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What’s In A Main?

January 4, 2012

This is a story about my warlock.

Best transmog ever.

No, really.

More accurately, this is a story about my two warlocks.  Back on my first server, my gnome warlock was the second character I ever created.  (The first was a druid, who couldn’t make it past that difficult period in druid history when we had to tough it out through getting bear form at level 10 and cat form at level 20.  I still have nightmares of Darkshore.)  The warlock was the first character I felt like I understood, and the first one that made me think I might ever figure out what was happening in the big, complicated world of Azeroth.  She was my first “main” in the sense that I played her the most, and other people identified me with her and called me by her name.

I’ve been through two more mains since that time.  My death knight tank was my first main on my current server, and my druid followed about midway through WotLK.  While some aspects of my definition of “main” haven’t changed in that time, there’s one thing that’s just blatantly not true anymore:  I don’t spend the majority of my WoW time on my “main.”

Tzufit is, indisputably, my main.  She’s the character I log on to first when we get a new patch, or the one who is leveled first when new expansions come out.  It’s the druid class changes I read first every time we see patch notes or other announcements.  Her gear is the gear I obsess over, the gear I make wish lists for, the gear that I cannot log out for the night if it’s not properly gemmed / reforged / enchanted.  She is the character who holds an officer position in my guild, and her name is the name all of you know me by – as does the majority of my guild.  I can play her without thinking about it – I know her key and mouse binds like the back of my hand.  And now that we can finally arrange our character log on screens as we see fit, Tzufit is the toon who holds the rightful place at the top of the list.

Yet, I only play Tzufit about 2-3 nights a week.  I log on to her when it’s time to work on progression raiding, or when I need one last heroic to cap my Valor points.  If I’m not feeling lazy, I might even get on long enough to do her jewelcrafting daily.  It’s a trend that only gets worse as an expansion winds down.  Because we know there’s not another raid tier coming for a long while now, I’ll spend more time taking alts to Dragon Soul runs either to help get some more guildmates all the way through the encounter or just for the fun of getting to see the fights from another class’ perspective.

In contrast, I spend a lot of time on my alts during the course of the week.  The reason why is pretty simple – alts have very clear goals for improvement and those goals are often things that can be completed solo.  Getting an alt from starter 85 gear all the way up to pre-raid 378s is a pretty satisfying thing, and something you can accomplish in only a week or so if you’re focused on it.  Of course, the problem with all this is that most of the fun is in the challenge of getting the upgrades, so that once the character is “finished” (i.e. raid ready) you’re left with nothing for them to do.  Vidyala wrote about the problems with alting over the summer, and as I try to figure out how I’ll spend my WoW time for the remainder of this expansion I’ve found that I can’t get her post out of my mind:

I’ve geared alts to the teeth only to completely abandon them once they no longer “needed” anything, having hardly used the gear at all. I just like the completeness of it.


This is exactly what happens to me on the majority of my alts.  Sure, I “use” the gear somewhat since my alt healers especially get called in to help heal guild runs.  But the strange part is that even though getting the character ready to raid is the point of all that gear grinding, I don’t know that I really enjoy raiding on my other healers.  I like the idea of it and I like getting to see the fight as a priest or a shaman, but that fun usually wears off after the first run or so.  Healing on my alts feels more like a chore or a responsibility than it does the challenge of healing progression on my druid.  No wonder it doesn’t have much appeal.

But I promised you a story about my warlock(s).

I “found” Maiev this week.

Not long after Tzufit became my main, I had enough time on my hands to finally get what I needed to purchase my first heirloom piece.  It was the Exquisite Sunderseer Mantle, and I sent it off to my warlock on my new server.  I didn’t transfer the original toon on the off chance that I might return to my old server to play with my friends there.  I went about leveling my second warlock in much the same way that I did my first.  I spent a lot of time questing and a good deal of time PvPing (this time around the PvP actually granted experience), and the Pink Kitty leveled his gnome mage alongside my warlock.

In Wrath, my warlock was really my primary alt.  She was the character who went to the ICC runs late into the tier, and I could pull higher DPS with her than I could ever hope to touch with Tzufit’s balance spec.  Since Cataclysm, I think the warlock has stepped into one Firelands run and that was only because our guild leader needed warm bodies.  I’d left her wallowing in a mix of 333 and 346 blues until this past week, and I felt a little badly about it.

My warlock isn’t my main … but it’s also not that simple.  My warlock is named “Maden” (no, not as a misspelling of the football announcer’s name, nor is it pronounced that way), which was a nickname given to me by my best friend in college.  She is, in effect, named after me.  She was a character who, when I RPed, I RPed regularly because I loved her personality.  I’ve written before about why I love RPing gnomes, and Maden was no exception.  I loved the idea of a gnome warlock – it seemed like the best kind of walking contradiction.  Maden was a retired Dalaran professor who had been married 7 times (each husband suffered an unlucky fate) and who currently made a living by telling fortunes in the taverns throughout Stormwind and Ironforge.  She was a liar, a hack, and possibly a murderess – and I absolutely adored RPing her.

So to see her shelved for an entire expansion has been annoying.  In the last week or so, I’ve finally gotten around to playing her again and replacing all those leveling blues.  I’ve also spent more time than I care to admit working on archaeology over the last few days because I desperately want her to finally be able to actually have a “Professor” title in game.  Maden has been given a chance to raid thanks to the Raid Finder tool, which is pretty exciting for me because I doubt she’d have much of a chance to get into any of our guild runs (as I’m always needed on a healer).

I’ve found myself spending nearly all my free time on her lately.  I hang out at the training dummies to make sure I have my Affliction rotation down.  I fly around on her magic carpet looking for digsites, and praying for rare finds.  I soloed a few BC heroics just to see if I could.  I gave her the single greatest transmogrification outfit* my limited mind will ever be able to come up with.  With Maden, I find myself just wandering around Azeroth looking for new things to do.  I’ve loved every moment of it.

All this warlock fun has reminded me that the line between “main” and “alt” is maybe not as crystal clear as I’d like to believe.  Maden isn’t my main; Tzufit is.  Yet a part of me realizes that’s not the end of the story.

*The world’s best transmog for anyone interested:
Wizardweave Turban
Wizardweave Robe
Stylish Blue Shirt
Black Mageweave Shoulders
Black Mageweave Gloves
Staff of Metanoia

17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 11:56 pm

    I think it’s an important realization and something many folks might find if they explored their feelings towards various characters. I have RPed as my mage (Millya!) and Vidyala and my druid, Shaedre. Millya is definitely my favourite character and the one I consider the most ‘like me,’ so perhaps a less interesting RP character to other people but usually the one I’d like to be playing. Yet my other characters have their own things – my druid, her Anzu mount and her raucous, overindulgent personality, and Vid with her willingness to go anywhere and tackle any mission (preferably if it involves the opportunity to engineer something fun). They are fun. They aren’t my mains, but they are still something to me.

    The achievement system to some degree lets me focus my attention on things I want to do with Millya, and LFR is actually good for having a chance to ‘play’ those other characters without any real pressure or responsibility. I have three characters with gear to do LFR, but only one of which I care about the gear she might obtain from there. The rest are just for fun. Especially my druid – heal ALL THE THINGS!

    • January 5, 2012 7:30 am

      I’d admit to considering Maden to be the character who is most “like me,” but I worry about what that might convey. 😛

      Achievements have been an interesting incentive for me on all my characters because I don’t really care about them as a whole. To clarify, I don’t care about the number of achievements any one character has; I care about getting specific achievements on specific characters. So, on Maden I want to work on getting to Professor. On Tzufit I wanted to get my Anzu, on my priest I wanted the Argent Champion title, on my shaman I wanted the Skyguard and Kurenai mounts. I like that it gives me an excuse to spread out my time a little bit more.

  2. January 4, 2012 11:57 pm

    p.s. your warlock sounds really fun. I miss being on an RP server sometimes!

    • January 5, 2012 7:26 am

      Thank you! 🙂 I always end up with some sort of backstory and personality for any new character I roll – regardless of what type of realm I roll her on. It just seems that if you spend so much time with a character, you’re probably going to wonder where she came from.

      And I neglected to mention my favorite bit about Maden! She had a fairly notorious reputation among the students of Dalaran. Her examinations were among the hardest ever administered at the Academy, often induing nosebleeds in at least one and often two students per exam. (Maden may now admit, when pushed about the topic, that she developed a relatively harmless concoction of deadknettle and mountain silversage that irritates the nasal passages quite severely and can easily be applied to parchment. She felt it best to keep her students on their toes.)

    • January 5, 2012 9:19 am

      I agree, Maden sounds like a blast!

      … literally. Yikes.


    • January 5, 2012 5:36 pm

      I’ll admit, I have this notion that all gnomes are inherently evil. Or, at least a little evil.

  3. January 5, 2012 9:15 am

    It’s funny, in a way my definition of a main is “the one I care enough to have a sense of character,” which is as far as I go in RP. (I’m an actor. If I RP, I expect to get paid.) I have a sense of who my rogue is and where he came from. He escaped from Gnomeregan, leaving his brother behind, and hides his survivor guilt behind a gnomish sense of humor and an assassin’s joy in sneaking. (He doesn’t stab people in the back unless it’s a necessity, though his definition of “necessity” is rather broad.) Whereas my warrior tank’s backstory was completely destroyed by the Gilneas starting zone–I had thought he would be ashamed of his transformation, but COME ON–go through that zone and just TRY to not cheer when King Greymane reveals he’s a Worgen too! As a result, his personality is somewhat muddled, and I’ve never felt the need to figure him out.

    I do have a sense of my gnome priest’s origin, but that’s because he’s the aforementioned lost brother. In a way, that proves my point–he’s only defined in relation to Squelchy.

    I’ll certainly never level another rogue, but until raiding in another class is more fun than Stealthing and picking pockets, there will never be another main besides the first character I rolled.

    • January 6, 2012 6:51 pm

      That’s an interesting way to measure it, Squelchy. As I mentioned, most of my characters have some kind of backstory, but the ones who are lacking are precisely those toons who were rolled for “helpful” motivations. So my second druid, my priest, my shaman? They don’t have a lot of history to them, whereas characters who I created on a whim because I was bored one Saturday evening have entire family trees consisting of third cousins twice removed.

  4. January 5, 2012 9:20 am

    Also (tired meme alert), Wizardweave Robe is great, and I’ma let you finish, but Stormwind Guard is the best transmog of all time. Of ALL TIME!

    • January 5, 2012 10:05 am

      I admit, if you can get a Warlock into Stormwind Guard attire, it’s the best one of all time. 🙂

    • January 5, 2012 5:37 pm

      Once again, I thought I’d learned my lesson not to read your comments at work.

  5. January 5, 2012 5:37 pm

    Great post, definitely relatable! I have far too many toons, and I tend to be very wishy washy. But it’s all in good fun! (Even if I don’t RP…)

    • January 6, 2012 6:51 pm

      I’m a bit wishy washy with my characters, too. I like having a lot of options because it means I don’t have much of a chance to be bored, but it also means that I switch my priorities and goals a lot.

  6. AliPally permalink
    January 5, 2012 8:35 pm

    My consider my main to be the character I have played the most; my Warlock that I started back in 2006. Having said that, I raid exculsively on my Holy Paladin, and raiding is mostly what I’m interested in these days.
    I think that without non-raid achievements, my Warlock would now be gathering dust, if not deleted, because I really struggle to find any other reason to play her (I do all my non-raiding achievements on my Warlock). if I could transfer her achievements over to my Paladin, I would definitely do that.
    I believe that in MoP there will be a way to combine all character achievements into one, so I’m looking forward to that, if it happens.

    • January 6, 2012 6:53 pm

      Yes, I know I’ve read something about “account wide achievements” coming … someday. I’ll like that option too because I tend to spread out my achievements across toons based upon which titles, mounts, etc. I want for each character.

  7. adriellyn permalink
    August 16, 2012 3:07 pm

    Is this where I repeat my usual “What’s a main?” line? 😛 “I don’t have mains or alts; I have character’s I (currently, actively) play.” By most definitions, my current “main” is in LotRO, anyway, and Feyanna will probably get the most MoP attention because of starting in a better place for gear – but is she really my main? Back to my start, I guess – I just can’t define any of my characters as being my “main”.

    And, since I missed the actual introduction of transmog in WoW… is it really the gold sink I’ve heard it is? It’s not like my characters actually have cash. I wish WoW would have learned from LotRO on cosmetic armour – or indeed, that a lot of other games would. But that seems to be somehow antithetical to Blizzard’s design notions.


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