Thursday, September 10, 2015

4.46. When Being Wrong is Right

Hanzo announces guild promotions
on the DoD forums

Ignoring the Evidence

As guild leader, no responsibility caused me to second guess myself more than when changing leadership. I was more frequently successful than not, but damage left in the wake of a wrong decision was a tough mess to clean-up.

I was lucky. DoD's leadership spanned a historic list of gifted players: Graulm, Ater, Blain, Kadrok, Haribo, Klocker, Dalans, Breginna, Eacavissi, Neps, Jungard. I hoped that with each promotion, new leadership would follow in their footsteps. It wasn't always that way. Kurst. Dandrak. Cheeseus. And the most recent addition to the list, Lexxii. They weren't bad people, they just missed a piece of the puzzle necessary to keep DoD afloat. My software developer mind wished there was a way to algorithmically get to that missing piece, identify it, so I could look for it in others. What made some folks wildly successful at the head of a team? Is lacking it what caused the others to falter?

My recent change to leadership carried similar hesitancy. With limited resources, I felt strong-armed into promoting Fred, making allowances where I'd otherwise stand my ground. Jungard lobbied for his friend on more than one occasion, and while I trusted his judgement, Fred's actions behind the wheel measured only moderate success. True leaders had something to teach me. When given the opportunity, Fred stopped short.

By comparison, Goldenrod's promotion to ranged dps officer made sense: he'd demonstrated real change from within. You could see it in the meters, hear it in the calm confidence of his voice. A level of maturity emerged from Goldy that kept him calm under pressure while showing compassion for other players. His perspective had grown. He was no longer focused on the minutia of mages suffering in PvP. He saw the big picture.

A red flag flapped violently above Fred's name when I reached for the promotion button.

You're making a mistake. He doesn't have the tools to lead. He doesn't see the big picture.

Maybe not, but he valued the success of the guild. Fred demonstrated it consistently from week-to-week: raw, unbridled loyalty and a yearning to learn and grow.

Even barely noticeable forward growth is still a baby step in the right direction.


Raiders claimed Wrath of the Lich King's raids were too easy and that a return to World of Warcraft's earlier, more difficult raiding days would herald a new dawn for the game. We got what we asked for. Normal 25s were tuned to such a degree that a collective shudder rippled across the roster when contemplating Heroic counterparts. The team yearned for an opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency, feeding off the adrenaline of a kill in the last moments that could go either way.

Halfus was the wake-up call. The two-headed Ettin gating the dark recesses of Bastion of Twilight whet our appetite for those glory days, reminding us of the tenets that got us here. Steadfast resolve amid chaos and panic. Personal responsibility to survive a barrage of ambient collateral damage. And the expectation that every player min/max every last piece of equipment draped across their character. Spontaneity and impulsiveness had to take a back seat. From my raid team, I demanded strength and preparation. From the lowly Raider to my 2nd-in-command: nobody was above growth. We all had something to learn.
Blain's "Thoughts On
Progression" forum thread

Nearly Perpetual Motion

"That last 20% sucked."

"Your Mom sucked 100% last night, Klocker!"

I steered Mature toward twenty-four ghostly bodies bearing my guild's name as they ran back to Blackwing Descent. Six weeks had passed since our kill of Heroic: Halfus Wrymbreaker. Two days prior, Blain took to the DoD boards to get his own pulse from the guild:

As most of you know, I do not like to remain stagnate for long on any specific content, just to acquire gear for the sake of gear. There are some cases where this is unavoidable but there are also cases where we can plan to continue on past content in order to push ourselves. Changing our focus from normal modes to heroic modes is one of those delicate balancing acts. Eventually, we’ll have to say that normal modes are, for the most part, over with, so we can continue on with heroic content. Now I know some people will ask "Why can't we just do both and learn the heroic modes along the way?" To that specific question, I'll say that we will. Today's question is about the focus of both raid nights.

Blain was known for many things throughout his career in DoD, but seeking feedback from the roster was not one of them. This was Blain in rare form, and a perfect example of leadership going the extra mile in order to further DoD's cause. Even if that meant stepping out of a comfort zone.

Blain's new approach to tackling the dreaded Loot Paradox got the roster talking about what amount of time felt right, farming gear vs. pushing progression. And the roster responded well to it, soliciting responses from both the upper echelon of raiders, as well as from leadership itself. Seeing the guild actively engaged in raiding discourse gave me a feeling of quiet pride. The DoD machine was almost self-sustaining.

That same energy on the DoD forums translated to personal investment when it came time to slam our heads against the grueling difficulty of Heroic mode 25-Man raid bosses. Each member sunk their teeth in, knowing full well the harsh reality of repeated wipes -- something those of us from Vanilla knew intimately. We fostered the same emotions of personal investment in the newest players; if they felt they had a hand in deciding their own fate, they were even more likely to align their own goals with that of the guild's. No giving up. No whining. No bitching about missing an upgrade. 

Heroic boss death or bust.


Magmaw had more than enough to keep track of in a Normal kill. The enormous worm stood at the entrance to Blackwing Descent, and was to be tanked by two players -- when one tank was mangled, the other would take over. Magmaw Spit and Magmaw Spew were a constant threat to the lives of the team, keeping the healers fully occupied; Spit was frequent and targeted individuals, while Spew was less so, yet struck everyone in the raid. Pillar of Flame flung players into the air and spawned Lava Parasites that needed to be killed quickly. Ignoring the parasites meant death. The key to Magmaw's defeat was to tie him down during his thrashing with Constricting Chains, allowing players to straddle the worm, and tear into the shell protecting its head while it writhed and bucked.

For Heroic: Magmaw, the extreme became nightmarish, thanks to help from the big boss dragon in a neighboring room.

DoD pulls off a clutch kill, defeating Heroic: Magmaw,
Blackwing Descent

Heroic: Magmaw

Every 30 seconds, Nefarian would raise a blazing animated skeleton in Magmaw's room, spawning from a giant meteor that would stun anyone caught in its impact radius. Animated Skeletons hit hard, easily killing a non-plate wearer in a single hit, and needed to be off-tanked and killed. Killing them required concentrated burst because in their final 20%, the skeletons began an 8 second cast: Armageddon. Failing to commit the animated bones back to the earth resulted in an explosion potent enough to wipe the entire raid. Nefarian also accented the second phase of Magmaw, hurling bolts of Shadowflame Barrage at us, increasing our vulnerability to AoE damage. If we could make it to this point, animated skeletons would no longer plague us.

With all our attention on DPS directed toward Magmaw and Animated Blazing Skeletons, there was little time afforded for Lava Parasites. That meant in Heroic mode, they needed to be handled with a different tactic: kiting. For that assignment, Blain chose DoD's definitive frost death knight, Hellspectral. Utilizing Howling Blast spam, Hells caught each group of spawned parasites in his icy grasp, dragging them far to the outer reaches of the room to be dealt with.

Hells' timing had to be precise, as cross-over between Lava Parasites and Animated Skeletons could mean a rogue skeleton might come his way. To offset this, Littlebear and Jemb were assigned to alternate misdirecting skeletons to the melee group, so the offtank could hold it in place where it was cleaved to pieces. This, too, required timing, as the offtanks could no longer simply trade Magmaw back-and-forth each Mangle. Instead, Blain had one main tank hold Magmaw away from us, the off-tank only taunting prior to Mangle. This freed the off-tank to remain nearly perma-available, standing among melee and ready to pick-up and hold the incoming skeleton.

The last 20% of Heroic: Magmaw was truly the nightmare. Heroic: Magmaw demanded a consolidated final burn, withstanding a massive onslaught of fire and shadowflame. Every last cooldown was burnt, every last trinket was popped. Anything anyone could do to stay alive...they did. One attempt grew to be so frenetic that Sir Klocker side-stepped a Lava Burst, then dodged a Shadowflame...only to walk clear off the broken edges of the floor, plummeting into the lava below.

But as our health bars dipped to 20%, then 10%, then 5%, then 2%, Magmaw slowly picking us off one by one...the worm twitched and buckled in the spasms of death. I looked up from the red madness sloshing across the screen, burning into my eyes, instantly idling at the encounter's end. A few health bars remained. Dewgyd. Neps. Rainaterror. And my own. Four of us had lived. Barely.

After a progression drought of six weeks, Heroic: Magmaw fell on May 6th.


I'd just finished uploading one of the kill screenshots to the "Accomplishments" board, when a whisper came into chat. It was Blackangus.

[From: Blackangus] Just wanted to say thanks again for letting us be a part of DoD. Raiding is actually fun again!

I smiled.

[To: Blackangus] Glad to hear it. We're really lucky to have both you and Amatsu. You two showed up right when we needed you the most.

I glanced down at /trade chat, a nearly endless stream of guild advertisements, forever macro'd to the keyboards of the naive and the damned. I typed a response back to Black.

[To: Blackangus] You never did tell me how you came across DoD. How did you find us, exactly?

[From: Blackangus] Fred recruited us. We joined a Baradin Hold pug with him. He convinced us to check you out. Must have been at least an hour long chat.

Perhaps I'd been wrong about Fred. Perhaps he did have the big picture. For once as a guild leader, I was perfectly happy being wrong. Fred had something to teach me after all.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Shawn, still enjoying tremendously the blog. Look forward to each post, whenever you can put it up.
Just wondering, as we're getting closer and closer to the end... is it getting tougher to post, as the emotions are fresher?


Shawn Holmes said...


Not gonna lie, emotions definitely play a role in making these final posts harder to write, but that's about ~5% of the equation.

After the story ends, the Epilogue to Part IV will reveal the *true* reason these last posts have been moving from every week to every other week.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, the frost DK kiting of the lava parasites. I completely forgot about that. I was the only frost DK in my group back in Cata so I had the pleasure of doing this. Totally forgot about it until reading it here brought back the memories, not all of which were pleasant.

Corvenus - Frost DK, Mok'Nathal

Cheeseus said...

Talking to a co-worker the other day he mentions how he has been playing wow since beta and loved the lore. This reminded me of you, Shawn, so I pointed him to this blog.

This is the first time I've read this since losing my cool over trying to teach an American something, a task I should have known was impossible, and reprioritizing my efforts in life.

I'm pretty disappointed to see my name dragged (drug?) through the mud when you praise others who more directly fucked over guildies and put their own interests first, but as they say "history is written by the victors" so all the work I did working with the other rogues and suggestions prior to being an officer, the time and effort to get the guild achievements and see more progress, and all the time after I was completely done with wow looking at logs with you, keeping myself up to date on the game to offer you advice, working with you on understanding why tanks were shifting to prioritizing threat enchant on gloves as opposed to being hit capped, reviewing upcoming to guild rule changes to keep your people happy didn't embody "having the pieces required to keep dod afloat".

But I'm just a guy who failed at raid leading, so what do I know.