Tuesday, August 20, 2013

3.26. Pants Tres Bien!

The 25-Man Progession team defeats Hodir,
earning "Heroic: I Have the Coolest Friends",

Oh, Dear

By the third weekend of raiding Ulduar, we were face-to-face with Hodir. The second of the four keepers, Hodir hid within a refrigerated tomb. An audience of NPCs stood before him, frozen into position -- a reminder of the bitter elements he wielded. Our task was to break the NPCs out of their icy prisons so that they could offer assistance to us in the defeat of their captor. Freeing the NPCs granted us buffs which would accelerate our execution of the frozen giant. We slowly led him around the circumference of the room and I traded off tanking as his Frozen Blows pummeled us. Other mechanics existed and were no less important: runic discs that indicated incoming icicles, the need to constantly move to prevent Biting Cold from stacking -- but freeing the NPCs was a decisive way to turn the tables in our favor.

Providing, of course, that our raiders made the breakout a priority.

Sowing chaos in Ventrilo was easy to do, thanks to the Flash Freeze mechanic. Everyone felt the need to communicate to the team that now was the time to get into the runic discs that lit the floor. Moments earlier, the discs were a death sentence, the destination of an incoming shower of icicles. Now, they were sanctuary, providing the only protection against the entire room's encasement into ice. And no matter how many times we'd remind players there was no need to call it out...they felt the need to call it out.

When raiders don't follow the strategy, you are filled with an urge to backseat raid lead. Like a nervous tick that you repeat subconsciously -- an unchecked addiction. It takes every ounce of energy to keep yourself from picking at the scab, because you know it won't heal...yet you continue to push your nail under the surface, over and over until the wound is raw. When Blain was my raid leader, he was very good at reminding me to stop. He took control of the situation, no matter how much it might offend me, and reminded me to shut the hell up. This isn't your job. You're not making things better. I'd snap back into reality, and apologize. I'd stop picking. For the moment.

In the absence of his familiar calls in Vent, I was on the receiving end. Everyone felt like they had to take on the responsibility of notifying the raid exactly when and wear to move. And of course, I wasn't the raid leader, so deferred to Cheeseus to handle. The good news was that Cheeseus and his merry men from Eh Team were already schooled on Hodir; moving appropriately was nearly instinctual for them. The 25-Man progression team saw them in action and learned quickly, proving that they were highly tuned raiders. The raiders did this because of the expectations we had set ahead of time. They knew to listen and follow directions...if they wanted any chance to return to the roster the following week.

Well, except for Ben, that is.

In his uniquely adorable fashion, Ben liked to play by his own rules. And even though Cheeseus gave Ben very specific instructions on execution priorities (frozen NPCs / players first, Hodir second), Ben liked to focus all of his damage into the boss, walking away from the kill with a nice record of top DPS. And, as is typical of players whose priority is a spell-rotation rather than the subtle details of ambient incoming damage, Ben fell victim to some falling ice and was killed. So, not only did he not break people out of ice as instructed, his own critically important "top DPS" was quickly 0 DPS, thanks to pushing up daisies while the rest of us dealt with the frost giant. Cheeseus was good at holding his tongue in the raid, but I'd be sure to hear about it over IM the next day.


After the excitement of another boss kill died down and the achievement of "Heroic: I Have The Coolest Friends" faded off of our screen, Neps began to solicit bids on the linked loot. One of the items, "Leggings of the Stoneweaver", were a pair of Mail Intellect/Spirit pants, intended for a Restoration Shaman. A few moments after bids started, Neps shot me a whisper.

"Divine is bidding on these."

Ah, God. What the Hell would a Paladin want with Mail Pants?

"He says they're still an upgrade from what he has."

I scanned the roster. Four Shamans, two of them Restoration. One of them...the Healing Officer Kelden.

"They really ought to go to a Shaman off-spec before a Pally, but whatever. If he insists on bidding..."

There was a bit more silence as Neps completed his whispers back to Divineseal, and then spoke in Vent, "Ok, counting down bids...3...2...1, winner is Divineseal."

Comes the laughter. Divine quickly sprung to defend his bid, "Hey, they're an upgrade! And you know...you can never tell when you might get an upgrade, right?"

I glanced down at officer chat.

[Officer][Dalans]: What an idiot.

The 25-Man Progression team poses after
defeating Freya in The Conservator of Life,

Attuned to Nature

We took our leave of that subzero prison, and made our way into a room that was everything Hodir's wasn't. Sunlight bled across a lush forest, pools of water and rich vegetation. The room bore a striking resemblance to Sholazar Basin and Un'goro Crater, known playing grounds of the Titans. It was in this chamber, dubbed The Conservatory of Life, that we'd face our third keeper, Freya. Like the others, Freya's good intentions had been corrupted by a evil presence deep in the crust of the earth. She planned to put a stop to our advances by leveraging her power over nature. We chose to chop down the three elders, deferring hard mode to another day.

Initially, Freya was untouchable, protected from damage by her "Attuned to Nature" stacks. As the fight progressed, she summoned Snaplashers, Storm Lashers, and Ancient Water Elementals, all of whom did not wish to be friends. As we worked through the kinks of her summoned soldiers, she lost stacks of her attunement buff -- eventually leaving her naked as a noob in the woods. That was the signal, and we burned her to the ground, keeping an eye out for any sprouting Blessings of Eonar; foilage that would heal her if left to grow unchecked. It only took a few attempts to get a feel for the craziness of the add tanking. Once we had that polished, Freya succumbed to the might of the 25-Man progression team. Three guardians down, one to go.

Neps began to take bids on Freya's loot, the first of which were tokens for the Tier 8 legs. One such token was the Legplates of the Wayward Conqueror: potential owners were Priests, Warlocks...and Paladins.

"Closing bids, 5...4...3...2...1," said Neps into Vent, "Winner: Divine".


[Officer][Dalans]: Really?
[Officer][Cheeseus]: lol

The ability to exchange loot with players that were present when the loot dropped (for up to 24 hours) was a wonderful feature that Blizzard added to the game, to help us mediate some of this loot drama. Unfortunately, that feature wouldn't be implemented for another three months. So I said nothing, but only shook my head in disappointment, a gesture which ended up being completely lost on a person who was hundreds of miles away.

For a Paladin, he wasn't exactly demonstrating the best judgement.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Mimiron, wrapping
"Heroic: The Keepers of Ulduar",

Mimiron, Assemble!

At last, the pièce de résistance. As our third weekend in Ulduar neared its end, the raid took a trip deep into the heart of Ulduar. Our destination was so vastly remote and buried below the surface that we had to board an underground train just to get there. This location, an underground machinist's shop, bore immense pistons and gear cogs with teeth larger than any of us. Electrical currents lept across doorways as we moved into the central lab. We were tiny specs crawling across a cog in the machinations of some far more extraordinary contraption. This was The Spark of Imagination, home to the final of the four keepers of Ulduar, a clockwork gnome named Mimiron.

Mimiron was an intense and complex encounter, split into four different phases. In phase one, Mimiron commandeered a literal tank, a smaller version of Flame Leviathan. Our own figurative tanks had to control it in the center of Mimiron's lab, blowing cooldowns to survive Plasma Blast while avoiding ejected mines. Defeating this tank took us to phase two. A gatling gun emerged from the floor, pivoting and blasting us with no uniform pattern to speak of.  While healers struggled to keep up with the chaotic damage, Mimiron launched missiles from this gatling gun, painting targets of instant death on the ground. Phase three had Mimiron piloting a miniature aircraft. Safely out of melee, he would require a ranged DPS as a tank -- a throwback to old encounters like High King Maulgar, Illidari Council and Leotheras the Blind. The secret to grounding him came in the from of gravity cores which we farmed off his bot defenses.

Once the raid became accustomed to the nuances of all three of these phases, they would be tested one final time in a fourth phase, in which all three units would re-assemble into a single gigantic robot, employing all of the above mechanics against us at once. All three machines had to be killed again...and all three of them had to be destroyed within seconds of each other. Failing to do so meant each component repairing one another, whittling us away in the process.

I remembered back to similarly complex fights like Lady Vashj and Kael'thas and wondered how many nights of work we would need to put into Mimiron in order to execute a kill. I had my answer within the hour. 45 minutes before the scheduled end time for the Sunday evening raid, a broken and badly beaten 25-Man Progression team limped through the third and final attempt on Mimiron. With only 15 of us alive, the last bit of damage was poured evenly into all three parts of Mimiron's gigantic Voltron-style mech, and in one final moment, he twitched, shook, buzzed, and teetered over as his robotic components lost power. "Heroic: The Keepers of Ulduar" was complete, and after three weeks, we were 3/4ths of the way through the instance, earning ourselves another early end to the raid.

Hard mode is gonna suck on this one, I thought. And I couldn't wait.


"Hold on a second," said Neps as the cheering died down, "I think Divine's pants are in here somewhere."

Vent lit up with a round of laughter. The ping of a whisper notification caught my eye and I glanced down to my chat window:

[W From][Cheeseus]: We need to talk about Divine after the raid.

I chuckled.

[W To][Cheeseus]: About his supreme lack of sensitivity surrounding loot?
[W From][Cheeseus]: About the fact that he's 7th in healing.

Well. This was a bigger issue than I thought.

We'd only brought six healers to the raid.


Mandakins said...

What loot system did you use to allow such unfairness?

Shawn Holmes said...


Private bidding DKP, no class restrictions on non-class specific gear.

The intent was to educate and encourage players into making good decisions about appropriate upgrades.

Some took the hint. Others...not so much.

The take-away here (and yes, this will come up again) is if you base any part of your loot system (or guild rules, for that matter) on common sense, the people that lack it will continually find ways to side-step it.

Fred said...

***Spoiler alert*** Just wait till Divine swaps to his Boomkin

Dalans said...

Looking back on it, I would have loved to step in and use the "Officer Discretion" clause and suggest to the others that one pair of pants should have been the limit but there wasn't much huff and puff from anyone wanting the first set of pants. By the time he went for the token I was more of the mindset of "this is how the system works, you want to blow all your DKP, so be it. You won't be looting any items for some time."

Part of raiding was knowing your character's gear and also knowing the loot tables of the bosses that were on the docket for that night's raid (whether they were downed or not). You should plan your DKP bids accordingly.

As Shawn has already stated, it is a shame common sense isn't more common. However, everyone makes mistakes. Full disclosure, early on I looted a Lok'amir from Nef only to loot the turn in item for Qiraji Augur Staff a week or two later; I knew Shawn was pissed about it but it was BIS at the time and at least not in the same raid night/instance. I learned from that and planned my drops based on the whole tier from that point on and not just instance by instance.

But you know what they say about hindsight...

Matt Morrison said...

@Dalans Lol... I think there are always times when people have wanted an item and then realized there was a better one that they got a little too soon afterwards. That being said... there is also the time when you pass on the not-quite best in slot thinking you will be able to get the bis within a week or so and the stupid thing just refuses to drop :)

To me there is a big difference between what happened to you and what happened with Devine here... sure... we can all blame blizzard for making this issue possible... As a holy priest I only have one type of gear to roll on (cloth) but for some reason as a paly I have 4???? Lol... but more than that.... Not only would there be a bis item for him that would be plate... but there would also be a Tier item (that he got, might be bis or not) and on top of that items that are plate, upgrades to what he would have from Tier 7 and not taking gear away from Shaman's who the fricking item is designed for!!!! Lol.

@Shawn Amazing work yet again... love hearing about all of this and can't wait for the next installment, and the next, and the next :) Also love that members of your guild like Dalans come on and share some insight... makes it all feel so much more real and not just one persons view or a good story about what happened and not what really happened :)

Mandakins said...

@Matt Morrison.. I understand what you mean by having other members of the guild chime in. I wasn't expecting the people that I was reading about to leave comments! I got a little fangirlish excited.

I must say that a lot of problems you've been talking about has a lot of parallels to a guild I was in. Except that we also had a problem of progression. That guild never made it past Hodir, the other watchers were a major roadblock.

I have a question, though you may have already answered it and I'm sorry if I missed it; How do you remember all this with such clarity?

Shawn Holmes said...


Was that Hodir 10 or 25, and Normal or Heroic?

Regarding the clarity of memory: My memory has always been reasonably good about events that were deeply meaningful to me, but I still struggle with the day-to-day grocery list stuff that most people do.

When I approach these posts, I start from memory, then cross-reference them with forum posts, screenshots of taken (in which I can extrapolate info like who was alive or dead, what the date was, etc.). I also have an extensive google chat history with Cheeseus from Wrath on, which I constantly scan to validate my memory.

I also use the good old fashioned phone. In many cases, I've called Dalans, Blain, etc, to talk through stuff to see if I remembered it correctly. The blog is very collaborative, much like an independent researcher would take on an biographical project.

As an aside, we've recently re-launched our guild forums to the public. Word isn't spreading terribly fast, but you (and all the readers here) are welcome to join us over there and discuss these posts and our history in greater detail:


I'm honored that the readership thinks of my humble guild in a sort of celebrity way, but I guarantee you they are just guys & gals and would be happy to discuss these topics en masse.

...just don't ask them to give away the ending!

Chauncy said...

When you spend as much time as some of us have playing this game you can't help but want to know what is going. Despite quitting in March of 2011, I still check in on WoW Insider every great once in a while. I guess it was about a month ago, when I found the interview about your blog. It's taken some time to get through all the posts, but I've finally gotten myself caught up.

I had no clue what an MMO was when I went home for the weekend with a buddy of mine from college (Greg). We get to his parent's place and his brother is sitting at the kitchen table playing Open Beta. Dean answers my questions, and Greg tells me he's going to pick the game up to play with his brother and I should join them. If I only knew just how deep that rabbit hole was going to be....

Greg was hell bent on playing a Tauren druid. Dean and myself rolled an undead warlock and warrior respectively. I'll never forget that first day of death running through the barrens to get to Thunderbluff so we could meet up with Greg. Must have been a sight as we were the only two undead characters leveling up in the Tauren starting zone!

I was fortunate enough that our three man team practically trio'ed everything. I know for a fact that if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have been that first batch of 60s on our server. Once we got into the 50s, my warrior, Greg's druid, and Dean's warlock we fell in with a group of players that had moved over from Everquest. That's when the real game began.

Running UBRS is where I first started learning about raid leadership and giving orders to a group. Zeak was the man in charge but played a resto shaman. I ended up tanking a lot of our gearing guild members up type runs during those first couple months. One UBRS run he put together he told me I was going to be the in charge of making or breaking this group. Hindsight is 20/20 now but that was a make or break moment. Molten Core through BWL the two of us co-lead our raids and by the time AQ40 came out I had been handed the keys to dad's sports car.

That UBRS run opened the door to Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, AQ40, and Naxx 40. Forging a Quel'Serrar. Having the server's first Thunderfury (that's job application material right there!) and just too many memories to lists. It was a shame that we crashed and burned on the 4 Horsemen. It was rather bitter sweet to go back and clear Naxx 40 during Burning Crusade.

Chauncy said...

Going from a 40 man raid team to a 25 man raid team was a shock. We lost a number of quality players but it made us a better raid team by the end of the expansion. We cleared all content in a very timely manner until Sunwell. We knocked off Muru in late September and KJ fell the 2nd or 3rd week of October.

Wrath's version of Naxx was a total let down after my Classic experiences. Ulduar was an great raid, but following it up with TOC didn't seem like the smartest move. Blackwing Lair and Ulduar are by far my two favorite raids. It seemed Wrath came and went way to quickly. I wish we could have down Heroic LK before we needed to rely on a 25% buff. Nonetheless, it was a feeling of accomplishment to do so.

I'm glad I was never in Zeak's shoes, but some how he kept up with the recruiting and had replacements when we needed them. He was in a constant state of recruitment. After farming Heroic LK for a couple months, I decided it was time to take a break until Cata. It was what I thought I needed to do to breath some new life into the game. However, I just couldn't get sucked in like I had done. We tried to continue with 25s but after the first month or raiding it just wasn't wasn't going to happen. We moved over to 10 man raids in early January of 2011 and by the end of February I had walked away from the game.

You know they say the friends you make in college are going to be your best friends for life. I didn't expect to meet some of those people playing a video game. I've attended several guild members weddings. We've met a handful of times for a weekend outing to Vegas or a fishing trip to Florida. Zeak is still playing, but in a more casual manner. You really hit the nail on the head talking about LFD. I had a good number of contacts in Classic, but come Burning Crusade (and the majority of Wrath) I had an extensive friends list of people I could call on to do group quests or daily heroics.

Keep up the great writing. You've certainly gained a very avid ready of your blog. Reading over these Ulduar posts have brought back a lot of memories. Looking forward to what you have to say about the tail end of Wrath and venturing into Cataclysm!

Sorry for the double post. I couldn't fit it in one single post.

Mandakins said...

It was 25 man normal. Hodir we could normally get through alright, but we could not for the life of us get past Thorim's gauntlet (after weeks of trying). We didn't even bat an eye at the other keepers.

I love your stories too. I hate having to wait a week just to read more, but I understand that you have other things to do.

Rob said...

Great story, brings back memories... I raid with Masquers (Chrommagus) with Jerry. A couple of thoughts.

Our original guild lead came from Shadowbane, which apparently required a lot of coordination, so communication in Vent was important. If non-leaders started chiming in, you'd hear, "Clear the channel!" When her voice rang through, you understood the need for focus. It was awesome! As we progressed through Cata and now into MoP, our population dwindled leading to softer approaches in raids in an attempt to retain members. Sadly, I think this has resulted in a decrease in performance since people aren't feeling accountable to optimize (or at least excel) in their roles.

Playing a resto shaman, I might have wigged out at the pants situation. In fact, I think I left a raid once over some loot inequity. A hunter in the guild stopped playing for a really long time when he lost DST to a casual raider. Luckily, our guild was run by "mature" folks, so we could recognize loot problems and intervene when needed. Eventually, we adopted a "suicide ladder" for loot, which I thought was optimal for our situation. Now that we "raid" 10s, the "don't be a douche" motto seems to work.

Dalans said...

@Chauncy: From one Tauren Druid to another, give my regards to your friend Greg, haha. Vanilla WoW as a Druid was quite one note and only the strong survived...

Thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

WTB daily posts from Shawn Holmes... keep up the great work :)

Shawn Holmes said...


Thank you so much! Ho, GOD...daily posts would kill me!

Good news, I'll be on vacation when the Thursday post preview is normally pushed up, so I am wrapping that post now and will get it online before I leave.

Anonymous said...

Seriously... I'll give ya 10,000G...

Shawn Holmes said...


Very tempting, but I'm afraid that (with a job as well) if I cut over to daily posts now, the quality will go into the toilet.

You guys deserve better than that!

Bins said...

As I've read these I noticed people saying they "read them all" and now can't wait for the next one but I felt like I'd never get there.... now I am. I can't wait for you to post the next one. I've been playing since the tail end of Vanilla so I was unable to experience raiding in classic WoW but your insight and experiences are very interesting to read and remind me of some of the problems I've seen as a 1st officer

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks for being such a dedicated reader. I'll have a new one up soon, as the vacation week is about to start for me.