Thursday, November 22, 2012

2.17. Digging in Another Man's Graveyard

Descendants of Draenor defeat The Lurker Below,
Serpentshrine Cavern

Captain Obvious

The Lurker Below sprang out of the water and we immediately came to life. The rules were simple: keep the damage steady, keep the tank alive. Keep the raid healed through Waterbolts and Whirls. Then, when Spout approached, dive into the water, lest we get struck with a hyrdoblast so hard it would knock us cleanly across the instance -- if not killing us entirely. Most of this phase was easy, except for the fact that people could not get back on to the wooden platforms to save their life. Getting in the water was easy, but for whatever reason, jumping back on to the boards was an exercise in frustration...and stupidity.

Phase two was worse. Once submerged, The Lurker sent forth Naga minions to pull us apart. Mages had to Polymorph, the tanks had to leap across the water to individual platforms to tank their adds, and DPS had to focus-fire in order to clean the fish guts up before The Lurker resurfaced. My favorite part of this phase occurred when certain Naga aggro'd on the far side of the platforms, causing them to bug out, teleport over to an unsuspecting player, and kill them in one hit. It had happened more times than I care to talk about. There was no sense in complaining to Blizzard about it. "As designed" they'd often respond, as a means to excuse themselves of accountability. All we could do was be aware that it was a danger, and plan as best we could to manage our threat.

This was looking like the best attempt yet, but as his health wound down, and we risked another submerge/ Naga nightmare, Ater died. We had 1% of his health remaining but no way to burn it away. We had no choice but to go through the motions. Deal with the Naga. Hit the water during Spout. And then, pouring the damage into the Krakken before the lack of a tank did us all in.

When The Lurker Below turned belly up, we knew it was over, and scrambled to clean up the remaining Naga. Volitar was supportive, congratulating the raid for pulling off their first boss kill in Tier 5 at long last. As we resurrected the dead, to divvy out loot and take our kill-shot, Turtleman the mage spoke up:

"If you get that low, you should probably just pop Shield Wall."

As if Ater, who'd been our Main Tank since Lucifron, needed instruction on how to play a Protection Warrior. It was the end of June; the 26th, to be exact. Five full months into The Burning Crusade, and we were only just beginning to scrape the thin scummy surface off of Tier 5 content. But The Lurker Below would not be killed again for weeks. That was the good news. The bad news was that, for one officer, the end of the rope had been reached.

Kadrok asks Kerulak about the "The Lost Pages",
Ashenvale

Kadrok

It was shortly after the week of Lurker's death that my Paladin Officer, Kadrok, came to me with the news. I knew what he was going to say.

"When we killed Gruul, it felt different. Something was missing. I could not describe it," he said to me in Vent that evening. Kadrok's voice was deep, marked by a familiar lack of contractions. When you listened to Kadrok speak, you got the sensation that he was a 6 foot 7 inch, 320 lb. monstrosity that could pound you into the ground, Bugs Bunny style, with a single punch.

"I know the feeling. Maybe a little less yelling in Vent, now that the size is smaller. Maybe that's it."

"That feeling of accomplishment...just did not seem to be there. A noticeable lack of...excitement."

"You think you're burning out?"

"Possibly. I am uncertain where to go from here. Which is why I wanted to talk to you."

---

It was deep within a violet forest that the two cows first bumped horns. I had been wandering aimlessly throughout the dense forest, scavenging up Shredder Operating Manual pages, crossing paths with Kadrok multiple times. I would /wave. He would return the gesture. We'd exchange observations, two strange Tauren going from leading our own separate virtual lives in solitude, to working together toward a common goal. Before long, the conversation had turned to that of guild recruitment. He wanted a home, I had one to offer him. Descendants of Draenor was created out of a group of players I went to LAN parties with, played Quake and Counter-Strike with -- Kadrok was the first stranger to join our family. But, once a part of us, he became an essential key to its success.

As my guild assimilation tasks continued to grow DoD to 40-Man raid size, Kadrok took an early role as Shaman Officer, helping me with the tasks of administrating a guild. His previous experience in EverQuest came in handy, and was soon confirming all of the advice that Graulm was handing down. In the early days when officership had no real definition, and mindsets were all across the board, Kadrok erred on the side of the aggressive, end-game focused group. He was ever pressing me to get us 40-Man ready, taking a shot in Molten Core at the drop-of-a-hat, even if we only had 30 players available, and zero raid experience to boot. He suffered through countless failed attempts with groups I'd thrown together, groups far too incompetent to work together, far too casual to take their gear and their role seriously enough to survive the impact of the Core.

Kadrok, displaying his Wild Growth Spaulders
and Red Dragonscale Protector,
Blackwing Lair

A Change of Scenery

Kadrok was there the day I made the awful decision to merge with Juxta's guild, forming a temporary stain on Deathwing-US named Ugly Black Warhorses. I'd been warned against making such a drastic move, but Kadrok stood by me, and supported the decisions I made, regardless of how foolish they may have been. And as expected, Kadrok returned with me to face that decision as we watched the guild slough off a layer of guildies that had grown tired of my elitist attitude. My early days of leadership were wrought with poor decision-making, yet Kadrok never doubted me, and stayed on to represent the family he'd been invited into.

There were many moments Kadrok had in those progression raids that were unforgettable. His deep, booming voice would call out in Vent as we made our first boss kills. Him chanting Dandrak's name in the final moments before our first Vaelastraz kill. The many silly arguments he'd have with Volitar about which was the most cost-effective way to buy Ankhs. His stubborn insistence on wearing the Wild Growth Spaulders from Majodomo's cache; a leather piece that didn't belong on a shaman -- but you would never be able to convince him otherwise. I would berate him about his decision in front of the other shamans, but always knew that he was the better healer than I. For that I was thankful, and felt lucky to have him run my shamans.

The night The Burning Crusade launched, Kadrok retired his shaman and pulled an all-nighter to level a Blood Elf Paladin alongside many other folks in the guild. Folks hopped into Vent in order to hear the insane ramblings of a player on the tail end on a 72-hour bender. There, they found Kadrok, rambling incoherently as he claimed responsibility for the invention of time, and that he was...to all WoW players...God incarnate.

At one point in his bout of wakeful sleep, we listened in while he worked to end the suffering of a talking severed head on Fenris Isle. Suddenly, Kadrok broke the silence in Vent with the stunned realization of what he was doing:

"Why...am I digging...in this man's...graveyard?"

"Why...am I DIGGING...IN THIS MAN'S...GRAVEYARD?!?!?"

---

"I feel like my only chance to keep interested in the game now is to change the scenery. I would like to try to find a place in a world-first guild."

I knew what he was going to say. For all he had done for me, the last thing I wanted was to make this more difficult for him. His hesitancy told me he was struggling with it, that by asking me, he was essentially admitting to me that we were no longer the home he wished to be a part of. We were no longer a family. So I saved him the grief and offered it up on my own.

"Would you like me to speak to Zoid over at EJ? I'm certain he could put in a good word for you with Gurgthock."

"Thank you, Hanzo. They are asking me to fill out an application..."

I stopped him, "Say no more. It's done. Kaddy, for everything you've given DoD, it's the least I can do. I'll talk to Zoid and if Gurg has any questions he can reach out to me."

Kadrok knew that Zoid and I had been friends long before World of Warcraft existed. That I pinged Zoid throughout Vanilla to validate my thoughts on strategy, either in regards to a boss kill, or the proper way to organize a raid. All the stories Zoid told me about Gurgthock made me idolize the Orc Shaman and his clean-cut crew of hardcore raiders. I wished that I could become a leader like that, trying to extract whatever hints or clues Gurg might leave in a trail of crumbs while I followed behind, scavenging and learning. It made sense for Kadrok to go to Elitist Jerks. He deserved an exceptional guild, not a mediocre one that flailed for weeks on The Lurker Below.

So I let Kadrok go. He joined Gurgthock's infamous guild, and went on to greatness. But we kept tabs on each other. He would hop back in our Vent on occasion, giving us updates from "the other side", and we'd pick his brain for any little tidbit of info that we could glean. And when things got somber and lonely in Vent, late at night, I would flip over to the EJ website, scanning through their screenshots, seeing him standing amongst his new crew in front of a fallen Vashj, a fallen Kael'thas, a fallen Archimonde and Illidan. Waving to me.

/wave.

3 comments:

Dalans said...

LONG LIVE DESCENDANTS OF KADROK

Unknown said...

I found this final paragraph to be incredibly sad. Like losing your friend and knowing it would never be as it once was :(

xiahou007 said...

You really did care for them, they really were family. Almost feels im being intrusive getting to experience this. Thank you again for these.