Thursday, May 10, 2012

1.9. Enter: Blain

Blain adds some DPS to Buru the Gorger,
The Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj

A Wild Rogue Appears

My Tauren Shaman took a seat at the mouth of Molten Core, drinking some of the Mages' conjured water, checking my inventory, making sure I had remembered to bring the Whipper Root Tubers I'd plucked from Felwood. Ater sent me a virtual nudge in the form of a /tell, indicating that the new Rogue would be joining us this evening. Fantastic, I thought, at last we'll get to see some real damage for a change. I spun Kerulak around to get a look a look at him.

His name was Blain, and he did not look geared for Molten Core. At all.

We'd spent half a year in Molten Core; it was now the second week of April, 2006. Both Onyxia and Ragnaros were regulars on the schedule. Weekly clears geared our raiders to the core-hound tooth; our players were some of the most well-equipped on Deathwing-US. Blain, by comparison, looked like any random scrub plucked from /general.

Yet, we struggled.

Part of the problem laid with the rogues; their damage was pathetic and inconsistent. They had one job: sustained DPS. A reasonably well-played, well-geared Rogue should easily top the meters. Ours weren't capable of such a request. Whether it was a lack of leadership on the part of my then-Rogue officer Evilexan, or the rogues' inability to grasp basic concepts like speccing out of PvP for raids, I wasn't certain.

They needed help.

The rogues needed guidance and leadership; someone to tell them to pull their heads out of their asses, get them educated on the proper specs and rotations. But the one thing they didn't need was gear. Seven months of running Molten Core had granted them nearly complete sets of Tier 1 Nightslayer armor. Some even boasted the Tier 2 Helm and Pants (Bloodfang), having been present to multiple Onyxia and Ragnaros kills. And in their hands they wielded Core Hound TeethBrutality BladesGutgore Rippers, and Vis'kags. No Alliance player on Deathwing-US was safe to perform their daily tasks with our rogues lurking in the shadows -- the might of their weaponry all but assured the Alliance a quick and painful death, perpetually terrorized by the "Descendants of Draenor" guild tag.

Razorgore held no such fear of our rogues.

So as I glanced up at this newly acquired Undead Rogue, standing before me wearing parts of the Tier 0 Dungeon set, augmented by a few random blues, wielding a Zulian Slicer in one hand and an Ogre Pocket Knife in the other, I had to ask myself:

How in the hell would this guy be our savior?

I sent a /tell to Ater, "Are you sure he knows what he's doing?"

Ater told me to have faith and to watch; I braced for the worst. Ater called out into Vent that he was about to pull the Molten Giants and for everyone to be ready. I swiveled my shaman into position behind the casters, and hovered over Ater's name with my mouse, my healing trigger finger waiting for the first blow to strike him.

And then, it happened.

Within seconds of making the first pull in Molten Core, Blain's DPS shot up through the roof, topping the damage meters, tearing the Molten Giants apart.

It was not a marginal increase in performance, it was an order-of-magnitude difference.

The raiders watched in silence as he moved from mob to mob, swinging around from behind, tearing each monster apart, moving with lighting-fast reflexes from one minion to the next, as his existing target was still in the process of falling over dead. It was as if he had the kill order already planned out in his head. I immediately had a flashback to that night in Scholomance with Maxxum and his guild members, ripping the dungeon open from the inside out. Precision. Efficiency. Speed. Maximum DPS.


Warrior officer Annihilation wields The Untamed Blade,
Blackwing Lair

The Kill-All Strat

Blain mostly kept to himself. He didn't speak in vent and only typed responses when addressed directly. I continued to watch him, mob after mob, boss after boss, and night after night. Just as Ater had assured me, Blain continued to impress.

He and Ater had a synergy about them; they would work together to strategize and refine our current systems, making our Molten Core clears even faster. Long after the raid was over, Blain and Ater would venture off into a remote area of Azeroth, often with several other volunteer raiders in tow, mapping out new strategies, then trying them out in a kind of "dress rehearsal". Like kids constructing an attack plan in the sand with sticks and diagrams, they'd go over positioning, practice mechanics, movements, patterns. Ater had not lied -- Blain was a perfectionist. And when he assisted in the smaller 20-Man instances Zul'Gurub and The Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, he completely dominated the damage meters.

But this was all still junior-level stuff for us. Bosses we had mastered were, for the most part, brainless in their execution. The task at hand was to re-learn Razorgore, a boss we already knew was a brick wall. We'd already practiced and perfected a strategy, but patch 1.10 crippled its effectiveness. I feared what this meant. Weeks of unlearning, then even more weeks of re-learning, equating to zero progress in BWL. I doubted a single rogue would be enough to turn the tables as fast as we needed it to be flipped. Failing to put Razorgore on farm status in a timely fashion would most certainly spell the end of raiding in DoD.


The 40 of us stand in Razorgore's egg chamber, staring at the boss, wondering how we are going to pull this off. The only viable strategy that remains is the dreaded "kill-all" strat. Only the the very best hardcore guilds can do this; guilds far better geared and played than us. It's going to be extremely risky; it has a significantly higher DPS requirement than what we are capable of, not to mention the risk of the Legionnaires cleaving us. And the egg-chamber is small, enclosed area, so our out-of-combat battle rezzer is going to be useless.

Blain types into raid chat, "we’re going to be doing the kill-all strat."

This is crazy. We're not a hardcore raiding guild! We don't have the gear to meet the DPS requirements. The cleave is going to take players out all over the place. This strategy is absolutely destined for failure.

I watch in silence as Blain opens up the raid management window and begins re-arranging groups. One by one he analyzes the most efficient make-up for each corner of the chamber: A tank to control the mob currently being killed. A Mage to polymorph the incoming Legionnaire. The Hunter responsible for Dragonkin kiting. A Warlock to back the Mage up with a Fear, in case the Legionnaire breaks free. A Druid will act as another backup to sleep a Dragonkin if needed. A healthy balance of healers and DPS to burn through each corner as fast as humanly possible. I wait for him to move us into individual Vent channels to coordinate the communication, as each corner is going to have to call out DPS, polymorph, fear, stuns, kill orders, emergency heals...if we're all in one channel it'll be a catastrophe.

"We’ll be staying in one Vent channel," he types into Raid Chat.

What? This guy has to be absolutely bonkers, Vent is going to be a constant mess of talking; nobody is going to understand a damn thing with everyone yelling.

"Each corner has an identifier", Blain types, “A, B, C, and D. I want one person from each corner calling out their respective spawns. You'll call them out by 1st dragonkin, 2nd dragonkin, 1st mage, etc, so we'll know is crowd-controlling what."

This ought to be rich. How the hell is the raid supposed to know that?

"Here are the crowd-control assignments," he types. Blain proceeds to lay out every single call. Every crowd-control, every kill execution, from start to finish. He has, essentially, orchestrated the entire boss execution in front of us.

"Designated corner announcers in Vent will call out if their corner is overrun. Adjust as necessary."

We start. We swiftly knock out the controller and his guards, and the mind-controlling of Razorgore begins. Corners move into position. They start calling out their Dragonkin, just as Blain instructed. The Dragonkin are picked up and kited by Hunters. Mages begin to spawn, corner tanks pick them up, announce they have good threat, DPS begins tearing the Mages apart. We burn them as fast as we can. Legionnaires arrive, calls are made. Our raiders move quickly, polymorphing them into harmless sheep. How are we doing?

"Eggs going well, down to half", says the controller.

He continues to weave Razorgore throughout the egg-chamber, popping eggs left and right. One by one, more Dragonkin, Legionnaires, and Mages spawn. I start to get nervous, and glance at my mana bar. Still Ok, I can continue to heal, and throw out a Frost Shock here and there to assist DPS. Were we falling behind? More mobs arrived. I'm not sure how the other corners are doing, but am too focused on the Rogue’s strategy to divert my gaze. I keep my focus on the task, keep my corner tank alive. Careful...careful! Don’t break the sheep. How are the eggs now?

“Eggs still going well”.

I re-focus my attention. Burn the Mage down. Throw out a few more heals. What about the other corners? I'm nervous again; not getting a lot of feedback from the other teams. They are quiet, save for the "clang" of weapons and "whoosh" of spells being hurled across the room at our targets. Anyone overrun yet? Ah God, a Legionnaire is closing in on me. Watch out for the cleave, give the tank the room he needs to work. He grabs it up, faces it away; I'm safe from the cleave. How's my mana looking? I’m doing pretty well, I’ll throw out a Frost Shock, help my team get our corner down. Another Mage dies, the tank breaks a polymorphed sheep, and moves to the Legionnaire. My corner’s looking low on health; I get them back up safely. Ater's voice breaks the silence in Vent.

"We have extra mages in the middle, get them picked up".

A far corner sweeps over and gets those mages handled, I toss out some more heals. Someone calls out for how many eggs are left.

"We’re on the last egg, get ready to move Razor into position."


Before I know it, the final egg is broken, and the Dragonkin are running out of the egg chamber in preparation for Phase 2. The tanks pick him up and face him away from the raid, bearing the brunt of his conflagration alone. I hide behind pillars and begin line-of-sight healing, stepping in only to top off the tank, and then stepping back, safe from Razorgore's conflag. The tanks switch. More heals continue. Blain and his melee are wailing on the boss, giving it everything they have, while Mages, Warlocks send ranged attacks flying from a distance. I glance at the damage meters. Everyone is pushing as hard as they can.

...and all at once, Razorgore falls over dead, the victim of a kill-all strat.

The 25-Man Progression team defeats
Razorgore the Untamed,
Blackwing Lair

Have Some Faith

I was absolutely stunned. I never expected my guild capable of such refined raid execution; to be able to come together and work in such a synchronized, coordinated fashion. But we had, thanks to Blain, who wasn't interested in hearing about how or why we couldn't do something...but was more interested in humoring the possibility that we were. He not only put that effort into his own personal performance, he turned the Rogues around until they were all top-performing, dominating the meters like they always should have. I vowed to never again doubt our capabilities and made it a rule to preach Blain's ideals to the rest of the guild.

From here on out, raiding wasn't about what we couldn't reach, but rather, how fast we could get started.


Unknown said...

This blog is a very nice find. I started WoW during BC, and only raided in Wrath. Was always interested in the vanilla stuff and how much of a struggle it must have been.

The description of the kill-all attempt was gripping.

Good read, will keep reading.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to describe the euphoric feeling of superior orchestration, disciplined execution and teamwork, the incredible thrill of victory. And I've always found it nearly impossible to explain in a way that would resonate with someone who hasn't experienced it. But you do it well.

A read that's both satisfying and exciting.

-- Thundermaine / Aeq

Cherri Banks said...

I was in a 'casual' guild, with raiding. Meant we took longer to progress, but we got there. Man, Razorgore was a bitch. :D Thanks for bringing back the memories!

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this. I was an officer of an alliance guild, but man, we could have been in the same guild. All the same obstacles and all the same struggles. Great reading it. Thanks.