Thursday, December 13, 2012

2.20. Replenishment

"Sabrine of Runetotem",
Artwork by Sabrine

The Forsaken Role

I couldn't sit back any longer. We hadn't made progress in months. I was losing Ater to work, only able to call on him in needs of great emergency, yet these were happening nearly every week. I couldn't stand by and let the guild implode out of raw apathy. I had to do something. The most logical place to start was with myself. Get my own shit straight. Figure out what the guild needed from me and make it happen, rather than sit around wishing people would do the right thing, or that the right player would fall into my lap. The shaman core was now reasonably extensive. Gunsmokeco and his brother Deathonwing had joined the crew, as had an older crew member named Deathflurry -- he would go on to rename himself Mcflurrie, in an attempt to diminish confusion. With these three grouped next to Ekasra to soften the blow from a chain heal perspective, I gave serious thought to benching Kerulak, filling another much needed role that we lacked.

In Vanilla, raiding specializations were rigid. Each class had 3 talent trees, which changed the way that class was played. Spec into Protection, and your Warrior becomes a tank, wielding a sword and a shield, standing at the front of the raid, holding the boss in place and bearing the weight of its attacks. But, change that same Warrior’s spec to that of Fury, and now the Warrior wields an edged weapon in each hand, and instead of tanking, the Warrior is now relegated to melee DPS, burning the boss’s health down as fast as possible.

During that era, multiple specs existed, but only one was viable per class due to the way in which the numbers broke down statistically. Only the Warrior could ultimately bear the immense burden of a boss pounding on it, even though two other classes could technically tank. And so, those two other classes that could tank...didn't. Blizzard aimed to fix this in The Burning Crusade. They granted a few new abilities to some of the other hybrid classes. Druids and paladins received a few new tricks that made them viable tanks. shamans and druids began contributing to DPS instead of always healing. There was one other class that received changes in The Burning Crusade that gave it more flexibility in raids, but unlike the others, this class was the only one to receive a very special ability that was essential to raiding: the Priest.

Hanzo (playing as Breginna) eyes Melkezadek's
place on the damage meters for Shadow,
Gruul's Lair


When we were felling bosses like Ragnaros and Nefarian, Priests were healers, end-of-discussion. They had two styles of healing that they could adopt, either Holy or Discipline. Discipline was simply not viable in Vanilla. It couldn't match the healing throughput needed to raid competitively and make serious progression. Our priests certainly wouldn't have been able to keep our Main Tank up through Maexxna if they had been "Disc" in Vanilla. In fact, the Discipline tree itself wouldn't be reworked by Blizzard for another year-and-a-half. As a result, all priests were least, all the ones we were privy to, in our research of the furthest progressed hardcore raiding guilds.

Those were the two healing specs a Priest had as an option. The third option, however, was vastly different than Holy and Discipline. It was a class archetype that simply hadn't been heard of before (at least, in the mainstream MMO sense; I'm sure it exists in the annals of Dungeons & Dragons lore). In this third specialization, a priest no longer healed, was no longer a being of the light. Instead, a dark shadow draped down across the player, nestling the priest in a shroud of violet fog. And, rather than mending the wounds of her party members, this "shadow" priest would hurl dark energy from a distance, loading up their targets with curses, plagues and diseases. Where once there existed a Power Word for a player's savior, in its place was a Shadow Word for the target's suffering, pain...and eventual death.
It was the shadow priest who melted faces in World of Warcraft.

Shadow priests were an incredibly cool option when WoW launched. Visually, it was stunning; no other class had the unique look of a player surrounded by a swirling shadowy mist. But like the other hybrid classes, the damage a shadow priest produced simply couldn't be matched by its ability to heal. The Burning Crusade changed all of that, and did so in a very unique way: Aside from the standard "buffing its damage to competitive levels" that Blizzard applied to the other hybrid classes, they bestowed upon the Shadow Priest a uniquely important buff, one no other class provided:

When the Shadow Priest dealt damage, she would replenish the mana of all of the casters that shared her group.

Vampiric Touch, one of the tools in a shadow priest's belt, was the only spell that brought this game-changing buff to the table. Its value was unmatched -- by bringing a single Shadow Priest to a raid, the casting classes that shared a group with a shadow priest would gain a huge boost of endurance, allowing them to last much longer into a difficult fight.

A boost that could easily turn a 1% wipe into a kill.

Hanzo continues to level Zanjina for 25-Man raids,
Thunder Bluff

Perfect Timing

The end of the Arena season was fast approaching, and awards were soon to be dolled out to those on the server that had proven to be the best and brightest PvPers in our battlegroup. It was no surprise at all to hear that Blain and company had earned Armored Netherdrakes for their dominance against other players. But the end of the season also meant the chance to stick my foot in the door, before Blain committed to another season of mindless PvP. There was work to be done. In his absence, things had crumbled. Without him to crack the whip on the whiners, we had grown weak and full of excuses.

I jumped into Vent and called Blain in to chat, while I flew my priest Zanjina across Nagrand in an attempt to collect Clefthoof dung.

"I'm retiring Kerulak," I told him, "Shadow priests are consistently absent, and we're overflowing with shamans."

"What about Melk?" Blain named Melkezadek, one shadow priest that melted faces like a champ when he was available.

"His schedule is all over the place."

"Isn't Ben using Anni's account now? The one you gave him for his High Warlord present?"

"Yeah, he is. He renamed it. I think it is Aeden now. Anni's basically given him the account to use, but he mostly PvPs on it. I mean, he comes to the odd raid, but it's a crap shoot. I need a consistent one there every week."

"Yours isn't even 70 yet." Thank you, Captain Obvious.

"Gimme a break, I'm working on her now! Anyway...I'll craft the Frozen Shadoweave set when I get her leveled. In the meantime, I'll bring Kerulak to the last few raids and step down from any loot that drops."


The awkward silence loomed.

"Volitar is skipping out on raids. He's not helping Ater anymore. Unreachable. I don't have a contact number, I don't know who to call or what to do...the guy is shutting down. Things were much easier when you ran shit."

"Nobody listened to me," Blain fired back, "Too many cooks in the kitchen. Tired of having to re-explain myself over and over to people who don't listen."

"What if we could change that?" I proposed.

"Then I would come back and do it. But not without control, not without support."

"Ok. I get it. I will give you that support. If it means me telling each and every officer to shut their mouth and take direction from you, I will do it."

"What makes you think they'll keep it in check this time?" he asked.

In a moment of confidence, I blurted out something that sounded like what a leader might say.

"They'll have no choice in the matter. The alternative is to dismantle and go join PPP."

Blain chuckled at the prospect, while I sunk Zanjina's blue troll fingers into piles of excrement.


The next day, July 16th, 2007, I emailed Blain:

So, yeah...Volitar MIA. What can I do to convince you to going back to the full on raid-leader? What were you missing from me the first time around that I can make happen this time so your life is easier/job is done better, etc? I know you got harped on a lot and I can shut that down right quick, but the discussion that went long in vent last night kept pointing back to having you be a single solitary raid-leader, and that if that was indeed your role that people would shut the hell up and follow. I would like to discuss it with you if you have time. Volitar did mediocre but this uncommunicative shit is upsetting me a lot and the Paladins are spiralling out of control.

He called for a meeting with Ater and I in Vent, to put all our cards on the table.


Alakina said...

Feels great to read about Spriests.
I have loved them since Vanilla tho and if I remember correctly, Disc was more for PvP-healing than anything else. And in raids Spriests was the manabattery everyone wanted. I Didn't raid that much to be very much sadface about it, but I did some and I wasn't even close on the DMG-meter to the lock and mage we had. Great read as always Hanzo!

Anonymous said...

I did the same thing during BC, reerolling from a Druid to a Shadow Priest to help fill a hole in our lineup. Besides mana, the Shadow Priest did help heal their respective group as well for a percentage of the damage they did (if I remember correctly). It was very slight but every bit counts. I never topped the charts, but it was fun an I still ended fairly high on the dps.