|Audio from the final minute|
of DoD's first kill of Morogrim Tidewalker
The Fan Who PlayedThe warriors of Descendants of Draenor had a curious way of consistently leaving their mark.
By now, the stories of both Ater and Annihilation should be no secret, but their stories aren't a reflection of the only contribution warriors had on DoD. Many other names came and went, painting plate wearers in various degrees of both light and shade. Burburbur famously stepped away from a raid for a moment to shoot a raccoon off his porch. Abrinis once excused himself, proclaiming "a car just drove through my living room wall". Thangrave will be remembered as having looted every edged weapon out of Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. Darange was responsible for setting up the initial meet between The Final Cut and Descendants of Draenor; the interview that ultimately led to our assimilation of their guild, catalyzing our start in Molten Core. Rocraw pushed the front line during The Burning Crusade and helped drive our content until a failed relationship with another guildy took him out of the limelight. And who could forget Kurst, the officer that could never be. Even now, it looked liked another warrior (in spirit, at least) would once again take center stage: Omaric. Each warrior's mark either signified a bright or dark day for DoD. But it seemed to me that no warrior worked harder to change their particular mark than the one who called himself Taba. It was because of his unending effort to scrub his past that I struggled with the decision before me.
If you know someone that has a special knack of stretching out the phrase "come on...." as your team is about to score, much in the way one would use it while trying to start a stubborn lawnmower, then you have an idea of what role Taba played in DoD. Taba was one of those players; the kind of player that channeled the raid's impending victory into Ventrilo, building momentum with every last second. He was a player that felt the game, knew when we were closing in on the kill, could taste the sweet victory that loomed. If our raid leader was the team's coach, then Taba most certainly was its number-one fan. Taba would often jump into Vent and let me know about a commissioned piece of art he was having made up featuring major players in DoD's history -- the perfect example of a project a die-hard fan would take on. But how many fans get to play for the team? He was our own Tim "Ripper" Owens, a DoD enthusiast who got the chance to show us what he was made of, rising from his early days as a warrior in a monstrous guild, to leading the charge at the precipice of greatness. From the victory dance (in real-life) after acquiring Ashkandi off a fallen Nefarian, to holding the line of Murlocs as they swarmed in during Morogrim Tidewalker, Taba had played an integral role in DoD since the very early days of our raiding career.
My internal struggle, then, was the red flag. Or more appropriately, the fact that I had already swept it under the rug.
|Bretthew and Omaric had an|
"interesting" working relationship
Misguided ConscienceI moved past the little white lie about being hacked; Taba -- now Bretthew the paladin -- had come clean. He was back to reclaim his former glory and wipe the slate clean. The Eh Team had made him a core member of the group and through their efforts, had risen to glory on Deathwing-US as an unbeatable 10-Man team. Players graciously stepped aside to allow him into the 25-Man rotations so that he could begin to provide tanking support on a regular basis. Omaric, my choice to take up the mantle of raid leadership, had proposed Bretthew as his partner; dual raid leaders -- something we hadn't seen since the days of Ater and Blain. I desperately wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, yet my written rules on how to address red flags continued to glare back at me. Give me a reason to doubt your integrity, and a position of authority is off the table. Humans make mistakes, forgiveness was divine. But it didn't change what happened, and that trust he earned was wiped away in an instant. And my hard-and-fast rule said there would be no earning it back.
The evidence mounted that Bretthew was a changed man, fully absolved of his past. He wasn't languishing in denial, but rather was accepting of those events and put forth every ounce of effort to scrape that old mark off our history, and replace it with a new one. In the midst of my summer vacation, I logged on remotely to check in-game mail, only to see The Eh Team wrap up Glory of the Ulduar Raider, and in a huge spam of congratulatory cheers from the guild, another round of peer pressure was sent my way via whispers. C'mon! Just go ahead and promote Bretthew to Elite, already! He's earned it, hasn't he? Look how great the team is doing! They were right. So, in that moment, I gave the final member of The Eh Team a promotion to Elite. Bretthew had more than made up for any past injustices levied on me. Perhaps it was time to quit dwelling on the past.
It wasn't so much that I expected Bretthew to earn back my trust, but instead, that I didn't expect myself to be prepared to grant it.
So, I made the call. I smashed the cricket dead and agreed to Omaric's proposal, telling the two of them that I had no actual written rule about dual raid leaders for the time being. With the two of them in Vent, we worked through the ground rules. You must be unified in your approach. There can't be any public fighting between the two of you over a given strategy; take debates offline. You must back each other up at all costs, and sweep any personal differences of opinion aside until after the raid. Debates will breed dissent, and when the raiders start second-guessing you, they’ll begin to offer up their own two cents on how things should be done. That evening, we agreed to put an end to backseat raid leading, "It dies this day."
With new leadership taking the reins that weekend, a depressing task remained: seeing off the old blood.
|The 25-Man progression team defeats Freya with two|
Elders alive, earning "Knock Knock on Wood (25 Player)",
Cutting the CheeseThe conversation over IM that morning was as if nothing was changing. I sipped my coffee, reviewing some of my code at work, while the chat window filled with text from Cheeseus. He spoke of a math problem puzzling him, a hobby I'd since come to recognize as his means of sharing a nerdy passion among fellow gamers. Perhaps "solving for x" was his way of distracting himself from the more serious topic of his impending retirement from leading raids, a mantle he only held within the guild for one tier of content. Two weeks prior, he delivered the fatal blow: he was unable to pull himself out of the funk caused by a perception that we were failing. In his eyes, the blame rested solely on his shoulders. I made a concerted effort to convince him to reconsider, but I wasn't going to break my back over this upcoming changing of the guard. I'd lost far too many nights of sleep over the exit of high ranked players in my guild.
My expectations of guildies changed at the start of Wrath; I planned for players to leave. Player deficit was already in the budget before the first piece of loot ever dropped. Leadership held no get-out-of-jail-free-card in this respect. Even when my officers were solid, my ear was to the ground, listening for the threat of incoming change and grooming players as future replacements. Change begat change.
As we discussed the necessary changes to a race car's acceleration in order to match a new average speed, I began to zone out. My brain argued amongst itself, just as it had in dealing with the decision to accept Bretthew into a position of authority. The old, "pre-WotLK" me was struggling with his apparent denial of the situation. Why aren't you discussing your retirement? Don't you feel guilty about leaving the raid behind? Don't you have more work to do before this expansion ends? The new me kept it at bay. Quit dwelling. It isn't worth losing sleep over. He's made his bed. Omaric and Bretthew have a new show to put on. Business is business. That weekend would be Cheeseus' final raid as leader -- his last, great performance.
That evening, we managed to wrap up three more achievements, and although none of them were metas for Glory, one acted as a stepping stool to a needed meta. The first of these final badges under Chesseus' watch was "Must Deconstruct Faster (25 Player)", earned by dropping XT-002 in under 205 seconds -- just a tad under 3 ½ minutes. The second was "Rubble and Roll (25 Player)", forcing us to spawn twenty-five rubble minions from Kologarn's destroyed arms. The stepping stool achievement, which took us through the end of the evening, was "Knock Knock on Wood (25 Player)". This time around, the 25-Man progression team defeated Freya deep in her Conservatory of Life while being assisted by two Elders. Cheeseus opted to keep Stonebark and Ironbranch up, granting both Freya and her minions an additional 50% physical damage bonus. It was challenging but not oppressive...the real test would come later when the third Elder looped in an additional 50% nature damage to both Freya and her minions. Under those circumstances, blanketing the soft earth with a shower of AoE spells would ignite her adds, setting off a chain reaction that would blow the entire raid apart. It was an obstacle quickly approaching, just not one Cheeseus himself would have to deal with.
The raid wished Cheeseus well as the curtain drew to a close on the evening's performance. He shared with them that he wouldn't be too far away, watching their progress from the forums and popping into Ventrilo on occasion. He wouldn't be gone entirely, no...he wouldn't be that lucky. Our daily conversations would continue on to this very day, which was important -- because we still had one important topic to discuss...
...a topic I would not find out about until the end of Wrath of the Lich King.