Monthly Archives: November 2011

Cross-Server Battleground Queuing Now Available with RealID

Well, 4.3 is turning out to be a patch of a lot of surprises. One of the biggest? You can now queue for regular battlegrounds with your RealID friends. This is confirmed as an intentional change earlier this evening by Daxxarri, and a very welcome one.

This is a really welcome change. It’s always been a frustration to not be able to PvP with people on other servers. The only way this could be better is if you could also PvP against your friends!

But I digress. Let’s enjoy this one.

Thanks to @lufitoom, @loqiel, @slowpoker, and @eldacarJS and for the tips and confirmation it worked for them, and to @daxxarri for confirming it’s working as intended!

SO EXCITE SO SO SO EXCITE!

 

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Level 60 PvP Gear Not Available for Transmogging

I, for one, was really hoping that scenes like the above picture would have become more commonplace: the bright and dramatic designs of the level 60 PvP gear filling the streets of Azeroth’s cities, allowing players to choose some dramatically great looks at a relative pittance.

However, it is not to be.

Quoth Bashiok, who is just the messenger:

The items out in the world (Marshals, Grand Marshal’s, High Warlord, etc) that use the level 60 PvP art are un-transmogrifiable (including the item level 115 stuff that shares the name from Burning Crusade).

In Area 52 a set of vendors has replaced the PvP Vendors who used to live there. Grex Brainboiler, Krixel Pinchwhistle, Tini Smalls, Kezzik the Striker, Big Zokk Torquewrench, and Leeni “Smiley” Smalls. These vendors sell new, transmogrifiable versions of the classic armor to players who have the Feat of Strength for Legionnaire/Knight-Captain or higher under the old PvP system.

There was a bug with the Feat of Strength granting access to these items, but was hotfixed within the last couple of minutes. If you meet the criteria log out and back in and you should be able to access the vendor.

The design intent with the Feat of Strength achievement requirement was specifically to limit these particular art styles to players who earned them through the OG (and relentlessly difficult) PvP honor system, while keeping the door open to reward them to more people in the future.

In a future patch the items sold by the Area 52 vendors will also be renamed ‘Replica of’ to be more consistent with the items sold by the Darkmoon Faire – they’re currently exact duplicates of the original items that allow transmogrification, which is obviously a bit confusing.

Potentially related, since he’s in the same area, Kezzik the Striker sells inaccessible Season 1 Gladiator’s, Season 2 Merciless Gladiator’s, and Season 3 Vengeful Gladiator’s gear to all players, as the majority of that gear didn’t have restrictions.

This is somewhat confusing if you’re not up on PvP gear sets, so let me summarize:

  • Level 60 PvP gear, of all ranks, is not available for transmogrification. This includes any armor you may have had purchased previously from the Legacy Honor Vendors.
  • If you had the right to wear this armor back in Vanilla, you have the ability to wear this armor as a mog set. However, you can’t use your old set – you have to go to Area 52 and purchase a lookalike set. You have to have the Feat of Strength to be eligible.
  • Arena sets which had been removed from the game (S1, S2, S3) are now available for purchase again in Area 52.  This gear should have no restrictions.
  • All other PvP gear looks to be eligible for mogging. Brutal and Wrathful gear both appear to have no issues. All the level 85 gear I checked seemed fine, too.

This issue with the level 60 PvP gear has led to some confusion about what does and doesn’t work with transmogrifying PvP gear. It’s a pretty simple rule – everything but the  distinctive level 60 gear should work.

To be frank, that kinda sucks.

I THINK WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

I confess, I was really disappointed by this exclusion. I was really looking forward to trotting out the Knight-Lieutenant’s gear I’d ground Marks for back in Wrath and rocking the old-school Vanilla Warcraft look. I knew that there were some things that I wanted to try mogging that probably wouldn’t work – Direbrew’s Bloodied Shanker for one, Dark Herring for another – but that’s because they fell outside the mogging rules as explained by Blizzard.

Having the level 60 gear be excluded really made me go … wait, what? I see a lot of the gear while leveling through the 60-70 bracket, the shields are some of the best looking in the game, and it’s a really distinctive, Warcrafty style. It’s a great look, and I wanted it.

But there’s another side to this, too.

There’s the side of the Warlords and Marshals and all the players who ground out the truly hellacious PvP grind back in Vanilla. For a long time, they had their titles, and they wore them as badges of pride. Once removed from the game, those titles were impressive and had an aura of Old Skool about them, something that later PvPers couldn’t touch. Anyone could get their gear, but no one could get those titles.

Cataclysm took those titles away from these players. Oh, they still had the titles – but Rated Battlegrounds allowed anyone to get them. They were no longer unique signifiers. The vestiges of the old grind were washed away.

So here’s something for those players who did that grind – they’re the only ones who will get to wear the really great PvP fashions as their daily wear. They’ve gotten something special back, something unique, something Old Skool.

I think, had this just been communicated in advance, I wouldn’t be sitting here going, man, this sucks. I’d have gotten over it, just like wielding a beer bottle or fish. It sucks, it’s arbitrary, it’s confusing as all getout, but at least it wouldn’t be a surprise.

I think it’s a surprise to a lot of people, sadly.

ACCEPTANCE

This is going to confuse a lot of players, especially those who pick up some of the 60 PvP gear as they level an alt and then wonder why they can’t use that great outfit later on for transmogrification.

I think it’s a nice gesture to say, hey, as a tip of the hat to our long-time PvP players who did the grind way back when, let’s let them be the only ones who can wear the old armor. It returns some uniqueness to the old PvP grind, and instills a sense of wonder around these outfits.

I’d love it if Blizzard presented it as such, not slip it in unnoticed. Someone at Blizzard made this decision and got it implemented. Someone approved getting the new sets in to Area 52. Folks at Blizzard knew this was coming, and it has the potential to be cast in a really good light.

But it wasn’t. It was dropped in unnoticed. And when gear changes get dropped in unannounced during a season transition, I start getting really nervous. Bad things happen when Blizzard doesn’t talk to their PvP playerbase. I’m really trying hard to forget the last time they forgot to tell us things about how the PvP gear system was going to change.

Sure, I’d selfishly like this change reversed, because then I can have the great old Vanilla PvP fashions for my Wrath and Cata and Mists toons. But if this is a way to honor Vanilla PvPers, I’m actually really okay with that. What they did was special! Preserving uniqueness is a great thing! I can go wear the Burning Crusade PvP gear!

It just would have been nice to not get my hopes up.

 

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Implications of Increased Conquest Rewards in Battlegrounds

Patch 4.3  will dramatically increase the Conquest Point rewards from regular battlegrounds, offering 100 for the first victory and 50 for each subsequent one. It’s a big change for battleground incentives and adds a layer of complexity to gearing decisions in both PvP and PvE. I personally don’t think this is going to ruin battlegrounds, but I also, upon reflection, think that this quality-of-life improvement indicates a lot about where Blizzard is going with rated and unrated PvP.

THE PREMADE QUESTION

Gevlon has written a series of posts on the change where he makes an argument that this change is going to be overall a negative one to those people it’s supposed to benefit due to the increased number of premades which will flood the BGs. It’s a nuanced argument and I think it’s worth reading both posts in their entirety.

Will the new Conquest Point rewards create enough interest in making premades that the overall experience for players? Specifically, will it hit those players who seem to stand to benefit the most from the change – the competent but time-constrained PvPers? If you queue up solo, will your win rate drop below 50% just because you’re facing premades all the time?

There are incentives for people to organize premades. Gevlon takes his experience in organizing and running BG premades and spells them out nicely.

  • Doesn’t affect your rBG rating, so if a few members of your team are out you can just bang out Conquest Points with no risk.
  • Provides visceral fun for your team, because quick, decisive wins can be a LOT of fun. (At least for a bit.)
  • Provides a nicer social environment while PvPing, filtering out the ragers, afkers, and whiny elements you sometimes find in /bg.
  • Yields a little less CP/hour than rBGs, making it an attractive alternative to rated play.
  • Can be done with fluid group sizes, since even a partial premade can have a great impact on a battlground.
  • Allows you to influence BG team composition, avoiding no-healer no-FC scenarios.
  • Great initial gearing tool, since in the first few weeks everyone needs Honor Points.

There are a lot of good reasons there for people to start organizing premades, especially at the start of the season. But will premades have a long-term effect on the season?

Gevlon comes right out and says that the biggest weakness of premades is that there are too few of them to really matter or make a statistical difference in people’s experiences. I agree with him here. I have seen fewer premades in endgame Cataclysm than I did in Wrath, but I attributed that to Rated Battlegrounds siphoning premades away. More small groups and partial premades? Yes, absolutely, we’ll see those. But I suspect full ones are never going to be the norm, since they 1) aren’t possible with the default client and 2) because rated play is still more rewarding per hour.

Premades are probably going to be pretty popular during the first few weeks as everyone gets geared up. But after a while, the dual-reward system becomes a non-motivator and it’s even easier to toss together a 2s or 3s team as it is to get a premade going. Arenas will remain the gearing activity of choice for the semi-organized.

I fully expect people to complain about premades and the Premade AV Enabler, though. No matter how many premades really flood the system, I’m sure they’ll be pointed at as everything that’s wrong with PvP today, which … well, frankly, that attitude overlooks a lot of other issues, as well as puts too much weight on something that I don’t think will be statistically important.

If it does become a problem, though, one solution would be to reward Honor Points in rated play. Taking away the uniqueness of premade rewards would eliminate some, but not all, of the incentives for doing premades.

(They’re still a heck of a lot of fun.)

THE PVE QUESTION

There are two areas in which this change could possibly affect PvE: making it easier to get PvE gear, and sending PvP gear into PvE.

Will this change make it easier to get PvE gear through PvP? Not really. Unlike changes to Honor Point rewards, Conquest Points are isolated from PvE because they don’t convert to anything else. You can’t flip them to Valor Points, you can’t flip them to Honor Points in any meaningful way, so adding meaningful CP to regular battlegrounds doesn’t change things there.

You could argue that it’s better to gear up an alt through regular battlegrounds than through rated play, even once their Honor gear set is complete. While you might not get as much CP as rated PvP, you will get Honor Points at the same time, which can be converted into Justice Points and a solid T12 PvE kit can be built that way. This doesn’t really unbalance things, though.

Will this change send PvP gear into PvE? Probably yes, but not as much as the other gear changes we’ll see with Season 11/Patch 4.3. S11 Conquest gear will be very good (ilvl 397/403) but there are other ways to get it, too.

What we are far more likely to see is crafted ilvl 377 PvP gear flooding the LFD/LFR. Here’s is a case where gearscore gating for Heroics/Zulroics will completely fail, as the PvP gear might be acceptable for DPS, and maybe even healers, but tanks are going to be really squishy and lack avoidance.

That’s a problem unrelated to this specific change, though.

THE BOTTER QUESTION

Will there be more afkers and botters in regular battlegrounds because of this change?

To be honest, probably yes at first. Not a flood, and it should get better over time, but I think there will be an uptick in botters, less so with AFKers. It’s not like grinding Honor, which can be done win or loss. You actually have to win to get the Conquest Points, so AFKing doesn’t really help.

But I wager people who bot now, or who are on the fence about botting, would look at the losses as a cost of gaining the Conquest Points – they’re not actually spending time at the computer doing anything.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

THE FUTURE OF PVP REWARDS

I still think that this change is a net benefit for most players. Getting 25 CP a day was like getting a bad tip for playing battlegrounds – it wasn’t enough to be meaningful with current gear prices. Meaningful CP rewards give players incentive to win, while the Honor Points for the loss are a good consolation prize for losing.

One of the biggest challenges in designing a PvP environment is motivation, especially motivating people when they lose. Not Beck-style losers, but those who find themselves on the losing side. How do you make it so that there’s a feeling that it’s still okay to requeue after getting pummeled? How do you make it so that pursuing your preferred PvP activity still feels valuable, win or lose?

Related to motivating players on a loss, Conquest Point caps motivate people to play up to their cap, and no further. That’s a big problem of rated PvP in Warcraft – once you have hit the cap for you, and your teammates, you’re done for the week. Extra time spent practicing doesn’t net you anything. Blizzard took a step towards fixing this with Rated Battlegrounds by offering Honor after Conquest is maxed out, but that’s an incomplete solution (and also ignores Arenas.)

I think Blizzard is going in the right direction for solving both of these issues.

Having both Honor and Conquest be rewards from any PvP activity (but only Conquest from winning) lets the system give people something for their time spent playing. This motivates people to win – win and you get CP! It motivates people through the losses – at least you got a few honor for that fight, requeue and try again! It motivates people to keep doing the activity after the CP cap is hit – still need Honor gear? Keep playing Arena with your team if that’s what you like doing!

I’d like to see them keep going in this direction in Mists. It gives me some hope that they’re talking about “play what you like,” but the systems have to be adjusted to make that vision a reality.

There are also technical challenges for awarding Honor Points in Arena that I don’t want to dismiss. Should it be based upon kills? Wouldn’t that drive people into 5s, then? What if the opponent AFKs out and no kill is scored? Should it be a flat value for the match, perhaps modified by rating? What if that promotes quick AFKing if the fight looks tough? Should it be a flat per minute rate? What happens if you just run around for 60 minutes? (What if those 60 minutes are spent authentically trying to kill a Holy Pally or Resto Druid?)

I have a feeling that a combination of match-based values and time-based values is the most fair, but it’s not a trivial problem to solve.

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On the Hero with a Thousand Faces

Cynli_-_arahi_basin_-_blacksmith_in_background_-_farm_defense

We, imperfect humans that we are, are always seeking self-definition. By our actions, by our choices, by our beliefs, by our tribes, by our appearance – all seeking to give us a sense of self.

I am this and not that.

Ashwalker_-_eye_of_the_storm_-_bet_and_dr_-_lightning_strike

The choices we make coalesce, slowly, into something grand and magnificent. A person. A hero. A hero of many stories, but most importantly, our own.

Cynix_-_wailing_caverns_-_earth_shield

We head out into the world, seeking. We try new things, try to to find purpose and meaning amidst the struggle for survival. We experiment. We find things that work, and things that do not work, and hopefully we learn the difference.

Cynwulf_-_wsg_-_doomsday_-_silverwing_hold

We may fail. We may go astray, fall victim to despair and chaos. We may surrender to our dark impulses. We may redeem ourselves.

Or we may not.

Cynedra_-_stables_captured_-_arathi_basin

We learn that there are many perspectives, many voices, many sides. We have to choose. We learn that there are some choices, once made, which cannot be undone.

We learn that there are other choices which never mattered in the first place.

Sometimes, we don’t know the difference.

Cynwyn_-_arathi_basin_-_farm

Each day, we arise, and wonder in what way will today call upon us to be a hero. Every day brings a new opportunity, a new chance, a new story. Sometimes we succeed. Often we fail.

But we can never go back and rewrite what has come before.

Cynwise_-_northshire_-_black_embersilk_gown_-_fire_woman_-_stylized

Then one day, we realize that we were seeking ourselves the entire time. That the journey itself defined us, that we are naught but the sum of our desire to define a sense of self.

No more, no less.

Cynderblock_-_durotar_-_hearthing_home

I am this, not that. This is my story.

And it is the story of a journey.

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On the Mists Warlock Talent Preview

Blizzard released a new Mists talent calculator. Warlocks have some interesting things going on. Quick notes on just the talents:

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 15 Talents

Soul Leech leaves the Destro talent tree and becomes something that any warlock can use. Has good potential to be the default PvE talent for this tier, as the three nukes involved should still see heavy rotational use. PvP utility is really dependent upon the fate of Nightfall and Backlash, which are absent from the current model. These are the long nukes.

Harvest of Life could be really interesting in BG PvP, but less so for arena or duels. PvE would be situational based on an encounter with a lot of adds.

Dark Regeneration is probably the Arena PvP talent of choice. Situationally good for PvE if there is burst damage that needs to be mitigated.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 30 Talents

The biggest change here is not that Affliction can get Shadowfury or Destro can get Improved Howl, but rather that every spec loses some depth of their CC toolbox here. Instead of Howl + Death Coil + Fearbomb or Shadowfury, you now have to choose one of three.

The loss of Death Coil, which I think is implied by the addition of Mortal Coil, is going to take some adjusting for all warlocks.

That said, Howl of Terror is now instant. The CD gets reduced when you take damage, a nice touch.

Mortal Coil replaces Death Coil, I think. Health boost is a little bigger, easier to understand as % of total.

Shadowfury. Of note is that it loses its damage component and becomes a pure stun.

I expect we’ll see Mortal Coil and Shadowfury be the favored PvE choices, depending on playstyle and raid comp. Mortal Coil will be used as a self-heal, while Shadowfury remains a great AoE stun.

I honestly don’t know which I’m going to take. I hereby dub this talent tier the “Choose Between Your Favorite Children” tier, because, man, I love all of these things as they are right now.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 45 Talents

Some interesting choices here in the damage reduction tier.

Spell Drain is going to be an interesting PvP talent. If you time it right, it can negate big burst attacks and turn the tables on your opponents. If you time it poorly, you waste it. This will be a skill talent to watch in Arenas.

Soul Link doesn’t say 20% damage anymore, but if we assume that it stays the same then this becomes an interesting passive choice for PvE and PvP alike. The big difference is that healing will now be shared with your demon, too, reducing healing effectiveness on the warlock. Woah.

Because of that little change, PvE warlocks may flock more to Sacrificial Pact, giving them an immunity bubble to just ignore huge boss attacks. This has a lot of PvP utility too, allowing warlocks to negate a focus fire situation where a lot of CDs are chain-popped.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 60 Talents

Blood Fear makes Fear instant, but takes 10% of your health when you cast it. Depending on baseline self-healing abilities, this might be worth it for PvP. Not for PvE.

Burning Rush looks to address one of the biggest weaknesses of the warlock class – mobility. Depending on the CD of this ability (right now there’s none) warlocks finally have the ability to run away from melee REALLY FAST. Obvious PvP utility, obvious PvE utility, and damnit, I think Engineering just got nerfed.

Dark Bargain is a damage reduction CD with a twist – you’ll take the remainder of the absorb shield as damage. How typically warlockian, I like it. :)

Dark Bargain might be required in some PvE encounters, but there’s a lot of overlap with Sacrifical Pact. It will be best used against DoT classes in Arena PvP, since people will learn to see the graphic and immediately shift to a different target while CCing the warlock, negating the use of the CD as well as causing damage without doing anything. It might do okay in BGs.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 75 Talents

Ah, the Demon tier.

Grimoire of Supremacy buffs your demons 10% and gives them better abilities. The abilities will need to be evaluated to say if this is a good move in PvP.

Grimoire of Service gives you a second demon. I don’t know if it’s a different demon, in which case do you get all their abilities, too? Or will it be a duplicate of the one you have, in which case this is again a straight up DPS increase with possible PvP use.

Grimoire of Sacrifice could be really good for PvP, giving each spec some burst that it might otherwise lack. The tradeoff of sacrifice in PvP is an interesting one – do you lose the demon’s utility for increased damage and health? There are going to be a lot of situations where this will work well. But what if the demon is banished, etc.?

In PvE this will come down to number crunching and situational DPS increases. If Sacrifice gets you more DPS than having a pet out with a 10% buff, then raiders will go with it. If not, Supremacy will probably be prefered. Service will probably be the skill talent for PvE, working well with abilities like Heroism/Bloodlust making its burst more effective than the 10% buff.

Screen_shot_2011-11-23_at_4

Level 90 Talents

Archimonde’s Vengeance will probably see a lot of use in Arena, and should be appied to the focus target whenever the warlock comes under attack. Good for comps where the Warlock is the soaker. Situationally useful in PvE if there’s a lot of raid damage going around.

Kil’jaeden’s Cunning is another one that has a lot of PvP potential. Casting while moving, coupled with a 25% speed buff? Oh yes, even if it’s slow casting. The challenge will be casting while moving and not getting interrupted – almost every spell will go to a 2.5+ cast time while moving. Obvious benefits on movement-heavy PvE fights.

Mannoroth’s Fury adds spash damage to the spec nukes, and 100% burst splash damage on CD. With the right positioning, this can be great for big BG PvP and PvE alike. Less useful on small-scale BG PvP and Arena, but certainly not a bad choice. Again, depends on the fate of talents like Nightfall and Backlash, which appear to be gone.

There are changes to the spells as well – click on the talent tree and you’ll see the new spell abilities. That’s a different post, though.

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Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking 2011

Pilgrim’s Bounty is my favorite holiday in Azeroth. It’s the one holiday which allows you to take a normally tedious task – leveling a secondary skill – and get up to Grand Master levels in about an hour. It’s so good that I wait all year to level cooking on my characters until this week, because doing those first 350 points any other way is just silly.

How great is it?

  • You can get any character to Cooking 350 in 1-2 hours.
  • You can start at any level. That screenshot up above? That was my priest getting it at level 19 last year. It can be done all the way at level 1, if you really want!
  • There’s no level limits on these quests. They’re a great way to get started on a new alt, or getting a stuck alt unstuck.

My original Guide to Powerleveling Pilgrim’s Bounty Cooking is still accurate, as far as I’m able to tell. I’ll post any updates there and here if I find them – please let me know if you find any discrepancies!

Wowhead, as always, has a great guide to the entire holiday, which runs through November 26th of this year.

Now, I have to decide which of my (many) alts are going to need to get their cooking leveled this year. :)

Good luck! May your cuisine reign supreme!

 

Update 11/22/2011: Slow-roasted Turkey is now staying orange well into the 400s. This appears to have gone in a hotfix yesterday. Looks like this holiday has gotten even better.

I’ll update the original guide.

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On Focus

Ashwalker_-_eye_of_the_storm_-_pensive_warrior

Something a little different tonight. Steve Jobs, 1997:

You look at the farm that’s been created with all these different animals going in different directions, and it doesn’t add up. The total is less than the sum of its parts. So we had to decide what are the fundamental directions we’re going in? …

When you think about focusing, focusing is about saying yes. No. Focusing is about saying no. Focusing is about saying no. No, no, no, no. And when you say no, you piss off people. …

Focusing is about saying no. And the result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.

I’m having a lot of trouble focusing these days. I started talking about it in On Decadence, and then in more detail in On Revelations, but I’m basically all over the map in WoW.

Tonight I didn’t even really want to log in, but my son wanted to watch me play a little bit before bed. So I went over to my druid and healed Eye of the Storm. It was fun, I enjoy playing Cynli a lot now. Then I switched over to my baby mage, who now has dual AGM trinkets, and proceeded to dominate 2 more BGs. Arcane is so OP if you know what you’re doing it’s not even funny. Then over to my gnome clone, becuase she needs some leveling and I’ve been really bad about leveling her. Worked on her for a bit, then got bored and looked for another character. Maybe the Shammy!

Then I’m like, holy crap, 2 hours have passed, the boy’s been asleep for an hour, and what am I doing?

I closed up my laptop, did some chores, then surfed the web for a bit.

Found elephant poo in a box. That made me laugh. Found another movie about traditional Japanese sword-making. That made me thoughtful. Found the above video clip. Made me even more quiet than I was before.

Thought a lot about saying Yes and No to things. In game, out of game, Of getting pulled in a lot of different directions and not getting anywhere. Of working two jobs, but not building something successful.

There was another post on Presentation Zen – an old favorite site of mine, by the way – where Garr talks about Jobs’s presenation on marketing yourself and your core values. From his post:

(M)arketing is not about touting features and speeds and megabytes or comparing yourself to the other guys, it’s about identifying your own story, your own core, and being very, very clear about what you are all about and what you stand for…and then being able to communicate that clearly, simply, and consistently.

Things were simpler back when I had character focus. Warcraft was an effective escape back then – I was a PvP Warlock. You want warlock, you want PvP, I’m your blogger and teacher.

And then I lost it. I lost focus in my job – two jobs will do that to you – but I lost focus in WoW, too.

Because I’ve lost focus in other parts of my life, the lack of focus in Warcraft is perhaps understandable. But it doesn’t make finding that focus any easier.

I wonder which characters I need to say NO to in order to find it.

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