Thursday, July 12, 2012

1.18. A Shot of Adrenaline

Crazzyshade and Kadrok strip down to their
skivvies to show off DoD's first Tier 3,
Eastern Plaguelands

Solace in Loot

At the end of September, after being in Naxxramas for over a month, we finally collected the necessary Wartorn Scraps to exchange for our guild's first Tier 3 pieces. Blizzard was still playing with the "token" concept by this point. In AQ40, tokens dropped off of the more difficult bosses, and each token was shared by a number of classes. The tokens would be distributed to players, who would then exchange the token for their respective class tier pieces. It was a clever solution to the age-old problem of streakiness; due to the nature of random numbers, we'd often see the same loot drop week-after-week, which made gearing a chore. By granting us tokens, we now had some control over those items which previously seemed cursed with horrendously bad luck.

Blizzard changed up the token concept a bit in Naxxramas. Now, bosses dropped Wartorn Scraps of multiple armor varieties: Cloth, Leather, Chain and Plate. Players would collect up these scraps and after amassing a certain amount, they could exchange the handful of scraps with an NPC stationed in Light's Hope Chapel for their Tier 3 gear. The trick in this case was that each boss didn't drop all the scraps necessary for a single exchange. The plan was to farm multiple bosses each week, allowing the raid to collect a multitude of scraps so that at least one item was purchasable. But, after five weeks of work, we hadn't pushed past Instructor Razuvious -- only collected a handful of scraps each week. In our long standing quest to be an efficient raiding guild, this was the worst way to achieve progression. But we'd made our decision on Naxxramas and stuck to it, and in the process, earned enough Wartorn Scraps to issue out our first Tier 3 Boots, one pair to Crazzyshade, a dedicated Warlock, and the other, to my Shaman officer Kadrok. He may have been displeased at leaving AQ40 behind, but perhaps found some solace in becoming one of the first members of the guild to proudly show off a Tier 3 piece.

Not many on Deathwing-US could do the same.


After the kids were tucked in, I headed downstairs, fell into my chair, and logged in to WoW. There was nothing spectacular planned this particular evening, so I hopped on to my guild bank alt, Oxanna, to process whatever requests the guild had for me, either distributing Zul'Gurub Zandalari tokens, or Idols and Scarabs for AQ20. As soon as I arrived in-game, Blain whispered me immediately.

"Flip over to Kerulak and head to Silithus."

"Why? What's going on?"

"Ater just looted the other bindings in MC. We're going to go do Thunderaan."

Kerulak stands next to Thuderaan's
massive weapon, Thunderfury,

The Blessed Blade

One year. Fifty-two raids. Eighty players across two separate forty-man raid groups. I had to hand it to Ater. He never gave up. Long after the A-team had left Molten Core behind and turned their attentions to most difficult challenges of AQ40 and Naxxramas, Ater continued to run through the Core. Even the mention of the Core made a lot of the A-team raiders sick to their stomach, never again wanting to set foot in the instance after having made it their weekly torture for so many months. But Ater swallowed the torture, the sole POW interrogated incessantly by the Surgers, Annihilators, Core Hounds, and Molten Giants. He's withstood more Pyroclast Barrages than any other player in DoD, and bore witness to more dusted Shadowstrikes than any mortal man should have to. Ater did it with a smile on his face, intently focused on the goal that drove him: Bindings of the Windseeker, two legendary materials held captive by Garr and Baron Geddon, in defiance of the Windlord's armies. And after running Molten Core for a solid year in Descendants of Draenor, the second Bindings dropped, and at last, Ater could claim a weapon that all tanks coveted in World of Warcraft:

Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker.

By the time I was logged in to Kerulak and en route to Silithus, Ater had already taken a crew to smelt the Elementium Bars necessary to craft the sword. Elementium could only be smelted in Blackwing Lair, in the covey behind Firemaw's path, just beyond the suppression room. The bars were in hand, and our raid invites continued to grow as more players logged on, ready to assist in completing the guild's first ever Legendary. When we arrived in Silithus, we quickly moved to the southwestern part of the zone. Unlike the brown sands dominated most of the zone, the Twilight Outpost in the southwestern region was shielded by darker, gray rock. Venturing out there by yourself immediately invoked a sense that you were somewhere you didn't belong, an ominous area where cultists were performing rituals, attempting to communicate with dark horrors hidden below the earth. It had an entirely different feel when protected by thirty-nine of your closest guildies. We paid no attention to the cultists. Today, we had another objective.

Ater announced he was talking to the quest giver, and in a moment, a giant windlord arose from the surface: Prince Thunderaan the Wind Seeker. He towered above us, matching the size of Ragnaros, but wasn't nearly as threatening. In fact, the slaying was over almost as quickly as it started. The raid pummeled Thunderaan into submission and he sank below Silithus only a few minutes after being summoned. A gigantic pronged weapon spun downward out of the sky, lodging itself in the dirt -- lit up by sparks of electricity travelling the length of the blade. After talking with the quest giver and handing over the materials, he called out in Vent:

"Oh, look at that!"

The same lightning-engorged blade that protruded from the sand was now in the hands of our main tank.


It's hard to say if acquiring the guild's first legendary was the shot of adrenaline we needed to catapult us forward in Naxxramas, but it certainly didn't hurt. Our milky, zombified eyes seemed to sharpen overnight. Exterminating the spider trash was a little less painful, a little less chaotic. Ater lept into battle, swinging the blessed blade left and right, tearing the abdomens of the arachnids wide open, bolts of electricity leaping from insect to insect. Not only was Ater's AoE threat greatly enhanced by the Nature Damage chaining across targets, I noticed a considerable smoothing of incoming damage he took overall, a result of his primary target's attacks being slowed by Thunderfury's cyclone effect. Whatever slight improvement it was,  the edge had been taken off of Naxx. We cleared with a bit more efficiency, stood our ground with a little more confidence, and knuckled down on our next boss with greater ferocity.

Positioning for the original 40-Man Anub'rekhan,

Dinner Time

Anub'rekhan was a Crypt-Lord; a giant scarab-like creature. Unlike a traditional insect, his features were more humanoid in prominence, he took on more the stance of a bear than of a beetle, and had a distinguishable face in lieu of classic insectoid eyes and antennae, while still demonstrating frightening spiked protrusions from his head and body.

He addressed us as dinner.

The mechanics behind Anub'rekhan were straightforward, but execution was an entirely different beast. He would require a tank to hold him position while large Crypt Guards would spawn in pairs, needing to be picked up and pulled to the side to be killed.  Where things got ugly was when Anub'rekhan cast his Locust Swarm ability. Locusts would infest the area near Anub'rekhan and would force the tank to kite him to the other end of the room. But, anyone (including the tank) caught in the swarm would take so much damage from the DoT that they would be killed within a matter of seconds, and to make matters worse, the locust swarm itself silenced and slowed anyone caught in its path. As Crypt Guards were already being off-tanked to the side, this circular room left little area to move...and having forty players in the raid made things extremely tight. The kite path, therefore, had to be along the outer edge of the circular room in a crescent shape. Dragging Anub'rekhan through the middle was out of the question. Too many people would be hit and killed in the process.

Execution required surgical precision on the part of the main tank because there was only a split second warning before Anub'rekhan summoned the swarms of locusts. The main tank had to be running away before the cast began. Furthermore, a player's standard run speed would not be enough to outrun the swarm; the main tank would have to be accelerated by a Hunter's Aspect of the Pack. This was already a frightening concept, due to the single reason that if the tank was late by even a fraction, he would be hit and stunned from Aspect of the Pack, eliminating any potential option of escape. No single person could afford to be caught in the insect's path. It required everyone to be alive. Each person that died would spawn a corpse scarab that would add to the ambient damage flowing in to the raid. On top of all this, Anub'rekhan impaled random spots in the room, spikes shooting up from the floor, tossing packs of us into the air and interrupting whatever cast we had planned. It all added up to one single fact:

Everyone had to play perfectly, and nobody could die.

Annihilation opted to handle Anub'rekhan, to learn and perfect the kite, while the remaining Warriors held the Crypt Guards at bay. The Hunter officer Kaleu was responsible for remaining in Anni's party, since buffs only affected the five people in each sub-group during Vanilla. Nights were spent practicing this mechanic, over and over. Anni watched for the warning, Kaleu flipped on Aspect, the kite would commence. I would stand ahead of him, throwing out a few heals in the process, eating the occasional impale, while the raid blasted away at Crypt Guards. The execution became almost clockwork in nature, after repeating it again and again, only to make one small error in timing half way through. Then, the chain reaction began. Players would die, corpse scarabs would spawn. They, in turn, would eat away at other raid members until they died, producing more scarabs. We were soon overwhelmed. Kites would be repeated in perfection by Anni for the duration of these attempts, only for a momentary lapse in timing which would cause the fight to unravel and for us to start anew. Perfect...or nothing. No gray area in between.

On October 15th, six weeks after our first kill of Instructor Razuvious, we punched through Anub'rekhan's thick scarab shell, and its wings flapped one last time as the bug collapsed on its side. I glanced up at the raid -- everyone was alive. It was as I predicted. Only perfection would fly at this late stage in the game. But at a grueling six-week duration on boss practice, how much further were we going to get?


Anonymous said...

Your description about Anub's abilities brings back memories from Warcraft 3

Shawn Holmes said...


Anub'arak's Impale and Locust Swarm are now pretty synonymous with crypt lords like Anub'rekhan. We're reliving now in Heroes of the Storm. :)