The Clover is the Key

Yesterday I honestly did not have it in me to make a post.  I won’t lie, the raid Tuesday night was pretty horrific.  Combined with the feeling of general uselessness that I had been feeling, the general “badness” of our attempts the night before pushed me in to a stupor.  This combined with not having a good deal of time to even formulate my ideas (still pushing up against a tough deadline at work), caused me to fail once more to make my daily post.

I spent a good deal of the day bickering back and forth with one of the other raid leaders, trying to figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from ever happening again.  The source of my frustration is that, we as a raid backslid.  The previous week we fought hard to down XT, and when we finally did I thought we had reached that magical click moment, or at the very least it felt like a click.  However this week, in our push to get some solid attempts in on Kologarn, we skipped Razorscale and Ignis and instead spent the night wiping over and over on the big dumb bot.

The failure of a few players to be able to react in a timely fashion to bombs caused us to wipe over and over.  There is nothing more disheartening than having a perfect attempt go south when a single player detonates the entire raid.  We fought valiantly, and our players kept trying to recover from the same few people failing to react.  I tried my best to keep calm, but officer chat quickly became a long string of obscenities abbreviated by the bit of sentence structure. 

We finally adjusted our strategy to be a bit more forgiving, and managed to pull out a win, but the whole process left me angry beyond reason.  The last thing I needed to post were back to back “emo rants” about how players need to “pull their heads out”.  So instead I refrained from posting anything at all.  Today I am feeling more confident and looking forward to playing cleanup on the bosses we left behind and then pushing on to get those illusive tries on Kologarn.

Springtime for Ignis

Last night I logged in not really sure what I would be doing.  Wednesday is usually the night I end up tagging along with some non-guild/raid friends on 10 and 25 man instances, getting a much needed break from tanking on one of my other raiding alts.  After the “failure to launch” of a 25 man Naxxramas, and the horrible fail that was a PUG 10 man Malygos, I settled down to dps as my retribution paladin in a 10 man Ulduar run by a friends guild.

I am one of those players that learn most by doing, and whenever given a chance I like to tag along with a different raid group and see how they approach fights differently.  Last nights run yielded an amazing gem.  Up until now we had been doing what I like to refer to as the “Box Method” for Ignis as illustrated by the Tankspot video.  The basics of the strategy are to move ignis in a 4 point path around the room as to minimize the scorch damage. 

The negatives of this method are that it causes the raid to spread out, and you have to have players capable of doing 5k single hits watching both pools.  This makes the healing assignments fairly spread thin, and AOE healing becomes fairly inefficient.  The other major issue you have is that during the fight Ignis will run to a random player and dunk them in the fire pot at his crotch.  Because of the travel time for players on the outskirts of the room guarding the pools, it can cause Ignis to lay patches of scorched earth in unpredictable locations.

I’ve drawn this diagram to help out my raid adjust to the new strategy.  Because of the way it looks on the diagram I have decided to start calling this method the “Clover Method”.  The melee becomes the stem of the clover and the scorch path I will make with the boss becomes the pedals.  The pull starts with me standing on the horizontal line that divides the room directly between the pulls.  One of our hunters will misdirect Ignis onto me, and as he moves into place, I will spin him so that my body is standing on the A in the diagram.

The first scorch always comes quickly so I will need to move to where I am standing on the B within a few minutes of the initial pull.  I will be standing just out of the range of the first patch of scorch.  The melee should not have to move to stay in range with the backside of Ignis.  The diagram places the Ignis dot for scorch B a little higher than it would actually be, but the diagram is easier to read this way. 

I will continue to move him to point C at the next scorch, still trying to make sure the melee can have constant contact with the boss.  When the third scorch lands I will circle strafe until I am back on point A, which should now be clear thanks to the timer of the first patch.  This process is repeated for tanking the boss until he dies.  The next issue in the fight is managing the adds.

Always in the past we have had 2 casters that are capable of shattering the constructs guarding each pool.  In this scenario the only pool where a construct will be shattered is the left side.  This allows us to have fewer casters tied up tending to the pool, and gives us a greater ease of recovery if one of them happens to go down.  We will continue to alternate our two deathknight offtanks, but the scorched earth will be in closer proximity and should allow for the adds to become molten faster.

This strategy worked beautifully on 10 man last night, and I am thinking it will translate extremely well to the 25 man version as well.  It takes care of many of the issues we seemed to have with the fight, and should make it more recoverable as a whole.  The biggest piece I believe is that the add maintenance should be far more reliable, since we are only really working in one smaller quadrant of the room.  Healing assignments should be much easier to maintain as well, and with everyone being clumped up we should be able to finally utilize our chain healers.

Raiding 101

BOY_SCHOOL_SWEDEN Apparently players are starting to think I actually know what I am talking about.  How I managed to fool them is a complete mystery, but Nibuca of Mystical Chicanery has asked for my assistance on her newly adopted project:  Raider 101.  The goal of the site is to be a Wiki document to help players who want to improve their raid game by offering tips, tricks and tutorials.  I’ve only just learned about the site’s existence today, but in the small amount of time I have looked around it seems like a rather valiant effort.  I will be looking through some of the warrior related information specifically and helping to tweak it a bit, so I will try my best not to screw things up.

It definitely looks like a great resource to send your guild, raid and friends to who are looking for help answering various class related issues.  Unlike wowwiki or elitist jerks, the information is distilled down into easy to read basic howto guides.  If you are looking for some assitance, especially with alts, I would highly suggest you spend a bit of time browsing through the wiki.

A Pirate’s Life For Me

ed3cheeks2 The last little bit today is a shameless commercial plug.  One of the founding members of House Stalwart,  Ed/Saggart/Sgian/Shadoes, has been working on a side project for the last several months.  At great personal expense to sanity he has become a member of the pirate band, The Musical Blades, and over the course of the summer has been touring the renfaire circuit with his unique brand of showmanship and musical prowess.  Many bands that frequent that scene are what I would call a Gimmick band, but in the case of the blades they are all truly amazing musicians capable of standing up against any act out there.

This past weekend they released their latest CD, “Live at Pubs and Pirate-Core”, which is a compilation of live recordings, piratecore and a few unreleased bonus tracks.  From what I have heard of the various tracks of the course of several lunch outings I would say its a good release.  I know over the past weekend at the St Louis renfaire they sold a good deal of copies.  While it still lacks my favorite track, “Run out the guns”, which is waiting in the wings for their next studio album, I was glad to see Derelict make its debut.

I would check out their myspace music page for some good examples of their repertoire, or if you are in the greater St. Louis area, they will be playing the next two weekends at the St. Louis Renaissance Festival.  I’ve gotten to hear a good deal of their unreleased material, and I have to say the next Studio album will be pretty amazing.  This is coming from me, who doesn’t normally go in for this style of music.  The festival atmosphere combined with perfect five part harmony is pretty near impossible to beat.

Main Tank’s Burden

weight of the raid on my shoulders Forgive me readers for I have sinned…  it has been 4 days since my last confession.  Friday was an extremely busy day for me, and then we had our long memorial day weekend here in the united states.  During which time I had zero desire to sit down and think of something worth reading.  I have all these “rainy day” topics in my head, but have been unable to bring myself to sit down and actually formulate them.

To further my sinning, I have begun to play a deathknight.  This is only a sin for those who know me well, and have heard me lament the fact that so many players abandoned “useful” classes to level a deathknight.  I lost my tanking partner in crime, an amazing feral druid named Sanctifi, to the dark class.  In addition to that we lost our best healing shaman to a deathknight.  However both were very open and up front about this, and both have become the two deathknights I look up to the most.  I patterned my DK after Roisen, at least in that I am leveling blood spec for maximum survivability.

I have to say that right now, leveling as a deathknight is much like I typed IDDQD in my chat window and turned entered “Degreelessness Mode”.  I started the weekend at 56 and as of last night was halfway through 64.  Right now he has taken the spot that the boomkin had, of my favorite non-raid activity.  If I keep this obsession up I will end up with a fourth 80 before I know it.  Yesterday I was happily playing along and “accidentally dinged”.  You can tell I am enjoying myself, when I am not watching the xp bar at all.  I need to slow down a bit, I have blown past my “leveling buddy”.

Dealing with the Guilt

does the empty chair go unnoticed? As the main tank of our guild and raid, I carry with me a large package of responsibility, and with that comes a large degree of guilt and pressure.  Last night we had planned a second night of 10 man ulduar, in an attempt to push on and get Assembly of Iron and maybe Auriaya.  However yesterday I woke up with immense back pain, which I attribute to the extremely uncomfortable chair I was forced to sit in at the lake on Sunday.  As the day drug on the pain got worse, and when we arrived home from the movies yesterday afternoon, I took one Flexeril that I had from a previous back injury.

It completely knocked me on my ass.  I tried laying down for a bit before raid time, which caused me to get online a few minutes late, but this really had zero effect.  As I stand there, in the rooms just prior to the Assembly of Iron trash, I was quite literally unable to keep my eyes open.  I knew that without a doubt I would wipe the raid multiple times that night.  A few players noted that they too were not really feeling up to raiding, so I thought that if I stepped up to the plate and announced that I just couldn’t handle it, the raid would eventually dissolve. 

I am finding out this morning that this was not the case.  So this morning I am dealing with a severe case of guilt as I abandoned the raid, and the other players who were also not feeling up to raiding, apparently swallowed it down and pushed onwards.  So for other players who bring to the table a key role in a raid…  how do you handle the guilt when you can’t make it?  I still feel like me stepping out was the best option both for me and the raid, but I can’t seem to get past the sense that I failed as a whole.  Had I known the drug was going to have such a serious effect I would have just dealt with the pain.

Dealing with the Obsolescence

feeling like I am ready for the junk heap The other thing I am struggling with this morning is the general feeling of being obsolete.  It is really hard not to feel like the fate of the raid rests on your shoulders.  When you are reminded of the fact that your presence really doesn’t matter that much, it is kind of hard to swallow.  Last night, not only did the raid move on without a hitch in my absence, but they apparently downed a brand new boss.  Which of course, dropped a new piece of tanking gear, giving our off tank one more piece of gear ahead of me.  So this morning I am also struggling with that feeling that maybe my raid doesn’t need me at all. 

There are times I feel pretty bulletproof, but there are also times that I feel like I am wearing paper armor.  I am one of those players that strives to make sure I have the best possible gear for every situation.  It feels like, especially in Ulduar, that our class is even more gear dependant than it has been in the past.  With the crappy luck that I have had recently in getting the upgrades that I really need to remain viable, I am feeling very outmoded and ready for the recycle bin.

I should be excited and happy, that I have somehow managed to build a raid that is self healing and can keep moving along happily in my absence.  On so many levels I am, because I am proud of the fact that we have so many leaders in Stalwart, that any one of them can pick up the slack when something goes wrong.  But at the same time, it is very much a blow to my ego.  How dare the world not grind to a halt when I can’t be there!  I say that in joking, but at the same time, it is a bit disheartening that things went so smoothly without me.

Leading by Example

Giving of myself, the good and the bad I felt it was important to make a post like this.  I have posted a good deal of raid and guild advice in the last few weeks.  All of it has been nurtured and compiled over years of leading a guild and raid.  But by the same token, I think its important for you the public, to see that even though the final product comes together smoothly, I have the same fears and doubts that every player has.  I am by no means special in any way other than the fact that I have a good bunch of loyal friends who will seemingly follow me to the gates of hell itself.

I am very much the type of person who will admit when I don’t know an answer.  Often times I don’t know, or don’t even know where to look.  However I am always willing to work through things as they come along.  Right now I feel guilty for abandoning my raid for the good of my own health, but I know that it was the right decision as I hit the pillow at 8 pm and didn’t wake for a second until the alarm went off this morning at 5 am.  Right now I feel obsolete because of the shitty luck I have had with gear, and the success that the raid has had without me.  However I know that many players simply feel more comfortable on the nights they are there, and that while things go successfully, they don’t necessarily go smoothly.  Me making this post, is in a way working through the issues I don’t know the solutions to publically. 

Just one of those days

blue-screen-of-death1 Every now and then you have a day when your normal pattern goes out the window.  This is one of those days.  I’ve juggled meetings, fires, phone calls, and all the while trying to wrap up one of my projects for a meeting at 4 pm.  Normally I spend my lunch hour devising my daily post and then writing it up when I get back into the office. 

Some days I set out in the morning knowing roughly what I am going to write about, other days the spark of inspiration comes to me throughout the course of the morning or during my lunch excursion.  Today… the spark has failed to find me.  I considered licking my Jeep’s battery at lunch for a “jolt” of inspiration, but I didn’t figure the raid wanted to take the chance of me going into cardiac arrest when we have so much to clear.  So here I sit, trying to steal a few minutes of time to sit down and compose anything worth while for my readers.  I have already typed two whole paragraphs so I seem to be actually doing this.

Forgotten-ramas

naxxramas-1280x Last night was pretty frantic.  I had a slew of errands to run, involving the dreaded act of shopping.  I carefully juggling a list of items to buy at the grocery store, hurriedly put them away and made a plate to eat, all the while trying not to pass out from the heat.  When I finally sat down, frustrated and surly, I was looking forward to a quiet evening doing nothing much.  Alas this was not apparently the plan.

Last Sunday I had tried to help a friend get his other guilds 25 man Naxxramas run off the ground.  Unfortunately 11 am on a Sunday is a piss poor time to try and plan a raid on Argent Dawn.  After standing around for an hour trying to make people appear magically out of the ether, something I do quite often if you have read many of my posts.  They finally called the raid, and now here comes the tricky part, agreed that they would shoot for Wednesday, a part that I had apparently completely blocked out of my memory.

So imagine how utterly confused I was when I logged in last night to a barrage of tells from Lenwen, informing me of how many they were able to get so far for “the raid”.  So in my attempt to be a good friend, I resolved to spending my evening in a raid group.  The positive however is that I would be taking my relatively newly minted boomkin, Loamis.  After about 45 minutes of haranguing players to join the effort we entered the zone.

For Honor

Project_Stormwind___VoH002_WIP_by_Kjasi It was for honor’s sake that I kept my word and attended the raid last night, and it was apt that the guild leading the raid was in fact named “For Honor”.  I have had minimal exposure to them, but so far I have to say they are a pretty like minded guild.  Shalomz was the raid lead, and did a great job keeping us moving along quickly, and at the same time still doing a great job healing while trying to juggle loot master responsibilities. 

They currently really only raid 10 man instances, other than trying to pug together a 25 man Naxxramas.  While we had a few players that I would label as terribad last night, all of the “For Honor players seemed to really know their classes and be able to perform the roles assigned.  We had a few weak links in the healing and tanking teams, but overall the night went pretty smoothly given the very late start.  Really hoping that a few of the players take up my offer and apply to Duranub.  We could use the infusion of fresh players and fresh ideas…  especially some fresh caster dps.

R.I.P. WoW Insider

Rest In Peace.... Clean UI Design Late Tuesday, the beloved WoW news sight transitioned from WoWInsider.com to more flashy WoW.com.  With it went the clean and easy to read layout, that was replaced by a cluttered and confused one.  No longer is the site a pure news venture, but instead a bizarre WoW Social Networking/Twitter clone.  It would be hard for me to put into words how much I dislike the fact that they took this direction. 

However, now that they have, we the formerly loyal readers will have to adjust.  With the horrible layout comes a bunch of fairly slick features.  If you notice on the sidebar, there is a new wow.com profile link.  This links to my new Belghast profile page, which is much like your standard facebook-era social networking page.  The core functionality that will be the make or break feature of the design is the incorporation of an addon that promises to give you the ability to post twitter like “micro blog” entries from inside the wow interface. 

In additional to user written entries it also keeps a running log of various status changes in game, in the vein of keeping your friends updated on what you are doing.  Because of the raid last night, I did not really get time to set up the UI portion, but the blogger WoWGrrl has a good example of the type of feed you get with normal play. I hope to get my addon set up and feeding data by raid time.  The service offering reminds me of a much more verbose version of Raptr.com, which by all notions should have become a much bigger player in the “social gaming” community than it ever did.

The Fish Feast Effect

mmmmm tastes like chic... err fish In closing, I present to you the fish feast effect.  When I presented the quandary, that I was busy and uninspired… Bellwether at 4Haelz suggested that I write about the Fish Feast effect.  Basically the general Fish Feast Effect happens only to the players who are responsible enough to bring their own class based stat food to a raid.  As soon as one or more of these players choose to each their own food, in an obsessive act of preparation for the coming fight, a fish feast will be “donated” to the raid. 

It is a truism that no fish feast may be laid down until at least one playing, preferably one of the more anal retentive players, has begun to eat their own food.  Bonus points are given if you can time the Fish Feast so that they have begun to eat, but not yet received the well fed buff.  It is also necessary that no less than one druid in bear or moonkin form must eat so that it places their butt firmly on top of the recently grounded platter, thereby making it difficult for additional players to benefit from the “feast”. 

 

Keep an open eye, and always observe the fish feast effect

When the Levee Breaks

2007543-lg Sometimes you just have those nights when the stars are aligned against you.  Last night was one of these nights, that for a whole series of events that could not be avoided lead to a very painful experience.  All of the members in attendance performed to the best of their abilities, paid attention on all encounters, worked amazingly well as a team…  the problem is there simply were not enough of them available.  We had to PUG in 6 players who were massively under geared for the encounters we were doing, and as a result performed much like extremely under geared players.

With the onset of summer this seems to be coming to be more and more of an issue.  Duranub is made up of mostly “30 something’s” with honest to god lives outside of the game.  As a result things come up that make them unavailable at times.  Lately these have been happening in clusters, where we either have a feast of great players available, or we are having to scrape hard to be able to pull together any raid at all.  Nothing is more frustrating than desperately working your friends list and social channels trying to make those last few players magically appear.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

20080628002112_bridge over troubled water small So here we stand at a very difficult decision point.  We need to somehow bridge this gap in our membership, so that we can continue to keep moving forward.  We have never really recruited members openly.  Our raid has been one that has grown organically through our network of friends and family, growing as players came available and fit well with our mixture of personalities.  However there has been a rash of players needing to hang up their hat temporarily, encountering everything from spousal aggro to complete and total system meltdowns.  With each absence from the group our pool of alternate players has been stretched thinner forcing us to take players who are either underperforming or not quite on the gear level of the encounters we face.

The biggest question standing before us is, where do you find good players?  It’s often hard to find dedicated and skilled players who are at the same time not mercenaries or elitist jerks.  We have carefully fit players for our overall group dynamic as a whole, often times taking players who mean well and are hard workers over players who are genius players but know it.  I’ve always been a cautious warden of the mixture of personalities our raid has, and the thought of moving to open cattle call recruiting really concerns me.

A Few Good Men… Women… Peoples?

uncle_sam No matter how distasteful recruitment is to me, we have to do something, and do it quickly.  We have all worked and fought too hard to make this raid work, to let it start to flicker out through lapses in attendance.  We have a lot of positives on our side.  Our loot system is very open to new players allowing them to often times win gear on their first outing.  The fact that we raid separate from guilds, and later in the evening appeals to many older social gamers, who are like me unwilling to leave their guild just to raid.  All this paired, with the fact that we are fairly successful considering we only raid 5 hours per week should put us in the positive column for many of the players that would fit our group dynamic.

Right now we are trying to furiously work all our contacts and reel in any players who have been waiting in the wings for something to open up.  On top of this, we posted on WoW Headhunter, a nifty tool for fielding incoming applications.  It allows players to apply directly through there and offers some cool tools for promoting your recruitment drive, which I am embedding below.

In addition to WoW headhunter, I re-upped my recruitment post on WoWRaid.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you are looking at it, their UI appears to be broken and even though I only clicked the four bosses we had downed in Ulduar, it is giving us credit for clearing the zone.  We had actually already received one player through this tool, but unfortunately he was quite a bit under geared for Ulduar.  This is one of the weaknesses we have.  Since we only have 5 hours of official raiding time, there is no time to farm old content for the purpose of gearing up new members.  I fear we are going to have to do some kind of official “un-official” 25 man Naxxramas weekly as we try and gear up a new crop of players.

 

If you are on the Argent Dawn server and looking for a good place to hang your hat, please consider applying.

Failure for Winners

There is not a single player who can honestly state that they enjoy a night filled with wipes.  However a good failure can often times do more for your raid than an easy win.  When you steamroll content, much like players did in Naxxramas, there were little to no lessons learned.  However in the face of a hard fought battle, it presents the opportunity for players to truly evaluate their own role in the raid, and how best they can modify their actions to provide that elusive win.  Most raid groups see failure as a bad thing, but in the light of new content, I see how we fail as being far more important than how we succeed.

Fail Often, and Fail Well!

I present to you the concept of how to “fail” successfully.  My goal in this post is to outline some of the basic processes that a good raid should go through as they present content that is obviously kicking their butts.  Like anything in this game, or life in general, failure gives you the opportunity to fully understand why things are going wrong and as a result give you insight in how to fix the issues at hand. 

There is a concept called “deep practice”, quickly gaining popularity in the sporting world.  It revolves around the concept of understanding your mistakes, diagnosing them, and then adjusting them in small batches until the whole activity becomes easier.  This same basic approach can quickly turn a fight that your raid cannot seem to grasp into a farmed encounter.

Diagnose the Problem

Give the problem a careful eye The first step in fixing and issue is understanding what caused it in the first place.  You need to quickly deconstruct the issue at hand.  View the situation quickly from all angles.  Did the tank take an unexpected burst of damage?  Did adds not get handled correctly?  Did players die to environmental damage or were not in the right place at the right time?  You need to take a critical eye at the previous attempt, outline what mistakes were made, and address them openly.

So many times this can break down a read into a flurry of accusations, where each player is certain they did nothing wrong.  It is important for everyone to be willing to evaluate their own performance as it pertains to that of the whole.  If for some reason, a player is getting overwhelmed in their role there is no shame in asking for some assistance.  Last week on XT, our mages were being overwhelmed by adds and unable to pour out enough damage to keep them cleared.  As soon as this key fault was identified we adjusted and came back the next attempt and pulled out a victory.

A willingness to view your own actions with an introspective eye is crucial.  You must be willing to accept faults as you make them, and at the same time be willing to adjust accordingly.  There have been many fights where the issue sat on my shoulders.  I don’t believe anyone thinks I am a lesser player for having screwed up.  But instead respected me, for admitting it freely and in turn trying to decide how to effect a change.

Brainstorm the Solution

Throw out ideas Once the problem is understood, comes the hard phase of deciding how best to fix it.  One of the mistakes we made early in the process of Duranub, is to try and take all strategy discussion offline.  We have traditionally done this in channel separate from the raid, letting the strategists brainstorm a solution.  We are slowly trying to change this.  I believe now that it is key to involve as much of the raid as possible in the process.

The druid that rarely speaks up, might just have noticed something that the rest of the group has not.  Sometimes these little revelations provide the evidence that adds up to the answer.  Critical thinking is key in the process of crafting an alternate change.  Discuss the tanking, the dps, the add management, the healing, and the placement.  You can quickly determine which components were working well, and which need adjustments.

Be Flexible and Willing to Change

FlexibleWire It’s hard to think for yourself sometimes.  In a game like WoW we get to draw on the experience of the players who have come before us, but at the same time these experiences can often times pollute our own thought processes.  If a strategy is not working for you, then its important that you are willing to adjust to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of your group.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned is there is no one right way. Reading Tankspot, WoWWiki, and StratFu can give you a basic understanding of the working parts, but ultimate you need tailor your strategy to fit your own group.

In a previous raid group, we struggled with a certain fight for over a month, in part because of the inflexibility of our strategy.  With bullheaded certainty we kept attacking the encounter with fervent certainty that we were “doing it right”.  Benjamin Franklin said that "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.  The week our leadership finally accepted the concept that there might be an easier way, and adjusted to handling the adds in a different manner we got our first kill.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking there is only one means to an end.

Never Give Up

Stay Stalwart.... no Pun Intended It’s easy to, as my father says, “Get your dobber in the dirt”, and stop trying as hard as you should be when things seem hopeless.  This is the natural response when presented with a task, that seems insurmountable.  Much like working a rubic’s cube, if you diagnose the problems, make adjustments and try again, sooner or later the pieces will slide together.  Many times when you fix one issue, it will lead to uncovering a problem that was somehow hidden.  The important part is your resolve to keep at the task at hand until all the issues are resolved.

As a programmer, I have never written a single piece of software that ran flawlessly the first time.  There are always little tweaks, changes, fixes, that come out through the process of debugging.  As a leader and member of your raid, you have to be willing to “debug” everything around you.  Start with yourself, and move outward, fixing each problem you see as you go. 

Often times you can spot an issue that you have already solved in the players around you.  As you give advice to your fellow players, its important that you do so in a gracious and non-judgmental fashion.  Many times players are “screwing up”, in the first place because they either do not understand the situation or their role in it.  Aggressively going after another player only causes them to close down to suggestions, and in the end leads to a disgruntled member who won’t be giving their all to the group.  As I have said before, raiding is a team sport, and its important that we all arrive together at the same place.

Always Remember

Elephants Never Forget! This is probably the most important part of the equation.  While things get a new coat of paint from time to time, there are very few truly new things.  Each encounter you see from this point on will have some connection to activates you have done in your past.  How many times have you heard a seasoned raider describe a current fight to working like an old world encounter with only a minor twist.  If you can reach a point where you can easily identify this connective tissue ahead of time, you will be able to adjust and more accurately build solutions.  Your experience counts, so its important for you to remember the problem as well as the solution.

Taking one for the Team

Iron Balls McGinty!! When the 3.1 patch landed, most warrior tanks like myself were excited about the prospect of finally being able to pick up a solid dps spec without having to sacrifice our tanking ability.  This was a fun notion for awhile, and through the course of running a good deal of 10 and 25 man content, I had amassed a decent fury and arms gear set.  I have been able to shift to my present fury offspec and deal a good amount of damage when needed.

However the grand idea about having two specs was that in some way it would make grinding quests and farming materials more enjoyable.  Alas this really wasn’t the case, as all the sudden I started having to carry non-stat food and more bandages for the purpose of…  healing.  Gone was the ability to roll from pack to pack with no downtime and no need for any healing.  No longer could I easily solo over world elites that seem to pop up from time to time in Icecrown when you least expect them.

So what do I end up doing?  I end up carrying around a set of dps gear that never gets used as I continue to grind happily in full protection gear and tanking spec.  Of late the fact that I have this unused second slot has begun to bother me.  I have a level 80 Boomkin that is getting to be pretty well geared, and a 80 Retribution paladin who is more than ready for Ulduar dps.  Trying to maintain the notion of Belghast as any form of DPSer already seems pretty defeatist compared to my other options.

Cookie Specs are fail

Evil Cookie Cutter of Puzzling Doom! I’ve never been a huge proponent of the cookie cutter spec.  While I generally suggest a newer player “pick” one of the general spec designs I view these like riding a bicycle with training wheels on.  You use the tried and tested design until you get a feel for your own particular play style, and then after that you choose a spec that is tailored towards your own style.  If you look at most of the higher end players, they make little deviations here and there from the “accepted best spec”.

In a raid I have been expected to fill two very distinct roles.  I am our main tank, meaning that I need really solid single target threat generation.  This role also requires that I have as many tricks up my sleeve for being able to survive those big boss hits.  There are many talents available on the fringes of the trees that offer some added survival.  In addition the deep wounds ability allows you to general really great single target threat.

The second role I play in a raid is tanking trash, and even though blizzard denoted that Ulduar was the crowd control instance… we still end up pulling everything and AOE tanking it down. In this role you need to general a lot of threat on as many targets as possible.  The bread and butter of this process has been the glyph of cleaving.  This allows me to hit 3 targets with the equivalent of a Heroic Strike, which is really great for pissing off many of targets at the same time.  Combining this with Thunder Clap and Shockwave allows the warrior to have much of the same AOE tanking utility of a paladin, even if we have to work much harder to get it.

As a result of these two very different roles I have been forced to shoot down the middle and build a hybrid design that attempts to be the best of both worlds.  Going with a hybrid design means that I am losing some of my survival ability, but also not maximizing my potential for AOE threat generation.  I have been kicking around the idea for awhile of scrapping my unused DPS spec, for the purpose of designating two very distinct and unique builds for the purpose of being the best I can be at both roles.

Making Lots of People Angry… at once

Whirlwind!!! RUN AWAY!!! Okay so the first design I have been kicking around is a build to attempt to maximize the warrior talents for the purpose of generating AOE threat.  Several weeks back I experimented with a build that used Unbridled Wrath, and Improved Cleave in order to give me massive AOE spamming damage.  This turned out to be a great build for tanking heroics and trash, but a fairly horrible build for boss tanking, as I had more rage than I could ever actually spend, and as a result had to give up some of my defensive ability.  However for the purpose of building my new AOE tanking spec, this served as a great building block.

5 / 15 / 51

The build is much the same as my previous design with one small tweak.  Since the entire purpose of my spec is to the best job at holding multiple targets I added Piercing Howl, which should do well at both adding cheap threat to a large number of targets, and dazing targets for the purpose of kiting them.  I only go 5 pts into the arms tree since talents like Improved Heroic Strike are defeatist for this design.  I will be using Cleave as my aggro dump, and for the most part will only ever touch Heroic Strike if I find myself taking enough damage to peg my rage.

Primary Abilities

    

Glyph of ShockwaveGlyph of CleavingGlyph of Vigilance

Other major usage abilities will apply like Revenge if its available, but the above are the primary attacks.  If sword and board procs we will be hitting the primary target with a free Shield Slam, but much like the revenge procs since single target aggro is not our focus I did not directly list them in the mix.  The goal of the build is to be able to charge into a pack and hit as many targets hard and fast so that your AOE does not have to hold back for long.  We are using the Glyph of Vigilance for the purpose of placing this on your primary AOE damage dealer.  This spec design is untested at this point, but I plan on giving it a thorough  workout tonight in 10 Man Ulduar.

How not to get hurt… srsly

Cute but DeadlyThe second spec is built around the concept of dropping some of the AOE friendly warrior talents in order to buff up some of the survivability.  Since we wont be needing to AOE tank things, it allows us to drop some of the talents like Improved Thunder Clap and Shockwave, and pick up some talents like Improved Disciplines that give you more survivability.  In addition to these we move down far enough into the arms tree to pick up Deep Wounds, which will give me a great threat return on rage spent.

16 / 3 / 52

Primary Abilities

 

Glyph of BlockingGlyph of Last StandGlyph of Shield Wall

Like most single target builds this is designed to use Shield Slam and Revenge if they are up, then I throw in the usage of Concussion Blow because it is a high threat ability with a long recycle.  Last priority is to stack Devastate and use Heroic Strike as your rage dump.  We are relying on Glyph of Blocking to be proccing often from the shield slams and giving us a constant flow of Revenge ability procs.  Glyph of Last Stand and Glyph of Shield Wall are in the mix to give us faster recycle on our primary oh shit buttons for maximum survivability.  This will play a more critical role on longer fights, where I will be able to use these more frequently to give healing a break.  Again this build has not been tested fully, but I plan on giving it a work out in 10 man Ulduar tonight as well.

Bulletproof

I'm the Juggernaut Biatch! Well… not really, but my idea is to be able to be the best of both worlds.  Sure I lose my ability to “lolfury dps” in instances, but I also add more utility to the raid as a whole.  Hopefully allowing me to shift from being the best single target tank, to being one of the best AOE tanks at the push of a button.  I created Belghast solely for the purpose of tanking, so its fitting that as we gain more flexibility with our classes, I turn around and use it to become a better tank.  Besides, when you have 3 fairly well geared 80s, you can afford to specialize each of them for a unique purpose.

My goal as always, is to be the best tank I can be and I think this new path is going to lead me to that goal.  I want to be able to generate as much threat as I can, but at the same time be easy for my healers to heal.  It is all about the team effort, and I think being able to switch hit between two distinct tanking roles will give me a lot of options as we move through the content.  The single target build will give me the survivability I need for progression content, and the AOE build will allow me to still tank content below my gear level easily without rage starvation.

 

Belghast – Soon to be Prot/Prot Warrior

Herding Cats

Roll'em Roll'em Roll'em “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

xt002_down 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.

xt002deconstructor

Signet of the EarthshakerThunderfall TotemTwisted Visage

Heroic: Nerf Gravity BombsHeroic: Nerf Engineering

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.

We proved we were better than we have been

Can’t Brain… has the dumb

Sitting here at home today sick and as of yet unable to think of anything worthy of actually posting.  I had promised myself that I would be posting something everyday even if completely silly.  So here I am confronted with the process of making good on that threat. 

I’ve been to the doctor and several powerful meds to remove this debuff from me.  Luckily thusfar however my evil Asthma has yet to rear its ugly head.  In the absence of real content I thought a good compromise would be to post a few links to things I found good this week.

It’s Just a Game

There is a great guest post up on Larisa’s Pink Pigtail Inn, a great blog for those not currently reading it, talking about the dissatisfaction with players excusing actions with the denial of “It’s Just a Game”.  It’s a great read, but left me with the realization that we the bloggers are the cheerleaders that wow needs.   That statement will make a lot more sense once you have read the post.

When to Use Shield Wall

Spinks over at Spinksville presents a nice concise guide to some of the thinking surrounding how best to determine when is the right time for you as a warrior to blow your most powerful cooldown;  Shield Wall.

Should you Gear, Gem and Enchant for Defense

A good discussion on the Tanking Tips blog regarding whether or not the process of specifically gearing and gemming for defense is a good idea or not.  Good read for warriors and asks some good questions.

Saying No To Cookie Cutter Builds

Sylly over at Rolling Hots has a good post from a druid perspective on how the cookie cutter build is not always the best for your playstyle.  Includes some great discussion on how to arrive at the build that is going to work for you best.

 

Real content will return soon

Click, Click,… Boom

Last week I stumbled across a great post on Achtung Panzercow entitled… The Tao of the Click.  After the rough week we had last week, I had almost decided to craft my own post called The Tao of the Clunk.  We were having one of those weeks when nothing really seemed to be going right.  We were short on healing, we were down a tank, and we were having to scrape hard to pull together 25 smiling faces to raid each night.  It very much felt like we were clunking along trying to get a break.

Over the tail end of the week and weekend we put much of effort into trying to smooth out some of our attendance.  I got the fun job I wrote about earlier of trying to help bring up a few of our wayward dps.  Through a good deal of adjustment, mobilization and some luck we pulled out one of our best performances thus far.  We managed a second Flame Leviathan one-shot and our very first Razorscale one-shot as well.

Gears Meshing

Last week it felt like at several points we were close to reaching that illusive click moment.  We understood the strategy for Ignis and would have promising starts, only to have things fall apart quickly.  When a key player would get placed in the pot it, a ripple effect would ensue.  After a short period of time we would get behind and start reliving the Lucy in the Chocolate Factory episode.  We had some fundamental issues with each aspect of the fight from healing, to add management and even shattering.  For the most part the movement would go smoothly, but players not stacking would often cause a scorch to go down in unexpected places, making it extremely hard for the add tanks to get the constructs molten.

We are one of those raids, that when we finally understand the fight it just happens.  It is very much the click moment that Panzercow talked about.  We needed the weekend to ponder the fight; what we were doing, what we could do better, and what elements were simply out of our control that we would have to adjust for accordingly.  When the pieces all fall into place it seems we move from impossible to farmed in a moments time.

So after two nights of focused attempts, we stood preparing for the pull.  Players executed, adjusted, and we managed to get him down to 40% on our first attempt of the night.  When we pull a single phase boss like this past 50% I know without a doubt we have the stuff to beat it.  It is just a matter of tightening things up and paying closer attention.  The second attempt starts rather inauspiciously with healing falling behind and me, the main tank, dying. 

Click

ignis_down This I think served as a much needed wake-up call to the entire raid.  In a moments time we were flying without a safety net, we had to be flawless now.  Admirably that is what happened.  Each and every player dug down into that intangible stash of grit, and pulled out an amazing performance.  Every single player kept their heads down, focused and lean, only paying attention to the job at hand.  Communications were quick and efficient, and directions kept clear and precise. 

I sat there watching helplessly as my raid learned how to conquer the fight.  I can’t pretend that these kind of things just happen.  I could tell that our members had pondered the fight all weekend long.  Each and every member did something, even if small, to improve the previous weeks performance and pull out the victory.  We downed Ignis, before the nerf, and that is something Blizzard can never lessen.  In fact we somehow managed to get the Shattered achievement in the process.

ignis

WorldcarverGirdle of EmbersIntensity

In other news we got our very first Fragment of Val’anyr from Razorscale.  It went to Elnore, our healing officer, and was very well deserved.  I hope they start coming more regularly so we can be close to crafting one by the time we down Yogg-Saron.  It was yet another week without a Titanguard drop, so once more I was both bummed and annoyed at the same time.  In pretty desperate need for a modern era tanking sword, so I am hoping that Ulduar stops being an ass soon and drops me one.  I let the only Last Laugh go uncontested to our second tank, because by similar bad luck she was still tanking with Red Sword of Courage from Utgarde Pinnacle.  Being a good friend tends to bite me in the ass in the long run, but I can’t change who I am.

Twisted Nether T-Shirt Contest

The good people over at the Twisted Nether Blogcast are hosting a T-Shirt design contest.  The hosts are resolved to attend blizzcon and want a nice shirt to wear showing off the website.  I decided I would throw my hat in the ring and try and cobble something together.  If anyone out there is feeling artistic its to support a good site and they are offering some nice prizes including a 60 day wow game card for first, and your choice of a common TCG loot card for second and third places.  The monstrosity below is my submission.

Blog Azeroth: A Good Guild

It’s a fairly crappy day here in Oklahoma.  It has been raining nonstop for weeks, and the ground is roughly the consistency of chocolate pudding.  The combination of overcast day, pounding rain, and my seemingly lack of solid sleep last night have put me in a mood not exactly conducive to creativity. 

Once more I am dipping into the well of ideas, known only as the Blog Azeroth shared topic.  In public channels and forums you often find someone asking for “A Good Guild”.  Copra from BA posed the question…  “what is a Good Guild from the standpoint of a player looking for guild OR from the standpoint of being in the guild?”.  Several of the regulars have now answered the call, but for some reason I guess I have saved the topic as an ace in the hole for a day much like today.

It’s the people… stupid!

It's PEOPLE!!!!  IT'S MADE FROM PEEEEEEOPLE Last night I found myself thinking those exact words as my friends slowly filtered offline to get some much needed sleep and bit by bit I found myself with little reason to be logged in at all.  It was too late to start anything new, having just pulled out of a 10 man Ulduar run.  As a couple of my best friends decided to call it for a night, I came to the stark realization that my enjoyment in the game is almost entirely tied up in the people that I play it with.  My guild is my extended family, that I have collected over the years.  So the most simple answer to “What is a Good Guild” in its most basic form is, “Good People”.

If you build it, they will come…  eventually

He Who Walks Out of the Rows! A good guild is like a snowball rolling down a hill.  While in motion it has it’s own gravity, drawing in players left and right.  However if it reaches the bottom of the hill and is allowed to stagnate it quickly melts and crumbles around you.  Just like a snowball you have to have a bit of good stuff gathered together before you can start it rolling in the first place.  Every guild needs a core to build upon, and a successful core is usually a group of close friends.  Finding the core group to build the guild around is the easy part.

The next step in guild evolution is the part that everyone seems to get wrong.  If the core stays a cohesive unit there is no room to grow.  In a game like wow you are locked to only being able to do things in fixed units of 5, 10, and 25 players.  If the core group is unwilling to be split up there is no room as new players enter the mix, and continue to feel as though they are outsiders.  Each of the core members must be willing to branch out and meet new people, as a result bringing many of them into the growing “clump”.

Some players fit well into the mix, others don’t but you have to have faith that the ones who understand the purpose will stick around and help the group grow.  The next important tenet is to make sure that you allow the guild to grow at the pace it needs to.  Every guild needs a fresh infusion of ideas from time to time, but just like in life it’s weakest point is during one of these growth spurts.  If too many new people enter the mix at once, you risk fragmenting a once close unit into a bunch of individual cliques.  It’s important to instead let the guild expand at the rate that seems natural.  There are going to be moments of rapid growth, but it is important to make sure you incorporate these new members into activities to let them gain a better foothold.

Staying in Motion

How exactly are we gonna get this snowman head onto the body? A guild that stays in motion, stays together.  It is important to develop a strong sense of community, and reinforce this each time new members join.  It is important to try and go out of your way to work new players into groups and activities, to let them carve out their own niche in the guild ecosystem.  It’s important that the members have a sense of ownership in the guild’s direction. The sense of community is reinforced by structure, and even in the most freeform of gatherings you need a strong backbone to build upon.

The Warders of the guild community are its leadership.  Building a strong group of officers is the greatest challenge a growing guild has.  You need to find officers who are willing to get their hands dirty and make positive change on the community.  At the same time you must carefully choose members who can handle the responsibility of carefully nudging the group without bending its will and purpose to their own desires.  You will often find that the best leaders are the ones who have reservation about accepting the position.  These are the members who most understand the challenges that the mantle of responsibility will present.

Building a Guild, Not a Raid

Leggo my Raido? In 2004 I took the responsibility of forming House Stalwart at the release of the World of Warcraft on the Argent Dawn server.  It was not a job I necessarily jumped into with great gusto, but I wanted to play this new game with people I enjoyed.  Based on bad experiences with tyrant guild leaders, I felt that I had to protect this fledgling community from ever letting that happen again.  I felt that I didn’t have it in myself to dominate the lives of others for my own personal gain.

With a group of close friends we sat about to gather up friends and comrades from various other games we had played throughout the years.  Drawing them all together under one banner with the purpose of providing a relaxed low drama community to be able to enjoy this new game.  We set out to build an extended family, not a raid group, and I feel that’s a key distinguishing factor.  I feel that building a successful community and building a successful raid are two separate but not exactly join goals.

A successful guild is built around a sense of community, shared destiny and joined purpose.  At its core is a center of friendship and camaraderie.  The structure and leadership reflects the goal of binding disparate players together in a cohesive union.  A good guild is a group of players that enjoy the company of each other.

A successful raid is built around a sense of achievement, shared skills and joined purpose.  At its core is a center of worth ethic and goals.  The structure and leadership reflects the goal of binding separate players together into a cohesive work unit able to execute orders for the good of the collective raid.  A good raid is a group of players with similar skill levels, competitive drive, and shared goals.

Know your purpose

I intend to use my special purpose every day! At their core the two are similar,but you can immediately tell that the cores of each are grounded in very different places.  It is important for you to know your personal focus and the focus of your guild.  I chose to build a guild and not a raid, and then in turn chose to build a raid independent of guilds.  House Stalwart has the clear focus of trying to be a good guild, in which players feel comfortable and happy to be part of the larger unit.  Duranub Raiding Company has a similarly clear focus, trying to be a good raid in which players feel like they are actively part of the success of the whole.  Each serves a very different purpose, but each exists successfully independent of the other.

I think one of the issues that shipwrecks many raid guilds is the attempt to be too many things to too many different people at once.  Guild drama is a horrible thing.  Raid drama is can be atrocious.  Raid Guild drama, however can reach near post apocalyptic levels that can from time to time shake entire server communities to its core.  Loot brings out the worst in everyone, and not having that distances between guild and raid means often that when things are not going well, there is no place someone can escape the ravages of war.

What is a good guild?

Riddle me this A Good guild most simply is a gather of good players.  Players who work together well, have common goals and common ethics.  The average player looking for “A Good Guild” in public channels, are simply looking a free ride in order to achieve whatever goals they personally have.  A true good guild, is however neither something that serves the player or that the players serve.  It is a community that experiences both the good and the bad, and somehow comes together, after it all, still working group as a group.  A “good guild” is a very rare thing in an often time self serving game like this.  When you find one, you should hold on with both hands and try not to let go.

 

I hope you are all lucky enough to find one