Archive for October, 2011

Minipost: the dead Sentinel

Posted in Miscellanea with tags on October 31, 2011 by Aeliel

I was re-watching the Blizzcon streams – more specifically the Lore Q&A panel. And even more specifically, the guy who asked about the Giant Snake Tail of Gundrak. Most people I’ve seen commenting on that particular bit of the Q&A have a “he brought a printed screenshot? seriously?” type of reaction. Me? I had a “I wish I could do that” reaction.

There’s something in the game that’s been bugging me. Not quite for several years like that guy, but since I’ve noticed it when I was questing in Darkshore post-Shattering.

Meet Sentinel Lendra. She’s a questgiver in Lor’danel.

There’s something odd about her, though…

…death knight eyes are not something you find on any random Sentinel.

Logically, I know it’s probably just a model mishap and Blizzard’s reaction would be “whoops, sorry, we’ll get that fixed.” Even ignoring the fact that night elves are very, very against unnatural things such as death knights, her dialogue makes no reference to her being a death knight and her voice sounds like any other Sentinel’s, without the echoing that’s present in death knight voices.

Still. Wouldn’t it be interesting if she was a death knight?

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Druid talent picks

Posted in Druid, Strategy, Tanking with tags , , , on October 25, 2011 by Aeliel

(I took a screenshot of the full talent screen from the panel stream, then edited it a bit to remove background clutter.)

A lot of people are doing this, and I was certainly going “ooh, I love that one” in my head while I watched the panel, so I figure what the hell.

This is from an almost purely PVE perspective (to say I’m not a great PVPer would be a massive understatement), and I’ll be considering talents based on their usefulness for a feral druid tank and for a feral druid DPS. I’m not going to mention in exact detail what each talent does, just briefly sum them up – if you want more details, MMO-Champion has a ton of screenshots, and Wowhead’s Mists of Pandaria talent calculator has the information as well.

Level 15

Feline Swiftness is a basic flat increase to your movement speed, Tireless Pursuit is an extra Dash, and Displacer Beast is a “ack, getting focused in PVP, must survive” panic button. To me, the choice is very clear-cut.

Feral tank: Feline Swiftness. No contest.
Feral DPS: Feline Swiftness most of the time, although I’ll be swapping in Tireless Pursuit if there are specific fights where you stay mostly still but suddenly have to get from point A to point B as soon as possible.
Leveling: Displacer Beast. I’m on a PVP server and I’m pretty awful at PVP. An extra “ack ack ack get it off get it off” panic button every 3 minutes might not end up saving me more time than the flat movement speed increase, but it’ll certainly save me tons of frustration.

Level 30

Nature’s Swiftness makes specific spells instant and castable in all forms, Renewal is a self-heal, and Cenarion Ward is a reactive HoT that can be cast on any friendly target.

At a first glance, Renewal is the most useful for a tank, since it gives you an extra panic button and 30% of your maximum health can be a decent chunk. However, depending on how much health you have and on how well it scales, Cenarion Ward might end up totaling more self-healing than Renewal when pushed every time it’s up, since its shorter cooldown means you can use it four times as often as Renewal… however, it’s not a panic button. As for Nature’s Swiftness, the only real benefit it offers to a tank is the ability to cast Rebirth instantly and without shifting out – which is only useful if you’re the only person in the raid who can combat res. On the one hand, I am in that situation (10-man raid, no death knight, no warlock, I’m the only druid and I’m a tank)… on the other, more important hand, I don’t see why I should have to sacrifice a cooldown that could very well save my life just so I can rescue some idiot who died from standing in bad and is quite likely to die again from standing in bad after I res him.

For a feral DPS, the choice is simpler. For most fights, panic button heal > instant Rebirth without shifting out > reactive HoT. (The reasoning being that you do no damage when you’re dead, while although you lose some DPS time when shifting out and resurrecting somebody it’s not likely to get you killed. The reactive HoT is unlikely to trigger very frequently if you cast it on cooldown, and if your healers are having issues keeping people up in fights with mild AoE damage you have bigger issues than Cenarion Ward can fix.) In fights with lots of heavy AoE damage, Cenarion Ward might become useful and end up taking some strain off the healers, but if it’s not off the GCD it might negatively impact your damage.

Feral tank: Renewal. Even if Cenarion Ward ends up totaling more self-healing over the course of a fight, I’d rather have a cooldown I can push to save my life when it matters than a consistent trickle of health. As for Nature’s Swiftness, thanks but no thanks.
Feral DPS: Renewal, although I may swap in Cenarion Ward depending on the fight.
Leveling: Cenarion Ward might come in handy here, depending on the scaling. Would certainly reduce downtime. If it doesn’t scale well, Renewal here too.

Level 45

Faerie Swarm adds a movement slow to an ability we already have, Mass Entanglement is a targeted AoE root, and Typhoon is an AoE knockback plus daze.

I’m immediately discounting Mass Entanglement because it very specifically can’t be cast in bear or cat form, and well, screw that. Even if there was a fight that absolutely required adds to be rooted – other classes can do that at less cost to them. The other two are very situational, and which one is the best very much depends on what you’re fighting.

Typhoon is going to be incredible for any fight where there’s something that absolutely must be knocked back, or else. (Hello, Ragnaros adds.) Faerie Swarm is going to be incredible for any fight where there’s something that absolutely must be slowed, or else. We currently have Infected Wounds, but I’m guessing that’s going to go away in 5.0 – and even if it doesn’t, Faerie Swarm is a ranged slow. My only qualm with it is the 6-second cooldown it incurs in bear and cat form. It makes sense – normal Faerie Fire is the same way – but it caps the amount of targets you can efficiently slow to two unless you shift out and just spam it every global cooldown.

(I’m not sure how likely it is that they’ll make it so you can only slow one target at a time. The Slow talent for mages very specifically says it can only be used on one target at a time and it’s a level 90 talents as things currently stand, but it also slows ranged attacks and spell casts, while ours doesn’t. We’ll see.)

Feral tank: Typhoon in most cases, replacing it with Faerie Swarm when a slow is needed.
Feral DPS: Typhoon, except for when a slow is needed.
Leveling: Typhoon. It’s extremely unlikely that I’ll want to slow the movement of something I’m trying to kill, considering er, I’m a melee… and there’s all those lovely cliffs in Pandaria that I can potentially knock people that try to gank me off of.

Level 60

This is where I say “gee Blizzard, would it have killed you to be a bit more specific?” – most of the talents don’t say what they do for one form or the other. All three talents are “does something, based on your form or spec.” Feh.

Wild Charge looks like it will be useless to bears, unless they make haste not suck or take away Feral Charge. Which they very well might, since they specifically said “Wild Charge is a new version of Feral Charge” and that the idea was “Let’s take something cool that different talent trees have and make it available to everyone.”

(Don’t even get me started on how angry I’ll be if they do that. Yeah, let’s force all feral tanks to take a specific talent and sacrifice something that might buff their threat or survivability instead if they want a gap closer, that’ll go very well with the idea of not making any of the choices mandatory and making people “choose between apples to apples.” Warriors have a gap closer by default and get to pick a way to buff it at level 15, paladins get theirs at level 15 and it’s not even a particularly hard choice because the other two talents aren’t nearly as good for a paladin tank, death knights have Death Grip, and druids have to wait until level 60 to get Wild Charge? Screw you. Put it at level 15 with the other movement effects where it belongs or leave Feral Charge as a baseline ability for tank druids, and have Wild Charge replace it with a buffed version – give it 30% extra damage after charging rather than 30% haste and it’ll actually be a choice people can decide to make rather than “oh well, the other two talents look nice but I have to take the gap closer.”)

Uh. I clearly have Strong Opinions. Moving on.

Incarnation “activates a superior shapeshifting form based on your specialization.” Force of Nature, they said during the panel, “works a little bit like Guardian of Ancient Kings.” As far as cat druids are concerned, both of these are likely to be a DPS-increasing talent – for bears, they could go either way, boosting survivability or threat.

All in all, I don’t know enough about this talent tier to make a reasoned choice. All I can do is guess (and get angry based on that guess – ahem).

Level 75

Demoralizing Roar is an AoE disorient, Ursol’s Vortex is a short-range AoE Death Grip, Bear Hug is a stun with a damage component.

(Demoralizing Roar as we know and hate it today will be gone. Hooray. As they put it during the panel, it “was just kinda maintenance-y, the debuff wasn’t that interesting” and I’m glad they decided to get rid of it.)

This is interesting. The new Demoralizing Roar strikes me as more of a PVP thing – I honestly can’t see the usefulness of an AoE disorient in PVE, except maybe in very specialized situations. Ursol’s Vortex sounds pretty amazing – 15 yards might not sound that big, but for instance Skull Bash currently has a 13-yard range. It’s going to be a useful ability to get enemies all nice and clumped, both for bears and for cats. Bear Hug at first glance seems more of a PVP thing, and it’s definitely pretty useless for a tank, but… hmmm.

Does it work on bosses? As in – does the damage still go through if the stun component doesn’t?

In cat gear, cat spec and bear form right now I have 145k health, completely unbuffed. Just smacking around a target dummy, Shred hits for 11.5k non-crit. And just for precision’s sake, let’s count autoattacks as well – 1.4k non-crit, once every 0.93 seconds. (I’m wearing a 300agi flask, but considering it’s got almost the full 2 hours left and I have a raid soon, I’m unwilling to click it off. Bear with me.)

Given the 1sec GCD and assuming I’m starting from a full energy bar (or have either Tiger’s Fury or Berserk available), I could Shred a maximum of three times in a 3-second period, for a total damage of 34.5k. Add in four autoattacks (rounding up for sanity’s sake), you get 40.1k. Bear Hugging something, assuming I was at full health, would do 14.5k damage (10% of my health) per tick, three times, for a total damage of 43.5k. I’d also incur a GCD when switching back to cat form, but if I were to Bear Hug when I’m out of energy anyway, I’d be dealing more damage than I would just autoattacking while waiting for my energy bar to fill back up. At worst it’s damage-neutral (assuming I miss two more autoattacks due to having to switch back to cat form); at best, it’s more damage than just autoattacking when waiting on an empty energy bar with nothing available to fill it back up.

Definitely something I’ll want to try out.

Feral tank: Ursol’s Vortex.
Feral DPS: undecided. Ursol’s Vortex offers good utility, but if Bear Hug works on bosses…
Leveling: Ursol’s Vortex, most likely.

Level 90

Heart of the Wild allows you to cover a role that you normally wouldn’t be able to take on for a short time, Master Shapeshifter buffs your spellpower when you use melee attacks and your attack power when you cast non-instant spells, and Disentanglement allows you to shapeshift out of roots and heals you for 20% of your maximum health every time you shapeshift, with the heal being on a 30-second cooldown.

Ehhhh. Not really interested in Master Shapeshifter. Heart of the Wild might come in handy, depending on the effect it has for bear druids – if it allows you to temporarily do decent cat DPS, I might even take it. Disentanglement has the potential to be insanely powerful. Never mind the shifting out of roots (something I very much want back, thank you very much) and the PVP effect of the talent (shift to bear form to turtle out some damage, get a heal to help you out with that)… I find myself wondering if you could use it to heal yourself while tanking, by shifting out of bear form and back in between the boss’ melee swings. It would need very careful timing but could be quite awesome.

Feral tank: Disentanglement for the root removal and the potential, switching in Heart of the Wild for fights in which I would be able to temporarily switch to cat form and try to do some damage (assuming it buffs my cat damage).
Feral DPS: Disentanglement for the root removal and the additional survivability (low health? shift out of cat form and back in to save your skin). Heart of the Wild looks nice on paper – however, the chance that fights will exist where a cat DPS will be wanted as a sub-par tank for 45 seconds every 6 minutes are very slim, and I’d rather talent for myself rather than pick a talent just in case somebody screws up and I need to step up and save the day.
Leveling: Disentanglement for the root removal and the heal both (kill something hard, shift out, heal yourself to 80% and shift back into cat form). Master Shapeshifter might come in handy here, too – hit stuff, shift out and heal yourself better when it’s dead, shift back in and hit stuff harder – but I’m unsure if it’ll make that big a difference.

And one thing I missed commenting on…

Posted in Miscellanea, Mounts and pets with tags , on October 25, 2011 by Aeliel

…about the pet battles thing.

Well, two things really.

Most pets will become tradable

I have no illusions that this will work with pets that cost real money – such as anything BoA from the Blizzard Store, or pets from the various CEs. They did say most pets. But this might mean, for instance, that I might actually be able to buy a Toxic Wasteling – a pet that I want quite badly, but that’s eluded me so far – just off the Auction House, from somebody who was lucky enough to get multiples or who just doesn’t like the pet. And if I don’t find one on the AH…

Account wide pets

…I can just farm the event with my army of alts (I have eight characters eligible for holiday bosses as of right now – I’ll probably have more when that particular event hits), increasing my chances of getting lucky.

Also… and the one thing that will make me really happy if this system gets put in place, and really sad if it doesn’t work out… I’ll be able to rescue my Hippogryph Hatchling from obscurity and non-use.

You see, back in vanilla, before even server transfers existed (never mind faction transfers), I rerolled briefly on a different server, to a tauren druid, to try out my luck at raiding on that server. I think the whole endeavor lasted maybe half a year, if that? Then server transfers came out, I was missing alliance and my original character pretty badly, so I went back to her for the Burning Crusade and onwards and the tauren was left unplayed. (Although I did make some attempts at leveling her – but she’s still level 66, on a server I don’t play on anymore.)

While I was playing the tauren, though, the WoW TCG came out. And I bought a few packs out of curiosity. And I actually found a Thunderhead Hippogryph loot card.

I very seriously considered giving the pet to Aeliel. (“It’ll fit better, she’s a night elf, and what if I go back to playing her and regret not having the pet?”). I wish I had. Instead I gave it to the tauren, and now, well, I don’t really have it. It’s the only pet I have on an alt that I don’t have on my main.  I don’t play that character, and even if I did play her, it would make no difference. I want that pet on my main.

(Yes, I know the Cenarion Hatchling from the Blizzard Store looks identical. It still wouldn’t be the same.)

Into the Mists

Posted in Miscellanea, Patches with tags , , on October 24, 2011 by Aeliel

Right then. In the interest of not letting it go several months between posts anymore, I’m trying to squash the little voice in my head going “shut up shut up nobody cares about what you have to say” and talking about things.

Specifically, “Mists of Pandaria” and the various announcements made at this year’s Blizzcon. Because everybody’s talking about that anyway, might as well join in, right?

All thoughts in no particular order, just as things come to mind.

1. The World of Warcraft Annual Pass thing. Yeah, I signed up. As far as I’m concerned – I was already planning to keep playing World of Warcraft, so this is free stuff for something I was going to do anyway. (Not to mention that mount is quite likely to solve the mount issue I have on my paladin for me. A suitably paladin-y horse that I can use as a ground mount and as a flying mount, that I can use instead of the stupid glowing elekk that replaced my paladin pony with Cataclysm, that matches the Tyrael mini-pet I already have on her and that doesn’t require me to grind any reputation or currency to get? Yes, please.)

2. People’s reactions to all the announcements. Getting this out early because it’s getting on my nerves – before you open your mouth, make sure you know for certain what you’re talking about. This includes “but I don’t want my panda lady to look exactly like the panda dudes just with a bow on her head!” (it was a joke, get a clue), “but with these talents there will no longer be any difference between specs” (they’re keeping specs and spec-based abilities, talents are something on top of that rather than what you pick to define your spec, again, get a clue), and so on. Argh.

3. The new expansion being called Mists of Pandaria. Color me unsurprised. The moment MMO-Champion pointed out that Blizzard had trademarked “Mists of Pandaria” and Blizzard started being all “you guys this is not necessarily the next expansion we trademark stuff all the time honest” it was blindingly obvious it was, in fact, going to be the next expansion.

4. Pandas. Leaving aside the shrieks of “but pandas aren’t canon!” (uh hello, Chen Stormstout would like to disagree with that)… I’m holding my final judgment until I actually see how it all plays out, but I can’t help but like the idea of pandaren as a race. They sound like good fun to play, and assuming the female model looks good (no, I still can’t manage to play a male character, I’ve tried, it doesn’t work – I’m not sure what that says about me) I’ll definitely be creating a pandaren character.

(As a side note, let me qualify “looks good.” Looks good for the race. I don’t mean “looks good” as in it’s a sexy human-ish female with a panda head and fur. I mean something like this fan concept of a female pandaren. Extreme sexual dimorphism might work with some races, such as the draenei, but I don’t think it’d work with the pandaren. One of their racials is “Bouncy,” for crying out loud. If female pandaren turn out to be “oh let’s just take a human woman, give her fur and a couple of panda attributes and call it done” I will be very disappointed.)

Also, the racials are fun. And if a lot of serious PVPers end up race-switching to pandaren because of the Quaking Palm racial, I will be endlessly amused. Panda invasion!

5. The new talents look interesting. Again, I’m holding my final judgment until I actually see them in action and see all the details (some of the druid talents in the specific are very vaguely worded right now – I might discuss them more in depth in another post, we’ll see), but I like the idea as it was described.

6. Pet battles. I’m looking forward to this so much, you have no idea. I currently have 169 vanity pets and I can’t wait to level them all up and fight with them and catch wild pets and stuff. Yes, this is Pokemon, shut up, I’m going to enjoy this. If this ends up not being actually released I’ll be sad.

7. Dungeon challenge modes are yet another thing I’m really looking forward to. I like the idea of having cosmetic gear as a reward (and I can absolutely see myself spending tons of time trying to perfect a particular challenge so I can get the last piece of gear I need for a fancy new outfit), I like the idea of leaderboards showing who’s best at each challenge, and I really, really, really like the idea of gear normalization for them. These things should be about who has the highest skill, not who has the best equipment and can therefore outgear the challenge entirely.

8. Account-wide achievements. I’ll be sad if they don’t manage to implement this. “So for example we could say, ‘Get every profession to max level,’ which would be really cruel to do for one character, but across your entire stable of characters would be kind of fun.” Altitis – validated!

9. Weapon changes – both happy and sad about this. Happy because this simplifies things; sad because there are some items that have been removed from the game, and I still have them on one character – but with the change, they’ll be only vendor fodder and nothing more. For example, my hunter’s Lok’delar, Stave of the Ancient Keepers, or her Arcanite Ripper.

Back when the Arcanite Ripper was available, with the WotLK launch event, my hunter was the only character I had that could wield two-handed axes (my paladin was created towards the tail end of WotLK, and my warrior was created, er, last month). So I went out of my way to ensure I would get the axe for her – it was one of the very first “hey, let’s see if we can do this with less than the intended amount of players” things I did with Alieth. He healed on his priest, I tanked on my druid, and the hunter was logged in a second client in the background and provided a bit of extra damage in the form of autoshot and the pet munching on the boss. And now I will no longer be able to use it. :(

I was vaguely hoping that they would at least let people equip weapons they no longer can (melee weapons for hunters, ranged weapons for warriors and rogues) in a cosmetic slot, but somebody asked about that during one of the Q&A panels and the response was “we have no plans to do that currently.” Boo.

10. Druids getting four specs. I’m happy. I like both tanking and melee DPS, but I like them being separate. I understand that several people enjoyed being able to tank stuff and still do decent DPS when they weren’t tanking, but this way it’ll be much easier to balance, I’d wager. Also, sometimes I really hated the “you’re a bear but you can still do decent damage” thing for a very simple reason – it led to me being stuck in an offtank role not because the other tank was better at it, or he had higher survivability, but because “well we need your DPS to kill the boss before the enrage timer,” which is just as stupid a reason as “well we need you to shift out and decurse sometimes.”

11. Monks. Yeah, I’m gonna roll one. This shouldn’t be surprising to anybody who knows me and my stable of alts. What I don’t know yet is whether I’ll roll a pandaren monk or go with one of the existing races and make the pandaren one of the other classes I still haven’t managed to level to cap – rogue or shaman. Unless I manage to roll a rogue and a shaman and get them both to 85 before the expansion hits, which might happen – in which case it’ll be a pandaren monk. Unless I end up not liking pandaren when I try them out during the beta, in which case it’ll be a non-pandaren monk.

And it’ll probably be a tank, unless I end up really disliking the monk tank playstyle. Is there therapy for tank-addicted people like me, I wonder?

12. No flying until max level is very, very good. I liked exploring the new world on foot during Burning Crusade and WotLK, and it’s one of the things I felt was missing during Cataclysm. Flying, as awesome as it is (ask me about my obsession with flying!), makes the world seem smaller.

13. Yessssssssss heroic Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery. I was hoping for heroic Stratholme as well, but alas. Maybe someday in the future. Also world raid bosses yaaaaaaaaaay!

And… I think that’s it. I might add some more comments as I re-watch the entire Blizzcon (see, buying a virtual ticket is good for something other than getting a Murkablo).

On playing what you love and loving what you play

Posted in Alts, Druid, Miscellanea with tags , , on October 23, 2011 by Aeliel

Yes, I know. Long time no post. I’ve just… well, felt like I didn’t have much to say. I’ve been playing the game, I’ve been poking around on the PTR (the new instances are quite fun), I’ve been building transmogrification outfits for each of my characters so I have them all ready to go when 4.3 hits, I’ve joined a guild (although it’s a bit of a fail guild, but nobody’s perfect) and killed Ragnaros… I’ve just not been posting about it.

I was reading Vidyala’s post about returning to her mage, and Cynwise’s post about losing the desire to play the warlock class.

Not for the first time, I feel that when I started playing this game? I got damn lucky.

I started playing World of Warcraft at the end of April 2005, on the urging of an online friend who said the game was fun and I should try it. I knew nothing about the lore, nothing about the factions, nothing about – well – anything. My friend played a night elf hunter, so it was decided I would roll a night elf as well, so I could catch up to his level and we could play together.

What class, though? Reading through the manual didn’t help me with the decision. My friend suggested that a rogue might be fun for me. I wasn’t sure, but I figured hey, I can always create a different character afterwards if I don’t like this one.

So I launched the game. Ooh, cinematic! Pretty! Oh hey, that dwarf looks nifty… and ooh, a night elf. Pretty. Wait… what is she…

Really?  Screw a rogue, I want one of those.

Cue frantic rifling through the game manual. Druids can shapeshift. Okay, a druid it is, then.

I changed the character’s appearance until I liked the way she looked, told my friend my character name, and pressed “Enter World.”

“I thought you were going to play a rogue?” said my friend.

“I changed my mind.”

I wasn’t a terribly good druid – at least not for the times. “Druids heal,” everybody said. I didn’t want to. I wanted to be a cat. I wanted to be a bear. I argued with friends, I argued with my guild, I argued with anybody who would listen. I knew I could be a good tank if they’d just let me try.

(It didn’t help that some of the warrior tanks in my guild displayed spectacular amounts of cluelessness when it came to tanking and how it worked. I still remember this one time we were trying to kill one of the green dragon bosses in Duskwood – I think it was Ysondre, but I’m not sure – and the tanks died shortly after the last transition phase. A good portion of the raid got nommed, and then, due to healing aggro, the dragon went right for me. I switched to bear form, repositioned her, and what was left alive of the raid killed her. The main tank of the guild commented, later, that the reason I could do that and not somebody else was “she taunted first.” Showing complete ignorance of not only the way healing aggro works, but also of the way taunts work. Which you’d think he’d know, as a tank.)

When Burning Crusade was released and druids could actually tank, I was overjoyed. The very first thing I did on release night was take my feral gear and go tank Hellfire Ramparts. I’ve been tanking ever since.

It’s now many, many years later. I have a lot of alts – two hunters, a warlock, a priest, a warrior and a paladin at 85, a death knight at 84 and climbing and a mage at 80 who’ll be leveled once I’m done with the death knight. The only classes I don’t yet have are shaman and rogue (which is funny considering how close I was to rolling one when I started playing).

The druid I created the first day I launched the game? She’s still my main character.

Sometimes I don’t play her for ages, either because I’m stuck (no raiding guild and no way to progress further without one, for instance – that happens sometimes) or simply because I’d like a change of pace. But she’s still my main, and she’s the character I love the most. I’ve tried switching mains – it didn’t go well, at all. I missed my druid. Even when I rerolled on a new server at the tail end of vanilla, when server transfers didn’t exist – I created a hunter, figuring I would enjoy the change. Yeah, no. I got that hunter to level 10 and promptly left her there and created another druid.

She’s remained a feral tank pretty much since – well, saying “since the start” would be a lie, because I had to (ugh) heal in vanilla, but since the very first day of Burning Crusade. I’ve switched to healing once or twice – mainly during Wrath, because the guild wanted one extra healer for one boss fight and I had a healing set collected – and hated every second of it. These days I just don’t collect caster gear. Problem solved. My second spec is feral DPS – it’s fun, but ultimately it’s my offspec for a reason. I gear it as an afterthought.

I’m a feral druid. I tank. It’s what I do — and I don’t think that’ll ever change.