Jumping (Further) Into the Nexus

I’m going to try this blogging thing again.  This time, with a mission!

I’ve been in the Heroes of the Storm since the Technical Alpha.  It’s been a blast to play, even for someone that’s never played a MOBA previously.  Although I do have to admit that ladder anxiety has held me back from venturing into Hero League, that’s nothing that I haven’t experienced with other multiplayer games (either team-based raids in WoW or 1v1 competitive games in Hearthstone).

A little background: I’ve been playing for what’s felt like a good amount of time.  I have about 320 games played, I’ve gotten Nazeebo to 10 and I have Jaina close by.  I’ve been working a bit on a warrior and support, but I’m not sure that I’ve got the right temperament for either style.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 10.27.53 PM
I’m undefeated!

I read up on a number of articles on what to expect.  And while they were well-intentioned, they just were not hitting the mark on what to expect.  For someone that’s never been through it, there’s something to be said for just jumping into that first game.  So the only way through it, is… well… to go through it?  Right?  Ready?…  Ready!

My first game, and I’m first pick on my team (the other team got to chose first overall).  If you haven’t played Hero League before, you’ll see both teams listed on each side.  The bottom-center list of heroes grey out those that you have not earned.  (Wow, could they make that list better by simply not including the heroes that you do not have access to!  Also, would be really great if they would include the role filters.)  You pick a hero, and when it is your turn you lock them in.  In the meantime, you can pick skins/mounts or refresh your memory as to how they work with the abilities and talents buttons.  Also, you know where you are fighting ahead of time (this time at the Sky Temple), which is helpful in picking heroes.  🙂

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 10.29.17 PM.png
Lead with something you feel confident.

I select Jaina, and give the team a quick “Hi all” before locking her in.  While I have more games played as Nazeebo, he feels very situational, and Jaina is much more of a pick that will work better the the rest of the team.  There was a little discussion as to who was going to pick Raynor.

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On your mark, get set, go!

So my first match started off with Jaina, Raynor, Tassadar, Johanna and Malfurion.  This was against Zeratul, Murrain, Kharazim, Lt. Morales and good ole’ Kael’thas fighting at the Sky Temple.

The first time up was a loss, but I have to say that it was fun.  Everyone was good natured, even when it was clear that we were losing the objectives.  What stuck out about this game is how few people died.  Everyone played very conservatively.

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First game as a loss, but still fun.

I didn’t want to be deterred from my first game, so I took a couple minutes to look up some builds and then headed back into the fray.

Again, I had an early pick and again went with Jaina.  This time on Blackheart’s Bay, I was determined to pay little more attention to both team fights and to picking up coins.  The last pick on our side was a Nazeebo player, and we got to trade a few comments back-and-forth.

We had a spunky LiLi player (which come to think of it, was very fitting) so seemed to be leading most of the charges and still jumping into mercenary camps and treasure boxes faster than anyone.

I got caught out of position once and paid the price for it, but otherwise we played a very tight game.  Again, the games seemed to be going much shorter than the Quick Match games I have been playing recently, but both of these maps can run quick if only one side takes advantage of the map’s objectives.

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My first Hero League win!

I called it a night going 1-1 on might first evening in Hero League, but was back at it the next day.  We get into the draft, I’m second pick again, and we’re headed for the Sky Temple.  I select Jaina but the first pick also goes for her and locks her in before I can.  We had some friendly banter in chat while I was quickly going over who to pick as a back-up.

I saw one person pre-select Muradin below me, with the other two planning to go damage. With time winding down, I settled on… Brightwing!  Surprisingly there were no ill comments to my selection.  One guy said that I must be confident playing her if I picked her this early in the draft.

The game starts with what could have been a huge toxic slide.  Muradin jumps over the opposing wall and goes SPLAT about 15 seconds into the match.  One person types “Reported!” into the chat log, while the rest of us laugh it off.  First team fight comes up with Muradin, Jaina and me fighting at the center temple, getting the initial shots off before we are challenged.  We score one kill but Muradin goes down chasing “the one that got away.”  Fortunately Thrall was there to help us finish off the temple.

After that, we stayed together.  We took out creeps to keep the xp up, mercs to keep the lane pressure and visibility, and rarely faced the entire other side in a fight.  I was focusing on keeping shields on Muradin and Jaina (depending on who was in trouble), as well as hearthing back for mana with a quick teleport back to whoever was engaged.

The strategy worked, and I picked up my second Hero League win (2-1)!  The thing that surprised folks was how often I was getting killing shots in, or how aggressive I was with the polymorphs.

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Second win, first time as a support!

One thing that I neglected to add in was that I seem to be placed mostly against players in the high-30’s (i.e. closer to 40).  Given my skill, or lack thereof, it’s probably not a bad place for me to be.  But we’ll see where I am in another 17 matches!

Thank you for reading this initial post.  I’ll be posting updates when I can.  I’ll be doing a few give-aways.  The first will be a… wait for it… Jaina code.  That will probably be given out over Twitter, but I will have a second drawing for those that give (positive) comments or questions below.  🙂

WoW Update: 3/13

It’s very late, so I figure a nice short and sweet update on WoW is probably fitting.  (Plus I’ve spent a decent chunk of the last two days running through boxes of CCG cards looking for a few for future articles.  My wife thinks I’m crazy, and it’s likely true.  🙂 ).

I’ve finished up week 3 of the Legendary quest with 64 total Abrogator Stones, so I’m about halfway there.  (PLEASE, no Journey!  Unless it’s a parody by DarkPippi “Just a looney priest.  Looking to unleash the beast!  She took the midnight queue going an-knee-where.”)

I’m looking for the next side project to get involved in.  I have two characters I’m working on here and there to get to 100 – a Shaman currently at 98, and a Monk at 91.  I think I’d like to finish the Shaman off first, and I might PvP with him a bit.  Although, I might go elemental for that.

There’s also a couple collector things I’d like to work on:

I'm missing the Azure, Blazing and Onyxian drakes for the achievement.
Only 3 drakes away from the emerald, but I think those might be three of the more rare ones.
Only have the Wisp for the Raiding with Leashes III Achievement
Just started, so a long way to go. But there’s also transmog from these raids to consider.

So, I’m not sure where to focus on next.  Any suggestions in the comments below would be fantastic!

Oh, and yesterday I did my first garrison invasion at 100.  Had the plant people invade.  That had to be the most achievements I’ve seen flash at once for me – Botani Invasion, Bronze, Silver and Gold Defenders, It’s an Invasion! and Invasions Are Better with Friends.

6 achievements at once related to garrison invasions.
Not a bad haul at all!

I’m going to finish up today’s Harrison Jones quest (in Nagrand) and then turn in.  G’night!

Playing games is fun!

Okay, obvious title is obvious.

(This is a second part of things I’ve loved about playing games, primarily from card game experiences, but may apply to MMOs and other online games as well. As I write the other parts, I will change the headers to provide links. 🙂 )



Card games came into my life at a point when I was a little like Chandler on Friends. I was an entry level statistician (but unlike Chandler, I did like my job) where I counted dead people. It’s great work, but does lack a little bit in the creativity side of things.

This was the itch that CCGs really scratched for me.  There’s a great deal of fun to be had in trying out your own ideas or getting your mind attack a particle angle. The longer the game was in print the wider those options got – especially in the days before net-decking.

The creativity of CCGs remind me of the exploration element of RPGs. The discovery of the new thing is very enticing – and a large part of why those virtual world start to lose their luster (more so those with flying).


Sense of New Combined with the Familiar

Decipher had a formula. They wanted to combine good gameplay mechanics and great looking art with intellectual property (IP) that you just wanted to be in, to become a part of the story. Great games often told their own story in a way you could picture playing out between the artwork and your own mental image.

We used to debate which aspects were the most important. Game mechanics were very important – I think one of the things that held the STCCG game back somewhat was that it was largely a non-interactive race to 100 points. You could completely ignore your opponent – and not in a “I’m going to make them respond to me” way, but in a way that was like speed-solitaire. Who could win the fastest?

There were plenty of games out there that just didn’t have the quality product – either the artwork, the design (difficult to read cards will fail you every time) or the cards didn’t have that certain quality when you hold them (the bend, or are too prone to scratch or bend).

And then there were good looking games with solid mechanics, but you just couldn’t get into the IP. Decipher tried to remake SWCCG without the Star Wars IP.  While there was a lot of fan interest, and they had gotten Michael Stackpole to write the background of the “WARS” universe, it did not last very long.  (Okay, there was a lot of setup there – it’ll wrap around in two more days – I promise!)

So where was I?  Oh yeah, the games that seem to connect with me are the ones that make me  feel a part of the story.  One of the areas that SW:CCG connected with me was that it brought back that feeling of playing with action figures years ago.  (One of my first games featured a confrontation of Darth Vader and a Rebel Trooper Officer, named Dave and who was wielding a lightsaber, Vader declared that he was Dave’s uncle, but David screamed “Noooooooooo, that’s not true!  That’s improbable!” and hacked Vader in half).

 Going Out of the Box

There were times when “creative use of game mechanics” created some story moments that the brain boggles.  My favorite of those was a deck that features Ewoks, a spear, and vine snake found on Dagobah.  The ewok’s spear would take an opponent and make their power equal to zero, and the snake ate anyone that had no power.  It was super sneaky, and it set up some amazing stories as over time that snake ate Boba Fett, Darth Vader and even the Emperor.

Predictability is the Only Certain Death

Somewhat like the story of Leto II in the Dune series, the only thing worse than a bad deck was a predictable one.  It was fun to play around with gimmicks, but very hard to be successful when people saw the trick coming.

I’m going to cut out here – the little guy was up a lot last night and very early.  I’m falling asleep while writing.  I’ll add in pictures during tomorrow’s update, along with a little more talk about crafting great games.


Cardboard and pixelated crack…

When I was thinking about starting up a blog, there’s lots of great shining examples in the WoW blogosphere to use for inspiration.  But there’s one article in particular that I wanted to pay homage to.

It’s a Kotaku article entitled “The Best Card Game I Ever Played Died 13 Years Ago” by Cameron Gidari.

(But let’s take a step back before that…)

I was first introduced to the wonderful and horrendous world of collectible card games (CCGs) (also known these days as Trading Card Games after some asshole company obtained a copywriter on CCG) back in 1994.  Like most people, Magic: The Gathering was my first card game, and I got in towards the end of the Revised set (missing out on the supreme broken-ness of Alpha and Beta sets) just as my sophomore year of college was ending.

That summer when I met up with my two best friends from high school, we laughed that we had each gotten into Magic separately.  We had fun playing against each other, and after tuning decks for a month we decided to drive to a tournament.

That tournament was filled with more stereotypes about gamers than any place I’d seen.  The players were downright nasty to each other, and the store owner was nearly predatory in how he planned to milk as much money from the players as possible (every event he ran was single-elimination so that he could get the losers to pay more money in entering a second tournament).

On the drive home, we each vowed that we would never play that damn game again.  But there were a couple of other CCGs that were launching the next year fall and each of us had a different interest.  One was way into Tolkein, so he went into the Middle Earth CCG which had some beautiful artwork, and the company made my favorite RPG, the Middle Earth RPG system.  The second was a huge Trekkie, so he got into the Star Trek CCG, made by Decipher Inc.  For me, I was holding out for the Star Wars CCG, also made my Decipher.

The SWCCG stuck with me.  I got involved with the community online, and they were very encouraging when I moved to a new area after college and getting me to venture out to my first tournaments.  Over time I became a regular player, then I began running events and before long I was running major events in a multi-State area and at major gaming conventions.

Eventually Decipher lost the license, but quickly on its heels came the Lord of the Rings TCG.  For LotR, I settled back and let some friends lead the charge for a while.  It was kind of nice not being in charge, but before I knew it, I was running events again.  Decipher eventually lost the license to LotR, and I thought my time in card games had passed.  There was a new MMO out called World of Warcraft, it sounded like it might be fun…

But last year, a year ago to today, Blizzard officially launched their Hearthstone card game.  I had been in the closed beta for it, and you could tell that it has real promise to it.  It’s been a fun diversion from WoW, but that’s a mountain I don’t plan to scale. But that’s for another day.

(My tangent today comes at the end.  The rest of this week will be devoted to some SWCCG memories, and then I’ll get back to the WoW stuff.  The next three posts will be lessons that I learned playing SWCCG and LotR TCG, as well as a “movable” card game called Anachronism.  These are lessons I’m hoping to pass on to my kids directly, or maybe they’ll learn them on their own just by playing.  I hope you enjoy!

And I’ll have pictures for the next couple but it’s late and I’d like to get some sleep!)


Favorite RP Moment

(I’m starting this off as a challenge to my fellow #WoWBlog30 bloggers out there.  If you’ve ever done any role-playing (RP), what has been your favorite RP moment or memory?)

Mine begins  during the pre-Wrath event, also known as the Scourge Invasion.

For those that came along during or after Wrath, there are some great write-ups about the event that I highly suggest you check out.  The very abbreviated version is that back before data mining sites spoiled everything weeks before it happened, Blizzard managed to sneak an event that threw the game into an up-roar for weeks.

Innocent-seeming creates appeared in Booty Bay, and unsuspecting players would open the create to find that they had been infected with a disease.  The disease spread like wildfire, killing off lower level characters faster than you could say “Leerooooooy Jennnnnnkinnnnns!”  For anyone that was infected and made it back to a city, the results were devastating.  NPCs did not die, but could be carriers for the disease.  In time the Argent Dawn set up sentinels throughout major cities to shield players and give them a few safe havens.  But out in the rest of the world, some players wanted to have fun griefing their fellow faction-mates.  Our story begins in Southshore, before the Second Plague.

(I am looking for pictures on my old computer, but I’ll post one or two from the Old Hillbrad event in the Cave of Wonders, I mean Caverns of Time).

Oh Southshore!  I don’t know of a zone that really brought back that feeling of playing Warcraft and Warcraft 2 like Hillsbrad Foothills did.

View of Southshore from the north.
Southshore… before the war… before the empire. I mean Scourge.
View of Southshore and docks from the south.
Just sitting on the dock of the bay. Watchin’ the Murlocs Mmgggrlgrrrl away!

At the height of the invasion, lower level characters were the hardest hit.  They died nearly instantly to the plague, and many sought refuge out in the less populated open world.  In Ironforge, a call went out for help against the scourge.  Being fresh from the campaign in Outlands and most recently on the Isle of Quel’Danas, Elysoun the Priest heeded the call a took the first gryphon out.

I had recently begun testing out a few strategies against the plague.  I found that my dispel would generally work on other players, although sometimes it would get resisted.  My only problem was that I didn’t have much success removing it from myself.  That could be a problem.

When I landed, I found the town in disarray.  It only took two players to infect the entire town, including the flight master and all quest givers – meaning that any unsuspecting adventurer would contact the plague by either turning in a quest or by trying to leave the area.  And for characters at that level, they were essentially surrounded by much higher level zones.

I dispelled the NPCs and resurrected the dead the best I could, and then I found them.  Typhoid Bob and Typhoid Jack.  They were much lower level than I was but significantly higher than those questing in the area.  It wasn’t hard for me to dispatch them, but they found a way to get reinfected and launched another attack.

By this time, most of those leveling in the area had gotten word that someone was trying to save them.  For the most part, they knew to keep their distance and to run from trouble.  Those that did get infected ran off to the side, but within range so that I could dispel them.  But one lowly Paladin decided to help me out.  He stood no chance if they got close to him, but somehow he was able to cleanse the plague off of me!

For the better part of 2 hours, we fought to save the town.  I still remember the hill, which I’ve always called Elysoun’s Hill ever since, which was between the flight master and the town, but could also see into the graveyard where the invaders would come again and again.

View of Southshore from above.
Elysoun’s Hill – just right of the centerish building.

We had losses here and there.  Once or twice I fell to the plague when Bob and Jack got particularly crafty and my pocket Pally couldn’t save me.  But eventually even trolls tire (after they whined about how I was spoiling their fun).  The day was saved for at least a small corner of Azeroth!

A number of those players kept in touch with me over the years.  I would see them out and about, and one even made a priest as a gesture of thanks.  It was a great day for banding together and to remind ourselves that we have a choice between being the hero or the villain of our stories, and of others’ stories as well.

Garrison Upgrade: Hardwood Floors

Some of the Wowblog30 crew are doing an introduction/Q&A thing that I’ll be adding in the next day or so. I’m looking forward to it.  It’s a great group of bloggers (and I hope to be worthy of them).

This morning I finally finished off the 10,000g achievement in Draenor which opened up the Tier 3 Storehouse.  While that was building I had a really strange bug with my garrison.

Introducing the garrison upgrade: hardwood floors!

Can you believe this?
Introducing, hardwood floors!
Even more floorboards.
From the Pet Menagerie to your Stockpiles
Even the back gates!
Mines and Tower, no expense was spared!
It just keeps going...
Just because you are stuck on a savage world in an alternate timeline, doesn’t mean that you can’t also have nice things.


Other character progress this week:

– Finished up the main quest line in Nagrand along with the demise of a character who’s had it coming for a long time now.

– Two more pets to 25, including the Netherspace Abyssal.

– After 2 weeks on the Abriggator stones quest line, I’m up to 46 stones.

– Gotten my monk through the intro quest line and picked up the initial garrisons quests.

– Shaman is still at 96, but I’ve spent some down-time grinding out ghost iron and trillium ore so I can make a mount for a guild mate.  The Jard’s source doesn’t seem to be a big issue, I have those mats all together just awaiting the cool downs, but making the Living Steel is going to take a while unless I get lucky with transmute procs (have 11, need 30).  I guess I can hit the AH, but those will get pricey at 420g each (currently).

The Lesson of Pandaria

So what did we get or learn from our time on Pandaria?

I mean outside of those lovable, furry Pandaren?  I know some people haven’t taken to them, but they are a great addition, IMHO.   And also outside of a Black Dragon whelping that offers us nice things and then steals away a genocidal maniac along with an expansion of the Bronze dragon flight?  (I’m still sporting that cape on my main, just because… I still think it’s cool!)

What was the purpose of going out there?

Picture of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms after Ka-Boom
I don’t want this to be Shadowmoon Valley’s fate…

For a game that is now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the game has had an amazing amount of tug and pull (much like the moons of Juptier) between what it was and what it will become – or more about its players – who we were and who we are now.

For me, it is strange seeing so much commentary about players being burnt out from garrisons. (Okay and that was from 2 minutes of google searches plus some other sites I knew about – and that’s just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.)

I feel like people have not learned the ultimately lesson from Pandaria, and I’m not sure what it really takes.  It is somewhat like being in the beginning of Mists and having a lot of people burnt out on dailies.  Yes there were a lot of them, but why did you feel compelled to do all of them at once every day?

Elysoun's Tier 3 Garrison
Oooh, shoulda done the “Working in a coal mine, working on down down…”

Slow down, there’s content to be spread out there, especially when you have so many ways to get the purple pixels in the first place.

I’m currently up to 5 garrisons, 2 at a max and 3 in various stages of repair/disrepair.  I like having a “main” that excels a bit more than the rest, but ever her I’ve gotten to the point where garrison stuff is a once a day for missions, and everything else is every other day.  All of the other characters, every third day if that often.  (There’s a great add-on called “alcoholic” which is great for managing who is at max resources.)  But while the other garrisons are nice-to-haves, and any building I don’t have anywhere else is something I focus more upon, there’s so many other things to get out and do – leveling, PvP, pet battles, instances (OMG, and I enjoying grouping up again!  I haven’t done this many instances since… probably Wrath).

Khwaj's Tier 2 Garrison
I work hard for the garrison resources. So hard for the garrison resources…

But the world seems larger again, and frankly, sitting around my garrison isn’t how I really want to be spending my precious play time.  Maybe that’s me, maybe I read it somewhere else, or maybe it was a lesson I picked up a couple of years ago.

Puteri's Tier 1 Garrison
Gotta start somewhere.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think there’s another rare spawn to find. 🙂