Making It Work: Reclaiming a Main through Fashion

A year ago I abandoned my main, Cynwise.

I had taken a week off WoW for personal reasons and logged back in to the middle of the PvP Season 9-10 transition fiasco, which turned out to be the straw that broke this particular camel’s back. I walked away from my warlock, from the endgame, and didn’t look back.

There were times I felt bad for Cynwise, neglected, alone, gathering dust. I would log in occasionally when I needed her to make bags for an alt, or occasionally to check something out which required an 85, but that was really about it.

The Conquest Vicious gear I was once so proud of became a symbol of shame, obsoleted first by Honor gear, then crafted PvP gear. And it was fugly gear, too; bright green and gold, a neon beacon across the BG, an eyesore. It was so very different from Wrath’s deep reds and browns. I got used to how it looked, but it was never the image I wanted Cynwise to portray – it was just the clothes she had to wear to do her job.

It’s so strange trying to find screenshots where I actually show Cynwise during this time. It’s like she just  vanished. The above picture is about the only detailed shot from that period – the robe is actually not that bad looking – but there are only a few long-range shots of her standing awkwardly in a bright green and gold flaming outfit, trying to blend in. I started zooming in on all my screenshots on Cynwise, unconsiously trying to crop her out of the frame.

It’s like I didn’t even want to look at her.

She wasn’t gone, by a long shot; she was there as I wrote my way through trying to understand my own reasons and motivations. The entirety of my Field Notes experiment had her abandonment in the background, but I couldn’t bear to pick her up again. I would hop on her for a few minutes, half-heartedly go through the motions, and then go play something else. I tried opening up the Firelands dailies and was just … ugh.

It’s not that I couldn’t play her, I just didn’t want to.

I’d look at that stupid green and gold gown and the glowing shoulders and wonder what the hell happened to the ambitious girl from Northshire wearing them. She and I used to be great together, and now we … weren’t. I couldn’t work myself up to grinding out a new Honor set which looked identical to the Conquest one I already had, and then getting a Conquest set which was greener and golder and had more glowing fire and spikes.

So, we took a break. I played with a bunch of elves.

The Season 11 Warlock PvP Set was the carrot which first started to draw me back.

I remember seeing the previews of this set and going, wow, that is a Warlock outfit. Gone were the bright greens and golds. In their place are dark blues, dark purples and greens, with an aggressively stylish look that dares an onlooker to make an inappropriate comment. It’s dangerous and sinister and gorgeous, but it’s also more than a little evil. I wanted it.

But, it turns out, I didn’t want it quite badly enough to pick Cynwise back up again in 4.3. I’ll get it in Mists, I told myself, but it’s not worth going through the Conquest grind to get them. I had other projects to work on in Warcraft. Getting nice looking clothes for a character I didn’t play anymore wasn’t a priority.

It was Midwinter when I tentatively logged back in to my warlock.

I remember how much I hated that stupid green and gold robe, that visible reminder of failure. I don’t even know that it was my failure. But it was a sign of failure nonetheless, and crafting the Vicious Emberfire set brought with it a palpable sense of relief. I put on the dark, moody clothes with the vaguely witch-like cowl and felt much, much better about my character.

I like the crafted cloth PvP sets. They are detailed, they’re distinctive, they’re sexy – they’re really fashionable sets. They give you a great, put-together look for starting out on the PvP grind. And with transmogrification – now live – I could avoid ever looking at the green and gold outfits again. As I geared up for LFR and battlegrounds, I kept Cynwise fully mogged into a set I liked and was fond of. Furious, Wrathful, Emberfire.

This tactical mogging was entirely deliberate – every time I looked at her I wanted to be reminded of a previous time when I enjoyed playing her. I mogged her into the Furious/Deadly combo I wore for so much of Wrath and couldn’t believe how right it felt, again. This is how Cynwise was supposed to look. Putting on my old Wrathful gear invoked all the memories of being a badass on the battlefield, memories I needed to get over the painful fact that I wasn’t a badass anymore.

But at least Cynwise looked like herself again.

After killing Deathwing in LFR, Cynwise took another break. She’d done the quests, killed the dragon, got a new outfit. She didn’t have the one outfit I really wanted for her, yet, but I figured it would come in time. It was a possibility, again, but my connection was so tenuous that I didn’t want to jeopardize it. I said at the time:

I’m done with Cataclysm. That’s strange to say, it feels strange to consider it that way, but it’s really true. I’ve won the xpac. I can go do something else now.

And I walked away from Cynwise again, this time mostly content. She looked like a Warlock again. I had achieved some small victories with her. It was enough, I thought.

Only, she didn’t have her robes yet. That bugged me a little bit. Not a lot, but a little bit.

And I didn’t expect some damn fool to ask questions about Warlock populations in Cataclysm.

I experienced the same effect writing that series that many readers reported reading it – it made me want to play my Warlock again. Not out of solidarity, or some vain attempt to prove the numbers wrong. No, it was curiosity, it was familiarity, it was … something else. I can’t explain it fully, at least not yet. But it happened.

I was spending all my time looking at Warlocks again. I’d jump on to check a spell duration, then spend 20 minutes  working through the various rotations. I started queueing for battlegrounds again. I transferred her to a different server with a more active guild, I dipped my toes back into the Arena. I ran dungeons and subbed in for raids and even went back to LFR so I could have matching shoulders for my outfit.

The Conquest points started coming in again.

By the time I could unmog my outfit from the Emberfire set to the complete Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Felweave, Cynwise was back.

It wasn’t like it was before between her and me.

But it was something.

In retrospect, it’s amazing how important my character’s appearance has been – is – to me.

This hasn’t been a story of wildly creative outfits or fashion ingenuity; it’s not that I found the perfect outfit and it made me suddenly fall in love with my main again. It took a lot of wardrobe changes, and there was nothing sudden about it. I still have a lot of conflicted feelings about playing a Warlock – I don’t think they’re as much fun as they were in Wrath, and I’m nervous about the changes coming in Mists – but getting Cynwise into this tier’s Conquest gear has been a big step back.

I don’t usually talk about tier gear here on GMY, because I don’t think I have much to say about a predefined look that is supposed to go together in ways that even green sets are not. But that’s shortsighted of me.

Tier sets define a time and place in the game for those who were there, and iconic looks for those who come after. They remind us of those times running Black Temple, or Ulduar, or that season we spent goofing around with our friends in Arena or learning to PvP in Wintergrasp and Alterac Valley.

Transmogrification saved Cynwise. It saved her because it allowed me to get past the appearance of S9 and S10 PvP gear and create a character I wanted to play again. Transmogrification allowed me to create the mental space I needed to get over my hangups about the gear grind and just get out there and play. It wasn’t the only thing, but it was an important thing. Seeing her in the Furious/Deadly mix I used to have as my blog header let me get past my reservations and go back to a time where I was more confident in my abilities to play this game.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to feel different about yourself is go change your clothes.

(I kept the Season 9 gear, by the way. I had a lot of fun in S9 with my guildmates, and I want to remember those times. Not the breakdown, but the times which led up to it in the Arena with Psynister and Dolar and Janlen and the rest. Time will wash away the bad and leave only the good.)


I just wrote in PvP Playbook: Portrait Psychology:

Intimidation isn’t a bad thing in PvP. If you look at someone and immediately identify that they’re in a full set of Conquest gear while your team is a mix of crafted and Honor, you’re going to treat that player with wary respect.

Parading around in full Conquest gear will get you noticed, and if you’re not running with your Arena team all the time, that might not be a great thing. I also found that, as much as I like the Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Felweave outfit, it represents a Warlock at the height of her powers. Cynwise’s story in my head isn’t there yet; she is still trying to come to grips with coming out of retirement. She got used to being a person, and not a Warlock.

So I’ve mogged my S11 over to myLFR  T13 for special occasions, and have gone a completely different direction with Cynwise’s normal (PvP) gear: she’s trying to look ordinary.

Warlocks are, in general, not very ordinary. But in searching for a way to express what’s happened to Cynwise over the course of Cataclysm, both the character and the player, I could that an ordinary appearance is as strong a statement I can make. Cyn and Cynwise alike found themselves not wanting to be Warlocks anymore; instead of the fancy ceremonial robes, let’s try sensible, realistic clothing for a change.

We’re just folk now.

I like that this outfit conveys several messages:

First, Cynwise looks lower level and less threatening than in S11. The set is mostly made up of mid-40s greens, with the exception of the belt and MH, and there’s a simple look to it. This doesn’t attract attention in PvP.

Second, she looks like an adventurer or an explorer, not a Warlock. There is nothing class-specific about this outfit (aside from it being cloth) and that is very much the point of it. She looks like someone appropriately outfitted for a desert or jungle expedition  – not something you can say about someone  in a dentata dress.

Third, it shows that Cynwise has legs. Wearing robes from level 20 through 85 has been … restricting. I’m sorry – I like dresses, but I’m so tired of robes. Robes convey a very strong image of a caster, not an ordinary person out and about. That can be a good look – but it’s counter to the idea that Cynwise is trying to put that all behind her, at least for a bit.

(And she has nice legs, too!)

The core of the outfit is the Gossamer Garb, one of several different recolors of the clothes you’ll see on human NPCs in Stormwind. The Gossamer Tunic is cut with more midriff showing than some of the others, but it’s also the brown one. Brown is not a warlock color. I wanted it. The Gossamer Pants could be replaced with long brown pants, like the Durable pants, but I liked the idea and look of khaki shorts with this outfit. (Especially when paired with the fishing hat!)

The Chillbane Belt is an unexpected addition to this set, as it’s a level 85 belt from a completely different set, and I find I like it quite a bit. It has nice detailing and is a very close color match, while being relatively narrow (for a cloth belt) and easy to get at 85. Belts are always the problem with any outfit, and I’m glad I had an easy solution for this one.

I like how this look fits in with normal activities, how you can put it with goggles or a hat and it still works. I originally selected the Flying Tiger Goggles because it was a way to show that Cynwise was still really bad at being inconspicuous and ordinary. Like, she’s trying to be just plain folks, a Stormwind Commoner, and then she busts out goggles and hops on a chopper or lolcopter and roars out of the parking lot.

But I’m moving away from that and trying out different looks.

I think there’s something to be said for matching your mount to the outfit. I have a few more mounts I’d like to try out with this outfit, but I switched away from the Headless Horseman’s Mount – too warlock – and went back to my engineering mounts.

A simple outfit calls for a relatively simple weapon. I went with the 1H Blade of Serration because it is simple but interesting, and has a good color match with brozne and red to the rest of the outfit. The model comes from the BC-era badge gear, and in getting it I discovered an interesting mogging rule. Casters daggers and swords are almost always Main Hand, while melee are 1H. You can mog a 1H on to a MH, but not a MH on to a 1H. I  thought I was going to have to use the Scryer’s Blade of Focus, which is blue/gray, but went ahead and tried the bronze/red rogue dagger instead. It doesn’t work in reverse, which sucks for melee classes for some models (like 1H lightsabers, unless they have the removed Argent Avenger). But it does give casters a lot of options.

I’m still wrestling with Power Torrent. I might need to choose a weapon that hides the glow, even if the model isn’t the exact one I want. (Claw of the Netherwing Flight is an option). I am trying to embrace the Torrent and paired it with Grayson’s Torch, but having hands full of fire is not very ordinary.

This outfit also transitions seamlessly into a fishing outfit. I started to grumble that it didn’t match my fishing pole, and that you can’t mog fishing poles, and that the Kalu’ak pole matches better, when I realized: I have a maxed out fisherwoman with Salty and I am quibbling over +10 Fishing skill.

… I can probably spend my time worrying about other things.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next with me and Cynwise. We’re getting along pretty well right now, though we both know there’s been a rough patch, with more changes to come. Mists is going to make Warlocks very different, and I’m not sure how it will all turn out.

We’ve been burned before, you see.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t keep on taking risks together.

15 thoughts on “Making It Work: Reclaiming a Main through Fashion

    • Thanks! I’d like to say, “don’t call it a comeback,” but my alts are getting dusty again. It’s not the comeback I was expecting, but I’ll take it. 🙂

  1. Great pics and I agree with Kam, good to see her back. Love the pics and I’ve only just put away my Cymre Jones outfit. Well at least until her next big adventure 😛

    • Thanks! You know, this outfit did inspire me to try a little archeology again. DRESS FOR THE PART. I remember the Cymre Jones outfit – this is in the same vein, definitely.

      Putting my fishing hat back on was a bad idea, though. Now I’m fishing again, wondering why I ever stopped. 🙂

  2. Intimidation in pvp, and trying to go… incognito is a interesting idea. But its something I can’t really full of now. Legendary staff sorta off balances that. But now I’m tempted to try for the opposite. Get a full set of PVP gear, mog my PVE gear to it and continue with what I’ve been doing.

  3. My death knight REALLY hates that stupid MH/OH restriction on gear. I now have a ton of MH weapons languishing in void storage with the slim hopes that someday they’ll loosen up the restrictions…

    Otherwise, great article 🙂 I never expected to love transmog as much as I do, but it certainly seems to have breathed some new life into wow for me. It’s my favorite thing about the entire cata expansion, by a lot.

    • I have a whole wish list of transmogrification; loosening up weapon restrictions is #4 on the list. (Hiding belts, hiding shoulders, and allowing white-quality gear are ahead of it.)

      Transmog has really made this game fun for me, too! Thanks for the comment!

    • I like fooling my brain into doing things I want to do. 🙂

      I really hope your experiment works out; recapturing the look of the glory days of PvP can really help! Good luck!

  4. Pingback: Links I Liked « How Not to Game

  5. Pingback: Play Now, Not Then « Cynwise's Warcraft Manual

  6. Pingback: To Tree Or Not To Tree « Tree Heals Go Woosh

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s gone for a ‘normal’ look. I made my priest’s outfit low-profile for different reasons, mostly to hide the heirloom staff (seeing it puts me on edge – memories of levelling my tank), but also I think out of a desire for a more ‘realistic’ outfit.

    Decided to hide the cloak after I discovered it costs 300g to transmog the heirloom one!

  8. Loved this post, Cynwise! I know it was long ago, but I’ve been slowly going through all my favorite blogs lately. I often set my warlock aside for various reasons. But I always come back to her. And her outfit it usually the first thing I change and all of a sudden, she’s a “new person”. Even if I don’t tmog it. Just the fact of giving her a reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s