Thursday, October 24, 2013

3.38. Damage for Dessert

Shadowmourne is displayed for the first time,
BlizzCon '09

Peeling Onions

"So, who do you think will get it first?"

I eyeballed the photo someone had taken from BlizzCon a week earlier. There, an orc stood hunched over, a large axe tightly gripped in both hands. Its curved blade gave off a deep bluish glow, affixed with various markings and runes. As a guild leader, I stood aside on several occasions while other more deserving players were bestowed with weapons of legendary strength. I was fine with this. My job was to run a successful guild, so if others sacrificed of themselves to help in that endeavor, I'd offer whatever small token of appreciation I could in return for that loyalty. And as I gazed upon Shadowmourne's eery glow, players began to race through my mind. Ater had crafted Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker; more recently, Neps came to be the bearer of Val'anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings. We even managed to forge a Sulfuras, Hand of Ragnaros, but its fate was far less ceremonious in Descendants of Draenor. A weapon once coveted by all of Azeroth's warriors (and paladins, and shamans, and druids), ours fell into the hands of a random, no-name player who left the guild several weeks later. The poor luck of our streaky drops had gotten the best of all the officers who had attempted to suffer through years of running Molten Core, and they had all thrown up their hands in defeat. When the Eye of Sulfuras finally dropped, nobody of significance was present to receive the item. It went to a warrior who simply happened to the possess the necessary material components. And once he bore the legendary two-handed mace, he...like his materials...was gone.

I would not make the same mistake twice.

The issuing of legendary weapons to guild members was something I took great pains to work through. It couldn't just be the first person with the materials, or the player furthest along in the quest. It had to be carefully planned out, ensuring that it would land in the hands of a player that not only deserved it, but whom would continue to carry it throughout our raids, adding to our combined strength. A decision of this significance brought to light many concerns I would've previously swept under the rug. Red flags took on entirely new levels of importance and players' ulterior motives had to be scrutinized. I wanted to assume the best in people, but a realistic approach was just as important -- greed absolutely could be a contributing factor to lead people to behave in new, manipulative ways. Ways that would make me think that giving them Shadowmourne first was the right decision, for the good of the guild.

The trick was how well could I peel back the onion.

"I dunno, perhaps Klocker. I'll have to see the stats first."

Ah, Sir Klocker. A faithful and trusted officer. A loyal guild member and confidant as far back as the early days in Blackwing Lair. Quite possibly first in line to craft this legendary axe...had it not been for the turn of events that were about to be set into motion. A small stone would soon be cast into a lake by a guild member, and it would cause ripples to grow, to encompass the roster, leadership...even me. Ripples that would ultimately lead Sir Klocker to be the guild's third bearer of Shadowmourne, rather than the first.


Dreadscale and Acidmaw are killed within
seconds of each other, earning the guild
"Not One But Two Jormungars (25-Man)",
Trial of the Crusader

The Life of a Tank

I leaned over my desk awkwardly, shoving a mouthful of ice cream into my face, while the 25-Man team wailed on Gormak. I stood at the base of the enormous Magnataur, holding him in position while DPS tore him up. Numbers flowed down my screen like a fountain of death, of hit points that once were. I'd held the role of tank for these many months in Wrath and had enjoyed its benefits. Tanks were quick to gear up, as competition against loot was minimal. There was always a need a tank in a 5-Man, particularly a heroic one. And Death Knights truly enjoyed the benefit of the role in Wrath, implicitly overpowered in their design that any of the three specs -- be it Blood, Frost or Unholy -- could tank. It made life easy for me, whether I was playing the pivotal role of Sartharion tank during a three-drake kill, or simply standing in front of Gormak and weathering each strike as if a light breeze brushed past my cheek. I could even enjoy dessert and perform my raid-related duties at the same time. Indeed, life was easy.

Easy...and dull as rocks.

I remembered the days of Kerulak and of struggling with new mechanics. Of rewiring my buttons from the ground up as a result of Battleguard Sartura. Of the adrenaline flowing through me as Huhuran neared death and the fate of the raid rested with the Shamans and their Chain Heal spam. Chills...

Gormak fell over dead and Omaric raced into position to pick up Dreadscale, while I crossed the room and waited for Acidmaw. A giant worm burst out of the floor like some poorly written Dune fan-fiction, and I began to backpedal, staying out of his poison clouds.

"Keep the damage level on both. Going for the achievement."

I glanced up at the poison debuff ticking away on me. If left unchecked, I would eventually be slowed to the point of complete immobility. Perhaps this would get a little exciting after all!

"I have the debuff. Want me to run to fire?"

"No, stay there. It’s coming to you."

Meh, perhaps not.

I continued to keep the Jormungar's poison spit pointed away from the raid, and watched their health-bars drop in unison. Down and to my right, the damage meters were a multicolored ice cream dessert; once again, Crasian remained the cherry on top.

I missed being on the meters.

I thought back to playing Zanjina and how so much of it was a struggle to claw my way back up into the top 10. Shit gear, poor itemization, and a bad mix of racials all stacked the deck against me. Yet every day I would return to try to find some new trick or technique to scale that DPS mountain. I remembered the day Supremus crumbled into a heap of rubble in Black Temple and I stood in the #1 spot, if only for a single moment.

Pardon my French, but it was a pretty fucking cool feeling.

Tanking had its place, but I knew the full effect it had on the player, that lack of glory, the inability to come out of a raid with any quantifiable performance. The success of a tank wasn't gauged in multicolored flavors of damage; it was a cruel world of simply being alive or dead. It was the stale carrot cake you pulled from the back of the refrigerator, as a nice gesture to guests, long after all the ice cream was gone. It often left you hungry while others stuffed their faces. So I smiled politely and thanked the hosts for their generosity; I ate the cake and lied. Oh no, no this is fine. You go ahead with your sundae. This will be enough for me.

The pair of worms collapsed within seconds of one another, and the achievement "Not One But Two Jormungars (25 Player)" flashed up on our screen, as we transitioned to phase three. Icehowl burst through the doors. I shoved another spoonful in, and ran straight for the yeti.

Well...time to see who gets trampled tonight.


The 25-Man progression team defeats Anub'arak,
earning the guild "Call of the Crusade (25 Player)",
Tournament of Champions

We Meet Again

We carried on through Jaraxxas, the Champions, and the Twin Val'kyr, but there would be no diversion to Ulduar this eve. The floor was shattered by the Lich King, and we plummeted down into a hidden chamber, far below the tournament's arena. Hiding in wait, a familiar arachnid lurked. Anub'arak, unhappy with his defeat in Azjol-Nerub, had returned to take his vengeance out on us. Burrowing insects was in our immediate future.

Phase one demanded a tank keep control of Anub'arak himself, while a second tank picked up spiderling minions. As predicted, these minions had a tendency to dig into the floor of the cave, re-appearing in random spots which added to the chaos. In order to keep the burrowing under control, tanks had to position these spiderlings onto patches of ice called permafrost, and permafrost was created when ranged DPS destroyed the various floating spheres that encircled Anub'arak's pit. We kept on the boss until he himself burrowed, indicating the start of phase two.

In this second phase, Anub'arak locked onto a specific member of the raid, seeking this target out. Our raid had to keep tabs on positioning, as this target and his prey drew a line that players could not cross, for fear of being impaled -- an attack that had the potential to one-shot under the right conditions. Meanwhile, scarabs would randomly pop from the ground and swarm on to players, sending them into a panic and running wildly in random directions....often towards the aforementioned invisible line. Keeping calm was the only way to make it through this phase, without losing targets of Anub'arak's hunger. We bounced between these two phases several times, until Anub'arak was whittled down to the magic 30%.

Then, the fun began.

The final burn had a clever twist which would cause the unsuspecting raid to do themselves in, if not careful. Anub'arak surrounded the entire raid in a leeching swarm, draining 10% of the raid's current health each second. This meant a huge spike of damage to the entire raid at the onset, eventually plateauing at a level far less apt to inducing a heart attack among the healers. But! The healers had to resist their instincts to top off the raid; overhealing caused Anub'arak's leech to replenish his hit-points faster than we could remove them. If Anub'arak was left to put the heat on our DPS sundae, the burn would be dragged out; he'd win by attrition, as our DPS melted away. The healers remained disciplined, healing the very least they could, focusing more on the tanks and less on the raid itself. With only a few attempts to perfect these many mechanics, Anub'arak collapsed in a broken husk, and the golden banners flashed up on our screens: "Call of the Crusade (25 Player)".

It was the start of September 2009, and we were now ready to begin our heroic work in Trial of the Grand Crusader.

---

I sat down at my desk, sipped the morning coffee, and began to pull up my work for the day. Instantly, my IM client sprang to life, a pending message from Cheeseus:

"Ever look at other guilds and think, 'How can they succeed, while we fail so hard'?"

I watched as the stone skipped across the lake, ripples growing outward, preparing to devour all that they encompassed.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

*a typo
;)

Shawn Holmes said...

@Anonymous,

Yikes! Good catch, you've officially become the first fan to submit typos before Dalans!

Dalans said...

Some of us have jobs Mr. Werid Chocolate/Lemon/Lime Sundae Eater.

kizmet said...

Haha thanks dalans I needed that.

Anonymous said...

I live to serve...

Fredrick said...

That last sentence is a horrible way to start a discussion ^^

Shawn Holmes said...

@Fredrick,

I know, right?