All players are created equal…

In between waiting for the cowardly Horde to queue to Alterac Valley, I’ve been thinking about Blizzard’s new Healing Philosophy and why it worries me. To quote Ghostcrawler:

Prior to LK, healers could run out of mana, and for the most part it worked. They didn’t just use their efficient heals, because sometimes their group would die if they did. They didn’t just use their big heals though, because they’d run out of mana (and then the group would die).

I think of healing like a cross-continental road race. If you go too slow, you’ll lose the race, but if you just floor it the whole time, you’ll run out of fuel a lot and waste time stopping to fill it up again. There is a happy medium somewhere in between. However the encounter specifics push you out of that medium, sometimes asking you to choose big numbers over efficiency and sometimes vice-versa.

I know it sounds like we are picking on healers all the time, but once you can run out of mana again, I think everything will just feel better, your choices about what spell to cast next become more compelling, and the healing game overall will be more engaging.

Borrowed from this thread. Now maybe I’m nitpicking but he doesn’t seem to be addressing a couple of important points. Firstly running out of mana even though you’re doing everything right but your group is hugging the fire, not using cc properly and the like is not engaging.  Frustrating, annoying and likely to drive you mad perhaps, but engaging or fun, no.

PvP Implictions.

Now we all know PvP isn’t balanced around 1 v 1 and that’s fine, Warcraft is a multiplayer game. However when you want healers to have mana issues PvP becomes a problem. At the moment as a Disc Priest I have a chance to beat all classes in a 1 v 1. It comes down to how well I play versus how badly they play. Which in my mind is how it should play out, the best player of the two should win.

In theory Dpsers should have high damage to compensate for the fact that they are A. squishy and B. can’t heal. Healers on the other hand, should have weak dps but can heal. However over the years the lines have blurred and with Cataclysm it seems as if all the classes who currently have no self heals whatsoever are gaining them. Take hunters for example, at the moment they are usually a win for me. Yes, they can have high damage but since they have no way of healing, with dots, shadowfiend and reflective shield, I usually have no problems in a 1 v 1. It might take me a while but I can wear them down.

Fast forward to Cataclysm, they get a heal mechanic, their damage will scale up and we get less regen across the board and our fast heals get a hefty mana hike. Unfortunately fast flash heal type spells have to be bread and butter in PvP because even if people’s time to live is increased to the point where you can happily use greater heal to keep them up, kicks and interupts become a problem. Add in the fact that anti healing debuffs are being reduced across the board to 25 percent and I can’t help thinking that whilst health pools are definitely increasing, healing won’t scale at all well.

I fully admit when my Boomkin sees a well geared Disc Priest my little feathery heart sinks and like most if not all dpsers, I hate going 1 v 1 against a healer but even without nerfing healing, Cataclysm is already giving us more tools for dealing with the “cheating swine”. Classes without interrupts are gaining interrupts which will make beating healers easier.

Is that a problem? For me yes. I like healing in PvP, I’ve always healed in PvP. Yet, if I can’t beat anyone in a 1 v 1, it lessens my options in group PvP as well. Why bring a healer who is a squishy liability when you could just bring another dps. Things will die faster and it’s not as if said healer will bring anything when it only takes one member of the opposing team to deal with them, with the healer having to focus 100 percent on keeping themselves alive. Having the philosophy of fast expensive spells versus slow cheap efficient ones is ok in PvE when damage is predictable but less good in PvP when the choice is a simple cast X expensive spell or die.

Gearing and Levelling.

There will always be a sweet spot when gear reaches a certain point. Let’s say it’s tier 14, grab this gear and suddenly you have mana to spare again. If Blizzard hold the faith on their philosophy, they would have to nerf regen which then negatively effects everyone who is below the gear curve. If you start levelling a healer six months into the expansion, things could be worse than levelling one at the start and by the sound of it, levelling as a healer at the start will be no walk in the park. Neither is it good for the healers in tier 14 who are all excited about their new shinies only to log in a month later and find they are back where they were when they had tier 13.

Wow is all about character progression and having one of the three roles either remaining stationary or even worse going backwards whilst the other two move forwards is bad design plain and simple. No one wants to be weaker as they level up and yet that’s what is happening to the healers on the beta right now.

Looking for Group.

At the moment the Looking for Group finder just picks 3 dpsers, 1 tank and 1 healer and pops you all into a dungeon together. That design really won’t work if CC is as crucial to 5 mans as Blizzard seem to want. Will people be leaving group immediately if the party doesn’t contain say a rogue (sap, blind, stuns), hunter (traps, pet to offtank perhaps) and a mage (everyone’s favourite CC polymorph)? Quite possibly I would imagine, especially if healers and/or tanks have instant queues they may turn out to be very picky. In fact I’m not sure I would blame them, if running a certain instance was considerably easier with a particular group composition then I might be in trade looking for the perfect group rather than just joining the LFG as well.

The flavour of CC you bring might be the new gearscore, which for certain classes is a bit nasty. Take priests, our CC comes into two basic flavours, fear (which really isn’t great in an instance unless you pull each trash pack way back) and mind control (which also effectively crowd controls the priest). Neither of those is good enough to keep a mob out of action for long periods of time, especially when compared to the likes of polymorph. On top of that, shadowpriests bring psychic horror but a 10 second cc on a two minute cooldown is hardly ground shatteringly exciting or useful.

General thoughts.

Is Blizzard balancing around raid content, where it’s likely everyone will have replenishment available to them? If they want healers to struggle it’s likely that they are, otherwise in raid conditions, mana would be less of an issue which leads me to another problem I have with this design chance.

Back in vanilla, I was the master of my fate. I had a huge stack of mana pots, nights dragon breath and bandages. Sure, I got the odd innervate but by and large, I had to stand on my own two feet and I was balanced around my ability, not some random buff that class Y might bring. This is the perfect chance to remove replenishment, make mana tide shaman only, alter hymn of hope slightly so it only works for the priest and so on. Give us control and let us live or die by our mistakes not our party makeup.

I fully support healing requiring some thought but I think Blizzard are going about it all wrong. Remove buffs like replenishment or give them to everyone so you can balance content around them (obviously I would prefer removal). Give us the five second rule back and downranking, so that smart play is rewarded, rather than just tying one hand behind our backs.

As things stand at the moment, I won’t be healing a dungeon whilst levelling and for the first ever  in the five years I’ve played WoW, I’m considering making a dpser my main for Cataclysm. Not because I shy away from a challenge, I’ve two manned plenty of heroics in both this and the previous expansion (back when gear was an issue and we actually had to use CC) and I still remember healing a 10 man Stratholme virtually solo the day our tank got his arcanite reaper. It’s not because I think Cataclysm will be too hard, but basically I pay the same amount per month as everyone else and I really don’t appreciate the fact that it seems as if I will be a second class citizen.

Also if you play Horde in Misery EU and are between lvs 71 and 79, queue for AV please. I’m sick of WSG, AB and EotS and my little warrior wants to slam her new shield in your face :D

The Cataclysmic Rise of Holy Nova

Disclaimer: The Beta is the Beta and it’s likely that all things will change at some point between now and going live. However speculation is fun even if it’s only to see how wrong I am when Cataclysm finally ships.

Once upon a time raids had to walk barefoot from Ironforge through the snow all the way to Blackrock Mountain, trudging through blizzards and lava until their feet bled. In those days, Holy Nova was the Holy Priest 31 point talent and very few people took it. In my guild for example, only one of the five priests we had, had holy nova and I admit we used to tease him for it. In return he desperately used to hunt out situations in which it would be useful. Other than Vael and the Benediction quest, I don’t remember him finding many but that’s another story.

As time passed and Holy Nova moved from being the 31 pointer to 11 points into Holy, I grew to love it myself. By the time it was baseline, I was a committed nova convert. Now I use it all the time, both in PvP and PvE. Looking for rogues whilst defending a node in AB, holy nova. Defending Balinda versus 30 Horde in AV, holy nova, you’ll live marginally longer and briefly top the damage metre. Want a pretty golden confetti look for a screenshot, holy nova. Then there are it’s more practical PvE applications, on hardmode Anub’arak for example I used to throw the odd downranked holy nova in there to help keep our healing group up. Aoeing packs of trash down, hello holy nova. It might be a niche spell, but it’s a fun spell.

Now we come to the Cataclysm beta and I couldn’t help but notice a few things seem to be changing for Holy Nova. Firstly, the tooltip now says:

Causes an explosion of holy light around the caster, causing 207.21 to 240.81 Holy damage to all enemy targets within 10 yards and healing all party and raid members within 10 yards for 1305.33 to 1517. These effects cause no threat.

Now, the range is limiting yes, but there are times when you have to stack which could make holy nova really powerful if the heal component isn’t capped at a number of players. For example on live as Disc, my Priest heals for 1733 on average with crits of 2648. As holy that number would of course be higher. Plus this change gives Disc another AoE healing tool and it fits in with the other similar 10 yard tools that other healers are getting (Healing rain and Healing hands).

Then there seem to be a  few Holy talents effecting it. Up first is Improved Holy Nova, a two point talent which reduces the global cooldown of holy nova by .25/.5 seconds and increases it’s crit by 25%/50%. So if you spent those two points, that would give you a 1 second global cooldown, 50 percent crit holy nova, add in the crit on your gear and that’s perhaps a 75 percent crit rate on a spell which could potentially hit 25 targets or perhaps more likely everyone in your ten man.

As for mana cost, well holy nova currently costs 20 percent of our base mana, however in the Beta it’s been reduced to 15 percent at the moment. For the sake of comparison, circle of healing costs 21 percent on both the Beta and Live. Coh might be a smart heal but it’s got a 10 second cooldown and is limited to 6 people.

Then there is surge of light which has been revamped slightly.

Your spell criticals have a 50 percent chance to cause your next smite or holy nova to be instant cast, cost no mana but be incapable of a critical hit.

I admit when I first read this, I thought that Blizzard had completely lost the plot but given that Flash Heal is meant to be our expensive emergency spell, it really was unlikely that Surge of Light would remain the way it is. The new version is slowly growing on me. So given that you could have a 75 percent crit rate and holy nova should be hitting at least four or five people, it’s likely for each mana costing holy nova you would get one free. Or you could use it to proc free smites to power up your Evangelism depending on the circumstances.

Then when you factor in the talents which reduce the cost of instants (Mental Agility) and the fact that at 85 Evangelism (which also reduces the cost of Holy Nova with each smite you cast) and Archangel would be reachable and it looks like Holy Nova could be CoH mark 2. Cheap and spamable. I also like the possible synergy of Inner Will with Holy Nova. At first I was a bit unimpressed with our lv 83 spell but the more I think about it, the more I can see it’s possible potential.

A burst of Holy energy fills the caster, reducing the mana cost of instant cast spells by 15% and increasing your movement speed by 10%.

Bouncing around at high speed (remember Inner Will is meant to stack with our boot enchants)  throwing confetti at people could be fun. How long that will last without nerfs is debatable but every dark cloud has silver lining. As long as healing doesn’t return to this

Whack a Raider

I think I can cope with Cataclysm (yay for positive thinking). Although I admit it’s a bit sad that so far the bit that’s excited me the most about being a Holy Priest in the expansion is Holy Nova. Unfortunately you need to click on the image to see it in all it’s glory. It’s taken somewhat out of context from a rather weird cartoon called Superjail.

Shared Topic – A Picture tells a thousand words

This week the shared topic at Blog Azeroth is all about Screenshots.

You know the saying, a picture tells a thousand words? It’s true! But, for us WoW players, that also extends to screenshots and fanart.

So, include a screenshot, some fanart, or even some art that you create yourself, and tell what it reminds you of. Does it make you smile? Remember a hilarious circumstance in a heroic with some guildies? Or even mutter to yourself, “They really should nerf ___insert class here___”?

Be inspired by screenshots and WoW artwork, and blog about it!

Suggested by Nenunial.

When Mr Harpy and I first started playing, we really didn’t realise just how big the game world was. We started out as a little Nightelf in Teldrassil, running around doing errands for people and cursing the spider cave. Then when we arrived in Darnassus… I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was huge and so pretty. Every time I discovered something new, I was oohing and awing like a child. The sea monsters off the coast of Darkshore, the way the landscape changed so dramatically as you went from zone to zone, everything had me awestruck.

Then when we were about lv 12 we were invited into a PvP raid on Crossroads. As we headed from the gloomy mists of Darkshore into the vibrant forests of Ashenvale, my eyes grew wider and wider. Then suddenly, skirting the Mor’shan Rampart, we emerged blinking into the bright golden savannah of the Barrens. Giraffes and Zebras and watering holes, suddenly whatever this PvP lark was, exploring seemed far more important.

I picked this picture out of the hundreds filling up my screenshot folder because it reminds me of a time when the game felt brand new. My favourite periods in WoW have always been the beginnings, the first months of vanilla, the first months of the Burning Crusade and the first months of WotLK. The times when there are so many new and exciting things to discover, often hiding in plain sight. Every time I look at this screenshot, it makes me smile as I remember how excited we were running around finding new things.

So from a happy picture, we go to a sad one. This is my old guild’s first Yogg kill and every time I look at this, I realise that despite how annoying half of the them were, I miss them and I miss raiding.

We are all puppies because one of our priests went and farmed 25 Rituals of the New Moon the night before the raid.

What brings you here?

Being easily amused, I’ve been flicking around with some of the WordPress options. From there it was a small jump to glancing at the various searches that bring people here.

Much to my surprise, top of the list is shared by two rather similar phrases. Neither of which I had in mind when I named the blog.

  • Harpy Sex
  • Sexy Harpy

When I close my eyes, I have to admit Harpies don’t naturally filter to the top as beings I would call sexy. What makes it worse is when I search on google for “sexy harpy”, I don’t make the first page or the second or the third. So that’s an awful lot of “interesting” pages you have to wade through before ending up here. The theme then continues with

  • beautiful harpys

and my personal favourite

  • harpie lady almost naked

The “almost” seems slightly out of place, as if someone was shyly searching for dirty pictures and didn’t quite dare look for naked. The sexy theme then progresses onto Vykrul.

Not Sexy

From there we visit conspiracy theories

  • random numbers are not random

I have to agree, it certainly feels that way when you’re queuing for random battlegrounds and you get five Strand of the Ancients in a row. However as the oh so sensible Mr Harpy points out whenever I’m bitching about SofA, random means the dice could land on a five 6 times in a row. Random is too random for my tastes, why can’t it be like the cd player in the car where random means never getting the same track twice in a row.

Then we have people after my own heart

  • harpies playable wow

Yes please. Harpies would be a far better option than Worgen and Goblins.

Finally something sensible,

  • ally warlock trainer in kalimdor

The bunch of scheming up to no good warlock quest givers in Ratchet will also train you in the demonic arts. At the moment though, they are the only ones so it’s a bit of a hike to the Barrens if you are a low level.

Recently there have been a few people searching for things like

  • healing rain overpowered (healing rain can be replaced with various new Cataclysm abilities)

It’s beta so who knows how the game will ship. What is overpowered now, probably won’t be by the time the game goes live. Hopefully, Blizzard will finally manage to balance all the healers (the cynic in me says if this happens, it will only be because we all really really suck) this time around.

Mother Nature

I’ve always prided myself on being somewhat observant both in real life and whilst playing WoW. However despite having played the WotLK beta and quested in the Howling Fjord on 7 other characters, I’ve only just noticed this.

Oddly enough I always assumed large naked tree ladies would be easy to spot.

Although it does seem as if they are a bit like buses, spot one and ten more come along straight after.

There is a Lightwell at the end of the Tunnel

From the noises coming from Blizzard, it seems the spell every Holy Priest loves to hate is here to stay.

Lightwell is complicated because it deals very much with the healing philosophy we’re trying to resurrect in Cataclysm. Remember when your raid would make a conscious effort to survive before doing damage, would bring stacks of bandages and use them throughout the fight to save their healers mana? Lightwell is very strong – if not overpowered – in that environment.

On paper Lightwell looks good. It’s cheap to cast and scales really well with gear. In theory it’s a perfect example of a fire and forget spell, cast it and the next ten people who click it receive healing, leaving you free do do other things. Although since you are there as a healer, it’s questionable what else you should be doing, smiting perhaps?

In practise however Lightwell really doesn’t work. I’d actually go as far to argue that it’s never worked, not in vanilla, not in the Burning Crusade and certainly not now. Thus I admit to being far from convinced Cataclysm will change anything.

I raided on a Priest in vanilla. I remember speccing for Lightwell all excited when it was first implemented and I still remember that excitement slowly wearing off as people ran straight past it on a quarter health. When it was introduced, we were working on the Twin Emperors in AQ40, the perfect fight really for Lightwell to shine. I popped it down in the middle of the room in position for the melee to click as they ran past and they all ignored it. At that point I was playing in the top guild on my then server, we had plenty of excellent players who ran damage meters, drank pots like crazy and generally pushed themselves to the limits of their characters. Yet for some reason they couldn’t or wouldn’t get their head around the concept of Lightwell.

Now we aren’t in vanilla anymore and I really don’t see people’s attitudes changing. People have had four years for the idea of “Lol it’s a Lolwell” to sink in and become set in stone. Then there is the enrage timer issue, as we’ve moved through expansions fights have become tighter and tighter in terms of duration. On hardmode Hodir you couldn’t really afford your rogues to stop hitting Hodir and bandage. Now, I accept we have no idea what raid content will be like when Cataclysm ships but I doubt they will move way from dps races as they allow the raid designers to test dpsers. Now if your dpsers can’t stop to bandage, they can’t stop to go looking for a Lightwell either.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a soft spot for the Lightwell and I’d love for it to become mainstream and useful, rather than a dark and dirty secret I tend to only use when I’m alone with the Gnomeling. It has plus points and if only you can find a way to make people use it, it’s extremely powerful. For soloing things as holy or two personing heroics it’s amazing.

  • You can use it whilst stunned, sapped, falling, running around feared. Useful for a range of things, including Kel’thuzad’s frost blast (my last attempt at using lightwell ended around Naxxramas) as well as PvP.
  • It heals for a lot. The hit which breaks it needs to 30 percent of your total health in one hit, that’s a lot even in PvP if you have decent gear. In five man content, even the tank can use it safely.
  • It’s cheap to cast.

So with all that going for it, what are the negatives and do they outweigh the plus points?

  • Mobility or lack of it. Once it’s down, it’s down. Given this expansion has been full of movement based fights and Blizzard are handing out movement enhancing spells for Cataclysm like candy, this is a problem. Obviously as you learn a fight this should become less of an issue. If you know that at 1 minute 30 into a fight, the floor becomes a giant snake pit, you wouldn’t put it down then. However if a fight requires constant movement or forces people to stay apart, Lightwell loses it’s charm fast.
  • Disappearing on the death of the Priest. This is a fairly recent change and I suspect a PvP based one, although I can’t think of anyone who actually PvPs seriously as Holy. Fix this and suddenly Lightwell and Spirit of Redemption have their synergy back. The last thing you do before your pretty angel collapses is cast lightwell giving your group heals whilst you lie dead on the floor.
  • It breaks the mould in terms of the holy trinity of raid roles. Healers heal people, dps kill things and tanks stop said bad things hitting dpsers and healers. This to me is the deal breaker. I can work around the fact that it’s fixed to the floor and I work really hard on not dying but I can’t force other people to use the Lightwell. Maybe lifegripping them to it and yelling really loud will work.

Then I thought maybe I was looking at this all wrong. After all Lightwell surely isn’t designed around healing me, the Holy Priest who cast it. It’s designed for the Dps who ignore it. So I put on my feathery moonkin hat and pondered would I as a dpser use one?

Well yes but only in certain circumstances. My main reason for being in a dungeon or raid is to kill things. Whilst I always keep a wary eye on my own health, I’m always going to use a healthstone or personal “eek” buttons like barkskin before a lightwell. Why? First of all, speed and ease of use. Healthstones, health pots and cooldowns are all keybound on my interface. Without having to think I can use them when and if I need to. Now to use a Lightwell, I first have to visually locate it, then move to it and click it. Sure if I’m fast and the Priest hasn’t hidden it behind a pillar, that might only take a few seconds but I’ve wiped on plenty of fights due to overall dps being a few seconds slow. Then of course there is the probability that in the time it takes for me to decide to use it, someone else will have healed me.

So when would I use it? Perhaps on a fight requiring mobility, if I was at low health and I happened to be passing it by. If I was silenced and hurt then I’d definitely grab a drink. If I was stood next to one, I’d use it. Basically no matter how I look at it, the issues are always the same. The biggest issue is that it requires someone other than the healer who placed it down to make it work.

How do you solve a problem like a Lightwell?

You can’t. At the moment Lightwell is cheap, efficient and effective all because the caster has little to no control over who uses it. Sure they can use it to heal themselves as a sort of glittery healthstone but in terms of everyone else, all you can do is pray. In return for that cheapness and that scaling, Lightwell is a sort of snack bar for the raid. If you give control over who it heals to the priest then the mana cost would have to increase and the amount healed for would have to decrease. Holy priests already have the biggest arsenal of aoe heals in-game, prayer of healing, circle of healing, holy nova, divine hymn even binding heal and the new talented desperate prayer so they really don’t need another cooldown based aoe superheal. We have plenty of options to pick from already.

The other option would be to make lightwell more attractive to the people it’s aimed at, dpsers and to a lesser degree tanks. However if say like the current version of revitalize it gave a small buff on use, whether increased damage or regen or whatever, people would probably be queuing up to use it yet then you run the risk of people stacking Lightwells in order to clear content. Given that holy priests already come with a tank saving cooldown as well as the benefits of being a priest (i.e. hymn of hope, fortification, shadow prot) making Lightwell do anything else besides heal would be over the top.

So what’s the answer?

I really don’t have a clue. When Cataclysm comes out, unless there are vastly more exciting talents I’ll pick up Lightwell again (eternal optimist that’s me) and see how it works out. I’m willing to use it and I know my pet tank will as well. If and when I start raiding again, I’ll probably have another shot at making a whole new bunch of raiders use it, but my track record really doesn’t inspire confidence on that front.

Blizzard are addressing some of the concerns raised by priests, namely the fact that at the moment it forces you to deselect your target when you click on it. Keeping your target will  help a bit but if you could make macros allowing you to target and use in the same fashion as you can use a healthstone, I think that would be a positive step forward. Maybe increasing the range you can use it from would help as well. Although again you run the risk of if Lightwell becomes too easy to use and too attractive, it will have to be nerfed at some point.

The simplest fix would probably be to make Lightwell look like this.

The Demon Horse

This week’s shared topic over at Blog Azeroth is:

roleplay a scene with a mount your character has. It can be anything from how you acquired the mount to its death

suggested by Strumwolf

——–

The still damp warlock, her clothes soggy and wet staggered into the Slaughtered Lamb. Sinking onto a stool she ordered a drink. Handing over an ice cold brew, the bartender smiled,

“Had a bad day sweetheart?”

Taking a long hard swig of pure alcohol, Teasel considered briefly immolating him for his cheek, she was after all no one’s sweetheart but then her desire for sympathy won out. Leaning forward,

“Bad doesn’t even come start to describe it. I got a couple of jobs in the Wetlands. Nothing too hard, kill some orcs, slaughter some sailors who didn’t understand that being dead doesn’t mean running around telling passerbys that they will soon be “dead like me”, you know, bread and butter stuff. Easy money really”.

“That doesn’t sound too bad”

“Nah, that bit wasn’t. The problem started when I was running back to Menethil for my wage packet. The heavens opened, the Wetlands lived up to their name. I was so drenched. Every footstep dragged as my robes weighted down with every step I took. Then I foolishly decided I would catch a bird back to Stormwind rather than spend another hour in that half asleep seaside town.”

“Oh”

“There was a blizzard over Dun Morogh.”

Without saying a word, he poured another measure into her glass.

“I’m so cold and so wet. It feels like I’ll never get warm again”.

She drained the glass again and shook herself, droplets of water went flying from her hair, puddling themselves on the already liquid stained bar.

“Poor child. Have another drink but I would drink it fast. Tempers are a little frayed downstairs. Think some Nobleman is trying to get this place shut down again. They never learn”.

“Thanks for the warning, last thing I want tonight is more trouble from a bunch of angry warlocks”.

With the spirits warming her from the inside, Teasel headed down into the basement. At the sound of her footsteps on the cobbled stone, all arguments ceased.

“You’re late. Why are you dripping on our floor?”

“Sorry Ma’am”

Her eyes narrowing slightly, the trainer nodded,

“Are you ready to begin?”

“Yes Ma’am”, Teasel caught the spellbook casually thrown at her head. Retreating to the edge of the room, she spent the next hour, still damp memorising new incantations and spells. Returning the books to the shelf, Teasel started to sneak past the still arguing senior warlocks. She had almost reached the  passage spiriling to the surface when someone behind her curtly called her name.

“Ma’am?”

“Since you have reached your twentieth  season its time you leant to ride”

“I know, I received a note in the mail from a Mr Randal Hunter, telling me to head out to Eastvale at my earliest convience. I believe he is both an excellent teacher and a breeder of stout stallions”.

Her voice trailed off to the realisation that not only were all the humans in the room laughing but even the succubus, not a creature oft given to merriment was giggling like a schoolgirl.

“Whats so funny?”

It took a second or two for the amusement to die down, or at least most of it. The Imp was still pirouetting beneath the table, his annoying chuckle chiming out like a bell.

“My dear girl, we don’t ride flesh and blood horses. We summon fiery steeds from the realms of nightmares”. Teasel gazed at Zardeth of the Black Claw, trying to rearrange his words into a sentence which made sense. Taking pity on her blank face, he tried again. “It’s all about image, riding up to someone on a pinto mare hardly inspires fear. You just look like someone’s  daughter out for a ride in the woods. Now imagine seeing a wild stallion snorting flame with it’s fetlocks blazing as it gallops through the night”.

“I see, yes. That’s why I want a pinto mare. I don’t want a mount I’m scared of”.

“Pfff, call yourself a warlock, sister?” Demisette Cloyce lifted one delicate black eyebrow.

“It also makes excellent economic sense”, Zardeth’s Imp smirked. “No food bills. You could spend the money you’ll save to buy some suitably over the top black clothes for posing in”, dodging his master’s foot, the imp bounced onto the table top regarding her with beady eyes. “It’s a win win situation”.

“I don’t want a demon horse. My friends already think I’m weird. No one else has talking pets or has to trap other  people’s souls in pretty pink glass. I just want to be the same as every one else”.

The senior warlocks all looked at each other, “Tough”, Sandahl volunteered from his corner. “Warlocks aren’t like everyone else. We ride dreedsteeds, blast people with chaos and steal their souls. We’re corrupters who drain life and play with demons. Pretty sure that was covered in your first few classes, it’s a bit late now to get cold feet”.

“Wait”, tapping her whip against the floor, Demisette’s succubus stared at Teasel. “So you’re happy to summon us to kill for you, to do your dirty work. You use my kind to seduce your enemies and protect you but you’re too good to ride a felsteed? Arrogant little girl”.

“Can’t we all just get along?”, Zggi the Imp asked chattily, taking a break from doing handstands in the corner. Zardeth raised his hand and the imp vanished in a cloud of smoke. “She has a point you know. I don’t see you slaughtering your way around Azeroth without using demons or the souls of the fallen. Anyway, we’ve got more important things to deal with than your sudden fear of demons. Get outside and summon yourself a mount. Unless of course you want to discuss demon rights with a rather angry succubus in the sub basement?”

A swift look at the succubus made up Teasel’s mind. Grabbing the proffered grimoire she headed for the door. Outside the rain was pelting down, recoiling off the grass. Not another soul could be seen, not even a guard. For once the Mage quarter was deserted. Perfect weather for summoning a beast from the netherworld. Glancing back at the Inn, Teasel sighed. Peeking around the door frame were several heads, some human and some demon, all nodded encouragingly.

Ignoring the eye of Kilrogg bouncing around her, Teasel drew out her summoning circle and placed the candles on the wet grass. Then holding her spell book at arm’s length she started to read. Each word hung on the air, glowing deep red. Overhead the rain worsened and the sky darkened. A doorway was opening between the worlds. In the distance, beneath the rhythm of the rain Teasel could hear hooves galloping closer and closer.

Clutching the grimoire she closed her eyes and took a step backwards. The rain was becoming gentler now, just caressing her upturned face as she waited. Clapping from behind forced her eyes open. Inside the circle standing on scorched earth was a horse. Tall with heaving flanks and fiery hooves, the felsteed flicked it’s tail impatiently.

Instinctively Teasel found her hand reaching out to stroke the beast. As green eyes met red ones, the horse whined softly, rubbing his head against her hand. “See, you’re made for each other”, Zardeth smiled down at his latest student and her horse. Pulling herself up onto the felsteed’s back, Teasel felt finally at home. The last part of the puzzle had fallen into place and it was a huge demonic horse. No more skulking in corners pretending to be a mage, no not any more. She was a warlock and proud of it.

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