Raid Leader Questions: Reset or Extend?

Raid Leader Questions: Reset or Extend?

Back in Wrath, right around the era of the Trial of the Crusader patch, Blizzard pushed out a new feature. It was a tool designed for raids who didn’t raid as often or who had trouble investing significant and meaningful hours in progression before the week reset and all their progression and work had been lost.

Yes, the lockout extension feature.

To my knowledge, it was one of those things that not many players really raved about but no one slammed it down either. It was completely optional and not many had the desire to extend it. Two expansions later, raids are getting larger, there’s more trash in the way, and time just seems to be a factor. This isn’t 5 years ago where I was in a raid that insisted on everyone going way past their bed time to get that much needed kill in. I was in guilds that asked much of their players to sacrifice sleep and hours for the sake of progression.

When Conquest was first formed, one of the key decisions was laying down our hours. In order to maximize the potential pool of players, I ensured that our times were west and east coast friendly. But this had the cost where we would not be able to go past our end times even if we had gotten a boss down to 1%. With Siege of Orgrimmar being the deep instance that it is, many of the players lobbied for more time on end bosses and extensions on the week to put in more work. It’s paid off because we secured kills on Nazgrim and Malkorok on the days where we normally would’ve reset.

At the same time, like other raiding guilds, we’ve seen our share of players come and go. This is the part of the expansion where many players are slowly returning back to the game. They’re smart and skilled players, but sometimes there’s nothing they can do to survive through a large explosion even with all their defensive cooldowns used simply because their health is too low. Or we’re not able to meet a DPS check on an earlier boss like Norushen and Sha of Pride.

It’s a tough balancing act between providing our newer players with the gear and experience they need now so they can be in a position to help us later versus ensuring that the raid has adequate time to work on progression bosses in the second half of Siege. Blizzard has announced the end of the Challenge Mode season coming soon to coincide with a new patch deployment. While there’s been no mention of a friends and family alpha, the patch signals that we’re one milestone closer to the next expansion and our time in Siege is growing shorter.

How long does it take to gear a freshly geared 90 and put them in a position where they are no longer a detriment to a heroic raid boss?

My estimate is 3-4 weeks. This includes running the raid finder, flex raids, using crafted pieces, and completely carrying them through any available farm content. On 25 man, that time could be cut to 2-3 weeks largely due to the larger pool of gear that drops from killing bosses (6 items on 25 vs 2 items on 10) and this assumes they’re diligent in farming their Lesser Charms on the island or via pet battles.

Reset please!

My original stance was to continue weekly raid resets. Until we’ve got a core group of 25-30 players who’ve been around long enough where they don’t need gear anymore, we’re going to need to keep that farming going. Every once in a while, we can pull in a player who is already at our level and ready to go to the point where we don’t need to gear them out. If we don’t funnel gear, eventually we’ll reach a point where we run out of players to bring in (because turnover, people leaving/quitting/new jobs/no time, etc). Our depth is amazing. It’s how we can even field raids sometimes. There’s always going to be a bottom end and we have to narrow that gap between top and bottom to help make it easier for us when we reach the harder progression bosses. It makes sense to do this at the beginning of the tier as well to really maximize all that gear coming in.

Now here’s the flip side of the equation.

Extend please!

When we get to a new boss, we need time to learn the nuances. We have to learn the new phases and mechanics that come with it. We have to wipe to it. We have to see it so that we can understand and then execute. This usually happens towards the end of the week because the first part of the week is spent clearing UP to that boss. Our ultimate end objective is to KILL everything in this instance. The fact that it’s the final tier in the expansion means that we have a silent countdown clock hanging except we don’t know what the end time is going to be. I’d rather err on the side of clearing everything early then clearing everything too late. I want to get these guys a heroic Garrosh kill. That’s what we’re all here to do. Just when it seems like we’re all prepared and ready to take down a new boss, we run out of time, and it’s Tuesday. We have to kill all that stuff again. And guess what? There’s days where our consistency and our mindset isn’t there and we don’t even GET to the new boss that we want which cuts in to our progression time, and then boom, reset again.

This is where we are at today. This is why I proposed the compromise of 3 pulls to get it done on farm or else we move on. It helps ensure chances on getting the players that need gear their gear while simultaneously ensuring that we have enough allocated time to work on a new progression boss. Problem is, that isn’t good enough anymore.

We’re still lacking on time. In the end, we’ve opted to switch to an extended week schedule. Week 1 is spent getting as far as we can, week 2 is spent extending to work on whichever boss we just cleared to. Any new recruits are typically brought in during week 1 to learn and get suitably equipped.  Our veterans and heavy hitters are brought in for the progression stuff.

I really miss winged instances.

Giving You Crit for Dying: When is a Good Time?

Giving You Crit for Dying: When is a Good Time?

Like any guild leader would, I posted Hamlet’s latest post on Raid Awareness on my guild forums. They’re all good lessons and solid pointers. It’s all anyone can really ask for from their guild. Most of the team already knows it but it doesn’t hurt to have a little reminder from time to time. Many things shouldn’t be said but we’re nearing the end of the expansion where newer players are returning who haven’t quite raided at a heroic level before and could benefit from the points that were listed.

One of our newer players brought up a solid point about failure and dying.

I’ve discussed it a little with people but it definitely feels as a newer raider that there’s a much greater emphasis on failure as an “app” or “new” person than some of the older ones.

And this is absolutely true. Leaders tend to put recruits under the microscope much more.

The other night, we were working on Heroic Sha of Pride. One of my veteran players was standing on their projection which is the correct play. However, they spotted a rift on the ground nearby and immediately went over to that before the projection detonated. Even though she didn’t cause a wipe, the raid healers immediately crapped their pants (or in this case, blew all the survival cooldowns at the same time to stabilize).

Here we have a player who has done the encounter many times and wiped with us when we were learning it on both normal and heroic. What happened was a simple brain fart.

I could have reprimanded that player easily. But what effect would it have had? They already knew the mistake and owned up to it right away after the encounter. It was a simple mechanics error that anyone could’ve made (y’know, except me). Would me berating them incessantly and in public absolutely prevent that from happening again from anyone? Probably not. I might mention it as a PSA reminder to everyone (“PROJECTIONS FIRST, EVERYTHING ELSE LATER”), but that’s all.

Now what happens when a new recruit screws up?

Here they are trying to make a good first impression. That they know their mechanics. They want to show that they belong and that they can roll with the team. Before we engage the boss, I say one thing to every new recruit.

I don’t give two crits about your DPS or your healing right now. For one, most of you don’t have your cloak or your meta. Or alternatively, you’re not as heroic geared as the rest of the team I have. Don’t even try to match them pound for pound. You really want to impress me? Don’t die. The single most important thing you can do on this fight is to survive. Do that job well and everything else will follow.

The players that we’re pulling in? Their experience usually ends up being exposed to flex raiding or some normal fights. Often times these are players who’ve wanted to make the jump to heroic raiding but were never in an organization that was capable or they’re returning players who’ve demonstrated what they could do in older expansions with those heroic encounters. Even Flex and Raid Finder mechanics are easily shruggable. What’s the point of dodging the crap that gets thrown your way or the fire on the ground if it just tickles?

That veteran player up there who made a mistake? She knows what she did wrong. The new recruit who came in who has never learned the normal mode or heroic mode mechanics with us? He may not know what he did. Maybe he’s never stacked enough pride to even reach the projections portion of the fight. That’s when I’ll step in and tell them what happened, what he did wrong, and how he can prevent that from happening again in the future. Players like to associate educating a player with giving player crap for screwing up. Eh, it’s more like attempting to correct their errors.

Why the public mumble reprimand in front of the 30 players listening and raiding versus the private tell?

  1. It’s a reminder: Maybe some other new recruit hadn’t seen it before and hadn’t died to it yet. With luck, I’ll have prevented another future wipe when the second recruit is aware of why and how the first recruit died.
  2. People can stop sending me tells: Seriously team, I don’t need ten whispers telling me that the recruit died because they goofed on something. By gently informing the player publically, it’s an indirect and subtle message to the rest of the raid that a) Yes, I know they screwed up and b) You can all stop messaging me now.

It loses effectiveness. I rarely lose my temper. Alumni and current raiders know this. I’ve been told that I should lose my cool a little more often. At the same time, I know that if I do that, it’ll lose the message I’m trying to convey and not be as effective. So I’ll try to save it for those times when I know it’ll be most beneficial to jump start the raid a little.

The same thing goes with player reprimands. Imagine if I gave crit to a player for every minor mistake they made. I don’t know about you, but I figure they’d get tired and exasperated pretty quickly and start tuning me out (Note that they already do because I’m blasting variations of Katy Perry or Beyonce when I’m talking). It would be the equivalent of the hockey coach losing the locker room. I think it’d also accelerate my own burnout with the game and raiding in general. But I also understand it when it seems like if nothing is said about a player error that it’s overlooked and swept under the rug. It does look like leniency.

This is where the old Ensidia Fails addon comes into play (and for some reason has stopped working from me). It spits out who stood in what or who screwed up for that attempt right after a wipe. Name on that list? You know what you did wrong. Name on that list because you stood in it to intentionally wipe faster? You know that too.

Let me ask you this. Do you play better when your raid leader gives you crap on a farm fight that you should already know? How about a progression fight? Under what circumstances would you prefer your raid leader directly hold you accountable? All the time? Some of the time? Never?

How does a 25 player guild handle Mythic raiding?

How does a 25 player guild handle Mythic raiding?

Ever since the announcement of BlizzCon with the revisions to raid, I’ve been asked countless times (both in guild and from players out of guild) what I was going to do.

Are we going to just stick to heroic raiding?

Are we going to have to make cuts for mythic?

What will our raid plans be since they’re all on separate lockouts now?

Before we get into that, I wanted to offer my thoughts on Mythic raiding in general. Suffice it to say, it was a long time coming. Back when SWTOR came out and there were players raiding, I felt that 16 players was a solid raid size. There weren’t that many people involved and it still captured the feelings of “epicness” when it comes to taking down monsters. Discussing it with my friends, I hoped that Blizzard would eventually make that jump down to 20 or 15. Little did I know, they did allow for that.

new-raid

The new Flex raid system that came out with patch 5.4 was simply the first step. You could have a 12 man raiding guild or a 17 player or whatever you wanted and the encounter would dynamically scale. 10 player guilds didn’t have to feel bad about benching their friends. 25 player guilds didn’t have to struggle when a player or two needed to take a night off. As far as I can tell, the reaction to Flex raiding was overwhelmingly positive.

This leads us to Warlords of Draenor and the new Mythic raiding difficulty level. Why did they decide on 20?

We chose to put Mythic at 20 largely for the function of raid design. One of the biggest issues we’re currently facing with 10-player Heroic raiding is that of raid composition. It’s impossible for every group to have every class, and often that means they’re lacking in certain tools, which in turn means that we can’t design encounters around those tools (or if we do, it becomes extremely frustrating for the 10-player Heroic guild that suddenly needs a Paladin for Hand of Protection).

We want to be able to use those sorts of mechanics again. Those of you who have been with us for a while might remember things like Mage tanks on High King Maulgar, or Priests using Mind Control on Instructor Razuvious. We want it to be okay when, say, the Paladin can use Hand of Protection to clear a dangerous debuff, because we can reasonably assume that most guilds will have at least one Paladin in their raid. We like it when someone gets to feel awesome and have a special task on a fight because of class abilities that otherwise wouldn’t get much use.

We can’t do that when we’re designing with a 10-player raid size in mind. We don’t think we’d be able to get away with it at 15 either. At 20, it becomes a lot more acceptable for us to say “you should probably bring a Mage to Spellsteal this.” And honestly, that’s just one example of the sort of encounter mechanics we can start to utilize in a larger group size.

I’d also call into question the statement of “It’s easier to drop people than it is to recruit them.” It’s technically true, yes — finding new raiders is harder than just not inviting the ones you have — but totally ignores the fact that cutting people from your roster often means losing people you like. Which feels better: making new friends, or telling your current ones that they don’t get to play with you any more? We’re already asking a lot of many 25-player Heroic groups to cut 5 people.

As I mentioned before, this was not a decision we came to lightly. It’s definitely going to be a very scary transition for a lot of people. We knew that when we made the decision. We just also feel quite strongly that, when the dust settles, we’ll be able to provide a better raiding experience for everyone.

Source

That highlighted selection is the problem I have on my hands. Granted, the expansion is still an extremely long time away. I understand that there’s a few 10 man guilds that are upset by this change going up. Maybe it’s server population reasons or that they just don’t like the idea of doubling their roster for mythic. For most normal mode raiding guilds, that’s not going to be a problem here since the heroic mode of Warlords still allows for that.  If Conquest was primarily a 10 man organization, I’d have no problems upscaling it. The problem is that we’re a 25 and I have to tell ~20% of my team that I have to rebalance the raid group and they’re not going to be on the starting lineup.

If there’s one thing I know about guild leaders though, is that they’re usually resilient. If they want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to make it happen.

Will Conquest just stick to heroic raiding?

No. During the opening week of the expansion, Mythic will not be available until the second week. We’ll start with heroic raiding first to get everyone acclimated. The first chance we get to duck into Mythic, we will. Our current plans are to fall back to Heroic raiding in the event of holiday weeks or extremely low attendance. The second option is to have a rotating bi-weekly schedule where we work on Heroic raids on week one, Mythic raids on week two (or get as far as we can). Gear is still important and we need to make sure every player has the tools that they need. The last option is we utilize Heroic raiding on the first two days of our schedule before switching to Mythic on the last day (or vice versa depending on our progression). It really is too soon to say because any number of things could change between now and the release of Warlords.

Bottom line? Both Heroic and Mythic will be on the table.

Are we going to have to make cuts for Mythic?

Yes. It’s math, right? We’re raiding 25s right now but we’ll have to eventually rebalance and downsize. I told everyone in guild to not worry about as much that we had months to go before the expansion.

The truth is that I’m already evaluating players between now and then. Based on what? Oh you know, the usual fare like DPS or other performance metrics. There’s also a secret Matt tolerance factor. Is that person fun to raid with or are they just downright annoying? Do they increase my rage meter? We’ll see what happens! There’s still a long way to go! Maybe I’ll do a secret Hunger games style thing.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Mythic raiding. I’ve handled the transition from 40 to 25 before. I’m no stranger to making the jump in raid sizes if I have to. The players who don’t end up being on my protected list won’t be ejected out or anything. There’s still Heroic mode raiding to do plus there’s all sorts of other activities to participate in-game with. I have no plans to outright punt anyone outside of the guild. Some of our longer term players were surprised to find that their characters were still sporting our guild tag. I guess they expected me to have kicked them out at some point due to inactivity. Of course, I told them that I would never do that because I knew that one day they’d return.

In reality, I’m actually that lazy.

Guest Post: It’s Okay to be an Ass

Guest Post: It’s Okay to be an Ass

This is a guest post by LabellaNotte who is co-GM of the Guardians of Fellowship (US The Scryers – Alliance) and author of the Heals Or Leaf blog.
When you hear the Doomsday Clock ticking, it’s easy to despair.  It’s easy to give up and take what you think is coming to you.  You can sink into depression thinking that all you and your officers have worked for is going the way of the dodo.  If this makes you feel like you’ve fallen in a well with no way out, let me assure you there is a way.
Be an ass.
No, not like your raid leader, this is a different kind of ass. Let me paraphrase a little fable for you.
There was this donkey. We’ll call the donkey Bob. He worked hard and took pride in his work. One day, in a fit of overzealousness, he fell into a hole being dug for a well.
Standing there alone in the well, Bob stared up and wondered what to do next. One of his buddies peered over the edge and told him that he was stuck in a well with no escape. In the process, he sent a cascade of dirt down on poor Bob’s head. A little annoyed, Bob shook the dirt off his back and stepped on it. It seemed he would never get out.
While he stood there, Bob realized he had two choices. First, he could simply wallow in misery over his certain demise.  Or, he could do something to change his situation.
Time and again, other animals came to look, comment, jeer, heckle, or offer helpful advice.  Over and over, showers of dirt fell on him. Bob made his choice, time and again.  Shake the dirt off, step on it, and realize that each bit that fell on top of him could be shaken off, stepped on, and used to bring him closer to freedom.
It wasn’t a fast process by any means, but Bob built himself a ramp out of that well and again got to see the light of day as a free donkey. One shake and step at a time, Bob repeatedly chose to use that dirt to his advantage to build a ramp instead of letting it bury him.

In other words

The seemingly endless task of running a guild, whether as a GM or an officer, involves running into obstacles.  Some obstacles are small, such as picking dates for events that aren’t convenient for everyone who wants to participate. Others are potential catastrophes. My guild, just like anyone’s, has had more than our fair share of them.  Looking back at the annals of our history, it amazes me that we have lasted as long as we have.
Back in Wrath of the Lich King, one of our officers left and half the raid team followed. In the same era, our OT’s wife got fed up with his gaming and forced him to quit raiding with us.  During Cataclysm we absorbed another Guild that was falling apart to benefit both Guilds, but eventually there was a rift in our own Guild that led to an officer, one of our best DPS raiders, and several awesome social members away. Also in Cataclysm, one of our other top DPS raiders decided he has finished the story and canceled his subscription. Just recently, one of our most consistent raiders (an officer to boot) and a backup healer decided to leave the server for greener grasses.
Each of these events made us in guild leadership look around and wonder if we could handle this blow.  We wondered if we would survive, no less continue with our regularly scheduled raids.  It wasn’t easy, not by any measure of the imagination.  Each time, we made the conscious decision to keep on trucking.
Matticus very aptly observed that each guild has its own Doomsday Clock ticking towards midnight.  There are outside influences that can stop, slow down, or even reverse it. You can look to those exterior forces he discussed to keep you afloat.  One factor he failed to mention is you do have one other option.  You can draw from your own strength and ingenuity to get yourself out of that hole.
Each time we’ve been faced with a challenge that could have ended us, our GM and officers have sat and stared at the hands of the doomsday clock speeding towards midnight. And each time, our GM, myself, and our leadership team have stopped, shaken off the dirt of the latest disaster, and built a ramp to get out of the hole.  We see and hear the clock ticking and watched the progress of those numbers slow, halt and reverse.
So next time that clock is ticking, think of Bob. Go ahead and be an ass, just like Bob, and you too can smile as the hands on that doomsday clock start to move backwards.
Have you watched your own guild’s doomsday clock ticking away and survived to tell the tale?  Share your experience in the comments!Until next time, long days, pleasant nights and happy raiding.
The Time Bomb Every Guild Leader Holds

The Time Bomb Every Guild Leader Holds

The original Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clockface that first originated in 1947 by some really smart people (directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists). The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the entire world gets to a global catastrophe. Right now, the clock is at 5 minutes to midnight. As nations attempt to find ways to secure nuclear weapons, time gets added. If they’re unable to agree or if additional nations become nuclear capable, time gets removed.

Have you heard of the guild doomsday clock?

It’s this internal timer that GMs have. When it hits zero, the guild collapses in spectacular bits. The progression clock is naturally about raiding. If you recruit new players or get progression kills, time is added. If you lose players for any reason or wipe continually to bosses, time is subtracted.

This is not going to be apparent to most people. But every guild leader has that internal pressure on them whether they realize it or not. They have a mandate to uphold and goals to achieve. Every failure adds more pressure until they can’t take it anymore and disband. I’ve seen it to happen to guilds that I never would have expected to shut down. I run this organization everyday wondering if it’ll be the last and it’s been like that for the better part of a year. Fear is an exceptionally powerful motivator.

How does time get added and removed from the doomsday clock?

Subtracting time

  • Losing players
  • Losing officers
  • Excessive wiping on normal mode
  • Suspending progression
  • Missed raids
  • Drama issues resulting in splintering

Adding time

  • Gaining players
  • Officers who are stable and not burning out
  • Farming bosses in one shot
  • Meaningful, visible progression
  • Positive attendance
  • Overall satisfaction and happiness

Over the past year, I’ve seen the clock hands gradually tick forward to midnight. Officers have become burned out. Players schedules and their lives have changed. I’m not able to adjust fast enough. I still have no viable raid leader I can pass some of this load to. That alone is my biggest need and there’s no job board or recruiting forum I can go to for something like this. It’s hard to grow a raid leader if no one has the time, desire, or skillsets to do it. Stable raid leaders are a premium.

Thankfully, wee were able to raid with the bare minimum with 25. The fact is that there are still people here who wish to raid and see more of the game. I’ve almost all but written off this tier and am in the process of retooling for Siege of Orgrimmar. This is the time of year where it’s so hard to recruit because players are firmly entrenched in their raiding guilds or they’re taking a break to enjoy the sun. Thankfully, we’ve picked up a few more players in the past week and added some time to it but we’re still extremely close to midnight.

Senior man cutting grass with shears

It’s like cutting grass with garden shears, isn’t it?

Our current roster is just not quite there for hard modes. Some of the players don’t have the experience. Others don’t have the gear. I’ve had to make the unpopular decision to temporarily suspend hard mode progression until the bottom end can catch up appropriately. Everyone who has been here has been farming normal modes for months. We’ve been able to 22 man our way through most bosses past even Dark Animus. We took a player’s alt Ret Paladin which started off with a 460 ilevel and ended the night at 502. They didn’t really do much DPS, but they were a body and and an Aura Mastery. The fear? That people at the top grow impatient and have no desire to stick around waiting for the bottom end to catch up and repeating the cycle.

It’s pretty damn sad.

I’ve been in similar situations before in the past. But there was always a clear, well lit path forward. I had a large and familiar group of officers more experienced than I was at the time who helped steer me the right way (like Syd). But man, it’s super lonely right now. But like any true leader, you can’t show weakness. It’s easy to repeat that everything’s going to be okay. In the back of mind, I don’t like that because I like having actionable steps and plans to move up.

The best I can really do is recruit and pray.

A stable and sizable raid roster needs to be the first fix. But it’s going to be for naught if I can’t get a raid leader somewhere. Throne of Thunder may very well be the most disastrous showing for this organization since Ulduar. We’re an above average normal mode guild. But this roster has much to learn about heroic raiding. It’s the difference between the regular season and playoffs. Have to find that ON switch.

Tick tock.

Emergency AFK? 6 Ways to Handle It Like a Pro

Emergency AFK? 6 Ways to Handle It Like a Pro

Have you ever heard of the perfect storm of raiding?

Not a single cloud in the sky. Calm and steady waves. You have enough players present even though 1 or 2 players have signed out for the day. But you can’t quite shake that feeling it’s just too good to be true.

For us, it started out much the same. But then, a series of unfortunate events occurred. Lodur had a computer shortage. I had to race through the streets to pick up mom. Some people were going to be a little late due to overtime at work. We were ultimately left standing with 22 people. What could we do until everyone had returned to their battle stations?

On the perfect day, none of these things would have happened. But every so often, you get that day where the universe just likes to screw with you and cause havoc for players. As the GM, I admit that feel uneasy and anxious when not raiding. All that time is being wasted just by sitting there.

stormcloud

What do you do if you don’t have a full crew to work with? Are there options when someone needs to step out briefly for a few minutes?

If there’s trash still up, go do what your parents yelled at you to do when you were younger and take out the trash! By the time you clear it, the player should be back in business and ready to go.

1. Switch another player in

Easiest solution. Is there any other players online that you can pull in? Most raiding teams have a bench or maybe you have a recruit who is willing to step in. Activate the members you have around who you can grab.

2. Make some attempts in, even if it’s short handed

Just because there’s a player out doesn’t mean you can’t at least get warmed up and give exposure to your players. Have them get a handle for the opening phases. Start practicing some of the mechanics. Get them thinking about how they’re going to react to the different phases. By the time your other raider gets back, they’re the one that has to play catch up.

3. Downshift and clear (Heroic)

This is generally not a first option. I’d only consider this under a few circumstances. First, it’s clear that the players gone aren’t going to be back anytime soon. We’re talking an internet outage or a computer exploding or some other case where it’ll take longer than the rest of raid to resolve. Second, the raid group is nearing the end of the raid week. Maybe the raid is on a day 2 or a day 3 and it’s clear that there won’t be enough time left. Lastly, if there is still valuable loot to be had in the rest of the instance. Certain trinkets, weapons, or 4-piece drops that players are missing will warrant an instance clear.

4. Alternate content

Within instances like Naxx or the first tier of raids in Cataclysm, you had options on where to go and what bosses to do. Throne of Thunder is completely linear. In previous instances, your raid could have switched to a different wing and gotten down a different boss (preferably one on farm) while you waited for the lone player to return.

5. Wait and call an early break

Easiest solution on the planet. Give people a breather. It’s not uncommon for players to switch screens or alt tab and browse other sites (like this one) and catch up on other things going on. If you’re on a progression boss, the wait can allow players to catch up on additional information. Or be like me and sneak off to grab a quick bite from the fridge. It’s free time to spend!

6. Flex it up

Enough said. I’ve written about it a few times here (and here). No need to elaborate here! But it’ll be available in the next patch as something to kill prolonged time with.

Don’t despair like me at the thought of an underwhelmingly numbered raid. There’s always something that can be done until your group is back to full strength. However, if you find yourself consistently at less than capacity, then you’re going to want to start addressing that.

The Art of Chaining Cooldowns

The Art of Chaining Cooldowns

Want to increase your raid’s overall DPS?

How about expanding it’s survivability?

Or keeping enemy packs incapacity and stunned for longer than usual?

This is one of the basic raid tactics you can use. Chaining cooldowns refers to players using similar abilities one after the other. Stacking cooldowns means to use them simultaneously. How exactly should a raid chain their cooldowns together?

Offensive

As a DPS player, you have your own personal DPS increasing cooldowns. In most cases they’re fired off all at once to raise your damage for those brief seconds that the abilities are active. It’s kind of a no brainer isn’t it?

But when you’re dealing with many players, you may not have that luxury. What happens if two players stun the target at the same time with two Hammer of Justices? The target still gets stunned for 6 seconds (too bad the other stun doesn’t carry over and add 6 seconds on top).

(Un)Fortunate enough to have 5 shamans in raid? You can use their Stormlash totem one after the other for 50 seconds worth of extra lightning DPS. Bonus marks if you pull this off during a Heroism.

If you’re working on challenge modes, then you’ll have to chain your cooldowns together to get through various trash packs. In some cases, you may need to combine both offensive and defensive ones based on your group composition. My challenge mode group is stun heavy with a Death Knight, Monk, and a Shaman. Like clock work, the Monk opens with a Leg Sweep while the Shaman drops his Capacitor Totem at the same time (the stun detonates after 5 seconds) before the Death Knight finalizes with Remorseless Winter. If we still needed more time to finish off a pack, I dropped a Power Word: Barrier to help. Like any form of crowd control, targets will be affected by diminishing returns.

Defensive

Structuring healing cooldowns does need a little more thought. Should you use more than one at the same time or layer it one after the other? Bosses tend to have signature mass DPS abilities which affect the whole raid. Your decision on stacking or chaining all comes down to how intense the damage is and how long that boss ability lasts.

Jin’rokh’s Lightning Storm? We started chaining two cooldowns one after the other (example: Smoke Bomb followed by a Power Word:  Barrier).

Iron Qon’s Fist Smash? We stacked two cooldowns at a time as Rising Anger continued to increase.

Addons

If you don’t have it installed yet, get RSA downloaded and set up. It’ll help you and your fellow raiders as it announces when you activate your own raid cooldowns and when they end.

rsa-config

Bring up the configuration and go into the General Announcements tab. The drop down on the top right let’s you adjust which spells and abilities you want to use. The checkboxes let you choose where you want the start and end points broadcasted. In most cases, it’s going to be either a Smart Group or a Whisper. You can choose to override the output channel if you wish.

In Conquest, there’s a dedicated shaman channel where they organize their own Stormlash Totems and that’s where they set their macros and announcements to.

This simple technique is going to help you shave time off your kills and help you beat enrage timers. A little organization and communication ahead of time with your players is going to be needed, but it’s well worth the effort! To really stretch this out though, look through each boss and find out what the best time to chain cooldowns will be. Look for periods in a fight where your raid can stay still and unload their arsenal!

Age Old Question: Farm or Progression?

Age Old Question: Farm or Progression?

The appearance of patch 5.2 on the PTR has placed a clock on our raids. In several weeks, the content we’re currently working on will soon be obselete because of the new Throne of Thunder raid. I find myself amazingly not tired of the current raid content just yet. There’s enough diversity and variety to still hold my interest. Raiding in Pandaria started in October and we’re about 3 months into this expansion.

I had grown weary of Cataclysm’s tier 11 raids after 3 months.

Firelands? Wanted out of it after 3 months.

Dragon Soul wasn’t as bad. That one took me a little longer than 3 months for me to get truly sick of it.

The team destroyed the Sha of Fear and banished it back to where it came from before Christmas. Now it’s time to do it all over again. We managed to get an early kill on heroic Stone Dogs a week before Heart of Fear released. Duplicating the kill again is no easy feat though due to the RNG that just comes with it.

At the moment, I find myself thinking long term and what’s the best strategic move for the raid team going into Throne of Thunder. I actually think the group we have right now is the strongest group we’ve had since our ICC heroic days (and that team scored heroic Sindragosa along with a full set of raid drakes).

Our biggest enemy right now is time.

My personal goals

  • Get every player a Sha-Touched weapon that is normal quality or higher
  • Complete as many tier sets as possible
  • Get as many hard mode kills as possible

Naturally, the first two goals are going to come in conflict with the last goal. Time spent farming for weapons and completing tier sets means time not attempting to get hard mode bosses. Luckily, we’re going to head into heroic Mogushan Vaults and attempt to get as much of that down as possible thereby freeing up Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Springs for possible farming and cleanup.

Suppose we manage to take down heroic Feng. The kill could either result in everyone mostly alive or the raid in an entertaining disarray of chaos with the tank and healer still alive a second after an enrage. Who knows?

When we get back to it next week, is it worthwhile to spend the time and try to kill it again? Or should we just knock it out on normal mode really fast and push into heroic Gara’jal instead? In the grand scheme of things, 9 hours a week of raiding just doesn’t seem like a lot of time for 16 bosses.

Once we learn a boss, it usually takes another week or two before we can consistently get it down fast enough. But continuing to go after them means potentially less time on future bosses.

From the other side, I know what a huge edge heroic gear gives us when going into the next tier of content. After we had gone 6/7 heroic in Firelands, we sliced through half of Dragon Soul in one night. Knocking out Trial of the Grand Crusader resulted in us running out of things to do the rest of the week because we killed Saurfang on day 1.

I also know that once the new Throne of Thunder raid is released, we’re not coming back here.

Our efforts will be 100% devoted to that raid instance and the only way people will come back is whenever the next expansion is out and they can either solo it or join a small raid group for achievements and stuff. I know the feeling of elation when a raid kills a boss at a level that’s relevant. I also know the feeling of emptiness and despair when a raid misses out on that. I’ve harboured so many regrets and lost opportunities on my shoulders over the past expansions at being unable to deliver to the team what I feel they deserve.

I can either invest in the future by farming our future hard mode kills or capitalize on the present moments and get as many first kills on the guild belt as possible.

Somehow, I don’t think either choice is going to be popular. Either way, we’ve got a lot of work to do! Heroic Feng is within reach right now. Just need to get the transitions and timings down pat.

Matticus: Healing at the 0.33 percentile

Matticus: Healing at the 0.33 percentile

Guys, I have an announcement to make. This is a special day.

For the first time, I am not in the 75th+ healing percentile. I actually fell quite low. Ended up being 4th, in fact.

I’m sorry for letting you all down Sad smile (and I got beat by a Druid, ugh)!

Here’s a snapshot from World of Logs in Mists of Pandaria. As was the case during the tail-end of Cataclysm, I’m getting spanked by holy Paladins. I’m not upset though. There’s a few reasons for this and it’s largely on me. This is against Gara’jal, the third and final boss in the first half of LFR.

The thinking for overhealing, mana management, and efficiency goes out the window at this stage.

It’s about survival.

The first pull or two on an encounter is going to result in low mana reserves because you have no idea how much you have to pace yourself. If you were told to run a marathon without any idea of the terrain, the length, or the conditions, I’d say you’d tired out too because you don’t know when to jog and when to sprint. Not only that, with the Mists class changes, it’s like getting new shoes, outfit, and weights attached to your body.

logs-garajal

Link to spell usages

Thoughts

  • My top spell was Circle of Healing right at the top followed by my holy mastery along with Prayer of Mending behind that.
  • You can also see that I used Heal way more often comprising 10% of my healing done. I did run low a few times and there were periods where only light healing was needed.
  • Not only that, I was unfamiliar with the fight. Didn’t know when the big damage phases were. Didn’t realize there’d be players being spiked. Way to do my homework.
  • Kept forgetting to use my 1 minute Shadowfiend. I should just macro that to something.
  • Suffered from mana problems towards the end when we hit the last phase of Frenzy.
  • Used predominantly PvP gear.
  • Lightwell and Lightspring usage is something I have to deploy earlier. Have to start working that cooldown early instead of waiting for health to get low. In the 3 minute span that Lightwell is active, the probably is high that Lightspring ticks will automatically trigger.
  • Cascade is awesome in a 25 man environment.

I know I can do better next time.

13 Punishing Raid Mechanics Which Made You Go “PICK ME PLEASE!”

13 Punishing Raid Mechanics Which Made You Go “PICK ME PLEASE!”

Blizzard’s been crazy inventive with their raid mechanics over the year. Whenever I think they’re running fresh out of ideas, they manage to come up with something new and different. Malygos was one of the first raid bosses where we were not using our own class abilities to bring down a boss — We sat in a vehicle (red dragonflight).

But, encounters aren’t all about the tanking, the DPS, and the healing. There’s these little gimmicks and tricks that need to be executed with perfection or else it’s back to square one. Most guilds have those few players that were liabilities. For whatever reason, they couldn’t get it quick enough.

Learning curves? No, more like a learning line which was parallel to the X axis. The quality of a player’s skill isn’t measured by their HPS, DPS, or SPS (Survival per second). It’s an immeasurable quality of their ability to pick up mechanics quickly enough and master it. Mastery just isn’t a character stat. It’s also a player stat.

Atramedes – Gongs

Ah, the gongs. All you had to do was click a gong which interrupted Atramedes’ casting, reset every player’s sound, and gave Atramedes a case of Vertigo. This was one responsibility that you trusted to a small, select group of people. Too early, and you waste a gong that’s not going to catch an interrupt. Too late, someone in the raid dies and you need to burn a fast combat res or go through the raid short handed. Most raid leaders assumed this duty themselves.

Honorable mention: Players that ran the Sonic Breath right into the raid or into the tank.

Ultraxion – Fading Light and Hour of Twilight

One of the easiest mechanics in the game yet has claimed so many lives. Raid wipes hinged on people both hitting “the button” at the right time and not hitting “the button”. Getting the occasional death? Sure. Getting consistent deaths? What the hell, man. And there was a 5 second grace period which is like an eternity.

Actually, the times I died was either because my macro wasn’t on the bar, or I hit it too early. When you’re used to fighting Ultraxion on hard mode and then downshifting to normal mode, old habits die hard.

Nefarian – Missing an interrupt

Prior to the nerfs, you needed (at minimum) 6 solid, reliable interrupters (or 3 on 10 man). Shaman classes dominated here because Wind Shear was awesome. If even one person blew an interrupt on phase 2, the entire raid wiped after the platform exploded.

I was tempted to switch to my Resto Shaman alt for this one.

Teron Gorefiend – Ghost

Beating Gorefiend was like spinning Roulette. We all prayed that the ball didn’t land on that one player who struggled night after night. They couldn’t reliably kill their ghosts without the instance of the others. I kid you not. One night, there was a conversation that went something like this:

“It’s hard to turn the ghost, target the enemies, and click on the different abilities to kill them!”

Vent turned silent.

Supremus – Running

People that couldn’t run. Goddamnit. How can you not outrun the slowest, largest thing in the instance? Yes, Supremus had a quick dash if you were too far. BUT STILL. You didn’t have to outrun him forever. You had to outrun him long enough so that he switched phases!

Professor Putricide hard mode – Unbound Plague

Putricide on hard mode was one of my favourite fights during Wrath. It was one of the ultimate exercises in teamwork. Players had to coordinate who had the debuff, who didn’t, and who could take the debuff. You had situations where a dirty person mistakenly ran into a clean person too early. Did it too late and you run the risk of dying. Eventually you’d run out of people to use if the Unbound Plague debuff didn’t wear off. Thankfully, the debuff only last for about 60 seconds — But it was 60 seconds of steadily increasing damage.

Archimonde – Air Burst

I observed that people with really bad depth perception struggled like crazy on this fight. Air Burst would knock players up really high and Tyrande gave you feathers to slow your descent. They had a hard time gauging where the ground was and how long it took before they pancaked. I can understand the Fires being a problem because they were often unpredictable. I remember I was kept way out in the back with no way to get within range of my groups because the fire had cut me off. But at least with tears, you have some semblance of control when to hit the button.

Lurker Below – Spout

World’s easiest mechanic which also claimed many lives. Yes jumping into the water meant you’d take some damage, but it was hardly even fatal. I’m quite ashamed to say that I was the worse at this largely because I was healing with 5 FPS. I stood directly behind Lurker (opposite the tank). I compensated for this by facing away from Lurker and looking at the water instead. Backwards healing so that I could smash my forward button and prayed it was enough time to push me into the water. With single digit FPS, you did everything possible to get as much of a lead off as you could.

Shade of Aran – Flame Wreath

Oddly enough, the biggest wiper of this tier was to people moving when they didn’t have to. Flame Wreath incinerated those with itchy fingers. They’d see a huge ring of fire around them and instinctively try to move after being constantly drilled to stand out of the fire.

The Lich King – Defile

The more you stand in it, the bigger it gets. This took us way longer then it should’ve to master. I view Lich King as 1 of my biggest failures for the group I had at the time. If I had been more ruthless, would I have been able to gather players that were capable of getting us through that phase faster? I don’t know.

Thaddius – Plus and Minus

“Is positive side his right or our left?”

Buried my face in my hands.

Magtheridon – Cube clicking

Ol’ Maggy had a channeling ability that would go off and nuke the entire raid. However, there was only one way to stop this — Synchronized cubing. If 5 people clicked the cube at the right time, his channel would be interrupted and he’d get pissed off at the raid and rage out. However, if even one person missed a cube click, the rest of the raid would rage out.

Raid’s sounded something like this:

“HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD HOLD OKAYCLICKRIGHTTHEHELLNOW

*wipe*

“… Okay, who missed it this time?”

“Sorry, boss.”

“Damnit Joey.”

Sindragosa – Ice Tombs

We had this one Mage back in the day. We entered the air phase with the Sindragosa Ice Tombs. Targeted players had to array themselves in a specific pattern so as to not nuke their partners. The rest of the raid ran to the top of the stairs and waited until the Tombs hit, then they had to run back within melee range and DPS the players out of the ice block (Hagara’s intermission phase was inspired by this).

Anyway, this one Mage would run to the top of the stairs with the rest of us despite the fact that he had the mark above his head from Frost BaconAnd he kept forgetting to move down to get the frost bombs away from us. It felt like every third raid he’d forget to do this. After about 6 raids of him consistently doing this, we were too tired to yell at him anymore. We pretty much just stopped saying anything and vent was super quiet when it happened. While we were still recruiting a replacement, I’m positive every person in the raid kept praying “Please target me with the Tomb. Please, please, please target me.”

Geeze, I just about aged a few years from this encounter alone.

Just thinking about all that stuff makes my blood boil.

… Actually, don’t even get me started about Blood Boil.