Leading with Lightning: An interview with Moshne

This week, I was fortunate to have another friend graciously accept my request for an interview. Moshne has been known to dabble in Shaman theorycraft, and also has an item that drops off Ordos named after him. He frequents the AJB forums, and can sometimes be found at MTG tournaments. For those of us in <Something Wicked>, Moshne is also our GM and Raid Leader. As someone who has played the game since Vanilla, he brings a nuanced and experienced perspective on numerous paradigms within the game today, as well as a keen analysis of things to come.  Thanks for being with us here today Moshne!

Hello! Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been playing WoW? What class(es) do you currently play, and do they differ from what you played in the past? Besides WoW, are there any other games (not limited to PC games) that you enjoy playing?

I started playing WoW shortly before the open beta. I originally started on a rogue, as I wanted something completely different from what I’d been playing in Everquest (I was a Shaman and a Bard there. The WoW shaman around the BC era is a pretty good hybrid of those two EQ classes.) I’ve played mostly continuously since then, taking a small break during Vanilla when the servers were too unstable. Outside of WoW I don’t play a lot of games anymore, it takes a fair bit of my time. Between tiers I play a lot of the Civilization series and (shamefully) way too much Puzzle and Dragons lately.

<Something Wicked> has been around for quite some time. Can you briefly take us through the history of the guild? Was it founded with high-end progression in mind, or was that something that it grew into?

We created SW in mid-late Vanilla with the idea of being a raid focused guild. I’m not sure we really knew how to define “high-end” progression at the time, but we had a similar mentality as we do now – do as much as we can with a very trim schedule. We have been a three night guild since the beginning, though I think we’ve gotten better at it since then. The guild originally formed through probably pretty typical means. We absorbed a flailing guild, recruited what we could and eventually trimmed ourselves down into something that was a bit more manageable. There are some colorful (sometimes less than noble) details, but those are best saved for getting out of me during late night Mumble chats.

In addition to being GM of <Something Wicked>, you’ve also been its raid leader for quite some time. Looking back, what have some of your most memorable moments as a raid leader been? Do you find yourself nostalgic for certain elements of raids that are currently lacking (3-tank encounters, 40 man raids, etc)?

I’m absolutely nostalgic for some of the things that have vanished. I miss multitank encounters specifically, not necessarily because the encounters were better, but I appreciated the guild design that it supported. Most of the things I miss in the past are related to changes in raid philosophy that have altered the way I’ve recruited or prepared for raids. BC was a high point for me from this point of view, as I appreciated balancing the various utility roles that have sort of vanished from the design paradigm since then. The most memorable points for me are the ones that demonstrated the community within the guild:

  • Killing Illidan was when we really felt we were a “legitimate” guild. It was a tangible victory for a lot of people when we’d prior to then been pretty considerably behind the curve.
  • When we transferred to Whisperwind at the end of Wrath every single raider came along for the transfer, even the initiates we had at the time, and all of the non-raiders who were actively playing. It really showed me the level of community we’d built within the guild.
  • A few years ago we had a guild meetup in Las Vegas. We had some eye opening surprises finally getting to meet people we’d been playing with for years. I discovered we had a charismatic group of raiders that I found were great to hang out with outside of the game. I’m still in contact with many players, some of which were there and I consider them to be good friends. I’m not sure if Margaritaville in Vegas is actually a good bar, but I have memories of it being fantastic because of the memories made there.

Speaking of raid leading, can you share your thoughts about the state of raiding this expansion? Does anything about the raiding paradigm stand out to you as having been particularly fun or, on the other end of the spectrum, particularly boring?

The Good: The encounter design has been fantastic. There have been a number of new feeling mechanics in a game that is nearly 10 years old, which is a fantastic feat. My favorites, in no particular order: Gara’jal, the first tier Sha, and Siegecrafter. Surprisingly, I also have fond memories of the earlier outdoor bosses as well.

The Bad: The beginning of the expansion felt a bit grindy, but it seems this has been acknowledged.

The Ugly: Pacing, pacing, pacing. The first tier was about a month or two too short. ToT could have been a few weeks longer, and now, SoO has been out for too long, with no date for it to end. This is a mistake that has been made before, and Blizzard is aware of how it affects players. I’m disappointed to see it made again with little discussion about it from the devs.

Factional imbalance among raiding populations has been brought up a lot this expansion. As a raid leader for an Alliance guild, how have you found recruiting to be over MoP? Do you feel that better racial balance in Warlords of Draenor will have a meaningful impact on this imbalance?

I think faction imbalance is a major problem and it has absolutely caused a negative impact on my guild. A number of players are just not willing to come over to the Alliance side. I don’t think this is because they just like Horde more, but as a purely economic/practical concern, it is more expensive and risky to come to the minority faction for raiding. If they join us, and it doesn’t work out, they are looking at more likely than not having to pay the faction transfer fee again. It makes more sense to just stay on the side with more guilds. I’d like to see the server transfer and faction transfer fee to be merged together rather than separate so players can pay the same amount to join any guild, regardless of faction. This might actually make the faction imbalance worse (as Alliance players could go Horde), but it would make the downside of being on the minority faction significantly less. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the last guild standing on Alliance side, as long as it isn’t twice as expensive to join us. I don’t think the racial changes will do a thing. I think the racial imbalance before was overblown, and really wasn’t the reason the imbalance exists. People are going to join the faction that has more people, it just makes sense. You see it in every game with factions; the racials were just a nice scapegoat. The changes feel good, but they aren’t fixing the real problem.

Getting back to MoP for a moment: What has your experience as an Elemental Shaman been across various forms of content? What do you feel are some of your spec’s biggest shortcomings, and what hopes do you have for your spec and the class as a whole in WoD?

Elemental has been hamstrung by being given too much movement and burst. These are things that are advertised as class assets, but good players minimize the amount that movement affects them, so being balanced against it ends up being a net loss. Finally, concerns about our burst (mostly in PVP) has made scaling issues. All that said, the class has been mostly fine this expansion. I have minor complaints, but they are being addressed in WoD already. Removing the constant ability to cast while moving should go a long way to fixing the devs hesitation to increase our damage.

On a larger scale, what have you thought about class balance as a raid leader this expansion? Have you felt compelled to stack particular classes/specs for progression, or avoid others? How does this compare to your experience in earlier expansions?

Honestly, I thought it was fine. I’m hardly a Blizzard apologist, but I really didn’t have many class concerns. I was one of the people complaining about melee problems early on, but it never really impacted my recruiting, and honestly we’ve been pretty melee heavy most of the expansion, and I never felt like it really held us back. The only class stacking that comes to mind in MoP is really just warlock supremacy. There have been a handful of fights where we’ve wanted some niche ability, like DK grips, or some rogue gimmick, but it never really affected recruiting in a major way. My biggest “stacking concern” this expansion has really been anti-healer stacking.This isn’t in favor of any one class, but against an entire segment of the raider population. There was a notable downward pressure on the number of healers required and against certain specific healers. “Class Balance” arguments tend to focus on DPS, but I think most DPS just can’t see the forest for the trees. If there was anything broken in class design this expansion, it was in the healing department.

Warlords of Draenor promises a number of major changes and new features to the game. While we (sadly) aren’t in Beta yet, what have some of your initial impressions about some of these features been? Examples include Garrisons, the item squish, stat changes, etc.

I don’t really care about the item squish at all, it is a non-event. If I was forced to have an opinion, I’d call it positive just because it might make people comprehend data more easily. The stat changes, I’m withholding judgment on. I have some concerns about a world where reforging is gone and secondary stats become more important when other issues with secondary stats aren’t being answered (capping stats, and disproportionate scaling being my personal peeves) Garrisons I’m sort of in a “wait and see” pattern as well. If they don’t matter for raiding, I probably won’t care about them. If they do matter, I’ll probably hate them. But hey, I loved pet battles and I assumed I’d dismiss them too, so we’ll see!

If there were any one announced decision/change about Warlords of Draenor that you wish could be averted, what would it be and why?

I’ll admit I haven’t had my ear as close to the ground as others. I’m in sort of WoW apathy mode right now until there is actually a game to play again. My only real concern right now is not having shared lockouts between the different raid tiers. I’m worried there will be pressure to run multiple runs of the same zone a la ToC. I’d consider that a massive failure.

It’s pretty hard to believe WoW turns 10 this November! Do you think <Something Wicked> will do something special to celebrate? Speaking of celebrating, how has it been meeting guild members in real life at events such as Blizzcon?

I’d like to think we’d done something. That is around the time of BlizzCon. There has been some talk of getting a guild house and maybe having a bigger get together. Nothing really set in stone. I think I addressed the rest of that above, but it is really the highlight of running the group. Without that first Vegas meetup and subsequent Blizzcon get-togethers, I’m not sure I’d still be playing. I play for the community and that is really the biggest thing.

Tell us the first word/phrase that comes to mind when you think about any of the following: “Mythic Raiding”, “Melee vs. Ranged”, “Bonus Gearing” and “Amber-Shaper Un’sok”!

Mythic Raiding: Feels like New Coke branding

Melee v. Ranged: Are the DKs and Rogues really complaining about fight design?

Bonus Gearing: The Loot System will endure.

Amber-Shaper Un’Sok: I hate bug zones.

Last question: Why do the birds cheep so much whenever you queue your mic?!

They are just really friendly. The mic picks up their sounds much more loudly than they actually are. When I call home, I hear them like the raid does, but sitting around they are just background noise. I suspect the reason they talk is they hear people through the headset and are constantly responding to it. Happens to me when I’m on the phone too. They just really want to say hello!

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