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Buff(ing) For BlizzCon: Carving out Caverns of Time and unarmed combat

Buff(ing) for BlizzCon is a bi-weekly fitness series written by ShrinkGeek authors Rafe Brox and Michael McGreevy. Join the team in getting in shape for the ultimate WoW geek event: BlizzCon.

We've all been there: bored in Storm Peaks, decked out in our blues and purples, and idly surfing through your achievements, when you realize that you need to give someone (or several someones) a knuckle sandwich in order to earn Master of Arms. Unequipping your weapon of choice (or eschewing your favorite spell rotation), you start slapping some unsuspecting rhinocerous or elemental. It takes a surprisingly long time to do that particular grind, especially if you're not built for melee combat.

What the heck does this have to do with our bi-weekly sojourn into the realm of health and fitness? Without the right equipment and skills, even something simple is harder than you think it's going to be -- but with practice, it gets easier. Fortunately for us, we don't have to subject ourselves to a great deal of peril in order to gear up, and we can boost our skills during in-game downtime.

This time around, Buff(ing) for BlizzCon will check in with the staffers who are on this particular quest to see what they're using and doing to help them reach their goals, and we'll offer a few suggestions of our own. We already know that if you're not doing anything at all, starting any kind of healthy eating and exercise routine will help. For those of you who have already gotten those under way -- keep on keeping on. For those of you who haven't, what are you waiting for? Extended maintenance?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, BlizzCon, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: What story does your WoW subscription history tell?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to

Some of us have been addicted to World of Warcraft from the beginning. Like me, some of you may have been addicted at the start but wavered off and on over the years. Alternately, some World of Warcraft players have only joined the world recently. A quick look at an account's payment history (found in account management on the World of Warcraft website) can provide an interesting tale regarding a player's obsession (or lack thereof) with World of Warcraft.

Personally, looking back at my payment history brought back memories of World of Warcraft as well as the games that sought to tear me away from Azeroth.

The journey (not the one shown in the screenshot above) started on Nov. 28, 2004, five days after the first adventurers had stepped foot into retail Azeroth. At that time, it took me a year and a half (non-/played of course) to get to 60. I suppose that could be considered to be an incredibly casual rate of levelling -- but eh, the times were simpler back then. That first chunk lasted until March 14, 2007. Still, after nearly two and a half years of enjoyment in Azeroth, I found myself pulled away to other pursuits, one of which was most likely one of my numerous forays into the complexity that is EVE Online. These distractions kept me away from the World of Warcraft for another year and a half, until I returned on Sept. 16, 2008.

I do not specifically remember, nor can I explain, my return to Azeroth. Alas, it was not to last. After that initial monthly subscription, my time in Azeroth is blank until a later date. Perhaps this was the time that I found myself drawn into Warhammer Online, an intriguing alternative to Azeroth that would ultimately prove to be no match for the appeal that World of Warcraft presented to me. I made my second-to-last return on May 18, 2009. This would be a four-month stint in which I would find myself levelling both my druid and my death knight to level 80 and getting them partially geared, before yet again dropping off the face of Azeroth on Sept. 23, 2009. The game that most describes this last absence? Global Agenda.

This brings us to my most recent return on March 2, 2010. I have spent the past two months getting sufficiently geared to be able to jump into 10-man ICC with my guild, and we have almost already conquered the zone. To bring the story full circle, it is important to note that I recently transferred my night elf hunter, created all the way back at the beginning of my journey, to my main's server in order to finally get him to 80. (He has been languishing in the mid-60s for the past few years.)

The above is what my subscription history says about me as a World of Warcraft player and a gamer and general. What does your subscription history say about you?

Have you ever wanted to write for Your chance may be right around the corner. Watch for our next call for submissions for articles via Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to The next byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: Death by death knight

I was running through Borean Tundra recently, leveling my death knight alt, when a rather morbid thought hit me. That thought was this: death by death knight must suck. With all of the diseases, a ghoul often gnawing a limb off and the DK himself hacking into you with his weapon of choice, dying from a death knight may be the worst death that you could receive from a player class. With a max-level paladin as my main, I know that pallys are a relatively quick and painless death (so long as they're not fighting an undead mob, at which point it would have to be a terrible way to go). I've not played any other classes to high levels, so I can't say for them. The closest to me would have to be the warlock, what with sucking your soul straight out of you.

Which class do you think would bestow the most painful death, and which the most merciful? Are death knights the masters of suffering, or are they merely pretenders to the throne? Are warriors or rogues, with their bleed tactics, a worse way to go? Would it be better just to get one-shot? Is there a particular spec that rules the roost? Let the debate begin.

This article has been brought to you by Seed, Aol's guest writer program that brings your words to Watch for the next call for submissions and a chance to submit your own article. The next byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Death Knight, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: Unfinished business

Have you ever run through one of your favorite cities in Azeroth and wondered what is actually beyond half of those doorways you pass by without thought? Lately, I have been leveling my baby druid and as such have been spending quite a bit of time in Stormwind, most notably The Park. One day, while waiting for the dungeon finder to pop me into yet another run of Blackrock Depths, I decided to explore around my trainer.

What I found surprised me. In The Park alone, there are many unused buildings: an inn, an archery shop, another shop with scrolls on the counters, and yet another shop filled with wine barrels. All lack NPCs and purpose. In fact, out of all of the shops, there is only one NPC in any of the buildings: a night elf herbalism trainer, whose name you cannot see because it clips into the shelves above.

So I decided to actually pay attention to the rest of Stormwind. The buildings leading into Cut-Throat Alley are empty. There's a large hall in the Dwarven District that is also missing signs of life. These are just a few quick examples of unfinished areas in Azeroth. Other examples might include the unfinished dwarven farming area on the southern border of Wetlands, Old Ironforge or the upper ring of Undercity.

Our beloved Azeroth, in all of its awesomeness, at times seems utterly barren and unfinished. With Cataclysm on the horizon, I for one hope many of these lifeless areas are revisited by the development team and given purpose. What is your favorite unused area, and what do you think the Blizzard developers should do with it?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, Aol's guest writer program that brings your words to Watch for the next call for submissions and a chance to submit your own article. The next byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Guild life pre-Cataclysm: Surviving the end times

When I inherited leadership of a successful 25-man raid during The Burning Crusade, I had a steep learning curve. After the first year, I had mastered the fine arts of recruiting, juggling subs, managing raid time, resolving disputes and running a tight ship. Little did I know what awaited us when halfway through our Sunwell Plateau progression, Wrath of the Lich King was announced! Fortunately, my guild was able to weather the storm, and now that we are closing in on Cataclysm, I am much better prepared.

Guild masters who haven't experienced the pre-expansion blues may find themselves overwhelmed with the task of keeping their once tight-knit community from turning into a ghost town. Some players may choose the months before an expansion to take an extended vacation from the game. Others may choose to focus on a favorite alt, and still others are chomping at the bit to farm the highest tier of raid content in order to complete their ideal gear sets. No doubt all three types of players are in your guild. How are you expected to funnel everyone's pre-expansion desires and expectations into group-friendly activities that keep them logging on night after night?

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Filed under: Guilds, Raiding, Cataclysm, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: Banging our heads against the wall

As a raider, you tend to encounter that one boss that will kick your butt night after night. In Burning Crusade, my guild saw Teron Gorefiend as our bane. Week after week, we wiped on him for at least three hours a night. All of the raid members did the famous ghost simulator many times, but still we had people who had lag issues when they came to the encounter. We also knew our DPS was not up to par, but our raid leader at the time did not want to run Mount Hyjal to get some of the gear people needed. It wasn't until the patch 3.0.1 nerf that we were able to overcome Gorefiend and move on in Black Temple.

Fast forward to Wrath of the Lich King, a different guild and a different server. We have found our proverbial wall in the Lich King. Many of us have successfully downed him in 10-man, but the 25-man fight is a different story. Our problem seems to come from executing phase 2 right, with having a stun rotation on the valkyrs and placing the Defiles in the right spots away from other raid members. Yes, we have the lag monster come out during this phase, but it is mostly an execution point.

In both those cases, I have seen my guildmates get so frustrated that they either leave the guild, take a break from the game or even not show up to raid on those nights we are focusing specifically on that boss. They just don't want to be hitting their heads against a wall all night, even though it would be for progression.

Raid leaders, how do you get over that hurdle? Do you just keep picking away at the boss until you get him down, or do you take a night where you go through old content to give your raiders a break? Raiders, how do you handle constant wiping on a boss? Are you the type who stays with your raid group through thick and thin, or do you jump ship when you are stuck on that one boss?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, Aol's guest writer program that brings your words to Watch for the next call for submissions and a chance to submit your own article. The next byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: Dodging guilt

I'm hardly a PvP fanatic. Occasionally I'll run into a battleground when I have extra time on my hands, usually after getting my two frost emblems for the day and wrapping up some daily quests. But often, I'll duck into a battleground and realize that there is no way we'll win; commonly, this is either Eye of the Storm or Isle of Conquest. There's no cooperation, one-quarter of the Alliance is doing just enough to avoid an AFK report, and the Horde seems to run with a Navy SEALS level of coordination. It would be perfectly justifiable to drop out and go do a few quick daily quests while I wait for the deserter debuff to go away.

My mouse hovers over the "leave battleground" button.

I want to click it.

I don't.

There's something about the Deserter debuff that just gets under my skin. I can't help but picture someone clicking my 'toon and seeing "Deserter" attached to my name. They think, "Well, now, that there's a coward!" Inside, I know that it's just as reasonable as dropping from a bad dungeon PUG (even more so, if I drop from a turtled AV). But then I think, "I'd be a deserter." I'd end up spending the next 15 minutes wandering around Netherstorm or Silithus, keeping clear of other players, contemplating rolling a warlock and other self-hating activities. So I stay and rack up another "L" on my personal record.

But it brings up the question: what do you put yourself through to avoid guilt in World of WarCraft?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, Aol's guest writer program that brings your words to Watch for the next call for submissions and a chance to submit your own article. The next new byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: The other kind of hybrids

In conversations about WoW, the word "hybrid" brings forth images of paladins, druids and so forth. But interestingly enough, WoW has another kind of hybrid. I am referring, of course, to characters with inter-species ancestry. For those who care about the lore of Warcraft, feelings on hybrids range from "I don't really care" to "They're awesome!" to "They ruin the lore!" An example of a character who elicits the first opinion is Lantresor of the Blade. Is he a hybrid? Yes. Do people make a big deal out of it? Not really. His ancestry simply adds a nice bit of backstory to (at the time Burning Crusade was released) a new character.

Two examples of well-received hybrids are Garona Halforcen and Rexxar. Garona, originally created as a half-human, half-orc hybrid, has in recent times been retconned into a half-orc, half-draenei -- still a popular character among those that know of her. Rexxar, the half-ogre, half-orc Champion of the Horde, has been a popular character since his creation in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne's orc bonus campaign.

However, hybrids can also be targets of immense hatred from the fan base. Rhonin, while not a hybrid himself, is often accused of being a "Mary Sue" by fans, with one of the most popular reasons being that he is married to a high elf, Veressa Windrunner. His twin sons, by extension, have been poorly received. There was some anger when it was revealed that the first Guardian of Tirisfal was Alodi, a half-elf.

But among all the disputed hybrids, none is more controversial than Med'an. The son of the aforementioned Garona Halforcen and Medivh, last Guardian of the original Council of Tirisfal, Med'an is quarter-orc, quarter-draenei and half-human. This apparently gives him the natural aptitude to not only be a mage, but a shaman and paladin as well. Not only this, but he becomes a new Guardian of Tirisfal, which drives some to say that he "ruins the point" of Warcraft III. Regardless of your opinions on the character, the controversy created by Med'an has few rivals within Warcraft's history.

In addition to hybrid characters, some races are alleged by some to be hybrids. The drakonid, humanoid dragons, are said in some places to be half-dragon. The same goes for harpies and other races.

What are your feelings about hybrids? Should drakonid be the next playable race, or should Deathwing just eliminate them all in Cataclysm? Or are you somewhere in between?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, Aol's guest writer program that brings your words to Watch for the next call for submissions and a chance to submit your own article. The next new byline you see here may be yours!

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Breakfast Topic: A chat channel with a bank

This article has been brought to you by Seed, Aol's guest writer program that brings your words to Watch for the next call for submissions and a chance to submit your own article. The next new byline you see here may be yours!

When Wrath of the Lich King was first released, my guild was red-hot for Naxx. We recruited. We started a website and started swapping ideas, posting videos, strategies and of course developed some great friendships. Although we didn't steamroll over content like a lot of our other guild peers on the server (a lot of us seasoned players had been there/done that with the hardcore raiding guild scene and were over it), we still went along at a decent pace and were satisfied with our overall progress.

Things were going well. Ulduar was around the corner, and everyone was ready to do a great big cannonball into new content. New strats, pics, videos and posts were going up on the guild forums. People were reading up, doing their homework and ready to roll right into Ulduar. We were getting through the first couple of bosses with no problems, but then we ran into a boss in that my guild failed to read any strats or watch any videos on: the RL Boss.

Our guild could not get past the RL Boss. People were getting married, getting divorced, buying a house, losing a house. You name it, it was happening. As luck would have it, it wasn't our second-tier raiders either; it was the performers that were taking a four-quarter breather from the game.

After a while, the guild leadership just gave up. Any senior raiders who were left started pugging, and there were a few months with absolutely nothing on the guild calendar. There have been a few half-hearted attempts, but those were over before they began. Rumor has it that the GM has put the kibosh on recruitment, effectively making the remnants of our guild a chat channel with a bank.

Has your guild wiped on the RL Boss enough times to discourage any guild activities, even to the point that the guild actually disbanded? What happened?

Filed under: Guilds, Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Buff(ing) For BlizzCon: Choose your quests wisely

Buff(ing) for BlizzCon is a bi-weekly fitness series written by ShrinkGeek authors Rafe Brox and Michael McGreevy. Join the team in getting in shape for the ultimate WoW geek event: BlizzCon.

I had serious health issues from being way too heavy not that long ago. Without going into the whole story (you can read it all here if you're so inclined), it was imperative that I lose weight and keep it off. I'm still trying to reach my overall goal, 10 years later, but I'm a lot closer now. I won't kid you – it hasn't been easy, but no epic quest with an awesome reward ever is (and, unfortunately, there isn't a development team that is going to nerf the Getting In Shape quest once the elite raiders have beaten it).

I'm about to state something that nobody in the diet and fitness industries really wants to admit, because doing so might make a potential customer take their particular approach to getting healthier less seriously. The fact of the matter is, though, that it's 100% true, and if they were to deny it, they would be lying.

All diets and exercise programs work.

Every. Single. One.

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Filed under: BlizzCon, Guest Posts Guest Post: Creating lore-based characters that aren't Mary Sues

Anna writes about roleplaying, healing, raiding and creative writing over at her blog, Too Many Annas.

One of the most frequent criticisms leveled at any kind of roleplay or fan-written fiction is the presence of the dreaded Mary Sue.

If you're not familiar with the term, a Mary Sue is a character who is overly idealized, has few or no actual flaws and functions as a wish-fulfillment or fantasy for the author. In WoW, this type of character is also frequently tied to major lore figures – the stereotypical lovechild of Thrall and Jaina (or some other such invented tie to a major character).

Unfortunately, sometimes this turns into an avoidance of all lore information in an attempt to not make the character Sue-ish. In a world like Azeroth that has a lot of really well developed lore, that can result in characters who are dangerously ambiguous and don't have any connection or history.

So how do you write a lore-based character without toeing the Mary Sue line?

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Filed under: RP, Guest Posts

Call for Posts: Guide to Frozen Orbs in patch 3.3.3

One of the great things about patch 3.3.3 is the new uses for frozen orbs, and is looking for a guide that helps World of Warcraft players determine what the best ways to use them are. We're soliciting for this guide through Aol's Seed program, the same system that's brought you all the guest posts you've been seeing around the site lately.

The successful guide will include the following:
  • A clear list/table of items that Frozen Orbs can be used to help create via purchased Runed Orbs or Crusader Orbs
  • A clear list/table of what Frozo the Renowned sells
  • Analysis on why certain items from the above two lists are better than others
  • Links to previous articles on Frozen Orbs and patch 3.3.3 information
  • Linking items to Wowhead when appropriate
A successful guide will be between 750 and 1,500 words in length and contain appropriate media elements. In order to submit your guide, you'll need to sign up for Aol's Seed program, and then visit the project page for this guide. If your guide is selected to be published, we'll pay you $50.

This is a different kind of guest post request than we've normally done -- but we think it'd be fun to see what kind of guides you all can come up with! If you have additional questions, ask them in the comments or email and an editor will get back to you.

Good luck!

Filed under: WoW Insider Business, Guest Posts

Call for posts: Upcoming Cataclysm Class Changes

Unless you've been living under a rock you know that Blizzard is getting set for a major Cataclysm info dump over the next week. This kind of information sparks a lot of comments and intelligent discussion, and wants to feature it prominently. To that end, we're looking for short guest posts on what you think about the changes to your class.

We're going to operate this guest posting opportunity much like we did our BlizzCon 2010 opinions. Write a paragraph or two, sign up for Seed, and then go and submit it on the Seed project page. If it's something we like we'll post it and you'll get paid $10! Easy and awesome.

You can find out more about the guest writer program in our announcement post and at our Contributing to page.

A couple things to note:
  • If you write a really great comment here, feel free to submit it through our Seed page too! No penalty for leaving a comment and submitting it through Seed.
  • We're expecting to get a ton of submissions for this, so we're not going to be able to publish all the great thoughts and opinions we get, even though we want to.
  • If you'd like you can include a short bio about yourself, things like your character name, guild, server, blog, etc... Totally optional, though.
  • The sooner you get these in the better! We'll be publishing our first batch of guest posts in the next day or so, and will continue to do so every couple days for the next week or so. This project closes on April 19th at 11:59 p.m. EST.
We hope that you all keep this in the back of your mind in the next few days as all this info gets released. So many of you know this game so well, we're excited to be able to feature your knowledge and opinions to the masses!

If you have any questions, just leave a comment here or email and we'll get back to you.

Edit: Please note, this submission should be based off the upcoming Cataclysm class changes, released April 7th through April 16th.

Filed under: WoW Insider Business, Guest Posts

Call for Posts: Write a Breakfast Topic!

Over the last few years, the number one thing people have submitted over our tip line is suggestions for Breakfast Topics. Everyone has questions they want to ask the community. There are people of all types and flavors playing WoW, each with their own views and opinions. It's always fun and interesting to see people debate your topic, and this is your chance. We are now taking Breakfast Topic submissions via Aol's Seed.

You can find out more about the program in our announcement post about the Guest Writer program, and at our Contributing to page. As mentioned, we're looking for all of you to write Breakfast Topics in our usual conversational style, asking the community for their thoughts and opinions on whatever WoW-related topic you'd like. Entries should ideally be between 200 and 500 words, though there is some wiggle room in either direction. Only the best submissions will be accepted.

In order to get started read up about the program, sign up, and then submit your article (you can't see the article page unless you have a Seed account). Unfortunately, we are currently only able to take submissions from individuals living in the United States, but hopefully we'll be able to accept international submissions in the future. We are accepting submissions until 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 24th. If this round goes well, we will take more contributions later.

Good luck, and have fun!

Filed under: WoW Insider Business, Guest Posts Guest Post: What Cataclysm might mean for guild alliances

In this installment of's ongoing guest post program, we welcome Nico Deyo. Nico is a sometimes mage blogger and all-around nice gal who writes at Empowered Fire.

It's no secret that Blizzard is going to be changing the face of guilds in Cataclysm with guild talents, perks from being a collective entity, and rewards for using their new tools. While this benefits the majority of groups, what about those who have created something outside of the standard? They might not be a large chunk of the WoW playing population, but for the people who raid and socialize differently than the average player, the systems raise some new and troubling questions. Blizzard's particular idea of a guild is becoming the predominant social unit in Cataclysm, and those who don't fit into it might be all but left in the dust when it comes to new mechanics and rewards.

So who doesn't fit? I'm talking about two groups, mostly -- guild collectives/coalitions (several guilds who have banded together for a common purpose) or raid alliances (a very specific coalition or mixed group of people formed into a team for content). Both are two structures that have emerged socially and pragmatically to fill gaps that the traditional guild structures of yore haven't met.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Guilds, Cataclysm, Guest Posts

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