Thursday, November 28, 2013

3.43. Showtime!

The 25-Man Progression Team defeats The Twin Val'kyr in
under three minutes, earning "Salt and Pepper (25 Player)",
Tournament of Champions

The Definition of Insanity

Cheeseus had taken a bow and exited stage right. Upon his exit from DoD as raid leader, some significant hurdles remained. Omaric and Bretthew took control of our 25-Man progression team at a time when it was most critical for DoD. Only three meta achievements remained outstanding in our quest to complete Glory of the Ulduar Raider, but they were arguably the most difficult ones of the bunch. All eyes were on them as we returned to our instance locks that Sunday at the start of October 2009. How would they approach it? Would Omaric's voice impressions and Bretthew's chatty nature distract the team from focusing in on the most brutal of these final Ulduar achievements? Would the raid follow their direction, or get caught up in unrelated conversations as they began to wipe to trash? Did the boys have the capacity to keep the peace and identify problematic players, or were we headed into attempts that Blain warned me about years before; attempts where you repeat the same thing over and over, changing nothing yet expecting results. Would Omaric and Bretthew deliver? Or would they slowly drive us insane?

The lights dimmed, and the curtain went up on their first act.

For their first trick, Omaric and Bretthew drove the raid up through the Tournament of Champions and had us target a three-minute burn on The Twin Val'kyr. A month earlier, The Eh Team had knocked out "Salt and Pepper (10 Player)", so this achievement was a safe play for them. I casually suggested that they keep their strategy and opinions hidden away in officer chat. We needed to keep a handle on the perception that The Eh Team's influence was broadening in scope. Many of us had first-hand experience in performing the 10-Man version by this point, so it was common knowledge that "Salt and Pepper (10 Player)" was an order of magnitude easier to accomplish. Repeating this information to the twenty-five as a teaching device would have been a bad idea. That tactic could have been misinterpreted as "we beat it a month ago because we're better than you" -- a situation not so difficult to imagine in a game where the difficulty between 10 and 25 was blurring in the public eye every day.

After securing "Salt and Pepper (25 Player)", their next trick involved Mimiron. We were dodging mines, bursts of damage from mechanized guns, and making our way into phase three. Omaric directed the raid to leave an Assault Bot alive in an attempt to force Mimiron to destroy it with a rocket strike. As it turned out, I had an Assault Bot on me, and kited it around while Mimiron transitioned into his final phase, combining into a giant clockwork monstrosity. I scanned for the rocket blast targets being painted on the ground while the raid began to chip away at all three parts of Mimiron's body. I missed the first target by inches, but remained diligent, zooming my camera out and spinning it like a top, watching for new crosshairs to paint. Another showed up across the room and I made a mad dash for it, squinting as I prepared to mess up in some horrific fashion; the guild leader ever-confident in his abilities.

The Assault Bot tailing me sputtered, whirred, and fell backwards, while achievement spam lit up guild chat: "Not So Friendly Fire (25 Player)". We were clear to burn through Mimiron, and the steampunk Voltron soon sagged its shoulders as it ran out of power.

Their opening act was a success. The main event was yet to come.

DoD defeats Freya with all three Elders alive,
earning "Knock Knock Knock on Wood (25 Player)",

Knock Knock Knock

To say there was a lot going on would be an understatement.

Freya's adds made up the majority of our suffering. While Ancient Protector himself wasn't terribly oppressive (as the raid very quickly moved under mushrooms to evade the silence from Conservator's Grip), a random person would be selected for Nature's Fury, doing repeated damage to players in close proximity. If players were sharp, the Nature's Fury target would zip away from us in no time at all. It didn't always play out that way. The ring of Detonating Lashers were also not much fun. A warrior tank could deliver a Shockwave to AoE stun them, allowing the casters to chain into a massive shower of AoE damage, while we gained a safe distance from their explosives deaths.

It was a pity, then, that our warrior tank decided to become a druid.

Meanwhile, I had my own struggles to deal with. Snaplasher, Storm Lasher, and Ancient Water Elemental all spawned together, and required us to kill them within twelve seconds of one another. Yet, the "group up and AoE down" method wouldn't fly here, either. While Storm Lasher's chain lightning could be mitigated with stuns, Riskers was having a tough time of it on his own as the sole remaining rogue in progression. Ancient Water Elemental had a tendency to want to charge out in a random direction, and made it difficult to keep damage focused on him. As it turned out, both of these adds were my responsibility. Meanwhile, Snaplasher was kited away, its own damage growing as its health dropped. In 10-Man, the Snaplasher would eventually be frozen into position, affording the kiter a buffer of freedom. In 25-Man there was no such allowance. Poor timing on the part of the kiter would cause player death as Snaplasher's own life came to an end.

The deficiencies of modifying a 10-Man strategy for the 25 were starting to rear their ugly head, and the audience grew restless.

Mangetsu, along with his warlock officer Eacavissi, worked  in tandem to perfect an extended Shadowfury chain, which Turtleman helped augment with a Frost Nova tagged on the tail. This was our best bet to eliminate the threat from the ring of Detonating Lashers. Meanwhile, Bretthew, Omaric and I worked on our own system: Ikey-bear held Freya while Bretthew AoE taunted Snaplasher, Storm Lasher and Ancient Water Elemental. Without skipping a beat, Ikey would pull Freya back (as she was also subject to Bretthew's AoE taunt), while I gripped Storm Lasher and Ancient Water Elemental, facing them away and keeping tabs on Riskers so he was in range for stunlocks.

The baby steps slowly emerged over the course of the evening. The Detonating Lashers remained in place just a bit longer. Those with Nature's Fury moved away from the group a bit faster. The Snaplasher dealt far less fatal blows to random players in the raid. But it was grueling to perfect, and our attempts filled up the evening. Even when all looked good and we transitioned into the final phase, Freya still managed to play us, locking random players down with grasping roots, only to end their lives with the toss of spore-like bombs that we needed to avoid.

The worst part is when you feel like you have a phase down, only to be awakened to the brutal truth that you have absolutely no handle on what comes next -- and the work begins anew. In the days of Kael'thas Sunstrider, this sort of raid mentality was par for the course: entire weekends spent working on one phase, while four more waited in the wings. But now, in a new era of raiding where everything was a "pushover", getting a taste of what got us here was a bitter pill to swallow.

"Knock Knock Knock on Wood (25 Player)" eventually wrapped late that evening, in DoD's trademark famous last pull of the night. We sealed the deal eight minutes past our raid end time. Exhausted, we congratulated one another and retired for the night, replenishing our energy in preparation for the remaining two metas. The raid retired, rather. A guild leader's business, as they say, is often never done.

Jungard and Crasian go head-to-head in Recount as
the guild wraps up "Con-speed-atory (25 Player)",

An Axe to Grind

The decision on Shadowmourne still hadn't been made; a melee officer promotion hung in the balance. With two tanks now leading raids, melee lacked guidance -- a role formerly held by Cheeseus. I was lucky that talented players like Riskers were able to work through their own issues as he had on that evening's boss kill. But our guild needed to provide a better support mechanism than that. We weren't a true hardcore raiding guild; it was unfair to expect that every player could act as their own troubleshooter. It was our job to provide an official person in which to assign the responsibility. If we claimed to take players of all shapes and sizes (read: skill levels), we had an obligation to prevent them from impeding the work of our existing successful core. I needed a melee person that excelled to such a degree that they could not only keep their own shit straight, but had the capacity to clean up after other people's messes as well. Weighing the options on deck, two names rose to prominence.

First on this list was Crasian, the Eh Team's resident death knight who demolished the damage meters each night in our progression raids. Having climbed up to Elite rank, he was one of the primary drivers behind Descendants of Draenor's melee DPS being absurd throughout Wrath. Crasian was a likable guy, full of energy and carried with him a completionist mindset -- he was one of the first guild members to finish Glory of the Dungeon hero, earning a Red Proto-Drake in the process. Crasian had been sacrificing much of his spare time to help others knock out these heroic 5-man achievements, demonstrating that guild spirit I often looked for in people. Still, he was reasonably new to the guild, so his perceived selflessness had to be tempered carefully against other criteria. Crasian made a regular habit of checking in with me on the status of my decision regarding the legendary, and I assured him it was my number one priority. One thing was certain: putting Shadowmourne into his hands would secure his place in the #1 DPS spot for many months to come, and when I imagined how many heroic mode kills his boosted DPS would guarantee us, flashing images of golden achievement bars filled me with glee.

A second option existed, the yin to Crasian's yang. The warrior we called Jungard had been a steady source of high quality melee DPS since joining our 25-Man progression raid late in Mount Hyjal, way back in The Burning Crusade. Jungard was less of a show-boater than Crasian, but no less timid than the death knight when wrecking the meters. Jungard had recently helped grandfather his brother's guild into ours, augmenting the roster and adding another 10-Man team to the weekly clears. Jungard and I saw eye-to-eye on a good many things, and shared conversations over IM. He supported my changing guild structure as we moved from TBC to WotLK, and never once missed a raid he hadn't cleared with me before hand. Jungard was one of those few individuals that had never red flagged me once; never for a moment giving me a question to doubt his loyalty or honesty -- and with every bit of praise I showered on to him, he remained humble, thankful, and ready to prove himself worthy at the start of the next raid weekend. It stood to reason, then, that Jungard wielding a Shadowmourne in one hand and a Shadow's Edge in the other would be a force that few on Deathwing-US could threaten.

With my sights set on both Crasian and Jungard, the next quest in my log was clear to complete: Promote a New Melee Officer. It was time to schedule some interviews.


zole said...

Just want to say this is ridiculously good reading. A friend linked me to your blog and I have been reading it and talking about it with him for a few days. We talk about the blog like it's our favorite tv show (It was so good when Blain came back after getting gladiator!, OMG I CANT BELIEVE ATER GOT FIRED! HE WAS DOING SO WELL THERE!!) .

As someone who started wow in Vanilla, took breaks and has come back numerous times, it really reminds me of the good old days.

Cant wait for the next update!

Shawn Holmes said...


Wow, thank you very much for the support, I'm glad to hear that our story continues to entertain. I also love that you're discussing it with friends -- please continue to share to those you think would enjoy!