Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2.30. No Easy Out

Vashj, the Highborne Night Elf,
before the War of the Ancients
Artwork by Jonboy Meyers

Inflated Self-Worth

Before she commanded legions of naga in her Coilfang army, siding with Illidan to wrest control of Outland, Vashj was the prime handmaiden to the head of the Highborne night elves, Queen Azshara. The Highborne were aloof and carried themselves with inflated feelings of grandeur; they believed their royal bloodline granted them great beauty, strength, power, and knowledge; traits not unbecoming of nobility. Yet to the untrained eye, the quel'dorei appeared to be no different than that of any other night elf of the Kaldorei civilization. They had the same tell-tale deep violet skin, the same sharply pointed ears, and even the same affinity for magic. In every measurable sense, the Highborne were no better nor worse than their commoner counterparts, yet their inflated sense of worth led them down a path of undoing. This unending superiority complex led them to side with Sargeras during the War of the Ancients, a terrible mistake that ended with their exile deep into the ocean as the Well of Eternity collapsed. Their pride led to their aquatic transformation, shedding purple skin for green scales, and sacrificing beauty for Medusa-inspired horror.

I much preferred humility over pride, not just as a way of life, but as a strategy in dealing with others. I don't feel it was due to a lack of confidence or skills. I simply preferred to walk a path as far away from douche-baggery and ignorance as possible. And nothing says douchebag quite like an inflated ego layered atop an otherwise ordinary human being.

Alongside Blain, Neps, Cattledrive, Chopliver and Turtleman, I assisted Depraved in several attempts on Lady Vashj that evening. Each try produced a few mental notes I filed away in the recesses of my brain, but most of the work was as straight-forward as Blain's initial strategy. There were subtle changes in the way they handled communication, coordinating the conveyor-line tainted core transfer, for example. They were noticeably cleaner in their execution of colifang elites, more elegant in their kiting of striders. Yet for all the additional organization and hardcore raiding experience this guild brought to the table, multiple attempts at clearing Vashj ended in wipes. The members of DoD that were present had never given me any reason to doubt their capabilities, and there really was no true point-of-failure for any given attempt. We chalked it up to the fact that this was a Depraved "alt" run, comprised of players pushing a second character through progression. Perhaps they weren't as geared as they needed to be.

Blain's motto rung in the back of my mind again. Gear doesn't make a bad player good.

As Depraved threw in the towel, I shot a /tell over to Blain.

"Did it help?"

"Yup," he replied, "Got what I needed."

Excellent. The raid began to dissolve, so I took the opportunity to thank Depraved before they left. Speaking into Vent, I began with:

"Hey guys. Want to thank you all for giving us a chance to see Vashj today, it's going to really help us out a lot..."

An unrecognizable voice interrupted me,

"Jesus Christshut up! Sounds like you guys are a bunch of fuckin' faggots..."

Depraved was a veritable cornucopia of class.

Zanjina surveys members of DoD assisting the
guild Depraved in a kill of Lady Vashj,
Serpentshrine Cavern

The Riot Act

Upon leaving the raid, I was immediately paged by someone in Vent.

"What are you doing in Zangarmarsh?" he asked in an irritated tone. It was Annihilation.

"Uh..." I paused, trying to assess what it was I had made a poor decision on, "...nothing?"

"Were you just in Serpentshrine Cavern a minute ago?"

"Yeah. Blain and a few of the guys wanted to see the Vashj strat, and they asked me to help."

"So you went in there to help Depraved kill Vashj?"

I stumbled. "Well...I mean, they were offering to show us the strat. So I figured the first-hand knowledge..."

He cut me off, "But you were helping them, right?"

"Well, yeah...if you put it that way..." I saw where this was going.

"Kerulak, Depraved doesn't need our help, alright? They've been raiding perfectly fine for years now. We don't need to give them any assistance."

I felt like a kid who'd been caught playing video games after being grounded from them.

"So, what was your plan if you beat Vashj in there?" he asked, rhetorically. He was being a wise-ass for good reason. Anni knew I wouldn't have a straight answer to this. It's what should have made me think twice about my decision: if we had killed Vashj while helping Depraved, a number of us would've become locked to the instance, unable to work on it later in the week. If the 25-Man progression team made it that far.

"Well, the chances of that were probably pretty slim, but it was worth a shot for the experience", I replied hesitantly, "but even if we managed to kill her, we could just end the raid early on the weekend if we make it that far."

Wow. A very shit-poor response from a guild leader, upon reflection.

"...and then you would've had to explain that to a bunch of your core raiders, people who have been busting their ass working on Vashj for DoD already. Nobody on the team is going to be happy to hear that, Kerulak." He continued to refer to me by my shaman's name, even though I had been playing Zanjina for several months now.

"The guild busts their ass every week in there, and then you and Blain and a bunch of random people sneak in early and get a kill that they aren't involved in?" He followed his own question up with his trademark chuckle. Not a chuckle of amusement, but of disgust in the human condition. It was painfully clear by now that I hadn't thought the decision through.

"Look," I interrupted him, "the goal wasn't to help them. Blain wanted to take advantage of the opening and see if he could learn anything by watching their strat."

"Kerulak, we didn't need Depraved's help when we were working on Nefarian. Or any of the bosses we killed in AQ40 or Naxx. Yeah, we got a few hints from Omura and people like that, but ideas over Vent or tells are one thing. Doing another guild's dirty-work is entirely different. We're a competent raiding guild. We always have been. Have some faith in your players and in yourself. We don't need to have our hands held like that."

I listened on in silence.

"Part of the reason we're as successful as we are is exactly that...because we don't have to have our hands held, y'know? And go out of our way looking for hardcore guilds to come and do the job for us. That's not going to do anybody any good. You're just going to piss off a bunch of your team that has been giving everything they can to nail Vashj, for what...a chance to see some other guild's way of doing things?"

He was right. I sucked.

The Right Decision

Without thinking, I made a bad judgement call that could have ostracized a significant chunk of the core raiders. DoD was a team. We had earned our current level of progression by relying on nobody but ourselves, and even though the roster did have a degree of churn, it was only from within our ranks. Any progress we made, any accomplishments we had to our name, were from us and us alone, and while that may not have seemed like a big deal...it was. I became so focused on getting the raid progression to end its streak of stagnation that I put our guild's integrity at risk. All of our effort making DoD a different kind of guild -- treating each other with a bit more respect, giving anyone with the gusto a shot in the raid team -- would've been for naught. What was the point of putting all that effort into building a successful raiding guild, if it meant turning the guild into another hardcore class act?

I circled back with Blain and let him know we wouldn't take part in anything like that ever again. When he asked why, I told him simply, "We don't need their help", and he was perfectly fine with it. We never again took assistance from another hardcore raiding guild "walking us through a strat". If things looked bleak and there was no progression in sight, we would pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, go back to the drawing board and work through it on our own -- no more easy way out. Once we completed the task, we could look back with a quiet sense of dignity, knowing that it was rough...but we managed it on our own. Together. No complaints. No begging for hand-holding. Just hard work.


We returned the following weekend to Serpentshrine Cavern, and in that third weekend, managed to land the killing blow on Lady Vashj. Blain's adjustments did the trick, regardless of whether Depraved's way of doing things validated his theories...or invalidated them. Whatever the case ended up being, the Lady Vashj kill was satisfying, and I was humbled that our team made it happen without having our hands held. More importantly, I was relieved that everyone involved played a part in the first official DoD Vashj kill, rather than making it the first kill for a handful of players who weren't online when Depraved had an opening in their wildly successful "alt" run.

In the midst of a chat a few days later, Annihilation slipped in an interesting observation, reflecting on our earlier conversation

"So Depraved has an alt-run? I bet I could pull something like that together..."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm now regretting ever lumping DoD in with PPP and Discontent.