Thursday, August 8, 2013

3.23. First Night in Ulduar

Divineseal recommends talents to Laire
during The Burning Crusade,
Desolace

Moving Out of the Fire

Lightning cracked across the dark violet sky of Netherstorm. I swung around one of the gigantic manaforges buried in the rock below, scanning for a particular mob. This area of Outland had suffered gravely when Draenor was destroyed. A gigantic ocean of nether filled the void where water once existed. Remnants of piers, boats shattered along the former coastlines were a testament to how much damage the destruction of the Dark Portal impacted the Orc homeworld. I paid little attention to the waste below me, as I continued to circle an area in the southwestern portion of the map, looking for a rare spawn that would let me strike another name off the list of the Bloody Rare achievement.

"I'd like back in, if I could," the Paladin whispered to me.

"I haven't seen you since The Burning Crusade" I replied, "Things are different now. You know this, right?"

"Yeah it looks like you've changed a lot around."

"I have." I continued my reconnaissance of Netherstorm and waited for the Paladin to make the next move.

"Well, what are you short at the moment?"

"We don't do that anymore, Divine. I don't ask people to switch to a particular spec to fill a missing role. I don't want players playing a role half-assed. I want them to give a shit about what they do. You've been away awhile, are you even up to speed on the changes to the Paladin?"

"Oh, definitely, I've been back PvPing with my brother, we've got an arena team going. The changes are pretty cool so far."

PvP. I rolled my eyes and headed north towards Manaforge Ara.

"Have you read the red flags post? You're quoted in there, you know."

"I can see your side of that, but the cost of an epic mount just seemed too extreme at the time, plus I wasn't raiding as much as I was PvPing and a lot of my costs were funneled into that."

"All I hear are a lot of excuses."

Silence.

"Divine, you realize it took very little effort to save up the gold for an epic mount, right? Trivial in the grand scheme of things. Is it going to be that way about everything money related? What about when repair time hits your bank account? Flasks, food, gems, enchants, all of that. Are you going to bust my balls about the price of those things as well?"

"Not at all, I’m completely able to fund my raiding this time around."

I pondered, staring at the manaforge a moment. A gigantic funnel of energy twisted down into the opening at the top of the structure. The Blood Elves were wringing Netherstorm dry, pouring the siphoned energy into Sunstrider's ship, The Eye. Kael'thas had met his end at our hands nearly a year prior, after five solid weekends of work. Divineseal hadn't been there. He rarely contributed to any progression consistently during TBC; the majority of his raid time in DoD was spent in our weekly Karazhan races. By the time Wyse was Mage tanking Illidari Council, Divineseal had already quit the game from a lack of interest, mere weeks from our execution of Illidan. While players were clawing their way up the roster to get a shot at being present for Illidan's defeat, the fact that Divine had already cashed his check told me he couldn't care less about raiding. So, why the sudden interest? An impulse based on our recent successes? Was there some piece of gear in Ulduar that would somehow benefit his Arena Team? Or was it simply the fact that Ulduar looked to be one of the most amazing raids ever created by Blizzard?

I took a deep breath, but made sure to keep Vent open so he heard me sigh.

"Your best chance is to go Holy. If you do it, we'll see about finding you a rotation in Prog. Get your profile set up on phpRaider, get signed up for Friday and Sunday. Nothing's a guarantee, keep checking in with us and when a spot opens, I'll expect you to be there, ready with bells on.”

"Alright, thanks Hanzo, I won't disappoint!"

Divineseal was a risk. It continued to flash in my mind over and over -- a Deadly Boss Mod alert screaming at me to move out of the fire. He'd red flagged himself a number of times in the past. But, I didn't need him to become an Elite...nor would that have been an option. Raiders were just as important to the roster, as they allowed flexibility to exist, flexibility which was a selling point to players unwilling to commit to a hardcore schedule. The more options I could provide, the less I'd have to worry about losing players to the grass-is-greener syndrome. Just so long as Raiders did what was expected of them, there'd be no problems.

I hovered briefly, glanced one final time at the barren rock below, and flew back to Shattrath. Ever-Core the Punisher would have to wait another day.

DoD defeats Flame Leviathan without
slowing it, earning "Heroic: Shutout",
Ulduar

Flame Leviathan

The 25-Man progression team first set foot in Ulduar on Friday, April 17th, the same day that the verdict to The Pirate Bay trial came in. None of us had software piracy or BitTorrent on the brain that evening -- it was all business. When I zoned in, headed down those few steps and got my first look across the battlefield, I was awestruck at the scope. Raids like Ahn'Qiraj cover a lot of territory, but tunnels that twist downward into the earth don't convey the same magnitude as wide open war zones. The playing field was so immense that we only saw a portion of the outdoor area from our vantage point. Three more bosses would fall after Flame Leviathan before any of us would step indoors.

"Epic" had been redefined.

The raiders got situated, moving towards the Siege Engines, Demolishers, and Choppers, mentally reviewing all that had been intricately laid out in our raid forum thread on Ulduar. To keep things moving quickly and efficiently, Cheeseus designated vehicle assignments and posted them on the forums the night before the raid. So, only moments passed before we were buffed, in our assigned vehicles, and cutting a path through the iron dwarves on our way to Flame Leviathan. Vent lit up with excitement and laughter, as our individual duties had us blowing up Iron Giants, taking down flying contraptions, painting the ground with tar. It was a load of fun. For our first night in Ulduar, Cheeseus had us take out all four towers, just to get comfortable with a regular kill. Hard modes would come later.

Flame Leviathan burst through the gates, and began locking on to players. As a Siege Engine driver, my job was simple: keep a reasonably good distance from the boss, but be close enough to interrupt Flame Vents with an Electroshock, while my turret partner shielded us if Flame Leviathan got too close for comfort. It was an easy ride. I maneuvered the bulky tank around, sticking to my assignment, listening to Cheeseus coordinate attacks while the team barraged Flame Leviathan with mortar and barrels of pyrite. In one attempt, the titan tank fell apart in a pile of junk in the middle of his battlefield, and the “Heroic:Shutout” achievement spammed up on everyone's screen.

"Achievements already?" I asked Cheeseus.

"Yeah, it's simple. We just didn't slow him. Thought we'd get that done on normal, since it is a pain during hard modes."

"Let's keep doing that."

"Oh, I fully plan on it."

The team made their bids on loot, Neps received his first Fragment of Val'anyr, and we were on our mounts, heading toward the next boss.

DoD defeats Razorscale without allowing her
to return to the sky more than once, earning
"Heroic: A Quick Shave",
Ulduar

The Bird and the Bot

Proto-Dragons were a new creature to Azeroth by way of Northrend. They resembled traditional smaller dragons or "Drakes" in that they still bore the large, leathery wings of their namesake. The most noticeable difference in a Proto-Drake was its head: no longer did it bear resemblance to that of a lizard, slitted eyes more often seen in snakes. A Proto-Dragon's head was larger, more bulbous, with its jagged teeth clearly visible even when its jaw was clamped shut. Their eyes were nowhere to be seen, sunken so far below the protruding head that, at initial glance, one could easily mistake it for being blind. Proto-Dragons were a de-evolution of a Drake, early experiments at the flying creature that produced a barbaric, neanderthal-like version of a small dragon. Our first exposure to the Proto-Dragons were the ones littering the ice-capped mountains in The Storm Peaks, and a few lucky guild members who had completed Glory of the Raider (10-Man) boasted a Proto-Dragon mount. The design of a Proto-Dragon was unique and incredibly cool -- it was hard to fathom how it could be made any cooler.

Once I got a good look at Razorscale, Blizzard proved me wrong.

Originally, Razorscale was known as Veranus. She had been set free by her master, Thorim, to become the brood-mother for the Proto-Dragons that swarmed the aforementioned Storm Peaks. Alas, events transpired in The Storm Peaks which led to her capture, and subsequent forced armoring by Ignis (another boss we'd be seeing soon). As we arrived in her area, I glanced up and saw the enormous purple Proto-Dragon circling above us. Unlike Proto-Dragons we'd seen thus far, Razorscale was armored, plates of metal pounded into her wings and back by the Furnace Master. It was entirely new level of cool. Quite possibly, one of the best looking creatures ever to come out of the minds of the Blizzard art department.

"We wrap up Glory", Cheeseus whispered to me, "and we get her as a mount."

Gravy.

It was time to put the bird out of her misery. I resumed my role of tank, alongside Dalans and Omaric, and we collected up piles of Iron Dwarves, while Eacavissi spearheaded the team responsible for grappling Razorscale out of the sky. Once on the ground, the team opened up on her, the Proto-Dragon breathing fire on us in defiance. We repeated these dual phases several times, collecting Dwarves while she bombarded us from the sky, then grappling her back to the surface and letting the damage fly. Soon, she became unlatched from the grappling hooks which kept her grounded, and the tanks and I traded off kiting her around the play field. Her health dropped quickly, and a kill was imminent.

"Stop, stop, stop", Cheeseus called out. "Let's reset it".

"What?" I was a bit shocked by this. What were we failing on? "...are you sure?"

"We're behind by a few seconds. We can knock out 'A Quick Shave' easily."

"...yeah, but..."

"You said you wanted achievements done, right?", he moved from vent to direct whispers.

"Yes I did."

"So let's do them!"

We did as instructed, called for a wipe, and started the bird again. There was still a bit more cleanup to be performed, but Cheeseus felt confident this was doable, even with present gear. After a second manual wipe, the third try was the charm. Our DPS was where it needed to be, positioned were refined, and our strategy was enough to push out the necessary kill within the time limit. Razorscale fell over dead. And on our screen, achievement spam: "Heroic: A Quick Shave".

Cheeseus put Ignis on the back burner, instead leading the team towards a towering robot with the voice of a child. We found ourselves joining his "playthings", while his giant toy box of bombs began to close in on us. Ranged grouped up tight in the front, and Cheeseus directed them to move to the side of the group if they were debuffed with a Gravity Bomb. One by one, the casters took their Gravity Bombs out of the group, while the remainder of DPS burned the childlike construct. Dalans tanked XT-002 while Omaric and I ran around its playroom, collecting up bots of various shapes and sizes to be AOE'd down by casters. It took some getting used to, but after a couple of attempts, we found our groove, and the casters were actively aware of how quickly they needed to move out of the group for their Gravity Bomb. 

In typical DoD tradition, it was our famous last pull of the evening, mere seconds before the 4 hour limit was reached, that XT-002 powered down, frozen into position as defeated robots often do. And up on the screen flashed: "Heroic: Nerf Gravity Bombs", having successfully prevented anyone in our raid from dying to one.

Not bad for the first night in Ulduar.

DoD keeps everyone alive through Gravity Bombs,
earning "Heroic: Nerf Gravity Bombs" during XT-002,
Ulduar

8 comments:

Finnassann said...

Have loved reading these posts and can't wait for more. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share them!

James said...

Not to rush you Mr. Holmes, but I'm starting to run out of articles to read during down time at work!

Seriously, this is incredibly insightful as a first time officer. I've been trying to get the other officers in my guild to read this as well.

Thank you!

Charles Neitzel said...

Shawn,

I find myself reading these posts with great admiration and telling myself, "It would have been nice to be more involved."

The truth of it is, I was an old Legions of Zek refugee back in vanilla when DoD was absorbing entire guilds. I was still young back then, and didn't quite have a handle on who I was as a person, nor did I understand the appeal to anything related to end-game content in an MMO.

To that end, I found myself as a rarely recognized and even less-oft remembered player among the ranks of Descendants of Draenor. This shows today in most instances of me saying hello to a familiar name in-game. I simply never had the dedication to WoW that 'The Legends' of DoD exhibited. I was socially awkward in a manner similar to Wyse, but much less vocal. And, I wasn't a reliable player.

Over the past 4 years, I've returned to WoW for brief stints, rejoining the ranks of DoD, trying to find my niche with my new found social capacity - only to rapidly lose interest and stop playing within a matter of weeks, again becoming one of the countless players who you are so famous for kicking people once they hit 20 days of inactivity. Each time I returned, I would ask for a reinvite, only to be reminded that you don't recognize my character names. In place of some other, more concrete proof of my membership, I was asked to talk about things that only a guild member would know. "What's the guild theme song?" Or, "Tell me a story from the past that I would remember."

This is why I decided to reach out to you, and say thank you, Shawn. Despite the fact that I, like many others, am very much an unrecognized 'ghost' within DoD - I have a few fond memories of my own.

Aside from running a few random Mag raids under the direction of Breginna, some shenanigans in Hyjal when I raided with an assassination rogue for the first time, and getting to see the events that sparked the ever-hated 'cattledriving' issue, I also remember the days of running Karazhan using my old druid, Dolf, with fellow Descendants. I rarely knew what I was doing, and didn't contribute much to the damage meters as a feral druid. It was during the days of "progression" through Karazhan.

What about the experience was so unique that I remember to this day? It's easy to recall. In the trash pulls leading up to the final battle, you went off on a lengthy tangent about television shows. Inevitably, Family Guy was brought up. You proceeded to go on to quote verbatim part of an episode involving Wheat Thins, Cool Whip, and 'eating hair'.

This may just come across as a random funny moment that was had within the guild, but for me, it's a fond memory. It's also what makes me wish I had been more involved. You have an absolutely amazing leadership style, strong character, and a great knack for writing. I hope life is treating you exceptionally well these days and wish you all the best. Adieu, sir.

Charles
(Shazii/Angelmafia/Dolf)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Finnassann,

Thank you for being a reader! Please share this with others!

@James,

Good news, I've completed the posts that close the gap between Battleguard Sartura and Maexxna and will be pushing them up shortly! Hopefully this will be a little bit of gravy while you wait for future posts.

@Charles,

Thanks for being a both a loyal member of the guild and a reader! I remember the Legion of Zek assimilation and recall that a lot of folks took it hard. LoZ struck me as very a close, tight-knit family-friendly guild, and I got that the GL felt horrible about having to merge into DoD, but did so out of passion for his folks and wanting them to continue to enjoy the game.

I also recall a few die-hard folks that resisted, absolutely refusing to come over; they wouldn't even speak to me. I always made sure that I made time for everyone that did want to sit and talk. Giving up a guild is tough on people, esp. those who've made it their home online. I don't hold it against them.

The Family Guy conversations are still very vivid. Herbert was a particular favorite impression of mine. :)

Fitzypyro said...

Dear Shawn,
I am yet another player brought to your blog by WoW Insider. Unlike others I did take some time to read it in segments. Your blog has been a joy to read so far, especially for someone so fascinated by old WoW. My first exposure to WoW was in late vanilla through my brother, but I only started my own account in late Cata when I could pay for it myself. I can tell you being interested in a game for so long and not being able to play it is rather terrible and I have found your blog to be a great insight into what I missed. Ontop of that, I only started raiding in earnest this patch when I finally found a 10m raid group after pugging on occasion.
I would like to thank you for giving me an insight on the complexities of guild management and while I don't plan on creating a guild anytime soon, heroic raiding and even 25 raiding is something that is on my mind. It is nice to know the levels of organization required if I ever push my guild to try higher levels of raiding.
On a topic that is quite relevant to your recent posts, I am currently working on the Herald of the Titans feat of strength with some friends, in order to get a good taste of wrath and to fill out my achievements a little bit more (i am also working on insane in the membrane, 60 exalted reps, hero of shattrath and completing the dungeons & raids tab)
It saddens me to know the ultimate fate of your 25man group but I eagerly await more installments of your trials that have been teaching me so much so far.
Regards,
Fitzypyro
90 Hunter, Thaurissan-US (oceanic server)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Fitzypyro,

More readers! Very glad to hear you are enjoying the story, and taking your time with it.

I remember Herald of the Titans well and we'll be covering that in the blog sooner than you think. Good on you for trying to go back and do the really challenging stuff that can't be brute forced.

Fun fact: The "Herald" title is the one I carry around on my main, because I lost access to "Hand of A'dal" when I moved Zanjina to my son's account. :\

Fitzypyro said...

@ Shawn
Thank you for that tidbit. I am going to have a hard time deciding between 'Herald' and 'the Insane' when I get both. It will be nice to read your take on herald. You have my sympathies for loosing your Hand of A'dal title, at least you completed it when it still gave an achievement. One thing I forgot to mention was that I am only missing one achievement from the 25m Ulduar Meta; "I love the smell of Saronite in the morning". Having trouble convincing guildies to help with a longer achievement like that.

Jorge Ortega said...

Oh, man..."right in the feels" as they say. I love everything about this raid instance and my time spent in it. We all may have griped once in a while but I treasure the memories. Divine'Pants', you so silly! Great read, Shawn!

~Riskers