Thursday, March 10, 2016

4.63. Underwhelmed

Seraphine spies the Pureblood Fire Hawk,
freshly looted by The ORLY Factor,

Et tu, Douche Canoe?

"I'm out this weekend," Blain's tone was jovial in Vent, bordering on relief, as if to say have fun with all of that. It only pissed me off more.

"Didn't you just take a weekend vacation?"

"Yeah...that was two months ago. And I need to do it again!"

"Is this absolutely the best fucking time to be vacationing? I mean, we're at what could be considered the worst possible brick wall in DoD's history."

His tone shifted. It was subtle, barely enough to register on the average person's radar. Blain kept to an affable demeanor, but paused ever-so-slightly on words where it was appropriate for the listener to take a hint. He'd taken this posture with me at various points throughout our raiding career together, most notably when I neared the line of inappropriateness. And if you were a sharp enough people reader that you could catch what he was throwing down, while blindfolded (as so many of us gamers are forced to be), you'd know what he was aiming for -- that you were one of the few who'd earned a spot in his good graces, and now teetered precariously on the brink of falling out of favor.

"Well...that may be true...but I'm still going to be out...Friday. I should be back for the Sunday raid, and if I'm going to be late, I'll text you."

It doesn't matter how greatly / poorly we're doing. I have plans. I'm letting you know what they are. Respect them. 

Message delivered.

"Thanks," my tone could've been less snotty, but with all energy fully allocated to rage management, little remained to fuel social grace.

September of 2011 wound me into a bitter, cynical state. After spending only two nights on Heroic: Shannox, there was no indication, no hint at all, of the torture we were about to endure as we headed toward Heroic: Lord Rhyolith. Night after night, weekend after weekend, we smashed our faces against molten rock, again and again, battered and beaten, until our virtual eyes welled up with bloodied mucus, and drool lingered from each digital lip. Each night, those digital avatars trudged slowly out of Firelands, shoulders hunched, spitting bone fragments on the way out, not for convenience. For contempt.

My state of mind grew weary, thanks in part to both direct and indirect psychological attacks, constantly challenging the decisions I'd made for seven years. Leveling alts to clear my mind may have freed me from Drecca's coordinated harassment campaign, but I didn't have to travel far to see Blizzard's changing stance on rewarding a guild's commitment to backbone. There was a time when a player might look to the sky in awe of raiding accomplishments. Bearing witness to such incredible rare mounts got the juices flowing, the gears turning. A player coveting such treasure might consider how s/he could acquire one, eventually working their way into a well-respected raiding guild. Dedication and hard work were no longer requirements for such rare treasures. To the shit-show went the spoils. To the rest of us, with fingers raw and wrists cramped sore with carpal tunnel, went nothing. A sigh forever exhaling.

If there was a payoff out there, stretched thin across the horizon, it grew dim with each failed week on Rhyolith.

An early version of "Lord Rhyolith Footers" addon in action
(Source: "Suspicion vs. Lord Rhyolith")


DoD's roster splintered. Sarge was still out (blown video card), and now the healers would suffer an additional tragedy: the loss of Beefysupryme. Still young in the eyes of the guild, he (along with wife Physica) contributed exceptional heals and damage, respectively. The couple had grown to become loyal, dedicated members of the DoD family in a short time. Alas, Beefy scored a new job, and the schedule disallowed him from concentrating on progression. He stepped down from the core and hung up his healing Resto Druid branches, leaving Physica to carry the torch in his name.

The worst hit of all was losing Jungard, whose college fall schedule had finally kicked off, shattering any chances of his availability on Friday night progression. I'd watched Jungard for years, slowly making his way into late TBC progression after getting his first shot via Annihilation. Over the many months and several expansions that made up Jungard's raiding career in DoD, he'd grown from a humble warrior looking for glory, to a trusted friend and confidant, and eventually, an officer of the DoD court. His compassion and kind nature toward even the scrubbiest of players often reminded me of the proverbial "catch more bees with honey" strategy that I desperately needed now, more than the frustrations of Cataclysm mounted. The holes in the officer core formerly filled by Neps and Jungard were sucking chest wounds that DoD had no choice but to suffer.

On the eve of the sixth week of attempts on Heroic: Lord Rhyolith, the night Blain informed me he'd be missing one of the two nights on a business trip, I opened up a chat with Bonechatters and began typing instructions.

"Ping Fred, and ask him if he is willing to take the reins Friday, and if he has too much on his plate, that you are happy to take it off his shoulders."

"Got it. Tanks?"

"Most likely Amatsu and Unchained. I can pull my bizarre avoidance out if necessary for Baleroc."

"Roger. I want people to be using Footers tonight, melee is accounted for. If its successful, perhaps we might consider having everyone use it."

Boney was experimenting with a new addon that raiding guilds were catching wind of, a panel that displayed the names of each player doing damage to each particular foot, as well as an estimate of DPS being applied to each foot. With it, he hoped to gain more control over the chaotic, unstructured "left foot/right foot" calls in Vent.

"Oh, and Boney...plan for heroics, across the board."

Moments later, Fred connected with me over instant messenger.

"I feel like I've lost some man points. My wife had me log on to Pinterest."

"I dunno what that is."

"It's a new favorite site amongst women that love to drive their husbands insane."

I focused Fred back to the topic at hand, "So, you're comfortable leading Friday?"

"Ya, shouldn't be a problem."

"This may be our shot," noting the upside of the nerfs, "most heroics will be well within reach now."

Honestly, having been unable to attempt anything past Heroic: Lord Rhyolith, I will never know what else we might have accomplished. But Blizzard's blanket nerfs to Firelands only nights before ensured that nearly every boss suffered at least a 15% hit in health and damage. Amid a never-ending list of setbacks, the nerfs stood to be our last remaining motivator.

"Did Alysrazor in the 10 last night. The tornadoes move so slow now. It's like a geriatric parade."

"Boney's having melee get the Footers addon, you may want to have it as well."

I fired up Pinterest, and scrolled through the sea of women's fashion.

"Pinterest, eh? Needs more Hanzo."

DoD ends their ordeal, defeating Heroic: Lord Rhyolith,


We cut Shannox immediately out of the way at the start of the Friday raid, focusing all of our attention on Rhyolith for the duration of the night. Shannox keeled over with less grief than previous heroic kills; the effects of Blizzard's nerfs were noticeable. We accepted the handicap as a commander might accept the loss of a good battalion in order to gain a necessary foothold in the ongoing war: outwardly optimistic and focused on the brass ring while remaining humbly aware of what that cost came with. Bragging about "awesome deeps" would be left to another day.

Heroic: Lord Rhyolith attempts resumed. Having clocked as many hours on Rhyolith as we had on Kael'thas Sunstrider in TBC, it is fair to state that our newest members to progression rightfully earned a place among honorary veteran raiders of the old world. Those Wrath- and Cata-era raiders who stuck this out were part of a rare crew -- they weathered the grueling, repetitive demands of month-long practice attempts that formed the cornerstone of Vanilla and TBC raiding, and they did so with grace.

Progress! By the end of the evening, DoD experienced more transitions into phase two than ever before. All that remained was an employing a workable strategy to deal with Rhyolith's eye-beams, which cut the roster down before being able to extinguish that remaining fire. Blain would see to that, come Sunday.


An hour before the raid, my phone buzzed.

Still at least an hour away. Start without me.

I thumbed back a response, asking him where he was.

Greenville SC

An hour? Google Maps estimated Blain had closer to two hours before getting near anything that resembled a gaming rig.

"We're clearing bosses first," I directed Fred. He and Boney led the charge, clearing to Beth'tilac, Baleroc, and Alysrazor. All three were done by the first hour, planting us firmly at Rhyolith's godforsaken feet at the top of the 1st hour.

I called Blain, and quietly left my press-to-talk key down, while I feigned a serious tone.

"Blain. You are an hour late. This is completely unacceptable behavior. Especially for a Tyrant."

I could make out the car engine in the background.

"Sorry," this time his tone was that of genuine defeat, perhaps one of the rarest glimpses into Blain's vulnerabilities, "I guessed pretty bad on this drive. Give the raid my apologies."

Holding the phone up to the speakers so that he could hear clearly, the raid gave Blain a round of boos and insults, not meant to disparage, but to humor and lighten the painfully dark mood Rhyolith had brought. It was another rare glimpse of DoD sticking together. On the other end of my phone, Blain laughed.

"Ok, I'm hanging up. We're going to go kill Heroic Rhyolith now."

"Alright, everyone," he replied, "good luck in there."

I turned back to the raid, "You heard the man, folks. End this suffering."

It took only two attempts.

Twenty-two minutes after I hung up with Blain, Rhyolith's shell broke off, exposing his body of liquid flame. All twenty-five players remained alive, carefully inching their way around eye beams while unleashing the pent up rage of ten nights of practice. His great liquid magma body crashed to the ground and the screams of victory filled Vent once again. Dead at last. The nightmare was over. Sanity became reality. For a brief moment, all was right with the world.

"Ok, let's see," started Fred, "ok we have an Incendic Chestguard. Maybe for a boomkin? Taking bids now. Ending bids in 3, 2, bids?"

Mortalsend spoke up, "Well...I’ll take it for off, but only if nobody else needs it."

"Looks like you're it. There you go. Next up we have, uh....Earthcrack Bracers. DPS melee bracers. bids to Fred."

I looked at my bracers. The difference (if there was any to speak of) were negligible. Inspecting Hells revealed the same bracers.

"Ok, counting down, 3...2...1. And, winner is Unchained. There you go, sir."

"Thanks, Fred."

"Cracked Obsidian Stompers are next, bids to Fred. Bring in the bids, folks. Let's go. Counting down...3...2...1. Winner is Amatsu for 5."

"Wow, an actual upgrade for someone with the appropriate spec!"

"Meh," Amatsu added, "They're marginally better, but 5 DKP won't break me."

"Ok last up, we have Entrail Disgorger. Bids to Fred. Anybody at all. Send 'em in. Counting down in 3...2...1. Entrail Disgorger goes to Boney for 35."

I stood in silence a moment.

", I guess...Staghelm, folks."

The raid headed off of Rhyolith's plateau, and back down the ravine, heading towards Staghelm's bridge. I stood another moment, staring off into the brimstone.

One of the most excruciating, torturous bosses ever confronted by DoD over its seven year history...depriving us of nearly thirty-two hours of forward movement in the instance...produced:

- one upgrade,
- two side-grades, and
- two off-pieces.

Evidence of anything else was forever banished to a shapeless pile of enchanting dust, cast away, like so many good intentions.

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