Dec 15, 2009

How to play a mage

Ok, this may be just the thing to make me play my mage again. And I fully intend to play it EXACTLY like this.

All I can say is "I'M CONJURING MANA STRUDEL!!!"

Drekor, dust off that wand. It's time to rock!

Nov 23, 2009

Get it off the back burners

Ok, people. You now have no excuse. If you have neglected your cooking skill to date, shame on you. With the new Pilgrim’s Bounty world event, you are given a chance at a reprieve. With the purchase of 1 recipe book, a bit of capital city traveling, and a minimal amount of coin to buy the vendor sold mats, you can now effectively level your cooking from level 1 to 350 in one day.

That’s right folks. You can take a newbie chef in the making and have them Wrath buff food enabled in one sitting. Level is irrelevant. For example I took my humble level 29 paladin all the way from level 129 cooking to a few points past 350. She is now ready to make all of the Wrath buff foods that don’t require Northern Spices.

So if you’ve ignored your cooking, GET ON IT! You now have absolutely NO EXCUSE to come into any party with out a cheese head buff. In fact if I have lead, and you don’t have a cheese head, I may be tempted to kick you. I’ll go Harvey Dent on you and toss my Titanium Seal. Heads I win, tails you lose. Don’t be that guy. Raise it, cook it munch it, crunch it.

Kudos Blizzard!
I think Blizzard took the perfect course with this one. The biggest problem most people have is getting the mats needed to level cooking to a viable useable level. This circumvents that. All of the mats needed are easily obtained from vendors or from abundant turkey critters in the starter areas.

Another problem people have with cooking is that it shares a symbiosis with fishing. Having fishing makes it easier to level cooking. But even I must admit that leveling fishing is tedious. The holiday cooking removes this need. You can go from start to finish without ever seeing a bobber. Bliz has removed the necessity of fishing for cooking with the holiday so that excuse is now removed as well. However, fishing is still one of the ways to get some of the most potent Wrath food buffs so I wouldn’t completely ignore it.

I love also that Blizzard tied cooking so plentifully into the world event. Food is a big part of the holiday tradtions around Thanksgiving so I find it so fitting. When I think of family Thanksgiving get-togethers, I think of traveling about to be with friends and family, loved ones hovering in and out of the kitchen, helping with the cooking, and sitting down together to feast with merriment. All of those WoW-heads gathered outside town, cooking fires ablaze, and achievements abounding, it felt like Blizzard captured a good essence of the event and holiday.

Plus all of the cooking quests make the Chef Hat a much loved accessory! Few things more smile inducing than blowing through 20 slow roasted turkeys in less than 7 seconds.

Well done, Bliz. Well done indeed.

The Where, when, and how
There are probably already a few guides written to accommodate the holiday cooking quests and mat guides. You can Google them on your own if need be. But to get you started, head outside your capital city and look for the holiday cooking trainer & vendor. Then buy the Bountiful Cookbook. Inside this delicious book are all of the recipes you will need to make you a skilled gastronome. These recipes will take you incrementally all the way up to 300 cooking. At that point you will need to head to either Outland or Dalaran to train and level it further.

I hope this is helpful and that you all can enjoy the holiday, both in game and out. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Now, could someone pass me the sweet potato pie and a port to Exodar? It seems the space goats are out of turkey.

Oct 29, 2009

Help me, Help you

In running some 5-man content lately with both PuGs and guildies, I’ve noticed a few behaviors that rather irk me.

As a tank I judge my success by a few simple measures.
  1. Is the target(s) dead?
  2. Did any of our party die?
  3. If they died, was it my fault? Was it preventable?
In a few of the runs I did, I lost a few people to deaths. Surprisingly, they were not on boss fights, but rather on simple trash. I think it’s largely due to a few simple, preventable behaviors.

So once again, let’s delve into the Jarr perspective -- the one with the big bear butt staring back at you.

You are your own meter maid
You are running a threat meter right? If not, go get one. Omen is the current gold standard in WoW and the one I use, but I’m sure there are others as well.

With that said, it is your responsibility to watch your own agro. As a tank I will try to keep tabs on everyone’s agro, so that I can tell when I might need to taunt off. However, it is still your responsibility to control what you pull. We’re not talking about progression raiding here, so you don’t have to squeeze every little ounce of DPS out of your toon. If you get high in the agro bars, back off. A mob focused on the tank and is far easier on everyone (especially the tank and healer) than if it’s chasing you around the room.

Give me a sec
With the ramp up in gear availability through Ulduar, the tournament trials, and badges, most folks are now far out-geared for heroics. This seems to feed into a “kill it two seconds ago” mentality. It feeds a bloodlust desire to just blow through the content as quickly as possible.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to stack on the tank immediately. Take a moment. Count to two. Give the tank a brief moment to get the pull started and gain some initial agro. Then follow the tank in and start your mash and slash, cast and bash. A run will go far quicker if you let the tank get initial agro and maintain it than if you make the tank chase agro all over because you wanted to shave 1.3 seconds off of your kill time.

Are you focused?
Be honest. When was the last time you used the focus function? During vanilla WoW and TBC when crowd control was more eminent, the focus pane got a workout. Wrath’s laughable need for CC has largely lessened the use of the focus pane I fear.

Take it further. When was the last time you set the tank as your focus? Do yourself a favor. Set your focus to the tank and show the focus’s target. These two panes can make it so much easier to keep agro on the primary target where it belongs. Which leads us to…

Can you assist me?
Most trash mob groups are pulled and then killed with AOE. Even so, being on your tank’s target can help keep the agro on the primary targets. Remember how we set the tank to our focus? Here is a simple macro to help you stay on his target. Alternately you could hit the assist key (default key is ‘F’), but this requires you to target the tank first. This forgoes that need.

/assist [target=focus]

Toss Me Some Love
At the risk of parroting, I’m mentioning this one again. Threat redirection abilities are there for a reason. There is no reason to not use Tricks of the Trade or Misdirection. TotT is even less arguable, since you get a nice damage bonus. Perhaps Blizzard should consider doing the same with Misdirection.

Toss me some agro and then you can stand in place and pew pew away. Otherwise I may be chasing you all over, or worse letting you die. Pull once, shame on me. Pull again…well, it’s your repair bill.

Dodge the Bullet
The flip side of the love toss is the threat reduction. Fade, feign death, feint, soul shatter and the like. They all fall into this category. If you’re about to pull agro then dump some. The few seconds spent to drop the agro won’t hurt your DPS. Come on, you can do it. One global cooldown is worth a smooth run, right?

Lack of agro control is often the cause of deaths or worse wipes. Evasion tanking is not a sign of strength. It’s a sign that something failed. Even if you pull it off, you still failed.

Get behind me
Most encounters require someone to initiate a fight by smacking something. There are a few events that are triggered rather than attacked to start. The hunter trophy room in Utgarde Pinnacle, Keristrasza in Nexus, and the gauntlet event in Halls of Stone come to mind. In these events, the boss will typically go to whomever is closest to them. Let the tank be the only one in there. You don’t need to be on top of the boss at the go. Remember that two-second rule we used for trash. Apply it here. You’ll still get those high DPS e-peens that you seem to love to flex so much.

Sum it up
I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that most groups I’ve run with do well. Those that don’t go so smoothly usually fall into categories mentioned here or in the “Those ‘Uh-oh’ moments.” From where I stand, these a just a few things that can turn a decent run into smooth sailing. Good luck and good hunting all.

Sep 28, 2009

Those "Uh-oh" moments

Pick-up groups or PuGs as they are so affectionately called. We’ve all had to do them at one point or another. On a largely dead server like the Alliance side of Gul’dan it’s really the only way to run five-man content.

We’ve also all been in those groups that make you shudder. The kinds where you know there is going to be a problem, even before you get started. Having tanked through most of my Burning Crusade career and tanked and healed through Wrath, I think I’ve developed a keen eye for sensing and identifying those problems.

So today kiddies, I’m going to share the Jarr perspective. Here are some signs that you might be a problem. If nothing else try not to be this guy or gal.

Lacking cheese heads
In your next PuG take a look at everyone’s buffs. Count how many people have an appropriate “Well Fed” buff from food. If there are not five cheese heads running, then someone is not coming prepared.

Vanilla WoW had some lack luster buff foods. Once you hit Hellfire Peninsula and BC content it gets much better. And Northrend foods are just outstanding. The resources for most are readily accessible from mobs you’re likely to be killing anyway (Nessingwary anyone?).

There is absolutely no excuse for this one. If you don’t have it, then it shows you either roll unprepared or that you don’t care enough about the success of the group to use it. Crunch and munch so that we can crunch a bunch.

"Does anyone have any XYZ?"
Fill in the blanks. This could be buff food, mana or health pots, hunter ammo, or elixirs and flasks. If you can’t keep on hand what you need to run something, then take the time to stock up before you join LFG.

And if you ask for a Fish Feast, you’re likely to get booted. Ironically the people that ask for them the most are ones that have neglected their cooking and fishing altogether. Bring what you need. Keep it on hand at all times. That means buff food, regular food,and water.  If you have a blue bar and no water on hand, you are nine kinds of fail.

"Does anyone have the meters for that fight?"
This shows two problems in my opinion. First it shows you’re probably trying to flex your e-peen. Second, if the meters mattered that much to you, then you'd be running one yourself.

Granted, some people may use them as an appropriate measurement tool. In most PuG cases though those asking are often more of a tool themselves.

Jarr’s meters are easier and require no mods to run. Is the boss dead? If yes let’s move on.

Can I get a summons?
This is a mixed bag but it always irks me. If you’re stuck in old world with a hearth on CD then I can understand (maybe). But if you’ve been sitting in Dalaran for the last 20 minutes I ain’t pulling you in. Make an effort to get there and if you’re not the first two there you’ll get your port. Don’t be lazy.

No buffet or candy dishes
Mages and ‘locks, I’m looking at you. It costs you next to nothing to toss up a table, soul well (candy dish!) or even a portal after a run. Doing something as simple as that sets a positive tone for you in the group. You’ve come prepared and are willing to help everyone out. Not doing so can show you as being cheap, selfish, or just an uncaring SoB. Do the right thing. Toss it down. Now, if people demand such things of you, then do as you will.

Agro! I gots it!
Hunters and rogues – it’s your turn in the barrel. Your threat reduction and distribution abilities (Misdirection and Tricks of the Trade) are there for a reason. Use them. Granted, most Wrath five-man content doesn’t truly need it. On the other hand, everyone loves a smooth run. Tossing a bit of agro gain to the tank can only help. Additionally, remember that it’s a PuG. You may not know the competence of the tank at hand. Everything you can do to help sets you in a better position to succeed and to be perceived as a team player.

"I hope my pants drop!"
Loot. We all want it.  It's probably the reason you signed up to PuG in the first place.  However, this shows that you are focused on a personal end goal rather than the task at hand. Additionally, it’s a bit insulting to assume that they would be yours when there is likely someone else in the group that could use it.  Even more so if it’s a larger upgrade for them. And remember the random number generator is the bane of such things. Generally when that is said in a group, it’s usually a guarantee that it ain’t gonna drop. Damn you, Ingvar the Plunderer!

"How do I get there?"
This one came out of Brewfeast really with Corbin Direbrew being buried in Blackrock Depths. It’s amazing how many PuGs I’ve run on this and how many people didn’t know how to get there.

It makes Jarr sad that so many people have blindly blown past that content. BRD is a lore rich and well constructed instance. I have some pretty epic memories of fights and guild runs in there.

Thank Elune for the Brewfest mole drillers at the start though. Can you imagine if these PuGgers actually had to navigate through BRD and find their way to the bar to do it? I wonder how many even have the Shadowforge key. Hell, how many even know it exists for that matter (let alone know how to get it)?

Jarr’s Motto for PuGgers
In short remember Jarr’s motto. Roll prepared or don't roll at all. You don’t have to come in with best-in-slot gear or break 4k DPS to be a winner in my book. Do your part, do it well, and roll prepared and we’ll get along just fine.

Happy PuG-ing all!  LFM for Direbrew.  I hope my Kodo drops.

Sep 23, 2009

“Make a long, long slice..."

…for a long, long life of health, wealth, and happiness.” A family tradition of sorts. It’s what we in the Jarr clan say when we cut a birthday cake. It’s cheesy and we get strange looks when we (ok, when I) say it outside of our own dining room.
Birthdays. I’m not really a big fan of my own. I always find it a bit self-serving. “Hey come pay homage to the day I entered the world!” Not my thing really. I get more out of my kids’ excitement over my birthday than I do anything else. Otherwise, to me it’s just a day like any other.

Other people’s birthday tend to be a different story though. I look at them largely as my chance to celebrate the fact that this person is part of my life. Admittedly, I’m not the best at remembering them outside of my own. But I think that may change.

My father just had his birthday this week, turning 64. For some reason, after I bought his birthday cards (which I forgot to mail until the day of – again not my strongpoint) I found myself reflecting on that and what that span of time means. In talking to him on his birthday as well it hit me even more.

He’s certainly seen some interesting times. The end of World War II. The Korean conflict. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was sent over to Vietnam and managed to return in one piece. He lived through the likes of the Gulf wars and the events of 9/11. He’s seen 12 different presidents in office.

He’s outlived his father by 10 years and younger brother by 12. He’s seen his mother slip away to Alzheimer's disease and stayed by her side the entire time. He’s the sole living grandfather (Pop-pop) to my kids with my wife’s parents having died way too young.

He worked for the same company for 34 years. Despite being under 5’ 6” tall, he always stood proudly and looked the epitome of professionalism. In the brief times I spent with him at work in NYC, it always struck me as ironic at how many 6”+ people looked up to my father in the workplace, all the time having to really look down. He carried himself with pride and attitude than simply garnered genuine respect.

He’s raised two kids. And despite him being his own worst critic, he did it successfully. We didn’t make it easy and it’s still not I’m sure. But he did it. We were never lacking and still are not, despite the hard times and challenges of the mile between us. He gave us long lasting childhood memories. He introduced us to the joys of boating and took us on fantastic vacations all over the Eastern seaboard. Anyone can take a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Block Island. How many people can say the cruised there from NJ?  How many people can say they've ferried through the entire Erie canal lock system?

He’s always been the pillar of strength in our family. Someone needs a hand around the house. Dad is there. Someone has a home improvement project to do. Dad’s there to work and often get injured and keep working. Only Dad would say “I stepped on a nail. It really hurts. I should go to the hospital but I have more work to do.” And he’s always there when it counts. Even at what I perceived as his difficult times, he was the pillar of strength and poise. My uncle, his brother’s funeral stands out most to me. He had lost his brother and still was the person the family turned to for help and support.

My father recently read this site and was a bit surprised that I listed him as one of my idols. I feel that points to a big problem. That I haven’t told him enough what he means to me. That I haven’t said “Thank you” enough for all the things he’s imparted to me. That it isn’t more evident that he is ultimately the man I measure all others against, including myself. No better compliment could be made to me than “You’re just like your father.”

So I find myself looking at birthdays in a new light. They have new importance to me. It’s not a celebration of birth, but of life and how that person has made it all the richer. While I regret that it’s taken this long to realize, I’m grateful to now have this clarity nonetheless.

Thank you, Dad. And happy birthday from your proud son.

Sep 11, 2009

Unexpected Remembrance

Something odd struck me this morning. On the ride into work the radio jockeys were all talking about 9/11 and it really didn’t faze me. Largely because the stories are all the same: each person telling where they were and what they were doing. The thing they most had in common was that they were so distantly removed that it feels like they are simply trying to one up everyone else’s story. Perhaps that’s just my cynical nature though.

The guards outside our office were working in the rain, setting the flags to half-mast. I stopped out of respect as they raised them then went inside, again largely unfazed.

My boss and coworker were briefly talking about their respective “where I was” and I nodded and put on my headset to settle down to work.

It was something simple and unexpected that struck home. One of the reports each I run each morning has the full report date printed on the page. It has 9 report dates spelled out: “September 11, 2009.” Then all of the memories of that day and week come rushing back.

I’m not going into my personal memories of where I was and what I did, because as I mentioned I think it’s largely one-up-manship. It’s best that we find our own ways or remembering, honoring, mourning, or even just surviving.

There is one thing that I do remember and I always will. I vividly remember five days later, after much of the initial turmoil had settled and new discoveries and rumblings were just beginning. I remember sitting listening to the radio; all ears in the room listening to President Bush address the nation. I remember looking around that nursery at Abington Memorial Hospital, to the nurses attending other newborns infants while still intently listening to his words. I remember my wife sitting in the rocking chair nursing our fussy little newborn.  I had a son. I had a family. In that moment, I felt incredibly grateful to have been largely unaffected by the tragedies of 9/11.  That feeling is what came back to me once again in reading “September 11, 2009.” We were alive and we were well. And in the larger scope of things, that’s all that really mattered.

Sep 4, 2009

Daddy plays no favorites

Ok guys, it’s been a while since we’ve all sat down and talked, but I think it’s long overdue. The in-fighting between you three has become all but unbearable. And while you are responsible for your own actions, I must admit that the lack of this conversation to this point is also largely responsible for it. For that I apologize. But we must make amends and thus that means setting the record straight on a few things.

First and foremost, I do not play favorites with any one of you. You are all incredible parts of my life. You all came into my world in your own way and with your own unique stories and circumstances. Your arrivals we not always entirely planned, but all three of you little bundles of joy were the start of something incredible. You remain so today. My loves for you three are just as unique as each of you. So I can honestly say that I love you all differently, but I love you all unarguably equally.

Having said that, I must admit my time has not been as equally shared with you all. And while it’s certainly not a justifiable excuse, it’s been a difficult time for me. Daddy’s new love has taken up a lot of my time lately, and so I feel it’s only fair that I explain why. Our relationship has been a rocky one – very often on again / off again. So I felt it necessary to spend the time and effort to solidify that relationship and get it on more stable ground. It’s certainly put added and unneeded pressure on our once tight little family. But I think that we are now in a place where that relationship will not need as much of my time anymore. As such I will be renewing my efforts to make time for you all. I’ll not just share my spare time with you. I will go out of my way to MAKE time for you. Again, you are my loves and my passions in life. It’s regrettably taken a lot for me to recognize this, but I feel it’s not too late. For that I am glad.

My eldest, you above all the others have felt this absence most I fear. I still remember the times before all this turmoil that I created. We would stay up late together and play long into the midnight hours…often beyond. We’d laugh, we’d cry, we’d cheer and sneer. We shared glorious victories and agonizing defeats. Even now I’ve by far spent the most time with you in total, but you have certainly been the most time neglected in recent times. Despite how you may feel to the contrary (which I can see in how you look at me every now and again) you are still much beloved and I know there are good times to be had once again and shared with the kids. We’ve built a good legacy of long lasting memories together. It’s one I think that you can help me build with your brother and sister.

My middle child, brother of my eldest. I know that you feel that you have to compete with your elder sibling. Let me tell you flat out that you don’t. While I believe that you can achieve the same levels of success and excellence that your brother has reached, I do not expect you to be the same. I do not compare what he is capable of and what you are capable of and judge you for your differences. Instead I embrace and adore all that makes you unique. You feel unproven I’m sure, and I think that it largely because I’ve not paid enough attention to you and what you can do. I promise that we will be spending much more time together. I am making it my vow to you now that we will find good times and our own shared and beloved legacy. In that you and your brother are indeed the same. But those treasures we discover and create along the way will be uniquely ours.

To you, my youngest. When you first arrived, I must confess, I was scared. Everything I thought I knew was turned upside down. The standards of controls that I had so firmly learned and perfected over the years went right out the window the day you arrived. While the rest of the family embraced you, I tried to do the same. But I let my fear, uncertainties, and the biases toward the comfortable past get the better of me. On the surface you are so different from your older siblings. But now I can see that there is also much the same. I should have recognized your greatness and potential earlier. After all, you do come from a long line of established and successful predecessors. Your heritage runs long, deep, and strong. I see it now and I hope you will realize that I have much to learn...we have much to learn together. I look forward to whatever exciting and refreshing experiences we can share.

So there it is guys. To put not too fine a point on it, I've neglected you. Plain and simple. It's a mistake I regret but one that I promise to make amends for. I vow this to each of you: to you my beloved PS2, to you my impassioned PS3, and to you my quirky young Wii. Warcraft is important to me, as are all of you. So I must make time to show you each my love.

I’m glad we’ve had this time together. I hope you feel as good as I do. It's a first but important step I feel.  So, who wants to play som...

Hold on guys. I’ll be right back. The kids are screaming and crying and carrying on about God only knows what. There’s always something, isn’t there?

Aug 25, 2009

Who is Jarr?

The Basics
Name: Anthony (or Tony)
Age: 40 (12/21/1971) Sagitarius baby!
Sex: Yes, please.
Location: Willow Grove, PA (East coast native for life)
Known Aliases: Jarr, T-Bone, TonyBone, Skippy (I have no idea why)
Known Accomplices:  Chris, Shane, Nick, and my boys -- Peyton & Alex
Religion: Catholic and eternal skeptic
Passions: My kids, my wife, and my games.
Idols: Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Hawk, and my father.
Music: Ecclectic. I’m a metal head but I also love the late 60s music (thank you Dad!).  Check out the Song of the Day for a lil' sample.

Gamer for Life
I’ve been a gamer for life. I can still remember the early days. My first experience with my pixilated passion came from none other than Telstar, followed by the much beloved Atari 2600. I practically grew up on that thing. I swung and yelled with Pitfall Harry. My arms went numb doing the 1500m run in Decathlon. I ducked and weaved to avoid the swirling blade o’ death in Yars Revenge, and I raised the Ark with Indy many a time.

As I matured, so did my passions. I had the privilege of growing up in the hay day of the now lost parlors of paradise – the arcade. A mystical place of poor lighting and loud noise that offered up doses of happiness for a single, silver quarter. There were the staples of course: Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Gauntlet. Peter Gun still makes me think of oil slicks and smoke screens.

About this time I got into my first foray in to computers – my much beloved Commodore 128. Raid Over Moscow, Beachhead, Skate or Die, California Games (heck all of the XYZ Games for that matter!) all in their splendid 5 1/4 inch glory. I blew through many a joystick on those memories.

Then consoles came home. First the NES, then the SNES. Mario, Zelda, and Metroid – oh my! Lasting arch types that now become memories reborn and revisited on the Wii.

College days brought it full circle with PC gaming. X-wing, TIE-Fighter, and Falcon 3.0 with all of its add-ons were the flavors of the day. And of course – Doom launched me into first person shooters and online play. Now I am spoiled with the new incarnation on the PC, the Playstation 3, and even the venerable PS2.

Gaming is a passion of mine. And I’m fortunate enough to be able to pass to passions along to my children. Few things are as fun as playing along side the kids and seeing the youthful spark of wonder in their eyes that harkens back to when controllers were simply one stick with a big orange button.

Wonder and awe always, my fellow gamers!  Wonder and awe.

Where did the name Jarr come from?
My first real World of Warcraft character was a Night Elf Rogue which I named Jarraxel – a misspelled derivative of Jarlaxle, the houseless mercenary leader from R. A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf series and its subsequent follow-up novels. I loved those books and thought it a fitting tribute.

My guild mates had taken to simply calling me Jarr. From that I made subsequent characters Jarr-heads (Jarranne, Jarrande, Jarralynn) so that I’d be easily identified in game. Despite many of my online friends knowing my shared real name, Jarr is still by far the most used and loved.  And now it has transcended into other games.

Aug 24, 2009

Inside Information

First and foremost, welcome to Inside the Jarr! My goal with this site is to share my stories, perspectives, and opinions on the world at large, my passion for gaming, and love/hate relationship with the game I’ve spent by far the most time with – World of Warcraft.

Here are some of the tags you’ll find here.

Warcraft: This will used be for all things loved and hated in our beloved worlds of Azeroth, Outland, and Northrend.

Game On! All things gaming that is not tied to Warcraft. PC and consoles. Old school & next gen. Lore and technology. I love it!

Time & Labor is the name of our time tracking system at the company I work for. As such all things corporate America and professional will be here.

IRL: This is where you can get a peek at life away from the keyboard or controllers. My family and kids are my treasures. Here I’ll share them with you.

The Blog: This will simply be for posts regarding the status of the blog and (hopefully) the community.

I hope you enjoy your time here. While I welcome any feedback or suggestions you may have, let’s all play nice, shall we?

Thank you again for your time and interest. ~Jarr