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Interview with Xzin: the man with ten arms

If you PVP on Alliance anywhere on Battlegroup Ruin (which includes Warsong, Argent Dawn, Lothar and Medivh, among others), you've probably run into Xzin. Most likely, you've seen him very briefly before your untimely death. You may have complained to your teammates about him. Perhaps you reported him to a GM. You could have even created one of the many "@Xzin" threads that litter the Magtheridon realm forums. You can do many, many things, but nothing will change the fact that you are dead. And the next time you see him, you will also be dead.

Xzin plays a team consisting of one undead priest and four undead mages on Magtheridon-US. He runs five separate WoW accounts on five separate computers, controlling the characters through coordinated wireless keyboards. All the arcane/fire-specced mages follow the priest around and do coordinated damage while the holy-specced priest heals them. Any single player who attempts to take on the Zins will be instantly killed.

The Zin Army reached Warlord status a couple months ago, and now Xzin, Azin, Bzin, Czin and Dzin are testing out PvP in the Burning Crusade Beta. WoW Insider caught up with Xzin between Arena bouts and asked him about his unique setup.

(Edited to add video links.)

1. What first gave you the idea to start doing the Xzins?

A guy who calls himself Team Wizzy. He did this same thing in Dark Age of Camelot and posted some rather hilarious videos. I saw that and since I was already planning to play WoW, I realized I could do thesame thing in WoW (only better) and since I never really liked playing a single character (too boring)... the Zins were born. I designed all of the hardware (3 custom keyboards, 5 regular keyboards, 6 flat panels, 5 computers, 6 mice, some keyboard multicasters and a kvm switch) and set up all of the custom in game macros and keybinds. Then I proceeded to figure out how to use it all at the same time. It took a little while to get used to but I gradually added on new spells, hotkeys and UI mods and it has been evolving ever since.

I have seen a few other interesting multiboxers since I started (Tinmar, Ellay, and the incredibly odd Sam Deathwalker) but none that have taken it to any similar levels of five characters at once in Tier 2/3 and Rank 13 gear in WoW. I designed this to PvP from the beginning, even down to ensuring the look of my Undead characters matched exactly and that all of the computers had identical hardware.

2. Why did you pick four mages and a priest?

Mages for the AoE and burst damage, which I realized early on was going to be key to what I wanted to do - PvP. I (correctly) reasoned before I even started that I was not going to survive very long (in PvP or PvE) without the ability to heal - and priests are the only class that have the ability to cast AoE heals. Melee classes were going to be too difficult to keep in melee range and while I contemplated warlocks, I eventually settled on mages given everything I knew about WoW PvP mechanics. Since all of them needed to be Undead (for Will of the Forsaken) this further narrowed my choices down and I pretty much decided right away on 4 mages and 1 priest. Who can deny the power of 4x instant cast, 3 minute cooldown, Presence of Minded Pyroblasts from 41 yards away? Almost nobody survives those.

3. What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are in group PvP - do you fit best in AB, AV, or WSG?

I mostly "solo" PvP now that I am finished grinding honor but when I was grouping to PvP, I would have to say my biggest strengths were AoE, burst damage and the ability to focus on a single target. My biggest weakness is only being one player with the ability to focus on one thing at once (or monitor several things at once, but none of them having my full attention). I initially hated WSG because my ability to win usually rested in the hands of 5 random people but when I figured out it was the best way to grind honor that is pretty much all I did (although with 5 other skilled players who knew how to best use my strengths and a vent server).

Despite that, I did manage to get exalted with all 3 bgs. Playing with me took a dedicated team and a entirely new set of strategies but all in all it paid off and I always had a long list of people who wanted to PvP with me. AV is most likely the BG that I am "best" at due to the PvP banners, ability to solo any bunker or flag and the fact that people clump together for protection in AV more than any other BG.

4. You've been the subject of some memorable forum threads. What do you have to say to people who accuse you of violating the spirit of WoW and/or not having a life?

It seemed that when the cross server battlegrounds opened up a whole new torrent of mixed forum messages came forth. Many echoed the initial sentiment that I experienced when I first became "known" on my server. Many were in favor of what I was doing. Some (wrongly) accused me of cheating or botting and still others simply thought it was unfair for various reasons.

As to the spirit of the game - I see nothing inherently wrong with what I do. I can see people's points and I understand where some of that comes from but the truth is I take up 5 slots and I have 5 repair bills just like everybody else. I also have to gear up five characters and pay for five monthly fees. I have, although somewhat rarely, been taken down by 5 or more coordinated and highly geared players and given enough time, I still die in battlegrounds - who doesn't? I don't claim to be the best player ever or trash talk my opponents or feel the need to scream about how great I am. I am no pushover but I don't play for personal glory or to enlarge the proverbial "e-peen". While I will argue that there is a great amount of skill in what I do (I don't just go around spamming AoE all day long), I choose to play the game within the rules as I see fit. Yes, my setup gives me a huge advantage over a single player but when you break it down, I have 5 players in my group - not one. A lot of people do not seem to understand that. So, people complain because of what they see as "unfair" or quot;unsportsmanlike" play. The same people probably complain about people using potions in duels (on a PvP server no less) or about losing to an organized group with their PuG. Nobody likes to lose but I see nothing wrong with using the tools I have available to play the game as I see fit. Nobody is forcing you to only play with other pick up groups. Nobody is preventing you from organizing your own group and taking on other groups.

I have an in-depth knowledge of how this game works and I bring forth a great deal of in game resources to achieve my goals of being a successful PvPer. Expecting a level 58 in greens to be able to beat my group of five Rank 13 characters is like expecting a butcher to successfully conduct neurosurgery. It just isn't realistic. To put it another way, nobody expects a group of 40 level 60s in greens who have never met before or set foot in BWL to be able to down Nef in a single night. But of course almost nobody sees it that way when they see me as a single player and reason they should have a good chance at beating me by themselves. Surely, there is a line - botting, third party programs, etc but none of them would give me anything but a disadvantage when it comes to PvP - no program would be able to react fast enough and besides, that is against the EULA.

As for having no life, etc - WoW is a hobby of mine. I started playing WoW during Open Beta. In total, I have perhaps 40-50 actual days played total in a little over two years. I leveled all of the Zins up at the same time - soloing instances. I don't feel a need to prove to people that I have a life but I have a wonderful girlfriend who has been with me for over four years now and I own and operate several successful businesses. I have the freedom to wake up in the morning and instead of being tied down to a 9-5 job, I choose how to spend my time and I have the resources to make this possible. For somebody in his early 20's - that's a rare gift. People can talk and speculate about me all they want - as they often do - but that is to be expected. People need a way to rationalize their "loss"; they need a way to explain it away and justify it. Unfortunately, that is where the stereotyping can come in. If they are able to rationalize it by believing that they lost to an overweight, 40 year old virgin who never left his parents basement and has yet to kiss a girl, then I suppose that is what they are going to do. It's just human nature. Fortunately, not every WoW player reacts that way.

5. You're also a member of a raiding guild - how far have you gone in PVE with the Zins, and how do you control them in boss fights?

My guild is the farthest through Naxx of any horde guild on our server so far - one boss away from The Four Horsemen in Naxx. We usually have several players sitting out at various times on raid nights so it is difficult to The Zins in on Naxx nights. The furthest I have taken the Zins (all of them) is BWL. I have done BWL all the way through with all five of them, including Nef - the coordinated healing/AoE on that fight is an incredible help when the constructs come out and the suppression room is a breeze. I regularly do Onyxia and used to do MC all the way through, including Rag. I also have done all of ZG and all of AQ20 with all five of them. I have taken a few of the mages to AQ40 but we generally do not have space to bring them all and we so rarely do AQ40 anymore. Even if I could fit them in the raid, Naxx really isn't an option - several fights would be very, very difficult to do and we constantly have to sit people out as it is. I would rather have four separate, geared mages in Naxx than try to multibox all five of them at once.

On a side note - to farm gold I simply solo Stratholme - I can do a Baron run in about 30 minutes flat. However, I prefer not to mindlessly farm gold over and over - I have far better things to do with my time.

6. You ground your characters to Rank 13 - what are your feelings on the new PvP reward system?

Well, it is a bit disheartening to see the rank 14 weapons so easily attainable after spending so much time getting to Rank 13 on all five characters (at the same time). Keep in mind though that in a month people will be replacing them with better weapons anyway so I suppose this really isn't that big of a deal. If you do the math though to see how amazingly stupid the old system was - I calculated it would have taken me about 1,600 more games of WSG over the next 4 weeks to go from Warlord to High Warlord. I was able to pull in as much as 180,000 honor in a day with endless WSG wins (on non WSG weekends). Now all it takes is about 2 days for a HWL/GM weapon. Given what I knew about the expansion and the fact that I was maximizing crit over raw damage (as many of my spells are instant cast and subject to diminishing returns on +dmg gear) the AB staffs and Benediction suited me just fine.

That said though, I am actually a bit glad that Blizzard has decided to make PvP rewards far more sane. It really was out of hand, the lengths that one had to go to in order to attain the top ranks. I will withhold my judgment on the Arena system until the final numbers are in and the expansion has been released. It seems like a system that is going to reward those who do pretty well and those that do very well nearly the same - which makes sense over rewarding only the top .1% as the old system did. Just don't lose most of your Arena games or it looks like it will take five or six times as much to attain the same amount of points as those in the upper ranks.

7. Of all the things you've done in WoW, what stands out as your favorite/most memorable moment?

I am not sure I can point to one single moment. The few that come to mind were teaming up with a friend to do guild AV runs. We would win in around 20 minutes flat - this was a time when most AVs could and would last for 8 or more hours, sometimes days. He would run in with a prepatch invulnerability mail and pull an entire tower and I would AoE everything down. Then of course some of the epic world PvP TM fights. I showed up when I was around level 45 or so and I quickly learned that was a bad idea when everybody else was 60. Then I went over to SM and would take down single level 60s with my five level 45s. The first time I "soloed" DM North (with a full tribute) back when I was wearing mostly greens and blues stands out as does the early MC runs. I think though that my conversation with a GM about what they thought of my multiboxing really stands out as one of the best. Yes, this is a real conversation I had with two GMs. Certainly not what I expected but certainly this is not the first time I have been reported.

8. Since you've been in the beta, what do you think the future of PvP will be like, and will you continue competing in things like the Arena?

With so many more AoE crowd control abilities, such as Blood Elf Racials, Shadowfury (which is not that great for PvP anyway), instant cast Howl of Terrors, increased hit points across the board, the rapid and dual scaling of melee gear (more damage = more rage/combo and more rage/combo = more damage) and the increase in healing (stackable HoTs, more time to react, newer healing spells) - I am actually a bit concerned that the entire WoW PvP dynamic is changing for the worse (as far as I am concerned). Don't get me wrong - the PvP towns are incredible, the new battleground is fun and the arenas will be a challenge (at first) but WoW PvP is turning a little bit into a clone of Guildwars - and that is not the type of PvP system I signed up for as a caster who multiboxes.

I suspect that before too long the extra battleground will be just as boring as WSG/AB/AV and world PvP will lose its luster so the only reason people will want to log on is for their 10 weekly arena games. That may be too fatalistic and I may just be pessimistic from all of the battlegrounds I did but it seems to me that the state of WoW PvP is going to change (from a caster perspective) for the worse. Don't get me started on Warlocks right now. I already started leveling up 4 of them and a priest for summons and soulstones but we will have to see - they are shaping up to be mighty powerful as it stands right now.

9. It's been established that you're not a nerd living in his mom's
basement. What does the real Xzin do for a living and in his free time?

Well, nobody pays me to play Xzin. Who knows, maybe it would be possible to land a sponsor but that is not something that really interests me. I play WoW for fun, not for profit. For profit I have to actually do something that helps other people.

In my real life, I am a young, tech savvy serial entrepreneur in my early 20's. I start companies and once they reach a critical mass (as in make money), I bring on board management to run and expand those said companies. I set my own hours and my own work schedule. Once a company starts generating enough surplus cashflow, I then reinvest the proceeds into more companies of my own idea and creation. I always have a backlog of interesting ideas that I want to bring to reality but I like to take some time off in between projects to enjoy life too. The Zins were borne out of a desire to take a break from "work". Truth be told, I only work on things that I find interesting so it really isn't work as far as I am concerned.

As for my personal life, my significant other is slated to start medical school in the fall. While she doesn't share my interest in World of Warcraft, she still thinks what I do is pretty interesting. Plus, she happens to like nerdy boys, which works pretty well for me.

10. Finally, if the Zins had been Alliance, what class/race combination would they have been?

Although sadly cliche, I would have probably picked the only aesthetically pleasing class alliance side - female Night Elfs. Being alliance was never an option because even though fear ward is a nice raid ability it does not remove active fears and would have to be constantly reapplied - which I reasoned early on would be something I would seek to minimize when possible. Plus - Night Elfs cannot be mages and Undead were more intimidating than Alliance.

Filed under: Realm News, Virtual selves, PvP, Screenshots

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