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

The WoWinsider effect

WoWInsidered First let me apologize for the lack of the new post on Friday.  I had been trying really hard to keep something fresh coming up every day.  However for lack of a better term I was overwhelmed.  Friday was a very busy day, I had been fighting with a bit of video at work trying to get it ripped and encoded and onto our webpage.  So from the start my blog post was going to be coming later that afternoon.

However around 2:30 that afternoon, my “keyboard turning” post was featured on WoW Insider.  My highest readership shot from 60 unique users to 6000+ unique users in a single day.  I was deluged with comments and did not get a chance to put up any new content.  Then the weekend happened and with it came a wedding, all the mothers day festivities and a night out with friends.  And while I had the cultural awakening of experiencing a “biker” wedding, it was not necessarily proper fodder for my blog.  I am hoping with the new week that things return to normal, but maybe with a bit of an increased readership.

Dirty Jobs

DirtyJobs_Video Where is Mike Rowe when you need him.  Of all of the jobs that falls upon the raid leadership, the most distasteful is pulling a member aside and talking to someone who has been underperforming.  You can look at the meters and see that something is drastically wrong… but I personally have no clue why.  Were it a warrior, rogue, paladin, or even a boomkin I would be able to look at their ability rotation and glean some basic understanding of the thought process they are going through to piece together their attacks.  However, I am presented with our present under performers being classes I have never played for any amount of time.

So I am forced to go into the battle under informed, and tackle issues that face “finger wigglers” when I have often had a disdain for actually playing a dps caster myself.  I am slowly adjusting to them myself, since I am trying my best to play as good of a Boomkin as I can.  I am trying to rely on players who seem to be doing a phenomenal job playing that class as a basis of comparison and a resource for suggestions.  However I still feel completely blind rushing into battle with someone who honestly feels like they are doing everything right.  I am hoping this gets easier with time.

In Naxxramas, we needed 15 players who were performing exceptionally, and could drag along 10 players who were under performing their classes either due to lack of gear or skill.  As we have moved into Ulduar this is not the case.  During many of the fights like Ignis we are literally 2 or so players away from a successful kill.  So I have taken it upon myself in a few cases, the uninformed habitual melee, to try and work with players and find out exactly what the issue is. 

I try and take the meters with a grain of salt, but at the same time feel that DPS should been fairly tightly clumped.  When there are outliers to the negative side, I feel those players are underperforming their abilities.  Someone has to be dead last, its a given, but when there is a wide gap between the DPS haves and have-nots, I feel there are other issues at work that can be adjusted.  We have actually managed to increase a few of these players performance through this process of talking to them…  so here is hoping that the latest crop can be effected the same.


300_Logo_Small I am still very much licking my wounds from our last trip into Ulduar.  Thursday night, our various attempts on Ignis ended up costing me around 300 gold for the night.  I am not really sure how much it was, all I know is I went in with 1600 something gold, and came out with 1300 something.  Granted many of those attempts included me getting battle-rezzed mid fight, so I took far more deaths than I would in a normal run.  But when each repair costs between 20-30g it adds up quickly.

Ulduar is giving us a much needed scrying stone that we’ve have never had before.  Considering the ease at which we moved through Naxxramas content, it was difficult to sort out the players that were doing well and the players that needed lots of work.  In truth it was more that so long as we were progressing smoothly we had more important “fish to fry” than to figure out why certain players never seemed to perform the way they should.  We should have taken time back then, but when the raid has been held up on the shoulders of two people for months…  we just did not have the bandwidth.

So now we have set in front of us a path that is going to force us to deal with the little issues standing in the way of success, and as a result force us to make significant efforts to recruit and replace those members who are not currently performing.  In the coming weeks I am sure there will be many feelings hurt, and many players who cannot see the big picture.  Players who won’t be able to separate the fact that anything I do, I do for the good of the raid, and not because of personal agenda. 

I have seen comments brought up already, that people want to play this game for fun and not like a job.  I agree this game should be fun, but fun for everyone.  Let me tell you, playing 300 gold for 2 1/2 hours worth of repairs is in no way fun, especially when it was caused by the fact that not all of the players were giving their full measure of devotion to the effort.  Wiping is not fun when there are many players fighting harder than they should to try and even out the effort.

The Hard Path

2003-08-15_Badlands_National_Park_foot_path_along_the_eroded_buttes_1 As a raid we have to accomplish in 5 hours a week what most raids do in 15.  The only way we will do this, is through the hard work of the entire raid.  This is going to take research on the part of each player in order to make sure they are doing everything they reasonably can.  Raiding is a team sport, and we can either allow ourselves to be beaten by it, or all rise to the occasion and get past our difficulties.

We’ve never been a hardcore raid, and I hope that we can continue approaching content in a casual but serious fashion.  However as a part of this, we as a raid with have to arrive at some form of a cultural ethics, and an agreed upon level of effort expected by every member.  The path ahead of us for the next few weeks I feel will not be our most enjoyable.

We are better than we have been

Keyboard Turning Is Killing Your Raid

I realize this is a very bold statement. I believe, however, it is as clearly as I can possibly state it.  The latent “keyboard turners”, are I am sure, offended, but there are times you have to be blunt.  It still seems astonishing the sheer number of players that use the inefficient method of turning with the keyboard alone.  This is an issue touted amongst the PVP circles, but in truth it is effecting your raid as well.

The act of rotating your character with the keyboard is physically slower than methods you can employ to turn with a mouse.  When you combine this with the fact that many fights in Warcraft require split second movement and decision making, this choice of turning means your reaction speed is greatly slowed.  Players who habitually move with the keyboard often have issues running out of area effect spells, staying out of the frontal cone of bosses, and can take as many as 2 extra ticks from environmental damage.  Standing in the “fire” for more than one tick means death for most classes. So quite literally keyboard turning might be killing your raid.

What caused the cultural divide?

The World of Warcraft engine was rather unique at the time of it’s release.  It combined the fast reaction time of a first person shooter, with the core of a role-playing game, creating a new paradigm appealing to proponents of both genres.  For players who cut their teeth on FPS games like Doom or Quake, the concept of using a mouse to turn is so ingrained that it is unimaginable to use any other method. 

However the large bulk of WoW players came from the older MMO genre.  These titles were for mostly designed around the concept of using the keyboard to turn.  Prior to Warcraft none of the MMO genre titles required fast paced reactionary movements, so this construct worked fine.  As players have moved from other titles to WoW, they have carried with them their game play habits and the game engine has done an amazing job of accommodating different play styles.  However in the case of keyboard turning it has simply reinforced bad habits.

How can I change my ways?

I’ve heard from the PVP circles that the single greatest thing you can do to improve your success is to abandon using the keyboard to turn.  This might be overstated but I believe that the transition is one that can benefit any player.  Using the keys to turn often means you are working harder than players for a less successful result.  There is an excellent guide to mouse movement on Allakhazams, but I will cover some of the finer points below. 



Above is a basic diagram of the default key binds WoW uses for mouse movement.  The W and S keys are used to control Forwards and Backwards movement of your character.  However soon you will have picked up several tricks that make using the “Back key” in almost all situations obsolete.  So for optimal motion your left hand should be centered over the Q W E keys, with your middle finger resting on the W key, considering which will be depressed when you are in motion.  Your mouse should be held in a way that it is comfortable for your right mouse button to be depressed at almost all times. 

Holding the right mouse button while moving the mouse allows you to spin your character easily in an arc by pushing out or pulling in on the lower half of the mouse turning it sideways on your mousing surface.  The effectiveness of this can be increased by employing the Q or E keys to “Strafe”.  Strafing is the act of moving your character to either side, and when combined with mouse movement allows you to rotate your character in a much more subtle manner.  After awhile it becomes instinctual but this is after lots of practice.

Advanced tips and tricks

Using strafing in combination with with mouse movement allows you to do a number of “special” maneuvers that can be valuable in certain situations.

The Circle Strafe

circle_strafeThe “Circle Strafe” is a maneuver that allows you to orbit a single point in space.  This is extremely useful when you need to quickly circle a mob.  Normally this is used by melee or PVPers in order to land attacks on the backside of an opponent, which negates certain defense mechanics.  However as a tank I often use this tactic in order to spin certain mobs like Maexxna that I wish to place in a certain way.  This tactic is achieved by sliding the base of your mouse in the opposite direction you are strafing giving your movement a nice wide arc.  One of the best ways to practice this is to target a player and spin around them in a public area.  If done correctly you should be able to easily “orbit” them with minimal effort.

The Instant Turn

The next trick uses two features of the game that I have not covered: camera movement and moving forward with only the mouse.  If you hold down the left mouse button while sliding your mouse to the left or right you are able to rotate the camera around your character model.  As a tank I use this functionality during almost every fight, since I need to keep aware of my surroundings and the positioning of the individual mobs.  The next feature of the movement system is the fact that if you press down both mouse buttons at the same time, it causes you to move in the direction the camera is facing.  When you combine the two of these together, you can rotate the camera in any direction and simply by pressing the right mouse button while the left is held down you turn instantly in that direction.  This is especially useful on fights like Loken and Murmur that require the player to run out of a point blank blast effect.  Using this trick to instantly run away from a mob allows you to shave a good 2 seconds off of the process and allows you to move out of these effects with plenty of time to spare.

The Jump Spin

Using this trick properly allows you to quickly shift the position of your player while continuing motion in a forward direction.  This functions through a quirk in the WoW movement engine which allows you to rotate your character model completely while jumping.  This maneuver is performed while moving in a specific direction, most often while moving forward with the W key.  While moving forward you press your jump key, which is by default bound to the spacebar.  As your character model leaves the ground you slide your mouse to the left or right while holding down the right mouse button.  This will cause your player model to spin freely while in the air.  As you land, you will be facing in the direction that your model now is.  Hunters who are extremely quick about it, can jump, rotate, fire an instant shot, rotate back, and land without ever losing forward momentum.  Personally as a tank I use this trick often to run through a mob without ever exposing my backside to harmful attacks.

Pulling it all together

Shifting from keyboard turning to mouse movement will not cure all problems.  These tricks will not replace good situational awareness, but they will buy you much needed time to react to changes in the various fights of the game.  A player who simply does not pay attention will still “die in the fire” each and every time.  However a player with good reaction times and a high degree of movement skills will be able to move in and out of fights more freely.  For casters this means more time to land your attacks.  For melee players this can often mean the difference between life or death.

You should realize going into a major shift like this that it is not going to come immediately or easily.  However changing your movement style will make you a more efficient player.  One of the best means to practice this is by playing First Person shooters in your downtime.  A great free to play shooter is Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.  It runs on the Quake3 engine but offers all of the basic constructs of game play driven by mouse movement and it is playable on both the PC and Mac platforms.  Another great resource is the positioning and movement video provided by Ciderhelm at Tankspot.

Getting That “Perm Spot”

A Primer on breaking into an existing raid

It is yet another Wednesday, and as is often the case with the morning after a raid I begin thinking about the various issues of the night before.  Last night was one of those rare concordance of the planets that served to get us an unusual drought of players.  It is something that happens in every raid, and this is the time that players who have been standing on the outskirts of the core are given a rare and special opportunity.  The opportunity to take a step up and get noticed, saving the day for the raid and as such improving their personal capital.

Too often however players prefer to wait for a “sure thing” before committing to showing up on a regular basis.  Being a raid leader I assure you, we notice the players who wait in the wings patiently for their turn at bat.  We also however notice the players who ask for special treatment, but are not there when the raid needs the additional support.  This is my attempt to put down on paper a good approach at how to carve out a niche for yourself in a well established raid.

Be Patient

Patiently Wait One of the negatives of running a raid is the fact that you need a much larger pool of available players than you have spots on any given night.  As a result when a player is brought into the pool of available players it does not mean they are necessarily filling a permanent vacancy.  Each leader and raid has a different way of managing this, but as I stated in an earlier post our system basically has newer members vying for spots that we are not able to fill through more seasoned players.  This means until a player gains a foothold, and proves their abilities against existing members they will be relegated to the role of “fill ins”.

One of the best traits you can have is being patient with the raid.  Asking for repeated updates as to whether or not there will be room for you that evening only serves to frustrate and annoy raid leadership.  If it is a raid worth joining, then you have assume that the leaders will take into account all available resources and choose the team that best suits each evening.  As a junior member of the raid, you should expect that there are going to be many nights where you will not make the cut.  However with time, openings appear and if you have a proven track record you will be able to slide into one of them more easily.

Be Ethical

Show Integrity I think it’s human nature to try and work whatever advantages you have available to you in order to achieve your own goals.  When it comes to getting into a raid this is a slipper slope.  If you truly want to become a lasting fixture in the raid structure, it is important for you to get in on your own merits.  Having another player acting as your arbitrator shows the leadership that you either lack the self confidence to stand on your own, or that you don’t respect the process.  When a player consistently tries to “pull the strings” it gets noticed quickly.

When you do finally get into a raid regularly its important for you to remember this as well.  The players who flit from officer to officer until they get the answer they were looking for are also noticed.  Players who consistently try and work the system earn a special disdain.  If you are honest and straightforward in all your dealings it gets noticed and you will develop a good reputation as a result.  It is important not to abuse your friendships, if you want them to last.

Be Available

Make yourself available It is important for you the prospective raider to be online, in the appropriate channels and ready for invites at the specified time.  Nothing frustrates a raid leader more than trying to chase down players when there is a shortage.  The players who show up every week regardless if they are “guaranteed” an invite stand out, and are the players who get into the raid.  Some raids have formal rules about being on “standby”, but even if the prospective raid does not, it is important to make every effort you can to be available.

Not being available when the invites for that night go out, is the surest way to get yourself skipped over.  It is a sign of disrespect for the member of the raid as a whole.  It is understandable that from time to time players will not be available, but when it is the rule not the exception you lower your value to the group effort.  Having a spotty attendance record before you have entered the raid fully, tends to almost guarantee that you will never be looked at as anything but a last minute fill-in. 

Be Humble

Accept Help and Critique When entering a raid, it is important that you leave your ego at the door.  Each raid has its own rules, strategies and procedures.  It does not matter how many times you have done an encounter before, when you are applying for a raid the burden lies on you to prove yourself.  Be willing to adapt to new methods and accept the way things are being done currently.  The last thing a leader wants to do is bring in someone who will upset the existing balance.

Players with an overdeveloped sense of bravado tend to have an underlying tapestry of insecurities.  The players who are humble and prove their worth through actions instead of words are the ones who stand out in the long run.  Accept advice and criticism graciously even when you feel it is unwarranted.  It is often the player who can meld the most seamlessly into a group that gets invited back the most often.  The players however who constantly subvert the natural progression of the raid, get left out.

Be Prepared

Boy Scouts had it right The number one thing you can do to impress a raid leader is to be fully prepared for all encounters.  The backbone of any raid is the player that shows up knowing the fights, geared properly, with all necessary consumables for the situation at hand.  These are the players who not only get invited back every week, but are the players who become the core of the raid.  If you integrate into the existing strategy, know your role, and execute it flawlessly it is almost guaranteed that you will get invited back often.

However if you show up to the event unprepared, unable to understand the basics of the fights at hand and do a half hearted job executing your duties there is no reason why a sane and rational leader would offer you a second chance.  There are simple cardinal rules of raiding, like don’t stand in shit unless otherwise told to, that when ignored immediately flags a player as not being “up to snuff”.  The “doing stupid stuff” quotient, already occurs amongst the active raiding population, but the surest way to pull yourself from contention for a regular invite is to be the guy that is always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  A few hours of your own time spent can often mean the difference between looking like a seasoned veteran, and looking like a complete failure

Be Reliable

Sturdy and Stable Every raid leader is looking for players that they can count on.  Everyone has their on days and off days, but it is important that each player provides consistent performance.  You need to make yourself the kind of player that the rest of the raid can depend on.  Often times this means showing up and doing each of the above topics, every chance you are presented.  You are the player applying to this raid, and no matter how you found yourself filling out that application, it is up to you to prove yourself to the entire group.

A player who gives an unreliable performance will find themselves passed over or even replaced by players who show up and give the same stable effort each week.  Accept the fact that you are the “low man on the totem pole”, and even embrace it.  Use it as a chance to prove yourself every single outing.  Excelling at the jobs that no one else in the raid wants, shows a willingness to work and adapt and before long you will find yourself one of those raid cornerstones.

Be Resilient

Roll with the punches In life, sometimes things just don’t work out quite the way you want them to.  Sometimes you do everything right and simply not get into the group.  When this happens, try not to take it personally.  Often times there are issues at work behind the scenes that you are not necessarily privy to.  If you consistently follow the theory of this post, and not starting to get invites then it may very well be time for you to move on.  Every raid has its own structure, tenants and style.  Not everyone is a fit for every environment, and when this happens be gracious and move to your next opportunity.

Following this approach will in most cases pull you from being an outsider to being a valued member in no time.  When you do finally get that coveted “Perm Spot”, realize all of the reasons that lead you to it.  It is important that you continue to strive to

  • Be Patient:     Not everything is going to go your way
  • Be Ethical:      Don’t abuse your relationship
  • Be Available:  Report on time ready to perform
  • Be Prepared:  Know your encounters and how your class fits in them
  • Be Reliable:    Deliver consistent performance
  • Be Resilient:   Be Gracious when things don’t go as expected

Be Exceptional

This is my… Boomkin!

Loamis da Boomkin! Getting up at 5:30 each morning is one of those facts of life I have come to accept.  I’ve never been known as a morning person, in fact I am barely verbal before 9 am.  However I have managed to adapt to normal society with only the occasional brutal mauling.  As a result, I have had to force myself to keep a hard cut-off time of midnight in order to retain any semblance of functionality.

Most nights this is no big deal, as generally everyone is shuffling off to their own warm beds around that time period.  Last night however, was one of those nights where I wish I could have had one more hour.  As I sit there, staring down the barrel of 12:01, I am standing in Storm Peaks only 4% away from level 80.  Pulling the plug was something I had to do, but god it was annoying to not be able to just push through and finish the level off that night.

Tree Huggers Unite

You can love the tree... just dont LOOOOVE the tree. I can’t really say what made me start leveling my druid, but over the last few months it has become my growing obsession.  There is a pattern in my alting habits.  When I reach a point where I can no longer progress my main, I start spending more and more time playing other characters.  After essentially maxing out my Warrior, and Paladin both of which have full epic main and off-spec sets, my attention rolled to another character.

I think my grand intention was to run my druid up to be a healer.  Considering at the time Druid healing seemed so ridiculously overpowered as a whole.  However this naive ideal was quickly destroyed by the fact that leveling Resto is as enjoyable as being repeatedly kicked in “the junk” rapid-fire, by a hyperactive 6 year old on a sugar rush.  That was the king of all run-on sentences, but it was required to relay exactly how horrid that notion was.  Having geared for spellpower already, and finding myself feeling retarded in cat and bear forms, the only option left was that of the noble chicken-man.

Decent into Madness

PUGs are not bads! So over the last few months I have been grinding away at leveling my Boomkin with the grand notion of having 3 raid lockouts.  Throughout the week I get a truly silly number of raid invites from friends and former raid members, all of which I want to be able to help out as much as I can.  However most of the time I am cautiously guarding my raid lockouts to help with official and un-official Duranub content.  Having a “throw away” raid lockout like I did in Burning Crusade with my rogue Renjihara was awesome.  I could help out the “friends of stalwart” groups who just needed a warm body that was not going to screw things up.

The problem with this proposal is that I detest questing with a passion.  However in wow, “quest grinding” is still the most efficient means of leveling.  So with my trusty Carbonite in hand, I set out to start burning through quests as fast as possible.  This for the most part works, but I am a dungeon runner, it’s in my blood.  I leveled Belghast through the outland almost exclusively by tanking instances, so I feel completely out of my element when not in the murky bowels of a dungeon.  This however presents a problem.

I am known for NOT pugging.  Being a fairly well respected tank with a good network of friends on the server, I have never really HAD to.  I can pretty reliably pull together a group of “known good” players from guild, raid, friends, and any of the numerous social channels.  Prior to playing up my druid, I have honestly NEVER used the Looking For Group tool.  After hearing horror stories from members of my guild, I avoided PUGs like the plague.  I figured why subject myself to the frustration when I didn’t actually HAVE to do it.

This issue with the concept was the fact that I chose to level my druid, during a period of “alt drought”.  So without a good pool of sub-80 players I was forced to do the unthinkable.  I hit “I”, chose a few dungeons and then went about my merry way.  Around 45 minutes later the first of many group invites came in, and I was running Utgarde Keep with the unwashed masses.  The shocking thing…  it was NOT a bad group.  We had a few issues with the fact that we were all under geared, but across the board the players were not the “horribad” troglodytes that our mothers warned us about.

Changing Instances, Gear…   Attitudes

How I Can Has Tree?!?So as I sit at almost level 80, I have run more than my share of PUGs as a boomkin.  And while I have encountered a few horrible players, for the most part they all seem to be seasoned players being forced to level their alternates via pick up grouping.  I would have to say the state of pugs at least in the sub-80 range is pretty good on Argent Dawn, and 4 out of 5 groups I have been in have been a rousing success. 

Granted, when I ding 80 and can start DPSing Heroics I will probably fall back into my anti-PUG habits, but for the time being I no longer fear the reaper.  Along the way I have even managed to add a few names to my friends list, and our guild gained a good Quebecois Warrior/Priest team.  When it comes time to level my next character, I don’t think I will shy away from the LFG tool quite as much as I have in the past.  I should be able to finish off 80 before the raid tonight, and over the next few days I will start frantically gearing Loamis

Now I just have to learn how to Tree…

Double Teamed: Childrens Week PVP

brat If you read my Noblegarden post, you well know the fact that I do not much enjoy holidays in the World of Warcraft, however being the loot-whore I am…  I feel compelled to do them in order to get the Violet Proto-Drake.  So when a holiday event comes up that involves a PVP component, the Argent Dawn server as a whole shudders.  While Argent Dawn has a few notable pvp organizers (tower), we are without a doubt the biggest blue stain on the Ruin battlegroup. 

During BC our players PVP’d for one reason and one reason alone…  welfare epics.  I freely admit to doing this myself in order to get my healadin a solid healing mace.  However when it comes to successful PVP, as a whole our server does every single thing that makes non-pvpers annoying.  Knowing this, we started over the last week trying to plot out best to help each other get our PVP achievements out of the way. 

We tackled things as a guild, trying to get 4-5 players in each battleground helping run cover for whoever was getting the achievements.  This for the most part was successful… however Blizzard single handedly brought every battleground to its knees this weekend, making play almost impossible for the cacophony of frustrated players actually trying to enjoy this aspect of the game.

It’s a hard-knock life

annie_jr_011 The villain of the weekend was the meta achievement, School of Hard Knocks.  While I do not oppose the notion of having PVP components to world events, I do however oppose the fact that often times Blizzard doesn’t take into account the effects of a wide reaching achievement like this will have on normal game play.  In each case the achievement led to bad habits in the battlegrounds making it hard for the game to actually progress.  I’m going to take a few minutes to go over each battleground achievement and how it leads to bad game play habits.

Capture the Flag in Eye of the Storm

ss1 As the subheading states the achievement in EoTS was to capture a flag and run it back to one of the bases your team held.  There are two major issues with this achievement.  For starters it was in fact EoTS weekend, meaning all the actual honor farmers were out and active.  The second issue is the fact that as soon as the game started every single player vying for the flag ran to the middle trying to capture it.

This behavior allowed the honor farmers to easily run around and capture at least 3 of the 4 objectives making it nearly impossible to run that precious flag anywhere capable of capturing it.  We were finally able to offset this however by running a group of us to one of the objectives in order to hold it, while a chosen member of the guild waited to pick the flag up and run it safely to us. 

I personally however did not get my achievement until Saturday morning.  The early morning crew tends to be populated with Aussies, who in general are more PVP oriented on Argent Dawn and as a result were actually playing to win.  Being a protection warrior, I was actually a good choice for running the flag and was allowed to do so rather easily.  However if you are trying to do this one during primetime, bring a group of 5 players.  Have 3 hold the objective, and one guard the player currently running the flag.  With any luck the rest of the BG will catch on and help in the process.

Assault a Flag in Arathi Basin

3358 Of the meta-achievements this is probably the easiest, and the only one that actually somewhat reinforces successful strategy.  Traditionally in Arathi Basin you have a roving squad of players alliance side that rolls from flag to flag never guarding anything.  This is for some reason the default mode that Alliance exist in, the zerg.

While there were still plenty of players zerging flags, the majority of players did fruitful things like guarding heavy horde targets like Farm and Blacksmith.  These objectives naturally have high turnovers, so within a few minutes we were able to get the meta on our entire party.  Unlike most players when we got the meta, we tended to start “playing to win” which helped out the battleground as a whole.

So my suggestions here for alliance players is once more to bring a group in with you.  Stick to attacking high turnover targets like Farm and Blacksmith, or as a Horde player go after Lumber mill and Stables.  Designate one player to cap at each time, and the rest of the party go on defense while the player caps.

Assault a tower in Alterac Valley

2597 For me this was another simple one to get, but it proved hard for some of our guild mates without a firm knowledge of the Alterac Valley map.  In the old world, this was THE battleground to play if you were alliance.  It was the only one we traditionally won, and as a result almost all of my raid buddies… myself included spent our time in game waiting in its queue.  As a result I know how to rush the relief hut with the best of them.

I spent a good deal of the weekend suffering from disconnects every 30 minutes (which lead to a fun time in ulduar), this however for AV was a good thing.  On one of my disconnects I ended up logging back in near Galv, with that tower untaken and no one guarding it.  I simply jaunted to the top and got my achievement in moments.  For the bulk of our guild this was not the case.

The AV game became a zerg rush to the nearest towers attempting to capture them.  For our two rogues participating this was childsplay.  Simply keep up with the pack on mounts and then when hitting the tower sprinting up to get the flag cap.  For our priest this was more than a bit difficult.  She finally got the achievement I believe by forcing her way to frost wolf and going after one of the towers there.  The first two towers were always contested all weekend long. 

As a side note, this is the first time I have ever heard players curse you for attacking and taking down Drek quickly.  Sadly this one is all about connection speed, reflexes, and luck.  I wish I could say that going in as a team would serve any kind of boon to players, but in truth it comes down to either lucking out and retaking a horde defended tower like I did, or being quick on the draw and simply beating the unwashed masses to the top.

Return a fallen flag in Warsong Gulch

3277 WSG, oh how I hate thee.  This battleground has without fail been my least favorite since inception.  With the achievement in play, it got worse.  The end result is that all 10 players hang out near the flag in the rare hopes of a horde trying to take it.  For the poor horde attempting, it means near certain death.  Of all of the battlegrounds WSG became the LEAST playable this weekend.  Getting the achievement became a brutal game of the “quickest fingers win” loot system.

Now comes the time for glaring stereotypes children.  In the ruin battleground, as a whole the Horde are FAR more pvp oriented than the alliance.  As such if you start capturing flags you will drag out an all out assault on the alliance base, it becomes a pride issue.  From what I could see, the best strategy here was a good frontal offense.  Build a good flag capture team and start running it.  After a capture or two you will have beat the horde players into a frothing mess, causing them to blindly strike at your flag to “catch up”.

When the “waaagh” takes hold, simply return to defense and pray your nimble fingers and beat the other players to the flag.  For the horde, I pray for you.  The alliance seem all to happy to stay inside our comfy base and camp the podium.  Getting the alliance to even attempt taking your flag has to be a feat in itself.  Whereas EoTS was the alliance bottleneck, I am sure WSG becomes the Horde Bottleneck in this event.

“School”s Out Forever!

INV_Misc_Toy_01 After a night of frustration I am done with yet another world event… forever.  It was however entertaining to hear, someone who is without a doubt our most calm and collected member turn into a frothing f-bomb dropping mess within the course of an evening of PVP.  In truth this title came far easier than i expected.  I am not sure if it was the fact that we organized ahead of time to knock out what we all believed to be the bottleneck or the fact that other than the PVP requirement the rest of them simply took a little time (or money for the food).

I loathed Noblegarden with a deep dark passion, but all in all Childrens Week was like a flu shot.  Slightly painful, but over quickly and easily forgotten.  I do think however when blizzard approaches PVP objectives, they need to seriously consider what type of impact their achievements have on players who simply want to get into a battleground and PVP for real.  The meta-achievements themselves lead players to play in a fashion that was not entire conducive to winning.  That tells me, that the meta-achievements themselves were poorly designed.

Suggestions for next year

If the blizzard designers took a few simple tweaks I feel it would make the achievements more successful.  I am leaving Arathi Basin out of it, since that one already works well for the way the battleground is played.

  • Capture and Objective or Flag in Eye of the Storm

This tweak allows players to actually take and hold objectives to get the achievement OR run the flag.  I feel this has two benefits.  Firstly it does not adversely effect gameplay, as it reinforces both taking and holding bases and capturing the flags.  Secondly it means that players who are not in the BG to win can completely their objective quickly and leave the game up to the players who actually care.

  • Assault or Defend an Objective in Alterac Valley

Opening this up to multiple objectives means that players can continue to play the map like they normally would allowing objects like graveyards, relief hut, and towers to count for the objective instead of just the towers means fewer players would zerg certain areas of the map.  Life goes on like normal for people actually trying to win the map.  You would still end up with contention over certain targets, but it would however give players a reason to actually stay on the defense trying to slow the opposing side’s progression.

  • Capture or Return a Flag in Warsong Gulch

This tweak allows players to ACTUALLY play the game and still get the achievement.  You would get equal credit for a good offense as a good defense.  This keeps in the theme that the meta-achievement should not cripple a battleground.

A few tweaks like this, and this holiday event will no longer be the painful pox on your small but dedicated PVP community.

Harpoons and Slagpots

razorscale_down Last night Duranub had our second outing in Ulduar.  It was one of those nights with tons of things going wrong out of the officers control.  Pulling together the raid was a bit less than easy, with more than a few of our solid core members having to be gone for various valid reasons.  Next we received command performances from a few of our most heinous serial AFKers with zero options to simply replace them and be done with it.  In addition to all of this, my connection was completely unstable causing  me, the main tank, to disconnect in the middle of a couple of solid razorscale attempts. 

All of these issues aside we managed to still come in, tighten up the razorscale strategy and pull out our first kill in spite of having two tanks DC in the middle of it.  It turned out to be a very frustrating night in general but all of that aside we performed very well on the content we managed to attempt.


Shoulders of MisfortuneBracers of the BroodmotherRemorse

After downing razor we moved in to Ignis putting in several attempts.  Towards the end of the night we seemed to be getting the rhythm of the fight down.  Sadly we ran out of time, but I believe that Tuesday we can tighten things up and with any bit of luck pull out our third boss kill.  I am still impressed with the difficulty, it seems to be the perfect balance.  I realize we have only been a few bosses into Ulduar, but I am greatly saddened by the news today that they appear to be nerfing by as much as half the damage taken from various effects within the zone.

nerf logo I understand tuning encounters when they fall into the category of being “cheap”.  Meaning there are overpowering attacks that cannot be predicted or mitigated in any reasonable fashion other than praying for good luck.  However so far every fight I have seen in Ulduar appears to simply be a matter of learning the pattern of the fight, knowing how to adjust to each change, and then executing well. 

Dumbing down content due to player whining always disturbs me a bit.  Maybe they are looking at the numbers and seeing larger majorities of raids wiping over and over to content, but to me Ulduar seems tuned JUST fine.  What I do see however is players who have been lulled into a sense of complacency by the “lol-easy-mode” content that was Naxxramas.  Several raid groups I am friends with, each have a faction of players who just want to return to farming Naxx because Ulduar is ‘”too hard”. 

The best things in life, are the things that are earned.

Rainy days and err… Thursdays?

1FAIL I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it is a dreary and sullen Thursday or that I am under the gun to finish up a website replication component for a project here at work, but I have zero “oomph” create a passable blog today.  I promised myself that I would try and post at least something everyday so what you are getting now is the result.  For those of you not old enough to get the title…  [click here carefully]

I am continuing my descent into the wow blogosphere.  Been connecting a bit with some of the other authors and spending a good deal of time between tasks reading various topics.  I figure it might be at least an informative topic to share some of the things I found interesting.

You down with CPP?

VB002206.tif Stabs over at Death Knight Spree presents us with the concept known as the Consumer-Producer Paradigm as applied to MMO games like WoW.  The 500 ft view is that essentially everyone breaks down into the role of consumer or producer in this game, and various classes tend to split along certain lines.  Stabs has a short questionnaire to help you determine which role you play.  On the quiz I scored 6 to 3 that I was a producer, which based on the theory is pretty obvious considering I’m a guild and raid leader.

I think it’s a nice clean elegant theory, but in real application it breaks down a bit.  I don’t feel that anyone really can be defined in such simple terms.  I tend to think of players breaking into 4 basic groups, and I plan on elaborating on this at a later date, but the quick summary is like this.

  • Proactive:  These players make up your leaders, they are the self starters who are either by choice or by lack of other options organizing and helping others.  Proactive represent the small group of players that make things happen and get the job done by giving the other players something to rally around.
  • Active:  These are the players that are always willing to help out and respond openly in chat when someone requests something.  They rarely organize a group but are the first to align themselves with an initiative when one is formed.  These are the supporting staff that no guild could survive without.
  • Reactive:  These are the players who want to participate but for some reason do not understand how to.  Either by shyness or unfamiliarity with others, they tend to only respond when contacted directly and asked point blank questions.  These players tend to be live on the fringe of activities, often times less than reliable, and often times bad with communicating their needs.  However with “handholding” they can become very valuable members of a team.
  • Inactive:  The Solo-artist.  These are the players that exist on the outsides of the group.  They play an MMO like a single player game, concerned with their own needs and only interacting with the community when they directly need something from another person.  Often times these players enter a guild on the coat tails of another member, but do not feel like they are a true part of the guild.

Nonetheless both approaches are food for thought.  There are several other bloggers discussing this concept but one of the better breakdowns comes from Larisa at The Pink Pigtail Inn.  I hope to revisit this whole concept in a proper post but for now I would just suggest you spend some time reading the posts.

Does the MMO Market ignore the female audience?

UltimateGamesForGirls There are several blogs out there to this effect, but one of the best posts I have read lately is from Spinks over on Spinksville entitled “Is it time to stop making MMOs for a hardcore male audience?”.  I am not sure what the magic bullet is, but considering there are more female gamers playing WoW than any previous MMO I have played it appears the blizzard has hit on a formula that is at least working.  Sure there are controversies, like bikini plate mail, and the playboy bunny quest.  Personally I find the image on the left for “Ultimate Games for Girls” more condescending but I was informed by a friend of mine that those are in fact games little girls like.  Both articles however are good reads and I suggest doing so.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Premium_Media I’ve been using the Curse Gaming updater for awhile now without any issue.  In fact I’ve gotten rather addicted to it.  Somehow I managed to get in on the beta test period for the premium features, so I have had access to all the nifty things like auto updating of add-ons for the entire time I have been running it.  Last night however, they shut off the morphine drip… and in a moment of weakness I subscribed for a year to their premium service.  I will let you guys know if they are in fact the devil.

I’m not entirely how, but I have managed to create a blog post… about nothing.  I promise real, semi-intelligent content soon!

Ulduar: Welcome to Raid Content

flameleviathan_down Last night was the much anticipated first Ulduar raid for Duranub Raiding Company.  Most other groups have been banging against the zone for two weeks, but we tend to take a more measured approach at things.  Our timetable was in part to account for the fact that playing on Argent Dawn after a major patch means you will be dealing with raid crippling lag and instance instability, which is especially true for a raid that starts late in the evening like we do.  The other component was to have a week to say goodbye to the tier 7.5 content and let everyone have one last shot at those items they never could get before.

Maybe this was a bad idea as last week ushered in some of the absolute worst performances our team has exhibited.  However I did end up with far fewer abyss crystals than previous weeks, and we had a good number of points exchanging hands as loot gear awarded.  Personally I was able to pick up a few items that had eluded me up to this point: Sabatons of Endurance and Rune of Repulsion.  Both items I believe well help with my personal survivability moving forward, which is pretty great being the main tank and all.

The Confused Start

After explaining the fight, sorting out vehicle assignments… and re-explaining the fight we started roughly 40 minutes behind schedule.  For some raids this wouldn’t be a huge ordeal, but for Duranub when you are talking about a pool of only 2 1/2 hours, 40 minutes lost means quite a lot.  We start clearing trash and folks start to get their feel for each of the vehicles.  It goes for the most part pretty smoothly, until we got to the courtyard for the Leviathan fight.

Before I can get the warning of not to pull the last two constructs we have already done it.  I start giving frantic instructions over ventrilo, and telling players to move up to the first “brown line” on the floor.  As predicted a few players were not paying attention and got locked out.  We fail miserably on this attempt across the board.  Nothing was done correctly, however this was to be expected. Leviathan is not one of those fights that you can really explain, you have to experience it.

Adding insult to injury, one of the locked out players draws aggro and Leviathan twitches through the gate.  This in turn resets the encounter, which would have been awesome had everyone moved out of range.  However we fail at this as well and he simply resets only to aggro again.  I call the wipe and we start running back, trying to tweak and fine tune things over officer chat and open ventrilo as we go.

Gears sliding into place

The next try things start to happen.  The cycles lay down a good kiting circle of tar and keep it up.  The siege engines and demolishers are better about kiting onto the tar.  The catapult team still for the most part fails, but we at least get a few players up top and get one overcharge phase.  The end result has us getting him down to 25%. I know that if we tighten up a few more things, we have this fight.

Some last minute tweaks go out over ventrilo and we try again.  For the first time we get the entire catapult team up top, and get an overcharge early into the fight.  The kiting is much better as a whole, and the motorcycles start doing a decent job of picking up players as they get knocked off.  The interrupts on flame jets are also happening pretty reliably.  Players are starting to communicate freely on ventrilo, calling out timers and aggro shifts.  All the gears engage and the fight just clicks.  While there was the frantic burndown that always seems to occur on a first kill.   We managed to pull across the finish line without much issue.


Iron Riveted War HelmMimiron’s Inferno CouplingsSteamworker’s Goggles

I am very proud of the team.  In all honestly, I was more than a bit on edge about last night. Our performances the week before had been extremely bad, however we all rose to the occasion and pulled out some excellent performances on progression content. 

We moved on to Razorscale and came close to the transition on one of our attempts.  That fight is going to take a good deal of organizing and fine tuning. However I was pretty pumped that we did not get completely blown out of the water, as I have heard so many raids do.  Without a doubt I feel we are truly ready to start making a dent in Ulduar.  Thursday we should tweak our strategy, get some solid attempts in, and with any luck a Razorscale death.

Raid Content:  I missed you

It feels so much that Ulduar is what Naxxramas should have been.  This is real actual raid content, and for the first time since the release of Wrath I felt actually challenged.  Naxxramas had a good number of stupidity checks, but if your players paid attention it was not unlikely that you could clear almost the entire thing on your first time in.  It was very much the Upper Blackrock Spire of Northrend.

Ulduar however in every aspect of the word feels epic.  God how I have missed this style of content.  I freely admit that it will take us months to clear the zone, and that fact excites me.  Each boss will be hard fought, and as a result will love every minute of it.  Sure, it is going to force our raid to step it’s game up.  Simply proving that we have a cerebellum will not cut it anymore.  But in the end, we will be a far better group for it.

Ulduar is the infusion that I needed to keep this game fresh and enjoyable.  Sure, I will be paying a hefty repair bill at the end of every night, but at least it will feel like I earned it.  In Naxxramas as the main tank, the only time I frequently died was when someone else screwed up (thaddius I hate you).  We never wiped because the fight was tough, or we did not understand the mechanics…  we wiped because someone was stupid.


Thanks Blizzard for bringing back raiding.

Blog Azeroth: How would you distribute the Legendary?

This is my first attempt at a “Shared Topic”.  I apologize to the good readers of Blog Azeroth as I did not really understand this concept at first.  But now that I at least think I do, I am attempting to “write” the wrong as it were.  The topic question was posted on the BA forums and for those who like me were not familiar with the concept of a shared topic, the idea is essentially to have multiple authors write about the same topic.  Feeling rather daring, here goes nothing.

Fragments of Sanity

inv_ingot_titansteel_red Honestly the issue of deciding who is going to get the Fragment of Val’anyr is something that somewhat “snuck up” on us and is fixing to “bite us in the butt”.  We stand on the precipice of our first Ulduar raid tonight, and the issue is still very much under discussion.  I feel confident that the officers will hash out something throughout the day and make our professional-esc decision before we start the invites tonight.

The whole issue of who gets the Fragments honestly gives me a massive feeling of Déjà Vu, as should it any group that’s been around long enough to have raided the original Naxxramas.  If you remember back into the annals of time we have dealt with this same issue regarding the Splinter of Atiesh used to create the previous omg-caster-legendary Atiesh.

The deciding of the loot process for it was somewhat of a debacle, but not because of the design.  The low drop rate combined with the general horrible luck that our raid had (never saw a single binding of the windseeker in 2 years of raiding MC) meant that nobody even got vaguely close to the “staff of awesomeness”.  What we were left with were a few scattered splinters and everyone with a nice hollow feeling.

The Shattered Plan

inv_ingot_titansteel_red As we now sit on the verge of our first foray into Ulduar I see that we are starting to arrive at a similar play for distribution.  The Elders have all agreed that this item is far too precious to allow it to go to something and fickle as random chance.  We use a Zero Sum dkp system with a 5 week vesting period, so in theory it would be conceivable for one of our less seasoned and dedicated players could wind up winning a pure bid war as well.  In addition, the last thing we want to do is reward a player who has been hording points and in essence hurting the performance of the raid by not taking upgrades.  Simply dictating which player is going to receive the item also seems heavy-handed and unfair.

We are far from a hardcore raid.  We only exist by the cohesion of the players, and in making this key decision we have to be conscious of this.  So right now the “best” avenue appears to be an open vote.  Our raid is organized into function teams;  The tank team, the healer team, the caster team, and the melee team.  Thanks to the dual specs, these lines are a little bit more blurry than they used to be but in general we still organize along those lines.  What appears to be the fairest method is to put choosing the first candidate for Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings up to a vote of the active primary healers.

The Theory

inv_mace_99 So as it stands right now, it is looking like a vote will be made by the active healers in the raid.  Who better to choose a worthy holder of the legendary weapon than those in the healing trenches?  To keep things fair and unbiased, the vote will be held in private tells to a non-healer officer and tabulated at the start of our raid tonight.  This player will become our first candidate for the epic.

Now the big point of debate is who much this “right” is going to cost the member, and how we are going to deal with points.  Since Zero Sum dkp works best when there is a steady trickle of points, as it stands right not we are looking at a fixed point per Fragment, and then a kicker cost a the end when the weapon is created.  This should serve two main purposes for the overall health of the raid.  The first is that the point drain will cause points to keep flowing into the system for the players who attend each raid where a fragment drops.  Secondly this places the chosen healer in a position where they are less likely to be able to contend with the other healers for “first drops”, making it at least fairer to all in the system.  If for some reason the chosen player cannot attend a raid on which a fragment drops, the spot of “second legendary” will be put up to an open bid.

Is this going to work?  Is this going to be fair to all players involved?  Is this even going to be the solution we wind up doing tonight?  In all honesty I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but for now it appears like for the good of our raid, this is the best possible solution.  Only time is going to tell whether or not this scheme is going to work better with Val’anyr than it did with Atiesh.  At least in this scenario we are dealing with a smaller pool of potential players, which in my mind can only help the process.