Saturday, 27 April 2013

My Iranian readers

I noticed a few spikes in my readership numbers, last week. Nothing that Tobold or Rohan would notice in theirs, but huge in mine, coming as it does from a much lower base. told me that there were two spikes, one on the 23rd and another on the 26th, each in the dark hours of morning, each of 140 hits (if I get that in a full day, I'm lucky), and coming from Iran. Who knew such subversives existed in Iran? I hope they enjoy what they read!

Last week the subversives were reading from Germany. But those ones were trying to get me to click a link to their porn site, which would be subverting the purpose of this diary entirely!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Seal Clubbing

I came across this term for the first time a few days ago, while trying to find the formula for WN7, which sites like use for rating World of Tanks players. The term is used to describe experienced players who deliberately play in low-tier tanks to win lots of battles against noobs.

As a casual noob myself, I'm perplexed by this. Surely the whole point of the World of Tanks matchmaking system is to prevent battles where inexperienced players are pitted against experienced players? If I remember back to my early battles, everybody in the battlefield was a total noob. We would be shooting at each other, driving into each other, rushing across the field in Malinovka, doing everything noobish in the book. But as I improved, so did the quality of the rest of my team, and so did the quality of our opponents. Rushing was not so common, and when it was used, it was a deliberate scouting action by a fast tank that hoped to survive, rather than an attempt to overwhelm our enemies. That's as it should be. I was no longer a total noob, so I wasn't matched with total noobs.

Now, after 3000 battles at an "adjusted avg. tier" of 2.47, according to noobmeter, I never find myself in the same battle as "seals" (noobs relative to me), nor do I find myself in the position of a"seal" being clubbed by somebody with a lot more ability than me. I find myself in battles with people of about the same ability as me, with their tanks at the same level of improvement as mine. There is no way that I could get into a battle against genuine noobs, and there's no way a player with much more ability than me would end up in the same battle as me. After 3000 low-tier battles I cannot recall any examples of seal clubbing.

So what's going on? Why are the World of Tanks forums so full of talk about seal clubbers? How can they really exist? Is it, in fact, mainly a term used by players at the top tiers to denigrate play at lower tiers? Or have I noobishly misunderstood something?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Making Maps

Syp recently mentioned, in "Five things I want to find out in any beta" that he likes to see a full map of the world. It got me thinking about maps.

Map-making was important back when you were playing table-top adventure games like D&D. The explorer in me likes starting with a blank page and slowly filling the blanks in. Sometimes a false start even meant a complete re-draw. Which way is "up"? Are these distances correct? I loved all that.

In Azeroth, we map as we explore. I like it that I have to explore an area before it is fully revealed to me. But as soon as we have explored it, the map is correct. No mistakes. No inaccuracies. No omissions.

It took me two weeks to fully uncover the tame mysteries of Elwynn Forest. I "discovered" Outland one October evening while playing "Trick or Treat" there. I flew over most of it at 20,000 ft. I don't think I landed more than once in Blade's Edge,  and I sure as hell discovered none of its mysteries. Nonetheless my map of Outland is as detailed and accurate as my map of Elwynn Forest. That's a bit off. I guess an eagle-eyed hunter might have been able to see the lay of the land from that height, but I couldn't.

How would it be if there was a world where map-making was a profession, just like archaeology? As we explore an area, we can make a map of it (if we have the materials); but it is pretty crude while our map-making skill is poor. It will contain mistakes. Places missing, or in the wrong location. And it only contains the  stuff that was actually in our field of vision. As we make more maps, so our skill increases, and each map gets a bit better than the last one. Until a cataclysm happens, and we have to remap certain parts of the world!

If that's all there was to it, it would be an annoyance. Here's where it gets useful: we can trade maps.

I can make a copy of my map and put it on the Auction House for sale. Like all manual copies, it may contain some errors that weren't in the original. But as my skill in map-making increases, my maps get better, more detailed, more accurate. I can charge more for my maps than you charge, and people will choose my maps for their quality. Once you buy a map, you integrate it into your own map, and over time you can improve your own map by buying maps from well-known cartographers. You can make copies of your updated map for sale. Again, the quality of your copies is limited by your skill in map-making, but at least you're starting with a better original than you could have made on your own. With enough skill, you can make a name for yourself. Your maps will be better than anyone else's.

You might think that the internet will put a stop to that. The maps will be up on Allakhazam before long. Possibly; but which ones? Each of us has a different map. Take a look at a Roman view of the world:

( from ). This is an astounding map. You need to zoom into it, (and probably open the image in a separate page) to look at properly. It has "Insula Thyle" (Thule, possibly Iceland, or another landmass near the north pole) at the top left, then three unnamed islands just to the right of it before we see Ibernia Insula (the island of Hibernia, Ireland), then Caledonia (Scotland) and Brittania (Roman Britain). At first it's hard to recognize just what we're looking at, because we're used to a particular world-view in our maps. Just below Ireland (I don't say "south of Ireland" because south has no meaning on this map) is the whale-like shape of Hispania (the Iberian peninsula, i.e. Spain and Portugal), and then at the bottom of the map is North Africa. It takes time, looking at that map, to fit it into our modern view of how Europe should look.

Here's another one:

Again, it takes several moments to recognize just what we're looking at. Africa to the right, Asia at the top. Is that Cyprus at the centre of the universe?

It's hard to see that these two Roman maps are of much the same territory. If you were Allakhazam, how would you deal with differences? Is Thule next to Ibernia or is it closer to Dacia (Romania)? Sometimes, while playing D&D, a map would  fall into our hands: found in a library or sold by a trader for two camels, or found on the body of an enemy. It was always interesting to compare with our own maps. Could these really be of the same territory? Oh, look! There's an oasis we didn't know about!

As long as the real source of all our maps remains a secret, Allakhazam's map will also be just an approximation of the truth. Your map might have a secret location, known only to you for now!

Of course, over time, our maps will get better and better, until it will be easy to buy a perfect representation of the world for a few coins. Ah, but then comes the expansion. And with it, new regions, completely unmapped.

I'm sure there are holes in this idea. Perhaps you can help in filling them in?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Reavers' Return

I popped into Dalaran recently, and was much surprised to see the Sunreavers back in place, wandering around the city as cool as you please, as if Jaina had never purged them from the place, and as if I'd never imprisoned them and killed those resisting arrest. What's going on?

Monday, 22 April 2013


I gutted Lei Shen last week, as soon as the LFR instance was available. I was also gutted. Like killing the Sha of Fear in 5.1, Lei Shen's death did not seem the act of a band of heroes. It was not epic. A few months ago, I'd never even heard of Lei Shen or the Sha of Fear. They don't have any resonance in lore. But I don't think that even if they had, it would have been satisfying. Probably the opposite, because there was no epic quality to it. LFR has let us participate in raids that we would perhaps not have seen for some time; but it can't let us participate in the epic experience. Our guild's first kill of the Stone Guard in the Mogu'shan Vaults normal had more of a heroic feel to it. Certainly our kill of Jan-Xi and Qin-Xi was epic. But not as epic as it would have been if we hadn't all killed them several times in LFR beforehand.

I'm not sure what to say, here. We, individually, can't build the epic quality by simply not doing the LFR version, for two reasons: we need the gear, and we need the sigils/secrets of the empire. I suppose an alternative route to getting the gear is to get the Valor Points and buy Shado-Pan Assault gear with them. But you still need to kill bosses in the Throne of Thunder to get the rep to spend them. The only boss I've been able to kill on normal so far is Jin'rokh. In previous expeditions, we used heroic dungeon gear to equip us for raiding, but that isn't feasible currently. Geared only in dungeon gear, you wouldn't even get into the LFR vesion of the Throne of Thunder. If you went into the normal version, you would know what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Thunder God's Palace that day, I can tell you.

Saving Ra-Den as a special boss for heroic raids only was a good idea. I can see that building excitement in a raid team. Getting close to him, then wiping on him, then finally getting him down. A boss you'd never encountered before. I like that idea. Unfortunately, most raid teams won't get heroic Ra-Den down while he is still current. For mid-level raid teams like ours, who will be happy even to complete Normal (we're still not on tier 14), it would be nice if blizzard could throw us a bone, and produce a boss that is encountered in Normal, but not in LFR. A final boss for Normal, who would also be a penultimate boss for Heroic.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My old friends, Spidersilk Boots and Drapes.

Cold wanted to know what used to sell well, and now doesn't, and what we could learn from it, over at Cold's Gold Blogging Carnival.

Long ago, my mage banker Fuill spent most of her time at the auction house, buying a bit of this, selling a bit of that. Well, after a while, she got bored and started running around Elwynn Forest and  Westfall like anyone else would, levelling. But she had to keep going back to the auction house, and that severely cramped her levelling. So she decided to take up PvP, once she got to level 15 and qualified for Warsong Gulch. She collected some gear through questing, but quickly realized that if she was to take PvP seriously, she really had to stop levelling at level 19: a level 19 PvPer was at the top of her bracket, a level 20 PvPer was at the bottom.

Since she hadn't set out at level 1 to be a PvPer, she hadn't optimised her levelling for collecting the best PvP gear, and since in those times you couldn't switch off XP gain, then she could no longer go questing for new gear - from that point on, all her gear would have to come from the Auction House.

I helped her out. As a tailor, I was able to find two important pieces of gear that were excellent for level 19, the best you could buy: Spidersilk Boots and Spidersilk Drape. I quickly found that Fuill wasn't the only one who wanted this gear. There were plenty of other cloth-wearers who found themselves in Warsong Gulch and would pay top dollar for the best gear they could get. Of course, the Spider's Silk was expensive at auction, and rare, because people in Duskwood often didn't realize how valuable it was, and wouldn't bother to loot it. More than once I spent a half hour in Duskwood myself, killing spiders for their silk, and advertising in general chat that I would buy any spider's silk that other people looted.

The market was great for me, though, because few other tailors were making Spidersilk gear. They either didn't notice that these low-level pieces sold at such a great price, or they didn't have the materials needed and weren't about to go and spend time and money on getting them in case the items didn't sell; and on the face of it, it looked like a price-fixing scam rather than a genuine sale price. Only Fuill's fellow twinks knew why they were so expensive.

That whole twink market died years ago. Ironically, it was killed by a twink: Besten, the twink rogue who will allow you to switch off XP. At the same time XP-locked twinks were put into twinks-only battlegrounds.

The first of these changes allowed genuine twinks to go out into the world again and do quests and kill mobs without fear of levelling. That meant that they could go out and get BoP gear that was previously unreachable to people like Fuill who became twinks by chance, and hadn't planned their levelling 1-19. For instance, they could now go out and get the Engineer's Cloak from Stonetalon. This was on a par with the Spidersilk Drape, and was free. Or they could go and run Wailing Caverns over and over until the Feyscale Cloak dropped. Similarly, they could go out to the Stranglethorn Vale and try to get Nat Pagle's Extreme Anglin' Boots. In other words, they were no longer limited to equipping themselves with what they could find on the Auction House.

At the same time, twink-only battlegrounds meant that twinks were having a harder time getting into battlegrounds, because there were relatively few of them. In turn that meant that fewer people started new twinks. Patch 3.2 knocked the heart out of the market.

The lesson.

As elsewhere in life, we have to expect change, and they have unexpected side-effects as well as planned effects. Luckily, I never stockpiled spider's silk, but this example and my frozen orb fiasco has convinced me not to bother stockpiling mats beyond the needs of the next few weeks. In fact, when I read gold gurus suggesting that we ought to stockpile this or that for an upcoming patch, I sometimes conclude that I ought to be dumping those same items in the run-up to the patch.

Monday, 8 April 2013


Is it my imagination, or have tanks with autocannons started doing more damage since release World of Tanks release 8.4 came out, a few weeks ago?

You know what I mean by autocannons, don't you? Those guns that fire bursts of small shells in rapid succession. Their penetration is usually almost as good as the regular gun for the tank, but their damage is a good deal less. Their accuracy is also less, so the shells spray out like from a sub-machine gun rather than a sniper's rifle.

Up close they are deadly: they can pump all shells from the burst into you, and usually their high rate of fire means they can keep hitting you while you try to line up a shot - disrupting your aim and often causing you shoot over or under them.

At range, however, it is my recollection that they used to cause much less of a problem. For a start, usually only one shell from the spray might hit you instead of all of them; and I got the impression that their penetration dropped more rapidly at range. That would make sense: a small projectile slows down more through air-resistance than a large projectile.I got used to ignoring autocannons hitting me from afar. The shells just bounced off, and didn't even rock the tank much - so didn't affect aiming as much.

Since release 8.4, though, I have the impression that their penetration doesn't drop off like it used to. I'm getting killed by them. Shells that used to bounce off are now blowing me up. In WoT, nothing is more embarrassing than being destroyed by a Leichttraktor, especially if you can't even see him*.

I tried swapping the guns on a few of my tanks to try out the autocannon for myself, to see if it feels different. But the problem is that I can't remember how it felt to use an autocannon before: I never liked the Leichttraktor, and always got tanks with 'proper' guns on them. So I've no means of comparison, except as a target! What I can say, is that when I earlier dismissed the, it was before I learned how auto-targetting worked. Now when I'm using an autocannon, I've learned to target my opponent, then right click to lock on to him before shooting, so that my gun automatically follows him as I circle around him. That's made using an autocannon more fun for me. But not enough so that I've stuck with it. My play-style is not naturally to rush into the thick of things, circle-strafing and using my speed to get me out of trouble. So I replaced my autocannon with bigger calibre guns again.

* well, almost nothing. Drowning yourself or falling off a cliff to your doom are still more embarrassing. Also, last night some guy killed himself (but not me) by ramming my KV-1. That was pretty funny!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Gear plan in 5.2

If you want to skip my waffle, my mage gear-plan for 5.2 is at the bottom of the page.

Back in October, I listed my gear plan to get me into heroics. That worked out very well, and once in heroics, enough ilvl 463 gear showered down on me to get me into Mogu'shan Vaults (LFR edition); and in turn enough gear rained down on me to get me into the other LFR raids. What with that and the VP spent with various vendors, by the end of 5.1, I was geared like this:
Hood of Focused Energy (ilvl 476) from an LFR drop. That and Firecracker Corona (ilvl 489, 1125VP) seem to be very popular.
Wire of the Wakener (ilvl 489) from the Klaxxi, 625 VP. Also popular is Amulet of Seven Curses (ilvl 476 LFR drop)
Mantle of the Golden Sun (ilvl 489) from the Golden Lotus, 875 VP. Other mages are also wearing Mantle of the Burning Scroll (ilvl 483) or Shoulderpads of Twisted Fate (ilvl 483), both LFR drops
I should have been wearing a crafted Robe of Eternal Rule (ilvl 496), but I couldn't bring myself to buy a cloth garment that I hadn't tailored, myself; and the pattern never dropped for me. Instead, I'm wearing Imperial Ghostbinder's Robes, which I got at ilvl 483 from MSV normal, but which is also available from LFR at ilvl 476. Other mages are sporting Vestments of Thundering Skies (ilvl 489, from the Golden Lotus for 1125 VP).
Cloak of Snow Blossoms (ilvl 489) from the Shado-Pan. I see other spellcasters wearing a bunch of fairly similar cloaks from ilvl 476-483 from various LFR drops.
Twisting Wind Bracers (ilvl 483) from Blade-Lord Ta'yak in the LFR version of the Heart of Fear. Minh's Beaten Bracers (ilvl 489 from the August Celestials, 625VP) is more popular.
Gloves of the Burning Scroll (ilvl 483). The Burning Scroll regalia comes from tokens dropped by tier 14 raid bosses (tier 14 being the pre-5.2 raids: MSV, HoF, TES). The tokens are called "XXXX of the Shadowy Vanquisher" for mages, and can be handed in to Commander Oxheart for a piece of gear. The tokens dropped in LFR raids are all ilvl 483. Other mages are also wearing Spelltwister's Gloves (ilvl 476, crafted).
Belt of Malleable Amber (ilvl 483)dropped for me from Aber Shaper Un'sok. For VP you can buy the Klaxxi Lash of the Orator (ilvl 489, 875VP from the Klaxxi) or Bon-iy's Unbreakable Cord (ilvl 496, 1312 VP from Operation Shieldwall)
Leggings of the Burning Scroll (ilvl 483, more Shadowy Vanquisher gear)
Feet:Sandals of Oiled Silk (ilvl 496). These hush-puppies come from Operation: Shieldwall for 1312VP, and are a great boost for anyone wanting to get into the tier 15 LFR raids in the Throne of Thunder (you need an average ilvl of 480 for that). If you haven't yet got them, you should seriously consider them. I upgraded mine to ilvl 504  for another 1500 VP at the tail-end of 5.1, while the upgrade vendor was still around
Fingers:Band of the Shieldwall (ilvl 496), also from Operation: Shieldwall, a mere 937VP, and Simple Harmonius Ring (ilvl 489), 625VP from the Golden Lotus
Trinkets:Relic of Yulon (ilvl 476) is a must. This comes from the Darkmoon Fair Serpent Desk, crafted by scribes. I upgraded mine to ilvl 484 while I still could.Blossom of Pure Snow (ilvl 489), 875VP from the Shado-Pan.
Staff/Main Hand + Off hand:If you're serious about following the Wrathion quest line, you'll have got your "legendary" weapon (by which I mean a weapon capable of holding a legendary sha-touched gem). That's also how come you have so many VP to spend on gear! The Test of Valor quest has some beneficial side-effects. The weapon I got is Loshan, Terror Incarnate (ilvl 483), an LFR drop from Tsulong in the TES.
For off-hand, only this will do:
Inscribed Jade Fan (ilvl 476) made by scribes.
An alternative would be to get Jin'ya, Orb of the Waterspeaker, which is a "legendary" staff dropped by Lei Shi in the TES. 
(VP prices are 5.2 prices, not 5.1. The price has dropped since 5.2 arrived):

So, that was how I was geared at the end of 5.1. Since my average ilvl was above 480, I was able to get into LFR throne of Thunder as soon as it opened. If yours isn't, buy the Operation Shieldwall gear, Band of the Shieldwall and Sandals of Oiled Silk. What next? Well, the first thing is to check out the new factions: the Shado-Pan Assault and the Kirin Tor Offensive. The Shado-Pan Assault has the better gear, but the Kirin-Tor Offensive is the easier to get gear from.

The most important thing here is that the Shado-Pan Assault already have one item that they'll sell to you when you're neutral to them: the necklace Destroyer's Battletags (ilvl 522, 1250VP). You can get to be neutral with them just by finding the Shado-Pan Assault Quartermaster, Teng! This should be your first VP purchase. Once you get to friendly with these guys, you can also get Troll Burner Bracers and Signet of the Shado-Pan Assault. The key here is that you can't get reputation with these guys by doing dailies for them. They require you to go into the Throne of Thunder and kill their enemies there!

The Kirin Tor Offensive, on the other hand, has an immense pile of dailies for you to do on the Isle of Thunder, and it isn't hard to get rep fast with them. You can buy an ilvl 476 belt from them for a few gold if you haven't anything more decent. At revered, you can buy a Static-Collecting Cloak (ilvl 496, 937 VP),  and at exalted you can buy the Restored Hexxer's Signet (ilvl 496, 937VP).

So between the Battletags, the Kirin-Tor Offensive and Operation Shieldwall, you should have no trouble getting enough gear to get into the Throne of Thunder, and start earning rep with the Shado-Pan Assault.

The Shado-Pan assault is the key to gearing up in patch 5.2. Once you're friendly with them, you can buy the Signet of the Shado-Pan Assault (ilvl 522, 1250 VP), Volatile Talisman of the Shado-Pan Assault (ilvl 522 trinket, 1750 VP) and Troll-Burner Bracers (ilvl 522, 1250 VP). At  honored, you may buy Charfire Leggings (ilvl 522, 2250 VP), Flameweaver Handwraps (ilvl 522,  1750 VP) and Shadowspike Cloak (ilvl 522, 1250 VP). At revered, you can choose a Firestrike Cord (ilvl 522, 1750 VP) and Fire Support Robes (ilvl 522, 2250 VP), and at exalted, you can get either Shoulders of Demonic Dreams or Frost-Kissed Shoulderwraps for 1000G (not VP).

Crafting produces a couple of ilvl 522 items, at great expense. The head-piece, Falling Blossom Cowl, is a must -there is really nothing equal to in ToT LFR, and most of the better pieces are heroic raid drops. It will be horrendously expensive. The same is true of the footwear, Falling Blossom Treads. I will be spending a fortune on these.

By their weapons shall ye know them. This is ultimately what sets raiders apart from non-raiders. Outside of raids, there are no epic weapons available, even for ready money. Well, actually, there are two for mages. You can get an ilvl 476 Inscribed Serpent Staff if you have a scribe in your pay. Outside of LFR, you can also get Darkmaster Gandling's drop, Headmaster's Will, in Scholomance. But really, you've come this far, you need to have the "ledge", either Loshan or Jin'ya. And that means you just have to keep running the Terrace of Endless Spring until one of them drops.

So, this is my gear plan for 5.2:

Head:Falling Blossom Cowltailoring
Neck:Destroyer's BattletagsShadow-Pan Assault neutral
Shoulders:Shoulders of
Demonic Dreams
Shadow-Pan Assault exalted
Chest:Fire Support RobesShadow-Pan Assault revered
Cloak:Shadowspike CloakShadow-Pan Assault honored
Wrists:Troll-Burner BracersShadow-Pan Assault friendly
Hands:Flameweaver HandrapsShadow-Pan Assault honored
Waist:Firestrike CordShadow-Pan Assault revered
Legs:Charfire LeggingsShadow-Pan Assault honored
Feet:Falling Blossom Treadstailoring
Finger 1:Signet of the
Shado-Pan Assault
Shadow-Pan Assault friendly
Finger 2:Eye of Oondasta
(ilvl 522)
It dropped for me last week
when killing Oondasta.
If you don't have such luck,
you can use Restored Hexxer's
Signet instead. 
Trinket 1:Volatile Talisman of
the Shado-Pan Assault
Shadow-Pan Assault friendly
Trinker 2:Wushoolay's Final Choice
(ilvl 502)
A lucky ToT LFR drop last
week. Apart from praying for
lucky drops, best choice is
the Shock-Charger Medaillon
from Operation Shieldwall
Main Hand:Loshan, Terror IncarnateTsu-Long in TES
Off Hand:Inscribed Jade FanInscription
or Staff:Jin'ya,
Orb of the Waterspeaker
Lei-Shi in TES

As you can see, this isn't cheap. There's about four months' worth of VP in there, for a start. I'm hoping for lucky drops!