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Specced for Angst

On the day I decided I wanted Justicar, I was specced prot (naturally). Unfortunately, I was labouring under a misunderstanding about the nature of PvP – I believed it to be entirely about the “deeps,” because, after all, isn’t that what PvP is? Deeps deeps and more deeps?

So, after doing a couple WSGs to test the water and my own resolve, I decided to suck it up and do this thing right. No matter how much it pained me, I would respec into something deeps related, and take all those PvP talents I’ve always ignored. I went to my trainer, head down and shamefaced, and requested a respec. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little when all my talents went back into their pool, and I switched away from the protection tab.

I decided I would go Fury because waaaaay back when I rolled my first baby warrior, I was fury, and on my level 80 main (who used to be my first baby warrior), Fury is her sadly neglected off-spec. Also because I have been severely obsessed with dual-wielding since I was introduced to Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, with whom I have been madly, deeply in love my entire life.

My hunters dual-wield. My shamans dual-wield. My DKs dual-wield. My warriors, when they are not sword-and-boarding, dual-wield. It has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of the spec or whether it’s better than something else at what it’s supposed to do.

So, in the interests of Doing This Thing Right, before I started plunking my points down willy-nilly, I hit Google to look it up and oh my God, people are not friendly to Fury in PvP, are they? Forum thread after forum thread of people spewing bile at anyone daring to ask for spec recommendations for Fury in PvP, even after that person had explained that they know it’s sub-par, but it suits their play style, and that’s what they want to do.

And I thought raiders were picky.

Now, I fully support everyone playing the game however they want and fuck the forums, but there was a moment when I wavered and almost went Arms. They were just so…adamant that Fury had no place in PvP, and I really, honestly did want to Do This Thing Right, and I wanted to contribute, and I didn’t want to be that total noob bringing everyone down and making us lose the battleground.

But, in the end, two things kept me from going Arms – solidarity with my fellow it’s-my-game-I’ll-play-how-I-want brothers, and a lifelong crush on a bipedal mutated sea creature, who also happens to be a ninja.

Fuck the forums, I went Fury.

I settled on an interim spec and went back into the BGs, but for reasons I couldn’t entirely fathom, it wasn’t as fun as it had been the first couple times. I stuck with it for a whole two hours (so…4ish crushing losses and no rep), but I couldn’t take it. I died so easy. The rotation was escaping me, and as with anything at low levels, there’s no help to try to figure out what your rotation should be when you don’t have any fancy level 80 buttons and procs to work in. Then the crank started to kick in, and I went back to Google to figure out what I was doing wrong.

The answer was so simple it was mind blowing.

The problem wasn’t that I was Fury. The problem was that I wasn’t prot.

There, on the first forum thread I’d looked at, was my answer. “fruy sux do arm sor prto”

Out of the mouths of douchebags.

It had never once occurred to me that prot was a valid PvP spec. Not even after that funny little patch where Blizzard nerfed Prot warriors because they were “doing too much damage in PvP” and we all kind of laughed and looked at each other and wondered what the PvP warriors were doing differently than the PvE warriors given that I can’t generally DPS my way out of a paper bag.

I can haz respec, NAO!

First though, I tested it out. I loaded up my level 80 prot warrior and popped her T10-wearing-ass into the WSG queue. More on this later, but suffice it to say yes. Yes prot is totally viable in PvP. Unequivocally.

Clutching my precious, precious talents once more to my chest I flipped back to the only tab I should ever look at and began to pop them back into place using the Talent Preview option. It was actually kind of fun to resist the urge to instinctively put them where I always do. For the first time in a long time I sat down and carefully read each talent and re-considered its purpose in light of the different game I intended to play. Suddenly talents I have always turned my nose up at became not only viable, but integral. Improved Disarm, for example. Others that I wouldn’t have been caught dead without – Vigilance – were suddenly kind of lacklustre.

I lay them down where I thought they should go and double-checked my logic against a generally recommended spec. Things seemed to be in order, so I hit learn, and watched, with no small amount of relief and glee, the sudden insurge of yellow text announcing all my favourite abilities were once again back in my spell book where they belonged.

Someday, Fury, I will give you the time and attention you so richly deserve, but my shield remains my security blanket, and I refuse to go far without it.

Mobile Gnome

Did you know that nobody links the metres in PvP? I had gone probably five whole BGs before I realized it. At best somebody might crow if they top the “Damage Done” in the BG Summary at the very end, but even then not often.

In part, I suppose, the metres probably can’t track everything going on, given that me and half my party can be an entire map away from each other. And even the damage done at the end is not really an accurate measurement of what you did. If I stayed on defence the entire time (as I usually do) I could have very little damage done if the Horde never tries for the flag, or if they try for it with a massive army and I die before I can do much more than cry out in alarm.

It’s refreshing, in a way. The DPS in a raid are so tightly chained to the metres and what they say that sometimes I wish I could institute a No Recount policy, where everybody shuts it off or hides it and doesn’t look at it. Then maybe we could all focus on something else. Like, I don’t know, the fight or something.

The idea that damage is the most important thing in PvP appears to be a myth – at least at this point. Obviously damage is important and the more you can dish out the faster you kill things, and the faster you kill things the longer you live, the more you win, etc.. But it’s not the only thing, and I really don’t think it’s the most important thing. Know what matters more?

Mobility. And the ability to hamper the mobility of others.

I’m telling you. When I loaded into WSG on my 80 Gnome warrior it was music. Warbringer + 3 different charges (two on enemies, one on allies) + Concussion blow + Hamstring…shit couldn’t get away from me. When I’d tried at lower levels as fury, I could charge once, if I wasn’t in combat, hamstring them – if I didn’t miss – and as soon as the hamstring was off they were gone again. I swear to God I feel like I’m the only class in the game without some kind of speed-up mechanic. I could do nothing but stare at a rogue’s ass as he tore away from me with Sprint. And staring at rogue-ass isn’t usually that onerous a task, depending on the rogue, but you honestly just hate the fuckers so much in that moment that it takes all the joy out of it entirely.

Shortly thereafter their fucking poisons and bleeds will kill you. It’s cool, though. They’re waiting for you at the graveyard.

On my 80, fully specced and (admittedly) geared, I could charge and concussion blow, and when that came off and they stunned me and tried to sprint, I could push the yellow-button-with-a-foot-on-it-that-undoes-snares-if-you’re-a-gnome and then intercept them and fuck them up some more. And by the time they were ditching again charge would probably be off cooldown.

If I had the flag, I could leapfrog all the way home, charging a tauren coming at me, then intervening to one of my allies up ahead, then intercepting up to a rogue waiting for me at the tunnel.

This is all completely situational of course, and sometimes it works out cleanly and other times it doesn’t, but the potential, in that moment, was limitless to my mind.

And I couldn’t help it – every time I shattered a Tauren’s kneecap with Shield Slam, I thought of every big-ass-cow I’d ever seen named after the various ways to commit violence to gnomes, and felt absolutely vindicated on behalf of my people.

Not punting anything now, are you Gnomkilr?!

A Different Kind of Prot

Doing that one BG on my 80 confirmed for me that I never should have switched specs. I understand Prot. I know its rhythm. I understand the cadence of its priority list and cooldowns, I can recognize the cues with my eyes closed, I can apply every tool in its box to a given situation without having to completely relearn what I’m doing. Raiding may be different than PvPing in just about every conceivable way, but it’s ingrained certain reactions and all of my keybindings into my brain in a very permanent fashion.

Plus, it’s been nothing short of giddy glee to suddenly discover dusty old buttons I haven’t pushed in years – icons I’d grown blind to over the levels due to their near complete lack of usefulness in PvE.

Disarm. I have pushed this button here and there, from time to time, only if required, or I’m bored, and only if it’s been pointed out to me I can do it. I use it so infrequently in PvE simply because it works on almost nothing. I didn’t even think of it in PvP until the Horde was assigned the same five rogues in two consecutive battlegrounds. They roamed the map in a pack, stealthed and ready to sap. There would be lines of alliance fighters, laid out in a row, all sapped, one after the other, as they tried to cross the field.

Anyway, I wound up spending an entire fight disarmed, as fucking rogues popped into and out of existence again. There was a certain RP satisfaction to picturing my baby warrior (unfortunately not a gnome) sucker punching the fuckers as they destealthed long enough to stab me and put a bunch of bleeds on me before disappearing again. But RP satisfaction is where it ended.

The one good thing that came out of that is that I was disarmed long enough to grow cognizant of the fact that I had been disarmed and to remember, in turn, that I could do that too. Now, out of pure spite, I will disarm every rogue I cross blades with.

But it will never take away the shame of getting into and losing a fist fight with five invisible men.

Hamstring. In PvE? I just. Don’t. Bother. For one thing, I’m tanking, so I’m not even in the right stance to use it. For another, when would I need to? Again, there just aren’t that many situations where it’s required, and another class can do it faster and easier than me.

In PvP? It’s the second thing I put on them (please see the previous paragraph about sprint).

I’ve finally learned to stance-dance properly. Start in Battle so I can charge (until I get Warbringer, anyway), drop a concussion blow and a hamstring, then switch to Defensive and start bludgeoning their skull with my shield. Switch back to Battle as they try to run to charge them again.

I almost feel like, as I gain levels and more talent points and abilities and other goodies, I can unlock a whole side to Prot I’ve never seen before. In the absence of the need to stand in one place and generate threat, I’ve picked up a whole new host of abilities that are the exact opposite of standing in one place. I can dart here and there around a playing field – something I always enjoyed in the few encounters as tank where I’d get to do so – interrupting and silencing and stunning as necessary.

Instead of being the heavily armoured thing standing between my part and the Big Nasty that wants to smash them, I am the heavily armoured thing that is chasing you down to wring bloody justice from your corpse.

I’ve gone from Implacable to Inevitable.

From Immovable to Unstoppable.

I’m still protecting my allies. I’m still protecting the objective. But I’m doing it in a different way, with a different feel. It’s not a passive defence, it’s an active defence. Instead of sitting there and waiting for them to come to me and just taking it, I am actively hunting them down, chasing them down, seeking them out and, ultimately, making them pay (for…taking our flag. But that’s another post).

I have become a Justicar in truth*.

Only 124,000 more rep, and I’ll be one in title.

*Using the D&D sense of the word, which is what I’m assuming Blizz is going for…more like a cop than a judge.

Excuses, Excuses

With regards to the looooonnnngggg stretches between posts, suffice it to say that between the vagaries of real life, the fact that I am no longer reduced to a puddle of incoherent rage on raid nights (due to there no longer being raid nights for a while), and the general, all-encompassing state of Waiting-For-Cataclysm, I haven’t had a lot to say on the topic of WoW. I figured silence was better than boring everyone – a policy I will likely maintain in the future.

Trying New Things (TM)

In the gap between now and Cataclysm I have tentatively been Trying New Things (TM). Things like a Warlock. Which has been going surprising well, pet pathing issues not withstanding. Also, a rogue. That one’s not going so well. See, I have a 40ish rogue, and you might think, gee Protflashes, that’s really good given that your previous record was level 17 with that class. But then I’d be obliged to point out that between level 17 and level 40ish a guildie basically chain-dragged my heirloom wearing ass through instances, and…now I’m level 40 and my toolbar is a vast and desolate wasteland of buttons I don’t know how to use.

Combo points are scary, leave me alone.

I also started a new warrior, which has, of course, been going delightfully because that class, I can do. You might think that this doesn’t really constitute under the Trying New Things (TM) thing I’ve been doing, and you would have been right up to a point.

But at level 40 I decided I wanted a title. In fact, I set my heart on a title. It is no longer a case of want. I absolutely have to get this title for this character. It is perfect for him. He must have it. He will have it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently I picked the hardest fucking title in the whole god damned game. Nor was I fully cognizant, when I first chose it, that it doesn’t exactly happen in my neck of the woods, so to speak.

The title I am so dead set on earning for myself – cue drum roll – is Justicar.

Cue three-year-old temper tantrum – IwantitIwantitIwantit!

For those who don’t know, earning the Justicar title involves grinding to Exalted with three old-world Factions, each associated with one of the three old world battlegrounds (Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley).

Battlegrounds…you know…PvP.

That thing I don’t do. The Land of No Tanks.

Okay, says I, no problem. I just have to get rep with the three vanilla PvP factions. Easy peasy. I did Warsong Gulch for a little while years ago. Even Arathi Basin once or twice when I was feeling brave. They give these little tokens, whether you win or lose, and you just hand those in for rep.

All I need to do, I told myself, oversimplifying in the interests of curbing the ever-present combination of fear and derision PvP invokes in my chest, is grit my teeth, suck it up, die a froopopapilliion times, and boom! Justicar.

I did some “research” into the title, which consisted of looking at a single forum thread and confirming that Warsong Gulch is the hardest one to get. So I decided to start with that one (having only two options at level 40ish). If it’s the hardest to get rep from, let’s get it out of the way before the novelty wears off. Plus it’s the only one I can really say I have any degree of understanding of since I have actually done it before (however poorly).

So I hit H, pop into the queue and three seconds later I’m in a game already in progress. Approximately three seconds after that – I’m not even out of the flagroom yet – I am assaulted with a summary screen that I vaguely remember means the game is over.

Did I mention I’m Alliance? Apparently we don’t win much.

Anyway, I shrug and think smugly to myself: fastest token ever. I open my bags and begin to look for my little thing I can hand in for rep. There’s nothing in my bags even remotely resembling a PvP token.

Vague memories of a set of patch notes saying blah blah blah tokens blah blah blah rep blah blah blah sucks to be you.

Queue panic.

I head for Google again, this time intending to look a little closer at just why this title is supposed to be so hard to get. Apparently the tokens I was banking on no longer exist.

The only way to get rep with the Silverwing Sentinels is by capturing the flag. 35 rep per capture, 45 on a Call to Arms weekend.

To put this into perspective for you, I have been stubbornly PvPing since I decided I want this title (all of a week or two now), and of somewhere between 50 and 100 games I’ve played, the vast majority of them end with a score of 0-3 for the Horde.

I can play a game for 30 minutes and the Alliance will not cap a single flag. If we don’t cap, I get no rep. I’m not just talking about a possibility, here, I’m talking about something that happens on a regular basis.

I added up the total of what I will need to get the title – basically 126,000 rep, split across the three factions. I’m currently at 1700ish. I’m not even Friendly with Silverwing.

I’m going to be at this a while.

Fish out of Water

So far I’ve only tried my hand at Warsong Gulch. I recognize I’m going to suck for a while (maybe even forever), but I’d rather not suck because I’m an idiot and couldn’t be bothered to at least look up what I’m doing. Long years of raiding have taught me that a bit of research goes a long way, especially in a PuG where one out of a hundred might actually be willing to take the time to explain something to you.

I already knew the basics of WSG, I read the article in the last WoW Magazine, I hit up WoWWiki and took a look at what they had written down in terms of tips, hints, and general strategies for winning.

It’s a shame that the strategies employed by the groups I’ve played with resemble absolutely nothing I’ve read….

I’m nowhere near experienced enough to start actively speaking up with regards to strategies or making statements about what we should or should not be doing in the chat itself, but the lack of communication, coordination, and common sense is already causing my raid-lead-instincts to twitch. I have, on several occasions, begged for someone to give me instructions. I have also gotten into at least three or four fights with people over the severe lack of utility inherent in waiting until you are dead and the flag has been returned to scream for some kind of support. Also over throwing in comments about teamwork, when you’re the twit who sauntered off down into the Horde base alone, without a word to the rest of us, as we desperately beat back a wave of five rogues, three shamans, and a fucking priest in our own flag room.

PvP is a chaotic, dirty game, and it’s so incredibly not the one I’m used to playing. There’s no real leadership in the PuGs. Even in a PvE dungeon PuG, the pace still needs to be set by the tank pulling and going in first. Even if there’s no official leader, there’s a recognized order to events that should be observed if one does not wish to die in a fire.

In PvE the strats are static, inflexible things. You find one that works with your group make-up and skill level and you fucking stick to that thing like glue. If anyone deviates from it you bark and snarl and nip at them like you’re herding sheep back into place. Everyone has a fairly rigid role in any given fight, responsibility is compartmentalized, assigned out to individuals, and is down in the weeds in terms of details. The field of play may change, but it does so at predictable, regular intervals.

In PvP – and take this with a grain of salt, for they are the words of a noob – there are strats (that nobody follows, but hey), but they are in no way inflexible. They can’t be. The field of play in PvP is a big roiling mass of players, doing whatever suits their fancy right now, in this moment, because honestly? I’m dead in two seconds anyway. So, assuming you have some kind of coordination, your strategy becomes a very high level, agile thing. Instead of a list of chronological events and the required reactions (PvE), it’s more like a priority list – a series of “if, then, else” statements. All the pieces are moving, all the time.

Biggest adjustment for me? Well, actually, there are two. The first is that there are no tanks. There is no threat. “Aggro” is gained through an arcane mechanic involving some combination of how easy you are to kill, whether you have the flag or not, and whether some jack ass on the other side has decided he’s going to pull your damn pigtails for the next thirty minutes, by which I mean detour unfailingly to beat the shit out of you behind a bush somewhere, not ten feet from the flag carrier he’s supposed to be caring about.

In fact, it almost works the exact opposite of the way it does in PvE. In PvE, aggro is gained by being the most threatening thing in the field of play. In PvP, we’re all a bunch of damn cowards. If I have a choice between chasing down a level 49 paladin, bristling in platemail, with a big-ass two-handed sword, and his bubble off CD, or a level 42 priest wearing Kleenex and standing all by her onsies off to the side in the hopes of avoiding notice….

I know who I’m going for. Sure the pally will kill me in the end anyway, but I’m taking that priest with me. An eye for an eye, an HK for an HK.

The second, and perhaps hard difference to wrap my mind around, is that life – any life; yours, theirs, whatever – has no value whatsoever. In PvE, success can actually be very generally described as living. The more people alive at the end of a fight, the better you did. If you die, you lose. You eat massive repair bills. You gimp your raid group as they try to finish the fight without you. There are heavy consequences for death.

In PvP you are put on this earth for one thing and one thing only, and that is to cause as much bloody inconvenience to anyone with a red name over their head as you possibly can before you go down in a blazing ball of poison, fire, and fucking DoTs. This whole process will take a grand total of – at maximum – two minutes. Within a maximum of 30 seconds you will be rezzed, automatically, at no personal cost to yourself or anyone else (whether monetary or manatary), and are free to rain destruction down upon your enemies for another two minutes.

Assuming you can get past the rogue camping the graveyard, but you get the idea.

There are no consequences for dying. Not only is it not the end of the world that you die, it’s part of the game. If you never died, it’s sort an eyebrow raising, where-were-you-when-shit-was-going-down-in-the-tunnel kind of thing. It happens, of course, but it is fairly rare to my inexperienced eye.

Nobody notices. Nobody mourns. Nobody screams and rants and rails. You don’t even care. Sometimes I actually find myself muttering “hurry the fuck up and kill me already so I can get back to my own base and fuck up the EFC before he gets off the ramp”. Or, in the case of a caster, so they can get their mana back.

The whole thing – the flexible nature of PvP strategies, the lack of sole responsibility for controlling where damage is coming and going (i.e., tanking), the complete and total renouncing of my overactive sense of self-preservation – is at once frightening and exhilarating; it’s strange and incredibly chaotic and it all feels so, so wrong…

But I think I like it.

And that scares me more than anything else.

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