Thursday, February 6, 2014

3.53. Time for a Beer Run

RaidComp, a raid buff management tool that
allows raiders to strategize efficient rotations,
(Source: MMO-Champion.com)

How Very Meta

There was more to my rotations that simply bringing two tanks, six healers, eight melee and nine ranged. Equally (if not more) important was to look at each week's rotations and determine if the scheduled twenty-five people collectively brought all the needed buffs. I had a bit more play in the line during Wrath of the Lich King, when compared to the raids of their forefathers back in Burning Crusade. Up to my neck in naga and/or blood elves, certain buffs could only be provided by a single class -- it was for this reason alone that forced my hand into changing mains midway through WoW's first expansion. The mana-regenerating Replenishment was a lifeblood only a shadow priest could provide, and since I couldn't come to rely on others to step up, I made the sacrifice myself. I like to think that this contributed to our turnaround, giving our casters a few more rounds to finish a foe.

Paying close attention to your raid's buffs was a metagame that extended as far back as Vanilla. Turn the clock back a bit further, and I can remember a time when certain buffs simply weren't available...and you had no choice in the matter. Razorgore the Untamed was a totem kiting fest for the Horde's shamans (until a patch wiped that option away), while some Alliance gleefully exploited a paladin's Divine Intervention, trivializing the encounter with the sacrifice of a single player. The Alliance also held the upper hand in progression with Blessing of Salvation (again, thanks to paladins) while the Horde continually smashed their faces up against threat walls. Late into a boss fight, it wasn't uncommon for a Horde raid leader to order warlocks and mages to perform a final act of self-sacrifice, running headlong into the boss until dead -- an unfortunate yet effective way to prevent a caster from overtaking the main tank's threat. And of course, who could forget a dwarf priest's Fear Ward? Tremor totem may have seemed stronger, but I'm here to set the record straight. Hoping for a tremor pulse at the precise moment you need it doesn't hold a candle to the discrete control granted by an instant get-out-of-fear-free card that Fear Ward delivered. The lack of buff parity in Vanilla was tangible, and anyone raiding in that era knew the truth: the Alliance was easy mode. Anyone who tells you otherwise wasn't raiding during that time. 

...or probably has a love affair with the Alliance.

Fast forward to Wrath of the Lich King. The patchwork of raid buffs brought by individual classes crossed much more territory; this was the result of more classes sharing duties with formerly unique buffs -- a term hardcore critics refer to as "homogenization". They saw class homogenization as a dulling of class diversity. And in typical Ghostcrawler form, Greg took to the forums and defended Blizzard's new mantra of "bring the player, not the class". He argued on behalf of Blizzard that players shouldn't need to kick their best friends to the curb in order to bring that one dwarf priest for Fear Ward. His argument spoke to me personally. I had experienced, first hand, the result of having to make painful decisions to bring certain folks while leaving others behind -- it had even affected my own raiding character. The metagame of yore seemed unnecessarily harsh. Logistically, it was dreadful to plan for. It was counterintuitive to bench a seasoned player lacking buffs in favor of a player that could barely spell his own name without drooling all over himself...just to get the buff he brought. So, while players ranted publicly how Ghostcrawler and Co. were watering down the game, I looked at my weekly rotations with optimism, free of stress, picking players like a kid in a candy store. Making use of online tools like RaidComp, the matrix of buff coverage was easily filled out week-to-week. Throughout the course of Wrath of the Lich King, I almost never had any reason to be concerned.

Almost never.

"High Shaman Mairne Ragetotem"
Artwork by Carmen Torres

Nerf Shamans

There was one buff the Horde held over the Alliance's head in Vanilla: Windfury. The totem's buff radiated across the four players sharing a group with a shaman, granting them an occasional second attack in each tick of the swing timer. Back in Vanilla, haste had yet to be implemented in any capacity, so this "instant second attack" design made for a devastatingly strong melee group. You can thank Windfury for the reason shamans were deemed "overpowered" in Vanilla. When a tauren draped in Earthfury stampeded into Tarren Mill wielding The Unstoppable Force tightly between cloven hooves, giant swaths of Alliance were cleaved in seconds, sending night elves to their graves and forcing paladins to earn a label of their own...scrambling to bubble through the damage and hearth away in terror.

Over the years, Windfury saw a number of changes. Most notably, the self-applied weapon buff began to diverge from the totem buff granted to the shaman's party. While extra attacks continued to proc off the class-specific weapon imbue, the totem conversely took advantage of a newly appearing stat: Haste, a flat increase in attack speed. By the time Wrath of the Lich King arrived, Windfury Totem had converted into delivering a 20% haste buff to its group. This slightly less potent totem buff was still brilliant when paired with well-played melee. The Windfury totem buff was a gap closer. Buffing the right melee was often the difference between laid-back, enjoyable boss kills, and repeated 1% wipes. Therefore, having Windfury was vitally important to the success of the raid, so it was my responsibility to ensure we had someone bring it each and every week. I couldn't think of a better person to take up this job than a veteran of Descendants of Draenor: Bheer.

In DoD's early days, battered and bruised below Blackrock Mountain, a warlock named Kragnl was one of the faces that helped put us on the map. Under the leadership of my first warlock officer Gutrippa, he faithfully made his weekly penance in Molten Core. In the days of never knowing who would show up week-to-week, those few individuals who were consistent are the ones who remain clear in my mind today. Kragnl was a regular in the 40-Man and was present for many clears of the Core and the Lair. Never causing drama or questioning authority, Kragnl was representative of someone I hoped many others could strive to emulate. It was sad, then, to hear that he would be leaving us at the start of The Burning Crusade. So many classes and roles were in such heavy flux throughout TBC; it would've been nice to have one more person I could rely on to be faithful to the roster. But it wasn't for a new guild, he promised, just the dreaded "real life". He assured me he would be back if he could make it work.

It meant enough to him to do so.

Snippet from the
Raid Slot Template

The Drinking Cow

My instant messenger popped-up one morning, revealing that Kragnl was returning to WoW for Wrath of the Lich King. He inquired as to whether or not there was still a place for him in Descendants of Draenor. Of course! I concurred without hesitation. He informed me he'd be switching things up, retiring the warlock and bringing a druid named Beercow to the table instead. He was excited about the new possibilities that druids had in Wrath, as they were now capable of so much more in a raid setting. 

To the hardcore naysayers: a little homogenization wasn't necessarily a bad thing. For many, it breathed new life into the game.

We scrambled up to level 80, making weekly updates to the Raid Slot Template, a forum post I created during the reboot of the guild. It acted as a single point of information for all forthcoming raiders on who we had ready to hit the pavement, and where our abundances and shortages lay. My plan with the forum post was for it to enforce one of the guild's new edicts: I won't tell you what we need, you tell me what you enjoy playing. The intent of this new ideal was to produce a raid of passionate players, as opposed to a disjointed mix of folks halfheartedly playing a role they were forced into...just to see content. Guildies kept their eye on the Raid Slot Template, saw which classes/roles were filling out, and where the shortages became most apparent. This new information, I wagered, could lead them to introspect and make a more informed decision about cutting over to class they enjoyed playing...that we also just happened to lack.

Beercow was the first player to take advantage of this.

The warlock-turned-druid noted the increased surge of interest in tanks. The advent of the death knight -- coupled with the broadening of other capabilities to existing warriors, druids, and paladins -- made for a healthy abundance in the tank category of the Raid Slot Template. He was in contact with me daily, over the forums and instant messenger, doing the math and sizing up his chances at a regular druid spot in progression. Between myself and Dalans, two officers had tank spots locked down every week. In Wrath, three tanks per 25-Man was still feasible, with four being an extreme exception (sacrificing DPS as a result). Realistically, this meant only one floating tank spot per week for Beercow to squeeze into, yet we were overflowing with warriors and death knights trying to vie for a spot in progression. He expressed his concern, so I sat down with him and reviewed the holes in the Raid Slot Template, discussing a possible contingency plan. To Beercow, being a part of the progression raid team was of the utmost importance; in the back of my mind, it meant he was determined to claw his way up to Elite. If that was the case, I wanted to do everything in my power to make it happen. 

One glaring deficiency stood out in the Raid Slot Template: any semblance of a dedicated enhancement shaman. It seemed that no one had yet to express an interest in filling that particular niche. Was it a possibility? Absolutely. Something new, fresh and exciting to try -- and with the thought of being the only regular, consistent enhancement shaman in 25-Man progression, Beercow saw it as an opportunity to stand out as a pillar we could rely on. His chances of seeing every raid shot through the roof.

Thus was borne Bheer.

With the same tenacity he demonstrated years earlier during Vanilla, Bheer signed up consistently each week for our 25-Man progression raid as the sole enhancement shaman. It was easy to justify a rotation every week. Not only did it mean that Mail melee gear wouldn't go to waste, he would be bringing Windfury to his partners. The demand for Bheer's unique talents and buffs skyrocketed. When not in the 25-Man progression raid, he found more to fill his plate with throughout the week. Bheer became a member of the infamous Eh Team, helping produce a nonstop stream of 10-Man achievement spam in guild chat. I'm happy to say that he fulfilled his duty to become a pillar of the 25-Man and remained one of the most dedicated, reliable raiders in 25-Man progression.

...which is what made the blind side that much more difficult to deal with.

10 comments:

Fred said...

You know, if we were in such need for an enhance shaman, you could have asked me. Dichotomy was always enhance and a staple in the alt raids ever week.... just saying

Dalans said...

Or we could have just used my shaman Bbqburger who's been 60 since Alterac Valley was popular...

Fred said...

bbqburger? Looks like I ate your shaman for dinner last night

Anonymous said...

Aww. What about the old school enhance shamans like Umpy and Bojax(or was it Borken)?

Brett Easley said...

Awwwww..... now I miss Bojax...... :(

Anonymous said...

Most of the time I read your posts, they end with this cliffhanger, and I get the feeling it's a double cliffhanger.

The first being the issue itself (Usually resolved fairly fast, in the next 1-3 posts).

But I also get the feeling that the whole blog is heading towards a specific issue, through what information you give and don't give, and when you give or don't give it.

And that's the second part of the cliffhanger, all these problems/issues and stories building to one central one. All these threads coming together slowly over time, into one final knot.

And I think it's going to be, "Why/How did it all end?" :P

-Catelina, KT Alliance Holy Priest

P.S. As a former TROLL holy priest in vanilla/BC who desperately tried to keep a shaman who thought spamming frost shock was the best thing evar (And got in arguments with me that his mail armor and shield made how tanky enough, and it's not his fault the tank can't out threat him, why can't I just heal him? -_-), I agree, tremor totem sucked ass. Having ways to make classes unique was great, making it do that they and ONLY they can fill a certain slot, less so.

Anonymous said...

... made HIM tanky enough, damnit autocorrect...

-Catelina, blahblahblah

Shawn Holmes said...

@Catelina,

You are correct in assuming that these are all smaller stories building up to the big one. Suffice it to say, I can assure you that:

1. You will not be bored with what is to come,

2. Part III (WotLK) does have a pretty big twist at the end of it,

3. Part IV (Cata) will make Part III look like a walk in the park.

Blain said...

***20 seconds into a fight***

Me: "Why is Bojax dead?"
Bojax: "I pulled aggro. I'll ahnk."

***30 seconds later***

Me: "Why is Bojax dead again?"
Bojax: "I pulled aggro again. Battle Rez me."

***45 seconds later***

Me: "You aren't getting another brez Bojax..."
Bojax: "It's not my fault I pull aggro all the time!"

/facepalm

Anonymous said...

@Blain

I loved playing my hunter during BC, Feign Death was an amazing ability for controlling threat, and allowed me as a hunter to out dps most of my friends (Even though they were better players, and better geared). I also used Misdrect to help the raids dpsers to not pull. >_>

That said, my shaman friend spent a lot of time using his only aggro control ability.

Death. :/

-Catelina, KT Alliance Holy Priest