Thursday, October 10, 2013

3.36. Answering the Call

Descendants of Draenor defeats Northrend Beasts with
four Snobalds alive, earning "25-Man: Upper Back Pain",
Trial of the Crusader

Hail the Conquering Hero

I was greeted with blaring trumpets and a cheering crowd upon my arrival to the Tournament of Champions, marking my return to raids after a month-long ordeal. It was refreshing to be back in control, even if the artificial pomp and circumstance was scripted. Five days earlier, I received no such fanfare as I arrived at the car dealership that had inadvertently caused my vacation from Hell. Beaten down by the previous week's events, it would have been nice to return to a line of bowing peasants, showering me with a thousand apologies while I pointed to several of them at random, ordering their beheadings.

I don't think the guillotine would have been particularly helpful for their sales floor.

Squarely positioned in front of the flat panel, left hand sitting one key askew of the home row, right hand gripping the MX1000, it was time to suppress all lingering memories of Williston, North Dakota. My blood pressure dropped as images of being stranded were overwritten by boss strategies. Faces of auto mechanics and calls to dealerships faded to black, and were replaced with Lord Jaraxxas and The Twin Val'kyr. There was a time, not long ago, where it was World of Warcraft that acted as my primary source of stress. How ironic it was, then, to finally arrive at a place where being in-game recharged my batteries rather than drain them. Being online with the guild felt like my home-away-from-home. It gave me a small sense of comfort, even while cooped up in cheap hotel rooms, trapped in a town blanketed with the smell of unrefined oil. I adjusted my headset and listened to Tirion Fordring deliver his speech introducing our first challenge: Northrend Beasts.


Well into Wrath of the Lich King, the definite constant in Descendants of Draenor was a changing roster, and this was by my design. While Elites (for the most part) remained stalwart, the lower rank of Raider boasted a seemingly bottomless trove of up-and-coming faces. Demand to participate in 25-Man content was at an all-time high -- especially amid knowledge that we provided it outside of a militant hardcore guild setting. The newest of these ever-changing faces came from Federation Starflex, a guild belonging to Jungard's brother, a rogue named Randyflagg. Previously, they'd chosen to keep things close-knit and small, a decision I respected, but wasn't particularly fond of. As Jungard's volunteer hours in Fedstar increased due to their invariable dependence upon him grew, I continued to turn the vice and keep the pressure on him. Sell an assimilation to your sibling. Show them the ways of DoD. The wine would flow in both directions; Fedstar could fill spots in the 25 if they wished. In return, they'd have more people to help with their own 10-Man endeavors. Eventually, he made them see the light, and Descendants of Draenor soaked up Federation Starflex like a sponge.

Hodir is defeated within three minutes, earning the
raid "25-Man: I Could Say This Cache Was Rare",

The Road Less Traveled

DoD not only obtained Jungard's brother through the assimilation of Federation Starflex, but gained a healthy mix of the other roles one would expect to see in a balanced roster. There was Wfredlund, a paladin whom the guild came to know as "Fred". Fred had a healthy sense of humor and an equally healthy beard, which he both flaunted and mocked in our forums' real-life pic thread. Fred broke the ice easily with the rest of the crew, an essential attribute that all newly invited guildies should possess. As it was with many folks that came and went in DoD, first impressions were laser-etched into granite, and no amount of fantastical healing could make up for that. As it stood, Fred was occasionally nervous wielding the Light, and breaking the ice was a good way to allow us to see past those deficiencies, giving him a chance to grow into his position.

A player with no skills and no personality didn't last long in the roster.

On the other end of the spectrum sat a warlock with both skills and personality, more than enough to go around. He called himself Mangetsu. Mang was quite the character. I detected an accent I couldn't place in that initial interview; I'd come to find out later he was Portuguese...but his English did not suffer despite this. Aside from the accent, his conversations were as straightforward and natural as any introverted nerd would be. Mangetsu had a tendency to turn the conversation into something anime related, whether it be the latest series he was transfixed on, or the fact that he adored his "waifu", a pillow with an anime architecture imprinted on the case. But Mangetsu wasn't just a playful, cuddly anime nerd that DoD could pat on the head and tuck away in the corner once it was time to talk business. Inside a raid, his jovial, happy-go-lucky attitude continued to crack jokes, while his fel fire and shadow bolts lit the meters up like fireworks. Mang wielded the dark powers of the warlock with ease, almost as if it were an extension of the self. He willed the death of those raid bosses, and they succumbed. Even Eacavissi himself felt a challenge when Mangetsu stepped in.

Mangetsu made many friends in DoD very quickly, but I still sensed a nervousness in him. Was he intimidated by our accomplishments? We were no great superpower on Deathwing-US, so in dealing with him, I leveraged what I had learned about perception. How we see ourselves is often not how others see us. A quick interview in Ventrilo put his mind at ease. We put our pants on one leg at time, just like you, Mang. We merely strove to set a new standard for guilds -- one that meant we would raid competitively without taking the easy road like so many hardcore guilds had. The less people-oriented road. I made it a personal mission of mine to work with people and mediate their issues, be flexible with their schedules, encourage them to learn and grow as contributing members. After all, this was about more than just raiding, this was a social environment we were cultivating. Once Mang got comfortable, and the stress of being inducted washed away, his name floated to the surface of every damage meter we ran, constantly making us chuckle in the process. He never overstepped his bounds. He never once displayed an ounce of egotism or pride. He was humbled to be a part of our group, and I was lucky to call him one of my own.

I predicted great things from Mangetsu, and had a feeling he would play more than just the role of warlock/anime nerd.

The 25-Man progression team defeats Thorim while
Sif is present, earning "25-Man: Lose Your Illusion",

Stoning Birds to Death

The beasts had no chance to run amok. A magnataur, two jormungars, and a Northrend yeti were no match for the progression team. Snobolds picked away at us like gnats while we moved through each successive boss, but under strict direction from Cheeseus, the raid ignored them and focused their attention on the beast at hand. Their defeat was almost entirely without casualties: Sir Klocker and Dalans were victims of Icehowl's enrage as a result of other players being caught in the yeti's charge. Following the Wrath formula, normal mode was of no concern -- even when at its worst. As Icehowl crashed dead to the floor of the arena, "25-Man: Upper Back Pain" flashed up on our screens.

Wilfred Fizzlebang summoned in our next challenger, buying the farm in the process. Lord Jaraxxus, an Eredar lord bathed in a deep blood red, pummeled the 25-Man progression team while spawning Mistresses of Pain to his side. These succubi were to add a significant amount of incoming damage, but if it were so, I don't recall -- memories blur around events of little consequence. We all knew the drill. The challenge would come later. For now, we jumped through the hoops as commanded from on high, and killed as many achievement birds with one stone in the process. Leaving two succubi alive granted us "25-Man: Three Sixty Pain Spike", another bird expired.

From there, we moved to the Faction Champions, a unique encounter reminiscent of Arena PvP. Coordination was the key to deal with this handful of random Alliance. Crowd-control had to be maintained on certain members of the group...members which changed week-to-week, forcing us to adapt new strategies on-the-fly. The Champions then gave way to Fjola Lytebane and Eydis Darkbane, aka The Twin Val'kyr. Mechanics were textbook: light empowered damage dealers targeted Eydis, while the dark empowered got close and personal with Fjola. There was no surprise to anyone when we sent the twins crying home to their Lich King mommy. At the halfway mark for the night, we were through every boss, save Anub'arak.

Time management was now a priority, requiring us to split efforts between Trial of the Crusader and Ulduar. New content was a life-blood, something everyone loved, but the Iron Bound Proto-Drake still dangled on the stick in front of us. Back to the Storm Peaks we returned, digging down into the titan city. Before that evening ended, we set upon Hodir with increased gusto in an attempt to beat the three minute timer. Birds continued to fall out of the sky as we not only secured Hodir's defeat with seconds remaining, we did so without a single player being flash frozen..not even Ben. Our perfect execution racked up "25-Man: I Could Say This Cache Was Rare" and "25-Man: Cheese the Freeze" on that single kill.

We returned the following Sunday and knocked out "25-Man: Con-speed-atory", accomplished by defeating Freya within 20 minutes of the first mob death in The Observatory of Life. The remainder of that afternoon was spent on "25-Man: Lose Your Illusion". This would involve us defeating Thorim with Sif still present, barraging the raid with ice showers, randomly freezing us into position -- a mechanic particularly painful while a blast of lightning drew imminent. The night was organized in such a way as to give us plenty of time to work on this achievement, but we completed it only a few attempts. We ended the evening by clearing Ulduar and distributing its wealth among the 25-Man team.


The first weekend back behind the wheel was extraordinary; I was re-energized and had a clear path into both raids. Glory of the Ulduar Raider inched closer, and only one boss remained in the Tournament before we could begin the Trial of the Grand Crusader...where the real work lay. I reviewed my achievement panel and surveyed all the birds we killed with that weekend's single raiding stone. And as I looked closely at the golden bars, scrolling back and forth between those newly added, and those which had been in the game at Wrath's launch, something subtle appeared there. Something nearly unnoticeable and easily dismissed as a cosmetic change. Something that I wouldn't give any concern to -- nor would anyone else, yet would ultimately set the stage for something much bigger than any of us could predict. And its nearly microscopic tentacles had sprouted, lying in wait to embrace our subconscious.

The subconscious mind is a fickle thing.


Eccentrica said...

Your post style keeps us coming back for more but is infinitely aggravating. It's like a blog soap opera letting us dangle till the episode (shakes fist). Very nice work.

I discovered you two days ago and am very much enjoying the trip back down memory lane and the unfolding story of your guild.

How on earth do you recall so many details and names? I stretch to recall the name of the first guild I joined when I started in BC but find it elusive.

Anonymous said...

WTB edit button " episode..."

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks so much for these encouraging words, and please accept my deepest apologies for forcing you to wait a week between posts. It's the only pace I can keep up with at present!

My memory's always been very selective, esp. in regards to events very important to me, such as the many stories you read about in this blog.

I won't lie, though, a lot of it I have to carefully review with emails, forum posts, screenshots, achievement dates, etc. and thankfully, I have the help of some of the original DoD guild members to clear up what remains blurry.

Anonymous said...

With this post, I've reached the point in your tale where I stopped playing WoW, and for the first time, many of the boss names (Wilfred Fizzlebang, Jaraxxus, Icehowl, Eydis and Fjola) are only familiar to me from Hearthstone cards. It's interesting to me to read about the raid mechanics that are connected to these NPCs, and thinking through how those are reflected in Hearthstone.

Zanshin, Kil'Jaeden server