Thursday, February 26, 2015

4.28. To Breach a Bastion

DoD wipes during an attempt
on the Nefarian encounter,
Blackwing Descent

100 Meter Lavastroke

"Our pillar needs help, down an interrupter."

"Which pillar?"

"Jungard's going. Blain's next."

"Just the next person's name, please. Cut the chatter."

"Insayno has this."



"East pillar."

"Raina's next."

"Raina's DEAD, already requested help!"

"I can get over there. Zedman can get over there."

"Calm down. Just everybody relax."

"Boney, you’re up, by the way."

"You'll be dead before you reach it."

"Too late, he's already in the lava."

"Heh, we got ourselves a fucking Michael Phelps here."

"Get a shield on him or something, Christ."


"Chatter down, please. Waiting for Electrocute."

"I think he’s going to make it."

"Can you get this next one?"

"I got it, I got it."

"He's almost here."

"Slow down. SLOW. DOWN. Let’s get everybody up before 70%, please."

"DPS off."

"...aaand, he's up."

"I don't believe it. Zedman is now at east pillar."

"Welcome. And you’re next."

"Are we clear?"

"Jungard, next."

"Hit mine, you're up Mature."

"Top everyone off, we're pushing Electrocute now."

Nefarian rattled, hovering far above us. Forks of electricity pierced the room, striking every living member of the raid. Healers bathed each pillar in light once Electrocute had passed. Panic turned to relief, and doubt reformed as confidence. We burned the Chromatic Prototypes, now able to stay ahead of the three minute timer, and watched as the lava began to drain from the room.

You’re up, Mature.

I beelined to the north pillar, targeting a gigantic pile of bones. Moments later, Nefarian exhaled, and a bright Shadowblaze Spark smashed into the floor next to me. Bones re-animated into constructs, tearing and clawing as they came to life. Upgrades were sparse since starting Tier 11 -- I rested hope on Throngus' Finger and Symbiotic Worm, the best two trinkets I'd been able to procure. With Death and Decay encircling the feet of the bone constructs, I pulled them away from the north pillar, out of the flame, and prepared to do my dance.

The path took me along the outside ring of Nefarian's arena, moving clockwise from noon to five: this delayed the amount of time the room was filled with flame. I kept them moving long enough to begin to collapse, their life energy draining as the blue flame snuffed out. But within moments of the constructs coming apart, another Shadowblaze Spark began the cycle anew.

I continued along the ring until I approached the south-eastern pillar, calling out for extra heals in the moments I'd be out of line-of-sight. This is where things consistently fell apart. Go behind the pillar, risk death, but give the raid extra time to DPS Nefarian? Or cut my path short, and cross the center of the arena? This was a safer bet for my own survivability, but accelerated the spread of blue flame -- an encroaching threat that reduced mobility, strained healers, and allowed for the occasional construct to take a pot shot at a raider.

I spiked wildly, healers struggled to keep me topped off, but I couldn't reach for a cooldown. All cooldowns had to be ready for Electrocutes, now striking us at a rate of one every 10% of Nefarian's health devoured. The spikes were too much for me to bear. I had to cut across. The blue flame was not burning out of the construct's eyes. Too many mistakes. Too much back-pedaling, not enough side-strafing (a faster way for a tank to kite). I zig-zagged through the middle, attempting to avoid the burning blue areas now painted in giant patches across the room. Constructs were getting away from me. Healers were dying. DPS was dying. I was dying.

I was dead.

Zedman's clutch lava bath had been in vain. We exited Blackwing Descent that night, our second full night of attempts on Nefarian, empty handed.

DoD kills Nefarian to earn a legacy
raid achievement and guild xp,
Blackwing Lair

An Undetectable Breaking Point

After two weekends of unsuccessful attempts on Nefarian, I worried about morale. In the days of Blackwing Lair, it wasn't unheard of to sink nearly all the raid weekends into one boss, pull after relentless pull. I was reminded of this fact frequently: every wipe in Blackwing Descent forced us back to the summoning stone perched atop Nefarian's old balcony, an outlook across the entirety of the Burning Steppes. It was hard to believe how fast six years had gotten away from me.

Running back, attempt after attempt, Kerulak resumed his position, while Annihilation and Ater prepared the warriors for their shout rotation, tiny bits of aggro that collected the Chromatic Drakonids. Dalans, Kadrok, Haribo, Klocker and I stood with the other healers and DPS in a tight clump, measuring our heals carefully, keeping people topped off, while casters like Turtleman and melee like Blain ripped minions to shreds. And oh, the screams that filled Teamspeak in those days, when bosses took months, not days, to complete.

I remember Ater's early concern with morale when we'd stagnated on a boss for six weeks. Six weeks! Raiders were made of sturdier stuff back then...they had no choice. The only way to shed the weak was by slaying internet dragons. You persevered because you were a bat-shit, crazy, out-of-your-mind kind of gamer, the only type of person who would be online this late in the evening on a Friday night, glued to pixels instead of a social life.

...except that this was social. Just an unconventional kind of sociality. There were thirty-nine other living breathing humans making this god damn raid work. Strategizing, coordinating, working out the kinks. Internet dragons weren't being slain in a vacuum.

As the memory of my shaman's ghost melted away, replaced by my death knight, few of those original faces remained: Blain, Sir Klocker, Turtleman, to name a few. Old-school raiders that knew what it meant to face a challenge and not give up just because they weren't seeing fancy loot. But so many of these faces were new, and how many of them were from Wrath era? How many had never experienced the suffering of weeks and weeks of work on a boss like Kael'thas, and felt the adrenaline rush through the veins of forty people screaming at the top of their lungs when a boss finally crashed to the ground? Screaming amid the knowledge that they were of a very select few on the server that were able to pull off such a feat?

Vets like Dalans and Annihilation and Haribo and Ater were being replaced with fresh faces like Dewgyd and Aetherknight and Rainaterror and Hygia. A raid comprised of leaders had morphed into one of followers. Boosts in morale wouldn't grow out of thin air. They had to want it. In Wrath, the shinies were perpetually dangling in front of their faces. Cataclysm, by contrast, was more like the days of yore: brutal, terrifying, and asking raiders to sacrifice of themselves in much greater quantities...but without the accompanying rewards.

DoD tore through raids in Wrath of the Lich King at such an alarming rate, that whenever progress stagnated like this, even just for a couple of weekends, I grew somber as I contemplated the current lineup:

How many more wipes before they start to consider a 10-Man?

DoD continues to refine Halfus Wyrmbreaker,
Bastion of Twilight

Wrangling The Wyrmbreaker

I didn't have to pitch a raid shift to Blain for the third week of attempts -- the line-up dictated it. Horateus, a paladin tank that Teras offered to us for a few weeks, was unavailable. The death knights acquiesced; Insayno, Soot and I all knew the limitations of our toolkit as they pertained to the off-tank portion of Nefarian's third phase. Rather than waste everyone's time on an encounter we were ill-equipped to refine, Blain directed us to Bastion of Twilight, with the hopes of making some...any...kind of progress there.

Halfus Wyrmbreaker was first up on our tour through the starfish-shaped citadel, floating high above the Twilight Highlands. We reached the Bastion via a portal nestled amongst dark violet spirals of architecture that twisted skyward like a pit of sacrificial daggers. Inside, deep purples and cobalt blues painted a glowing path down corridors which lead to the awaiting encounters.

The giant ettin stood on an exposed platform, a two headed bi-pedal monstrosity wielding a glowing mace. Narrow red slits in eyeholes darted around the room, casing for any unexpected sound or movement in the rookery. Near the edge of the exposed room flew a horrifically enlarged and mutated version of a proto-drake: Wyrmbreaker's pet proto-behemoth. Three drakes stood at attention around the perimeter of Halfus' platform. Two more lay chained, health bars indicating that they were in no shape to fight.

The encounter required us to have a tank pull the ettin while three members of raid all spoke to a drake, causing them to join the encounter. Each drake provided both a buff and a debuff to Wyrmbreaker (or his Proto-Behemoth) and with each drake we slew, Halfus would buckle, taking additional damage.

The trick with Halfus was to walk that ever increasing fine line of what your raid could dish out vs. what you could withstand. Either we released more drakes, increasing the risk levied on the raid, but ultimately earning a payoff in the form of increased damage. Or, leave drakes alone, potentially improving raid survivability, but handicapping our ability to finish him off before Wyrmbreaker the returned the favor.

Never mind the fact that the drakes changed from week to week, randomizing the encounter further.

We coughed and sputtered on an initial few attempts, but before long, found our groove. Drakes were pulled, separated, and burned. The ettin roared, knocking the melee back in a disorienting attempt to prevent us from interrupting his Shadow Nova. Goldenrod kept a close eye on the impending cast, counterspelling it before it blasted the entire raid with damage. Before we knew it, the two headed creature crashed to the ground in a heap.

Progress had resumed. And the raid evening was still young.


Goldenrod said...

This fight was really fun once we got into the groove of it. If I remember the mechanics correctly, there were some incredible damage buffs that made fire mages shine. I remember this being one of the bosses where an expert mage with good gear could double the total damage done of the next highest player on the meter, which I did a few times here.

I hated doing this fight without other mages though, because having to stop your spell rotation to cast an emergency counterspell made it hard to line up everything needed to get that fat combustion.

Beating this guy on that third night *was* the morale boost we needed, though.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, glad to see you're back on track with the blog Shawn. Thanks again for providing me with an excellent Friday morning read!

You've got me hanging, that's for sure. Every time I read about Raid difficulties, stalls, issues, whatever, I'm waiting for the '...and this is when the end came for DoD'.


Soot said...

Hey I'm in this now, yay Tauren DK! Good blog as per usual!

GuiltieGaming said...

I remember having to... "coax"--Shawn into allowing me to take an interrupt spot on my pillar during the final attempts before finally downing Nefarian (for the 2nd time).

It wasn't so much that I didn't trust my other DPS to nail their interrupts (although, I didn't really trust some individuals). It was more so the fact that, coming from an Arena-hardened background, I was VERY "situationally aware" and was already prone to kicking/interrupting focus and non-focus targets regularly.

I feel like it relieved a bit of stress for our pillar. I know Jungard didn't mind! lol.

Dustin Dorsey said...

I ran a guild for a long time, roughly from 2006 until stepping down at the beginning of MOP. Cataclysm destroyed our 25 man raid. We'd occasionally limp along and get back to 2 10's and back to 25 only to see that fall apart again.

I finally quit the game altogether before WoD. Your blog brings it all back. It's amazing how much of your blog I completely identify with.

It's gut wrenching to see how they systematicly gutted the 25 man raid teams. There was no way to keep a bench when 10 man raids were available. A single player with a bad connection could ruin the night and cause subsequent players to see the grass as greener with another raid team.

I can't convey how much happier I was after stepping down from being a guild leader and finally quitting the game.

Shawn Holmes said...


Thanks for sharing, and my condolences on the collapse of your guild. It's an awful thing to have to deal with, especially when you feel like the rug is being pulled out from underneath you.