A Little Quiet Around Here

"I think writer's block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out." - Roy Blount, Jr.

I have not abandoned my blog, but it's beginning to feel a little neglected these days. In the past couple of weeks I have been having a very hard time getting quality writing done. I have been struggling mightily with every post that I try to write, and so my blog has been very quiet as of late. The noise of the crickets around here is deafening.

With precious little time at home that isn't filled with satisfying the demands of either the Dwarfling or my Wife and free time at work diminishing as we enter our busy season, I am finding it increasingly hard to find the time or inspiration to sit down and write blog posts. And when I do try to bang out some words, I find myself harshly critiquing things before even getting anything written and so never manage to get very far. I'm probably over-thinking things and making it harder than it needs to be, but words just aren't coming to me easily right now.

It really bugs me that this Blog is as quiet as it is right now. I take a lot of pride in Battle Medic, and to see it wither - even temporarily - is painful to me. I think about it all the time. Not posting feels like a failure, which makes actually sitting down and working on new posts even harder because of the pressure that I'm putting on myself to get new and excellent content up. Filler posts like these are okay, I suppose, but I can't imagine listening to me whine about not posting is terribly compelling to anyone.


The worst part is that I have a lot of great posts that I want to get posted. Each one has a start, or a concept in my Drafts folder, but I am finding finishing them very difficult. As a result I have slipped quite dreadfully from my goal of three posts per week, and am barely managing one a week at the moment. I thought that in lieu of actually giving all you Battle Medic fans actual content, I would fill you folks in on what I'm currently working on.
  • A Dungeoneering Shaman's Journey to 60
  • The Druid Dilemma talking about why I don't have a druid even though I've always wanted one
  • An article on my Power Auras for Holy Paladins & Resto Shamans
  • Holy Paladin Basics guides
  • an update on Raiding
  • an article on the Recycling of content (ie, the Troll Dungeons)
  • an article on the current state of WoW
  • Serenity Saz's 15 Days of Screenshots Challenge with a unique Battle Medic flair. I'm actually quite excited about this and looking forward to doing it.


I picked up lot of new readers and new subscribers in April while I was doing the 20 Days of WoW Challenge. With that in mind and seeing as how this is a filler post anyway, I thought that I would share with everyone a list of the posts from the earlier months of the blog that I am most proud of. This feels quite self-indulgent, but I hope that someone who hasn't gone through and read Battle Medic from the beginning finds something interesting.


I promise.


Mobile Blogging

This is what Sex would look like if it
came with a Data Plan.
When you write a blog, you never know when the inspiration may strike to write your next great post, and having the ability to write on the go is very desirable. These days smartphones are everywhere, have more power and utility than my first five computers combined and are a great way to quickly jot down an idea or churn out some word count anywhere.

In fact, this post is being written on an iPhone while I'm on a break in a training seminar.


Depending on which blogging platform you choose, there are dozens of different Apps to blog on the go. Most, however, are geared towards Photo Blogging as opposed to actual post writing, but there are a handful of apps that will allow you to blog just about anywhere.

The official Wordpress
App = Pure Win.
On the iPhone, at least, Wordpress is extremely easy; providing an official and feature-rich free app to manage all your blogs. It gives a complete mobile dashboard that allows you to do just about anything that you can do on a proper computer. Writing posts, managing comments or tracking stats are all available to you any time you can type on your phone and not walk into a lightpost.

Blogger, on the other hand, is a little more difficult. For some odd reason Google doesn't provide an official app to write posts, but instead have an E-mail based system for creating content. It is much less robust than the Wordpress app, but does allow some limited functionality.

A quick search of the Apple App Store will bring up dozens of apps - some free and some available for a fee - that will allow more integration with Blogger. This post, for instance, is being written by the free version of BlogBooster, an ad-supported app available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 that will integrate with just about every blogging platform out there. It is by no means perfect - with one or two extremely annoying quirks - but at least it allows me to do things like italics and bold and not just plain text. And, hello? Who builds a word processor without a flipping undo button?

With both of these apps you can sync the phone with your blog so that you have a copy of your drafts and recent published posts on your phone, which allow you to work on them offline. Very handy if you don't have access to reliable Wifi or 3G coverage. It also removes the bandwidth concern of being constantly connected to a website; just type away and upload your post when you're done.


iPhone 4 Keyboard: Not as bad
as it seems at first.
Mobile phones these days come with all sorts of different keyboards, from standard QWERTY style hardware ones, software based ones like the iPhone, or simple phone-style numberpads like on the Blackberry Pearl or other more conventional phones. Obviously, a keyboard with proper, physical keys is easier to use, bit I'm surprised at how good the soft keyboard on the iPhone is; and autocorrect is not nearly as evil as I was led to believe. I find that typing is fairly quick, given it's a two-thumb process and accuracy is not all that bad with a little practice. I find the keyboard is much easier to use when using it in the horizontal position.

Editing, on the other hand, is a pain in the ass. With no arrow keys it's very hard to precisely position the cursor on the word or letter that needs changing, which results (autocorrect thought that results should have been exults for some reason) in retyping whole words when attempting to change something small. And selecting the right word is challenging for someone with the dainty thumbs of an 800 pound Mistvale Gorilla.


A smartphone, no matter how sophisticated or sexy, is by no means the ideal blogging device. And while I would never want to write anything substantive using this iPhone again, I certainly like having the (thus? Really autocorrect?) option to be able to do some writing on the fly when a computer isn't readily available. The app options available are varied and most will do a very good job at the basics, but will quickly run into the limitations of a device that just isn't designed for the task.

For the record, this post was written on the iPhone and edited on my main computer at home. This Dwarf's mommy didn't raise a masochist.


On Timing: The 4.1 Keybind Action Change

Have you ever had something that you do all the time suddenly feel completely uncomfortable and unfamiliar? Like when you write a word that you've written a thousand times before but then look at it and find no connection between the specific arrangement of letters and the meaning, as if you've never seen the word before? It's an odd feeling.

Something like that happened to me after the 4.1 patch.

One of the less heralded features that Blizzard included in 4.1 was a change to the way key presses work. In the past, when you pushed a key down the ability that is bound to that key would not activate until you released the key. Or put more simply, the ability activated when the key was going up as opposed to down.

Blizzard added an option to change this behaviour in the form of a check-box in the Interface>Combat part of the main menu. Having this box checked would change the action of the key press to activate when the key is pressed, rather than released. Blizzard also set this option to ON by default.

For many, this was a welcome and long overdue change. Add-ons have existed for a long time to provide this kind of functionality, and many people have been using them for years. In theory it should save a split-second every time you activate an ability. It's kind of a mystery as to why they did it the other way in the first place, really.


I swear that I tried to give this change an honest try. I can completely see the advantages of the new key action, and before the patch I was very excited about this change. I figured that it would make healing much more natural and responsive and in the long run would make me a better healer.

However, something happened that I did not expect. Every time I tried to heal things just didn't work right. My timing had been completely thrown off by the change. I would press the button too early and get a That Ability Isn't Ready Yet error and my spell wouldn't cast, forcing me to press the button again and waste precious time. Or I would press the button and it would cast on the wrong target because I had selected the target I wanted a fraction of a second after hitting the button. My timing was off so much that everything felt completely foreign and I was having a really hard time healing.

That split second made a huge difference.

I ended up having to spend more time looking at my Stuf cast bar (which shows latency) so that I could time the button presses just right, which meant spending less time looking at the giant globs of green goo that the boss was using to try to kill me. My fingers just didn't want to cooperate, and were fighting years of muscle memory in trying to learn the new timing.

I tried for a week or so to get used to to it, but I ended up having to turn it off. Once I did everything felt alright again and the natural flow of my healing rhythm returned.

I guess the moral of this little story is that any little change can be a big change. Given more time I probably could have got used to it, or I could have switched to Clique or Mouseover Macros to solve to problem. But the simplest solution was to just turn it off.

Did anyone else have any problems adjusting to the change, or am I just weird?


This Week in Raiding: Unfamiliar Waters

I must not fear. 
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
The Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert's Dune

In recent weeks my guild has run into a wall.

Shadowgarde needs healers
Call it the summer doldrums or boredom from running the same raids for four months, but our raiding has pretty much stopped in its tracks. The raid group that began the expansion with such promise and progress has fallen to the attendance boss for the past three weeks: A boss that is impossible in its mechanics, and has a very poor loot table.

Our Raid Leaders have given up on trying to get raids together after losing a few people. Our tanks have disappeared. One of our healers wanted to switch and start raiding with his warrior, and then quit the guild when he felt that that wasn't going to happen. Our Raid Leader is leaving for the summer.

Nine bosses out of twelve down and we give up. Speaking personally, it’s very frustrating to see my goal so close and then see progression ended simply because the weather has improved.

It has left me with a few options if I want to continue raiding before the next tier becomes a reality in Patch 4.2:

  1. Continue as is and hope that the raid group reforms. 
  2. PUG or run with a different guild.
  3. Quit Shadowgarde and join another guild, hoping to get a roster spot. Not an encouraging prospect.
  4. Suck it up and lead my own raid group.

Simply waiting for the problem to solve itself is not an option because it simply won't happen and everybody involved knows it. If history has taught me anything with this guild it's that Raiding runs hot and cold, and after an intense hot patch to start the expansion we are moving into a lull.

Option two or three would be the easiest option in many ways. It's easy to run away from a problem and join another guild, but all I would be doing is moving from a group with known issues to one with unknown problems. And it would mean abandoning the effort that I have put into this guild. I have been there for over a year now, and I like the people in it very much. I have worked very hard to fit in to the guild and to become a respected member. Leaving Shadowgarde is something that I really don't want to be forced to consider, but if eventually it turns out that my goals are incompatible with the guild's then it may eventually be my only option. Frankly, it sickens me to even have to be thinking about it.

I admit, out of all these choices, leading my own group is by far the most intimidating. I have never led a raid before, nor have I ever really even considered it. Do I have the situational awareness to successfully manage a raid during a fight? Do I have the ability to get people dancing to the right tune without becoming a shrill, demanding dictator? Will anybody even listen to me? Hell, will I even be able to find enough people to fill a raid?

I have always been the guild cheerleader in many ways. I've always been the guy who offers up the "Good attempt, we'll get him" encouragements after a wipe and the one who cracks jokes and tries to keep the mood light when things are getting tense. But I rarely get into discussions regarding the strategy beyond talking about healing assignments. An actual leadership role is entirely foreign territory.

All that being said, I am jumping somewhat blindly into the unfamiliar waters of Raid Leading. I guess I'll learn if I can swim once I'm submerged into it.

Our first raid is scheduled for this coming Sunday, so I have a full week to prepare myself and assemble my team. I think we'll be okay for Tanks, even though our Bear off-tank is a little rusty and not geared as well as I would like to see. Our DPS will be fine as well, I think; with a mix of newer raiders and (hopefully) a couple of seasoned people who have been raiding with this group from the beginning.

The big concern I have is healers. Aside from me, I have no idea where the other healers are going to come from. I am likely going to have to do some heavy recruiting this week and see if I can snag a raid-ready healer or two.

And then there are the fights themselves. I've always studied the fights from a healers perspective, but now I'm going to have to explain them to everyone and give people assignments. Which mean I'm going to need a great deal more detailed knowledge about what's going on. And I'm going to need to learn how to communicate what is going on and what I need people to do clearly. "Avoid the giant purple puke" isn't going to cut it.

Luckily I have the help and support of my friend and co-leader, Medea, who is an experienced raid leader and our main tank. So I'm not doing this entirely alone.

I have to admit that I am exited and terrified at this new challenge. I honestly never thought that I would be doing this. Does anyone have any advice for a fledgling Raid Leader about to take the dive?


Images of Azeroth - May 2011

Leaves of Tol Barad Penninsula

The Great Titan City of Ulduar

A Lake on Azuremyst Island

King Magni Entombed in Old Ironforge

Click to enlarge, as always. Comments are always appreciated!


Catching Up

"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things: of shoes and ships - and sealing wax - of cabbages and kings." - Lewis Carroll
Unless this is your first visit to Battle Medic (and if so, welcome!), you are aware that the month of April was dominated by the 20 Days of WoW Challenge. I wasn't really able to do much posting on topics other than the challenge itself, so I figured that it might be nice to pull up a chair, pour ourselves a drink and catch up on what's been going on.

"Reading the quotes you chose for the beginnings of these posts is awesome sprinkles on a cupcake of win." - Glorwynn of Heavy Wool Bandage via Twitter
Of all the comments and reactions that my 20 Days of... blogathon generated, the one quoted above is my absolute favourite.

I learned many things during the last month while I tackled the Challenge. I learned that I like writing and posting everyday. And even though I didn't accomplish my goal of posting each and every day, I like the feeling of frequent posts. I have never in my life written as much or as often as I did last month. It was a lot harder than I thought to consistently churn out quality content, even when the topics were set ahead of time. Overall, however, I am extremely happy with how the Challenge went.

There are several posts that I am unsatified with (Day 7 and Day 19 were fairly lackluster efforts), but there are many more posts that I am very proud of: Day 5, talking about the books of Azeroth. Day 15 surprised me since the post ended up having nothing to do with WoW at all, but reads well and felt really good to write. The post on Day 17 is special because I had a lot of fun doing the images of Southshore and Loch Modan for it.

I also realized that I really enjoy writing the little in-character fiction pieces that I included in Day 20: Denouement, and the older post Pushing a Boulder Uphill. It is a completely different style of writing; one that is quite compelling and something that I want to explore further. I am very pleased with how Denouement turned out, even though I wish I would have given it one final edit before hitting the publish button - I think the prose could be a bit tighter.

The 20 Days of WoW Challenge also taught me that I have a long way to go in terms of engaging my readers and generating more interaction through the comments. I was blown away by the reader response to these posts when it came to pageviews - I averaged about 120 pageviews per day, not including people using readers - but those views didn't translate into comments. It's something that I would like to improve on, but am not entirely sure how.


After several weeks of working on it to the exclusion of everything else, Shadowgarde finally managed to down Cho'gall a couple of times, bringing us to 9 of 12 bosses down in normal progression. Cho'gall still refuses to drop Holy Paladin gear, however, which puts him on my naughty list.

I find it amazing that once I got comfortable with what I needed to do and when I needed to do it, the fight becomes quite easy. The trick for me as the Paladin assigned to the tanks was to learn to anticipate the moments during the add phases that the Cho'gall tank would be taking extreme damage and to time the use of cooldowns accordingly. As well, convincing the Add Tank to stay within Line-of-Sight so that my Beacon of Light could heal him helped tremendously.

Unfortunately, we've had a bit of a setback in raid attendance. Our two tanks and several of our regular raiders have gone AWOL since Easter, leaving us scrambling for alternatives. We've been doing fine; we're still managing to get our farm bosses down without too much fuss, but our progression work on Nefarian has completely ground to a halt. And with Patch 4.2 looming on the horizon and with it the imminent appearance of the next raiding tier, time is running out to accomplish my 12/12 goal.


What does it mean when there are a dozen mobs running all over the place, spells flying every-which-way, so many things going on that I can't even begin to keep track of them all, and through it all somebody is constantly punching me in the face?

Oh yes, it must mean that I'm tanking.

I took Fannon 2.0 into the Scarlet Monastery Library last night to get the last experience points needed to finally ding level 40. In the process I dipped my foot into tanking for the first time since the Elemental Invasions that preceded Cataclysm, and for the first time ever on a Paladin.

Now, firstly, I was a full five levels above the next highest in the group and going into the SM Library at the very last level that I was eligible to do so in the Dungeon Finder, so I expected it to be a complete faceroll. I wasn't disappointed, either. We steamrolled the dungeon, and I was doing double the DPS of the next highest person - again, not unexpected given the level discrepancy.

I mention it because even given all that, Tanking is just as chaotic and insane as I remember. Trying to keep track of where the mobs are, who they're attacking and still keep up a threat/DPS rotation was a lot of work, whereas healing the same dungeon on my lowbie Shaman, Thallie, was a snorefest.

We succeeded and completed the dungeon without any casualties, or really even any real scares, even when I pulled Arcanist Doan somewhat prematurely. But the lesson learned here is that I need to do a lot of work before I can call myself an accomplished Tank. It gives me a new appreciation for what those meat-shields go through every raid.

On the other hand, my main's Protection off-spec (which arguably has better gear than my main spec), is a lot of fun to play doing dailies on Tol Barad.


The wife and Dwarfling went to visit family for six days over the Easter holidays, which allowed me the unprecedented opportunity to binge on WoW like I haven't done in months. And while I spent a fair bit of time raiding and instancing on my main, I also dedicated a great deal of time to my young, dungeoneering Shaman.

When we last left Thallie she still had the Level 30 achievement banner hanging off of her, and when the Easter weekend started that's just where she remained. Twenty-four hours after my wife left for her trip and dozens of random dungeon runs later, however, Thallie was sitting at a very pretty level 40. All told I probably spent about Eight or Nine hours running dungeon after dungeon and having an absolute blast.

Scarlet Monastery Library, Armory and Cathedral, Razorfen Kraul, Maraudon, Dire Maul Warpwood Quarter, and Uldaman were all knocked down in exceptionally short order.

In the process I was fortunate to run into a couple of extremely good groups of people. On two separate occasions the random groups were fun and chatty and above all competent, and so stayed together for multiple instances. As fast and anonymous as the Dungeon Finder can tend to make instance runs, it's still a wonderful feeling when you run across that great group that is a lot of fun to play with. It's a pity that it doesn't happen very often.

Aside from the dungeons, though, I also decided to get Thallie her first title. Noblegarden has been my favourite WoW holiday ever since I did it for the first time on my priest, and "The Noble" is probably my favourite title as well. I ended up gaining about two levels just from doing the holiday quests and the few quests required to get the boat needed to cross Thousand Needles so I could do [Desert Rose] and [Hard Boiled].

Bunnies! Bunnies, it must be bunnies!
The tricky part of the Noblegarden meta achievement for me was finding an Orc female, which apparently are as rare as a Blood Elf with a mullet on my server. I even tried running Battlegrounds to see if I could find one there (which ended up getting me another 2 levels). I ended up riding to Orgrimmar (Water Walking for the win) and using Far Sight (also, FTW) to spy on the entrance to see if I could spot one. It took me two evenings of searching, but I eventually found that green, fanged goddess, stuck bunny ears on her and got my achievement. The Hordies that were outside Orgrimmar only killed me a little.

They were rather short-sighted considering Thallie is a relatively rare Dwarf Female, and was also wearing the Elegant Dress - perfect for their holiday achievement needs.

Oh well... say hello to Thallie the Noble, level 44.


Trolling for PUGs: Adventures in Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub

The doors to Zul'Aman, which no one
will ever see from the outside again.
I must admit that I was a little late to the Zandalari party. I always try to stay away from new content when a major patch like this drops for a day or so to let the servers stabilize, so I didn't attempt a run on patch day even though my pocket Tank was asking me to.

I probably should have, however, since my wife and daughter got home the next day after almost a week away visiting relatives, and the Dwarfling was making sure that she was the centre of attention. I didn't actually get a chance until Sunday to try one out.

I was excited to hear that they were bringing these two raids back as extra-difficult 5-man heroics, similar to the Icecrown Citadel heroics. I didn't get a chance to run either of these raids when they were relevant, and somewhat stupidly didn't run them before Blizzard whisked them away from us, so I was going into them completely blind - with only a Wowhead breakdown of the bosses to guide me.


Zoning into Zul'Gurub for the first time, it's immediately apparent that it feels a little different than most other 5-mans. It felt big. And though Blizzard was clever to make most of it avoidable, there is a ton of trash there; the place actually feels populated, like a giant troll city should. Seeing it for the first time it's very easy to imagine this place as a raid.

The first run through this incarnation of Zul'Gurub was with a guild group of more casual players: The tank and I are regular raiders, but the DPS, though raid experienced, are not regular raiders these days. Regardless, everybody's gear was more than adequate to run these dungeons, so there was no problems there.

My impressions of this dungeon are that each of the bosses is considerably more difficult than the other Cataclysm heroics. The first boss Venoxis gave us quite a bit of trouble, and feels like it's a test aimed at the healer. The panther boss, Kilnara, gave us a lot of grief as well; it almost feels like that fight could use two tanks. Zanzil was tough as well for our group, but it felt like we were going to get it. Unfortunately I had to quit before we finished him off and I didn't get to see the last boss.

In looking back, it really did feel like a raid. Not just because it took us almost 3 hours to get to Zanzil - by which time Mrs. Fannon was giving me dirty looks, sharpening her kitchen knives and laying out old sheets around my computer to soak up the blood - but because the difficulty of the encounters and the co-ordination required was a lot higher than I was expecting. Thank goodness we were on Ventrilo.


The real fun in Zul'Gurub came yesterday when I tried to PUG it using the LFD tool.

Call to Arms was asking for both Tanks and Healers, so I muttered the immortal last words, "What the heck, it can't be that bad, can it?"

Suffice it to say, an hour and several wipes later, we were not past the first boss and I ditched the group. The tank, while her gear was sufficient, had never seen any of the fights before and had no idea what she was doing. In addition, she was completely uncommunicative and so bloody slow; and not she's-just-being-a-cautious-puller kind of slow, either. It was more like the pause-for-five-minutes-with-no-communication-between-each-pull type. I think that she was reading up on the fights while she was tanking the trash. It was quite painful.

At Venoxis, the DPS seemed to think that Green=Good and made sure to stand in it frequently. Neither the tank or the Death Knight seemed to have their interrupt ability bound, or didn't have the first clue when to use it even after I explained the fight and which ability to interrupt.

And a note to the hunter: Jumping over the toxic maze lines will still get you killed. Don't do it, please.

So, yeah, it can be that bad. Best to wait to PUG this instance for a few weeks until people get a handle on it.


Can you tell which
items are new?
HINT: They are Brown.
A guildie and I queued up for a random last night and got Zul'Aman. Firstly, what a beautiful instance! Assuming that Zul'Gurub looks more-or-less the same as it originally did, you can really see a difference in visual quality between the two of them.

It was slow - we certainly didn't get the timed run - but successful. Our tank was good for the most part, and while there were a lot of mistakes on the trash, we got though it in reasonably good time - about an hour or so.

It's hard to compare them after only doing each one once, but Zul'Aman definitely seems like the easier of the two. The mechanics of the fights seemed less complex, and the bosses felt like they weren't hitting quite so hard. And the Eagle boss is just plain fun.

The run was made all the more worth it when I handed in the quests at the end and received replacements for a couple of problem areas in my gear: Shoulders and Legs. 353 isn't as good as what Cho'gall drops, and they're not itemized perfectly, but they're a damned sight better than what I replaced. That makes me a happy pally.

The only drawback to these new epics is that they don't go with the Tier 11 armour at all. Still, the skulls are very stylish; I'm sure that they will be all the rage this season.


While I agree that these instances are quite difficult and very long, they are a lot of fun. The difficulty will not be all that horrifying once everyone knows what to do, but they certainly aren't instances that can just be facerolled through. There is a silly amount of damage being spewed out of everything in these places, and if someone is not paying attention death will come all too swiftly.

I'm very happy that Blizzard gave us another gearing path as well. It was painfully obvious that there were some glaring holes in the loot distribution, with bracers being the worst. These instances, dropping gear that is halfway between heroic level blues and Tier 11 epics, fill that gap nicely - making for a much smoother and easier gear progression. As well, having quests inside the instances that give very useful gear means there is much less griding required to replace a piece. And is it just my imagination, or do these quests give rewards based on your class?

I'm very happy with what I have seen of the new dungeons so far. They're challenging and fun and provide some much needed loot. I'm also glad to have a chance to see them as relevant content - even if they are not exactly the same as the old raids. I'll talk more about recycling content in another post that I'm working on which should be finished in a few days.