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Breakfast Topic: How do you prefer to access "hard modes"?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

Ever since Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard has toyed around with its concept of "heroic" raiding. What first started out as a mere distinction between 10- and 25-player boss fights eventually became a difference in difficulty that was available in both raid sizes. It iterated further from Ulduar's various "hard mode" triggers to a simple UI element that toggled the "Grand" in and out of Trial of the Crusader. In ICC, Blizzard seemed to finally settle on how it wanted things to work.

Heroic mode is still relegated to a UI element, but it can at least be changed on a boss-by-boss basis, which puts it a step above the Argent Tournament's four raid lockouts. I must say, though, I do miss the creative methods of triggering hard modes in Ulduar. Leaving up the towers before Flame Leviathan or killing XT's heart to throw him into a new phase were clever and engaging ways to change up fights.

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Breakfast Topic: Do you enjoy soloing instances and raids?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

It all started one lazy Saturday afternoon when I decided to head into Karazhan alone for a shot at my very own Fiery Warhorse. Attumen went down easily enough, and I didn't have much else to do, so I decided to see just how much of the raid I could solo. A couple hours later, I had cleared the entire place -- even soloing the chess event after a bit of trial and error.

Suddenly, I had the soloing bug. I was compelled to see just how many old raids I could clear all by my lonesome. Molten Core and AQ10 both fell effortlessly before my wrath, and most of AQ40 went down until I was blocked by the twin emperors. Perhaps I was feeling a little overconfident when I stopped by Icecrown Citadel, because I ended up a bloodstain on the floor before even reaching Lord Marrowgar.

Now, I'm no Raegwyn or Jider, but I'm having a lot of fun anyway, so I forsee a lot of solo attempts in my future. I'm looking forward to seeing which bosses I can kill and which ones have mechanics I simply won't be able to overcome.

So, I'm curious how many of you have ever taken a stab at extreme soloing. If you have, what drew you to it? Do you have any favorite moments to share from your exploits? If you haven't, is it because of the class you play or does the idea just not interest you?

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Breakfast Topic: Are you ready for more raiding content?

When the decision was made to split up patch 4.1, we were told by Blizzard that its raid content and remaining features would appear soon after in patch 4.2. Normally, we players automatically add a mental "™" to the end of that dreaded word, but Tuesday's release of Rise of the Zandalari has heralded a sudden influx of Firelands information, making it seem as though we may indeed be traipsing through the elemental plane of fire in a rather short amount of time.

The previews show a fairly decent amount of completion and polish on zones, models and even the daily questing area. Also of note, when Lead Content Designer Cory Stockton was asked about the multiple raid dungeons we were supposed to expect in each Cataclysm tier ... well, let's face it: He basically completely side-stepped the topic, indicating that 4.2 wouldn't be delayed for that (which is a whole 'nother topic, but I digress).

The question then is: Are you ready for Firelands? This doesn't necessarily equate to having downed Lady Sinestra, but rather, do you at least feel you've reached a comfortable level of completion in the current content? Personally, my raid group is 8/12, and we will likely down some more bosses in the next month. While I'd love to get our Dark Phoenix mounts before the patch, I think I would still be proud of what we've accomplished as a casual social guild if the new raid dropped tomorrow.

So what about you? Are you chomping at the bit for a new raid or at least ready to attempt some new bosses? Alternatively, do you wish you had even more time to work on tier 11 while it's still relevant?

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Breakfast Topic: What role do you fill in your guild?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

Aside from official ranks such as officers and raid leaders, there are plenty of niche roles that guild members can fall into. I'm personally of the opinion that every guild can benefit from having a designated whipping boy to call their own. You know who I'm talking about. Everyone cracks jokes at his expense. Failures are blamed on him, even when he's not logged on. From the outsider's viewpoint, it might look suspiciously like everybody hates him! Yeah, that guy.

However, it's all done with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, and everybody has nothin' but love for their friendly neighborhood scapegoat. In reality, he is not just some pusillanimous pushover ... He is simply that special breed of person strong enough to take all that good-natured ribbing for what it really is. (Of course, if my guild's own whipping boy ever stumbles upon this, I'll completely deny ever writing such nice things about him.)

Then there's the Chief of the Guild Note Police. This handy person is obsessed with guild notes and will make sure that they are always filled with useful information. When a new member joins the guild, the Chief is the first to bluntly ask, "Hey, who are you?" Without their dedication, you might not know that the level 12 worgen who just logged on is actually your guild leader.

These are just a few of the various personalities I've seen during my time in Azeroth. What kinds of minor roles have you noticed folks playing in your guild? Is there a specific type of member you believe no guild should be without? What about you? Is there a role you tend to play amongst your circle of friends?

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Breakfast Topic: What's your approach to guild achievements?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

Back when patch 3.0.2 hit, World of Warcraft took a page from the rest of the gaming world by adding in those ever-addicting things called "achievements." No doubt you've had plenty of experience with them by now. If you haven't specifically worked to complete any, you've at least stumbled upon a shiny flashing box or two. Not everyone's a fan of these systems, of course -- but for many of us, there's a lot of fun to be had in these secondary objectives.

Fast forward two years, and Cataclysm has ushered in a new era of virtual accomplishment with the new guild achievements. While they initially allowed guilds to level past the daily experience cap, they have since been hotfixed to play more of a non-mandatory role in the success of a guild. Essentially, they are now just like individual achievements -- except damn near impossible to complete without a little help from your friends.

I've personally always been a fan of achievement hunting, so I've been thoroughly enjoying this new subset of tasks to work toward. In this spirit, I've definitely done some things I might not have done before. Critter Kill Squad, for example, led my guild to a rather fun midnight murdering spree in Terrorweb Tunnel. Also, for the first time, I'm in a guild arena team doing regular matches. Hell, I even decided which alts to level based on which race/class combos we needed the most.

Have the new guild achievements caused you to make any of these kinds of changes? Are you perhaps taking a more languid approach by slaughtering penguins and bunnies only when it happens to be convenient? Maybe, like with regular achievements, there are a lot of you out there who simply don't care one whit. Tell us all about it!

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What's your voice comm system of choice?

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It was before my time, but I still hear nostalgic stories about how TeamSpeak was once the voice communication service of choice for MMO gamers. Barring a few potential holdouts -- who I must assume are raiding from nondescript shacks in the mountains of Montana -- there's been a very clear sea change that has placed Ventrilo quite comfortably at the top of the heap. If you raid, chances are you have Vent.

Like its predecessors, though, Vent has competitors of its own vying to overthrow the current king of speech. Perhaps the one getting the most attention right now is Mumble, which boasts low latency, clear sound, and the pseudo-celebrity endorsements of more than a few WoW Insider staffers.

Personally, my guild started using Mumble a few months ago and hasn't looked back. Now, this is partly because one of my officers pimps it out like she's getting paid, but mostly because so many of the guildies just plain think it's better. We've run into some problems -- mainly with installation or getting the not-always-intuitive client to work properly -- but for better or worse, it looks like we've been transformed into a Mumble guild. We've even started requesting that puggies download it before raids, promising them that they'll never again want to return to Ventrilo.

So, have you tried Mumble yet, either of your own volition or due to peer (to peer) pressure? Did you feel like there were benefits, or did you find yourself missing Vent? Do you think it will ever become as ubiquitous as Vent or will it eventually fade into obscurity? Most importantly, what will you Vent loyalists do the next time you enter a raid and the leader sends you their Mumble info?

What's your voice comm system of choice?
Mumble2162 (18.5%)
TeamSpeak1188 (10.2%)
Ventrilo7861 (67.3%)
In-game voice system476 (4.1%)

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Breakfast Topic: Are rep grinds too easy now?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

I'm going to admit it: I miss the old style of rep grinds. Okay, just put down the torch while I clarify, please. My fond reminiscences do not extend to the Hydraxian Waterlords or the Wintersaber Trainers. Simply being time-consuming does not make a rep grind good. Also, reputation shouldn't impede progress. Locking people out of heroics until hitting revered -- or even honored -- is a silly and artificial barrier.

What I would like to see return to rep grinds, however, is a little heart. In the past, there was often some planning involved in finding the best route to pleasing your favorite factions. The Cenarion Expedition is a good example. Pro rep fiends started out with wide-scale slaughter in Zangermarsh. They turned in Unidentified Plant Parts through friendly but saved all their Uncatalogued Species to give them a quick burst of rep once they hit honored. Only then did they start doing quests and running Underbog. There was a definite strategy involved, and it made your rise through the ranks seem meaningful.

Ever since the introduction of championing tabards in Wrath, rep grinding feels less like a metagame and more like a series of bars that slowly and inevitably fill up automatically. All that's required of you is to wear the proper gang colors, and eventually you'll be well regarded by all. As popular as it is, I wouldn't suggest getting rid of championing -- but perhaps we could compromise by adding additional, more engaging methods of gaining rep? I'd love to do more than two daily tasks for our riparian friends in Uldum, for example.

So tell me if I'm crazy. Do you think championing tabards are the best thing since spiced bread, or like me, do you feel that they currently lack something?

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Breakfast Topic: The kill shot and other boss downing traditions

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

So, you and your guildies have been waiting for this moment for months. You've leveled up together and run heroics until the sound of Ozruk's voice was haunting your every dream. You took all that fancy blue gear, watched some videos and made a couple nights of attempts. Now you stand at the body of some freshly killed behemoth wondering exactly what the hell a worm was doing with a fancy pair of pants (It's because he's jealous of your legs -- classic Little Mermaid syndrome.) Congratulations!

Once all the purple pieces have been passed out, though, it's time to memorialize the occasion. Guilds have long participated in the time-honored tradition of posing for screenshots after they down raid bosses for the first time. If you need further proof of this phenomena, simply do a Google image search of any current tier raid boss, and you'll be assaulted with pictures of avatars, standing together proudly.

Something else you notice about these pictures, though, is that they can be -- let's face it -- kind of boring. Personally, I've seen enough boss kill screenshots to last a lifetime, so when my guild succeeds in killing something new, I don't even take one. Instead, my wife mocks up a Photoshop like the one above to commemorate each victory. It's silly, but it gives us something to look forward to as we progress.

Does your guild take screenshots of first kills, or do you document the occasion in some other way? Perhaps you write an exciting RP blog entry recounting your band of heroes' legendary triumph? If you do take the tried-and-true screencap, what does your character do to shake things up? Extra points if you always pop a sandbox tiger and ride it in furbolg form!

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Breakfast Topic: How do you respond when others misrepresent WoW?

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

A few months back, my wife and I were watching television, when suddenly my ears perked to the sound of a familiar phrase. The Big Bang Theory was talking about our beloved game! I had heard that this show employs people to keep its science talk somewhat authentic, so I listened curiously to see where they were going with this. Unfortunately, it appears that they don't exercise the same level of care when talking about video games.

"You know World of Warcraft?" Wolowitz asked Penny.

"The online game? Sure," she replied.

"Well, did you know you that the characters in the game can have sex with each other?

Hollywood has always treated video games more like a prop than a real live hobby, obviously. You're usually lucky when gaming characters actually continue mashing on buttons while they deliver lines, so an inaccuracy like this isn't exactly a surprise. Moments later, though, our phone started to ring. My wife picked it up and I faintly heard my father-in-law asking in his heavy Oklahoma accent, "What does Brian do in that game he's always playin', anyway?" She explained that -- despite tales of Moon Guard -- there is no mechanic in the game to have sex. Still, though ... to this day, when he asks about our "raider game," I swear I can see an incredulous eyebrow rise ever so slightly.

Society and the media haven't always done their best to paint the MMO genre positively or accurately. News stories constantly highlight the worst-case scenarios, and innocent jokes like this can send the wrong impression to the uninitiated. Is there anyone in your life who is convinced that these stereotypes and falsehoods are true? Did you ever try to educate them, or do you just nod your head and laugh to yourself when they mention the game?

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Guest Post: What will be Patch 4.0.1's legacy?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

As the dust begins to settle in the wake of the great patch-aclysm of 2010, it's time to look back with a little perspective and see exactly what we've been left with. The most immediately visible effects revolve around the drastic changes to many of our favorite classes, but frankly, a bit too much hubbub has been made over these already. The WoW community is -- to put it delicately -- a rather passionate bunch, so we tend to react strongly to the need to relearn our classes. Realistically, though, it's just a matter of figuring out which playstyles suit us the most, adapting to them and hoping we don't lose any friends and guildies as casualties of evolution.

Damage numbers are also relatively meaningless at this stage in the game. While we're sure to see some frustratingly unviable specs in Cataclysm like we have in the past (*cough* PvE subtlety), for the most part, the developers can tweak code through patches and hotfixes to ensure that we all eventually see appropriately-sized numbers flashing before our eyes.

Since the order of buttons we press to succeed is in a constant state of flux anyway, we'll eventually forget that X skill or Y talent even existed. But some things will stick with us longer. I believe Patch 4.0.1's legacy depends more on permanent game changes that we'll one day take for granted.

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