Thursday, July 19, 2012

1.19. The Sprint

DoD clears trash during an evening raid,

Nerfed by Proxy

The glue of the spider wing's webbing dragged Naxxramas out for weeks. I kept optimistic by reflecting back on how far we had come. Our raiding career thus far had produced plenty of accomplishments we could claim ownership of. Ragnaros. Nefarian. Princess Huhuran. And while other guilds may have progressed past us, we remained one of only a handful of Horde guilds on Deathwing-US to be Naxxramas-capable. We'd grown from a tiny handful of close-knit players to this monstrosity that was able to run two separate 40-Man raids per week. The players were respectful. They made an effort to be civil. And, we boasted a number of unique strengths, including a few High Warlords -- the first of which whom was both an officer and a trusted friend. Upon reflection, I'd made a real effort to stick to my guns on the guild's ideals. When it looked like trolling was about to start, either in general chat or on the forums, I shut it down. The officers were also aligned with those ideals; I trusted them to shut down trolling on my behalf. We kept a low profile on Deathwing-US, and as a result, were rarely called out by other competing guilds. We'd lost people, true...but not in massive quantities; we certainly weren't hemorrhaging players. For the most part, loyalty in Descendants of Draenor was good. The trash in Naxxramas may have been brutal, but players returned each week. They knew time was running out on Vanilla. The finish line was in sight. The sprint had commenced.

When not on an actual boss, the conversation turned to 2.0 with curiosity and speculation. Initial talent trees had leaked out, promising new forms of heals to my Shaman -- the most significant of which came in the form of an Earth Shield. Other classes were similarly buffed with new talents; I'd bug Dalans by asking him if he was looking forward to the new Tree Form, and was promptly told to cram that tree of restoration up my ass. Dalans made no secret of his hatred in healing. Come 2.0, he would leave it behind once-and-for-all, and planned to follow in the footsteps of Ater and Annihilation as a Tank. Meanwhile, Volitar the Priest and Kadrok the Shaman were fully committed to leveling a Blood Elf Paladin, as the age-old faction restrictions fell to the wayside in The Burning Crusade. They spoke of marathoning a 24/7 leveling effort, sacrificing both hygiene and sleep...which was certain to produce some amusing dialogue in Vent.

As exciting as it was for all of us to pour over those new talents, a sinister side-effect remained: an implicit drop in difficulty to all the raid instances we were working on. Fights like Anub'rekhan that were so tightly tuned would suddenly become trivial with the existence of talents like Vitality, granting Ater an overnight bonus of 5% to his Stamina; the equivalent of an entirely new set of gear. The brunt of the free-for-all healing would no longer rest solely on the shoulders of the Shamans, with our raid's Priests blanketing the group with Circle of Healing. And of course, our damage dealers would all gain a 41 point talent that would inflate their DPS by a significant amount, the Hunters with The Beast Within, the Rogues with their Surprise Attacks...the list went on. Our heals would heal harder, our tanks would live longer, our damage dealers would be deadlier...

...and our raids would be nerfed by proxy.

To the guild, 2.0 meant a breath of fresh air, exciting new content and challenges. To me, it meant the end of Vanilla progression. The day that 2.0 hit, anything we had yet to execute would officially be off-the-table, tainted by the stench of these new talents...none of which had been considered in the design of Naxxramas. Whatever we could clear before 2.0 would be our legacy in Vanilla.

I wanted our final effort in Naxxramas to be significant.

Grand Widow Faerlina

We pushed further down into the Arachnid Quarter, clearing away the spider threat, until at last we came upon a room filled with cultists. They bowed and chanted toward a woman dressed in fanatic robes of yellowish greens, adorned with jagged black spikes -- instantly recognizable as the Tier 3 Warlock set, Plagueheart. The woman stood on her circular stage, flanked by six senior religious heads, four of which were deemed "Worshipers", the other two, "Followers". Ater and Annihilation rushed into the hypnotized crowd and the raid proceeded to put them out of their misery, granting us a wide berth to setup our strategy.

There was no rocket surgery here: Main Tank on the Grand Widow, Off-Tanks on the Worshippers. Kill the two Followers, then unleash Hell on Faerlina. Decurse the Poison Volley, move quickly from her Rain of Fire. There was only one gimmick to the fight: we'd call on our Priests again, as we had with Razuvious. Every minute into the fight, Faerlina would gain a powerful Enrage, making her sword strikes so brutal that healers would empty their entire pool just to keep the Main Tank alive. But, we could no longer rely on our Hunters to tranquilize the buff -- she was too powerful, even for them. Much like turning Razuvious' students against their teacher, we would have to call on our secret weapon Volitar, who would Mind Control a Worshiper. The Worshipers alone possessed the power to purge Faerlina of her rage. This power would cost the Worshiper their life, which meant we only had four silences at our disposal.

The first enrage came at the 50 second mark, then every minute thereafter. The 3:50 mark would be our last opportunity to purge her of her enrage ability. If the fight drew out to the 4:50 mark, our healers would be running on empty, and she would most certainly cleave us apart, one-by-one, until there was nothing left alive in our crew of 40 raiders. This style of fight, where resources are limited and poor execution can lead to a wipe via attrition, is what we referred to as a Soft Enrage. The terminology stands to this day in communicating to players whether or not they are fighting to beat a static timer before the boss goes ballistic (Hard Enrage), or we ultimately do ourselves in by not utilizing the hidden mechanics in the encounter.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Grand Widow Faerlina,

Emergency Maneuvers

Haribo had me and a few other Shamans on Kurst and Darange, the Off-Tanks for the Followers. They were the first to be killed; Follower AoE silence posed a threat not only to our other healers and casters, they could potentially cause issues for the Priests attempting to control a Worshiper. Once the Followers were dead, this freed Kadrok, Klocker and I to start painting our Chain Heals across the remainder of the raid.

"In 15 seconds, we're going to have an enrage, healers get ready," Blain called out into Vent. I spun Kerulak around, winding up more Chain Heals.

"No. We're gonna do one more, then the Enrage", Volitar called back, as he prepared to take out a Worshiper -- his implication being that we were planning to silence Faerlina before her next Enrage. This tactic would also kill the Worshiper, but grant us 30 additional seconds of smoother incoming damage. Rather than risk a few seconds of Faerlina's enraged strikes, which could one-shot an ill-prepared tank, guilds would employ the tactic of silencing her before her enrage, granting temporary asylum from the onslaught, negating a round of poison volley in the process. Two birds to be killed by one stone.

But in the chaos of Naxxramas, it was easy to get mixed up. Volitar still thought we were on the first Worshiper, when we were already ready for the second.

"Nononono", Blain called back, "Need to let her"

Faerlina grew large, her entire body bathed in a deep blood red -- the telltale sign of an enrage mechanic. Volitar silenced her in an instant, and she resumed her normal size, the redness washing away. The raid continued to unleash while Blain's voice remained calm, giving us updates as necessary. A cool, collected head breeds success, Blain was adamant on stymieing panic. We gave up our fourth and final Worshiper, but he kept us focused with words like "plenty of time". The DPS poured in. Another volley of poison showered us while we decursed it away.

"She's enraging, Ater get ready to shield wall." Blain called out. Too late. Before Blain's digitized voice finished transmitting across the Internet, Ater was struck and killed by Faerlina's enraged blows. Initiate Plan B.

"Rogues, get ready to evasion tank." They swarmed in behind him, ready for an Evasion rotation, which would give each rogue their 15 seconds of fame as they held Faerlina, dodging her blows -- the raid pushing out the last of their DPS. But the Rogues would not see any fame this day, for as they moved into position to begin emergency tanking maneuvers, Faerlina's pool of health went dry, and she collapsed near the steps to the stage she was worshipped on. The death of Grand Widow Faerlina was a sigh of relief to DoD. After agonizing over Anub'rekhan for six weeks, the Grand Widow only took us one weekend of work.

If our luck kept up, we could potentially close the Arachnid Quarter down completely. But if the next boss proved to be another Anub'rekhan, Faerlina might be the last boss we could claim under Vanilla.

1 comment:

Jean-Marie said...

Solid blog man!
I had tears in my eyes when I read that last paragraph!
In Vanilla we cleared MC and stopped at Vael. It took us more than 2 months of tries on Ragna, and by the time we mastered Razorgore we almost oneshotted Vael.
But our guild was broken by then...