Thursday, January 10, 2013

2.26. 9:53

Positioning for Leotheras the Blind

The Totem Trick

Players were dying to bad luck. The uncontrollable whirlwind was too much for them to handle, and a series of ping-pong movements across Leotheras' underwater cave picked people off one-by-one, bleeding them out. Chief among the bleeders: yours truly. My shadow priest had only been a part of progression for a few months and her gear was essentially unchanged from the moment she first set foot in the Cavern. Not due to a lack of progression, mind you...but more a product of the poor itemization that SSC offered shadow priests in The Burning Crusade. With little option to augment her attire, I was forced to fall back on Blain's age-old idiom, repeating it to myself as a means of staying motivated.

In the end, your gear doesn't make you succeed. Gear won't make you good. Your skill at the game will.

If gear wasn't the solution to my problem, I would have to find a way to survive without it. I'd have to make my own luck. Just as anyone else in the raid.

Sifting through the logs and forum threads of guilds well past Leotheras, we made a clever discovery: a shaman's totems could be targeted by Leo during his whirlwind. The epiphany was a relief, yet bittersweet. I was already dealing with the guilt of benching my shaman in lieu of being the only consistent Replenishment provider of the raid -- and the subsequent loss of control I perceived as a result of giving up healing. But, with the discovery of this tactic, I felt worse! If only I had Kerulak again. I could drop totems seconds before the whirlwind, bolting for safety and once again bringing control to the chaos that unfolded. It wasn't an option. I'd made my choice. Zanjina was there to be a mana battery, and I accepted this decision inexorably.

I had to put my faith in the team. Only they could kill their inner demons while I dealt with my own.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Leotheras the Blind,
Serpentshrine Cavern

The Blind Killing the Blind

The intricate dance began with Blain setting Eacavissi up for Demon Form tanking. Our trusted warlock geared for the fire resistance necessary and wrestled for control of the boss via Searing Pain, a spell with increased threat -- vital to a warlock tank. As the fire vulnerability stacked too high, Blain called Sir Klocker for a Divine Intervention, cleansing our warlock of all his debuffs, sacrificing the paladin in the process. The expired paladin would return to life via Breginna's battle resurrection, as Blain's carefully choreographed strategy continued to unfold. As for the whirlwind, Blain laid it out on the table: he'd announce to the melee when it was time to get to safety. At that point the shamans would drop their totems and head for the hills, while the remainder of us dashed into the nooks and crannies along the outer edges of the room. The hope was that by being out of line-of-sight, Leo would prefer the totems over players, saving us from a painful bleeding death.

Once we got the timing right for getting out to safety, the totem gimmick appeared to do its trick. Leo spun into a mad frenzy, bouncing back and forth between various sets of shaman totems like a pinball working on a high score. Every precious second the gimmick granted us grew the margin of error further, allowing us a flatter learning curve; a more approachable encounter. With a greater margin of error, the raid team began to close in on the final 15% with everyone alive. It wasn't long before we were into the final phase, having to deal with both Blood Elf and Demon Form at the same time. This was the real madness, and it was intense. Having already used Divine Intervention, Eacavissi's life fell into the hands of the healers, which realistically only lasted ten or twelve seconds before the fire vulnerability burned him to a crisp. Lacking that warlock tank, the Demon Form pummeled the raid with blasts of fire damage as he walked the threat list, looking for a new target. Meanwhile, the Blood Elf form hacked away at the tanks while healers struggled to keep them alive, moving to avoid incoming blasts of fire in the process.

With the whirlwind continuing to bounce between player and totem, I ran to the back of the room to get out of line-of-sight. To my horror, Bojax and Raziei followed me, yet stayed in plain sight. Leo headed straight for us; there was nowhere to run. A single thought jumped into my mind. You're doomed. Doomed by your own blind players. As predicted, Leotheras struck the group I cowered amongst, and the bleed ticked of handfuls of my health. Facing imminent death, I sprinted from the room, laid on a final Vampiric Touch and Shadow Word: Pain, then collapsed to the floor. My attention turned to the roster. Gunsmokeco was still alive. Ekasra was still alive. The shamans continued to blanket the raid with their chain heals, dropping more totems to act as targets for the spinning saw-blade. The tanks were staying alive. DPS was staying alive. Leo's health ticked down to 3%....2%....1%.

And it was over.

A cheer filled vent as Blain added the icing to the cake, "with seven...seconds...remaining."

We beat the enrage timer by seven seconds, clocking our first official kill in at 9 minutes 53 seconds. As close a shave as any could get...without bleeding out. I glanced down at the damage meters, to see where I placed.


Any progress is better than no progress.

That Public Relations Spin

It was time to start moving our recovery plan into action. Ater, Blain and I decided to set a new precedent for the guild -- one that separated the wheat from the chaff. In order to identify "rock stars" in the environment we'd bred, a certain level of diplomacy was needed. That involved careful language and setting the expectations of the players appropriately. The first part of that plan came about in the wake of our recent success. The proof was right there in front of us; after Blain's return, we'd gone from seeing no progression in months, to 5/6 and 1/4 across Tier 5. That fact alone spoke volumes -- that we absolutely possessed the potential and crew to accomplish great things...even Illidan himself. We just needed the right leadership. In the face of that mounting evidence, I moved to the next step in the plan -- a promise I made to Ater. Acknowledge the accomplishments of the team.

At the close of the weekend which produced our first Leotheras kill,  I created a new section in our forums called "Accomplishments". Here, I demonstrated to the guild that their work was not going unnoticed; that their individual contributions had real value and worth. To leadership, it was clear as day that Blain's return had caused an about-face in our approach, but my next move wasn't to bolster the rogue's ego, it was to affirm to the troops that what they brought to the table each raid night was a quantifiable contribution. Regardless of what organizational changes brought about our recent success, I wanted one message to be common: It was because of the raid team that we were back on track today,. What went on behind closed doors in the officer channel was no longer relevant, who we happened to be talking about or which "carries" were next on the chopping block. The public face of our success is what was most important now, and we wanted to hammer that home. The raiders would focus on these accomplishments, and in turn, have less time to devote to rumor and innuendo.

I let the guild know that this forum topic would never be purged and would stand for eternity as a reflection of the many great deeds that the guild had accomplished in progression. I played it up, big-time. The forum thread was even made viewable to the public for others to see. Members of our team could use it to show off to their friends in competing guilds, maybe even entice them into joining. We'd call out a show of thanks to those individuals who helped us work through the boss mechanics, so that players could see their name in lights, make them feel important...

...make them feel like they were good at something.

The "Accomplishments" forum thread was the start of a revolution in how I approached the management of DoD; it was an audit trail of our success. A means to show thanks for the effort players were giving us. A reminder that each individual player was important. A sales pitch to anyone interested in investigating our guild further, to see if we had something to offer them...

...and all the evidence I needed to start leaving certain people behind.

1 comment:

Deftoast said...

Tanking Loetheras as a warlock was probably the most fun I ever had in my warlock's career. It was one of the first times I felt like I was a crucial component of my raid team; I had a task beyond melting faces!