Thursday, September 26, 2013

3.34. Legendary

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

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,
Ulduar

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?"

"Gunsmokeco."

"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, God..no." 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,
Ulduar

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 me...it 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.

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