The Sky Isn’t Falling

So Tuesday I posted what seemed to be a rather grim pronouncement that the Cataclysm raiding changes were going to signal the death of casual 25 man raiding as we know it.  On the day the announcements came it, it most certainly felt that way.  So like always I blog what I am feeling, and I felt fear and dread.  So after some time, and much talking amongst friends and confidants.  I have come to the conclusion that the sky really isn’t falling…  it is just changing colors.

Everything Will Change

This is just one more in a long line of game changing events that Blizzard has sprung upon us, and it honestly will change the way everything happens in game for the hardcore and casual alike.  However I am trying my best to adopt a "wait and see" attitude.  There have been so many times in the past that a blizzard pre-beta pronouncement never actually makes it into the final draft.  Do I think this is one of those cases?  Honestly probably not, this seems like a fundamental shift in design that could be happening for one of many reasons. 

My honest believe if that blizzard is trying to condense the raid experience and make it simpler to design and manage.  Right now we have so many raiding options, and as a whole the raiding content is more open to the masses than it ever has been at any point in the past.  However there are so many variants of raiding, and Blizzard has been attempting to make the game viable for all of them.  It has to be hard to balance encounters so they are challenging but doable in a 10 man strict guild, but at the same time offering a bit of challenge to players who are fully 25 man geared.  I think they have been disheartened by seeing all their un-gated content steamrolled in a matter of weeks.

When the designers asked themselves how these players are able to burn through content so fast, it is pretty obvious that they came to the conclusion that it was due to being able to run both 10 and 25 man raids.  You can see the evidence of this decision in the outrageous jump in price between t9 and t10 badge items.  The base prices for tier 9 were 30 badges for shoulders/gauntlets and 50 badges for helm/chest/legs.  We have an extreme jump when you go to frost badge loot to 60 and 95 badges respectively, when there are fewer zones actively dropping frost badges.  The designers obviously were expecting all serious players to be clearing both 10 and 25 man in order to get badges to purchase their gear.

Is it really a problem?

I pose the question… is it really a problem that players who are able to run both 10 and 25 man raids will accumulate gear faster?  I personally have never had a problem with the fact that more time spent in game equates to more rewards.  I am not jealous of the players who have racked up a full suit of heroic mode gear, nor am I jealous of the players who geared out their t10 before me.  Not everyone in this game can be equal, and since I am not on the hardcore track I am obviously going to be a little less equal than others.  Is it really worth the impending schism in order to fix a perceived problem?

I know it has to suck as a developer to spend 6 months of your life working on what you believe to be the ultimate dungeon, only to have to decimated by the most serious players within the first week.  But that is life, people are going to do things you didn’t expect, use tactics you never thought of, and literally throw themselves at the content over and over until it falls down.  I feel their heart is in the right place, in trying to make the entry level of content less confusing to players and make it so they don’t have to "mudflate" the prices of gear so badly as the expansion goes on.  However I honestly feel the current model creates far more opportunity for the casual players, than the proposed model would.

How things are now, it is relatively easy for a newer player to work their way into one of the many successful 10 and 25 man casual raids that form every week on my server.  If you show up at the right time, show the right amount of effort, and listen to the right things…  you can get a regular invite back.  All raid leaders are constantly looking for fillers, especially during the spring doldrums that we are going through.  Leaders often times use their 10 man as a more controlled environment to check a player out before unleashing them onto the bigger raid as a whole.  These changes will blow all of this away and resign 10s to "alt" raids, where they currently rely heavily on seasoned veterans to push through the content at a decent pace.

Positive Changes

While I am still not happy about the changes and the implications they are having, it has had at least one positive effect.  I have come to the decision that the future is far from certain right now.  With the changes to the raid structure and the impending guild rewards system looming on the horizon.  These things might very well spell the doom of casual raid alliances like Duranub.  This got me to thinking, much like when someone gets a dread disease.  If tonight were going to be the last raid we had together, how would I want it to be?

I’ve come to the conclusion that  regardless of our future, I want to make sure we make the most of the tail end of wrath.  By this I don’t mean burn through all the content, I mean really enjoy the most of our time together.  I have been trying to really relax and enjoy the raiding experience, and hopefully my changed attitude will trickle down to the raid members.  The last thing I want to do is go out stressed, agitated and frustrated at what we aren’t doing.  I want to be able to enjoy the time at hand and relish all the things we already have.

I know this is a bit of a 360 from the attitude I had on Tuesday, but sometimes life does that.  It takes the realization that our time might be numbered to really be able to enjoy the time we do have.  So I challenge each of you, to really savor the friendships you have with your raid friends.  Cataclysm will be another bombshell like Burning Crusade, and we have no way of knowing right now how it may change each of us. 

So lets all enjoy what we have today.

Death of the Casual Raid

I ate lunch yesterday with a long time friend, one of the founders of House Stalwart, who has recently come back to the game.  I had originally crafted a long post in my head about the frustrations I have with the current state of 5 mans in general.  However when I checked the wow news feeds after lunch a much bigger topic had spawned.  My frustrations with the fact that 5 mans have been dumbed down to the point where a players performance can just be phoned in, was replaced by a brand new frustration. 

It was announced that in Cataclysm, 10 and 25 man raid loot would be equal.  This in itself is pretty great, gone will be the days of feeling behind the curve by raiding only the 10 man content.  The spiteful part however is the fact that 10 and 25 man raids would now share a lockout.  No longer will players be able to run 10s with one set of friends, and 25s with their normal raid group.

Guildpocalypse II: Poc Harder?

I had put out of my mind all the havoc and mayhem that was invoked by the first guildpocalypse, but now it is all rushing back in vivid technicolor.  Prior to the release of Burning Crusade it was leaked that the defacto raid size would be switching from the classic raiding 40 man construct, to a brand new 25 man size.  This unleashed a series of revisions that forever changed the guild landscape for Argent Dawn, the server I play on.  Guild after guild simply imploded as they attempted to pare down from the 50+ raiders it took to be able to maintain a working 40 man raid, to the 30+ raiders required to keep the new 25 man raid going.

The few groups that managed to weather the change, came out forever modified.  They were hardened and bitter for the hassle, and much more serious.  I watched personally as my raid group fell apart at the seams, causing our fearless leader to give up and transfer off the server.  The remainder of people left in the balance split into two communities.  The more hardcore raiders joined with the remnants of another raid, that suffered a similar death, and are now a successful 25 man raid on our server.  The more social/casual players for the most part got picked up by my guild House Stalwart.  The death of a raid is always a trying thing on all parties connected, and some players didn’t adjust well to the new roles. All in all, a good number of us stayed in contact and continued raiding together when Duranub was formed.

Same As It Ever Was

Having lived through the frustration and growing pains involved with a major raiding paradigm shift, I cringe at the thought of the impending storm on the horizon.  The key problem I see is that more than likely this is the death knell for casual 25 man raiding.  Attempting to keep a 25 man raid going every week is a constant battle.  A casual raid, more than any other is made up of players of vastly differing play styles and skill levels.  As a leader, you are always attempting to juggle the needs of your hardcore raiders, that are in truth the primary reason why you can down new content, with your more casual players who want to be able to show up and raid without much external work.  It is this constant tug of war that leads to endless torment and frustration for the officers. 

We suffer through, and try our best to make enough people happy to keep them showing up on a weekly basis.  The reason why we struggle, is because a casual raid like Duranub is based on longterm friendship, more than the progression.  The current raid construct allows for the more hardcore raiders to continue to do serious, focused progression at the 10 man level, while still rolling up into the larger 25 man raid.  It allows for both needs to be met, while not having to abandon your friends that you have struggled to be able to raid with.  As it stands now, I will have to choose between my 10 man raid, that is the high point of my week, and the 25 man raid that I have sacrificed my sanity to try and keep going.

The Great Sorting

Currently it is difficult to find the right kind of players for a casual raid.  Players who are socially motivated, and willing to accept the fact that we are going to progress slower than more serious raids, have always been a special breed.  Without benefit of at least getting better loot, I am not really sure if there are enough benefits to keep players struggling together.  I have to admit, it is a massive temptation to just say screw it, and leave 25 man raiding altogether.  It is far easier to balance a 10 player raid, and easier to find players who are willing to commit to showing up 99% of the time.  When someone can’t make it, it is easier to fill in that one slot for a 10 man, and if you have 9 seasoned players already the requirements are far more lax. 

So as I see it, casual 25 man raiding and 25 man raid alliances in general are going to die in the process.  It simply won’t be worth the struggle involved to try and keep them going.  Spinks mentioned in her blog post, that the temptation for the more hardcore members of your raid, to simply break off into a more stable 10 man will be far too great.  I helped to found our raid, and have been to many the figurehead… and I myself am struggling to find a reason why players SHOULD continue 25 man raiding.  Duranub makes up 3 different 10 man raids currently, and I believe given push to shove each of prefers the 10 man dynamic to the larger 25 man.  Out of those 30 players… how many are going to be willing to make the personal sacrifice, and give up the format they love for the good of the many?

The Personal Cost

When our raid formed, I made a personal sacrifice to make it happen.  Several of us had been raiding Tier 6 content, and out of the ashes of that raid, Duranub was founded.  However during the interim I myself was recruited by several different guilds on our server, all of which would have meant being able to continue progressing through Tier 6 content.  I made the choice to follow my friends, and signed onto to help lead the raid.  I have to admit however, that as we struggled to teach tier 4 and tier 5 content to a new group of players, more than a little bitterness set in. 

I knew that had I chosen the other path, I would be seeing new things, rather than wiping endlessly to content I was long bored running.  The sacrifice I made effected my attitude, and mental state for the rest of burning crusade and soured our victories.  I was unable to see the fact that we progressed through the content far faster than we had before.  I was unable to realize how fast the skill-sets of the various players were improving.  I felt like a child left out in the cold, looking through the window at the warm and dry table that was the path abandoned.

So now as raiders, we will be forced to abandon the fun we used to have in our 10 mans, for the good of the raid as a whole.  Knowing full well how stressful that decision was on me during burning crusade, I find it hard to willfully ask anyone to share the same personal toll.  So as I look forward, I am not sure what is the future of Duranub, and other casual raids like ours.  I think Blizzard has their hearts in the right place, but once again did not quite think through the ramifications this decision has on anyone who does not fit neatly into the "serious raid guild" mold.  This, coupled with the guild rewards changes, I fear signal the death of raid alliances that allow players to remain in their small family guilds.

It’s the End of an Era

The Danger of Down

Last night we went to Icecrown on our normal Thursday night raid, and as seems my tradition, here comes my “morning after” thread.  We are not nearly as far along in the instance as I might have hoped at this point, but we continue to make constant forward motion.  Problem is apparently I have been coming off as far more negative and downtrodden than I meant to be.  Much like a parent, I have been focusing on the things that have been going wrong, and trying to figure out ways to overcome those obstacles.

However to the raid apparently I have been sounding like XT and his refrain of no No NO NO NO!   One of my good friends in the raid told me that across the board we as officers have been very negative lately.  In our serious focus on attempting to tweak and fix all that was wrong, we were not taking the time to point out all the various things that were going right.  Stopping to think about it, the member was right.  We have become so zeroed in on the obstacles in our path that we had allowed our demeanor to start bringing the raid down.

The Darkside

The danger of down, is that once you start the path, your whole raid begins to mirror your feelings.  They stop noticing the little victories that are accomplished along the way.  At its very worst, they stop believing they can do better; that they really can succeed.  Negativity is like a feedback loop, the more there is of it the more it dominated the mood of any group.  If the officers allow themselves to indulge in these feelings, it is only a matter of time before the raid as a whole is a bitter and spiteful place.

When you are in the middle of face planting on new content it is really hard to see the positive side.  There will always be rough nights in raiding; nights when it seems like the fates themselves have conspired against you.  During these times is when you as a leader need to reflect upon the little things going right in the raid.  I am not an optimist by nature, and often times the optimism I have is hard fought to keep.  However there will always be something going right during any fight.

The Cure

I’ve brought up the concept of Legos before, when it comes to raiding.  If you approach a fight you can break it down into building blocks in your mind.  Last night for example we were working on the Blood Queen encounter and as we got our feet wet I started to notice the moving parts.  Breaking down the fight you can see it mostly falls into distinct categories that need to be handled:

  • Tanking – Keeping two tanks sharing the blood mirror
  • General Healing – dealing with the raid wide damage from vampires
  • Vampiric Bite – Making sure players are biting who they should be
  • Shadows – Making sure players are running the shadow trail to edge
  • Pact – making sure linked players meet at predetermined point
  • Fear – making sure priests fear ward to dispel/heal
  • Proximity – making sure everyone is far enough apart as not to splash damage

As you work your way through the fight, you can start to see how each of those elements is being handled and whether or not it needs tweaking.  While it is important to point out what is going wrong, it is every bit as important to point out the things that are going correctly.  While we did not down Blood Queen, we were getting very close.  Towards the end all of the elements were going extremely smoothly, except the biting.  So we as the leaders gave some positive feedback on those elements that were going well after the attempts.

I have been stuck in the rut of only looking at the bad things, so after each fight in my little synopsis of what happened, it started to sound like: “Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad”.  Where in truth, had I been more honest with myself and the raid the end result would have been a dialog that looked something like this:  “Bad Bad Good Good Good” highlighting the elements that were going well after delivering the items that were still going horribly.

As a leader last night, at the beginning of the night I had to force myself to be positive.  I fully admit it was a struggle for awhile.  We came into Icecrown and wiped on some farmed content, which only made the struggle to keep a positive spin going that much harder.  However as the night went on, the mood of the raid as a whole began to lift, and before long I myself was in a genuinely good mood.  It was almost like the curtains parting to let in the sunlight…  which is a cheesy metaphor I know.

I am not sure how much longer this new approach will last, as I am sure before long we will have an epically bad evening and my old patterns will begin to set in.  However I honestly believe that if we can manage to keep a positive outlook our “wipe” time will be all the more productive.  The cure I guess, is to change the attitude at the top of the raid.  We are the voices the members hear in their headsets, and if we are excited and positive… it certainly can’t hurt things.

Don’t Talk to Strangers

I thought the transition back to blogging would be a difficult one, but after one raid down I already have plenty of "blogfodder" to keep me going for awhile.  The raid I run with is fairly casual, and I have commented on this before.  Last night we were stung by a problem that has been occurring amongst a number of the casual and pug raids out there.  One member, not knowing what they were doing, committed the "icecrown sin", and told Wrynn we didn’t need his help.  As a result the entire raid had its buff stripped from them.  Were this a normal night we probably could have struggled through, but last night we had a concordance of two events that made this new variable very hard to manage for. 

Firstly we were running a little bit light on healing.  This had been a conscious decision in order to bring in an extra dps and at the same time force some of our weaker healers to have a bit of a workout.  Secondly we have made the decision to push for progression content after killing the first four bosses on Tuesday nights.  So we have been clearing Blood Princes, and moving on to attempts on Blood Queen.  We were honestly doing great, but as soon as we lost the buff it was like we had our legs chopped out from under us.

The Veteran Handicap

One of the difficult things about being a raider who has literally been raiding since Molten Core, is trying to get into the mindset of a player who doesn’t remember when Onyxia deep breathed more in phase two.  The fact that we have so much game knowledge crammed into our heads is honestly a handicap towards attempting to lead players who are new to the game.  It’s easy for us to relate to things in terms of, it’s like *** Boss, but when a player has never experienced those fights it is hard to compress that package of learned experience into words.  I personally find it very difficult to comprehend the fact that we have members who have literally never had a max level character before Northrend.  When something goes wrong and it is one of those "classic newbie raider" mistakes, it can be difficult to dial back the annoyance enough to realize that these folks are cutting their teeth on this content with no "formal education" to rely on.  So in an attempt to jump start that formal education… 

Classic Raid Mistakes

Don’t Talk to Strangers

Since this is the one that bit us in the butt last night, I will lead off with this.  Most of us in Stalwart/Duranub learned this lesson back in Blackwing Lair with Vaelastrasz, but the same lesson has carried through most of the Blizzard Raid and Dungeon Content.  Talking to any NPC can often cause negative effects for the raid.  I realize we are curious creatures by nature, and telling you all never to talk to NPCs is like putting a shiny red button on your desk and saying not to push it.  Simply taking the time to ask whether or not a certain NPC is safe to talk to can save the aggro of your raid.

Don’t Stand in Stuff

This is without a doubt the most common raid problem.  It plagues both newbies and careless veterans alike.  In the long illustrious history of WoW, it has only been good to stand in the fire during one fight.  With those overwhelming odds, you can darn near guarantee that if you see crap on the ground, and you are in fact standing in it…  that you should get out as soon as humanly possible.  A dead player has zero dps, and if you are doing something fundamentally dumb like standing in crap on the ground, no one will fault a healer for simply letting you die.  This problem isn’t just a DPS thing however, healers are often times too busy watching the green bars to be bothered to move out of environmental effects.  Your most important trait as a raider should be situational awareness.  I know I would rather have a player who does ho-hum damage but always avoids environmental damage, that one who is leading the meters but always dead.

Don’t Precast on Pulls

We are so used to having misdirect and tricks of the trade that as a community we have forgotten the fundamentals of what used to be known as the “3 sunder rule”.  In classic raiding, the rule was let your tank get 3 sunders up on the target before you opened up.  However in the modern era, I am constantly seeing players casting on the target before the tank has even reached it.  Aggro is a quirky science, that I can go into more detail on in another topic, but the basics is this:  Don’t make your tank work harder than they have to.  If you consistently ride that line between control and chaos, you are ultimately going to hurt your raid in the long run.  Making sure your tank has acquired the target and has a few large hits in on it before you start casting does not lose you that much dps time, but the general raid stability it gains is monumental.

Don’t Run up on Targets

After playing the DPS role for awhile now, I understand that overwhelming desire to make things dead now!  However if you allow your tanks to pull targets back to the raid, you generally have much more stable results.  The biggest problem I see here is that a tank will call that they are pulling back, but as soon as the aggro starts everyone runs up on the pack of mobs.  This keeps the tank from doing what they need to do, and makes it far more likely that you will pull aggro while the tanks are trying to place things.  On the pull the only players that need to be up near the targets are the tanks, and any crowd controllers.  If you do not fit either of those roles then please stay back until the tanks are done moving.

Don’t Turn Your Back to the Next Pack

Just like the defacto tank rule of pulling is to turn the mobs away from the raid, the defacto rule for everyone should be to make sure your back is not facing the next pull.  There are many dynamics in the game that cause you to lose control of your character for a short time, be it knockback, fear, or daze.  These effects paired with your proximity to live targets add up to be a ticking timebomb for the raid.  If you make sure you always have your back facing either a wall, or the path you just cleared, you will minimize the risk of your carelessness cascading into a raid wipe.

Don’t Run From the Tank

I realize I could have simply said, “Don’t Pull Aggro”, but the aggro issue is always a multi headed thing and sometimes you can’t control how attractive you are to a mob.  One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is when a player pulls aggro, they tend to run away from combat.  I realize proximity plays a key role in aggro mechanics, but if you already have the attention of the target, it is far too late for that manner of triage.  The best course of action is to run to the tank and announce as calmly as you can that you have aggro.  The tank will beat the mob in the face, and when the “target of target” shows you no longer have aggro, it is safe to move away.  There are various reasons that can cause the tank to take a second or two to pick the target back up, so it is very important for you to keep your wits about you, and give them the time needed to reacquire.

Don’t Blow Up the Raid

There are several encounters in the game that involve the mechanic of getting away from other players.  Don’t be the guy that blows everyone up.  If you are poor at eyeballing distances, I highly suggest a proximity mod.  Both Deadly Boss Mods and Deus Vox have excellent ones, that will show you when it is safe to stop running.  Equally important to running away, is to pay attention to the placement of the other raid members.  Situational awareness is something that never goes out of style.  As you are running away it is important to make sure a flock of players is not trying to arrive at exactly the same spot.  There will be natural voids in the room, where no players happen to be at any given time.  If at all possible, it is best to aim towards one of these vacant areas to free up space in the more populated ones.

Don’t be a “Special Snowflake”

Just like the fact that there are times you need to get away from players, there are a number of times where you will need to clump tightly with other players.  These clumps usually start out fine, but as the fight goes on the casters tend to migrate to the outer orbit of the main group.  The clump of players should be tight enough that it is hard to pick out individual players.  If you are clumping in melee range with a target, your hunters should be forming a second group at minimum range tightly orbiting the main colony.  When players filter out from the main group, it becomes more difficult to find the nexus that players need to gather upon.  What starts as one player getting some breathing room, quickly escalates into an uncontrolled mess.  As the topic says, do not be that delicate and special snowflake that has to do their own thing.

When Failure Comes to Visit

The basic thread through all of the elements above is situational awareness.  It is the most important skill that a wow raider can develop, and is a trait that all great players have.  However through the course of raiding you will inevitably screw things up.  You will eventually do something clueless, which cascades into a horrific raid wipe.  When this happens the way you approach your failure makes all the difference in the world.

Admit your Failure

Own up to your own mistakes, nobody likes it when someone sits quietly when they have screwed up.  Raid loggers can tell the culprit after the fact, so it is not like you have anonymity in your favor.  Admitting your failure is the first step in smoothing the annoyance and aggression that your raid will be feeling.

Don’t Make Excuses

It is human nature to want to try and explain why you screwed up to players.  In the course of a raid this does no good, and only serves to waste the raids time while having to listen to your complicated explanation of your failure.  You screwed up, you admitted it, and for most players that is all that needs to be said.  Making uses for your performance does nothing to undo whatever just happened.  The best course is to pick up the pieces and move on.

Do Better

Accepting a momentary lapse in ability is one thing, but you need to make sure whatever just happened does not happen again.  As a player, you need to be able to diagnose the conditions that lead to the problem, and take necessary actions to keep it from happening again.  If you pulled aggro, then use your aggro dumps more proactively.  If it was a placement issue, adjust where you are standing to make sure it is no longer an issue.  Figure out what went wrong, and keep it from going wrong next time.

Be Humble and Thick Skinned

When you do screw up, you are going to take flak from the raid.  It is just human nature to get frustrated with whatever is impeding your progress, and right now in the eyes of the raid, you are that impediment.  As a player you need to stay calm, keep a humble attitude, and be willing to take a bit of ribbing for your mistake.  You screwed up, so own that mistake and handle it with a bit of humor. 

One time in Vault of Archavon I was tanking the very last trash mob before Archavon himself.  I unwittingly broke one of the above rules; I put my back towards Archavon himself.  The trash mob died, blew up, sent me hurdling into the boss, who in a few unhealed swings killed me.  The entire sequence of events was rather comical, but nonetheless entirely my doing.  I owned up to my mistake, accepted the ribbing from the raid, and we moved on and killed the boss.  It doesn’t matter how long someone has been playing the game; you are never beyond screwing up.  The great players, are the ones who learn from their mistakes, and keep moving forward towards the goal.

So Pick Yourself Up, and Keep on Raiding

Life Happened

Sometimes we go off the road It has been 265 days since my last confession.  It is somewhat staggering when I put that number on paper, but my absence from the blog has been a pretty extreme one.  The longer I went without writing something, the harder it was to put virtual pen to paper and make something worth reading.  So for the last several months, my blog has sat here collecting dust staring out from the darkness as a constant reminder of my failed experiment in blogging.

Various sundry real world events happened, but if I were to condense a timeline of in-game events it would look something like this:

  • Server Unplayable
  • Years Behind Fails
  • Raid Struggles
  • My Account Gets Hacked
  • I Get Horribly Burned Out
  • Shift to Deathknight trying to fix low raid dps
  • Start regretting the decision to switch mains fast
  • Form new 10 man so I can continue tanking
  • Get burned out again raiding 4 nights a week
  • Quit one night of raiding and start playing other games
  • Start plotting my switch back to tanking

There are various sub events tied to each of the above, but thats the basic lay of the land.  The most traumatic of the events was probably getting my account hacked.  Blizzard did an amazing restoring everything that was taken from my various characters and the guild vault within 24 hours.  The however hacker took one of the things that really mattered to me, that can never be restored.  House Stalwart was formed on the day WoW was released and this was a point of pride.  The Hacker moved Belghast my main to another server, and in the process disbanded our guild.  Now our re-formed guild date commemorates the day I got hacked, which is not quite as enjoyable.

The shift to Belgrave my Deathknight was a pretty major event as well.  I reached a point where I flat out didn’t trust my healers anymore.  I had taken too many needless deaths in a row and had gotten gunshy.  I could only do the things I have been able to do, because of the extreme faith I have had in my healers.  I knew no matter what trouble I got myself into, what measures I had to go to to attempt to hold aggro, they would keep me standing.  When that faith waned, I started playing like a shell shocked veteran.  I became slower, more cautious, always trying to make sure I had an ace in a hole for when the heals just stopped for large blocks of time.  I got physically angry with myself, my raid, my healers when I ran out of "oh shit" buttons and nothing I could possibly do could save me.  I came to the realization that something needed to change.  I was going to have to either stop raiding as Belghast, stop raiding entirely, or just outright quit the game.

I chose to switch to raiding as my Deathknight, because at the time we were struggling in the DPS community.  My DK had been my "help friends raids" character, and for the most part was better geared that much of the active dps.  We’ve since recruited more players and solidified our DPS camp, but at the time me switching over allowed us to take down the content with more wiggle room.  But since the first raid I went as a Deathknight, I had the little pangs of remorse in the back of my head.  My identity has been wrapped up in Bel the Tank for so long, that it was difficult for me to accept the transition.  As I look towards Cataclysm I am planning on making the shift back to Protection Warrior as my primary raid focus.  If this ends up meaning I will need to leave the raid I helped form to make this happen so be it, but I know without a doubt that I am not as happy as a DPSer than I am as a Tank.

As I come back to blogging, I still very much think of myself as an aggronaut…  a tank at heart.  While now I wear the hat of a Unholy/Frost DPS Deathknight during raids, I still approach the game as though I were the tank.  I plan on still covering tanking topics, but mixing in a few DPS issues now and then.  I plan on still posting regularly about guild management and raid maintenance, and even now and then throwing in a topic like rotations.  I can’t promise to be nearly as regular as I once was, considering my life is in general more busy than before, but I promise to keep posting.

Thanks for letting me back on your screens

Time Capsule Tanking

Above is not yet the official logo of Years Behind, the retro raiding project, but one of the ones being considered by Wargallow our fearless project leader.  I call it a project and not a guild because in essence, this is an experiment.  We don’t yet know how successful raiding the old world content will be, and each of us are very much active in the leadership of our respective classic guilds.

However all things seem to be rolling along nicely, with the guild finally getting a few bank tabs and a tabard depicting representing Hogger…  the FIRST raid boss.  Right now we are pooling resources and gathering up as many old world trappings as we can find.  I’ve donated my collection of Zul’Gurub Voodoo Dolls, as well as some various faction and quest items.  Getting ready for the retro raid has become one of my driving focuses while in game.  I’ve prepared many times for an impending patch, but never quite in this fashion.

You can’t skimp on the tank

underprepared to "tank" When I was first presented with this concept, I knew that without a doubt if possible I would want to tank it.  When I raided the old world content originally it was as a hunter, and as I leveled and geared up Belghast, I tanked for anyone that would take me.  However I never actually achieved many of the goals that I wanted to.  I never completed tier 1 or tier 2, I never owned a Quel’Serrar, I never really tanked much more than the first few bosses in AQ40.  I just feel like part of my tanking Pedigree is missing, since I have experienced all the content, but as the wrong class.

My little warrior Bobbinn, had been sitting there inactive and acting as a banker for some time.  As a result her gear was in a completely horrendous state, so I knew that I would have to regear the character from the ground up.  For this reason, I almost considered shifting focus to pushing up my rogue, Gloam since he was at least fully outfitted in heirloom gear.  In fact I had started to run him through Blackrock Depths for gear, but in the process of doing so a sign from the random loot generator gods appeared.  In the middle of the quarry in BRD, Stockade Pauldrons, which in their day were the best defensive shoulders available.  Stupid as it might sound, this pretty much told me I should be working on the warrior instead.

Getting to 440

Get it?  Defense Cap??? The primary goal in gearing a tank is to first get to the defense soft cap, aka the point at which you can no longer receive critical blows through normal means.  I knew that this was going to be a tall order, since in classic wow we got the benefit of “classic” Anticipation, that when fully talented was worth 20 defense.  This meant that in the “retroraid” world, I was going to need to make up for that loss of defense through other means.  Prior to Blackwing Lair it was fairly hard to stay defense capped, as both Valor and to a lesser extent Might attempted to be “Jack of All Trades” gear sets for the warrior.

Years Behind has set the goal of raiding the content as level 60 characters, however we have NOT set the goal of raiding the content in only the gear available to us back then.  What this means in practice is that there are a good number of defense enchants that are available for level 60 items, and the addition of the random “Of The Champion” type gear which on level 60 gear gives 32 Stamina, 21 Strength, and 21 Defense.

The problem with the later is that on Argent Dawn, the “champion” gear has been going for some pretty ridiculous sums ranging anywhere from 100g-200g per item.  Since I live in a habitual “broke” state in game, I knew that this was not going to be an option for me.  So instead I went after a favorite amongst twink tanks back in the day.  Many of my friends thought I was somewhat nuts, when I carefully collected the various pieces of the Advanced Armorsmithing tome, but I knew sooner or later it would come in handy.  While cost prohibitive in classic wow, with little effort I was able to craft Enchanted Thorium Breastplate, Enchanted Thorium Helm, and Enchanted Thorium Leggings which will serve as my base to build upon.

Zul’gurub used to be a hotbed for starter tanking gear, and I have a good number of friends who either enjoy ripping apart old world content or are “a-faction-ados” in need of more rep to hit exalted.  As a result it has been pretty easy for me to get a few overpowered friends to clear Zul’gurub for me for gear.  I’ve been cautious of gaining too much experience, so as a result I have kept Bobbinn safely out of XP range until it is boss time, only running her in long enough for the kill.  These Zul’Gurub runs gave me a strong number of upgrades, to start to fill out my tanking set. After two runs I had managed to accumulate: Overlord’s Embrace, Overlord’s Onyx Band, Overlord’s Crimson Band, Bloodlord’s Defender, and my first decent tanking trinket Zandalarian Hero Badge.

At the suggestion of a guild member I accepted the offer to do a run through on AQ20 as well, and the result of it were a few more pieces of gear.  The biggest of them was Buru’s Skull Fragment.  This was a shield that eluded me on Belghast in classical wow.  Each time it dropped, there was always someone along on a main, that I passed it to, or another alt with better dice.  So I have to admit, that I was borderline giddy when it dropped.  In addition this I managed to pick up Polished Obsidian Pauldrons, which in theory was a downgrade from my Stockade Pauldrons.  However if you notice, the new shoulders are a level 60 item, meaning they are eligible for Heavy Knothide Armor Kit…  which in turn makes the item a net gain overall.  Last gem from AQ20, was the Head of Ossirian the Unscarred which netted a pretty nice tanking neck: Pendant of the Shifting Sands.

Gear: The Outfitting

look at all the gear! Now that I had managed to amass a good number of tanking items my focus shifted to looking into the various enchants that were available for me.  Like I said in a subheading above, you can’t skimp on the tank.  All the other raid members can show up to our first Molten Core outing wearing whatever the hell they could mash together, but in order for us to have a successful run you have to have a solidly geared main tank.  Looking down through the various slots, here is a list of the enchants that I compiled for a 60 retro tank.

With a Roadmap in place this gave me a shopping list of what to obtain.  I managed to pick up two Primal Hakkari Idol during my ZG runs, and after some scrounging a couple of Punctured Voodoo Doll.  For most players that will be the most difficult of the enchants, the rest rely mostly on older enchanting materials and should be fairly reasonable.  For me, as an enchanter I had the majority of it ratholed away.

Another Dragonslayer

Bobin with Quelserrar One of my big regrets as a tank is that I never actually got to tank with my Quel’Serrar when it mattered.  I managed to get my Foror’s Compendium of Dragon Slaying a few months before Wrath came out, and while I used it on a few guild Karazhan runs, I never really got to enjoy the sheer awesome power of the weapon.  So as I stared down the barrel of another 60s tank, I knew without a doubt I had to obtain another Foror’s book.  After several weeks of nightly Dire Maul runs prior to raid time, and checking both the Alliance and Horde auction houses, I gathered up the required insanity points to post on the Argent Dawn forums.

I’ve been a known entity on the forums for years, and for the most part the organization of our retro raid has been held entirely there.  So I thought maybe someone had a book collecting dust in their vault and would take pity on me.  Surprisingly, after several days and a few bumps the thread hit paydirt.  Trynd from House of Arathor, posted saying he had one that he had been holding onto for awhile, which he out of an amazing act of kindness just mailed to me free gratis.  I had never met the man before, but I have to say he is one of me heroes now.

Last night I managed to accomplish the goal of forging Quel’Serrar for the second time.  I am pretty pumped about tanking the old world dungeons with this truly epic weapon.  It does however crack me up exactly how oversized it is on a gnome female.  My friend commented last night, that they need to add a sparks animation as it drags the ground while slung to your hip.  I do remember how cool the gnome animations were with the big blade, so looking forward to bringing it down swiftly with a twirling flourish on the baddies.

Losing My Religion

REM-tableau-2 The title to this post sounds rather more ominous than it deserves, but I loved the song, and love the phrase.  Another week is passing and this is my first blog post.  I’ve found myself in a slump lately.  When I started this crazy experiment I had more topics to write about than I had time to write them.  Now as I sit here trying to drum up anything worthy of discussing, I realize that it’s become much harder.

I’m finding myself in a pretty “blah” place as far as the game goes right now.  I’m enjoying Ulduar still, and I am happy that we are making progress.  But the prospect of more content on the horizon looms over my head like the sword of Damocles.  I know without a doubt that we have more time needed before we reach the end of Ulduar than we have weeks left before the patch.  So as I look at what is coming down the pipe, I know eventually we will have to move forward.

This is the big frustration with living in the “medium-core” space (as one of our raid council members put it), you are constantly trying to temper both ends of the spectrum.  We have our more hardcore members, who actively want every single achievement, are pushing with full gusto to do hard modes, and burn through content as fast as we can.  On the other end of the spectrum, we have the players who either want to stop and smell the roses, have specific goals like obtaining X item, or only have enough playtime to show up just in time for the raid. 

Being a “casual but focused” raid means we are constantly trying to steer between the two very different pillars.  If you move too slowly, you risk losing your best players to bigger raids.  If you move too fast, you end up tearing yourselves apart at the seams while forcibly dragging players who don’t want to move.  So as raid leaders we walk this razor thin line, attempting to make everyone acceptably happy in the process…  but at the same time having to swallow many of your own hopes and aspirations in the process.

So I think a good chunk of my malaise towards posting lately is that I am myself going through a bit of a burnout from all the opposing forces surrounding me.  I think it mostly started when the first news of the new patch surfaced, my impending class nerfs, and a brand new dungeon that feels like another hamster wheel presented before us to keep the most hardcore of players from going to other games.  I am sure I will enjoy it when it arrives, but my present disdain of the argent tournament is not helping my excitement at all.

Goblin Engineering

Goblin-Shredder One of the topics that has spurred more than a bit of interest in me is the supposed “leak” of new mask textures from the last few PTR releases.  I believe MMO Champion broke the news first with their provocative topic titled:  Goblins and Worgens are the new races of the Expansion.  Two new halloween mask textures made their way into the 07/17 PTR build, and they featured a good number of curious things.  Firstly the quality of the textures shown represented something we had never seen in the existing Worgen or Goblin models.  On the Worgen side, they represented a “female” Worgen model, something that doesn’t exist in the game today even when the female humans in Grizzly Hills transform.

This started the forum crowds murmuring about the likelihood of whether or not these were legitimate racials, or if this was yet another Blizzard red herring.  A few days later, in build 10123 other masks began appearing.  So added to the pile were Murlocs, Vrykul, Ogres, and Naga.  So of course, this began the chant of players claiming that the new races were simply a figment of our collective imagination.  I am not sure if I am ready to call this as over, or to call it as a conspiracy to cover up a mistake.  However one thing you can notice immediately, is that the second set of masks do not match the level of detail as shown within the first two.  The Murloc, Naga, and Female Ogre masks are all extremely low resolution as compared to the high level of detail shown within the Goblin and Worgen masks.  Part of me wants to believe that we really DID get a glimpse of the new racial models, and that the resulting additional masks were an attempt to diffuse a mistake.

I’ve said for awhile now within guild conversations that I felt this expansion would lead to new races being introduced.  In MMO gaming, after awhile companies tend to get into patterns for releases, and I feel that blizzard has probably already hit it’s stride.  For sake of balancing the game, it is far to destructive to introduce both new races and classes at the same time.  So I feel that from this point on, Blizzard will introduce an expansion that provides new races and starting zones to grow its player base, then follow it with an expansion that introduces new classes to play.  This pattern gives one expansion to bring up a new crop of players, and then the next to reward these new players and old ones alike with new kinds of game play at its most basic level.  So following this pattern, it means that this next expansion would introduce new races…  which in turn fits the leak.

The Beta List

scroll There has been a list of “expansions” floating around the internet for years now.  The very first time it came to my attention was shortly before the announcements surrounding Burning Crusade.  Much like Nostradamas and his quatrains, it seemed to predict the progression of Azeroth.  For the sake of explaination I am reposting the list here.  I’ll make no guarantee as to its validity, but it has in fact been floating around the collective web since before the original Naxxramas patch, which is roughly when I first saw it.

Draenor Set

Azuremyst Isle – 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle – 10 to 20

Eversong Forest – 1 to 10
Quel’thalas – 10 to 20
Hellfire Peninsula – 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh – 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest – 61 to 65
The Deadlands – 63 to 67
Nagrand – 64 to 68
Blade’s Edge Mountains – 66 to 70
Netherstorm – 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley – 69 to 70

Northrend Set

Borean Tundra – 67 to 70
Howling Fjord – 67 to 70
Dragonblight – 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills – 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest – 72 to 75
Zul’drak – 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin – 75 to 79
Storm Peaks – 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier – 78 to 80

Maelstrom Set

Gilneas – 77 to 80
Grim Batol – 78 to 81
Kul Tiras – 79 to 82
Kezan – 81 to 86
Tel Abim – 83 to 85
Zandalar – 84 to 87
Plunder Isle – 86 to 88
The Broken Isles – 87 to 90
The Maelstrom – 89 to 90

Plane Set

Pandaria – 1 to 10
Hiji – 10 to 20

Wolfenhold – 1 to 10
Xorothian Plains – 10 to 20

The Green Lands – 88 to 91
The Dying Paradise – 91 to 94
The Emerald Nightmare – 94 to 97
The Eye of Ysera – 97 to 100

Deephome – 88 to 91
Skywall – 91 to 94
The Abyssal Maw – 94 to 97
The Firelands – 97 to 100

Legion Set

K’aresh – 96 to 99
Argus Meadowlands – 97 to 100
Mac’Aree – 99 to 100
Maw of Oblivion – 100+
The Burning Citadel – 100+++

As you can see, for the most part the list has been accurate to this point.  Some of the final names of the zones have been different, but the wide majority of both the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King zones have been dead on.  If the list continues to predict the future, then the next expansion would in fact be related to the Maelstrom as many have speculated, which strongly fits with the recent trademark of the name Cataclysm.  In the above list, the area slotted as the staring zone for the expansion is Gilneas.

31925 Gilneas is rumored to have fallen to the influences of the Worgen.  So while the zone levels do not fit with the pattern of a starting zone, it would seem that the next expansion will in fact let us peer beyond the Greymane wall into the cloistered realm.  As far as the Goblins go, it has been long rumored that the “Sea” expansion, will let us visit the goblin continent of Undermine.  We know it has been designed based on whiteboard drawings from the Warcraft Behind the Scenes DVD.  So if the next expansion is in fact the Maelstrom, it would be the “sea” expansion and more than likely have a good deal of involvement with the Goblins as well.

So when you take the combined speculative powers of all of the above, combined with the supposed “leak” of the racial masks you can get to the point where you begin to believe that we will be playing wolves and gobbos in the next expansion.  Granted this is all a colossal feat of Imagineering, with only the most flimsy of evidence… it could happen.  After you have leapt to the conclusion, the next question you have to ask yourself is which faction will get which of the new races.

Without a doubt, in these are the new races then the Goblins will be a Horde race.  My reasoning here is pretty simple.  Goblins and Gnomes hate each other.  This has been a construct of the wow mythos since the days of beta.  The engineering might of the gnomes and the goblins will forever be pit against each other, and that in itself is reason along to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that they would end up wearing red.  But if you need further reasons, I give you this.  The horde has no “small race”.  Burning Crusade gave alliance their first “big race” with the Draenei, so in the Great Blizzard Homogenization I figure the next expansion will give the Horde their first “stunty”.  Granted I would have rather it been Iron Dwarves…  but Goblins would have been a close second.

So by elimination this leaves Worgen as being the new Alliance race, which also makes a certain amount of sense if you stop to evaluate it.  There are many bits of non-canon lore suggesting that the individuals locked behind the Greymane wall too suffer from the same Worgen curse as the inhabitants of Pyrewood Village.  Pyrewood itself is our first step on the delusional road that leads us to believing the Worgen to be Alliance sympathizers.  This Village by day is a normal run of the mill alliance town, which registers as hostile to horde players.  Every race needs a foil, so you already have the ready enemies just a zone away in the Forsaken.  It would be an easy fit for the Forsaken and Worgen forces to be opposed to each other.  Lastly in the Great Homogenization, this would give the alliance our very first REAL “Montrous Humanoid”, to use the Dungeons and Dragons term.

Granted everything I just said, is for all intents and purposes, utter bullshit.  I am by no means a lore afficianado, I haven’t even read quest text since about level 40…  so in truth I have no leg to stand on.  However this all makes a kooky kind of sense to me based on the patterns we have already seen from Blizzard.  Worgen would present the alliance with a new Shaman race, but Goblins however I really don’t see solving the paladin racial issue.  I am anxiously awaiting BlizzCon just so we can finally get some real information to replace all of this hysteria that currently abounds.  Granted I just probably fed a good number of conspiracy theorists with my blog post, but hopefully some of you Loremasters out there can tell me just how wrong I am.

Too Soon, Executus

aggronaut40k

As you might guess from the logo, Tales of the Aggronaut has passed the 40,000 unique readers mark on Google analytics.  As a result, I decided to steal from the iconography Warhammer 40,000 logo, in honor of the milestone.  Over the last few weeks, real life has slowed my postings down to a crawl, but I thank all of you out there for sticking with me.  I continue to gain readership each day, and I am completely amazed that anyone is willing to read my half-baked rambles on a regular basis.

This week has been busier than most.  With a house guest from Mississippi I have missed more raids this week than I have ever missed during the lifespan of the Duranub Raiding Company.  As fate would have it, I managed to make both of our 10 man outings, but completely missed both of our 25 man raids.  So between last week and the cleaning/home improvement ramp-up to having a house guest, and this week the actual act of playing host…  I am completely worn out.  Looking forward to a long weekend of doing a whole lot of nothing.

In the past I have posted a few emotion wrapped rambles about how expendable I was feeling at the beginning of Ulduar.  Prior to that, I posted about the bittersweet feeling of when your raid group does just fine without you.  Because of the insanity of this week I have to say that I was thoroughly thrilled that my raid was able to pull together and perform extremely well without their main tank.  From what I hear we saw some pretty phenomenal performances from various players as they stepped up to fill the void left by the raid mascot…  me.  Awesome job to everyone.

You can’t go back… can you?

Too Soon, Executus Too Soon Expansions are an exciting time, with the advent of new content to conquer, but with each also comes a certain sadness for me.  I know in the back of my mind that I will never again experience the content in the same way as I once did.  Sure I can go back and run Molten Core, but it is rather sad and wrong that I can now solo what once took a group of 40 players working together to conquer.  We can never again experience the camaraderie of 40 players focused on one singular goal…  or can we?

The 3.2 expansion brings with it a new feature to the game, the ability to for a fee lock your character so that it will no longer receive experience in any fashion.  The goal of this addition is without a doubt to be able to create PVP twinks at the various brackets, and there will be much rejoicing amongst players as they know that they can safely run instances to acquire gear without ever pushing beyond that much vaunted bracket.  However this feature also allows for an unanticipated option.

Real Retro Raiding

GET IN THE POISON!!! With the new feature we will be able to lock characters at level 60, and experience the older content in a similar fashion to the nostalgic days of WoW.  On Argent Dawn, one of our regular community organizers Wargallow, has suggested just this.  His plan is to create a group of 25+ level 60 characters for the purpose of running old world content the way it was originally meant to be experienced.  For the time being, any level 60 character is welcome, and I am presently planning on playing my dwarf rogue Gloam.

Will this usher in the era of “Twink Raiding”?  I guess only time will tell, but I feel this is a brilliant way to experience content that either you are nostalgic about or managed to miss the first time around.  While it is enjoyable to push through the older content with a group of over-level and overpowered friends, for me at least it has always been bittersweet.  I remember the epic feeling of experiencing molten core for the first time, and the joy I felt when I completed my Giantstalker set.  Maybe we can recapture a small bit of this.

This weekend I will be spending it pushing my rogue to 60 off and on, and looking forward to the hopefully good times to come.  I look forward to meeting new players, and helping to nurture this fledgling group as it gets off the ground.  The only sadness I feel as I look forward is the fact that my gnome warrior Bobbinn is ineligible, as on a whim I dinged 61 all so many months ago.

Ragnaros, we come for you!

Can of Corn

CannedCorn There is one lesson I should have learned years ago.  Never pick on someone for something, because sooner or later you are doomed to do the exact same thing.  A few weeks back I was picking on Ariedan from Wordy Warrior a bit for her lack of updates.  Then over the course of the last week I’ve had a pretty significant lapse in my postings.  I guess for lack of a better term, life happened.

Last week and this past weekend almost all of my time was devoted to minor home improvement projects, and cleaning.  Why on earth would I wear myself out doing this?  Well, we had a house guest coming this week, and among other things our house needed a good deal of TLC to get to a state fit for company.  As a result I am very much feeling my age.  Getting up and out of bed sounds like a bowl of rice crispies as my back straightens, followed by a chorus of groans.  However the house looks better than it has in years, and I am praying I will be able to maintain it.  My general state of “worn the hell out”, combined with limited time has thrown a severe case of “lack of giving a shit” when it comes to the frequency of my blogging.  So apologies for the lapse. 

One more oddball thing while I am on my traditional “real life” section of the blog post.  My local newspaper just launched this HORRIBLE google maps mash-up application where they attempt to show all the businesses in the Tulsa area as tiny indistinguishable dots on a map.  They made the mistake of showing the top searches on the right hand side of the page.  When my co-worker first hit the website, the first few phases were expectable… but number 5 in the list was “Can of Corn”.  So it has been our goal to try and keep this gem at number one.  So if you are bored, please hit this site and bump “Can of Corn” a few times for us.

Emo Aborted

10down_bosses Tuesday afternoon I was primed to make a rather self-indulgent and emo post about the rigors of raid leadership and the insanity it takes to try and lead at all.  Tuesday in 25 man Ulduar had a very “herding cats” feel to it, making me address all the things I dislike about the 25 man raid dynamic.  It hadn’t quite gotten to the point of my cyclical internal battle of “why don’t you just quit 25 mans and do nothing but 10s”, but we were probably teetering dangerously on the edge of that slope.  So you can probably only imagine the load of crap that would have been contained within the body of that post.  However I got tired, and busy and the post never made its way onto the digital page. 

Wednesday and Thursday happened, and both days restored my faith in humanity and the reason why I began leading in the first place.  First I have to start with my beloved 10 man group.  Even if the rest of the week had been complete and total crap, just getting through another Wednesday with my 10 man team is usually enough to push me through even the worst of Thursdays.  I’ve bragged on my folks so many times over the last few weeks it is probably getting annoying, but alas I have to do it again.

Wednesday night went by the books in every way.  We did our normal Leviathan > XT-002 Deconstructor > Kologarn > Auriaya clear to get to the bosses we would be working on this week.  While there we went ahead and pushed through and downed Hodir, making great time doing it.  From there we went to Freya and downed her in a single shot.

It was at this point that I made the judgment call, since we only had an hour of time left, I didn’t feel we really had enough time to adequately work on Thorim, so instead we began to backtrack.  We picked up Assembly of Iron, then moved to Razorscale, and still had time left for an Ignis the Furnace Master oneshot.  So for the second week in a row, in our 3 hour window we had cleared all of the bosses previously downed.  I am pretty damned proud of us downing 9 ulduar bosses in a single night.  This gave us plenty of time to come back in last night, and work out the kinks on Thorim.

Last night we managed to work through the issues we were having with Thorim very quickly in spite of some backseat driving going on in ventrilo.  I believe it was within 4 tries that we had to the second phase and managed to down him that attempt.  Among other things I got a shiny pair of ram shoulders (Valorous Siegebreaker Pauldrons), and we had plenty of time to start work on Mimiron.  In the few attempts before we called it, we managed to get him halfway into phase 3, so I fully feel that next week we will down him since we will be prioritizing his encounter.  Last week I posted about how wonderfully our team has meshed together, and I have to say things keep getting better as we learn to work as a cohesive force.

Hall of Winter Defrosted

Thursday we continued on in Ulduar 25 man.  Riding high on the weds night fun I was looking forward to the 25 man raid once more.  On Tuesday we had only managed to make it through Leviathan > XT-002 Deconstructor > Kologarn > Auriaya > Assembly of Iron, which on the day seemed like a letdown, but looking back now seems pretty good.  So as a warm-up we started the night with Razorscale, which went down the smoothest we have seen yet…  we have to find a way to get folks paying attention faster so we can finally knock Heroic: A Quick Shave out.

After this interlude we moved forward to the real focus of the night, Hodir.  It took us a total of 6 tries from start to finish to down him, but when we did it felt pretty stable.  In fact we managed to pick up Heroic: I Have the Coolest Friends in the process, and I personally picked up Heroic: Staying Buffed All Winter at some point throughout the attempts.  After Hodir, we moved on and cleaned up Ignis the Furnace Master which had always given us trouble in the past.

 

All in all it was a great week of raiding for Duranub and House Stalwart.

Guest Post: Elnore

A few months back I made a post in the BA shared topic regarding the distribution of Fragment of Val’anyr without our raid.  In that post I laid out the basic decision path we were planning on taking, and after a vote of the healers Elnore, our healing lead was unanimously chosen.  Being a very good writer herself, I told her that I thought it would be cool if she did a guest post outlining how she felt about being chosen for the honor of our first legendary weapon.  This afternoon I received the results of this prompting.  I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

On Why I Raid, Leadership, and Val’anyr

As a raid, we very nearly have what I think of as the absolute perfect progression speed—just finishing up the Big Bad of the last expansion as the next thing comes out.  We have yet to farm any Big Bads.  I maybe wish we were a tiny bit faster, since we sometimes miss a boss or a hard mode here or there, but two nights a week is what our real lives can give up to raiding, so two nights it is.  I find that I’m content visiting the things we miss later, as an overlevelled tourist; for instance, since we formed quite late in BC, we never got to Black Temple or Sunwell, but we just spent a very entertaining, somewhat ad-libbed Sunday evening doing just that.  And who of the envelope-pushing raid groups of BC could say “I solo-healed most of BT?”

What I am saying, I suppose, is that what I raid for is not progression or best-in-slots.  I care about gear only to the point of staying above the threshold where I remain useful.  I just want a challenge, be it new content, needing to try a crazy strategy to account for a class mechanic we’re short on, or seeing just how far you can get with how few people in an old instance.  I just want teammates I trust to take on that challenge with me.  Bonus points if our defeat of that challenge is rewarded by an awesome cinematic.

When I was approached to help form Duranub, I agreed not because I was sure I could do a good job—I was frankly terrified that I wouldn’t, since my previous leadership experience was exactly two raid nights as healing officer during my previous raid’s death throes and an essentially responsibility-free officership in my guild—but because I knew that the other officers and I would make a good team.

And for the most part we do, and so do the elders (the next rank down) and so do the raid members.  But when I learned that Ulduar would have a legendary healing mace, the raid was having a tough time.  The summer was coming, most officers and several other pivotal members were either dealing with important real life things or having real life explode in their faces, and attendance and attention levels were slipping to the point that we tended to wipe to dumb mistakes and low DPS levels.  I questioned whether we would ever kill Yogg-Saron, let alone do it well enough to allow for throwing a bunch of shards in his mouth. I questioned whether I even wanted to play the game long enough to see it.

But because our first shard could fall at any time, we talked about it anyway, and decided all the shards would go to one person, and that the healers would vote on who that would be.  And perhaps I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised when it was me, unanimous except for my own vote.  I was burning out, I felt like I had been failing for a long time, and a large part of me wanted to see it go to anyone else.  There were definitely others who were drooling over it more.  But I have to admit that in the five years I’ve been playing, nothing has ever felt quite like the moment the officer who’d tallied the votes announced my name, and the raid channel, the healer channel, and my tell window all flooded with gratses.  I got all misty-eyed and wordless, and I feel a bit like that again each time another shard drops.  Which probably doesn’t sound much like the Elnore my fellow raiders know, but there you go.

That was several months ago now, and there are still off nights, and disagreements, and the occasional ugly thing said when it shouldn’t be.  There are nights I dread logging in because I’m worried we will be short healing and that I’ll spend the whole night feeling both responsible and unbearably helpless to fix it.  Leading can strain friendships, and I still fantasize about quitting sometimes, about being in some other raid where all I’d have to do is show up and spam my assignment.  I am looking forward to a vacation in August, where I will be unable to log in for a whole week.  That Tuesday will be the first raid I have missed since before Wrath was released and only my second in Duranub history, I am pretty sure.  I suppose it is overdue.

But there is no question of whether I’ll come back.  The thing is, for all that being a raid officer is much more stressful than being a raider was, it is also more rewarding. You get to see that for all the frustration, there are also people who offer to play even though they’re sick, who amaze me with what they can do with their character, who know just when to cheerlead or crack a joke, or who go out of their way to craft an epic or two for the new undergeared mage, There are nights when the Steelbreaker tank is learning and the Molgeim tank dies and the Brundir tank disconnects and we only have one battle rez, but we pull off the kill anyway.  Because my raid is awesome.  (See above, where I play for the challenge and the meeting of it as a team, heh.)

Tuesday night, a shard dropped off of XT, and we had the standard ceremonial just-for-me auction. (We use a version of WebDKP, and I pay per shard.)  It brought me up to six, six shards that aren’t really a weapon to me, or even necessarily a future weapon, though I am much more confident that we will get that far than I used to be.  Those six shards are my continued responsibility, a weight and a humbling and an honor, the hard work and trust of my raid.

And my raid is awesome.