Thursday, February 13, 2014

3.54. Losing My Liquor License

"Fall of the Lich King - Patch 3.3" Official Wallpaper
Copyright © 209 Blizzard Entertainment

Any Given Raid Day

When a motivational speaker or a coach declares the statement "everybody plays an important role", it's an emotionally charged, grandiose proclamation. Broadly sweeping statements such as these try to make individual members feel like they are all contributors, that they all matter. When the cameras are off and the interviews are over, the truth is a much colder reality: some team members bring more to the table than others. Messages that inspire the team to see themselves as a single unit have their place, but when it comes down to brass tacks, an astute leader must have his eye sharply focused on each individual's skill set. If a football team loses a key position like the quarterback, no amount of motivational speeches, morale cheers or team building exercises are going to magically push that offensive line down the field. A coach trying to put a positive spin on a series of bad plays is painful to watch, yet has to be done for political reasons; to keep spirits up and professionalism intact. But to assume that everyone's contribution is equal is a foolish conclusion to draw. I faced that truth every week when I churned-and-burned through the bench. My raid leader may have been responsible for strategy out on the grass, but before he could make his plays, I had to ensure the raid brought all the necessary tools to the field.

Bheer's timing couldn't have been worse. It was one week into patch 3.3, Fall of the Lich King. Three new 5-man dungeons had landed, continuing Arthas' story and plunging us into the Forge of Souls, the Pit of Saron and coming face to face with Frostmourne itself in the Halls of Reflection. We'd also see the addition of a new feature long clamored for by the WoW community: a new-and-improved Looking For Dungeon tool, plucking players at random and jamming them into a dungeon at the press of a button. Its hefty reward system and damage/health bonuses overshadowed the impact LFD had on the world: players no longer needed to know where dungeons physically existed. Of course, the biggest and baddest change was the addition of Icecrown Citadel, setting the stage for raiders to ensure the Lich King got what was coming to him -- the end of an epic story line that had stretched as far back as the Warcraft III RTS game, released six years earlier. In the face of all this 3.3 content, one would have to be a fool to walk away from the game now. 

Or have to have a very good reason.

In the quiet contemplation of my offline hours, while the guild machine continued to hum across the virtual sea, the air raid siren of impending doom was suspiciously quiet in the recesses of my mind. I expected no mishaps and wasn't prepared for any surprises; a relaxed gut is ripe for the blow. On this seemingly innocuous afternoon, that blow came via instant messenger. And as with many a surprise hook to the jaw, there was no explanation or visible intent.

"I can't return to raids. I'm sorry."

My jaw stung. It left me little to work with and a ton of unanswered questions.

Death's Choice

Choosing Death

There was more that made Bheer's unplanned exit inconvenient. Not one raid weekend earlier, rays of light shone down on the 25-Man progression team. The loot gods had finally blessed us with a second Death's Choice, a highly coveted melee trinket, yanked from the clutches of a pair of fallen Val'kyr twins. Inhaling the sweet boon of Death's Choice was like a sugar-fueled overdose of peppermint candy canes on a cold Christmas morning; players wielding the trinket tore into raid bosses with all the rage of a child slashing through wrapping paper. Melee was always hungry for candy, hungry to climb those meters. Death's Choice had appeared only once before, going to the now-retired raid leader Cheeseus. In my humble opinion, it was a poor way for a player with one foot out the door to spend his remaining DKP, but I chided him in private and continued to honor the guild's loot rules as dictated. Leading by example, unfortunately, doesn't always work out the way I intend. We returned week after week, kept a stiff upper lip, and prayed to the Titan gods that Death's Choice would unfurl from the dead Val'kyrs' hands once more.

It did. And the winner was Bheer.

I felt like the trinket was in good hands. After all, Bheer was Elite now, a core member of the 25-Man progression team, expected to be at all raids. He was also a founding member of The Eh Team and they had torn Deathwing-US apart in the 10-Man department; few others could claim similar dedication and success. Moreover, Bheer wasn't a "Yes" man; when others would blindly accept my governance, Bheer would speak out against bad judgement calls, giving me an oft overlooked other side of the picture. Weeks earlier, he was one of the first to point out the mishandling of main vs alt loot in Ulduar; a loophole in my rebooted rules allowing Mangetsu's alt to deny Omaric a tanking trinket, fair-and-square. Bheer lived up to the expectations of Descendants of Draenor daily, so I felt confident when Neps assigned Death's Choice over to the lone enhancement shaman. He'll make great use of it. We'll see some incredible numbers out of those first few weeks in ICC.

Bheer wasn't present in ICC the first week it opened. He wasn't in the raid, not rotated in, not signed up, not logged in. He was gone. As a parting gesture, he jumped through the necessary hoops with Blizzard customer support to have Death's Choice re-assigned to me. Even upon his exit, he upheld that which was important to me: the constant, consistent success of the raid team. I didn't have the DKP pool he had, the product of my bidding zeal as a tank in a former life. I was unsure how to handle the discrepancy; my stance thus far had been to disallow any player from going negative -- you cannot bid what you have not earned. Blain kept me honest. The only fair thing to do was keep the cost intact, the act of which dumped me horribly into the negatives. It would be a long time before I saw any immediate upgrades in the Citadel. I kept my complaints to a minimum, knowing full well what was on its way. The more immediate concern was to deal with Bheer's missing Windfury totem. 

For that, I turned to someone who, only several months earlier, had been a heartbeat away from a permanent gkick.

DoD defeats Deathbringer Saurfang, earning
"Storming the Citadel (25 Player)",
Icecrown Citadel

Blessed Be

"Ever play Frost before?" was the whisper I fired over to the death knight.

"Nope just unholy"

"Any interest in giving it a try?"

Hellspectral's rapid-fire responses were free from the boundaries of punctuation, "Sure but why"

"Well, I have a bit of a situation with the 25-Man. We've lost an enhancement shaman, and with him, his melee haste buff. You know it comes from two places, right? Windfury totem and Improved Icy Talons. That's where you come in."

"How much again? I forget"

"20% melee haste."

"Need to check my bank to see if i have another one-hander. Havent dual wielded since launch."

"Do you like Unholy a lot?"

"Yeah its fun but i dont mind switching tho"

"So what you're saying is you're not having a love affair with Unholy."

"lol no. I dont mind really."

"Alright, well...if you do this, Hells, I can assure you that you'll be seeing a lot more raids in ICC. It's vitally important we bring this buff each week. I can switch in a pinch if necessary, but I'd prefer to hone Unholy for…shall we say...other...purposes."

"Shadowmourne mmmmmmmmm."


"So, can I expect that you'll be ready for this next weekend?"

"Yup. Imma alt-tab and look that frost shit up now!"

"Good man. See you Friday."

As all seasoned WoW players know, random loot is indeed random. Despite this fact, our first week in ICC produced a Bloodvenom Blade, which went to Hellspectral. One week later, a second Bloodvenom Blade dropped, fully equipping the freshly respecc'd frost death knight.

The loot gods blessed us once again. Exit Bheer, enter Hellspectral


"I've got 99 problems and loot seems to be all of them," was the whisper I sent back to Blain.

He remained quiet as if to say stop beating around the bush and get to the point.

"From what Omaric and Bretthew tell me, the raid isn't geared enough to take on the heroic modes in the Tournament. They've expressed to me their desire to hold off until the more significant upgrades arrive in ICC. And since they're in charge…"

"We have the DPS now," he interrupted, "what are they basing this on?"

"I can only assume they're basing it on their experience in the 10-Man version."

"Eh Team's retired. They're filling it with unknowns."

"Probably. I'm sure they're picking competent fillers, though. They don't really put up with a lot of whiny shit. At least that's my understanding."

"But it's OK to put up with it in the 25-Man?"

Once again, Blain had a point.

He returned to his arenas while the snake slowly coiled back upon itself. Dual specialization was broadening the window of gear that players felt entitled to acquiring. Without a definitive cut-off point set by the raid leaders, progression was slowing needlessly. Meanwhile, the main spec/off spec issue had to be addressed; a drama bomb poised to explode its messy contents all over the guild. I hated the idea of changing the guild's rules mid-expansion; it felt weak and unprofessional. More importantly, changing things up mid-stream had the potential to set a precedent in the guild, implanting a horrible thought into the minds of my guildies. Oh, so he can just go ahead and change the rules whenever he likes? What's to stop him from changing them again? And again? He could totally screw all of us over! It was the perfect chemical compound to catalyze another exodus. That bothered me. But I couldn't sit back and allow loot distribution to treat alts favorably -- it violated the guild's ethos. The loot paradox was already slowing the raid machine down, and bad blood between comrades could do far worse damage to us in the long run.


Cheeseus said...

In my humble opinion, it was a poor way for a player with one foot out the door to spend his remaining DKP, but I chided him in private and continued to honor the guild's loot rules as dictated.

As I recall, I left the guild with over 250 dkp in the pool, and you wouldn't let me bid for the last 2 weeks, even though I earned that 150 dkp over the base 100. But why pay a guy what he's due for all the hard work he did since he was leaving, even though a system was set up to pay for things and not a glorious loot council, or equivilent :P

Jungard said...

The way I see things, it shouldn't even have to be a rule or something that's enforced. It should be a courtesy that goes without saying. Fact is, if somebody is leaving the game, character progression is obviously no longer important to them and it should be clear that progression gear shouldn't be sitting on an unsubscribed account. There is no way I would personally even have to be told not to bid if I had definitive plans to be done with the game.

Strategos said...

Doesn’t seem like it has been this long, but I stumbled on a forum post and have now been reading your blog for a year now. It’s been a outstanding read the past year. I won’t bore you with the details but it’s brought up memories of the various situations I encountered along the way. I found it easier to manage my guild roster during BC than ICC. Everything from Main Spec vs Off Spec to the various alt 25 groups, gold dkp groups, 10 man groups turned it into a challenge.
I’m glad to see you are coming up on ICC. The tail end of GM duties! I can’t really say that, technically I am the GM of our 28 person guild, but it is in title only. I remember the loot drama for main spec/off spec. I’m certainly glad I don’t have to deal with that currently.
Our small guild is still going strong. However, we took the opportunity to transfer off of Area 52. Evening queue times go to be too much to handle. We’re still pushing heroic content at our own pace. I’ve come to enjoy our 10 man raids. I think it’s coming along the lines of “How I learned to stop missing 25 man raids, and learned to love 10 man raids.” However, come Warlords that leaves us with some choices to make. Do we join another guild for mythic raiding, recruit people to fill a 20 man mythic team, or just continue doing what we have been doing? Time will tell!
P.S. Our RNG loot god must have looked down upon us in a different light. We had several normal and heroic versions of Death’s Choice drop. The big argument was those that possessed the normal versin wanting the heroic (since you could equip both.)
I am still looking forward to Cataclysm!

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks for becoming a loyal fan! Got a little bit more of the WotLK story to knock out just yet, but Part IV is coming soon and promises to give you all the Cata dirt you can handle.

Dalans said...

@Cheese: And that's why DKP isn't a currency.

@Strategos: We cannot allow a Mine capture point gap!

Eccentrica said...

@ Cheesus

If a person plans to take a leave of absence, possibly dribbling over into the next expansion, why oh why would they possibly want gear and why would any sensible GM/Raid Leader gibble the raid by giving gear to an imminent departure.

Gear is a tool. Yes, certain select pieces are also rewards, but those are very very few and far between. No one is ever going to requip a trinket from a previous expansion, for example. But tools belong in the hands of those who will use them to benefit the whole.

Gear drama caused me to stop raiding, and raid drama caused me to toss over the reins of my guild to my second in command.

Nothing in the world is as exciting as finally dropping a boss you've been bashing your head against, and nothing is more infuriating (at times) than getting there.

Saerath said...

Did the Bloodvenom Blade's stats change at some point, or am I just overlooking something. The link shows it has Agility/Stamina, Why would a DK want it? Not trying to be an ass about it, just trying to understand, as I've never really played a DK.

Anonymous said...

It's largely because there weren't any weapons truly itemized for dual-wielding (aka Frost) DKs so a lot of guilds chose to give this to a DK so that they could progress gear-wise in ICC. It's also a bit slow for 2 out of 3 Rogue specs and Enhance, of course, can't use swords...

Saerath said...

Fair enough, thanks for clarifying!!

Anonymous said...

Back then agility wasn't a dirty word for plate classes. In fact a lot of times the mail or even leather gear would be better than the same level plate, besides tier pieces obviously.

Even if there had been decently itemized strength dps one handers back then, probably a lot of DKs would've picked the bloodvenom blade anyway.