|The Alliance wins a battleground despite|
Blain's domination of the killing blows,
Back in the Saddle
"Everybody head to TK."
The chatter of the raid picked up somewhat. What was this? Something new and unplanned?
"We're switching gears?" someone asked in Vent.
Blain was a man of few words.
"Get inside when you get there, get eating and buffing. We're pulling at 7:00 o'clock."
When I first met Blain, his abrasiveness put me on edge. I questioned Ater's choice in leaders, looked at the gear the Undead Rogue walked into Molten Core with, and wondered if it was some sort of joke. Yet the joke was quickly on me as Blain proceeded to tear the Core apart, along with a number of whiners and excuse-makers in the process. Yet this time around, it wasn't a worry about incompetency or a lack of people-skills; I worried about whether or not he could bail the water out. We'd stagnated in progression for months, barely able to claim a couple of kills on The Lurker Below. Players were leaving to join guilds that were proven and successful, and we were left with the bottom scrapings. Was it too late? I wondered. I was well beyond concern that people's feelings would be hurt by this point.
"So we're just heading to TK out of the blue, what about all the work we've put into SSC?" What work, I thought to myself, while the hackles continued to go up. Ater boldly played his hand,
"Quite frankly, morale is low. We could use a boss kill to pick people up. Blain says we can knock out Void Reaver, so it's time for a change of scenery."
In typical Blain fashion, he ignored any sort of acknowledgement that credited his decision making, and kept focused on the coordination. "Your tanks are Ater, Rocraw, Bretthew and Dalans, the kill order is skull, then X, assist off of me or Chopliver if you aren't sure. Turtleman, sheep diamond."
When I hopped off the taxi and zoned into Tempest Keep, the raid was seated, eating and drinking, and the first pack of Blood Elves that guarded the door had been marked. Gunsmokeco sent me a whisper,
"So when did Blain decide to come back to leading?"
I got my own flask up, and sat down to join the crowd in the midst of buffing.
"Last week, when we decided we were done wasting time."
I moved into position after hearing the countdown to the pull, and lit up the raid with Chain Heal. Gunsmokeco didn't know the news yet, nor did any of the shamans. I didn't want to burden them on the day we planned to turn things around. For now, I kept the news to myself, so that everyone could focus on this change of scenery and the return of their old raid leader, hoping it was enough of a morale boost to start cutting notches in our belt again. The news would have to wait. For now.
|Kerulak prepares to head into Tempest Keep: The Eye,|
The roster was reasonably solid that evening of July 22nd, 2007, and my sanity rested on a number of familiar faces. Joining Ater and Blain from the 40-Man days was Neps, faithfully running the priests since Haribo's retirement, as was Zyr, infamous for his dead-on impression of cricket sound -- the perfect follow-up to horrible jokes. Dalans was the lone Feral Druid, backing up Ater's tanking alongside Bretthew the paladin. Turtleman held the longest running mage spot, as did Houla with the hunters. Even Annihilation was present, now laying waste on his warlock Fatality, side-by-side with another 40-Man vet named Eacavissi. And, standing by my side was Gunsmokeco, a Resto Shaman who had been with us since early '06, flooding the raid with chain heals. Rounding out the vets was Abrinis, a down-to-earth, no-nonsense undead warrior that delivered consistent, top-notch melee damage -- when he wasn't talking sports with Neps. Of the 25 folks present that evening, 14 had come from Vanilla. It was time to see if the remaining 11 were carries, or something better.
Rather than two separate instances with two individual paths of progression, Blain lumped Tier 5 into a single pot. Our best chance at success in pulling out of this nosedive meant attacking the bosses from the least amount of difficulty to the most. Lurker was down (though its bugginess was still a concern), and everything that remained in SSC was non-trivial. Logically, that meant the next easiest boss would have to be Void Reaver, hiding in the western wing of The Eye. The change of scenery would not only breathe life back into the raid, but boost morale -- if we could do it. On top of it all, the reward would be significant: Tier 5 shoulders. Blain may have taught me the fundamental rule about gear not making a bad player good, but at the same time, understood the impact the reward had on the crew. We needed to get people's minds out of the sinkhole and thinking about killing bosses, if there was any chance in Hell at one day defeating Illidan.
It was a massive mechanical contraption with a tiny head, rumbling while it idled in the center of a circular room. It eyed us and revved invisible motorcycle handles, waiting to peel out and attack, while Blain led the raid through the Fel Reaver's trash packs. Once the room was devoid of any backup, Blain instructed the raid to take a circular position around the outside ring. The rest of us would move in tightly, tanks, melee, and the shamans with their chain heal at the ready. Breginna had taken up the task of helping out with healers, and assigned them locations around the ring as well. Once in position, Ater pulled the gargantuan machine, and I raced into the center of the room to wind up the chain heal spam.
|Descendants of Draenor defeats Void Reaver,|
Tempest Keep: The Eye
Pounding It In
There was no real "trick" to Void Reaver, from the inner circle looking out. Void Reaver would Pound the tank, knocking him back, cycling over to the next tank highest in threat. The somewhat-diminished chaos arose in determining which tank would ultimately have him, as the contraption was immune to taunt. Watching Omen was usually a good sign, but calls were made in Vent regardless. Dalans has him. Taba has him. Ater has him. An excess amount of communication was a good start for a raid that had been troubled for so long.
I can imagine the ranged had their hands full with Arcane Orb, Void Reaver's slow-motiong ranged attack that he lobbed at our ranged casters like an electric bomb caught in a space-time warp. It was slow moving for a reason; if you saw it headed your way and ran away in fear, it was already too late. The blast radius for Arcane Orb was so wide that you needed a solid head-start at getting the hell away before it caught you in its dome, silencing you for a full 6 seconds. The silence added to the arcane damage was brutal, especially to healers caught unaware. Players should have been able to track their own orb, but Blain was taking no chances. He called out every person that was targeted and whom needed to move, while juggling melee DPS and mitigating damage from Pound at the same time.
Yet once again, Blain came out on top of the damage meters, just like he had that first day of setting foot in Molten Core. Even after calling out Orb targets. Even after surviving Pound. Even after dealing with the threat of being one-shot by a boss that couldn't be taunted. A heavy sigh of relief washed across the raid that night. My players were thankful for Blain's guidance and motivated once again to tackle content. The coming months would be telling, as we set out to regain control of progression and set upon a path that would lead us to the death of Illidan. It would not be a straight path, more obstacles would throw us curveballs and the lineup would change. But at least for now, we enjoyed a momentary victory after eating weeks of crow.
The bids wrapped up on Pauldrons of the Vanquished Champion. The winner wasn't Kerulak. Voices in vent showed their surprise and confusion. My shaman had gone months without an upgrade, the side-effect of failing to progress, coupled with my duties driving Breginna's druid while she was away on business. The raid clearly expected me to be one of the first shamans to walk out of The Eye with Tier 5 shoulders.
"The winner wasn't Kerulak?" someone asked in Vent.
"I didn't bid."
"Because," I answered, "I won't be returning on Kerulak."