she boldly took responsibility for her mistakes...and fixed them.

I wished I could clone her.


April had not been a great month, for reasons I'm sure you are aware of by this point. But amid the drama and tension of that month, a single applicant email arrived in my inbox -- an inquiry from a gal investigating new raid homes for herself and her husband.

I scanned the email quickly, looking for roles and classes. She healed. He tanked. She was a druid. He was a paladin.

I was stunned.

"Blackangus, thanks for reaching out. Let's chat at your next opportunity," I typed back, "Looking forward to seeing if we're a fit for you and Amatsu."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

4.44. The 90-Minute Demotion

Joredin and Mature earn 1000
Conquest Points in 2v2 Arenas,
Ruins of Lordaeron 

Right Spec, Wrong Patch

Another gaming night came and went with few internet dragons slain, thanks in part to a more formidable foe: ongoing micromanagement. I spent the evening checking up on Tacticians, those 10-Man leads running their own mini-guilds within DoD. After getting updates from Borken and Bovie, I wrapped up with Joredin, head of Recovering Raidaholics. Joredin just happened to be my on-again, off-again 2v2 partner. I honestly couldn't tell you how Priest / Death Knight fared competitively circa 4.1, we did it for fun. It was important to keep my relationship strong with all the Tacticians, so I could trust they'd give me the straight story on their own folks. I needed to know if rough times were headed our way.

"I don't have two other healers, but luckily I've been about to pug them each week," Joredin said. "Funny story: we wrapped up Blackwing Descent and were headed to BoT the other night, and I had a DPS switch to heals. We have Halfus down to 50%, healing is super intense. Then I realize our DPS never switched to heals. I was solo healing and dispelling the entire fight. Luckily we didn't wipe, and only had one death."


"Jesus," I said, "was this Disc or Holy?"

"Disc. I don't think I'll ever play Holy."

"Not a fan, eh?"

"I really got into the style of Disc in Wrath, this entirely new way of healing through bubbles. It was fun. Holy really had a tough time keeping up with that. Now in Cata, that gap is even wider. I mean, Holy is even more complex to play than it was in Wrath, and you really have to be at the top of your game to pull it off well. Disc is great because I like the style and it frees me up to keep an eye on all the various things going on in our 10."

"I've got a heated debate going amongst the officers about a particular spec. Like to hear your opinion. It has to do with the change to Chakra."

"Do tell."

"Apparently Chakra was raised to 1 minute in 4.0.6 and most top end priests are no longer spec'd into 1 / 2 State of Mind...they put the point elsewhere. I realize there aren't a lot of options, unless you count Desperate Prayer...if the priest happens to be fond of dying."

"So the debate is where to put the points?"

The debate is about why her attitude sucks.

"I can't say for sure," I told Joredin, "but would appreciate a second set of eyes."

Joredin pulled up the logs of our latest 25-Man progression kills in Blackwing Descent, and started cross-referencing Lexxii's spec with her individual tactics.

"I can't really tell how she is on mana from these logs," he said, "but Renew is one of her top spells. Renew is thirsty. Throughput really comes from Heal, particularly because it relates to Chakra and SoM. But her style really isn't benefiting from these choices. A tiny bit of Circle of Healing, but not even any Holy Word. AoE heals should be a lot higher on this chart."

"One of the arguments she's made is that she is 'always always always' using Sanctuary."

"Again, I don't know her specific role on these bosses, which is highly dependent on how she heals. But to the point, if she claims she's spending all her time in Chakra: Sanctuary, then why even use SoM? It isn't for extending a stance anymore. It's for changing stances more frequently."

Lexxii's tactics were for a spec that no longer existed.

Neps overrides Lexxii's request for more healers,

Excuse Navigation

"You know what this is about, right?"

"I'm guessing you want to get rid of me."

"And what makes you think that?"

"Well, it really isn't that much of a secret. I mean, I know that Jungard doesn't like me, Fred is constantly giving me a hard time, and whenever I try to get support, nobody wants to listen to what I have to say, about strategy or assignments, or whatever. I know they are calling me a bitch behind my back. Which I don't care about, that's fine. I mean, whatever, if that's what makes them feel better about it."

"So you don't really feel like you're getting the support you need."

"Not at all, not really, no."

"Can give me a specific example where you weren't supported?"

She sighed into the mic.

"Ok. Well, like, there was that one time, about a month ago, where I was trying to get seven healers for heroic Halfus, and Neps just rolls right over me."

He's 2nd-in-command. It's his job to override bad decisions.

"Blain never really listens to me, either. Whenever I try to push harder, sure enough there's Neps and Klocker and Jungard right there supporting him and shutting me down. I mean it really is insensitive, which is surprising because I've never really been in a guild before where the guild leader is supportive, but the officers behave like that. It's just been a lot of ego and bullshit and children beating their chest."

It's called a 'unified front', Lexxii. You might take a page from their book.

"Blain doesn't approve of redoing strategy mid-raid. That's something he made clear when he took on the role of raid leader. I know you weren't around for the early days, but allowing officers to second-guess and debate him as he prepares for a pull is inappropriate. I don't allow it. Neps and Klocker and Jungard are doing their jobs in support of that policy. Blain's made it pretty clear that if you want to debate the merits of certain tactics, that those debates need to happen post raid."

"Yeah, but he's never available."

He's never available? Or you aren't.

"I've seen you spending a lot less time online in the evenings these days. Is it possible that you are the one that's not readily accessible after raids?"

"I've had a whole bunch of things going on in the evenings that normally weren't taking up a lot of my time, back in Wrath."

"OK, that's fine. We all have real life responsibilities. And I'm pretty sure you know what kind of a ship I run here. That's why we have a static raid schedule – so our players can re-arrange the rest of their stuff safely. They'll know it's Friday night and Sunday day, and that's it. No surprises. But if you're going to be a leader, you're expected to stay on top of specs. If it comes naturally, then there's no issue. But if it doesn't, some extra time and effort might be warranted."

"So it's about the spec."

Aha. So you do know there's an issue.

Lexxii is the sole death as the 25-Man progression
team defeats Heroic: Halfus Wyrmbreaker,
Bastion of Twilight

On Credibility

"So what's the deal with the spec, then?"

"They're giving me a hard time because I'm not spec'd into whatever cookie cutter build is at the top of worldoflogs or wherever they're looking these days."

Get specific, Lexxii. Demonstrate some expertise.

"Can you elaborate?"

"They keep bitching about how I’m spec'd into State of Mind, and they don't understand how I'm using it."

"Enlighten me."

She sighed again, as if being forced to a re-paint a freshly painted house.

"The way Holy works is that the Chakras are all a stance that boost a particular proficiency. Sanctuary is the one I spend all of my time in. State of Mind lets me extend that stance."


"And what problem do they have with it?"

"They're saying that I'm not able to permanently keep the stance up, since the 4.0.3 patch, so why bother even using it. But they don't understand that I’m not trying to keep it permanently up. I'm aware 100% uptime isn't possible. It doesn't matter, the throughput that's generated from being in Sanctuary is better than not being in it. So, yes, I may not be able to keep it up permanently, but the longer, the better."

"You say SoM is more important than something like Surge of Light or Desperate Prayer. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt. If Sanctuary is your go-to Chakra, the one you're most comfortable in, that should mean your healing spells should reflect Sanctuary, right?"

"They should, yeah."

"The last logs I pulled off Atramedes show you leaning heavily on Renew. But Renew doesn't benefit at all from Sanctuary. In fact, would you not agree that it's costly, and therefore, not a great example to push your throughput?"

"Atramedes isn't a very good fight to look at. The entire second phase we're constantly running around, banging gongs, dodging fire. Even phase one has us dodging rings, I barely have any time to pull off Circle of Healing or Holy Word."

"Hold on, now. Stay with me a moment. So your Renew is way up, and spells that are directly benefited by Sanctuary are way down. Can you see why the officers might be concerned that you're spending time in a Chakra that doesn't reflect the way in which you heal? Does that make sense?"

Lexxii repeated her initial claim, a bit louder this time. As if I hadn't heard her.

"Atramdes isn't a good fight to measure this by!"

"So if you know that Atramedes doesn't play well to your spec, why are you using it?"

Another audible sigh.

"Lex, I don't want to sit here and tell you what's right and what's wrong. Only you know what spec works for you. What I want to stress that's far more important than individual talent choices is how you defend those choices. You're trying to convince me that Atramedes is a bad fight to use as a gauge of effectiveness. What you should be convincing me of is why you aren't switching to something else when we get to Atramedes."

More silence.

"It's OK to not know the answer. It's not OK to defend those reasons for answers you make up. You're a good healer. You're competent."


"I fast tracked you to Elite in Wrath because you represented the type of raider I hoped others would emulate. But today, we’re talking exclusively about your role as Healing Officer, a role you and I agreed that would be something we'd try out. And for that, I need more than competence. I need you to understand the nuance of your class so well that you are in a position to defend something perceived as a bad spec choice. Without even giving it a second thought, you should be able to tell me exactly why you stay in your spec for Atramedes, and give me...or anyone in the guild...the kind of answer that stops us dead in our tracks. The kind that makes us go 'Ohhhhhhh. My God. I never considered for this or that. You've given me some significant insight into Holy today.' And if you can't, that's perfectly OK...but you cannot be in a position to lead until you do."

I continued, "You said yourself that you have more on your plate now, after hours, then you expected. Let me lighten the load on your behalf. We'll be professional and discreet about the change -- this isn't going to be an attack or smear on your skills. The guild is very appreciative of you stepping up and handling things at the start of Cata. We'll swap Fred in and give him a shot, and let you take a backseat."

"So am I going to end up losing a bunch of raid spots now?"

"Absolutely not. I still consider you top tier, and I expect to see you at every Fri/Sun raid here on out. From now on, you can focus on doing what you do best..."


"…healing. And this will give you an opportunity to get a bit more flexible with your spec if you need to try things out, without being under the scrutiny of the officership. Make sense?"

I waited for the "Yeah. You're right, Hanzo. I never saw it that way before. Thanks! I appreciate the support."

No such luck.

"...I guess so. Whatever works. I mean, it doesn't matter if I switch up my spec, or stick with a particular spec, I feel like they're going to find a way to tell me why I'm wrong, or why I have to start using a particular spell on a particular encounter, and I really thought I would get more support on my reasons and…'

I shut up and let her talk. And talk. And talk. And talk.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

4.43. Guitar Hero in Hell

Mature clocks in at a full 2k under Hells
as the 25-Man defeats Heroic: Chimaeron,
Blackwing Descent

Right in the Feels

Omaric's exit from DoD opened up a new position for a ranged officer. I'd approached Mangetsu once before, but he politely declined, unsure of his ability to commit to the necessary demands of leadership. While mulling it over one evening, I decided to return to Karazhan to farm for Attumen's mount.

As ghoulish melodies of the harpsichord belted out of my speakers, I was immediately reminded of Goldenrod, the mage who'd been my officer back in The Burning Crusade, and who had recently returned to 25-Man progression. I'd been spending more time with Goldy, both in-game and out, thanks to the convenience of my new job flying me out to California every few months.

Goldy, too, had done well to take heed of his own vulnerabilities. He'd grown from a player willing to cancel his Blizzard account in a fit of rage over a ticket fiasco, to defending himself against cancerous attacks that challenged his ethics (and keeping a cool head throughout the ordeal). During one of my business trips, I extended the position of ranged officer to Goldenrod, and he humbly accepted.

Goldenrod was DoD's last ranged officer.


Sentimentality nearly always gets the best of me. The amount of time I spend dwelling on the past is probably a little extreme. If there was ever any doubt, allow me to point out, dear readers, that you're in the midst of reliving a story which ended four years ago. This kind of sappy melancholy isn't typical amongst gamers who carry themselves as if every day is a clean slate. At times, I get a little disgusted with myself, just on principle. It's a game. Move on with your life.

It's those damn external triggers. For me, nearly all of them are steeped in music. Fire up a song from a particular WoW soundtrack and my mind instantly rewinds to that moment in time. Netherstorm's hollow echoes as lightning cracks across the barren purple landscape, and I'm immediately reminded of Divinepants trying to finagle his way back into the guild. Black Temple's orchestrations will always remind me of Ater's final days in the guild. Even Alliance music does it: Elwynn Forest catapults me right back to Vanilla, right where it all started. It's a fun party trick; try it on me if you see me at the next BlizzCon.

I'm sentimental because I'm an emotional guy...I have a box of broken keyboards to prove it. Coming to terms with that part of me was evolutionary. Learning that my affinity to punch keyboards affected my decision-making changed how I made decisions.  Knowing that, if left unchecked, my emotions could lead me down a dark path, they could be used against me by those seeking their own agendas. It's OK to reminisce fondly about times that have passed, but clinging to old ways on account of tradition is a path with too much zeal for my tastes. Be objective with decisions, look at it from all angles.

And remember that gut instinct is statistically more likely to be right.

...just know that the Halo Effect applies to your perception of more than simply people.

Mature sizes up his dual wield gear next to Hells,
Ebon Hold

End of the Honeymoon

Unholy was pissing me off.

The spec I grew to love in Wrath was history. I tried everything I could to acclimate to the death knight changes, but after five months of swapping to DPS whenever we secured two tanks, my DPS wasn't where it needed to be. There is nothing more pathetic that a player whose only claim to fame is denial. When that player happens to be the guild leader, it's flat out inappropriate.

The Blizzard hype machine was on overdrive when the death knight changes were announced for Cataclysm. I'll admit there was a brief and torrid love affair with Dark Transformation, when my ghoul first grew to twice its size, cleaving its way through a pack of trash. And Blizzard's description of Dark Simulacrum made its spell-copying ability read like unfulfilled necrotic desires were now within reach of Mature's pallid fingertips. Oh, you gonna Mirror Image, mr. mage? Let's see how you handle three death knights.

In reality, Dark Transformation's uptime was awful, and micromanaging the timing to increase it left wide gaps in unspent runes, downgrading both Mature's effectiveness and my enjoyment. It was difficult to get right on a dummy, never mind the chaos of a Heroic: Magmaw attempt. And as for Dark Simulacrum, it ended up a nerfed, barely-realized fantasy. A million spells in World of Warcraft, and death knights ended up being able to copy...about four.

Maybe I'm exaggerating. But it felt like four. And that didn't feel very fun.

I put on my big boy pants and took these cuts in stride. There was still plenty to like (including Necrotic Strike). What I could not turn a blind eye to, however, was the new rotation. Or lack of a rotation, to be specific.

In Wrath, there was an implicit contract with the death knight. If you want to burn all six runes in as fast as your globals would allow, knock yourself out. It could also mean you go for a long period without having any runes to spend. But the disciplined death knight (an oxymoron, I know) would easily get into a rhythm that had runes cooling down at a rate tempered by how quickly their runic power was burned. By having the runes cooldown simultaneously, one could get into a solid rhythm, moving back and forth between runes and runic power, but still be able to burn all six in nearly a heartbeat, if there was cause.

The rotation was easy to master. I could stand with the best melee in the guild -- Blain, Jungard, Hells -- and use a boss like Deathbringer Saurfang to make sure everything was in alignment. Saurfang was our Patchwerk, and while I'm not about to sit here and debate his difficulty (hint: he's not), I made no secret about looking forward to the fight every raid evening. It was the one place guildies couldn't claim problems like "too much moving around" or "lag affected me too much" or one of a million other excuses why their numbers weren't where they should be. Saurfang was the benchmark, and every kill gave me an opportunity to ensure my rotation was exactly where it needed to be.

Perhaps I was in the minority in thinking the death knight rune system was working pretty well out of the gate. Blizzard didn't think so. The claim was that our play style was essentially "rune locked": that we only had enough globals to burn each rune as it cooled down, forcing us into a locked rotation that was too penalizing if we strayed. Some death knights seemed to yearn for a system more random, more up to the player at any given moment. Some call that a more "dynamic" system, a more rewarding play style.

I saw the logic of the "rune lock" argument, and looked forward to what lay ahead.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

"Driving Instructor" isn't a Career, It's a Sentence

Now in Cataclysm, runes cooled down sequentially, rather than simultaneously. It was easier to stray from the rotation because there really wasn't a rotation -- runes ended up sporadically appearing, one-by-one, in a slow-as-molasses style that wasn't anything even remotely close to a "rhythm". This was the side-effect of the new system. A rune would not cooldown until its equivalent partner cooled down. It was clunky. It felt like Mature was perpetually tapping his foot, looking at his watch, waiting for the right rune to reset.

The odd slowness of the new rune system was immediately felt in early Cataclysm beta. To offset this, Blizzard gave frost death knights Runic Empowerment, a talent that jelled with frost's proc-like style. But for Unholy, we gained a different talent: Runic Corruption...or what I like to call "Guitar Hero in Hell".

Runic Corruption was a talent that had a small chance to proc when we spent Runic Power. When it proc'd, rune regeneration would double for three seconds. This was Blizzard's halfhearted attempt to resolve the sluggishness of the death knight that was introduced with runes cooling down sequentially.

Since my rune addon of choice was DKIRunes, I'd configured my UI to have my runes cooldown in a vertical animation, coming to rest at the screen's dead center. The effect was not unlike the lanes of multicolored buttons that stream towards a musician as they rock out on a plastic guitar in the various Rock Band and Guitar Hero style music rhythm games. With Runic Corruption proc'ing, I expected to get Mature back into his groove, ramp up the speed and eventually hit a new momentum in which I was spending runic power, procing Runic Corruption, lighting up the runway with runes as they poured down my screen in double time, and repeating the process.

In practice, it was a constant state of speeding up and slowing down, which felt like the first day of Driving School. The whiplash of constantly lurching forward, then screeching to a halt. then lurching forward again. You were either doing 60mph...or nothing, but you weren't doing either for very long.

I tried everything I could to get into the groove that Runic Corruption promised, to hit that steady stream of runes flowing down the screen. But the groove never materialized, and week after week of "good intentions" did little in the way of contributing DPS to our heroic attempts. I faced the truth: this wasn't Wrath, and I needed to stop pretending it was.

Cataclysm's Unholy was clunky, awkward, and most of all: not fun. But even more than any of these, Cataclysm's Unholy prevented me from realizing Mature's full potential. As the music of the death knight wing in Naxxramas piped through Ebon Hold, I divorced myself from the notion Unholy would ever be what I remembered it to be, and respecc'd to Frost.