Thursday, February 14, 2013

2.35. Time Travel

The entrance to Hyjal Summit in present day Azeroth
blocked by an impenetrable gate (Vanilla/TBC era),
Darkwhisper Gorge, Winterspring

Mind Control for Fun and Profit

Fueled by the back-to-back deaths of Kael'thas Sunstrider and Rage Winterchill, the progression raiders seared with electricity upon returning to the Caverns of Time. Hyjal Summit boasted a uniquely different design when compared to raids of the past. Rather than moving from trash pack to trash pack, weaving through corridors and dungeon halls to discover what boss awaited us, Hyjal was a re-creation of the final level of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, the RTS which would seed an eventual MMO. In that final mission of the RTS, "Twilight of the Gods", players wielded the combined forces of the orcs, the humans, and the night elves, combining the might of their armies against wave after wave of undead minions, backed by the power of the Burning Legion. A series of doomguards would appear at various intervals, signaling a major milestone that needed to be overcome.

Those doomguard would serve as our boss progression through this instance.

As it was in the original RTS mission, waves of undead scourge, backed by the nathrezim, would come to us. Our tanks grabbed a hold of them while we burned them down, awaiting each successive onslaught. To some, this was a fresh new way to approach raid content. To others -- like Dalans -- it was a nightmare of repetitive tedium. If we happened to make a wrong move on the boss, setting off a chain of events that led to our wipe, we'd have to restart the eight waves of mobs. Every boss wipe guaranteed eight new waves of trash. As a result, raiders had more of a vested interest in putting in additional effort. Nobody wanted to redo trash. The challenge was in teaching players to keep their opinions about the trash to themselves. It benefited no one to complain, and only served to chip away at the integrity of the roster. So, I reminded folks to keep quiet and focus on delivering boss kills, which I felt was a much more prudent strategy to combat complaints and burnout.

I continued to find my own place as a contributor during these later months in TBC, struggling for placement on the damage meters. Thankfully, The Battle for Mount Hyjal gave me another opportunity to shine. Nestled among the many waves of banshees, ghouls, infernals, gargoyles, and frost wyrms were human units named Shadowy Necromancers. These casters, draped in blood-red cloth, could be mind-controlled by a priest, thereby revealing their secret ability: Unholy Frenzy. This 100% attack speed buff could then be cast on players whom benefited greatly from said spell. Since my own damage continued to struggle among the many well-played folks in our roster, I took on the responsibility of mind-controlling, buffing players like Blain, Jungard, and Abrinis, whose melee damage shot through the roof as a result. They sawed through waves of undead flesh with a greater proficiency than I could ever hope to attain. Buffing others was a less glorious role than climbing the damage meters, but it helped me regain a sense of tangible contribution. Over time, I grew more likely to believe I was of value to progression, rather than remain the Achilles heel of it.

After Rage Winterchill came Anetheron, a dreadlord that summoned infernals to pummel the raid while a Carrion Swarm enveloped us, reducing the effectiveness of our healers. It was vitally important that Anetheron be faced away from the raid because of his heal-dampening locusts; healing efficiency needed to remain at 100%. Meanwhile, Anetheron's strikes leeched health, so Blain took on the role of applying wound poison to the boss. Two could play at the nerf-healing game. Meanwhile, a fire-resist tank would position himself near Jaina Proudmoore, in preparation for Anetheron's inferno. After three seconds, a fiery infernal plummeted to the ground, striking everyone in an area with AoE damage. The infernal needed to be picked up before it began one-shotting players, and a focused DPS group had to burn that rock creature of greenish fire down as fast possible. Dragging the infernal to Jaina caused her to join in the fight, which was a helpful trick to widen the margin of error.

Only one weekend of work was all it took.

Anetheron outstretched his arms in agony and dissipated in a puff of smoke, his armor crashing to the ground. We were now 2/5 in Hyjal, with only two weekends of raids in -- and time was still left on the clock to leave the humans behind, and move up to join the orcs in their defense of the world tree.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Anetheron,
Hyjal Summit


Kaz'rogal proceeded Anetheron, providing only a moderate challenge. Aside from a nasty cleave that could one-shot unsuspecting melee (as damage was shared among all targets), and the occasional warstomp which stunned players in close proximity, Kaz'rogal had a truly evil trick up his demonic sleeve in store for the casters. He placed a debuff, a "Mark of Kaz'rogal" on unsuspecting players. This debuff would drain mana from the target like a siphon. If the player was unable to keep their mana pool afloat during this time, they would become a mana bomb and detonate, taking out nearby players in the process. So, while he was technically a linchpin of sorts (as any one caster could take out the entire raid), the margin of error could be mitigated by shadow resistance gear and mana potions.

Kaz'rogal joined Rage Winterchill and Broodlord Lashlayer as one of the few bosses we were able to one-shot on our very first pull of the boss, an inconsequential challenge upon reflection. A few weeks later -- when a number of poorly positioned casters, empty of mana, carved gigantic chunks out of the living -- was when the challenge began to reveal itself. And when it appeared that the attempt would be a wipe, as a skeletal crew of several tanks, a few melee, and only one healer remained, the situation looked grim. Our minds turned to the approaching wipe with contempt and disgust, preparing for the monotony of having to clear another eight waves of trash. I rested my head down on the desk, waiting to hear when it was safe to release and run back.

And then, something brilliant happened.

The lone healer, who just happened to be a healing officer and a druid, decided to take matters in to her owns hands. Breginna bolted towards the tanks, and shifted into Bear Form, standing next to them to diminish the impact of Kaz'rogal's cleave. Someone in Vent yelled out "Go Breginna!" and I glanced back up at the screen.

What the...

The casters and healers were dead, so the Mark of Kaz'rogal held no more weight. From here on out, it was tanks and melee, albeit a pitiful few. But there hopped Breginna in bear form, waiting for the cleave to come in, eating it, and gaining tiny bits of health by burning rage into Frenzied Regeneration. It was a genius move. By being in bear form, her mana pool was non-existant, yet she was still able to keep herself alive in those remaining few moments while melee laid into the doomguard with every last bit of vigor in their virtual veins. People in Vent began chanting to Breginna, the volume escalated to that of an entire crowd cheering on their team, as the seconds clicked off to the end of the game. Breginna said nothing, continuing to hop in Bear Form, tanking Kaz'rogal, eating cleaves, burning rage for heals, while the last few rogues and warriors drove their blades into the boss's ankles.

Kaz'rogal, looking as stunned as I at this clutch turnaround, collapsed dead at Thrall's feet. Cheers filled Vent as the bear druid stood up and did a dance. I stared wide-eyed at the screen. Breginna had saved the day.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Kaz'rogal,
Hyjal Summit

The 180

Rocraw was in a funk.

Normally, the orc warrior that held the line at the head of the raid was a constant beam of positive energy that the raid had come to rely on. His positive attitude, humility surrounding his class, and dedication to his fellow guild-members established him as a recognizable face in the roster -- one we'd all come to rely on over these many months. Regardless of whether we were struggling or enjoying success, Rocraw was a consistent, solid member of the team...and a loyal friend. So to see his attitude suddenly spiral downwards was disconcerting. Once laughing and joking with us in Vent, he grew quiet and found little amusement in the day-to-day chatter. He grew clumsy behind the wheel inside raid instances, made more mistakes, lost control of adds with greater frequency. For all intents and purposes, Rocraw seemed to be vacant, mentally checked-out and lost in a confusion of his own troubling thoughts.

I should have seen it coming; the path of breadcrumbs he left me any hippie with a talking dog could have followed. But as with other events in my guild that I let slip through the cracks, I failed to pay attention to each individual shard of the mosaic. Each exercise in guild leadership was the act of dumping all the puzzle pieces out on the table. It was as though a lunatic was challenging me with mad ravings: all the thousand pieces must be placed together correctly in order to see the final picture. One by one, you rotate and flip them, you plug them together until the picture matches the box, then wipe your hands and move on. Yet, when you are putting the puzzle together, the individual pieces make little sense. A fragmented beam of light here, a shrub there. You become frustrated, trying to jam pieces together, thinking they fit when they don't, because you lack the image of that final picture. So what do you do? Go back to the box cover. Review the big picture. Ensure you're on the right track. Rinse. Repeat.

As it was with many of the decisions I made during The Burning Crusade, I left the puzzle box cover face-down, never referring to it, unable to grasp the impact each piece had on the entire picture. Until it was too late.

It had something to do with her.


Anonymous said...

Man, Twilight of the Gods was almost impossible! I struggled to complete it in normal difficulty, let alone hard mode xD

Shawn Holmes said...


You and me, both. RTS games (esp. Blizzard ones) have a way of making a seasoned gamer suddenly feel very inadequate.

Val said...

Same, but once I broke it the scenario was sheepishly easy.

Those bear mercs. Save cash like mad and spam them for the last phase when they're available. They're giant HP sinks.

It's stupidly simple.