Thursday, July 4, 2013

3.16. Blowing The Immortal

"4DK" by Xia Jie (jiejie)

Embracing the Motto

Word began to leak out that 3.1 was targeted for the beginning of April. One achievement remained in order to claim Heroic: Glory of the Raider -- The Immortal. It posed a challenge unlike any we'd faced thus far, one that didn't involve any special mechanics on an individual boss. Instead, it assessed the entire team's survivability for the duration of the raid.

Defeat every boss in Naxxramas on a single raid lock without allowing a single player to die.

The Immortal levied a brutal tax on raiding guilds. At first glance, it seemed like the perfect way to qualify the synergy of a raid team. If you were truly the best-of-the-best, executing a full clear without losing a player should be par for the course. Raiding in Wrath had already significantly reduced the difficulty curve which made the viability of this achievement even more realistic. There was no excuse not to step up to the plate. Even the achievement's name itself mirrored the exact definition of our guild motto, coined by Ater in those early days back in Molten Core:

"If We Don't Die, We Win."

We owed it to ourselves to embrace the motto we strove to represent. Surveying Deathwing-US's landscape revealed that our progress was now tied with Enigma and Shadow Templars; Unbridled Apathy was also missing The Immortal, but lacked Malygos-in-6-minutes as well. We dug our heels in and got to work.

Initial attempts at The Immortal during the first few weeks were messy, no doubt due to having a reduced number of healers -- an unfortunate side-effect of the impetuous "less-than-21-players-present" metas. Zeliek's holy fire bouncing between too many individuals wrecked players as they collapsed onto him too quickly, heals unable to catch up. Reducing healing also didn't help when our raiders weren't mindful of their positioning during Kel'thuzad; a single mana bomb would take a group of clustered players out at once, or drop them so low that attempting to recover was a fruitless endeavor. When we weren't dealing with a lack of heals, buggy game mechanics offered us another excuse to fail by. On one particularly positive evening, Sapphiron's frost breath annihilated three players at once, all of whom were "protected" by Ice Blocks. It was clear that The Immortal shared an unfortunate design trait with certain bosses in our past where the fate of the team rested solely on an individual team member's shoulders; a design I've never been particularly fond of. And, as it had in our past, animosity was once again stirring among the team. Frustration would lead to finger-pointing, and our ugly side began to burst through the skin.

Reducing Resentment

Trends began to form, drawing intricate patterns of repeat offenders. One of my newest Elites, Bheer, a tried-and-true raider since the days of Vanilla, was now 0/2 having died both weeks and negating the achievement. He wasn't the only Elite offender. Ekasra and Omaric both died to Sapphiron, as did Cheeseus, the very same rogue I was grooming in preparation for raid lead, come 3.1. Officers weren't exempt from mistakes either. Dalans himself succumbed to Maexxna one night. In the hope of sculpting our raiding environment into a work of art, The Immortal was making our raiders look like a shapeless lump of clay.

To quell opportunities for resentment to brew among the team, we kept an open and honest discussion flowing on the forums, reiterating that players take accountability for their actions. I hammered the message home again and again: it's OK to make mistakes, just don't repeat them. The raid team flocked to the forum thread discussing The Immortal and examined their combat logs until they had nailed the exact cause of death. Each individual fight was broken down and examined to a degree of granularity I hadn't yet witnessed in my guild. They were discussing the min/maxxing down to individual talent point adjustments, theorycrafting health flasks vs. AP flasks, the difference of a plus-or-minus 1 healer, even adjusting glyphs between fights. They were tackling this challenge head-on like true gamers would. While the Battle.net forums ranted to Ghostcrawler about the unfairness of the Proto-Drakes being removed, my progression team had their attention turned inwards, the end goal in sight. It wasn't about making excuses, it was about finding any and every way possible to make the achievement happen.

One trick we employed early to increase our chances involved a little-known tidbit with Instructor Razuvious. We had already tailored our night to start with Razuvious for a specific reason: Of the four bosses we could potentially start Naxxramas off with, he posed the greatest risk of killing someone. But if things started poorly, we could call for a wipe on Razuvious, force everyone out of the instance, break up the raid, and then re-invite and re-enter which had the effect of resetting the instance. It was gimmicky, but as Blain had taught us years ago, in order to succeed we had to leverage all the tools available to us.

Facepalms

On week three, with 1% of health left on Razuvious, he broke free from our Priest's mind control, turned, and one-shot Cheeseus...the boss falling over dead as soon as the rogue hit the ground.

I remember staring at the screen in silence. An entire week, flushed in a split-second. Only fifteen minutes had passed since we had started the raid. The rage built up inside me enough to snap a keyboard in two. Not that it mattered, but that same evening, another Elite suffered a death during Thaddius, due to a computer lockup. It was bad enough that we had to demonstrate surgical precision to execute The Immortal, but now we had to deal with technical failures to which their was no adequate solution. If an idiot player can't figure out how to not die, you can bench them. But what do you do when you have a star performer die because their game locked up?

Nothing. You can do absolutely nothing.

By week four, we were done our less-than-21-players churn, built back to full strength. No more blaming a lack of heals. Time to get shit done. Everyone present was wide awake and aware that time was running out. We knew what we had to do; now, it was simply a matter of doing it. The raid evening started out reasonably well, executing Razuvious, then immediately shifting back to the Spider Wing. Our newest strategy: push The Four Horsemen to the beginning of night 2, so that everyone would be wide awake for it -- we'd suffered too many deaths on Zeliek from not being alert. As a result of this strategy, we were clearing Spider Wing on night 1. After defeating Anub'Rekhan, we moved into position to get set up for Grand Widow Faerlina. As we sat eating and buffing, Vent quieted down and the raid team started to focus in on the goal.

Don't die.

Win.

Suddenly, a lone tree-form began blissfully shuffling forward, a wide grin cut into its bark from ear-branch to ear-branch. It was headed directly for the Grand Widow.

"Oh, fuck!" someone yelled out in Vent, "Quick! Get heals on Lix!"

Too late.

A single chop from Faerlina's sword twisted the tiny tree into a pile of kindling at her feet. Hearing a rush of kids playing behind her, Lix had hopped up from her computer and closed her door to prevent distractions, inadvertently bumping her move-forward key in the process. Sitting back down only moments later, her heart sank as she saw her Druid laying dead in Faerlina's room, the raid already engaged with the boss...barking out strategy with a tone of disgust and disappointment.

By week five, the wind in our sails was slowly sweeping away. Unbridled Apathy had wrapped up The Immortal, sealing off any last opportunity to make a name for ourselves on the server during this first tier of Wrath raiding. Meanwhile, it was still business as usual as I struggled to find ways to keep the raiders focused and on task. Just get it done. Stop fucking up and making stupid mistakes. Now even I had problems keeping a positive mind and an objective outlook on the raid. I had been putting all of my energy into keeping the raiders calm, but there was nobody to reassure me in the process. My own anger and frustration got the best of me and wore me out. Those failed raid nights left me exhausted, as if I'd chopped a cord of tree-form wood myself. In the face of repeated adversity, we continued to lose steam and my patience wore thin...

...which is probably why I blew The Immortal that week.

5 comments:

Kelden said...

This post makes me angry all over again. However, Best of the Best is still an awesome movie.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Kelden,

Agreed on both counts.

Ryley Foshaug said...

"I got a late one"

:p

Shawn Holmes said...

@Ryley,

Anyone reading this blog won't know what that means!

...until next week. O_o

Sandree said...

Hey Shawn!
I've been reading all the posts, and enjoying a lot! Grats on the incredible writing skills.

I know I'm years late from the time you posted that, but I just wanted to leave here a story about the Immortal Achievement.

I'm Brazilian, and like a lot of Brazilians, I used to play at Warsong - US. Nowadays Blizzard have exclusives Brazilian realms, but that was not the case during WotLK.
At that time, I loved Naxx. I played very little during Vanila, and started my raiding carreer only in late TBC, so I've never seen Naxx before.

I had every Naxx achievement, except Immortal.
My guild just couldn't do it. There was always someone who messed up, usually the same guys everytime. So I was talking about that with ppl on General chat, when an American guild started grouping up for a try on this achievement. I used to know this guys, and even joined them on 25 progression, as they didn't have enough players for 25-men raiding.

So, they invited me. This guys were good players in general, so I thought they had a chance and joined them with my main toon, a Destruction Warlock. The raid started and wings were being cleared perfectly. Things were going fast and Sapphiron fell at our feets, just when a Shaman dropped to 9% health. Only KT remained now.

In KT fight, things begin with some adds, an only when the adds were killed, Kel joined the fight. I still don't know for sure if I played bad, or if it was the tank's fault, but I got the aggro of an Abomination, which 1-shoted me.
We went so far....killed all the bosses, and I messed up at the last boss. Worst feeling ever. They never invited me again =(