Random Battleground Ranting

One of my favourite pieces of MoP information is the potential blacklisting of up to two different battleground maps.

I hate the “randomness” of random Battlegrounds. Now I fell down the stairs last night and sprained my ankle so I’m not in the best of tempers but I defy anyone to like a system which thinks five Strand of the Ancients in a row can possibly be ok. My foot is slowly turning that lovely shade of deep purple which looks gorgeous on plants (thinking violets and pansies here) but not so hot on feet. The random Battleground finder is turning my mood the same colour considerably faster.

Why the loathing?

Because there is no choice at all. It’s either use the random queue or don’t PvP. The queue times are considerably longer when you queue to a specific battleground and unreliable too, you may get one in a few minutes and then have to wait hours for the next one or you might just have to wait hours. Compare that to getting a random battleground within 2 minutes of queuing up even at weird times in the middle of the night. Then there is the honour or rather lack of it. For winning a random we get an extra 270 per game winning game, not to mention the conquest points but when you queue for a specific battleground, guess what… no bonus. Now since the honour is an incentive to queue up for randoms, that might seem fair enough until you consider the fact that the bonus honour was implemented to replace the tokens that we used to get.

Now I might be a special little snowflake but there are times when I want to chill out in 40 mans, bullying Horde in Stonehearth bunker or seeing just how many people  I can kill whilst they are attacking Balinda. At those times, the random Battleground finder throws me into WSG or Strand of the Ancients. Then there are times when I just want to work on my Arathi Basin rep, of course then I get everything and anything but Arathi Basin. Sometimes, sure I really don’t mind which battleground I end up in, I just want to kill people. Then of course I wind up in the Isle of Conquest, the blink and you’ll miss it game where tracking down the enemy faction is akin to finding the fox cub mini-pet, i.e. the odds are not in your favour.

Why can’t winning a battleground reward the same honour regardless of how you got there? That way I wouldn’t keep ending up in Strand of the Ancients with a bunch of people who don’t know what they are doing. Blacklisting isn’t necessarily the fix I would have gone for (a system a bit like my old cd player in which it never plays the same song twice in a row would have been my first choice I think) but I have to admit I intend welcoming it with open arms.

The only bit I find a bit odd is the caveat about the battleground weekends.

So If I exclude the Strand of the Ancients when SotA weekend rolls around, it will unblacklist itself and when I queue to random, there is a chance I’ll still wind up on the beach. On their respective weekends, the smaller maps are often crawling with premades so the sensible solo player wants to avoid them more than ever but as things stand when you queue to random at those times, you still find yourself thrown into the weekend battleground. I was hoping that this change would go a long way towards fixing that issue but it seems not. I understand that Blizzard want their Battleground weekends to be a success even when it’s SotA but I do think this devalues the whole point of the blacklisting to a degree. Yes, we’re getting more new maps so the gap between SotA weekends will be increasing but I’d still like to never ever go there again.

So which maps will I be avoiding?

Whilst I think it will vary on a character by character basis, SotA is definitely on the list (no surprise there!). Games of two halves don’t work under Blizzard’s model of Player versus Player. If the team who attacks first doesn’t break through the final wall, more often than not they don’t fight in the second half. They want to obtain their losing honor quickly, after all the best possible outcome at that point is to lose fast. Even if you hold the game to a draw, it’s counted as a loss in your statistics because the armoury doesn’t recognise draws (another reason why I dislike the armoury), so you might as well lose fast and hope you get better luck next time around.

My Druid and my Shaman like it a lot more than my Priest as both have ways of slowing vehicles down or bringing them to halt outside tailoring nets but despite my good win rate in there, I’d be happy never to have to get sand in my shoes ever again.

As for my second choice, I think I’ll wait until I’ve fully tested out all the new maps before committing but Isle of Conquest is a contender. The map is too big for the number of players on it. You can easily go all game without seeing any red name plates and if you do decide to defend in order to get some actual PvP, more often than not it’s you versus 40.

In conclusion.

On the plus side though, outside of the SotA weekends, everyone who ends up there should be there because they want to be. AV will be full of people who want a proper AV game not a quick rush with zero pvp. Hopefully this change will improve the quality of pvp for all of us because each game is full of players who want to be in that map, who aren’t shuddering behind their screen, who aren’t planning on afking half way through but who are actually there to play and to win.

I am curious to see what everyone else goes for avoiding. I know quite a few Horde players who don’t intend ever doing AV or Isle of Conquest again, as well as a few people who hate the two flag carrying 10 mans. Mushan posted about his choices here as well. I think given the size of the pool, this shouldn’t effect queue time apart from perhaps the 40 mans late at night but it will be interesting to see how it all balances out.

Reading Material

I thought I’d take a leaf out of Navi’s book and share some of the new faces on my ever expanding blog list with you. I’m not going to go into any details about the blogs because that takes away the fun of discovery, however I think each and every one of them is awesome and definitely worth reading.

I’m also always on the look out for stuff I should be reading so if you feel I’m missing out on something amazing, feel free to mention it in the comments.

Also Neri of Neri Approves is holding a “Trashy Transmog” contest, the rules of which can be found here. You’ve got until the 31st of May (30th if you’re not in Australia) to show off your creations and as much flesh as you feel up to.

Finally, as Tome and Kamalia have already mentioned, Amijade of Warlockery is hosting a Warlock Transmogrification competition, the details of which can be found here. Failure to enter is likely to end with searing pain, hellfire and a spot of soul shattering so best not risk it!  You have until June the 16th to put together a suitably Warlocky outfit and submit it for inspection.

BETA: New glyphs for healing Priests

The latest crop of healing Priest glyphs have finally made it onto the beta and can be purchased from everyone’s favourite oversized Tauren in the Temple of the Jade Serpent.

I have to say I’m not impressed. I wish I was, I really do but they’re either massively situational (i.e. require you to be dead!), have huge cooldowns (confessions) or take away what little control we already have over a spell (Lightspring).

Without further ado…

The biggest issue I’ve ever had with Lightwell was the control aspect, I fully admit I’m a complete control freak and I like to have full control over my healing arsenal. With Lightwell as it currently stands, I can yell, scream, bitch, name call and generally persuade people to click it. I remember my first raiding recap post at the start of Cataclysm where I talked about this:

The added icing on the cake was tonight my Lightwell provided over 2 million healing. Now that’s something I never expected to see.

In my experience, proper raiders will click on it to stay alive because they’ve already figured out that dead, they can’t top the damage meter. If I’m playing with afkers, muppets and the sort of people who show up to lev 70 battlegrounds wearing the gear they got at lev 1, well then at least I can use it.

So where does the glyph fit in? Well right now and much to my surprise I might add, Lightspring is providing exactly the same amount of healing as Lightwell (albeit when you’re below 50 percent health and only every 5 seconds). Lightspring also isn’t clickable at all so in certain environments like LFR where other healers attempt to use all your charges when out of combat to boost their own healing on the meter and the dps are mostly concentrating on standing in bad stuff it might have a place. Everywhere else, I’m erring towards no. In 5 mans, I know at least one fifth of the group (me) will use the unglyphed version which is good enough for me. In PvP (talking battlegrounds), I’d hate the idea of the undergeared squishy waste of space player on 10 percent health who has contributed virtually nothing “stealing” the charge I was rather hoping for when I’m being beaten up.

When I consider the fights where historically I’ve got the most out of Lightwell, it’s been ones where multiple people get hit at once and can all click for healing there and then. The fact that you can click the Lightwell whilst stunned or otherwise cc’d also adds to it’s unglyphed appeal. Lightspring is specifically designed to work against that with it’s lack of interaction, 5 second cooldown and 50 percent health minimum. Obviously we don’t know enough about encounter design yet but I really don’t see me using this glyph.

That said, I’m glad Blizzard have added it. Options are always good and whilst it’s not my particular cup of tea, I’m sure there will be some Priests who like it or who find a niche for it.

What I would love to see changed however is the visual. Right now Lightwell and Lightspring look indentical and that could lead to all sorts of confusion as people try and click on the Lightspring and whine that the Lightwell didn’t heal them automatically. Lightwell has looked exactly the same since it was introduced in vanilla so it’s about time it got a face lift. This might be asking a bit much but I’d love a Lightwell that looked something like this:

On a considerably smaller scale of course and with added sparkles.

Now onto the minor glyphs.

Despite the fact that you have to do my least favourite thing in the entire game to get any use of out of this particular glyph, I am tempted. I just wish there was an added side effect like perhaps when an enemy dies near you whilst you have this glyph equipped a tiny shadow of a val’kyr flies away from the corpse. Just something to make it fun and usable in situations where you rarely if ever die.

I have to admit I had high hopes for this, with a 30 minute cooldown surely it would force embarrassing secrets from the lips of our guildmates and friends. I imagined myself as a smaller cuter Gnome version of Interrogator Vishas bouncing about demanding to know their “naughty secrets”.

I suppose it depends what you call embarrassing.

Perhaps if I was a Troll this could be perceived as the sort of scandalous secret I want to keep to myself but as a Gnome… it sounds perfectly normal to me.

Unfortunately I know exactly what Tauren tastes like because I accidentally took a bite out of one once! As you can see from these screenshots, in this beta build you can force yourself to confess too.

The two minors I can see me using but right now, I’m struggling to think of a use for Lightspring.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised any more…

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with real life stuff recently but when I was flicking through my feed reader, I noticed this post from Tome of the Ancient.

I don’t know if other bloggers do this, but I have a few posts that I wrote and then found lacking and they’re just sitting here collecting dust.

At the last count, my drafts folder has something like 105 potential posts gathering dust so before Mists dawns, I intend on getting rid of them by taking a leaf of the Duke of Wellington’s book and yelling “Publish and be damned” at the screen whilst hitting the publish button with my eyes shut.

Anyway, I’d like to offer my own unwritten rule #241

It doesn’t matter what level of pvp you are indulging in, there will always be someone on your team wearing the equivalent of a wedding dress and very little else. It might be the fang set (why they couldn’t just transmog it is anyone’s guess), it might be a lovely black dress or it might be 20 levels out of date but they’ll be there, running about in all their glory attempting to carry the flag.

I encountered this in an Eye of the Storm.

Fair enough we thought, it’s going to get dressed just before the game starts. Nope, it leapt from the starter stone still wearing that lv 1 robe. Maybe it’s a bot, we thought as it rode down to Fel Reaver on an epic mechostrider. Perhaps it’s making a video and will show super awesome skills that don’t require clothes. Nope, it went splat in approximately one second flat. I then spent the rest of game indulging in my own personal game of trying to “keep the mostly naked gnome alive” which went surprisingly well. Although we did win, I never quite got to the bottom of why they were still wearing that dress, I mean it’s not even very pretty.

After this, I’m never going to feel guilty about battlegrounding in slightly behind gear ever again.

“What will survive of us is love”: A Tragedy in Three Acts

I’m going to blame Navi and  Matty for this post.

To start, I’m not really romantic in the slightest. I hate chick lit and chick flicks with a passion I normally reserve for brussel sprouts and bad drivers. I got my worst ever mark in English Literature for an essay on Romeo and Juliet because I couldn’t imagine anything crazier than killing yourself for love.  Killing your parents for denying it made far more sense to my teenage brain (yes, I might have had a few issues back then). It was a B and I was grumpy for weeks and then to add insult to injury I had to read the part of Juliet as we acted out the play in class. Which brings me to Pyramus and Thisbe, the lovers who inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and their Azerothian equivalents Pyramond and Theleste.

As much as I’d love to re-write lore (and to be honest, my version was better :p), I’m not Blizzard so to make amends for my essay back then (and all the stony looks I directed at my teacher), here is my take on the achievement <A Tragedy in Three Acts> via Ovid, Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams.

Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie.

Archaeology is all about piecing together a story via the bits and pieces we dig up and this achievement is no different. All we know about these “star-crossed lovers” is what they left behind and should we get the context wrong, then we’re left with nothing more than “illusion that has the appearance of truth”. I think there are two possible solutions to this puzzle but as with every mystery, figuring out the order of the clues is important. So what do we know?

We have the two introductory pieces, the ones which set the stage and pave the way for what comes after. A piece belonging to each of the protagonists. For Theleste that’s a malachite and silver hair pin.

Engraved beneath the setting for the precious stone are the words ‘To Theleste, on her twenty-fourth birth year.’

There is no clue who gave her this, it could have been Pyramond or it could have been her parents or a whole host of other characters lost in the mists of time.

For Pyramond, it’s a cloak clasp.

This clasp is fashioned of lacquered wood carved to resemble stag antlers. On the reverse is engraved the name ‘Pyramond’ in Darnassian.

From that we can deduce that either Pyramond’s family name had something to do with a stag, perhaps he was another doomed relative of  poor Fandral. Alternatively perhaps the clasp was a gift from his parents when he started training to become a Druid. These items have to come first because they’re the only two without emotion invested in them. Every story needs a beginning and these are clearly ours.

So the scene is set, the characters introduced but where do we go from here. There are a couple of possible steps depending on how we read the story. A relationship has to be established between them, which leads towards the delicate music box.

This box is of sandalwood with a tiny clockwork elf and nightsaber within. Although the winding mechanism is no longer functional, you can imagine the two would dance together while music played. Engraved on the bottom: ‘To my dearest Theleste.’

Now as I’ve already mentioned, I’m no expert in romance but I do have a music box or two. One contains a slightly dejected looking Ballerina and the other contains two lovers waltzing together for all eternity. One you give a child or a friend, the other you give the object of your affections. So what’s in Theleste’s music box? An Elf dancing with a nightsaber… now that sounds more humorous than anything else. Is that really something you give the love of your life? Unless they’re a nightsaber I’m erring towards no. Then there is the inscription, “dearest”. That’s not the most expressive or emotionally driven language. It is however perhaps something that someone else would write on your behalf. Could Theleste be a suitable girl chosen by Pyramond’s parents, one he feels no real affection for and is just going through the motions.

On the other hand, we know that nightsabers are close to revered in Night Elf society. They function as both pets and mounts so perhaps Theleste had a nightsaber she was fond of and that’s why Pyramond chose this particular model. Of course, he might just have been as lousy a gift buyer as my father who has almost been divorced many many times on Christmas day for his “interesting” choice of presents for my mother. In the original story as told by Ovid, it’s a lioness who is the cataclysm for our lover’s deaths so perhaps the nightsaber is a play on that.

But a lioness fresh from the kill, her jaws foaming, smeared with the blood of cattle, came to slake her thirst at the nearby spring. 

It could have been his mistake in having the name engraved that led to their discovery and inevitable doom.  So it’s here things start to get interesting.

Once the relationship is established, we move on to the first point of conflict.

While this elven scroll case is graced with much ornamentation, it is the message inside, written in Darnassian, that is of the most interest: ‘Pyramond, under no circumstances are you to spend time with that tavern wench. Your mother and I forbid it. She is far beneath your station.’

Now the obvious conclusion is that Theleste is the “tavern wench” but does the hairpin point at someone far below his station? The flavour text indicates a “precious” stone and this clearly expensive scroll case is made of silver too so would the hair pin belong to a girl who waits tables in a tavern? Possibly because we don’t know who gave her the pin, it could have easily been one of the tavern’s richer customers, possibly even Pyramond’s dad. In my experience when people say “Your mother/father and I forbid it”, it’s usually one parent speaking for both and trying to give their words extra authority by adding in the silent partner. This leads us to two possible conclusions. Either way Theleste is a victim in all of this but she could be either the tavern wench his parents were so dismissive of or she’s the woman he’s supposed to marry. She’s Paris to Pyramond’s Juliet.

Remarkably, you managed to find an entire menagerie of these elven glass animals in their original storage container. While some of the animals have understandably suffered cracks and chips, it is clear that the head of the stag has been deliberately severed. The initial ‘T’ is carved on the bottom of the chest.

Here we deviate slightly from the traditional story of thwarted love as shown by Ovid and Shakespeare. It’s clear that this item is a reference to The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. So if the stag represents Pyramond just like the unicorn represents Laura in the play what does that tell us? Well if Theleste is the tavern wench, then I imagine that perhaps Pyramond, who had finally given in to his parents demands went to see her one last time. To tell her that it was over, had to be  over and just like Laura and Jim, just like the Elf and the Nightsaber, they danced to the music box. Somehow in the process, the stag got knocked over and lost his head.

It strikes against the shelf of Laura’s glass collection, and there is a tinkle of shattering glass. Laura cries out as if wounded.

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

However accidental damage doesn’t really fit in with “deliberately severed” so who broke it and why? Did Theleste wait until he was gone, running home to his parents and to the life he was meant to have from birth before carefully separating the head from the body? Did Pyramond in a fit of frustration as he realised that he wasn’t quite the man he wanted to be break it himself? Either are possible. In the original play, once the unicorn loses it’s horn, Laura becomes normal, nothing special, “Now it’s just like the other horses” so how could that translate into this story? Well since it’s Jim who breaks the unicorn which stands for Laura, perhaps it’s Theleste who ruins the stag because she can’t quite bring herself to hurt the man it represents. According to Ovid, Pyramus was meant to be very attractive so perhaps destroying the head was her way of ruining the face that had brought her nothing but misery. The fantasy of their happy life together was over, reality had once again managed to intrude.

Finally we come to the end piece, a cracked crystal vase. I found the choice of words here interesting. At first I thought it was cracked from it’s years in the ground waiting for us to come along and dig it up but none of the other items indicate wear and tear. Their buried years haven’t effected them, the hair pin isn’t tarnished, the cloak clasp isn’t chipped. Which suggests the crack happened before the vial got lost in the dirt and the dust.

A note in rich vellum is tied to the bottle. ‘Dearest P, now that I know we can never be together, it is my wish to drink this draught of spider venom. If this note finds you, my hope is that you might do the same. May Elune watch over our souls.’

Perhaps it cracked as it fell from Theleste’s lifeless fingers but in that case why write “If this note finds you“? If you’re killing yourself for love surely you’d do it somewhere that the objection of your affections would find you. Both Romeo and Pyramus didn’t need to write down their instructions because their loves found them, bloody and dying. So how else could it have been broken? Maybe Pyramond’s father (who is clearly the villain of the piece) found the vial before his son and dropped it in his disdain. Perhaps Pyramond himself, proving Friar Laurence correct,

So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies 
 Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes. 

decided that he could after all live without Theleste cracked it as he disposed of it.

Separating illusion from truth and truth from illusion is impossible, unless Blizzard decide to write their own short story concerning the “real” fate of these lovers, all we’re left with are fragments of illusion filled in by our own experiences. The romantics amongst us, I’m sure will have these two entwined in death as in life, echoing Larkin’s words.

Time has transfigures them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

To the cynics this story probably has a very different ending. Pyramond never seeing that last letter from his love or perhaps choosing life over death. There are after all plenty of other fish in the sea. Another possible scenario and one I have have to admit appeals to me would see a vengeful and abandoned Theleste seeking revenge. Without bodies we can’t even be sure that either of them died of anything, let alone spider venom. A note and poison doesn’t prove anything so  perhaps she sent the poison hoping to play on his guilt for abandoning her. Thinking that perhaps that last vestige of love he had for her would push him into drinking the venom.

In the end we’ll never know the truth but I like to think that doesn’t matter. At the risk of sounding like a certain British high street bank, it’s the journey not the destination which is important. Pyramond and Theleste regardless of what happened to them have proved food for thought, have been discussed and have  inspired people. I spent last night re-reading Ovid, Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams because of them and that’s pretty good going for two characters who are barely a footnote in a game like WoW. I wish people who are so dismissive of computer games would see them properly rather than just “through a glass, darkly“.

Professor Teasel and the Highborne Soul Mirror

The Blog Azeroth Shared Topic is an interesting one this week.

For the title I thought we could use something along the lines of an Indiana Jones movie so:
Professor <insert name here> and the <insert your favourite Archaeology item or the one you’re still trying to get>

So I was wondering:

What’s so special about <?> (the item you used in the title)? Do you have an absolute favourite/s that you’ve gathered from the profession? Which ones, if any, are the bane of your existence? Show us pics illustrating those pieces, including an outfit if you use one.

Suggested by Cymre.

Now I fully admit Archaeology is up there with Fishing in terms of professions I dislike but wish I didn’t. That said, I do have a few favourite items.

Professor Teasel and the Highborne Soul Mirror

Mirrors and other such reflective surfaces have always fascinated me. The first film I ever watched in a cinema was Disney’s Snow White and despite being terrified of the wicked witch and refusing to eat apples for at least a fortnight in case they were poisoned it was the talking mirror that stuck with me. I remember being really disappointed that the one in my bedroom said nothing, wondering if I was doing it wrong.

Before the Great Sundering, the Highborne were known among the night elves for their arrogance, avarice and outlandish clothing. It was said that nothing was so pleasing to the gaze of the Highborne as themselves. These mirrors were created so that elven ladies could see their colorful garments in three full dimensions, yet the reflection often exaggerated the already depraved visage of the viewer.

I also love the idea of the mirror acting as a sort of portent of things to come, further twisting the features of the gazer. It’s the Picture of Dorian Gray for the Highborne. For Teasel it serves two purposes, firstly as a reminder of the destruction that arrogance, greed and vanity can bring and secondly as a handy PvP tool.

With the aid of this macro it can function a bit like the forthcoming Spectral Guise for Priests, although you need to be both a Druid and a Nightelf.

So lets say someone is beating up on you, you cyclone them and use the macro. It puts you into cat form, uses the mirror and then shadowmelds you. From shadowmeld you stealth and wander off, ideally behind a pillar, wall or other handily placed architectural feature. They’re left with a slightly shadowy cat trying to figure out what on earth happened to the Druid they were smacking around. It doesn’t work on everyone, but it works on enough in battlegrounds and world pvp to be worth it.

Professor Erinys and the Chest of Tiny Glass Animals

I realise this doesn’t sound like a particularly exciting movie but bear with me please. The favour text for this item reads as follows:

Remarkably, you managed to find an entire menagerie of these elven glass animals in their original storage container. While some of the animals have understandably suffered cracks and chips, it is clear that the head of the stag has been deliberately severed. The initial ‘T’ is carved on the bottom of the chest.

Now there are two reasons why I love this item. First of all, I had a glass menagerie of my own when I was small. My two favourites were a little glass pig and a beautifully delicate swan. 

My second reason is slightly more WoW related. (I noticed this morning that Navi has a completely different and more accurate take on this little chest so make sure you read hers too).

When I first dug up this battered chest and saw the initial carved on the bottom, I thought nothing of it. There must be hundreds of Night Elf names starting with a “T” but as I read the rest of the text a picture began to emerge in my head. I remembered what I’d read of the War of the Ancients. This passage in particular:

But before Krasus could answer, from the battlefield came a terrible cry. As they all turned toward its source, they witnessed Archimonde with one arm around the giant stag’s head, his other hand twisting his foe’s muzzle to the side. Already the stag’s head turned at an awful angle, hence the cry.

Krasus leapt to his feet. “No! He must not!”

It was already too late. The demon, his expression still indifferent, tightened his hold further.

A tremendous cracking sound echoed through the region, one that, for just a brief moment, caused all other noises to cease.

P637 of Richard A. Knaak’s book “War of the Ancients: The Sundering”.

I imagine that as Archimonde twisted Malorne’s neck, the head of that little glass stag cracked and broke even though it was many miles away still safe inside the box. As for who the chest belonged to, well that’s simple. Given that stories link both Elune and Ysera of the Dreaming with Malorne, I like to believe that the “T” stands for Tyrande, High Priestess of the Moon and mother of her people.

Now all I have to do is hunt down The Last Relic of Argus and that’s me and Archaeology at peace with each other until MoP is released.

“Maybe you’ve heard of a terrible place”: The Black Market

Maybe you’ve heard of a terrible place
Where the soundrels of Paris
Collect in a lair

When I first read about the forthcoming “Black Market”, my initial gut instinct was “Nooooooo!” but as I thought about it, my opinion shifted.

To explain why, I want to start by talking about what might end up being for sale on this new AH. As we can see from the screenshots on MMO Champion there are a variety of categories encompassing gear, mounts, pets and junk. So potential items could include the following:

  • Tier 3 – i.e. the tier set from the original Naxxramas. That would mean for example that Matty could get her Warlock and Priest sets. We can pretty much guarantee the intention to include these as they are in the screenshots.
  • Benediction/Rhok’ledar  – like tier 3, these are no longer available in-game and could make a return. Personally I’m of the opinion that you can’t call yourself a Priest without a confetti trailing staff so I really hope these turn up at some point.
  • Crystal Webbed Robe – the same colour/design as the Chan’s Imperial Robes which also seem to have vanished from the game. This might also see a return of the other non set items from the original Naxx which haven’t been reused like the fabulous Plague Bearer.
  • Staff of Rampant Growth and all the other bits and pieces which dropped from the Nature Dragons and weren’t reused when the Dragons were removed from the game.
  • Plans for the Thorium Breastplate, along with any other hard to obtain or removed plans.
  • All the rare mounts and pets, potentially those from the Blizzard store too. I also find myself wondering if removed mounts like the original War bear from Zul’aman and the two from Zul’gurub could make a comeback this way. I have to admit, I’d definitely love to see the ZG ones. I’ve lost count of all the times I ran that instance, being exalted on I think three characters (two of which were exalted by the end of vanilla) and yet I’ve never ever seen either of the mounts drop.
  • The addition of the Paper Flying Machine Kit is also an interesting touch as it’s a TCG item. I wonder if any of  the other “junk” items available through the TCG might end up on the Black Market.

Just like the real world which it mirrors in so many ways, Azeroth has changed considerably over the last seven years. Plenty of unique and iconic items have bitten the dust along the way and resurrecting those items would add to the game in my opinion. We (who have these items) do not lose anything by others having them too. Our mounts don’t gain a layer of tarnish for each other person on the server who has what we have. Neither does our character shrink and shrivel slightly because we’re no longer unique and special snowflakes. There is no distinction between the person who got their tier 3 at level 60 and those who got towards the end of the Burning Crusade so it’s not as if tier 3 is proof of being an awesome player. Actually given some of the muppets we carried through Naxxramas when it was cutting edge, even if you could prove when someone got it, having it originally isn’t always a sign of stay out of the fire ability either. It’s not even proof of being a part of the tiny percentage of the player base who experienced vanilla Naxx.

I got my Benediction in 2005 when Majordomo presented a real challenge to guilds but my staff was in no way diminished by all the Priests who got theirs years later. I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the Ashes of A’lar being available but in the months in which we raided Tempest Keep every week without fail my guild got four. For us at least it dropped more often than the War Glaives and they’re not exactly rare either. Certainly in the case of the phoenix, there will be loads of people farming Tempest Keep every week in search of the Ashes and I would imagine that more players will obtain it that way, than ever will through buying it off the Black Market.

What is important about these items is the memories they hold. When I quit WoW, I won’t have a plastic Benediction to take away with me but I will have those memories. The people who passed on the Eye of Divinity for me and the people who spent five hours farming demons in Winterspring for the Eye of Shadow along side me. The people who hung out in the Plaguelands whilst I danced about fighting invisible shades, cheer-leading for me, that’s what is so important about my Benediction. Take Spike, my Iron-bound protodrake and favoured mount of Erinys. I got him when Ulduar was hard and every day I see people in trade chat making PuGs to go and do the achievements but that doesn’t take away from my experiences. When I think of that mount, I remember my guild yelling “In the mountains” every time we pulled Thorim and how bad we were at frying dwarves. I remember our melee’s inability to stay on trains and not fall into gaping chasms. It’s the silliness, the yelling and the laughter which stays when all else fades. It’s the people you play with who make the game so amazing, not the pretty pixels we pick up along the way.

I think having gold sinks is good for the server economy. In order to make the sort of money required to buy some of the tasty items offered for sale on the Black Market people will have to farm. Hopefully that will encourage people to get out into the world regardless of the point in the expansion’s life cycle and make sure that the normal AH is full at all times.  Right now, once you’ve bought the basic gold sinks like the Traveller’s Tundra Mammoth in Wrath and Vial of the Sands in Cataclysm, there isn’t much to pour your money into and that has a knock on effect on the entire server.

Of course making desirable items available through in-game gold carries the risk of making gold selling more attractive to the masses but I think the player base is already fairly divided on that front. The people who think that buying gold is cheating, reprehensible and on the other side of the equation, the scum who think it’s fine even though more often than not it comes from hacking accounts. The latter will always find things to buy with their pieces of silver and Blizzard shouldn’t be limiting the game around them. Yes, people around the middle might find themselves swayed towards the tide mark because of this but that would happen regardless of what gold sinks Blizzard chose to introduce.

After careful consideration, the Black Market is definitely something I’m going to be looking forward to. I’m also going to be working on increasing my capital some what  considerably in the run up to Mists just in case something takes my fancy. When it comes to the scope of what’s offered, I’d like to see a huge variety of items ranging from the currently impossible to obtain to things which rely on those fickle Gods of RNG. I think this is probably a case of the more the merrier.

I just want to be a real Gnome!

It would seem as if the air in Pandaria is reversing the Curse of the Flesh

The hooves are a nice touch, suggesting the truth behind Gnomish origins.

The Azerothian Art Attack

This is Lylobean and when she’s not picking pockets she can be found moonlighting as an Art Thief.

Inspired by posts by Tome and Navi on the art of Azeroth, she’d like to show you her highlights of the art world.

Based on the famous painting American Gothic this little number can be found hanging on several Forsaken walls. Unfortunately they don’t take too kindly to Gnomes popping in to admire their art and neither it seems are they too keen on dusting so watch out for giant spiders. Also if you’re Gnome sized, you’ll need a crate, ladder or box because they insist on hanging everything just out of reach.

Language differences aside, screaming is a bad thing in the art business. Don’t stick around to see whether they’re screaming at you or the giant creepy crawly who lives in the cobwebs. Grab and go!

Sticking with the Forsaken for a bit, I also like these landscapes.

Ideally you want paintings which appeal to multiple markets. For example with this one you draw the attention of  two sorts of nostalgia, the Forsaken who want a memory of home as they head off to foreign shores plus the Humans who want to retake Lordaeron.

Property is usually a good seller too, even if the owner of said property is technically dead.

Although besides these dour Forsaken scenes, I have to admit I’m not a great landscape person. The only other one I make an exception  for is this beauty. As with most things, the fact that the subject is now under several feet of water has dramatically increased the value of this painting (and it’s fifty thousand forgeries).

And yes, the forgery market has even reached Twilight Highlands.

The Dark Iron Dwarves also do a nice number in understated and simple paintings. Specialising in chiaroscuro, their work is both eye-catching and unique.

They do have a bad habit of literally bolting them to the walls though, which is probably why their work isn’t found in every Inn but with a bit of persistence, some slight of hand and a willingness to pretend to be a Twilight supporter whilst you unscrew it, it too can be yours.

The prize for down right creepy art however has to go to the artists of Gilneas.

Spot the difference between these two images.

The lengths some people go to prevent the “borrowing” and “mass reproducing” of their art is astounding. Who needs to securely fasten your work to a wall when it’s guaranteed that even the bravest souls will think twice before attempting to steal it because it’s blinking at them. That’s definitely one painting I wouldn’t want hanging in my house. In fact with any luck, one day that candle will burn the whole lot down before it possesses someone or something equally awful.

Thank you for joining my quick tour of what’s hot in the Azerothian Art Scene!

Next time, I’ll be looking at the emerging new markets in places like Pandaria as well as how the destruction of Theramore is bound to produce some “classic”* paintings that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years so remember to tune in.

*You might wonder how I can be so sure about this, well it’s a long story involving Goblins, canvas scraps, pigments and a business philosophy which would do Mother Courage proud.

Check Mate: Jaina and the Fall of Theramore

This was inspired by a comment Majoto left on my blog in response to this post.

“Unfortunately, because she’s [Jaina] a female character in WoW, this probably won’t happen. Blizzard is terrible at strong female characters. :-/

As I read it, I found myself back in a lecture theatre listening to my tutor talk about the themes of Victorian Literature. At length she discussed the two polarising roles of women in the Art and Literature of the period. The Angel of the Hearth in her guises as Mother, Madonna, Wife and her antithesis, the more popular Fallen Woman. To illustrate her point, along with lines of poetry she showed paintings of domestic bliss followed by image after image of dead girls floating down rivers trailing flowers in their wake or tearfully hurling themselves into angry rivers. Idly at first I found myself applying the same concept to the women of WoW, but then something dawned on me. Just like their Victorian counterparts, all our fleshed out female leaders are defined not by their own abilities but by their relationships with the men that surround them.

Take Sylvanas, the Dark Lady, the Banshee Queen, in a sense she’s the perfect embodiment of a fallen woman. Defined by Arthas, by the man who made her in his own image, who violated her and destroyed her. Her’s was literally a fate worse than death.

The grinning face of Arthas Menethil, with his lopsided smile and dead eyes, leers at her as he pulls her back into the world. Violates her. His laughter—that hollow laugh—the memory of it makes her skin crawl!”

Those are Dave Kosak’s words, describing a flashback she experiences at the start of his short story “Edge of Night“. Now I’m pretty sure if I read those sentences to someone out of context, the conclusion they’d jump to would be one of sexual assault. Again, when in Stormrage, she falls prey to the nightmares, it’s the Lich King who stalks her mind like an incubus. Her prowess with a bow is all but forgotten, it doesn’t matter that she was the Ranger-General because the second she met Arthas, her identity became bound up in his spiderweb. Then, when finally he’s defeated and she should be able to forge ahead with her own undeath, she seeks to kill herself because without him, without the hunt for revenge, life has no purpose to her. It doesn’t matter that she has obligations to both the Horde and the Forsaken, her intent is to throw that all away.

“She hurled the armor from the peak, watching it disappear into the roiling mists”

Kosak’s choice of verb to describe the mists conjures up angry turbulent waters, the kind that the Victorian Painters and Poets were so fond of casting fallen women. Like them, Sylvanas seeks oblivion by falling to her death, a suitably Victorian end for a woman who fell from grace. Of course falling in itself suggests the possibility of redemption, of being raised up again and through the Val’kyr, Sylvanas is given another chance. We will just to have to wait and see whether the rest of her story will be defined by her relationship with another male, her old adversary Garrosh perhaps.

Moira Bronzebeard straddles both worlds, embodying both the Mother and the fallen woman. When we first encountered her in Classic WoW, she was presented as the archetypical damsel in distress. Dragged off to a kingdom beneath a mountain by foul and unnatural magics, we needed to save her and break the evil spell.

It would seem as if my old adversary, Dagran Thaurissan, has me and the kingdom of Ironforge at his mercy.You may be my last hope, <name>. You must rescue my dear daughter, Moira! There is only one way to make sure that the spell Thaurissan has cast on Moira is broken: Kill him. And <name>, do not harm her! Remember, she is being controlled by Thaurissan! The things she may do or say are a result of Thaurissan’s evil spell!

The quest text is interesting, implying that perhaps Thaurissan only took Moira to further his quarrel with her father, which further weakens her position. She wasn’t even kidnapped for her own attributes but was merely a pawn in the game of men. Her actions too are not her own, she’s too weak to overcome this magic. However, once she is rescued over Dagran’s dead body, it seems that perhaps the truth is that she sought to replace a controlling father with a husband she loved. In the Council of the Three Hammers: Fire and Iron short story, she has moved from possible victim to the villain of the piece. She’s manipulative, cunning and sly, unlike the two male representatives of the Council who have proven track records in battle and who are portrayed as proud upstanding men. What I find particularly interesting is that she is the heir to the throne through blood and yet she’s a side character in the Council’s story.

In unison Muradin and Kurdran looked to Moira, as did the entire gathering in the Great Forge. She stood alone.

The Ironforge heiress glanced around as if she were searching for some escape.

Despite being in her own city, despite being the legitimate heir to the throne, like the Victorian fallen women, Moira is ultimately on her own. Outmanoeuvred, caught out in her lies and snared in a trap of her own making. It doesn’t matter that she did what she did to try and strengthen her position and that of her son, her motivation is unimportant because like Shakespeare’s Richard III, she just needed to “prove a villain”.

On the other side of the scale, we see the “Madonnas”, the wives and the mothers of Azeroth. For the Alliance we have Tyrande Whisperwind, from strong powerful woman to a Stepford wife in the time it takes a Druid to yawn, stretch and wake up from the Emerald Dream. Her passivity is reinforced in her name, “Whisperwind”, it’s gentle, non-threatening and relaxing especially when compared to Malfurion’s. “Stormrage” screams with aggression and anger, whilst Tyrande is almost mute. It’s not surprising then that he is the one telling her to “hush”.

Then we come to Aggra, the receptacle for Thrall’s sperm and his reward for being a totally awesome Orc. Like Tyrande, she’s powerful and smart in her own right and yet all that becomes eclipsed as soon as she becomes a wife. Her own story stagnates because now she serves as a mirror to reflect the greatness of her mate. I’m not denying there are strong women populating Azeroth, but most of them are bit parts. Quest givers who show up once or twice before sinking back into obscurity. Thisalee Crow, Sergra Darkthorn, Magatha Grimtotem and Stormcaller Mylra (better known as the “tiny, angry woman”) all spring to mind. There are women in S1:7, women in the Kor’kron Elite, women in the 7th Legion but when it comes to leadership, to the women who should have strong personalities the writing seems to fall flat.

Which brings me to Jaina. With the coming destruction of Theramore, Blizzard have an opportunity to break the mould. Give us a woman who isn’t defined by a man, give us a woman who can stand on her own two feet and doesn’t need rescuing or saving or protecting. Up this point, Jaina has mostly been a sidekick of some sort, chasing after a variety of unsuitable and/or bad tempered men (Arthas, Varian, Kael, her father and Thrall). For most of Wrath, she was the angel of the hearth to the Banshee Queen’s fallen woman, believing that there was still something of the man she loved within the monster and risking everything to try and save him. When she wasn’t chasing Arthas, she was holding Varian’s hand to make sure he wasn’t smashing stuff. Surely now is the time to let her forge her own identity.

The cover of the forth-coming book “Jaina Proudmoore: The Tides of War” doesn’t give me much hope for that however as we’re right back to the Victorians and their fondness for drowning women. (Image borrowed from here).

As I see it, there are four possible options for Jaina once Theramore is nothing more than ashes, bricks and bones.

  • Jaina dies. Nothing motivates armies more than a dead white women.
  • Jaina becomes a damsel in distress. Varian rides in, saves the day, rescuing her from Dragon Garrosh. Next thing we know, she and Aggra are sharing pregnancy tips and Anduin has a sibling to play with. Well, they say you should always have a “heir and a spare” and given the mortality rate in Azeroth, having half a dozen “spares” probably makes sense. Also Royal Weddings inspire the populace and since people are probably claiming Horde bias at the fact that Thrall got one, Blizzard need to give the Alliance one too.
  • As with 2, Jaina needs rescuing from something but manages to go a bit mad in the process, her desire for revenge makes her unstable and as everyone who has ever played Dragon Age 2 knows, angry mages are a dangerous thing. Think Jane Eyre “madwoman in the attic” and she ends up locked up somewhere in Stormwind talking to herself and trying to burn her prison down.
  • Jaina surprises everyone, but especially the Horde by being awesome all by herself. She manages to hold her city for as long as possible and then escapes, saving lots of people and of course rescuing Spot the dog in the process. In an ideal world, she ports her tower to safety or at least out of the range of the Horde weaponry, even if she ends up getting rather wet in the process.

Of all these possible scenarios, I’d like to think that 1 and 3 are the most unlikely. Jaina is an iconic figure and I don’t see Blizzard killing her off. Plus if she dies, the “Tides of War” would be a rather short book. As for 3, Jaina lost Arthas to the same madness. She saw first hand where his quest for revenge at all costs led him. Surely having seen that, she won’t make the same mistakes he did. It would be completely out of character for her, after all, she’s meant to be smart, a quick thinker, surely all that studying paid off. As a Mage, I’d like to think she subscribes to the “Revenge is dish best served cold” school of thought. That sure, you can get mad, set things on fire and yell at people but you don’t rush off a suicide mission only to need rescuing (see 2) or take a leaf out of the Garrosh Hellscream tactical manual just because you’ve realised that the whole “blessed are the peacemakers” line is a total lie propagated by people who want to invade you but not have the inconvenience of you invading them. You wait, you plot and then when the moment is right, you strike.

Whilst I desperately want it to be 4, the cynic in me errs towards 2. We know that the developers are on a campaign to make Varian cool and nothing says “awesome” and “heroic” like rescuing damsels and puppies from burning buildings. I used to play Chess a lot when I was younger and sacrificing your Queen is perfectly acceptable strategy which when applied to WoW, could be extrapolated that the entire destruction of Theramore is nothing more than the chance to advance Varian’s story at some point in the future (especially if Varian’s story = the Alliance story).

Certainly I think Varian Wrynn for the Alliance really needs to be the kind of character that players really look up to and see as a major world figure. And I think if you ask players right now, they don’t quite see him that way yet.” Dave Kosak.

Now yes, he could rescue her without any romance being involved anywhere down the line but given how love seems to flourish under Azeroth’s angry skies, I can’t help but think if saving is involved, it’s probably going to come with a soundtrack of wedding bells.

Thanks to Tzufit’s post on Archbishop Benedictus, I found myself re-reading “The Blood of our Fathers“, Varian’s Leader short story and something stood out. Jaina is mentioned through out, which is fair enough. She and Varian have plenty of history, from fighting in Undercity side by side to watching the Argent Tournament together. However on the last page, this line caught my attention.

As the crowd continued to shout, Varian glanced over at Jaina and Anduin, fighting down his own wave of deep emotions

Why include Jaina? Anduin just saved his father’s life, so Varian’s feelings for his son who is his only living family are one thing but to include an advisor and a friend in that moment seems a little odd. A little later we come to this:

As the crowd cheered, the king stole a glance back at the Honor Delegation. Jaina was smiling and Anduin was applauding louder than anyone

Once could be considered a strange oversight but twice.. yes, Jaina’s a friend of both Varian and Anduin but so are many of the other people thronging the Keep and yet they aren’t mentioned. Throughout the whole of Varian’s story, the theme is one of putting the past to bed, of beginning anew. Is there more symbolisation in the handing over of Tiffin’s locket to Anduin than is made obvious in the story? Is it just about giving the Prince something tangible of his mother’s to keep him safe or is Varian perhaps subconsciously getting rid of the past so he can begin again.

“I have not always been the best leader… or father… or husband.” Varian’s eyes became glassy with memories. He turned and nodded to his son.

“A wise man once said, ‘We each must grow in every direction, every day.’ Well, I still have some growth left in my bones. And behind me, I see a city rising from disaster, with fresh hope and gleaming new spires!”

Given that’s he’s still king, he can improve on his leadership skills, he can work on being a better and more understanding father but without a wife, it’s hard to be a better husband.

Regardless of how the Destruction of Theramore plays out, I hope Jaina demonstrates the annoying survivability of the average frost mage. Please let her stick her tongue out at Garrosh before blinking to safety and let her kite the Horde forces from Dustwallow to Ashenvale. We already have enough female leaders who barely deserve the title, so here’s to hoping that Jaina goes for channelling Elizabeth the First rather than having the vapours and collapsing on the floor.