“Herding Cats” is the term I have used many times when trying to describe the process of leading a 25 man raid. Trying to take 24 other unique personalities, skillsets, and agendas and somehow get them to meld into one purpose is mindboggling at times. It is quite literally like trying to get a room full of cats to all march into the bedroom at the same time. Most of the time I can’t even get my cats stop trying to lay between me and the keyboard.
This week was a pretty solid one. As mentioned earlier we downed Leviathan and Razorscale on Tuesday and after a few attempts managed to get our first Ignis kill. This left us our entire Thursday raid to work on pulling together the XT-002 Deconstructor fight. Last week the impromptu 10 man Ulduar I was part of managed to nail this fight without much issues, so the officers at least knew the basics of the fight first hand. It came down to a matter of testing our ability to convey the basic concepts and get 24 other people to function as needed.
Nine Lives Lost
Over the course of nine attempts, we tweaked, prodded, and changed strategies trying to tighten up the fight and improve our performance. We tried several things in the mix; having everyone clump up, having everyone spread out, mages take care of the corners. The final magical mix for us at least turned out to be, a deathknight picking up the pummelers, and mages and hunters handling the bombs. After each heart phase ALL dps would fan out and clear the scrapbots, then return to the boss to burn him to the phase.
While it took us many of attempts, each time we got a little bit closer to the goal. We had players who had never really spoken up before, calling out status updates and giving suggestions. The communication of the raid was better than it really ever has been to this point. We had a few problem children causing several of the wipes but with time we adjusted strategies to take this into account. One of the pieces we realized late in the game is that the scrap-bots were literally too much for our mages to handle alone. Once we had all of our DPS fan out and clean up the adds, we were able to burn him the entire way. We moved more quickly and efficiently. We managed to get our first XT-002 kill and at the same time get two different achievements.
We got our second click moment for the week. There were so many great performances this week, but I have to give some extra special kudos to our heal team. This is a very heavy damage fight, and required a constant stream of heals flowing into me to keep me upright. For most of the fight each hit I was receiving was between 20,000-25,000 damage per swing. So if I did not have complete faith in my healers there is no way I could have tanked this fight. After awhile you just have to keep your head down and stop watching your bar so closely. Careful use of my oh shit buttons, and communicating it with my healers I think helped the fight overall.
No Gain Without Pain
The day after I am starting to get some rumbling about various members of our raid complaining about the large number of wipes last night. Unfortunately… we are now doing REAL raid content, and wiping while learning is the stark reality of progress. I blame Karazhan and Naxxramas for bringing about a feeling that raid bosses should be pretty easily learned. In truth I don’t feel like anything we did in Naxx was terribly hard, it was a simple matter of stopping people from doing stupid things.
In Ulduar the fights so far all have one or two aspects that are raid wiping events. One player not doing what they should be doing can start a cascade effect leading to the ultimate death of the raid. Sure we wiped nine times before we got the mix down, but the fight attempt, as evidenced by the fact we got two achievements, was a near flawless execution. I personally would far rather spend one entire night working on getting a fight stable, so that when it finally clicks into place we know we have it solid, than spending dragging the learning process out over a few weeks. Each rapid succession try allowed us to adjust quickly to see what was going to work for us and what was ultimate not.
Ulduar is quickly sifting the players into two groups; those who are progression focused and willing to do whatever it takes to make our raid better, and those who probably would have preferred to stay farming Naxxramas. Progression hurts, but until another raid member can beat my repair bills I will probably continue to have little sympathy. Were we not making progress last night, we would have not kept pushing forward. However each individual attempt got us a little bit closer to the goal, allowing us to tune the effort and push out a win.