Thursday, February 7, 2013

2.33. Controlling Power

"The Eye of Tempest Keep"
Artwork by Sandara

Baby Steps

Guildies constantly offered to help in any way possible, especially those who weren't consistent raiders (but wanted to be). In many cases, they couldn't bring what I needed to the table -- they either didn't have the right class, or their character wasn't geared or keyed for Tempest Keep. It made for complicated and stressful raid rotations. Even gearing alts wasn't much of an option at that point; the entire process had to be repeated from scratch, taking into account raid upgrades from content we no longer farmed. If you hadn't worked your way through tier 4, it was too late catch up by the time we looked into eyes of Kael'thas. My tanks dwindled with Ater's fluctuating schedule and the loss of Bretthew to a hacker. I gobbled up what players I could, pointed them to the forum thread that differentiated Veterans from Raiders, and shoved them into The Eye.

While Bretthew may not have had access to his fully geared tank, he desperately sought to repair any damage to the roster that was left in the wake of the hacker. After exploring options, he managed to secure a deal with another member, Kedavra, who possessed a geared Elemental Shaman. Kedavra loved raiding but couldn't commit to the hours we demanded, so he offered his account up to Bretthew as a loaner. It wasn't a tank, but it was a raid rotation filled with someone I could trust, rather than a stranger or new recruit plucked fresh out of trade chat.

Blain began the arduous process of explaining the five-phase fight in bite-sized chunks, the only way we could digest it without forgetting crucial facts. Once again, we faced a council not unlike Maulgar or Karathress. I did my best to keep my mouth shut, but if I could let the raiders know at some point that any progress was significant, I made sure to do so. I channeled Richard Dreyfus' character from the movie What About Bob?, I repeated baby steps over and over to the raid team.

Any progress is progress.

Baby steps. 

Baby steps.

The Most Difficult Encounter

Adapting to phase one came quickly, giving us a solid handle on phase two by the end of the first weekend. We took our time, kept things steady and focused, with the immediate goal of securing a clean pass through all four of Kael's advisors. Mistakes happened, but spirits remained positive. I reminded everyone it was OK to make mistakes, just not repeat them. There were random one-shots from Thaladred and the occasional death during a fear bomb from Sanguinar, but it was Capernian's Arcane Burst which caught most of the raid off guard. Positioning was tight, and needed to be adjusted at a moment's notice. Those less spatially aware were often trapped in this explosion, which was especially challenging for those afflicted with her Conflagration. All it took was a single person to be in the wrong position at the wrong time, and a chain reaction of events toppled every player in the raid. At times, the progression team was convinced that Capernian was bugged, never working exactly the same way each attempt. But, as was typical in that era, Blizzard remained quiet about raid encounters, bugged or otherwise, so we muscled through it.

In week two, we had to improve our DPS during phase two in order to see more of the encounter. This phase involved fighting ghostly legendary weapons, and we were aiming for a very specific kill-order. We could consistently make it through the Netherstrand Longbow, the Staff of Disintegration and the Cosmic Infuser. But, we were falling behind on Phaseshift Bulwark, Warp Slicer, Infinity Blade and Devastation. Some of the raiders were losing their focus, becoming confused, and needed loud calls in Vent to direct them to each appropriate weapon. Macros also helped them switch targets to shave a few seconds off this delay. The raiders were very active on the forums, discussing their strategy, refining their individual tactics. It was encouraging to see a combined effort to defeat the encounter.

Week three saw further complications. I was hoping to be well into phase four by this point, but the "slim pickings" I'd expressed to Ater were rearing up. New people had to be chosen, some with less experience, and some whose priorities lay elsewhere. The inexperienced folks grated on Blain, who grew tired of re-explaining the same tactics over and over. As for the players who claimed to have to leave early because their "girlfriend just got home" or that they needed to "get caught up on Nip/Tick", they wore my patience thin. Frustration eventually got the better of both Blain and I, simultaneously meeting our death at the hands of Thaladred. Blain kept his anger in check; I wasn't as reserved. My temper flared, filling Vent with obscenities and the loud crack of desks being punched.

Hysterics aside, week three concluded with a glimmer of hope as we saw our first transition to phase four. Kael'thas Sunstrider himself charged into battle, disintegrating the raid with his Pyroblast. Validation! The baby steps were working. Slowly. Inch by painful inch. And there was more good news, as week three marked the first time our raid transitioned completely into phase four with all legendary weapons defeated. If we pushed hard enough, I thought, we might actually get him the following week.

Week four's raid nights would fall on January 25th and 27th of 2008, which meant the following weekend -- February 3rd -- would take a healthy cross-section of raiders out of commission. Why? Super Bowl XLII. Fantastic. The great American past time of congregating with friends, consuming large amounts of snacks and beer while cheering on your favorite team.

The Super Bowl meant about as much to me as slaying Onyxia meant to John Elway.

I didn't care about Football. All I cared about was keeping my raiders focused on Kael'thas, and any amount of down time spent watching and/or being pissed off at "the game" was a risk that detracted from our goal. In all of our time spent in World of Warcraft, this was the most difficult encounter we had ever faced.

We had one week to wrap up Kael'thas Sunstrider.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Kael'thas Sunstrider,
The Eye

Insomnia

Sunday, January 27th boasted our best performance yet. Ater had freed up his job search schedule, and was able to lend his steel to the weekend work. That little edge he gave us pushed us over, transitioning into phase five for the first time -- the final part of the encounter. I remember the evening's attempts being gut-wrenchingly close; a kill was in sight. But being caught up in the excitement of our first phase five, we lost track of players that were mind-controlled. As my raiders turned their blades against one another, Kael managed to fire off an uninterrupted Pyroblast and kill the tank, converting the attempt to a painful wipe. Everyone had come so far, making tiny bits of progress each week, but reality sank in. I was not going to have a raid the following week, thanks to the NFL.

---

The raid was cancelled the following week. The 25-Man progression team took the day off and watched the historic upset of the New York Giants defeating the New England Patriots 17-14. All I could think about was Kael'thas Sunstrider. Was this one canceled weekend going to send us into a nosedive? The uphill climb had been so grueling, chiseling piece by piece off with a rock hammer. The time-off might be too much for the raid team; they were already exhausted from four solid weeks of Kael'thas practice, sans boss kill. 

The bad dreams returned.

Players coming and going from the guild, spinning through a turnstyle. I feared us becoming a "stepping-stone" guild: where players came to make a name for themselves, only to be plucked by a hardcore guild later when it came time for the real deal. What choice did I have? I had no control. If players were leaving the guild or happened to forget their Kael'thas strategy or simply wanted to watch Nip/Tuck or decided to start harassing Ekasra again...I was at their whim. They acted, I reacted. 

The roster controlled me, not the other way around.

---

It was on the evening of that fifth weekend of work, February 10th, 2008, that our raid team was finally able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Not since our kills of Ragnaros, Nefarian and Maexxna in Vanilla had we experienced such an adrenaline rush achieving final victory. Even Lady Vashj a few months earlier felt less of an accomplishment than this. I will forever remember it as one of the most significant raid achievements that Descendants of Draenor ever pulled off. And they did, one baby step at a time.

As we stood together for our screenshot, I wondered if one day I would be able to get the guild into a state where I was in control, tired of bending to the whim of the roster. I was tired of losing sleep.

"We're not done", Blain piped up in Vent, "everyone head to Mount Hyjal."

1 comment:

cory Abbarno said...

That day was a great day of accomplishment. We worked hard on that fight and to me, I felt a great deal of pride being able to contribute, as the lock tank for the fight and to help bring down a boss for the first time for our guild. It was for me so much fun.
~Foreverlock