Thursday, September 26, 2013

3.34. Legendary

Mature experiences all three of Yogg-Saron's nightmares,
earning "Heroic: In His House He Waits Dreaming",

Business Is Good

The work is never done. Always looking for new recruits. Constantly fielding questions and concerns from those who report to you. The looming threat of competition. Trying to foster an environment free from anxiety and fear. Ensuring that communication is flowing correctly, so that your people are never left in the dark. Striving for new efficiency, new ways to approach old, tired problems. Building a sense of team and camaraderie. All of these tasks on top of your own responsibilities as a member of the group. Keeping your tools sharp. Dividing your time equally between learning and doing. Keeping apprised of the ongoing technological changes in your specialization, and making sure that you remain a leader in that knowledge, rather than succumbing to bad habits. Holding yourself to a higher standard with the thought that by setting an example, those who matter to you will follow your lead.

And then, getting up in six hours for your job.

After over-committing to WoW for the first four years of its existence, I knew things had to change. I needed to not only grab hold of the Grand Ship Descendants of Draenor, and crank it back into the storm, my life had to get some semblance of order as well. Even my vacations had usurped my time to unwind. I needed to get a grip on what was important to me, spend time with friends and family members I had neglected for the sake of epic lewts and first boss kills. That chapter of my life as guild leader was now closed. Last year's vacation spawned a odyssey of commandments that forever changed the structure, the goals, and the meaning of my guild -- one in which I delegated the appropriate management functions to others in charge, others whom I trusted and respected, and whom shared my vision for a better guild. I now treated my guild like a business, and business was good.

Since the restructure involved me eating my own dog food, it stood to reason that I needed to take advantage of the time-off kickback I granted to my Elite. But not just closing up a laptop, and then re-opening it somewhere else -- I'm talking about the kind of time off that warrants full disconnection. The concept of a vacation devoid of any gaming was shamefully bizarre. Think of it. A trip free of frantically setting up a computer on my father's coffee table, filling some spot in a raid because nobody else was available. For the first time in four years, my trip up north would be sans World of Warcraft. I'd earned it. And I needed it.

But first, there was some business to attend to.

With the 25-Man progression team in tow,
Neps completes the quest to craft Val'anyr,

Allergy Season

"Are you going to finish rotations?" the IM window read.

"Negative. Neps is in charge of rotations for the next couple weeks. He has it under control while I get ready for the trip. Take it up with him."

"Got it," he typed back.

"This is essentially the last weekend before my trip. Patch 3.2 lands on Tuesday and that almost always guarantees at least one weekend of chaos with players, add-ons, servers. We need to make a concerted effort to craft that Hammer if we get a 30th fragment Friday night."

"That's what I'm aiming for," Cheeseus replied, "Who's next after Neps?"


"Nice, though I still think that the Raid Leader should have priority."

Very funny, Rogue.

"Hey, mace spec is making a comeback!"

"Don't make me pull Kerulak out of retirement."

"At least your shaman can't taunt off of Omaric."

My Achilles heel. With Kerulak, I was always second fiddle to Kadrok. With Zanjina, it was never being able to dominate the meters. And now, having cut over to a tank, my new weak spot was an uncontrollable urge to taunt mobs off of players in my quest to save them from imminent death -- even if it meant pulling off of another tank. It was a nervous twitch, no doubt the result of my spaz style of play.

"Why, you little shit!!"

He typed back his laughter while I squinted my eyes at the IM window, hoping somewhere, some 1500 miles away, a certain rogue raid leader had a thousand curses levied on to his family name.

"I wouldn't be laughing if I were you. You might have to deal with Prodigie in your raid!"

"Oh," Cheeseus typed.

"Bheer says to tell you that if Prodigie is going to be filling the 25th spot, he votes to leave the spot empty."

"LOL. How much longer until he's fully replaced?"

"Don't count on it happening anytime soon. As I've stated before, Divine might not be the best player, but he's a Raider, and Raiders fill the void when Elites take time off. It's a very necessary role. We can't have all Elites or all Raiders comprise the roster, as much as you want to be the server-first guild. This is the system. You may hate it, but it's what works for us."

"Oh, I don't hate the system. I just hate him."

Hate is such a dirty word. I prefer the more dignified 'strong allergic reaction to'.

Neps, flanked by the 25-Man progression team,
wields Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings,

Hammer Time

Friday, July 31st began on time, as always. Having people online thirty minutes prior to the first pull had long since been burned into their brains. The Elites had a reputation to uphold, a title to maintain as was required by Hanzo's law. The Raiders who itched for a spot, even if not rotated in, would be online and messaging officers alerting them of availability in case spots needed to be filled. The summer months made this system truly shine, as more folks were becoming loosey-goosey with their obligations to the raid roster. I no longer took it personally. You had a window of fifteen minutes before we started to fill your spot, and our abundance of players made that a stress-free administrative process. No matter the verdict, we had 25 people ready to go and in the instance by 7:00pm MST, and were already in our vehicles, headed towards Flame Leviathan.

The agenda was to clear as much content as possible, paving the way for a hard-mode kill of Yogg-Saron by Sunday. No special treatment, no fancy hard-modes were on the docket this evening -- at least, none that weren't completely trivial in execution. From Flame Leviathan, we went on to wreck Ignis, Razorscale, XT, the Iron Assembly, Kologarn, Auriaya, Hodir, Thorim, Freya and Mimiron. We swept the floor with these bosses, and not even Prodigie's presence in the raid could cripple that amount of destruction. After looking back at the massive amount of loot that had showered down on to us that evening, one item stood out among the rest: the 30th Fragment of Val'anyr.

Sunday was now officially Hammer Time.


"Are they in? Did you craft it?" Cheeseus called out in to Vent.

"Mature has this one. Omaric, you're next." I did the one thing I could do well: Taunt. An Immortal Guardian turned away from Gunsmokeco and headed straight for me. Up went Vampiric Blood.

"Neps!" Cheeseus called again, "Did you get it?"

"Omaric picking up. Taba's next."

"I don't think it worked right," Neps replied. I glaced at Yogg-Saron's health. Approaching 5%.

"Alright, stop. Stop, stop, stop. Wipe it. Let's restart."

A few groans leaked out into Vent.

"Oh, quit your bitching...Jesus!" I replied, "We're doing this for Neps! It's hammer time, for fuck's sake!"

I successfully converted a few of the groans into chuckles as we let the Old God consume us, and moments later we were running back. Soon, we resumed our spots inside the green cloud-filled chamber. I glanced up at the Keepers watching over us. Mimiron was absent. In his absence we moved slower and did less damage, while the attack speed of Yogg's minions was increased -- easily, the most reasonable buff/debuff combo we could afford to leave behind. We were soon into phase two and Yogg-Saron's gaping mouths burst out of the floor while players sped to their positions. Casters knocked out tentacles and closed the distance on their red beams draining sanity, while melee moved in and out of Yogg's mind, dealing with the nightmares of our past, present and future in Azeroth.

Once again, I joined Omaric and Bretthew in our tank rotation for phase three. Keeping our backs turned away from the Old God, we called out who was next to pick up Immortal Guardians, as casters and melee tore the bulbous, seeping flesh from Yogg's horrific body, while hundreds of teeth chomped and chewed in vengeance. The hundred mouths arched backward, and our boss mods lit up with an incoming Deafening Roar. At that instant, Neps flung the Fragments of Val'nyr into the Old God's gaping maw.

"Got it," Neps called out into Vent.

Cheeseus acknowledged. "Alright, boys. Burn him down."

Yogg-Saron screamed out as his health depleted and soon the hundreds hung open, motionless. Neps retrieved his Shattered Fragments of Val'anyr, and the raid raced to the Archivum to be by his side as he completed the quest. The achievement flashed up in guild chat as Neps equipped the legendary mace...the first legendary the guild had seen since Ater's Thunderfury many years before. Cheers and congratulations filled guild chat and Vent. Neps was the bearer of Val'anyr.

Business had been taken care of.


The long week in Hudson Bay had drawn to a close. Refreshed and with the kids packed into the backseat safely, I waved goodbye to my Dad, and set out on the 1200 mile drive back to Denver, Colorado. Northern Saskatchewan is a wide-open prairie; a patchwork of farmland alternating between bright yellow canola, and the blue-tipped flax -- a plant that bends to the wind in liquid-like ripples. The illusion is calming and therapeutic. Driving across the Canadian north may seem like an ordeal to some, but after being planted firmly in the chaos of The Mile High City for 9/10ths of the year, for does the job of a masseuse, a confessional, a project manager, and a therapist. I can stare out into open land and think of a million things...or nothing at all.

An hour in, the sun was beginning to glow hot on my left side. I glanced in the rear-view mirror; the kids were both fast asleep in their awkward positions in the backseat. The guild flickered into my mind. Thoughts were of them enjoying the Call of the Crusade content, and getting excited for BlizzCon. At no time did I ever have concern that things spiraled out of control in my absence. In my former years, I lived in fear of competing guilds like Depraved and Pretty Pink Pwnies, poaching from my roster at every turn. Now, with one of the most aggressive, world-first hungry guilds sharing our raiding space, we hadn't lost a single player to Enigma. Apparently, I was doing something right.

At last, I had come to a moment of harmony in both my life and with the guild.

A faint sound caught my attention -- a vibration in the car that I had never heard before. I pressed the mute button on my car stereo and listened further. It seemed to be getting louder. As I leaned in and tried to pinpoint the source of the sound...something bumped my hand.

The stick shift had popped out of fifth gear.

The caffeine of a large coffee pooling in my stomach began to take a hold, and my heart started to pound. I clutched and pushed the shifter back up in a northeasterly direction, attempting to regain fifth gear. A grinding sound screeched out from below the Civic, like a chainsaw attempting to cut through sheet metal. I quickly downshifted into fourth and slowed the car down. The quiet hum of a vibration continued. Growing. I sat upright, gripped the wheel like a predatory reptile I was squeezing the life out of, and glanced down at the odometer.

1,130 miles left.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

3.33. The Call

The Eh Team displays their Rusted
Proto-Drakes near the entrance to Ulduar,
The Storm Peaks

A Double-Edged Sword

One-by-one, I pulled up the scheduled raid for Ulduar on our sign-up, looked for his name in the rotations, and deleted it. The restructure of the guild had been successful to such a degree that I had actually pulled off the trick of training my players to sign-up months in advance. Today it wasn't a blessing, it was a curse, because I had the frustrating task of deleting his sign-ups, one at a time. Each time I clicked delete, my gut laughed at me. You knew promoting him was going to cause you grief. And now he's walked and left you holding the bag. When are you going to start listening to me? I didn't want to listen. I liked the guy. He was funny, had been with us for years. His love of pizza and tacos was a well-known joke among the raid. He was family. I wanted to temper judgement with compassion, cut him a break for past offenses. Summer had arrived; signups were weak. I needed the best and brightest to tackle hard modes, to see us through Heroic: Glory of the Ulduar, to assist with the crafting of Neps' impending Val'anyr. So, I gambled on him and ignored my gut.

I gambled and lost.


A month had passed since The Eh Team had reached their goal. The "Glory of the Ulduar Raider" achievement spam had lit up the screens of all the guildies on the evening of May 27th, 2009, signaling to the rest of us that the spoils were soon incoming. Cheeseus and his crew proudly sent over screenshots boasting their coveted Rusted Proto-Drakes. I encouraged the guild to join in congratulating their hard work, and their many late nights slaving over the various metas. But while there was celebration in the hearts of the The Eh Team members, Cheeseus remained in his perpetual state of funk. Descendants of Draenor's #1 position on Deathwing-US (via 10-Man raiding), had finally fallen from grace. Enigma ended up beating The Eh Team to the Rusted Proto-Drakes, by a factor of only two-and-a-half weeks. With steep competition produced by various 10-Man teams in both Enigma on the Horde side, and Inertia on the Alliance, the resulting tally of achievement points pushed DoD's 10-Man standing down to the number 3 spot. I reminded Cheeseus that his team's work was no less successful, and that the guild was very proud to have him and his members on board. The 10-Man achievements were simply gravy, anyway -- what we cared about the most was 25-Man progression. Nevertheless, Cheeseus clung to the belief that they could have done better, pushed a bit harder, and this weighed on his mind as we carried on into the summer months.

With The Eh Team's completion of "Glory", new faces began to appear out of the woodwork. A few members needed to take a break from the constant push Cheeseus levied on them, which created opportunities for others in the guild to tag along in Eh Team runs. Various players that weren't previously able to field a 10-Man saw this as a chance to secure a Rusted Proto-Drake of their own. Behind-the-scenes negotiations began to take place as various players in DoD would speak to whomever was "their bestest bud" in The Eh Team, finagling a spot to acquire gear and achievements. Cheeseus's weekly 10-Man soon became one rife with new faces. The guild's family-oriented ideals dictating we all pitch in to help one another was starting to rub Cheeseus the wrong way. His way of thinking was more meat-and-potatoes. You want something? Get out there and earn it. I couldn't disagree with that stance as I'd restructured DoD to put greater weight on personal responsibility.

I was on the fence. 

Part of me wanted to push Cheeseus and The Eh Team to extend assistance to folks interested in getting their Rusted Proto-Drake; it's what a guild would do to help each other out. It was the sort of compassion and camaraderie I was striving for us to achieve. Sticking to our guns in that department, in turn, would be a selling point to recruit new folks who had grown tired of hanging around with insufferable, entitled children.

But another part of me thought otherwise. You should be very thankful that Cheeseus and company would even consider having you along at all, riding their coattails as a means to your own personal end. What started out as a very gracious offer soon devolved into an entitled expectation, and their get-out-of-responsibility-free card was the guild tag that sat below their name.

The 25-Man progression team defeats Freya while
protected by one of her three Elders, earning
"Heroic: Knock on Wood",

Chipping Away

Whether or not the drama of dealing with freeloaders in weekly Eh Team runs ate into Cheeseus' psyche, one can only guess. He may have completely put it out of his mind, or it may have been something he chose not to talk about, while it quietly flicked the back of his earlobes as he tried to concentrate on work. But in our continuing discussions regarding 25-Man hard modes, he continued to express his interest in an aggressive pursuit of "Heroic: Glory", along with his frustration of those who held us back. Even as Father’s Day presented another struggle to schedule around, Cheeseus stuck to his guns, insisting we run with who we had while I argued it was a mistake. He hyper-focused on the carries like Prodigie, while I continued to remind him to relax, and I would handle it. We may be held back a bit, but we were still doing very well, progression-wise. If it were up to him, he would cut all of the failures out of the roster. He only wished for perfection, anything less was an excuse. As a result of this mentality, when he turned on the heat about our lack of progression, he would lobby for more Elite promotions, this time in the form of Bretthew, the Paladin I gave a second chance to...but whom had red-flagged me to the point that a promotion would almost entirely be out-of-the-question. And this difference of opinion only served to draw the debate out further.

The work day conversations may have been thick with debate, but at least we saw eye-to-eye when it came time to zone in to Ulduar.


Hard modes continued to be chipped away throughout the month of July. The first of this batch was the completion of Heroic: Knock on Wood, defeating Freya with one Elder alive. This achievement was only the beginning of a hard mode, however, as we would have to crank the difficulty up two additional times to acquire to the final meta: kill Freya with all three Elders alive. An easier but no less annoying meta, Heroic: Iron Dwarf, Medium Rare, required us to force Razorscale to slay the Iron Dwarves that were trying to protect her. Whittling them away slowly without accidentally killing them was an exercise in patience in frustration. We held the plated Proto-Dragon in place, writhing, blowing fire in every direction. In many cases, she would ignite a pack of dwarves low in health...but not low enough to kill them. To our great excitement, the process would have to be repeated again and again until each member of the progression team individually claimed the achievement. From there, we moved on to The Assembly of Iron, and ramped up the difficulty a notch, killing Runemaster Molgeim last. It wasn't the achievement we needed for "Heroic: Glory", but it was the next logical step in difficulty. Baby steps...all over again.

July had a great start, but slowed down considerably as the weeks progressed, providing us only two more achievements. The weekend of the 19th scored us the first of this pair -- the completion of Heroic: Three Lights in the Darkness. This kill marked a significant milestone for us, as it would be the precursor to crafting Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. All we needed was to collect the remaining Fragments, and getting a hard-mode kill guaranteed us at least one, even if our luck failed to produce any others for the duration of the raid. We were still short a few Fragments; my hope was to complete it before the impending vacation at the beginning of August. July's remaining achievement came in the form of Heroic: Siffed, marking our first successful push through Thorim's phase one in under three minutes. But when Sif leapt down into the arena and the achievement flashed up on everyone's screen, we learned very quickly that activating the hard mode -- and actually defeating Thorim with Sif in tow -- would be as different as Wrath was to Vanilla.

The 25-Man progression team defeats Yogg-Saron
with only three Keepers protecting them,
earning "Heroic: Three Lights in the Darkness",

Listening to the Gut

Except for the three-light kill of Yogg-Saron, a particular player was absent from all of these achievements. A player who should not have missed any of them. A player whom held the title of Elite. He had been a familiar face in my raids as far back as Vanilla, and always rocked the damage meters with his effortless control of fire. Over the course of DoD's life, I'd struggled with keeping the roster full of reliable, well-played mages. Many were reliable, but played like shit. Others were damage-dealing machines...if I could get them to show up. Only one remained consistent throughout our many years of slaying internet dragons.


Through DoD's bad luck with mages, Turtleman had been a shining light in the darkness. But his immature approach to his schedule was biting at his heels. He'd gone missing a number of times, discreetly canceling out of a number of raids -- even when he shouldn't have been allowed to -- taking advantage of a bug in our phpRaider signup application. Yet when he pressured me for a promotion to Elite, I felt obligated by a sense of duty, rewarding his tenure. I ignored my screaming gut as I reached for that promotion button.

Tenure doesn't trump a red flag.

When the call came in to my phone that evening, my gut scrolled a message across my mind like a Hollywood Marquee. You should have known this was coming. Throughout the entire conversation, my mood slowly changed from disappointment to anger. Turtleman sat on the other end of the line, his tone like that of a kid being caught stealing from a store. He confessed. No more progression raiding for him. I asked for explanations; he offered none. I reminded him that this would be it for him, his final chance to ever hold a role of seniority in raids within DoD, that all his loyalty and tenure would be flushed down the toilet. I even gave him an out: give me the two-weeks notice I ask of all Elites to find a replacement, and you can walk away from this amicably. No dice. He mumbled responses, I could tell it was eating him away inside. Embarrassment and shame. Most players would rather walk away than have to deal with facing more disappointment. I demanded that, at the very least, he do the right thing and complete the evening's raid to kill Yogg-Saron with three Keepers. He agreed, and hung up.

I rested my phone down on the desk. Fuck. Pulling up phpRaider, I scrolled to the month of July, and one-by-one, cancelled Turtleman out of every raid he was rotated in for.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

3.32. Implications

XT-002 Deconstructor's heart is destroyed,
earning DoD "Heroic: Heartbreaker",

Grief from the Hardcore

The truly hardcore players...the ones who did everything in their power to re-arrange their real-life schedules to be present...were the ones I had to fight the hardest when it made sense to cancel a raid. Father's Day weekend was fast approaching and, like Mother's Day, had a handful of people choosing to spend it with their folks. It didn't make sense to force the raid to happen when so many players would be absent. Yet I knew exactly what was going to happen the minute I proposed the cancellation.

"I want us to raid that weekend, why does it have to be cancelled?" Cheeseus typed over an IM to me.

"Look, we have a ton of people already standing down. You want me to fill it with a bunch of players that don't know what they're doing? That sounds like a horrible idea if our goal is now hard-modes."

"They're not that hard!"

"Not to you, they're not. But what about Prodigie?"

Cheeseus was over 1500 miles away from me, but I could feel him wince at the suggestion of rotating in Divineseal's druid.

"That is the reality of the situation. You want me to make the Father's Day raid happen? You’re going to be looking at folks like him in the roster. Hey, if you can make it work...”

I had already delivered the news to Divineseal -- he'd be raiding on Prodigie from here on out. To continue to allow his sub-par healing in rotations would be a detriment to the raid, especially as we were now working to knock out Heroic: Glory of the Ulduar Raider. The short-term strategy was simple: put Divine into raids under a different name and role. Healers were the glue that held progression together; attempting to short-change the raid of their ability to survive spurts of panic and chaos wasn't a very sound business decision. By bringing his Boomkin, he could do far less damage to the raid. Meanwhile, the long-term strategy was already in play. Continue to recruit, bloat the pool up further by bringing in fresh meat. Hopefully, a shining star would step forward and push his way up past Divine...eventually squeezing him out of rotations completely.

Cancellations continued as we pushed into July, and there was more down the road to make me nervous about. My annual vacation was approaching, wherein I'd return to my Father's farm in Northern Saskatchewan, leaving me out of the rotations for a week. Furthermore, Blizzcon 2009 would take place a week past that, and while I'd already made up in my mind that we would be canceling raids that weekend, I knew that I would more than likely have to face Cheeseus' wrath amid his disgust with not pushing forward. With Cheeseus' continued pressure on me to make a decision regarding Crasian, coupled with my hesitance to lock down an entire role -- risking the loss of that group in anger -- I was forced to go back the drawing board on my approach.

Descendants of Draenor defeats Ignis
the Furnace Master in under 4 minutes,
earning "Heroic: Stokin' the Furnace",

The Vacation Tactic

The Elite rank couldn't continue without an adjustment. I had more people to promote and no available slots to play with, at least not without locking an entire role out of rotations. My only option was to pursue a modification to the Elite expectations, changing the verbiage from "You are expected to be present at every raid," to "You are expected to sign up for every raid." This negated one of the primary perks of being Elite: their guaranteed spot. If the verbiage wasn't right...if I didn't handle it with enough delicacy, I risked a mutiny of the core 25-Man progression raiders. These being the very folks whom I sought desperately to prevent alienating in the first place. My tactic would be to do it in such a way as to make the player feel that they were making the choice.

I had finally arrived at a point where a full roster of Elites for a particular role were in my hands. My guild's current ruleset dictated that they should all be expected to show up each week. This provided no floating spots for Raiders to be rotated into. With no Raiders floating into raids week-to-week, they would grow bored, neglected, and begin to seek shelter elsewhere on Deathwing-US. It was imperative that I took a handful of Raiders each week; I could never bring a raid fully comprised of Elites. But Elites were required to raid every week, per my explicit rules. I didn't want to take their guaranteed spot away. They'd feel betrayed, their hard work which separated them from the "casuals" tossed aside, making them feel insignificant.

I insisted on keeping the line between Raiders and Elites separate.

I thought about what Cheeseus had suggested -- that while I chose Raiders to be rotated out week-to-week, Elites themselves would be the ones to choose. This implied a focus on the player taking vacation. The model of Elite was already based on what struck me as the perfect employee: someone who is communicative, hard-working, goes above and beyond the call of duty. This was something Ater had pointed out to me in those many lunch hours we spent together in '07. So, in approaching Elite as a star employee, I focused my attention into the most noticeable perks of their loot, title, and guaranteed spot. What I needed to do was highlight another important part of what keeps a loyal, dedicated employee happy: time off.

It was time to crunch some numbers.


"You know all of the requirements around Elite, right?"

"Yup. Yeah, I read through, seems pretty straight forward," Crasian replied in Vent, "So, like, with time-off, I can take that whenever?"

"Absolutely. One night off every three months of raiding you accrue. But keep in mind any hours you've banked as a Raider will be available when you get promoted."

"Ah, sweet. So, do you like...track that on the website, or…"

I lied.

"Yup. Yes, it's all woven into the DKP. I cross-ref it with a spreadsheet I store on Google Docs. If it isn't clear, you know you can ping me. Just let me know ahead of time and I'll adjust it automatically."

Something I clearly planned to do reactively.


Crasian liked to punch his T's hard. Listening to him was like reading the phonetic pronunciations of each word in the dictionary. According to him, Sweet had three syllables instead of one.

"Now that more Elites are coming into the roster, there's going to be a need to move back and forth between various Elites, so that everyone gets a shot. Of course, you'll still always get priority over a Raider…”

"...oh, no doubt. No doubt."

"Yeah. So, if you want to sit for another Elite, y'know. Just come to me. Let me know ahead of time so that I can work it out on the schedule. Likewise, if I have to move people around, and you have to sit for say…"

I grabbed someone from The Eh Team.

"...Omaric, then you won't have to worry about eating into your vacation hours. I won't dock you for the ones that you don't step out of on your own. Make sense?"

"Totally", replied Crasian, "Should work great."

"Alright well...gratz on the promotion, Crasian. Welcome to the Elites! Let's see a little bit of that Eh Team skill in these 25-Man hard modes, eh?"

I pressed the "Promote Member" button. Mission accomplished.

Thorim is defeated while DoD is under the
influence of Aura of Celerity, earning them
 "Heroic: Who Needs Bloodlust?",

Proving Worthiness

As we worked our way through the rest of June, the 25-Man team scratched more achievements off the list. The weekend after defeating Yogg-Saron produced a two-tower kill of Flame Leviathan, and a Heroic: Heartbreaker. Killing XT-002 Deconstructor in hard mode was a sprint we narrowly hit with our gear the addition of Crasian to the roster didn't hurt at all. His Death Knight was a damage dealing machine, and previously unreachable goals were once again within grasp. The final week of the month claimed two more achievements. The first was yet-another-sprint: Heroic: Stokin' the Furnace, defeating Ignis the Furnace Master in under four minutes. The other, Heroic: Who Needs Bloodlust?, forced us into a gimmicky kill of Thorim, one that had our priest Arterea mind-controlling a Dark Rune Warbringer, granting nearby allies Aura of Celerity for the kill. We punched out our time card at the end of the month, and thanks to the two sprints, our Heroic: Glory meta tally was at three of the needed thirteen

The weekly achievement spam made it feel like we were further ahead than we actually were, but no less motivated despite it. Ulduar overflowed with achievements...and this was a good thing. In the wake of Wrath's raid difficulties plummeting to unrecognizable lows, a steady stream of rewards flashing onto the screen was a constant reminder that we were doing something a little bit better than the average raiding guild -- pushing ourselves a little bit harder, straining ourselves to reach for that carrot. Ostensibly, this is one of the reasons why Ulduar remains so vivid in the memory of longtime World of Warcraft raiders. Though the first tier of Wrath (Naxxramas, Eye of Eternity and Obsidian Sanctum) did have their own hard mode achievements, Ulduar was the first to truly embrace them. The performance of a highly skilled raid was tied directly to the activation of some of these hard modes. It wasn't just a raid setting in the UI. You flipped the switch if...and only if you could reach it. 

Many could try, but only raiders that brought the complete package to the table would have a shot at reaching for the switch to activate a hard mode. This is why Ulduar felt like it had real purpose and challenge layered into its depths. In the old days, the requirements to raid were severe and not for the casual-at-heart. Attunements alone kept most players far, far away from the floating necropolis, or the commandeered Auchenai spaceship floating above Netherstorm's cracked remains. But come Wrath, the flood gates opened wide, and so many long-time raiders looked upon the new instances with contempt and disgust.

And yet…

Ulduar kept secrets beyond that of what simply resided in the lore, for it contained a far more impactful gating process -- one not tied simply to quest execution or an arbitrary gold sink. At the dawn of a new era of raiding which embraced the masses, Ulduar's real challenge lay protected behind gates that only the accomplished and proven would reach. Unlike Naxxramas, The Eye of Eternity, or Obsidian Sanctum, where players could throw themselves at hard modes without having a shred of competency to stand on, there were specific encounters in Ulduar that tested your worthiness. It was not the type of instance that favored smashing your head against a brick wall -- again, and again, and again.

You had to have the DPS necessary to break XT-002's heart. 

You couldn't destroy any Saronite Vapors. 

You needed to get to Sif before she left Thorim's side… 

...You had to defeat Yogg-Saron minus keepers in order to craft Val’anyr.

These tests of worthiness, in turn, bled their consequences over those remaining hard modes activated by more trivial means. Raiders were compelled to choose those hard modes judiciously, to be opposed to raiders of the past, mindlessly throwing themselves at Patchwerk in blissful ignorance, wondering why they were nowhere near the 3-minute kill achievement. In Ulduar, progression was palpable, not a thing used to describe an abstract concept, a quantity of boss kills, or a toggle on the UI. It's path was very real. You could see it. You could reach out and press it, as if it were a gigantic red button, buried deep within the Spark of Imagination.

Pressing it...had implications...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

3.31. The Descent Into Madness

Descendants of Draenor defeats Yogg-Saron,
earning "Heroic: The Secrets of Ulduar",

By Omission

I laid the situation out on the forums for Dalans and Neps to ponder. Who would be the most appropriate replacement for Kelden? Options were limited to either Sixfold, Arterea or Gunsmokeco. Sixfold was an excellent healer, both in PvE and PvP, and had consistently rocked the meters in both Ulduar and my obscenity-laced arenas. But there was a concern that he cared little for management. I got the vibe from Six, much like I did with Larada, that he was here to play a game and have fun, not chase after children that needed their asses wiped and their snotty noses blown. Arterea also demonstrated prowess in the duality of raiding and player-killing. After taking Ekasra's spot in The Eh Team, his recent claim to fame was a reworking of the healing strategy for hard-mode Vezax -- a strategy we'd reuse in the 25-Man. Sadly, Art's schedule was all over the board. He'd approached me for Elite, but was concerned that his school schedule would wreak havoc on his in-game hours. Sadly, the best-and-brightest also had to maintain the online hours necessary to survey and mediate on my behalf. This turned my attention to Gunsmokeco, the prime candidate, and best suited for the task.

Guns, like Kelden before him, was very good at doing things his own way. For as far back as I can remember, Guns was one of the first PvE Shamans in DoD that ran with no add-ons. For him, it was the default UI or bust. I'd experienced resistance from officers in the past; Annihilation famously shit on the concept when he held the Warrior officer title. It was always his balls we were breaking when it came time to bring up the subject. He made no secret about his hatred of modding the UI, so it was out in the open and common knowledge to all. I let it slide with Annihilation because he was just that good. Expert players like him do exist in WoW; so finely attuned to the game's minutia that add-ons simply encumber their performance, shifting the signal-to-noise ratio far to the extreme.

It is my humble opinion that this is the exception far more than it is the rule.

Far too many players gave me grief on running add-ons, claiming they weren't necessary, only to turn around make horrible mistakes, act like amateurs, then throw their arms up in denial, blaming something else for their shitty performance. With Gunsmokeco, I wasn't concerned. He delivered top performance with every raid he set foot into -- a trait which helped play a role in his recruitment into The Eh Team. So I was fine with Guns letting the use of add-ons fall to the wayside.

What I wasn't fine with was his approach.

Unlike Annihilation's outward, public stance on his disgust with add-ons, Guns would simply choose to keep that info to himself. I made it clear, public knowledge what mods were to be loaded, and expected the best and brightest to lead by example. Only after running oRA2 or DBM version checks would the truth come seeping out -- he hadn't loaded any. In the face of the report, it was "Sorry, forgot", and no big deal -- case closed. Until the next time. Then, I'd have to remind him to turn them back on all over again. Did you think I wouldn't notice? Or were you just not paying attention?

Players that are skilled enough to run without add-ons -- especially healers -- can't perform at the top of their game without paying attention. The only other option left my gut screaming red flag after I pressed the promotion button.

After was no big deal. Case closed. Right?

Mature and the 25-Man Progression Team
stand before a defeated Yogg-Saron,


It was a picture of what had been, what is, and what was to come. Maneuvering through tentacles while the four Keepers kept watch on us from the balcony. Faceless Horrors leapt out of murky greenish clouds as I scrambled to gain control of them, lest they turn and begin killing raiders made of softer material. Cheeseus called out to the groups going into the mind of Yogg-Saron, pulling visions apart by their fabric, turning away from the nightmarish skulls that used every opportunity to sap each player's sanity. With these visions driven back into the recesses of Yogg's mind, the raiders poured their damage into the ganglia below the Old God's brainstem. Meanwhile, I waited outside, doing what I could to deal with tentacles, spinning my camera away in preparation to avoid gazing into the mouth of madness.

Each attempt that got us to the final phase was an exercise in Tank Endurance. Juggling between myself, Omaric, and Bretthew, we struggled to stay alive as the faceless ones continued to spawn, moving quickly towards our casters and healers. They struck the hardest when they first spawned; it was imperative we gained control as quickly as possible. One-shotting our highest damage dealers or strongest healers would turn the final phase into a bleak game of attrition, watching the nightmare slowly unfold as we were overrun. Meanwhile, panic-stricken players lost sight of their sanity, staring blindly at Yogg-Saron like deer in the headlights while they focused on damage. In a hypnotic trance they turned upon one other, cutting into the flesh of fellow raiders rather than the real enemy. The tanks and I held on to our calls.

"Mature picking up. Omaric next."

Then Omaric.

"Omaric has this, Taba, you're next."

Then Bretthew.

"I got it, I got it. Mature, you're next."

We continued on, trying to call out which tank was next on which taunt, who would be responsible for turning the faceless horrors toward us, praying that we had one last cooldown to blow to stay alive. DPS worked through the final bit of health remaining on the Old God -- averting our gaze from the hundred mouths, desperate to sink their teeth in.

We awoke.

The nightmare ended.

Heroic: The Descent into Madness was finished.

On the evening of June 14th, 2009, the fifth weekend of work on Yogg-Saron, with only one person dead, Descendants of Draenor slew the Old God in his lair. Far beneath Ulduar, his mad whisperings were silenced, and he bled out into the Saronite earth. It was a proud day to finally wrap up Ulduar and stand with the guild in the final kill-shot, but our work had only just begun. For this new design of raiding in Wrath meant that we were only through normal modes, bosses slain in their most simplistic manifestations. The true forms of the bosses had yet to be revealed, challenges that would await in bizarre new abilities, or executions under duress. The forms we'd witnessed thus far were meant only for the broad masses of raiders in Wrath, folks wishing only to experience the encounters, but lacking the dedication and focus necessary to clear raids with a degree of difficulty more reminiscent to the early days of WoW.

The kind of stuff we had cut our teeth on.

Grandma is not on Fire

Our priorities quickly shifted to what remained of these "hard-modes". Some we completed by accident, the pleasant side-effect of running a tight ship by default: encounters are completed as they should be. Others we chipped away at as the initial weeks passed by, growing in experience, augmented by the stats of newly acquired armor and weaponry. Yet for all the progress we made and achievements that spammed guild chat, three months had passed and nerfs continued to flow in, a subtle reminder that Blizzard's end-goal was to get more folks to raid. More folks to raid.

More folks to raid.

Our pool was rock solid, comprising a healthy balance of both Raiders and Elites, all itching to chisel away at what remained for Heroic: Glory of the Ulduar Raider. They coveted that Iron-Bound Proto Drake, and did whatever they could to claw up to an Elite rank, solidifying their spot in the roster. My hesitance lingered. I didn't want to disrupt that balance of Raider-to-Elite; both were needed and neither could dominate an entire role. This hesitancy, coupled with the looming Summer months, began to manifest in hefty cancellations on our signup sheet. But these cancellations weren't emergencies like "Grandma is on Fire". I mean cancelling for reasons that should have been scheduled around.

One weekend it would be:

"Birthday weekend, be busy all weekend."

Understandable, I'm sure, though I usually only need one day to celebrate a birthday. After becoming so caught up in WoW activities as to forget my own, time off around the event seemed perfectly reasonable. But then the very next weekend,

"Family Gathering."

And the weekend after that:


Each week I read the excuses reasons people gave to step out, I wondered if they really did want a shot at the Proto-Drake, or were just happy to have us carry them through on our backs. But what could I do? This was the setup, after all. Raiders would flow in and out as needed, and I would rotate in whomever was left. I expected that from Raiders. Besides, the Elites and Officers would be the rock that I'd lean on when Raiders wished for too much freedom.

Yet the players that were one step away from Elite were playing a very touchy game of cat-and-mouse with me when it came to cancellations. They didn't have the rank, so pushed it to the limit -- taking off as much time as they could squeeze out of me, because they could. But they always had very good reasons to legitimize their time away...

...reasons that just happened to come right off of my "Emergencies" forum topic.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

3.30. "Does it heal?"

Kelden (via Blacklabeled) sneaks a peek
at a conversation in guild chat,

Lonely at the Top

He had become quite the persona in DoD during his six month stint. Originally apping to the guild as Rogue, he had been denied due to an excess of melee, but he was persistent and eventually found a place amongst our recruits by apping as a Shaman. I got from his Vent interview that his previous guild hadn't been seeing raid success; as with many guilds, it started out as a place to socialize with some friends. Long after those folks had exited the game in disinterest, Kelden turned toward raid progression to keep up his interest. I also got the vibe from Kelden that he was set in his ways, a conservative, someone unwilling to budge in the face of an argument.

A great attribute to have if you're right.

So once Kelden was invited and the spam of welcomes died down in guild chat, a lone comment was injected: "Does it heal?"

That was the hope.

Kelden made it clear to me in that first tier of raids in Wrath -- Obsidian Sanctum, Eye of Eternity and Naxxramas -- that he could walk the walk. He was a man of his word; when he said he would sign up for every raid and be there on-time, he was. No excuses. Effortlessly, he fell into a consistent and reliable schedule with us, ever present, always pushing himself to keep everyone alive. He seemed to thrive off of structure, much like I imagined a military man or woman continues their "early to bed, early to rise" regimen long after their service has ended. Unquestioned loyalty in adhering to the raid schedule was a rare commodity (at best), so I took notice when folks like Kelden made themselves known. I could never have enough players that I could depend on to be online more than myself. When 3.1 came around, and it was time to shift from Class Officers to Role Officers, Kelden met all the requirements with flying colors, and humbly took up the office I asked of him. 

I hoped that with this promotion, we'd enjoy a steady, no-nonsense healing officer at the reins, keeping the healers in check, organizing and divvying out assignments, and taking little crap from players that insisted on doing their own thing, or coming unprepared. Far too often I'd have players try to take the reins and lead, but be unwilling to take that necessary step in order to tell someone they're wrong. They'd be afraid of hurting someone's feelings, about damaging that relationship they enjoyed outside of a raid environment. Leaders aren't there to make friends; it isn't their job to be everyone's best buddy. Sometimes they have to make the tough calls that people don't want to hear, and as a result, often keep little company in the off-hours.

But even leaders can relate to their peers. When someone comes along that can't relate to anyone...even outside the raid environment...there may be cause for concern.

Kelden snaps a photo of the 25-Man raid,
while Bheer mocks his disdain for prospecting,

The Deliberate Heckler

Kelden's mutant power was in his ability to pick away at people. Whether it was an intentional decision to rub people the wrong way, or simply a side-effect of his natural demeanor, the result was the same: People were bugged around him. He could turn any positive conversation on its head and deliver a stinging morose observation -- the kind of person that would drive up next to a jogger, roll down his window and call out to the guy,

"You're just going to die, anyway."

He had a very independent way of thinking, but wasn't incredibly adept at arguing a point, and he rarely seemed interested in caring to do so. The guild observed that this was a product of his ultra-conservatism, and his staunch support of a Republican way of life. In their day-to-day moderation responsibilities, I'd instructed Neps and Dalans to shut down two types of discussions: Religion and Politics. It wasn't worth the time or effort to try to moderate stuff that had the potential to explode so violently into drama, so we disallowed it completely. Staunch, one-sided arguments would end in frustration and hard-feelings, a thousand pins poking holes in the team framework we had established.

Kelden's stubbornness and apparent inability to see other's point-of-view gave off the perception of a cold bitterness that few of the guild could relate to. He became the "Debbie Downer" of the guild, the one who's glass was half-empty, and whom identified with the world's faults, rather than take it upon himself to correct them. This, in turn, led him to be the prime target of a more subtle, passive-aggressive type of bullying. Once players realized Kelden's conservatism could be used against him, they sprayed guild chat with raunchy jokes and innuendo liberally. He was also very good at becoming annoyed with even the most inconsequential minutia that comprised our everyday life in WoW. Between pulls in Naxxramas, Bheer would often spam his prospecting macro, filling the channel with a rainbow of gem colors -- driving Kelden to the brink of insanity. 

This "up-with-people" attitude left him few options to socialize outside of the raid game, so he would turn to tasks of isolation, like the Insane in the Membrane grind, popping his head out only on occasion to add a morbid observation to the discussion at hand. Even the other officers would have a tough time finding things in common to enjoy in-game with Kelden outside of raids. On a particular evening that I continued to work on my PvP gear, I invited Kelden to come heal me in a battleground, to which he obliged...only to hop into a Strand of the Ancients mounted gun, blasting away at the arriving Alliance while they swarmed me and emptied out my health bar. To Kelden, he was none the wiser -- this was simply how he ran BGs in the past.

It was a behavior borne out of the solo mindset, rather than one which relied on others for help.

Yet amid all these apparent lack of people skills, Kelden understood people far better than most would give him credit for. He knew, for example, when healers like Shimerice were apt to making inappropriate decisions about who not to heal, based off of their own petty emotions -- a skill only a few other officers possessed. During Lyticvirus' final tirade on our forums at losing his rank at the end of 3.0, Kelden very calmly and objectively stated the facts of the case, free from emotion and name-calling. There was no sarcasm, no taunting or name-calling. He was called upon to act like a professional and uphold the edicts of the guild, and he did so in a way that reflected Descendants of Draenor as I intended.

Kelden was a different breed of cat, which made him tough for me to read.

Mature joins Kelden and other DoDers,
to assist a pick-up group with the execution of
"Heroic: Emalon the Stone Watcher",
Vault of Archavon

A Downward Spiral

As we progressed into Ulduar, tell-tale signs began to surface -- things I dismissed because of the complex shroud that draped down over Kelden's optimistic personality. He appeared distracted as we dug deeper, which I attributed to his school schedule wreaking havoc on the hours of sleep he was knocking out. His healing assignments were steadily getting more subjective (read: worse), and had to be adjusted by Neps. Of course, this wasn't seen as helpful advice, but rather an attack on his ability. So, rather than pick a fight in public, he clamped up even further. In his deeper state, he spoke rarely, contributed little to the forums, and yet I was none the wiser that this was the natural order of things for Kelden.

When the blow finally came, I was surprised, but paradoxically, it made sense. Even after getting used to his modus operandi of keeping to himself, the vibe was ever present that something wasn't right. More than any other player before him, the day he was invited to DoD could be better described as the day we started the countdown until he quit.

His reasons made sense. Friends from his old guild had returned and he felt like his best chance at getting any sort of enjoyment would be to return to that group of folks. There wasn't any point in trying to talk him out of it; as with all of his decisions, his mind was made up and there would be no changing it. We agreed to keep it on the down-low until the guild had finished off Yogg-Saron, for morale purposes; I would use that extra time to examine what replacement options were on the table.

As for the original reason I wanted to talk to Kelden that evening, re: the issue of Divineseal and his continued poor play, I took that on myself, speaking to Divine about resolving it. As expected, there was a lot of denial from the Paladin, a lot of "this forum post here says this is the right way to heal", and I just silently shook my head in disappointment as I worked him back into the rotations -- knowing full well that a much better healer was quietly on his way out.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3.29. Entropy

Mature aids a group of players from
DoD to defeat Keristrasza without gaining
more than two stacks of Biting Cold,
The Nexus

Too Lean a Mixture

Elites were making things difficult.

As originally designed, my newly promoted "cream of the crop" players had been guaranteed a spot in the weekly progression raid. The side-effect to this should be obvious: the more spots that were locked-down each week, the less flexibility I had to rotate lesser-ranked players (Raiders) through. My two-cycle raiding engine only ran at 100% efficiency if I maintained a healthy mixture of both Raiders and Elite. If the fuel-to-oil mix was too one-sided, eventually things would seize up. Part of what went along with this understanding of my need for a balanced ratio of Raiders-to-Elites was the hard truth: As I promoted more Elites, fewer Raiders would get in. Every promotion had to be thoughtful. What role was I locking down? What did the pool look like? Who would be squeezed out by this promotion, and would those floating Raiders be necessary to keep the engine humming at idle?

"There is no reason for Crasian to not be Elite" popped the message into my IM window. I sipped my coffee. We'd been over this already. I typed back to Cheeseus.

"I'm still not comfortable locking down all the melee spots."

Six melee is what we were taking to Ulduar. The Warriors Jungard and Abrinis were Elite. Sir Klocker still held the Old God rank, which carried with it no expectation to raid, but he and I had an understanding. He was raiding every week, the rank was for show. Cheeseus was the Raid Leader, so for obvious reasons, he would be in attendance every week. Bheer was our fifth and final locked-down melee spot, bringing Enhancement Shamanism to the raid. That left a single floating melee spot from week-to-week, an already oil-thick mixture. Promoting Crasian meant a full lock-down of melee, all gears being greased...with no fuel to drive the engine long-term. Promoting him meant no contingency plan when emergencies arose. Take only Elites week-to-week, and the Raiders will feel neglected and leave. No more Riskers. No more Bonechatters.

I stuck to my guns on Crasian's promotion. Cheeseus was annoyed. He stated the obvious, "Ensuring Elites raid every week is gimping us. What happens when we lock down all roles? New amazing players just get left behind?"

"Which is exactly why I can't promote them."

He pressed further.

"We have 1 elite tank, 1 gm tank, and 1 whatever rank Dalans is tank, yet we're able to rotate in Bretthew, while still knowing we have access to Dalans / Omaric, as we saw when Taba had that family emergency 2-4 weeks ago and let me know last minute. This is what Elites should be. Sign up for every raid, do their job professionally, sit out on occasion to allow new people the opportunity to run/get loot, but always at the end of the day, be available for the raid."

I pointed out the flaw in the his logic, "Sitting out on occasion is what the Raiders do," I replied, "that's the difference between a Raider and an Elite."

"No, the difference is that you choose when the Raiders sit out. When the Elites sit out, it's their choice. Sort of."

I got what he was trying to say. The question was how to make it work without making Elites feel like I was stripping them of their permanent spot. I was going to have to give it thought. I added it to my mental to-do list -- a list Cheeseus had become quite adept at piling things on to.

Mature hams it up for the camera with his
newly acquired Chef's Hat and title,

In Flux

When not struggling with what to do about looming Elite promotions that would lock out an entire slot of players, I had many other items on my list to keep me on my toes. Yogg-Saron, of course, was the primary target. Our speed-burn through Ulduar had ground to a dead halt at Yogg, as we transitioned back to our age-old plan of slowly picking away at the boss, baby-step by baby-step. I was also fielding changes in the roster. Ekasra, finally achieving a sense of accomplishment through his Warlock Nestonia, had decided to throw in the towel. He surprised me by this move, after having put so much energy into a Warlock and making a lasting, memorable contribution in Wrath. Alas, the journey has to end for every player at some point. Ekasra's exit was tough because his absence not only ate into the 25-Man roster, it was sure to affect The Eh Team as well. Cheeseus was certain to have a load of fun looking for a qualified replacement -- and with his rigid expectations on perfection, it would not come easily.

Another loss came in by way of Lix, a long-term Resto Druid who diligently filled the role of a Raider, rotating in and out week-to-week. Lix came to me one evening and confessed that she'd made the life-changing decision to join the Navy. I applauded her courage and nobility to serve her country, but would have preferred that she remained serving me. Damage dealers were a dime a dozen, but quality healers were always hard to come by; the loss of Lix would be another blow I'd have to take in stride.

Other fluctuations in the lineup continued to remind me of the Elite problem. Mcflurrie's schedule was changing and he came to me requesting a demotion, unable to maintain the consistency I asked of Elites. In an alternate dimension where Elites weren't required to be at every raid, but still enjoyed the luxury of taking a priority spot, this demotion could have been avoided. 

The Elite problem manifested in the other direction as well, as players lobbied for was the case with Turtleman. I had grave reservations about him. He may have dominated the Mage DPS charts unequivocally during his tenure in DoD, but Turtleman had red flagged himself on numerous occasions -- the most recent offense being the cancellation of his signups mere hours before a raid. This was a behavior he'd beeen warned about; it was not representative of one who was striving for Elite. Still, he was one of the longest running guild members, and had never given me a moment of doubt when the loyalty of the guild was in question. Even in our darker days when the guild hemorrhaged away quality players, Turtleman remained steadfast in DoD. I took a risk with Turtle and gave him the promotion to Elite, with my gut screaming at me the entire time. Too many red flags. People don't change. This is a mistake. I get it, gut...I get it. I'll work with Turtleman just as I have with Ben. He is worth the effort.

When the dust settled, I was down a Lock, a Shaman, and a Druid, but managed to limp away with a locked-down ranged DPS. Bouncing back and forth between our queue of applications and WoW Lemmings, I was able to pick up a new Hunter named Cenadar, and a Paladin named Aetherknight, both of whom I knew little about, but that seemed like a good a start as any.

A start at staving off the entropy.

After juggling the problems of the fluctuating raid roster, pondering the conundrum of my Elite rank, and trying to remain focused on Yogg-Saron, I couldn't wait to see what was in store for me next.

Mature scores his 10,000th honorable kill while
Ben (via Fluffykitten) points out how behind
the curve he actually is,
Alterac Valley

Dunning-Kruger in Full Effect

Cheeseus brought it to my attention one morning, linking me to one of our World of Logs reports.

"This is where he does his best. Notice anything suspicious about it?"

I glanced at the logs, scanning down the list of healers' performances.

"It's subtle", he added.

Cheeseus was pointing me to the trash pre-Mimiron, a festive group of mechanical spider-like miniature tanks called Arachnopods which sprayed us with napalm while we struggled to mitigate the burning damage. Arachnopods had a clever gimmick: As they reached low health, they ejected their pilot allowing us to jump in and control the Tank ourselves, turning the tables on the clockwork gnomes. I wasn't seeing it. This is why I didn't lead raids, but delegated the responsibility to people who could read between the World of Logs lines.

"Something more closely related to deaths", Cheeseus continued with his clues.

A group of players were dead from massive flame spray coming in from the Arachnopod Destroyers. Meanwhile, massive healing had been put on to the Destroyers themselves. So much healing, in fact, that it had pushed an inconsequential Paladin into the number one healing spot.

"Healing done on the Destroyers is incredibly high," I typed back to Cheeseus, "about 64% vs. 10% on Omaric and ~1% on everyone else."

Divineseal was casting Beacon of Light on the Main Tank and spamming heals on the person driving the Destroyer, catapulting his overall healing done in an attempt to not look like the worst healer on the team. Other healers did this as a joke to see what they could inflate their numbers to. Divineseal was using it as a legitimate tactic...and failing.

"I like the deaths during his high healing area," Cheeseus concluded, "clearly his priorities are straight."

I have to admit, it was an impressive attempt to try to sate Cheeseus. Our raid leader had been complaining about Divine's numbers as long as the pants-looter had been raiding Ulduar with us. Impressive...and dumb. I wasn't even sure if I could consider this manipulation. How can one purposefully cheat if one still doesn't fundamentally understand the rules of the game? It's the sort of behavior you'd see from a player that was trying to confirm what they already believed to be true: that they were right and the rest of the world was wrong. But as players like my ex-Warrior officer Annihilation spelled out plainly,

"Divine is only bad because he thinks he is better than he really is."

Psychologists call this the Dunning-Kruger effect. It grants people an inflated assessment of their own skills, while at the same time, preventing them from understanding how truly unskilled they really are. A vicious cycle of ignorance that protects oneself from one's own incompetence, perpetuating never-ending mediocrity.

It was an all too familiar scene. Players that didn't like to take advice, that got defensive when it was suggested they didn't know what they were doing...would specifically seek out information from other skewed sources that backed up their own false claims. You seek out the "truths" that make you feel better, rather than face the fact that you may not know anything at all. It happens every day to people that have never even heard of World of Warcraft. So Divineseal sought to find ways to improve his own skewed poor healing strategies, and all it served was to point out how exploitative his techniques were. It wasn't that he didn't care -- he wanted to be a successful healer. He just didn't know that he wasn't one.

In his mind, Divineseal's job was to fulfill Cheeseus's request: stop being at the bottom of the meters.


I logged in and scanned for Kelden to see if he was available to chat about the Divineseal issue. Kelden whispered me first.

"Hey", he shot over to me, "Got a sec?"

"Actually I do, let's hop in vent."

The news he had was not good.