Thursday, May 8, 2014

3.66. Securing the Caterpillar Drive

Artwork by d1eSELxxxx

Betrayal of Pathetic Magic

Valithria Dreamwalker was already on the back burner by the time we rolled into March. The unique mechanic of healing a boss to full, rather than DPSing it to 0, was not something that troubled our progression team. DPS split into groups and moved through the trash with ease, while our healers sailed through globes, gaining stacks of healing power to pour life back into the enslaved green dragon. The encounter was trivial enough that our team had completed it even before claiming a kill of Blood Queen Lana'thel. But now that the vampire was behind us, the pressure was once again on Omaric and Bretthew to push us further into the Frostwing Halls. It was high up the icy tower, flying a pattern far out across an exposed platform, where we caught our first glimpse of Sindragosa, bane of all WoW login screens. Sindy's scripted flight, landing, and subsequent roar graced our game clients upon launch throughout Wrath of the Lich King; it was this very script that led the massive player base to whine about Deathwing's equivalent screen on the Cataclysm login screen. It never bothered me; I have no problems with internet dragons. But, the loudest cries are the often the most heard, and Deathwing's roar would ultimately be toned down...thanks in part to Sindragosa.

Truly a bikeshed moment, if there ever was one.

The 25-Man progression team cared little about Sindy's noises. The focus, instead, was centered squarely on defeating the frostwrym. Grouping up during phase 1 for DPS was first and foremost, being mindful of Permeating Chill stacks as the encounter unfolded. Too much Permeating Chill meant a player needed to slow down (or even stop) their DPS to let the stacks drop, lest the healers be overwhelmed by exponential amounts of cold damage. Meanwhile, both healers and ranged needed to keep an eye on Unchained Magic, doing similar damage to those casters who mindlessly spammed abilities. When Sindragosa executed her Icy Grip, all players were pulled inches from her gaping maw, a dangerous position for anyone but the tank. This ability warned of the impending Blistering Cold damage that would destroy any player remaining in said vulnerable position. From there, it was on to phase 2, wherein the great bone dragon took flight, marking targets with a Frost Beacon. Similar in execution to Sapphiron, beaconed players were transformed into a solid block of ice. While encased in the ice, players coughed and choked as their air supply ran out -- it was up to the raid to break them out before they asphyxiated. Five players were encased in ice simultaneously, but more important was their positioning; if one non-beaconed player happened to stand too close, they too would be entombed, likely chaining to other unsuspecting players. It was a chaotic madhouse of running, positioning, breaking living ice cubes apart, and...if time allowed...focusing damage on Sindragosa until the final phase.

In her last 35% of health, Sindy applied a debuff to all players in line-of-sight: Mystic Buffet, a stacking debuff causing players to take more magical damage with each grueling second. However, she continued to entomb players, the breaking of which now had to be measured carefully. Take too long to break a player out of a block of ice, and they would fall over dead from a lack of oxygen. Burn too soon, however, and players were provided no protection to drop their Mystic Debuff stacks -- a dependency vitally important to the to tanks. Phase one and two were easy to master. Phase three consistently fell apart. It would be more than a single night of work before we saw loot fall off of this ex-blue dragonflight.

Mature is frozen solid into a tomb of ice
during an attempt on Sindragosa,
Icecrown Citadel

Coming to Montana

It was clear that Si Team's 10-Man strategy was not going to fly in 25-Man. Three days after The Eh Team dropped Arthas to his knees, Si Team managed to complete The Frozen Halls by securing a kill of Sindragosa. My positioning as a tank for Si Team had us right on the steps leading to her outdoor domain. Blain's reasoning was straightforward: two frost beacons were easier to coordinate as opposed to five. Amusing still was the alleged change in the 25-Man heroic version, in which the number of frost tombs was bumped to six. The 10-Man heroic change to Frost Beacon? None. It remained defiantly at two in both normal and heroic. We saw more and more of this, that simply scaling damage, healing, and hit points wasn't quite enough to retain parity between 10 and 25. Some mechanics just wouldn't translate if grown/shrunk appropriately. The 25-Man's initial work on Sindragosa felt smooth compared to Blood Queen Lana'thel. Before the frostwrym would collapse in defeat, however, more roster changes were headed our way. And this time, it would be the enemy that fed us the missing pieces of the puzzle.

On the Alliance side of things, a guild going by the name of Final Hour had been keeping up with us, progression-wise...a bit further, in fact. While we continued to chip away at Sindragosa's ice, Final Hour claimed their 25-Man kill of the bone dragon. Meanwhile, we were oblivious to what was going on behind the scenes: leadership was fracturing, egos clashed with ideologies and before long, Final Hour was a guild divided. They cast out a handful of their players, focusing on a "new" approach to raiding; a scenario which sounded all-too familiar. The largest chunk of rats scurried off the sinking ship to form Eidolon, but this new guild would concern themselves more with PvP in the long run. That left a handful of outcasts -- whose primary interests focused on slaying The Lich King -- with two choices. These guildless players could scatter like insects and hope to find a host among the already well-established Alliance raiding guilds on Deathwing-US. There was another option: defect -- leave behind their obligations to the shallow, two-faced faction that proselytized honor and justice, while blindly clinging to age-old biases, making way for murder, hatred and treason. The "prettier" races in WoW were warned no less than three times by Medivh of their impending doom at the hands of the Burning Legion, yet brushed him away in ignorant pride.

Self-righteous Alliance players favoring aesthetics conveniently forget that part of their faction's history.

For two ex-Final Hour players, no honor bound them to their faction; they sought asylum in whichever guild could provide safe haven -- a guild that would not only take them in, but provide them with a Lich King killing environment. The negotiations to defect began immediately. A shared application from the pair arrived in my inbox that first week of March. Like Drecca's before them, it showed that there were still competent players left in the pool. There it is again. Effort. I read through the document, reviewing each and every boss kill ever executed by the pair. Full clear of Ulduar (including Algalon), Trial of the Grand Crusader, Professor Putricide, Blood Queen Lana'thel. Then my eye caught their most recent boss kill, making me sit up straight in my chair: Sindragosa. This was the joint application of Lexxii and Bullshark, and I needed to move quickly for fear of losing them to a competing Horde guild. The pair could just as easily deliver the guts of the Red October to some other no-name guild capable of providing a home before we could. Time was of the essence. I shot off a reply, interviewed them in Vent, and expedited the two defectors into the rotations.

15 of the 25 progression raiders remain alive as
Sindragosa collapses, earning the guild
"The Frostwing Halls (25 Player)",
Icecrown Citadel

And Then There Was One

Like the previous new recruit Drecca, Lexxii and Bullshark required no vetting. As expected from their history with Final Hour, they immediately hit the ground running in Icecrown Citadel. Bullshark's hunter deeps shot up to the top of Recount; the gauntlet had been thrown down, and horde loyalist Jemb was determined to not let this Alliance turncoat show him up. As we cleared our way through the instance, Lexxii revealed trade secrets, both in /dodhealers and in Vent. Vent, no less! Finally, a female raider who wasn't afraid to speak in Vent. It was a luxury we hadn't enjoyed since Breginna's retirement at the end of The Burning Crusade. And to be honest, it was refreshing to hear a gal join in the conversation, which had long been a testosterone-laden sausage fest. Some of our female players had reasons why they chose not to speak over VoiP, and I respected their decisions -- but come raid time, we had a mission to accomplish, and that meant pushing baggage aside. It was nice to see that no baggage came attached with these former members of the Alliance.

Back at Sindragosa, the great frostwyrm felt a new level of wrath levied upon its skeletal frame. As predicted, the pair's first-hand knowledge of the encounter drew us ever closer to a kill. Still, Sindy would not go down without a fight. The great bone dragon continued to wreak havoc on the raid during the final phase, when all hell broke loose. Beaconed players yelled to one another to move, lest their frost tomb's be chained uncontrollably across the group. Some were broken out too quickly, and Mystic Buffet stacked until afflicted raiders collapsed from the cold. Others were commanded to sacrifice themselves, choking to death in blocks of ice, giving their lives for those who couldn't...without causing a wipe. But as the great dragon writhed and thrashed about on the steps of the Frost Queen's lair, players continued to fall over dead. Battle resurrections were called out, while angelic spirits of redemption bathed the chaos in light before their final moments expired. And in a final defiant screech, the bone dragon thrashed no more. Sindragosa was dead, and DoD stood victorious. The date was March 7th, 2010. All bosses in Icecrown Citadel had been defeated.

All but one.


Bulwinkul's time away felt like less of a burden, now with Lexxii and Bullshark firmly planted in the roster. Their contributions poured out of World of Logs like fine artwork, their positions nestled squarely near the top of their respective roles. A trend was definitely starting to emerge. We were attracting top talent, players that cared about effort as much as I did. And as long as we continued to do so, I would be free to give players like Bulwinkul and Crasian extended periods of vacation, without worry or fear that progression would grind to a halt in their absence.

The pains of bending to the whim of my roster, circa The Burning Crusade, were now ancient history, wounds that were fully healed. By being in control of my players, no one individual could hold anything over my head, make any demands that I was being unfair, not rotating them in enough, coming across like some kind of dictator. If they didn't like what was going on in Descendants of Draenor, they could leave, and I wished them the best of luck in trying to find something better. Yes, I did have rules, and I expected them to be followed, but I staked my bet that I ran a far more open ship than some of the competing hardcore guilds. The bet was paying off. Players were proving to me that the hardcore mentality wasn't something absolutely necessary for success. Players needn't bear the weight of unrealistic raiding schedules and oppressive, egotistical children at the helm...just to experience competitive endgame raiding. On the contrary, players were clearly demonstrating that our environment was viable, and one they could find enjoyable.

It was too bad, then, that Blizzard continued to glorify the very worst aspects of raiding...


Fredrick said...

So close to Lich King kill, gogo DoD x)
It's kinda sad that in 9 years of playing WoW I've not yet been inside ICC..feel like such a slacker.

Shawn Holmes said...


If you can catch me online, I'll join you for a clear (daughter's been bugging me to go for a transmog run anyway...)


Anonymous said...

"the shallow, two-faced faction that proselytized honor and justice, while blindly clinging to age-old biases, making way for murder, hatred and treason."

I've always loved how if you remove an identifier from a statement, how appropriately it can be used to describe both sides of an argument. :)

Man, I used to get into soooo many arguments in my Alliance guild about Horde versus Alliance things.

-Catelina, Former Horde Holy Priest of Drak'Thul, "Current" Alliance Holy Priest of Kel'Thuzad

Unimportant note: My Favorite WoW Book was always Rise of the Horde, loved that one.

Fredrick said...


Wrong continent sadly x)

Goldenrod said...

@ Catelina...I heard they made a sequel to that book when Mists of Pandaria came out. It was called: "Pandaren Chronicles: Rice of the Horde."

Anonymous said...

From your "for further reading" page, we can put together what happened to your guild, but this chapter end was your sharpest remark on consolidated raiding yet.

What's so interesting — and ironic, and I guess satisfying — is that since you began your chronology, Blizzard actually recanted much of its post-Wrath design philosophy.

(In Warlords, the choice between 10 and 25 is in a continuum influenced by player choice, not hard logistics; and all upwardly mobile guilds must build up to a unified-size pinnacle mode.)

Shawn Holmes said...


You will want to keep your eye out for a post scheduled to go live in three weeks, titled "Blizzard's Third Mistake".

When I started this blog, a lot of those design decisions were still very strongly a part of the current-day WoW mentality. You are absolutely correct that it is satisfying to see them come around now, in terms of WoD.

I will, however, commit to tell the story to completion!

Anonymous said...


This has been as much an analysis as a story, so I can't wait.