Thursday, January 22, 2015

4.24. Fat Man and Little Boy

The 25-Man progression team claims
its first victim, Magmaw,
Blackwing Descent

Welcome Back, Fodder

Magmaw thrashed about as we struggled to gain control. The enormous faceless worm emerged from its molten tomb, towering above the raid, white hot blood vessels like bolts of burning lightning painted across its body. A pillar of flame burst out of the floor leaving parasites in its wake, wandering, hungry for warm flesh. Lava Parasites. They carried an infection which caused unsuspecting victims to projectile vomit onto the raid. More damage to have to heal through. Damage everywhere.

With parasites spreading disease, Magmaw continued to flail, impaling the tanks, slamming its entire body down onto the platform, stunning all in its path. If we could somehow manage to get two players to leap onto Magmaw, wrestling with it like something out of a Frank Herbert novel, we could trick it into impaling itself on a large spike in the middle of the floor. Do it, and we could be rid of this first boss, officially cutting the ribbon on 25-Man raiding in Cataclysm.

It was taking longer than expected. Exactly where things fell apart was hard to say. The parasites were biting too many people, spreading nausea, turning our strengths into liabilities. Getting people up onto Magmaw was a chore. It wasn't always working: UIs were glitching out, unable to target the spike on the floor with constricting chains -- the ability that would pull Magmaw down onto the spike for a burst of damage from the raid. And it was a challenge to keep the tanks up. The damage we took felt as if it got worse as the fight progressed. Insayno had graciously filled the second tanking position, after Drecca was unable to attend the kick-off of the 25-Man. It was just Insayno and I for the first attempts on Magmaw. And it was rough.

[To: Blain] Welcome back to raiding. :\

DoD's raids were split into two nights a week, four hours per night -- since as far back as Serpentshrine Cavern. Each night began precisely at the top of the hour; invites started thirty minutes prior, fillers came in fifteen minutes till. We made our attempts for two hours, granted the raid a 5-10 minute bio break at the halfway mark, then reconvened for the remaining two hours.

It was the entire first hour, on Friday, January 7th, 2011, that we worked on Magmaw. It was no Razorgore-style brick wall, but it was certainly no Naxxramas-25 pushover, either. Roughly eight attempts was all it took to send the worm into a twitching spasm of death. A glance up at the raid frames confirmed our suspicions: of a 25-Man raid, 9 of us lived. In a normal mode, this was evidence that the difficulty had indeed increased since the days of Wrath.

[From: Blain] I like these odds.

Omnotron Defense System wasn't nearly as difficult. When the four automatons finally toppled over, we had fifteen minutes remaining before the break. The learning curve was flat on these robots; most of the challenge was simply in transitioning from the two trons being tanked to the ones preparing to animate. Other challenges, such as dealing with each tron's shield -- two of which happened to cause massive raid wide damage if accidentally burned through -- were handled with relative ease. The days of hammering nails with bare hands were distant memories. DeadlyBossMods gave us the visuals, and precise calls from a veteran raid leader filled in any gaps.
Mature stands down while the raid
unleashes hell into Maloriak,
Blackwing Descent

Bang the Gong Quickly

After the bio break, we returned to Blackwing Descent to face our next challenge: Maloriak. This boss took us the remaining two hours of the raid. Maloriak kept changing things on us, tossing red potions into his cauldron, followed by blue ones -- or was it blue, then red? Each attempt was different, so understanding each vial's ramifications and learning how to adapt simply took time and practice. Blain controlled the abberation spawns with extreme precision, letting certain casts through while interrupting others. I had enough on my plate as it stood, without having to worry about which interrupt strategy was best for us. Thank God for Blain doing the math.

The 25-Man progression team triumphed, killing Maloriak in DoD's infamous last pull of the evening. We were 50% through Blackwing Descent by the end of the first night of raid progression, and well on our way to wrapping up the normal modes by the end of the weekend.

Or so I thought.

Atramedes brought our progression to a sharp halt the following Sunday. The entire four hours was spent wiping to a blind dragon.

He lay sleeping at the far end of a keyhole shaped room: a large circular arena at the base of a thin outer foyer -- at its tip, the smooth edges of the walkway dropped off sharply into smoldering lava. We entered the main arena from a southern doorway, and were treated to a cinematic explaining the dragon's pitiful state. Maloriak was responsible, the self-proclaimed mad scientist of Blackwing Descent headed all of Nefarion's gruesome experiments in manufacturing augmented dragonflight. His ineptitude promised all-encompassing sight, resulting instead in total blindness. The dragon quickly proved it was no worse off.

During the fight, Atramedes sent out sonically charged discs, attempting to locate us by sound. Any player struck by the discs caused a thermometer-like gauge to slowly fill. Top the gauge off completely after being hit enough times, and Atramedes would issue a killing blow, having fully detected the player.

It's funny how a simple command like "dodge the rings" becomes a four hour nightmare of explanation, coordination and subsequently failed attempts. Even after being instructed which direction to move, players panicked and ran in random directions. Sporadic movement seeded the next set of discs in an unpredictable direction, and the attempt would spiral downward into tragedy. Blain insisted on a tight group and a single direction to move to. The discs would not control us, we'd control them. Getting players to think and act uniformly with precision took much longer than expected.

In flight, Atramedes posed another risk, targeting people at random and blanketing the room with fire until either they were burned to a crisp...or one of several gongs was struck. The sound from the gong counteracted his echolocation, stunning him in the process -- our window of opportunity to grant him another burst of damage. But there were a fixed amount of gongs, so those being chased had to do everything in their power to avoid the incoming flame, striking the gong at the last possible moment.

The grueling four hours finally came to an end with five minutes to spare. Once again, DoD ended victoriously in our famous last pull of the night. After the first weekend, we were 2/3rds through Blackwing Descent. Chimaeron and Nefarion would have to wait.

Atramedes is defeated in the final pull of the 2nd night,
Blackwing Descent

You Dropped a Bomb on Me

The raid dispersed amid congratulations on a job well done and reminders to get signed-up for next week's run. As the raid dismantled, a whisper caught my attention.

[From: Bheer] You and the officers have a few moments to chat in vent?

[To: Bheer] Of course! Will ping them and drag you in.

I shot a message into officer chat, calling whomever was available. Blain, Sir Klocker, Neps, and Jungard answered the call, joining us in the private vent channel.

"Go ahead and grab Drecca, too," said Bheer.


"Sure thing," I said, noting that Drecca had joined vent. I moved him down into the officer channel. "So, what's this all about?"

"We've decided to step down from the 25-Man progression team."


"...uh, may I ask why?"

"To be honest, it's really just more of the same stuff we've always had problems with. People fuckin' around in raid chat, lots of downtime between pulls, lot of wasted time on re-explanations...the usual stuff."

So, basically every raid we've ever been in, none of which is news.

Sir Klocker was the first to point out the obvious, "You do realize that this was our first weekend in raids. This is the first time we've seen any of these bosses."

I continued his thought, "Do you really think it's appropriate to make a judgement call on the 25 this early?"

"The inefficiency of the 25 is just one part of it. There's other reasons as well."

Inefficiency? I'm sure Blain loved hearing that.

"I'm all ears. Please, by all means."

Bheer took a deep breath, "Well, some of us aren't a big fan of Lexxii, so making her healing officer wasn't the best decision."

I skipped the part where I gave a shit about his opinion on who would've been a better choice and cut to the chase, "Is there any particular reason why you felt the need to string me along? I mean, here you both are, updating your position on the raid slot template, gearing up, maxing out reps, giving me every indication that you're loyal to the 25...I mean, Bheer, we're practically in constant communication every day over IM. I'm sorry but I have to ask: why even participate at all this weekend?"

"I did it as a courtesy to you."

Well, thank you very fucking much for gracing me with your presence. For future reference, it would've been a "courtesy" to let me know you planned to skip town, so that I could recruit in your absence.

I took a deep breath while my inner monologue vented like a steam pump bursting under pressure.

"If you insist on this, I'm sorry to see you go. I only hope that this doesn't cripple the 25-Man."

Drecca butted in, "I think there's certainly going to be some opportunities where we're able to help with the 25. Just not a week-to-week thing anymore."

"That was another one of the reasons," Bheer added, "we can't really be expected to demonstrate any loyalty to the 25-Man if you're unwilling to do the same."

You mean how I carved a spot out for your shaman in Wrath when your druid was on the verge of being squeezed out? You mean how I ensured that a loot whore like Crasian would never set foot in the guild again, making the guild a safe place for you? You mean how I didn't think twice to re-invite you after walking away from Elite, without explanation? No, I've never demonstrated loyalty to you. Ever.

"I don't follow, Bheer. Explain."

"The whole business about guaranteed spots in the 25-Man going away."

"Bheer, the whole purpose of re-writing that rule was to prevent players from getting up on their high horse and treating everyone like shit, remember? Remember how it wasn't that long ago that some folks with guaranteed spots started to become awful people? Besides, we've been over this. As long as you are a constant, reliable raider in the 25-Man, the end result remains exactly the same as it was in Wrath: you get every raid you sign up for."

"See, that's what I’m talking about. There are so many rules now. I hate to say it, Hanzo, but the guild is really losing its old-school family-oriented appeal. Everything is so rigid and structured now."

I wanted to scream at him.


But there was no point in yelling...or being civil. Their minds were made up long before the "courtesy" first weekend in raid progression.

Bheer left the 25-Man to join Drecca's newly created 10-Man team. And I had no choice but to put on a good face and support their decision, just as I committed to supporting all the 10-Man teams in DoD. But I didn't have to like it. The fact that I lost Bheer to a 10 wasn't what upset me the was his delivery that left me gutted and used. Bheer had many weeks to approach me about his intentions, but left it until the absolute last possible moment, explaining it away with a myriad of excuses that hid the truth behind his motives. The truth, in turn, would slowly start to fall into place over the weeks and months to come -- pieces of the puzzle coalescing into a much clearer picture. For now, however, I was left only with his "reasons", and processed them as best I could: I deferred to my inner voice.

So, you want to leave the 25-Man progression team high and dry, eh?

Good for you.

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