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.


Pigglett Daniels said...

I cannot believe how watching the video made the hair on my arms stand on end. Good times!

Laeus said...

Since I keep seeing comments about this being made into a book (which would be incredible!) as well as thoughts about reformatting, I'd like to add some input: I really really really wish the screenshots and captions of various boss kills came after their respective sections, not before. I'll be in the middle of a gripping tale about High King Maulgar, or Maexnna, or some other boss, and just as I get to the final "chapter", I see an annotated screenshot with "High King dead" or what have you. It really deflates my excitement and takes all the tension out of that final chapter. It almost feels like a spoiler, if that word even applies to something like this. In any case, I'm truly loving this, just thought I'd give some additional feedback as someone who is enraptured by these posts and has a feeling they would hit 1000% harder if the screenshots didn't jump ahead to the end of the book. :)

Greg Mastin said...

Man, we were lucky to have a couple of good mage tanks so that never ended up being a problem (once we got the hang of it) with Maulgar - I was the Mage Class Leader and I SUCKED at it. Just terrible. So nice to be able to delegate that shit, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Upvote On Laeus's comment

Anonymous said...

I was our guild's mage tank. I remember the stam gear grind and the spell steal timing. Good times!