Challenge Gold: Scarlet Monastary

Challenge Gold: Scarlet Monastary

We’re down to one.

After several heartbreaking nights, my group managed to get Scarlet Monastary down on gold and went back to help finish out Scarlet Halls for me. The Monastary is arguably the hardest challenge mode in the game!

We’ll see though as we still have Stormstout Brewery to blast through before we collect our full suite of Challenge Mode rewards.

The main issues with Scarlet Monastary isn’t the bosses. It’s actually the insane trash pulls. Cooldown and ability usage must be pinpoint. We actually screwed up slightly on Whitemane and pulled extra trash when we didn’t have to but finished 7 seconds away from the Silver mark.

There’s a few pressure points in Scarlet Monastary, so I’ll walk you through the toughest ones. Make sure you come into Scarlet Monastary prepared with the 18 second Invisibility Potion. You’ll need it. The most frustrating part is that if you wipe shortly in the cathedral area, you’ll have to wait several punishing minutes until your potion cooldowns are available for usage.

Right as the Challenge Mode timer finishes counting down, you can activate your Spirit Shell to grant your party additional shi elds as they get through that first pull. Spirit Shell should be off cooldown around the time you pull the Frenzied Spirits before the boss.

cm-sm-fs

You’ll want to have a Death Knight handy. You can charm one of the Frenzied Spirits as it it gradually builds up a buff (also called Frenzied Spirit). Our Death Knight rounded them all up and applied a slow and gradually kited them around while our Shaman and Monk chained AoE stuns back to back. Now the buff increases the Spirit’s damage and attack speed by 15% and it stacks. Our fastest kill on Thalnos the Soulrender was around 31 seconds. I think the Spirit had around 40+ stacks coupled with Heroism.

In the first pull in the hallway shortly after taking down that first boss, I suggest yanking the two yellow mobs and taking them out. Odds are you’ll pull them and the big pack around the corner. As a healer, try to be the first one in so you can start drinking before the rest of your group initiates. Light off and chain your AoE stuns one after the other. You can use a Barrier here if you’re struggling, but it’s not quite necessary.

cm-sm-hall

Burn the Invisibility Potion and break out into a run across the courtyard. Go up the right stair case and hop onto the fountain walls. Make sure you don’t come out of stealth near the 3 monks sitting on the right part of that fountain. Our tank pulled Brother Korloff when he was in the middle of patrolling between the 6 monks that flank that entrance to the monastary.

Brother Korloff will charge the furthest player and unload Firestorm Kick. Be really wary of where you stand. You want to position yourself just in the area in front of the fountain so that you don’t pull the aforementioned trio of monks. As the healer, don’t be the furthest one away. Shouldn’t have too many problems with this one at all. It’s just a little long.

Once you defeat the Monk, your next task is to try to penetrate the Monastary without pulling the monks on either side. The margin of error here is extremely small. Even a quarter step in either direction is enough to pull the pack and destroy your group. Now if you pay close attention to the positioning of the monks, you’ll notice they’re not exactly lined up perpendicular to the entrance. They’re actually angled inwards. What we ended up doing was using a hard CC (like Hex) on the back right Monk. This helped increase our margin just large enough that we could get through safely.

We tried CCing both the back Monks but the back left Monk managed to aggro on to us while we were inside the Cathedral so we ended up CCing the back right one only.

Anyway, take a hard left when you’re inside the Cathedral and start working on the pulls. There’s three major multi-mob pulls that can annihilate your group. Space out your stun cooldowns and healing cooldowns. For example, our Monk and Shaman used their stuns on the first pack. I used a Barrier and our Death Knight used Army of the Dead on the second. Use the pillars to line of sight pull them. Your interrupters should just pick a Purifier and lock them down while AoEing.

If you can get within striking range of Whitemane and Durand with 4:30 left, you should be in good shape. Stay close to each other so that Durand doesn’t get too far off. Assign specific interrupts for Mass Resurrection and Dominate Mind for Whitemane. You can let Smite go off unchecked as it’s easily healable. We screwed up here and accidentally pulled a Scarlet Zealot in addition to Durand. Use your AoE cleaves and single target abilities to get rid of that Zealot fast. Make sure he doesn’t cast Heal on the boss.

Good luck! I know I made it sound easier than it actually was. Scarlet Monastary will end up being one of the longer ones your group is working on just due to the difficulty of the trash and the potion cooldowns.

Heroic Garalon Killed: What a Buggy Encounter

Heroic Garalon Killed: What a Buggy Encounter

After two and a half weeks, we finally scored a kill against Garalon. Every encounter after the first six progression hard modes is an exercise in patience and grinding. Our first (and only) Spirit Kings kill was a huge sigh of relief. By comparison, the Garalon kill was falling out of the chair from exhaustion. During the pulls pulls where everyone gets a good look at the new mechanics, people play a little more cautious. Everyone’s testing the boundaries of what they’re capable of. They’re experimenting with their specs and retuning themselves specifically for that fight.

But once people start getting the hang of it, it gradually gets easier. Once the strategy is ironed out and the team is exposed to the rest of the phases, it’s a mammoth of a DPS and healing check.

Our kill on heroic Garalon mirrored our kill on normal. I swear Garalon was mid-air just before the enraged Crush was about to connect. Healers were busy throwing as much DPS as they could in the final seconds. All the pulls earlier on in the night were all over the place. It’s easy to tell when players are losing focus.

They trip into the crush-zone.

They’re sloppy on Pheromone passes.

They get caught by the cleave.

Chalk it up to nerves. Maybe they’re gripping the mouse too hard. Who knows? Everyone deals with anxiety and pressure differently. Garalon’s pretty damn nerve wracking as it is.

All the strategies that are used on normal still apply. Keep the DoT classes working on the legs while the ranged players focus down the torso. Melee players will be jumping from leg to leg. We like to open the fight with Heroism but it’s not uncommon for it to be used in the final sub 33% phase.

  • We opened our Pheromone kite order with 2 tanks, then all the ranged DPS, then all the healers. You might want to pick a melee player two as the final backups in case your kiters suffer casualties along the chain.
  • Players that are next on the kite order should be in position when the current kiter has anywhere from 6 – 9 stacks as you’ll be passing around 13.
  • Given the option, it’s okay to get rid of the Pheromone before a crush even if your stack isn’t near 13. I had to hand mind off at around 10. Had I waited to pass it after the crush, my stacks would have reached 15.
  • The kiters near the stairs should leave a few gaps in Pheremone puddles as they drop them. This gives more path options for the kiters further on down the assignment chain.
  • Crush is no longer coupled to Pheromone passing. Have a raid-wide defensive cooldown planned for each Crush.
  • Healers should spike low health individuals in the few seconds leading up to a Crush so that they don’t take lethal.

Healing Priests

  • Spirit Shell gives you an edge. With two, it’s possible to alternate that on Crushes.
  • Atonement DPS on legs (especially within the blue circles) is a major plus.
  • Echo of Light is also amazing.

As a Shadow Priest, I feel like I’m the worst DPS class on this fight. Maybe it’s just me. Nothing like seeing myself in 16th place consistently.

The next boss for us is heroic Lei Shi. Right now, our biggest hurdle is consistently handling the Protectors as they spawn at the 20% intervals. They seem to ace and crush our healers quickly. How did your group  handle them?

How Safe is your Guild Bank from Social Players?

How Safe is your Guild Bank from Social Players?

Imagine my surprise when I received a note from a fellow on the same server one lovely morning. One of my players was accused of stealing loot from a different guild’s bank and before promptly quitting.  The accused’s alt just helped themselves to various items. I’m not actually sure what items were taken or what the full value was.

Most GMs are bound to deal with guild bank thefts at some point in their careers. Either their bank gets stuff stolen from or a different guild’s bank gets raided (via alts) and they’re left dealing with the offenders.

In a fair number of cases, the accused would’ve simply been kicked out. And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s the easiest solution. You kick the player and your hands are washed of having to deal with them ever again. Your guild’s reputation is left (relatively) intact.

I responded back to the accuser saying that I’d look into it. But this is a player I didn’t have much interaction with as they were on our PvP roster. In the end, I notified my PvP team leader about this because the player was under their division.

“One of our players was accused of this. Any ideas about them? Here’s the guild they were in and here’s the character of the accuser.”

What happened?

Apparently, it was a misunderstanding. Our guy mistakenly took things that they weren’t supposed to thinking that it was open and free to anyone. They returned the goods (and compensated accordingly). As it’s their first time offense, I have to assume that there was no malicious intent (and there’s no evidence to show that there was).

As the player

Before taking stuff, ask.

Or at least, check around and see if there’s a banking policy. There may be certain limitations based on ranks. Sometimes the GM makes a mistake and places you in the wrong rank and you’re not actually supposed to be entitled to certain tabs. If you have access to rare items like enchants, recipes, or other craftables, it’s a good idea to check with someone higher up before helping yourself to it.

As the GM

Lock down your stuff.

Check the permissions.

Check the rank access of the permissions.

Make sure the right people have access to the right tabs. You have a responsibility to ensure that. It’s noble to assume the best out of everyone but it’s also quite foolish to leave the door to the vault wide open and expect it to be respected. Have your bank rules outlined somewhere on your guild website or your forums. Go over the ground rules with all new recruits with regards to withdrawal policies.

Speaking of banking stuff, which one of you left these stacks of Wool Cloth and Volatile Earth’s in my guild bank?

The Pro Sports Team Guide to Recruiting

I have watched my Vancouver Canucks rise and fall over the past seasons. I watched as they routinely got stomped many years ago to the powerhouse that came so close to winning it all in 2010. This city needs the cup so badly.

When a team is in a full rebuild mode, they trade out their remaining valuable assets to try and get younger in order to prepare for the future.

When a team is in playoffs mode, they look for the few pieces to help them get the championship.

Like sports teams, a guild’s recruiting strategy will often gradually shift from time to time depending on their current goals and needs. If you convert the guild’s raiding progression into different stages, you can classify your guild’s recruiting strategy to better align with the guild’s goals.

Stage 1: Early game, normal

Full rebuilding year. It’s time to start planning for the future. They know they’re not going to be in the running for a few years. Time to go young and select players with high potential. Give them the experience they need in order to flourish. Edmonton is a good example of this a few years ago. Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov are slated to give my team a run for it’s money in the next few years.

This is the stage most new guilds are at especially at the onset of a new expansion with a depleted or non-completed roster. You haven’t finalized your tanks, DPS, healers, or combination thereof. Your leaders will recruit anyone that can make your times and have the minimum gear levels needed to make a dent in the raids. They don’t have the necessary raiding experience? That’s okay, they have the room to grow! They can learn with the rest of the players. Raid experience is going to vary wildly from the top end down to the bottom. You’ll even see this in World of Logs as the spread from 1st place to 17th is going to be a huge gap. Maybe it’s their first time in a structured and organized raid environment. Might not see many (or any) players with legitimate heroic raid level experience.

Most of their gear is going to consist of quest blues, dungeon blues, or crafted gear. If they’re showing initiative, they’ll have worked on maxing out their professions along with acquiring valor level gear. Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, they could just be in a mash of greens and epics with reforging that doesn’t entirely make sense.

But whatever right? They can commit to the posted raid times and that’s all that matters. The goal here is to actually get into the raid instance and start wiping.

This is the (re)build stage. My guild went through this in Firelands after a split. I knew that competing in Firelands was not going to happen so we planned for the long game instead.

Stage 2: Late game, normal

The team is starting to play well together. Players are getting used to each other and their tendencies. The deals being made now are for classes or specs that are still lacking. Maybe the team’s missing a consistent performing goaltender or needs a few big bodies on the blue line. They’re going to passover that high rated goal scorer and address their needs specifically. Washington has great franchise players with Ovechkin, Green, and Backstrom but the team is looking horrible so far this shortened season. They need help on the backend.

At this point, recruits are expected to have a certain level of gear and experience. Your guild is working on the late stages of an instance. Maybe you’re working on Elegon or Will of the Emperor. Or else you’re wiping to the Sha of Fear or putting shots in on Empress and Amber Shaper. The players have farmed the early half of instances and can play their responsibilities without too much guidance. They understand the challenges and mechanics of the early set of bosses and can pick up new obstacles within a couple wipes of seeing it.

These recruits shouldn’t be rocking anymore blue gear (or at most 1 or 2 pieces because they’ve gotten unlucky with drops). They’ve played the game for at least over an expansion and understand the struggles that a raid group is going to face. When looking at players like this, as a GM you want to ask yourself if these players are going to be able to help you get over that “hump”. If there’s any doubts at all, it should be a decline. You can take a chance on one or two “project” players who are a little behind in some area (gear or experience), but a certain time limit needs to be set. Either they make it or they don’t.

I firmly believe there each player in WoW has a skill cap and each boss has a minimum level needed to get through it. That skill gap and floor rises with each new progression boss and players absolutely must rise with it.

The talent is slowly coming together. You’re outside of the playoff bubble and looking in. But more importantly, you know it’s within reach.

Stage 3: Early game, heroics

Now you’re in the playoffs. The team has a great group of players. Each one knows what their roles are and where they fit in the system. In the event of injuries, the call ups are there to help. Detroit is on a 21 playoff appearance streak is a great example of this. They’re expected to make it 22 this season. Even though the team isn’t always making it to the conference championships, they’re a proven playoff contender.

Your roster is largely stable. Everyone that’s signed on follows the guild philosophies and are all excellent fits for the guild. There’s a couple of pieces missing. Maybe you’re missing a specific class that you really think will augment your raid group. Now you’re selectively recruiting talent that’s definitely geared and experienced. As much as you want to give the blue geared player a chance, you know that your “window” is closing. Maybe a certain patch is about to drop soon and you want to secure as many progression kills as possible. If you’re lucky, you can recruit “up” and snag a player that’s coming from a guild which is more progressed. You should have a couple of heroic modes under the proverbial guild belt. You may not be actively open recruiting but you’re still scouting for key piece players to outright replace the people who have hit their skill cap and are at a level where they just can’t get it done.

Players are willing to put in the time and the wipes as long as they see some form of progression. It’s not uncommon to wipe anywhere from 30 to 100+ times. They know their classes innately. They can play their classes intuitively and can slip into any spec with ease. There is no Arcane Mage or Fire Mage, there is only a Mage who picks the best spec and talents for the job. Just because they have their favourites doesn’t mean they’re incapable of doing anything else.

You are a consistent playoff team. You’ll always hit top 16 and are capable of scoring upsets.

Stage 4: Late game, heroics

You’ve hit the dream team. You’re happy with them. If no one applied for the next year, you’d be okay with it as long as the main nucleus of the guild stays together. Unfortunately, real life always has plans. Things will always change from year to year. Now you’re recruiting in advance because you can tell someone’s losing interest in the game or they have other responsibilities preventing them from maintaining that high raid standard you set in place. Nothing is forever. You still have a powerful group of individuals but you’re in headhunting mode. Recruiting is going to be at an all time low because you can’t justify pulling new players in. They’re not going to be seeing much raid time (unless they’re okay with playing second string and backing up).

Your warrior is quitting the game because he’s getting married. Someone from the bench gets promoted or you start looking elsewhere for a player that’s heavily geared with multiple heroic kills. They can seamlessly step in and take over for the guy that’s going out even though they’ll never quite replace the departing personality.

At this stage, you’re guild is tacking the hardest bosses in the game or pursuing specific raid achievements for the meta.

You are heavily favoured to win the championship and either come really close to doing it or manage to do it.

Recruiting is a tough and draining job. Make it easier on yourself and narrow down exactly what you’re looking for. What does your guild need? What players are it missing? Then head to various community sites and start tracking them down. The best success I’ve had was the WoW official forums and word of mouth via the raid finder or simple referrals.

Be very careful with referrals. Put stock in the recommendations that you’re given, but look at that player independently and objectively. I’ve been offered referrals that don’t pan out and some referrals who turned out great. It’s not uncommon for people to say that they want to play with their friends even though they might not consciously think so. Stacking a raid with 10 people who know each other really well can also put you in an uncomfortable position where the group has an amazing amount of leverage. If one person doesn’t get their way, they may subtly influence their friends to come to their aid and boycott a raid night. The GM hat must always come first before the friend hat.

One of these days, I want to try a football analogy. I just wish I understood more of the game and the little nuances so I can pull it off well :(!