Thursday, September 27, 2012

2.9. Razor Sharp

Kerulak surveys the dead after
High King Maulgar is slain,
Gruul's Lair

High King Maulgar

The starter pistol fired for the 25-Man raid team in the middle of March of 2007, beginning with Gruul's Lair. Deep within the lair, two encounters lay in wait. The first of these was High King Maulgar, a "council" of five bosses, all attacked simultaneously, all dealt with in a specific order-of-execution. By defeating Maulgar and his four cronies, we would be granted access to Gruul himself. As the light approached green, we encouraged the core raid team to research these encounters ahead of time and figure out what they needed to do. Back in the saddle to lead our raids to victory was Ater, who now worked with me during the day at a web agency in Denver, Colorado. His partner in crime, Blain, had sold off his shares of the raid leadership company. While still present to help out, Blain no longer ran the show -- it was back in Ater's competent hands, and Blain's successor, well...

...Ater was still working on that.

Early attempts on High King Maulgar did not go well. The challenge of dealing with a multitude of simultaneous mechanics was startling for an entry-level raid boss. The encounter was at its most chaotic during the initial several minutes. After the pull was made, we slowly refined each tank's position, shuffling each member of the council into the best position we could. The hope was by doing so, we'd limit interference among the tanks. We got a handle on our optimal positioning fairly quick.

What we continually didn't get a handle on was the Mage Tank.

Our Mage tank's marching orders were as follows: Hit Krosh with an instant-cast, high-damage spell. Wait for Krosh to throw up his Spell Shield. Spam Spellsteal and get a hold of that shield. Get back to the far edge of the cave as quickly as possible. And then, range-tank Krosh until the Shield drops. Toss up any kind of damage resistance you have: Fire Ward, Mana Shield...whatever, because there will be at least one Greater Fireball that Krosh will make you eat, and you will have to be healed through it. Then, Spellsteal his next Spell Shield, and repeat the process until we say otherwise.

Simple, right?


Turtleman lays waste to the stage hands while
the Paladin Officer Kadrok keeps him alive,

Arcane Ignorance

Many of our washed attempts were directly related to the mage tank. Krosh resisted the mage's initial blast of damage. Or the Spellsteal was resisted. Or the mage was in the wrong position. Or the mage lost track of when the Spell Shield was about to drop, preventing them from getting up a Fire Ward to eat the next unprotected blast. Specialized gear for the mage tank was a must; high stamina and hit-capped or gee-tee-eff-oh. The problem was one that had plagued Descendants of Draenor for a lot longer than our pathetic few weekends of work on High King Maulgar. Our mages were a never-ending churn of new faces, rarely settling down on a dedicated, reliable individual. Back when Naxxramas threw us the curve-ball of having priests tank Razuvious, I had my healing officer Haribo, and one of his longest running, most reliable priests in the 40 -- a player by the name of Volitar -- take up the responsibility.

When it came time to ask a mage to tank Krosh, there were no officers to step up. No long-term rock stars. The roster was comprised of strangers. Ater told me he'd be asking Dazmon, a lone Mage left over from the 40-Man, to come equipped with the appropriate stamina-focused items, but Dazmon had never been called on to do anything but raw damage in the 40. And, like many of our mages, they didn't even bother putting effort into decursing, so asking them to perform a task like tanking was going to be a say the least. I'd hoped to have Dandrak back, the mage that landed the final blow on Vaelastrasz, or perhaps Turtleman, an up-and-coming mage that dominated the meters through his tenure in the 40.

Neither were available.

Our churning mages weren't self-led, they didn't think about things like "maybe I should build up a Krosh-tanking set, in case I'm needed". And since there was no Mage Officer to speak of as we headed into TBC, any communication that might have hinted to other mages to be well-equipped fell to the floor and was swept under a rug. But the mages were only part of the issue, other changes in the lineup plagued us. Several weeks passed with this heavily fluctuating roster, and each time we set foot in Gruul's Lair, it seemed like Ater and I were gazing into another sea of faces that had to be trained.

Here's where not to stand. This is what's going to happen. Pay attention to these particular warnings. When Ater moves Maulgar over here, make sure you get out of the way. If Kurst has to have help with an interrupt on Blindeye, get a focus macro ready. Watch out for his whirlwind. Watch out when he yells. Watch out when the mage tank calls for a heal.

Why don't you take this coloring book and go sit in the corner.

The time we lost between inappropriate mage tanks and the re-education of new grunts each week made me feel like we could have completed dozens of runs through Molten Core. But the Forty was dead, the Twenty-Five was here to stay, and so part of that meant a much tighter tune on Blizzard's end. Raids were serious business, after all...and the effort they put into the complex gating requirements further cemented it into our heads: Not everybody belongs in here. Maybe you're one of them. And with every wipe, I heard it ringing in the back of my head like a bully on the playground. 

Are you one of the weak, pathetic complainers that's gonna cry about how hard it is? Gonna go cancel your subscription, 'cause you can't work out the pull on the very first boss? Gonna cry about it? Maybe give us a little QQ on the boards?

I said nothing and ran back.

Descendants of Draenor defeats High King Maulgar,
Gruul's Lair


On the third weekend of work on the High King, Ater was absent, gone for a work-related activity. Blain was still present and offered to assist, but not having a well-geared and attuned Main Tank sucked. Thankfully, I was able to call upon my ex-Warrior officer Annihilation to fill Ater's spot. Anni had already stepped down from leadership and raiding to focus on PvP, but it was in his nature to help when the call went out, so he dropped what he was doing and filled in at the last second.

The aura of frustration was ever present, while I sat and drank my Purified Draenic Water. Was it a lack of truly motivated raiders? A lack of having Blain involved in the day-to-day tasks of raid leadership? Or was it that this curve of difficulty was as sharp as a razor, unlike anything we had predicted or expected? Whatever it was, we stayed vigilant. Pulling. Wiping. Running back. Pulling again. Wiping. Running back.

Pulling again.


Running back.

Pulling again.

...not wiping

Staying alive. Blindeye dying. The raid collapsing onto Olm. Olm dying. Ranged focusing on Kiggler. Melee sweeping around behind the High King. Kiggler dying. Melee running out while Maulgar whirldwinds. Krosh still being off-tanked. Maulgar's health dropping. 3%. 2%. 1%.

And the King at last was dead.

On April 6th, 2007, Descendants of Draenor was officially back on the raiding map. It was not a clean kill by any means; 11 of our 25 raiders lay dead at Maulgar's feet. Also high up on the sucking meter: Ater missing our first official boss kill. It was very important to me to have the core raid team present for our first boss kills as often as possible. But we were at the mercy of who was available (and keyed) to raid that week, so we did our very best to make do. I stressed to officership that I didn't want it to become a habit; it would not only leave players behind from a gear perspective (there were no alternatives to gearing up for raids in TBC), it caused us to have less of that family feel in the guild.

I didn't want us to turn into a cold, faceless raiding machine. I wanted the machine to have warmth and life, to cheer alongside good friends who had banded together, stuck it through, and against all odds, made a difference. Together.

As we lined up to take our screenshot in front of the fallen King, I surveyed the roster. Of our original 40-Man core progression raiders from Vanilla, 15 were present, and 4 of them were Officers, a bittersweet reminder of what impact the loss of the forty had on my guild. We took our screenshot, congratulated each other, and swiftly moved down to the hall in preparation to get our faces smashed into the ground by Gruul.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2.8. What Rolleth Downhill

Kerulak faces the fel reaver Negatron
while completing "You, Robot",


After bandaging the wound in the guild that was the result of Dreadlocker's exodus, I returned to the day-to-day grind of recruiting players for the 25-Man Progression raid. Part of this process involved (among other things) ensuring that players were "keyed" for raids. Attunement gates were a constant thorn in my side, having first dealt with them in Vanilla. The attunements in Vanilla were trivial by comparison and played a very important role. Keying ensured that players were ready for raid progression, keeping players out that couldn't be bothered with the effort necessary to gear up and qualify themselves as a player capable of what lay deep underwater in Serpentshrine Cavern, or housed behind the arcane walls of The Eye. The thought was: If a player had the capacity to complete a series of dungeon-related tasks (some of which were quite challenging), this keying process would ultimately vet the player -- it would prove to the game that the player was prepared to raid. From a casual perspective, raiding was not easy. It required finely tuned talents, gear, and skill. If you knew what you were doing, if you were adequately prepared...raiding was a straightforward part of the game.

Attunements were a clever design to vet players, and even provided them with an implicit order-of-execution for raiding. Players would connect the dots, and rarely waste time slamming their head against a wall, raiding content in dot B before they had wrapped up their work in dot A. So while attunements were a clever design to funnel the appropriate players into raids as needed, they also served to act as a non-stop stream of headaches to raid leaders and guild officers charged with recruitment. With Vanilla, attunements were quick and easily knocked out, even the worst of which (the Naxxramas rep grind) could be subsidized by guild coffers. In The Burning Crusade, however, there would be no subsidization. Finding the right people became a full-time job.

The first problem with keying in The Burning Crusade was that there was absolutely no concept of guild-related keying. Even if you had a core raid team of 20-ish players all keyed for a raid, there was no concept in the game to "grandfather in" the remaining five players. Everybody had to be keyed, period. For a cut-throat hardcore raiding guild with players clamoring to be given a shot, perhaps this wasn't an issue -- perhaps their experience was more of a fire-and-forget system. Once their core team was keyed, they were slicing Naga into sushi and never looking back. But for a guild like Descendants of Draenor, where we strove to be a little more caring toward fellow players, the burden rolled downhill to the existing core team. It became a repetitive, mind-numbingly tedious task for them to endure, re-keying players as the roster gained and lost members. Even for the most resilient, carefree of my guild...the seeds of burnout had officially been planted.

Kerulak assists more players working
on their attunement chain,
The Arcatraz

Sapping the Will to Live

Even if the roster wasn't losing players, Descendants of Draenor still faced the short end of the stick when it came to raid attunement. We didn't kick people to the curb if they missed a single raid. To us, the onus wasn't on the player, but on the guild, to wrap a warm blanket around you, keep you warm and comfy, in the hopes you wouldn't look elsewhere for another home. And because we took players of all shapes and sizes, never once dictating who could or couldn't come to a raid, we were forced to maintain a much larger pool of players. New players were joining all the time. So the keying process never ended. It was a constant, ongoing struggle that ate away at our souls and dulled our enjoyment of the game. God forbid, what would happen if a real-life issue were to come up, causing you to lose a core member of the raid team? Back to the start of the keying process you go.

It gets better. Keying also didn't carry over across a player's account. If we had players with multiple alts that wanted to provide different services (healing on one character, tanking on another, etc.), it wasn't enough to key one of those characters...we had to key all of them. This was certainly a perk that hardcore raiding guilds lost out on. I'm not suggesting that hardcore raiding guilds didn't gear alts for progression. To the contrary, it was plainly obvious to me from posts on their guild websites that guilds like Death and Taxes and Vodka wouldn't even bat an eye when discussing the possibility. To them, rolling an alt at the drop of a hat...just to lock in a world-first kill was a decision made as easily as being asked whether or not you want to super-size your meal.

The difference was: they were re-keying their same people. That same core team. Players who were already so exceptional at the game that keying was a mindless endeavor, a task done while they watched an episode of "Lost" on a second monitor. We weren't re-keying the core team. We were keying people that wanted to raid, and didn't have a chance in other guilds because of it. It was that double-edged sword of trying to establish a guild that gave a shit about people over progression.

Like many guild leaders, I dealt with this by demanding requirements up-front for new applicants:
It was a pipe-dream at best. Like a tech recruiter asking for an applicant with a degree in Comp. Sci., the best I could hope for was an applicant that wasn't completely drooling over himself. Other servers may have fared better than us, but on Deathwing-US, it was the equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack, only to find out weeks later that there was never a needle to begin with. In many cases, applicants came to us because their previous guilds didn't have the capacity or interest to key for raids. Opportunities to recruit former world-first raiders was a rare luxury. I wished that there was a way for us to attract that type of recruit. Until that day arrived, we swallowed the pill...keying new folks until our eyes glazed over like zombies.

Kerulak assists ex-Priest Officer Haribo in keeping
Ater alive, while Goldenrod dishes out DPS,

My Kingdom for a Raid

Two months after Descendants of Draenor passed through the Dark Portal from Azeroth into Outland, things were looking nearly raid-ready. It was the second week of March 2007, shortly after the release of the movie 300, that Ater informed me we had the people necessary to begin our work. Unofficially, raiding had already begun, thanks to the bizarre dependency that Karazhan imposed upon us, dropping Tier 4 Gloves and Helms. For the shoulders, chest and legs, we would return to that which was most familiar to us, the raid composed of a much larger group of individuals, all working together in tandem to execute the threat that towered over us.

When the twenty-four invites were finished, and we swarmed around the entrance to Gruul's Lair, I have to admit...I felt a sense of loss. A monarch looking out across his kingdom laying in ruins and on fire, razing his peasant villages in order to rebuild a new city of marble of stone. 

The Forty is dead...long live the Twenty-Five.

But my crumbled kingdom had another threat to deal with, another monarch ready to usurp the throne: High King Maulgar. Maulgar was a council encounter, one of many in World of Warcraft. A council-style encounter comprises multiple bosses being engaged at once, rather than a single central Internet Dragon. We'd handled bosses with "guards" in Vanilla as far back as Molten Core -- Garr was protected by a ring of eight Earth Elementals; Sulfuron Harbinger had four priests healing through our damage. But a true council is one comprised of a myriad of mechanics, each threatening to end our progression with its own individual talents and specialties. 

High King Maulgar was exactly that. 

While the King bashed away at Ater's shield, Kiggler the Crazed hurled Shamanistic bolts of lightning at our raid, Blindeye the Seer would be off-tanked, waiting for the moment when he would cast a giant heal. He would require his own Power Word: Shield to be purged off, lest the heal be uninterruptable. Olm the Summoner, a Warlock, would set upon us with a Felhound -- we would use our own Warlocks' powers to enslave the Felhound and turn it against its master. And as for Krosh Firehand, a Ogre-Magi casting spells suspiciously reminiscent to that of a Mage, we would turn to our own Mages as a solution. They would ranged-tank him, spell-stealing his Fire Ward in the process. Without the boon of Krosh's spell-stolen Fire Ward, our Mage tank would die in a single blast of fire.

...which is exactly what happened. For weeks.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2.7. One Suggestion Too Many

The guild collects to celebrates Annihilation's
High Warlord win,
Orgrimmar Arena

Expertise via Promotion

Annihilation proved to me early on people were important. He expressed genuine empathy towards other players. If people quit the guild, he would instantly see that as a personal failure on his own part and take it upon himself to contact the person, trying to find out what was going on and to see if anything could be done to resolve the issue. This noticeable compassion towards other players was something the officers knew well and were thankful to have in their pocket. All too often, raiding guilds (especially hardcore ones) were perceived as extremely cold and distant from each other in-game, interacting at a minimal level, only to log in, raid, and then log off. We strove to be something more, though, and it was due to his concern for others that helped cement our guild's ideals in mutual respect.

When he acted as my warrior officer during Vanilla, Anni painstakingly took it upon himself to keep the warrior roster full of players that would perform a very pivotal role in our raids: tanks. Tanking was a far less glorified role than others; no tank would ever walk out of a raid with huge numbers, topping any meters or breaking any records. Yet, the tank was vital to our success, and a guild full of damage-dealing machines would see little raid progression. Humbly, Anni took the job as seriously as anyone could. He extended each and every warrior the same grace, gave them a shot while keeping them on a tight leash. If they performed well, Anni would have them back. If not, they'd be forever benched. He busted their asses, not to piss them off or upset them, but because he felt they were worth the effort. Whatever he was doing, it seemed to be working. The Warriors were always competing to best each other, playing at the top of their game, fighting to keep their spot in raids. It goes without saying that Annihilation got along fantastically with Ater once he arrived mid-Vanilla, and they had an excellent synergy working together. Ater would play the role of Main Tank, and Annihilation fielded all of the fire resistance-related tanking, also becoming quite adept at handling Onyxia. He knew that everyone played their role, and glamorous or not, he knew of the vital importance he...and all of his tanks...played in progression.

Needless to say, it wasn't often you could fool him into thinking you were good...if you weren't. Expertise doesn't come with a title, nor is it measured by length of stay.

It is earned.

Graulm messages Kerulak about Dreadlocker's
forgotten Onyxia Scale Cloak,
Blackwing Lair


I lost my Warlock Officer Gutrippa at the end of Vanilla to real-life; he had put a greater focus on his family and taking care of his daughter. I could appreciate his reasons with two kids of my own. Being a parent was a full-time job, and the great cause of Descendants of Draenor would have to take a back seat. Sadly, I bid him adieu, but felt confident that his choice of a replacement would suffice. Dreadlocker had been present in our 40-Man raids as far back as our Ragnaros kill, and was an established, recognized member of the team. We got along well and chatted nearly every evening; he had expressed real interest in taking up the officership. I felt he was solid and trustworthy -- an appropriate replacement, so I concurred with Gutrippa's assessment to have Dreadlocker fill the role of Warlock officer. He was granted an official promotion, and joined the officer core as we began our ascent to raid readiness. I took the same stance with his promotion as I had taken with many others: I thanked him for his contributions and expressed gratefulness toward his interest in serving. As with my other officers, I simply felt humbled and thankful that anyone wished to help.

Now as luck would have it, Dreadlocker had a significant other in the guild, Littlelocker, and they played together quite frequently. When he wasn't raiding, they were often taking care of other WoW-related business, whether it happened to be leveling alts or running dungeons. Littlelocker was a great gal, polite and friendly, and not someone I ever had any problems with. In a guild of our size, still bursting at the seams after I inflated during Vanilla to field two 40-Man raids, I simply considered her as I did many of the others. She was an equal, but not anyone that would receive any more or less attention than anyone else. She was a guildy in a sea of guildies. Such is the story when you have four-hundred players online at any given time.

So when the players started to drop from the guild that fateful evening, and Littlelocker was one of them, my thoughts immediately turned to Dreadlocker. What had happened? Who had become pissed off? Had someone offended her or said something wildly inappropriate? As Dreadlocker himself joined in the mass exodus, I continued to search for answers. I wasn't getting a response and was trying to figure out if I had been ignored in-game. I was still scrambling for a response when a message finally came in from Dreadlocker. He spoke. What was the problem? He was upset and offended. By whom? Who was it? What was said to make things go so south so badly? The person he called out was the last name I expected to hear...

...he called out Annihilation.

A group of DoD works to defeat Omen
during the Lunar Festival,

Not Enough Gratz

It had been another night in game, one where everyone had hung out together. Dreadlocker had been online, alongside Annihilation, now playing his Warlock Fatality. There'd been a few words exchanged, a few opinions made public about a spell cast here, a rotation there. What might be the more appropriate way to handle yourself in a fire fight...and the key differences between PvE and PvP. The sort of topics that an ex-Warrior officer and High Warlord might engage in on any given night.

The sort of topics that would rub a Warlock veteran the wrong way.

Some "advice" that Annihilation had slid Dreadlocker's way on how to improve his DPS as a Warlock had pushed him too far. Dreadlocker had been playing a Warlock since Vanilla -- he knew everything there was to know about Warlocks...or so it would seem. But, perhaps there may have been some room for improvement? Perhaps a tweak here or a tiny adjustment there...whatever it would take to play at the very best level that one could play at. Apparently, it was just one suggestion too many that pushed him over the edge. When he was my Warrior officer, Annihilation cracked a whip on them, challenging them to play at their absolute best -- which is what I expected. As for Dreadlocker...well, he wasn't the officer in Vanilla! He'd played second fiddle to Gutrippa, who only put him into a role of responsibility to help delegate the tasks of management, a necessary evil of managing the monstrosity of two 40-Man raid teams. Dreadlocker only reported in to a higher-up, and was granted the right to assist in raids as needed -- so now in his new-found role, perhaps he expected to automatically be considered the expert.

But expertise doesn't come from a title. Nor from gear. Nor from tenure.

So while some people can take criticism and have an open mind about how they evaluate their own skills and play-styles, others cannot. Dreadlocker saw himself as an expert purely based on duration, and was tired of being told how to play by someone who had been a Warlock for all of two-minutes. So that is what he used as an excuse to me: he was offended. He was offended by Annihilation. Anni, the person in the guild whom everybody liked and respected and nobody has a beef with. A person who'd demonstrated extreme dedication to the guild through his officership, continued reliability, and the integrity to lead by example, pushing the Warriors to outdo one another. Anni, my Warrior officer who was still humble enough to step down into a far less glorious role of fire-tanking while Ater took the limelight at the head of each raid.

This was the person that offended Dreadlocker.

When I tried to mediate, he decided to play the girlfriend card, telling me:

"Nobody ever says 'gratz' to her in guild-chat when she dings."

I sat at my computer, speechless, shaking my head. It was clear that there would be no resolution to this trivial series of excuses. It wasn't about Littlelocker not getting enough gratz. It was about ego and being shown up. So, I let Dreadlocker go and form a competing guild, Illusion, which put up a website a few weeks later. On their homepage, their mission statement revealed that "In this guild, we are comfortable with ourselves, and won't tell you how to play"...

...which is just code for "If you happen to be bad, nobody in this guild will hurt your feelings by trying to help you improve."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2.6. Logging in to Hell

A City of Heroes guild combines their powers
against the raid boss Hamidon

The Wild Child

In order to tell you the next tale of Descendants of Draenor, you need to be introduced to an important character in the history of the guild -- one extending further back than merely World of Warcraft. It is the tale that involves a Warlock officer, his subordinate, and a Scrapper from City of Heroes that would become one of the most important figures in the history of the guild. To begin, let's turn back the clock to June of 2004.


When the nightmarish four months I spent in EverQuest ended, and I vowed never to set foot in an MMO again...that wasn't entirely true. For the remaining months that preceded the launch of World of Warcraft, I was strong-armed by a group of gaming buddies into trying a super hero-themed MMO named City of Heroes. It was a much flatter game than World of Warcraft with far less to keep a player interested; most of the game centered primarily around combat and nothing else. But it did combat well, and the combat in City of Heroes was fun...especially when done in groups with other people.

Although I only played City of Heroes for a couple of months, I did get the opportunity to meet a handful of people, and he was one of them. Gutshot, a fellow member of my gaming clan introduced me to some of the gang he was running with. One of these players went by the name Wildchild. He was friendly and loved to talk -- the type of gamer that Ventrilo and Teamspeak was made for. He rarely typed anything into chat, but if he could freely talk to you like you were on the phone, man...he would chat for hours and hours. He absolutely ate up whatever game he was playing and loved to dig deep into the stats of the game, and figure out how to min/max his play style.

When my interest in City of Heroes waned and players had access to the World of Warcraft beta, I circled back to Wildchild and tried to figure out what his plans were. He told me his CoH guild Unsung Superheroes was most likely going to transition over to WoW. Damn, I thought. I really could have used a player like that in my upcoming WoW guild. I made sure he had my contact information anyway, and let him know that if things didn't work out, that he look me up in Azeroth.


A few months into Vanilla, my Warlock officer Gutrippa informed me that Wildchild's guild fell through and he was looking for a home. I jumped! "God, yes, please, give him our TeamSpeak server info!" Minutes later, it was like old times in CoH. It was great to hear his voice again. Wildchild detailed out to me that the CoH-to-WoW guild conversion just didn't get off the ground as they had hoped and he was looking to plant roots. I told him he couldn't be anywhere else but Descendants of Draenor.

"Well, what classes are you low on?" he asked.

At that precise moment in Vanilla, we were desperately low on Warriors.

"Done," he said, "requesting an invite in a sec."

I waited a few minutes for the character creation process to wrap up. And then, down in my chat window, the fateful moment when one of the few times he would whisper me:

[From: Annihilation] Yo.

He was a wild child no longer.

Annihilation shows off his newly acquired
High Warlord title and weaponry,


Annihilation sunk his teeth into the Warrior class and played it with a finesse that was unmatched. He lived, breathed and died for maximizing that toon, learning every nuance, every subtle power and shortcoming, and how each and every nook and cranny of the class could be exploited. Bearing all this knowledge quickly made him the go-to person in guild for all information relating to Warriors. Unsurprisingly, he soon made his way up to be my Warrior class officer. In his role of leadership, he provided an unprecedented level of assistance to the officer core. While other officers definitely had become "one" with their particular class, Anni took it to a far higher level. For him, It wasn't just about the Warrior, it was about the player behind the Warrior. The person behind the class.

He got to know the other Warriors in the guild in great detail, because that was his nature -- to be online all the time, chatting in TeamSpeak, discussing WoW, classes, raiding, PvP...whatever it happened to be. This extensive exposure to the players granted him some real insight into who we had, not just as Warriors, but as people -- and this was a key attribute that I always tried to make a huge priority for us. And I simply could not compete with Anni's hours; it honestly seemed to me that he was online morning, noon, and night. When he wasn't raiding, he was pouring massive amounts of time into PvP, so he saw both sides of the WoW spectrum. In fact, he spent so much time PvPing, that (due to his nature of always being in conversation) he began building relationships on the other side as well, developing a friends-list of both Horde and Alliance. It was because of this need to communicate that I ultimately gave him the ability to invite players of both sides to join us in our TeamSpeak / Ventrilo server. He even got his own password protected channels, just in case he decided to tell one of his infamous "this is guaranteed to gross the shit out of you" stories, which became a popular hangout for both guildies and non-guildies alike.

At the end of Vanilla, Annihilation retired from raiding, and decided to pursue PvP full-time on a Warlock (having already achieved High Warlord on his Warrior), and although it was sad to see him step down, I was thankful for his contributions in Vanilla. I knew he would never be too far away. If I ever needed a filler or an emergency piece of advice on a particular player, he'd be only a Vent channel away. Annihilation was widely regarded and respected by both the guild, and players outside looking in. He had permanently etched himself into the history of our guild.

Annihilation tanks Onyxia as Kerulak
and the raid move into position,
Onyxia's Lair

The Second Exodus 

One evening, while everyone was busy online leveling their characters and consuming TBC's content, I logged in to gauge how we were progressing towards getting a 25-Man raid team ready. I chatted with a few people, took a look at the roster...everything seemed smooth. The guild was alive and busy, guild chat was scrolling away, people were in dungeons; it was just another day in the World of Warcraft. I checked my own to-do list to see what I would work on for my own character, when I happened to notice a /gquit in Guild Chat. Then another. And another. And another. One by one, random players were dropping from Descendants of Draenor. What the hell? This was catching me completely off guard. I'd heard nothing from anyone, hadn't seen any posts on the forums...nobody had spoken to me. My brain raced into overdrive, trying to recount the events of the past few weeks and months. Had anything happened that I'd overlooked? Was it loot drama? ...nah, it couldn't be. Except for some early exploration into Karazhan, raiding hadn't even officially started.

Then came the bombshell. Dreadlocker, the current Warlock officer, dropped from the guild. Frantically, I started whispering him for answers. I alt-tabbed to the forums to see if there was anything posted, perhaps to explain just what in the Hell was going on. Maybe a private-message was waiting for me, giving me the dirty details of what was transpiring.

Nothing. Not a single word.

I alt-tabbed back into the game to be greeted with still more players quitting. I pinged the other officers online -- nobody knew anything. There didn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to this mass exodus. I shook in anger as the betrayal took hold. Why the blindside? Was it absolutely necessary to give me no indication whatsoever that things were bad? And honestly, how bad could things be? Bad enough to leave and take all these players with you? That's about the time that the fear started to set in. How horrible must this thing...this event been that it would cause an officer I felt was loyal and trustworthy to not only say nothing, but to leave and carve out a chunk of guild flesh in his final moments in Descendants of Draenor? Was it a secret bad enough to mean that this was only the beginning, and that we had messed up so horrifically that it was going to mean the end of the guild in its entirety?

The truth ended up being far more depressing and pathetic.