14 Things that can go Wrong and will go Wrong on Sindragosa

14 Things that can go Wrong and will go Wrong on Sindragosa

sindy-hurts

She is the General Vezax to Yogg-Saron. Never has such an encounter led me to curl up in my chair and cry. The margin of error is so small and so minute (my-noot?). There are so many things that can cause failures. It contains of 6 minutes of sheer endurance before you get to the final phase. Anyone with a compromised computer or a laptop or a bad connection will not even do well. On other encounters, you can get away with a disconnect or a death. Here? Not so much. So here I’ve compiled the ultimate list of things that can go wrong when taking down Sindragosa.

  1. Guild leader’s WoW crashes during ground phase (True story, happened to me last night, and miraculously didn’t get pulled in)
  2. Raider inability to run out when Sindragosa chain pulls everyone (I specced into Body and Soul so I could hit the players who had the most difficulty)
  3. Raider inability to mouse turn when pulled into Sindragosa and go in the wrong direction.
  4. Raider runs out to the wrong side when pulled in and happens to be the target of a Frost Beacon in phase 3 thereby getting caught on the wrong side leading to insane stacks of Mystic Buffet resulting in a wipe.
  5. Inability to use own judgment to spread out on the bottom of the stairs when hit with frost beacons. We don’t need 4 guys on one side. It’s 2 left, 2 right, and 1 middle.
  6. People cheating too close to Frost Beacons before they hit resulting in more Frost Tombs.
  7. Melee building up too many debuffs and having to run out when pulled in and not getting a heal because the healers go one way and they go the other.
  8. Healers dying to Backlash because we’re too busy tunnel visioning the raid (I am guilty of this). Fixed it by setting Power Auras to show Instability in big flashing letters, 100% opacity, and 300% size. Manage to cut down the deaths some. It still happens.
  9. Mystic Buffet not clearing because we mis-time our ability to run behind a block and shake off the buff.
  10. Raiders cheating up the stairs instead of staying on the bottom as specifically instructed to before Frost Beacons are hit and then having to run back down and look for an open spot. God this pisses me off so much. I don’t know why people have to cheat up the stairs. I don’t know why waiting at the bottom of the stairs is so difficult to do.
  11. Thunderstorms knocking out internet connections.
  12. People who don’t have the Frost Beacon stand where people with Frost Beacons are supposed to run to resulting in a double tomb or a death on phase 3.
  13. People who are too slow and don’t get into position in time.
  14. Instability on half the healers leading to temporarily reduced healing on the raid, leading to more deaths due to insufficient heals. Like the Backlash problem I had earlier? It’s me getting people up to the survivability levels without realizing I have that stuff.

All I can say is, thank goodness we managed to take her down last week. It’s just unfortunate to have players who have computers or connections that just can’t seem to handle the stress of the encounter. The expansion is also winding down now even though we have Ruby Sanctum coming up and it’s getting a little harder to find raiders.

If we get her down again, I’m tempted to simply extend the lockout so we can focus exclusively on the Lich king.

Raid Leading 101: Placement and Direction

Raid Leading 101: Placement and Direction

raid-directions

I’d like to share two stories today.

I remember years ago when my guild (at the time) set foot into Serpentshrine Cavern. We nuked the trash and faced Hydross for the first time. Our raid leader gave us directions on which elementals to DPS down first and which side of the room we had to drag her to. Since we had 4 tanks, each one was assigned a different elemental. One was assigned to the left, the other was on the right, and so forth. Things seemed to look good until the fateful question was asked:

“Wait, is that our left or is that Hydross’ left?”

And so the next fifteen minutes were spent debating which left was appropriate.

The next one is a little more recent and it comes at the heels of our Sindragosa attempts. We’ve sort of managed to stabilize our ground and air phase placements. Where we’ve struggled was during phase 3. Here’s a glimpse at our attempts:

Raid lead: “Okay guys, on phase 3, I want the frost beaconed player to stand on his tail.”

*Phase 3 hits, beaconed player runs very far toward the end of the tail, wipe ensues due to distance*

Raider: “You told us to stand on the tail.”

Raid lead: “Okay guys, well when I meant tail, I meant that you should stand where the tail and the butt meet, not the end length of the tail.”

*Phase 3 hits, beaconed player runs just below the butt, raid follows, gets Tail Smashed*

Raider: “I’m pretty sure that we stood in the right spot.”

Raid leader: “Well when I meant where her tail and butt meet, I didn’t mean directly behind it. You should stand just beside it so that the conical attack doesn’t hit you. Try a little to the left of it.

(At this point, he asks in officer chat if he wasn’t being precise or clear enough.

I looked skyward before burying my face in my hands.)

As you can see, good communication is a necessity. I’ve been in many pickup groups where raid leaders say one thing only to mean the other. They were not clear at all. In today’s post, I’d like to introduce a few terms and concepts that have allowed me to place players with pin point (almost smart bomb-like) accuracy.

Various terms

Set the orientation

The first thing I like to do is set the orientation of the encounter. In order to determine this, you need to figure out in your strat whether or not the boss is going to be mobile (constantly moving around like Professor Putricide) or static (like Festergut or Deathbringer Saurfang). Everyone needs to be on the same page and be reading from the same playbook.

Examples:

  • Using cardinal directions, you’ll be standing…
  • Facing this boss, I want you over to the…
  • Boss will always be moving, so you need to stay within melee range on…

For bosses where they are tanked all over the place, sometimes it’s best to rely on relative terms (left of, right of, behind, close to, etc). On bosses where they get tanked primarily in one location, compass directions can work well (North, south, east, west).

Identify landmarks

Look around the area and see if there is anything you can use. Perhaps there is a pattern on the floor that will make an excellent bullseye for players to stand on. Or maybe there is an object that can be used.

Examples:

  • The entrance
  • The orange wall (Professor Putricide)
  • Base of the stairs
  • Right pillar

Be as descriptive as necessary. Try to look for features that are unique. There is only one table in Professor Putricide’s room. One of the faucets are colored green (Exception: You may need to be more specific when working with colorblind raiders).

On the go

Most fights tend to involve a lot of movement. Players need to be instructed on the fly where to run to or where to run away from. Using land marks helps as well, but focus more on the words you’re using. Note the italics.

Examples:

  • Run along the orange wall
  • Run away from the boss
  • Move toward the yellow star’d player
  • Tank the boss as close to the edge as possible

Really obvious directions are being given to players. It’s easy enough to hear these instructions and catch on to what the raid leader wants you to do.

Dress rehearsals

At the very top chamber where Blood Queen Lana’thel is, you’ll notice that there is a grate. When you kill her, you can simply drop down to the floor below. Until then, it can serve as an excellent way to place raiders before actually engaging the boss. I put a star icon on my head, run to a specific spot on the circular pattern on the ground, whisper a player and tell them to run to me. This is where they stand on the fight using the circular pattern on the ground that’s directly in front of the Blood Queen.

putricide-placement

(Example instructions for avoiding oozes: Start at the orange wall when the green ooze comes out! Don’t stand in the middle pattern. When it’s dead, cut across and stand under the green faucet. Avoid standing in the middle pattern. When the orange ooze comes out, wait for it to cross the middle. Start going to the green wall, then head towards Putricide’s table at the back before running toward and along the orange wall.)

Simple communication cuts down on wasted time and attempts. Be as clear as possible. Try to think of ways where raiders might misunderstand what you’re saying and plan around that.

Be not afraid, as the forest nymphs will guide you on how to please your raiders.

Thespius and Matticus featured on “Power Word: Fail”

Thespius and Matticus featured on “Power Word: Fail”

Image is courtesy of Brian Hough.

Kind of a fun title, no?  I’m ready to let the “fail” jokes ensue!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

In all seriousness, the folks over at Raid Warning (xSeven and Epiphanize) have assembled this special podcast (scheduled to be released March 1st) – a roundtable of some of the community’s most prominent priests.

Raid Warning’s last roundtable, Wild Shots, was a huge hit.  It was a roundtable of some very well-known hunters in the community.  You can follow links on their site to listen.

As for Power Word: Fail, I cannot be more excited for this event.  I’ve been recording with these guys for a while, and it’s always a blast.  If Wild Shots is any indication of the level of discussion we’ll have, then you’re sure to get some detailed insight into “The State of the Priest”.

Here’s who you’ll have the pleasure of hearing:

This podcast is going to center around questions you provide by emailing Raid Warning here.  We take your questions and discuss them throughout the podcast, as well as current news and speculation. 

I hope you’ll all submit questions, and check it out on March 1st!

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

Casual 101: Knowing Is Half The Battle

Casual 101: Knowing Is Half The Battle

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the “Hardcore Casual” mentality.  In my 3 years of playing World of Warcraft, I’ve cut my teeth against some of the best in the game (well, my server or battlegroup).  I’ve seen some of the strongest players, and I’ve seen some of the weakest players.  The first thing I’ve noticed is a fundemental difference between the two extremes.  The strongest possess it.  The weakest lack it.  By “IT”, I’m talking about knowledge.  Yes, there are casuals that are some of the strongest players I know.  What separates them from a smattering of hardcores is their level of knowledge.

The Usual Scenario

A small guild consists of a tight-knit circle of friends.  All of them have made the necessary adjustments or rolled toons to fill all the roles that a 10man raid needs.  2-3 tanks, 2-3 Healers, and a slew of DPS, both ranged and melee.  When this guild gets together, there’s rarely a duplicate class, let alone spec.  Each player wants to benefit the raid as much as possible.  However, scheduling is always the issue.

Everyone’s got their own lives.  Everyone’s constantly juggling families, kids, jobs, school, friends, and of course, this game.  Each person constantly tries to get a raid together when they see that 8th or 9th person on.  Phone calls fly, text messages flow, and everyone is scouring their friends list to fill the final spots.  On the lucky nights, they can get together ten of their own.  A certain sense of pride swells.  “We got a guild run going,” they all contently utter.

The time is ticking.  One of the healers works the overnight shift on the weekends.  He/she has to be out the door in just over two hours.  The raid gets together surprisingly fast.  Even though ICC is the hot topic, they decide to do ToC since one of the paladins is saved to ICC.  It doesn’t matter, because they derive more joy from the simple act that those ten raiders share the same guild tag.

Buffs ensue, and right before the pull, the off-tank druid confesses his ignorance.  He doesn’t know the fight.  During Acidscale and Dreadmaw, the rogue gets the Burning Bile and runs away, but doesn’t come back to free the tanks with Paralytic Toxin.  This counts for two wipes.  On Lord Jaraxxus, the hunter gets inflicted with Incinerate Flesh and runs to kite it, as though it was Legion Flame.  He runs out of range of the healers, it ticks to zero, and wipes the raid.

We took the time to explain the fights.  The differences in the Wyrms and Jaraxxus’s two flames.  It seemed as though it was in one ear and out the other.  Although they’re all friends, tension is rising, and time is running out.  The healer with the upcoming overnight shift starts to get impatient.  Before they all realize what has happened, he has to leave.  They’ve barely downed Jaraxxus, and he/she is out the door to go to work. 

A reasonably short raid has turned into a long, frustrating endeavour. 

Things to learn as a casual player:

Take a little time to research – Even with my busy schedule, I have the time to watch a video, read a strat, or email a friend that knows.  I download a text-only strategy, copy it into an email, then read it on my phone on the train to work.  Before taking my lunch break, I take 10 minutes to watch a Tankspot video.  I’ve even, yes, downloaded a video to my iPod and watch it while I’m on the can.  (That’s right, I went there).

Listen to what’s being explained – Too often do I see people goofing off in guild chat, making random comments in /say, or participating in /general banter.  I never mind if it’s someone that I’ve done the fight with before, but if a casual player is consistently not listening because they’re engaged in other activities, I have no problem calling them out on it.

My main issue with all of this is the “talk, no walk” scenario.  All of these people will constantly ask, “Hey Thes, do you think we’re raiding tonight?” My constant response is: “I certainly hope so.  Start reading up on the fights.”  They never do.  Oh, they want to raid.  They salivate when the letters ‘I-C-C’ are called out.  Yet, when it comes down to doing a little bit of legwork, they falter.  I dont’ mind explaining the fights, but if after the explanation I hear “I’m sorry, so what am I supposed to do?” from our warlock, I wanna /logout.

Sidenote: Since drafting this blog, we’ve downed new bosses in ICC for us, so I *am* proud of my friends.  I just get agitated sometimes the lack of initiative. 

ANYWAYS….

If you want to make yourself valuable as as casual raider, just take an extra step or two to be prepared.  If not, you’re wasting your own time.  The less a raid has to “nuture” you, the more appealing you’ll be to bring along.  Personally, I love that our guild, though small, is comprised mostly of people that can fill in for any guild’s raid that may need us.  Kind of like hired mercenaries.  Need a healer?  See if Thespean or Discotheque are on.  Need a tank?  See if Dralo or Naryamas are around.  How about a good DPS?  Ask Arcas or Wolfin.  That means, however, that we do our little bit of homework to make that possible.  You don’t have to be hardcore, but if you know your stuff, you are just as skilled (if not more), than someone who devotes most of their time to raiding.

Are you a player that can’t be on as much as they’d like?  How do you make yourself appealing to be pulled into a raid?

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius

What To Do When You Meet Lady D.

What To Do When You Meet Lady D.

So you’ve just met a charismatic, high-powered woman. You know the type. Legions of admirers. A woman capable of raising her followers up and empowering them on to great strengths. The sort of woman who reduces her enemies to insignificance with one touch. And then leaves them for dead on the floor. Oh, yes. You’ve just met Lady Deathwhisper. Want to take her down a peg or two? Here’s what you need to know.

This isn’t just hints and tips to help you get by. If you’ve met Deathwhisper and, more pointedly, the cobblestones in her lair, you’re the embittered adversary. You need a full guide on how to handle it. You need to know everything from basics to tricks for every role of your team. This guide is your friend. It’s going to walk you through the basic tactic for either 10 or 25 mans, and as a bonus I’ll throw in the alternative tactic for 25 mans and a note on the quest you may find yourself on to save Darnavan. It doesn’t matter if you’re there with a PUG group rather than a guild run. In fact, all the better if you are, because this guide assumes it’s not a given that your team know what to do. Just that they – and you – have a grudge against her Ladyship.

So an encounter with Deathwhisper follows a basic two-phase pattern. In the first phase the Lady will, like any leader-with-minions, stay at the back hiding behind a barrier while calling forth waves of minions to attack your group and doing some damage to random players with frostbolts and death and decay. You need to burn down her barrier – which is actually a mana shield – before phase 2 will kick in. Phase 2 is mostly a tank and spank affair, in which you just need to burn her down while she throws frostbolts, death and decay and angry ghosts at your party.

Tanks:

Left side will be 2 melee (fanatic) and 1 ranged (adherent) mobs. Any tanking class should be able to deal with this.

Right side will be 2 ranged (adherent) and 1 melee (fanatic) mobs. Ideally you want a DK or warrior on this side as they have more tricks for annoying ranged types.

  • Be aware that the fanatics cleave: don’t move them around any more than you have to unless you want withering glances from your enhancement shaman.
  • On 10 man the left and right side mobs appear alternately. On 25 man they appear at the same time, as well as an extra wave at the back, which consists of one random mob. You want to put your best kiting tank on the back wave: they tank that mob and take responsibility for kiting any deformed fanatics that spawn in the room.
  • When Deathwhisper’s mana shield goes down your tanks need to tank the Lady herself. She stacks a debuff called Touch of Insignificance on the current tank. It reduces their threat generation by 20% and stacks to five; have your tanks taunt to swap on three stacks.

Healers:

This largely depends on what classes your healing team consists of, and that may or may not change the more times you bounce. The basics apply – if you have a holy paladin he should be able to take care of two tanks, using beacon. Otherwise, put your disc priest, or if they’re confident to do so, resto shaman on tanks.

Healers should just be ready for a lot of damage. More than the fight merits, probably. People will stand in death and decay, probably for a jot longer than they should. Melee might get cleaved in their own rush to get stabbing things. Got a reanimated adherent loose? Oh yep, he’s going to merrily throw deathchill bolts around until someone notices him. Not to mention frostbolt volleys and some rather unhappy ghosts thrown into the mix.

  • Any healer who can cleanse curses – should. Everyone should drop what they’re doing and cleanse Curse of Torpor as soon as anyone in the raid is afflicted by it.
  • Priests can help out by mass dispelling Adherents when they put up the spell reflect shield called Shield of the Occult.
  • Watch your range – this room is just big enough to get out of range of your healing targets or them to outrange you. Be on your toes.

DPS:

Basic kill order:

Deformed Fanatic > Empowered Adherent > normal Fanatic/Adherent > Reanimated Fanatic Adherent > Deathwhisper

  • Some people place reanimated as a higher priority than normals – I don’t, because the less normal adds you have running around the less reanimated adds you might get.
  • Deformed/reanimated fanatics are mostly immune to physical damage: ranged DPS need to kill them. Empowered/reanimated Adherents are mostly immune to magical damage, so they’re meleers’ priority.
  • Normal adherents can be interrupted when casting Deathchill Bolt. They can also be deathgripped. Just be careful not to interrupt or deathgrip them while they have Shroud of the Occult up because it’ll bounce and you’ll be interrupted or, as our unlucky DK found, deathgripped to them. Adherents’ Curse of Torpor should be removed from the party by anyone who can (mages, boomkins, we’re looking at you).
  • Melee should watch out for Reanimated Adherents – we find it can be easy to miss them by assuming that adherents that drop dead are dead, rather than the actual case of the Lady about to reanimate them
  • Normal fanatics cleave. Melee: be sure to stand behind them, eh? Fanatics also have an ability called Vampiric Might, which can be spell stolen by mages.
  • Deathwhisper also mind controls party members on 25 man, one on normal, more on Heroic. DPSers should be ready to CC and snare/slow them before they cause havoc.
  • We also generally find it useful to have some pre-arranged DPS focus solely on the boss in order to get her mana shield down and phase 2 started. In 10 man we have one DPS do this (our enhancement shammy due to her mixture of magical and physical damage making neither add type overly suited to her). In 25 man, at least three should stay on the boss.
  • We’ve found that if you’re a DPS class with a pet it’s generally worth leaving the pet to DPS Deathwhisper unless your pet has an ability that makes him move quicksmart. Otherwise the travel time dragging him around the room will significantly reduce his overall DPS. And give him aching legs.
  • As a last tip and trick, our DK has also found that anti-magic shield is your friend in phase 2. It helps the healers and takes a bit of pressure off all round – and you get free runic power. Win.

The above are exact tactics for 10 man version and extra explanations for 25 mans where necessary. There is an alternative 25 man tactic:

The entire group stands behind Deathwhisper. You can get into position before the fight starts. Melee adds will come towards healers and should be taken down on the way to them in a snare-and-AoE heavy zone created by the ranged DPS. The tanks draw ranged adds in by line of sighting them using the pillars. This tactic has the benefit of reducing run distances for melee and switching times for everyone: the entire group will get more time nuking through Deathwhisper’s mana shield. It’s not so great when everyone’s bunched together and a death and decay patch hits, though.

Oh, and if you find yourself charged with rescuing Darnavan from Deathwhisper’s charms in return for a Sack of Frosty Treasures, the following are all viable tactics when he spawns (usually in the first wave of adds):

  • Have a plate meleer (preferably with some tank kit) tank him off to the side. Be careful not to do too much damage to him as he doesn’t have that much health.
  • Have a hunter pet do the same. It may be difficult for the pet to get it away from the tank. Our hunter solved this with a distracting shot and a bit of kiting to a safe spot where his pet could taunt and tank
  • Have a druid root him, continually. Other CCs don’t work

So, that should be all. Follow these tactics and you should suitably reduce Deathwhisper – that is, to nothing more than a pile of gaudy wrappings under your boots. Ah, justice. Oh, and the elevator will likely land on your head. Don’t be alarmed, elevators aren’t nearly as painful as Deathwhisper laying you low.

How about you? Do you think I’ve forgotten anything glaringly obvious, or have any small tips and tricks to share? This fight is still one of those that can turn from peachy fine to disaster in seconds – do you regularly have problems with this fight?  Do you think there are any particular group setups which work better for this fight – or make it all the more challenging?

Are Easier Heroics Better in the Long Run?

Are Easier Heroics Better in the Long Run?

Image Courtesy of Geico Insurance

The patch 3.3.2 includes a few amendments to Heroic Dungeons and how they’re played.  Entire packs of mobs are being deleted.  Bosses abilities are being shortened or being made less frequent.  Fight mechanics are being made easier.  In essence, Blizzard is giving us more opportunities to blow through these dungeons with little to no effort.

I’m an educator at heart.  Seeing as though my life “endgame” is to be at the front of a classroom, it’s important to me that people learn the skills necessary to go through life.  How to write a proper business letter, how to analyze a novel or article, or how to put your thoughts in order and present them in a proper argument.

How does this translate into WoW?  Teaching players how to follow a kill order, how to manage small and large cooldowns, or how to CC a mob.  Remember some of the cardinal rules of this game that we’ve all learned?

  • If the ground changes, get out of it. Pretty standard stuff, except for rare circumstances
  • If the boss starts spinning with his huge weapon, move away from it.
  • If a really annoying mob is causing havoc, CC it. If possible, avoid DoT’ing it.

We learn these the hard way.  And, we have to utilize and execute what we’ve learned in the current content.  Ground changes?  Sounds like Rotface’s ooze pools on the ground.  Spinning mobs?  Marrowgar.  The need to CC a mob?  The mind controls in Lady Deathwhisper.

“You are not prepared!”

With the level of difficulty amongst the endgame content, more and more groups are getting frustrated with the lack of skill within the community of 80s.  I equate this to meeting people in the real world that don’t demonstrate even a sliver of mastery of their native language (slang and colloquialisms are fun choices but shouldn’t be your foundation).  How do you get through school without being able to speak or write properly?  How do you get to start raiding without having a knowledge of the fundementals?

Take Ahn’kahet (AKA “Old Kingdom”) for example.  Jedoga Shadowseeker is the boss that floats in the air, summoning an add to sacrifice.  If she succeeds, she hits a temporary enrage.  I remember wiping to that when people first started doing heroics.  The tank had to manage a cooldown; the healer was spamming big heals. This fight demonstrated the need for DPS to turn up the heat to down the add.  Even I as a healer would Smite/Lightning Bolt the add.

Now, it seems that Madame Shadowseeker only does this once.  Does this just mean everyone blows all their cooldowns (Shield Wall, Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration, etc) to endure her short enrage and then they’re done?  The key to earning respect as a player with me is demonstrate a finesse of your skills, not be all RAWR OMG WTFBBQ DPSPWNAGE!!  You can be great player and still utilize all of your classes abilities efficiently.

“Time is of the essence!”

As these Heroics are being made easier and easier, that means people will be blowing through them faster and faster.  Making the value of the gear that people are getting lower and lower.  Follow this math:

Average of 4 badges (+ 2 from random) = 6 badges per run.

Clearing an instance in 15 minutes means 24 emblems an hour.

A whole set of T9 costs 210 emblems.

210 emblems / 24 emblems per hour = 8.75 hours.

Even if you play 3 hours/day, you could have full tier 9 in 3 days.

Given that, do I think it’s possible to really have a grasp of how to exist in a raid setting, possibly having an aspect of the fight rest on your shoulders?  I won’t say a flat-out “no”, but I’m hesitant.  I learned how to play my class through dungeons and heroics.  A fight like Rotface or Blood Princes is going to confuse players that haven’t had the ability to build an understanding of their class.

Consider it a slightly less horrifying version of a person who just bought their character on eBay that day.  Regardless if you’re a completely new player, or just levelling an alt, I fear that we’re starting to lose the building blocks to being a good raider to the ease of too much convenience.  (Sidenote: Notice I said “too much”.  I’m all for crafting the game so everyone has a shot, but there is a point when it goes too far.  I don’t want to go back to the days of needing to run alts through Karazhan to begin the gearing process for Black Temple.)

It’s like the economy (I know, a touchy subject).  If you start pumping more gear into the game faster, it devalues what’s already out there.  I guess the good thing is that people will be less freaked out by GearScore.  If everyone has a high gear score, more emphasis will need to be placed on player skill.  What good is a high GearScore if everyone has it?

“Lazy Sunday!”

“…WAKE UP IN THE LATE AFTERNOON!”  Sorry, a little sidetracked.  I love that skit.

Anyways, with Blizzard making things easier and easier, I fear they’re going too far.  ICC trash is already becoming AOE-able.  People are complaining about there being too much trash (yet, people complained about Trial of the Crusader not having ANY trash and being too boring).  Oculus is getting even bigger rewards.

I don’t want this game to become “just go in and blow stuff up”.  I like the challenge.  I like the dedication.  I like the workout.  I like the strategy.  Do I know how to create a balance with this?  Of course not.  If I did, I would be working for Blizzard.  I just don’t want the laziest crowd in the game to win over the hearts and minds of the game designers.

Now, I enjoy the mechanic of earlier ICC wings getting easier over time, allowing less progressed guilds to see the endgame content, but the latest epidemic of clueless raiders is troublesome to me.  How do you make the game more appealing to everyone, while still teaching those fundemental rules that we’ve all learned over the years?

What do you think?  Do you feel heroics are being made too easy?  How do you promote an understanding of class and basic fight mechanics amongst your raiders?

Why Slacking Helps You Raid

Why Slacking Helps You Raid

I confess. My raiders and I have been bashing our heads against a brick wall for a couple of weeks. Our heads have been filled by the red mist ‘o wrath. We’d got the first wing of Icecrown Citadel on farm but our next focus, Rotface, ‘brokseded’ us time and again.

The brick wall suddenly came down on Sunday night. We had an experimental snipe at the Princes and then marched into the Plagueworks to slaughter Festergut and have a positive pop at Rotface. So what happened to stop us seeing red?

Change.

What change has that effect, I hear you cry? Did we change players? Did we somehow plunder a trove of 277 gear? Did we hardwire exact playing requirements into our members while they slept? Not at all. We merely tweaked one of our raiding practices: breaks.

I’ve always said they’re important in raids – it gives your raiders a chance to breathe. Sunday night taught us that organised breaks are even better.

Really regular breaks. We announced to our band of brigands at the start of the evening that we’d be calling a three minute break every 30 minutes, and that we’d like them to be sure to wait until then for quick AFKs for drinks and the like.

Wow, every 30 minutes? Those are a lot of breaks, I hear you cry. It’s a wonder we got anything done, right? Wrong.

Give yourselves regular chances to slack – that is, relax – and you’ll come back after the break more focused than had you pushed on and sat for an hour, two hours, wiping. Your head won’t be full of red mists so there’ll be room for useful things like remembering to move out of slime spray.

Movin’ n’ shaking. Several of my guild play in the same room on raid nights. Usually during a break we stare at the computer screens and brainstorm tactics in increasingly stressed tones.

Instead we decided to test out a terrifying concept during breaks: moving away from the computers and out of the room. We strongly recommended to our raiders that they do the same. We found that the simple change in space and environment again helped us to feel fresh and focused when the break was over. Even just moving about and stretching helped relax some tension. If you have time and inclination to fit in a few actual exercises, you’ll feel all the more responsive in the raid.

Time, gentlemen. After each break we announced the time of the next one. Sounds simple, but I think this was the key to the whole break renovation. Raiders need their creature comforts, right? And if they don’t know when a break’s coming then they’ll slide off after wipe 20 and get the drink they desperately need or the smoke to relieve stress. Meanwhile the rest of the group grumbles while waiting for them to return from their unannounced break.

By announcing break times, we’re allowing raiders to plan ahead. It means they don’t need to feel guilty about making the group wait on them. importantly it also gives them some control back over their own comfort. Our lock wants coffee? He knows the next break is in 10 minutes and can hang on until then.

Content breaks. I don’t mean a break in gameplay. I mean mix your encounters up to get the balance right between learning the fights and actually still having fun. You’re sick to the back teeth of bouncing on Festergut? Right, about time you take your raid to meet the Princes. Perhaps later on go to pay Rotface a visit.

You’re not being inefficient by not forcing yourselves to sit there and practice a fight: quite the opposite. Cut yourselves some slack if you’re working hard and not getting anywhere; you might find you slaughter the next encounter you head to and earn yourselves a morale boost. That’s efficiency.

 

These are small changes but could be useful to any raid group out there. You’re a 3 year-old guild running your A team? Or perhaps you’re running a PUG (breaks are not a PUG killer any more than giving your raid a little bit of trust, but such PUG raid myths is a topic for a future post). In my opinion these changes are crucial for any sort of raid group. Why? Let me explain what I think a well-run raid group is:

  • It’s a social activity. If someone in our group is not having fun for some reason we get uncomfortable and more stressed. Then Rotface smashes us more easily, morale plummets, stress goes up. Vicious circle. Having a break allows us to peel ourselves away from the stressful game environment and remember that it’s a social occasion, too.
  • It’s a team sport. Sure, we don’t leave the comfort of our computer desks and run up and down a pitch for several hours. We do work together using tactics, formations and roles to achieve a common aim. Sports benefit from breaks; think of the oft touted stories of football players eating oranges at halftime, or a weight-lifter taking breaks between sets so they can achieve their best for longer.
  • It’s a company. Wait, that sounds a little mercenary – try ‘organisation’. Either work. Like most companies, we expect our members to perform a certain job and they’re paid for successful tasks with emblems – and occasional epic perks. We invest time and effort to skill-up our members so that they can achieve goals, and improve all the time. We provide a safe (and because it’s a game, fun) environment for them to perform their tasks. All of these are good practices for a company, at least according to a particular book (see below) on company organisation. And like any good company in accordance with this book, we’re flexible enough to cut them a little slack to give them room to be their best.

A person will work better, be more focused, if they feel they are trusted and have some space to relax. Running around like a headless chicken or battering your head against one encounter is not healthy. The benefits extend to groups of people, too.

“The difference between the time it takes you to [achieve your next progression] at ‘all prudent speed’ and time it would take you ‘at breakneck speed’ is your slack. Slack is what helps you arrive quickly but with an unbroken neck.”

- Slack, T. Demarco, page 208 (and a book I thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting to change their raiding style)

What do you think? Does this sound like a useful nugget for your raid setup? Have you been wanting to try something like this for a while and been worried that you’d not cover as much ground? Do you think I’m completely wrong and sticking on one encounter until you’ve got it is best? Or, possibly, do you think the wisdom of this vs. encounter battering is dependent on how many nights your group raids?

 

This is a post by Mimetir, a boomkin and restorman of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU). You can find my twitter feed here.

ICC Plagueworks: How Not To Die A Poisonous Death

ICC Plagueworks: How Not To Die A Poisonous Death

So you’re standing in the heart of the citadel. You’ve just walked through fire to get here – quite literally. Before that you ran the gauntlet of the lower spire and left the Lich King’s doormen smattered over the walls. That place feels like home to you now.

But now you’re on the upper levels you’re choking on the Citadel’s hostility, which is no surprise given the fat ochre clouds seeping out of the Plagueworks nearby. You must conquer it – but how?

I’ve been there too, alongside nine others. Here are my tips for your group regarding the trash guarding the entrance, a strategy for Precious, and some healing advice for the Rotface encounter.

 

Getting your foot in the door – trash tips:

1. Bitesize the trash pull as it’s more dangerous the more you pull here. It’s very easy to get mobbed by everything lurking in the entrance to the Plagueworks. It’s also very easy not to do so.

From our experiments we believe that everything will pull if you set foot on the platform in front of the door to the Plagueworks, upon which the Blighted Abominations are standing. Have your group gather a bit back – at the blue brazier on the left-side platform perhaps – and have your tanks pull the abominations back to the group.

2. Healers! Be on the ball. When you engage the large trash group just inside the door in combat, be aware that it will be a hectic fight. Plague Scientists will be turning random group members into slimes, and those players will take the opportunity to bounce around playfully. Because it’s fun. Meanwhile (shackle-able) geists will be jumping on people and eating them alive. Not to mention the fact that the rest of the mobs will be inflicting various nature-based attacks on chunks of your group.

3. Be on your toes. That applies to everyone. The abominations will emit plague clouds. Yuck. Move whatever’s standing in it out, be that you as a healer or the mob needing a tank to kite him out.

Also, the Pustulating Horrors will start the 5 second cast of Blight Bomb when they’re nearly dead: a kamikaze move. Everyone should watch out and move away before it’s cast; it does a lot of AoE damage and DPS or healers may explode alongside the Pustulating Horror.

Precious tactic: Making the Dog Play Dead. Er.

When my group first met Precious we wiped. We’d stand and nuke him; sometimes we AoE’ed the zombies, sometimes we didn’t because our 10 man didn’t have many AoE options. Either way we died horrible deaths. So, we did a bit of research and brainstorming. This is the tactic we have adopted since.

1. Have your healers and ranged DPS stand halfway down the circular staircase. Pull Precious to the stairs. Kite him round past them (decide clockwise or anti clockwise beforehand). Have healers and ranged run ahead of you so they don’t become zombie chow later.

2. When Precious summons zombies, speed up the kiting a bit to get ahead of them. If you have any shamans or hunters – or both – then earthbind and frost trap really help to put some distance between you and the braaaaaain munchers. I’m sure other slowing effects work. Be creative. Don’t speed up so much that you lap the zombies.

3. Rinse repeat with kiting and earthbind/traps until the dog is dead. Turn round and deal with the zombies. AoEs you can run in, drop, then out – like consecrate – work well. Pre-positionable AoEs like shamans putting up earthbinds and fire totem/fire nova repeatedly while still running away also work. While we were perfecting this my guild had an attempt whereby the group’s several shamans finished off the zombies while everyone else ran in – er, I mean, recovered from temporary inability to help.

 

Rotface tricks for healers:

1. Surround him. Rather than clumping together in one huge mass, have your group stand in smaller clumps round Rotface’s…. well, I guess they’re feet. At least one healer to each clump. This has two benefits for healers. Firstly it reduces the number of people who may get hit by slime spray. Secondly it means that at least one healer should always be in range of the tank who is kiting the big ooze, wherever they are in the room, in case of problems.

2. GO team Heal! If another healer gets mutated infection and so has to run, heal him until it’s gone and he’s safe. This may sound silly but sometimes when the elephant hits the jet fan, healers assume that other healers can look after themselves. Yep, usually. But you should always remember you’re a team and work like one. Particularly here, where the infection ticks for a fair chunk and a lot of healers can’t heal and keep running at the same time.

3. Assume the worst. We all make mistakes: we’re human. But this is an encounter in which one person making a mistake can make things three times more hectic and it’s us healers who have to try to get the group through it. The retri paladin thinks he’s delivered his ooze to the big ooze but has actually dragged it into the melee and is standing there? Someone’s got two infections in a row and not realised?

Watch as much as you can. Watch for people making mistakes so you can go into overdrive. Watch your and other healers’ mana and pop things like mana tide or hymn of hope either early or at (an early) crunch time. Importantly, watch *your* positioning. You might think that concentrating on your own situational awareness might make it a bit harder to focus on healing when there’s a lot of damage. Instead, consider how doing so will make your job easier rather than if you get caught up in healing and, say, forget to move during an Unstable Ooze Explosion.

 

The Plagueworks is not a friendly place and only the bold set foot on its flagstones. Although, looking at Rotface I think Professor Putricide has other ideas about what feet should do. I hope your bravery is rewarded by victory, and that something here has helped if you were bouncing off those flagstones!

What about you? Have you got any tips, either general or class/healer specific, to add for any of these three encounters? Are you having trouble on any of them, or have been and are slowly getting better at dealing with them? Do you actively like or dislike these fights, given that they go in a different direction to the fights in the first wing?

Healer 101: How To Storm Citadels More Smoothly

Healer 101: How To Storm Citadels More Smoothly

ICCHealing1

Say you’re storming the Citadel on a fairly regular basis, massacring the Lich King’s advance nasties from Lord Marrowgar right up – literally – to Deathbringer Saurfang. You might be progressing through it at your own pace, or you might have it on farm and are running through weekly as a warm-up to pick up gear. Well, either way. Here are some general and some shaman-specific tips from my own experience on how to healing can help your group steamroller the nasties.

Lord Marrowgar:

1. Bone Spike Graveyard: Pain. In. The. There are two things you can do to mitigate its effect on your healing. Firstly, make sure you remind your healing  Marrowgar diagram 3teammates to watch out for bonespike on each other. For example, if your tank healer is spiked then you need to pick up the slack for him and heal the tanks. Just til he gets back on his feet. Secondly, standing behind Marrowgar as shown in the diagram will help your DPS get you un-spiked as quickly and safely as  possible.

2. Coldflame is not cool. Really. Move out of the fire before it gets to you. Yep, I know it’s a pain and it seems to as soon as a healer has moved there’s more coldflame racing towards you. Standing at range will give you time to see it and move.

3. One shaman to another: people stand in fire. Us healers know it like we know the sky is (sometimes) blue. Bone Storm and Bone Spike Graveyard do damage. There’s a lot of it going round. So consider dropping mana tide early to have it ready again later if needed and using bloodlust after the first Bone Storm so that DPS get time to use it when Marrowgar’s not doing the tango.

 

Lady Deathwhisper:

1. Spread out. At least a bit. Deathwhisper’s room is just big enough that if you stand too far to either side you won’t be able to reach the people on the other side. Spread your healer team out so that tank healer A is covering the tank on the left, tank healer B on the right and raid healer in the middle. If you’re running two healers then they’ll need to be a bit closer to the middle for raid coverage. There’s also less chance you’ll all get caught in death and decay if you spread out.

2. Healer, cleanse… everything. This fight has some status changes which give Deathwhisper and her crew an edge. If Curse of Torpor is running amok on your raid then cleanse it, first on you then on other targets. If a Cult Fanatic casts Vampiric Might (magic effect) on itself then cleanse it in order to down it quicker. Or tell your mages to spellsteal it: they’ll love you.

3. Shamanic wisdoms: think about your totem placement; you might want to manually place them rather than drop all four in one place. Personally I drop stoneskin and healing stream well to the left with the tank I watch over. I then separately drop Flametongue and Wrath of Air nearer the middle/mid-back, depending on whether it’s 10 or 25 man. I re-place totems at Deathwhisper when phase 2 hits.

 

Gunship battle:

1. Welcome returning soldiers back. With a lot of healing. When the boarding party returns Muradin might well still be trying to kill at least one of them, probably with rending throw. In my opinion it’s best to play it safe: overheal them all as they come back over rather than waiting for them to take an unexpected damage spike they might not survive. If at all possible have one member of the boarding party announce when they’re returning.

2. You’re a field medic, not a pirate. I think healers should stay on their ship rather than boarding. Healing on the Edge ™ of the ship works just fine. Yes, you have to move out of the cannon fire patches but at least there is ample time to do that. Things can and do go wrong for the boarding party and the chance of that goes up exponentially according to how many people jet over. You don’t need to.

3. Shaman talk: Consider earthshielding a different target, particularly a DPS on the boarding party. My 10 man run usually has an enhancement shammy swinging over to swash some buckles, and full of health they’re not. If Muradin/Saurfang decides he doesn’t like her she’s the most likely to go splat quickly and she is aware of it. I put earthshield on her for this fight: not only might it help in a pinch but it also makes her feel a tad bit safer when jetting off to hostile territory. She hasn’t died here since I made that change.

 

Deathbringer Saurfang:

1. Healers need time to breathe. Mark of the Fallen Champion can make things hectic if everyone’s trying to deal with everything on this fight. Arrange for one person to deal solely with victims of the mark when it starts hitting. Personally I have our disc priest doing that while our shamans chain heal around the rest of the group. It just gives everyone enough slack to not turn into headless chickens.

2. Be prepared. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a healing-easy fight based on the first couple of minutes of it. Remember that the longer it goes on the more healing-intensive it gets, and its length is dependent on your group’s general level of kit and knowledge of the fight. Don’t let boredom tempt you into overhealing early on. Manage mana well and be ready for it to be challenged.

3. If you’re a shaman: Earth bind is your friend. Place it near-ish the platform to catch blood beasts as they spawn. It’ll just give the ranged DPS some breathing time, which should give you breathing time with less potential for blood beasts tearing up your warlock. Keep it refreshed. If you have more than one shaman co-ordinate to have your earthbinds cover a greater area.

 

World of Matticus: helping healers storm their local citadels since 2010. As with many fights at present the thing to remember above all else is to be mobile and flexible if the situation requires. I’ll also briefly be extolling the virtues and citing an example of shamans retreating to advance, later in the week.

How about you – are you a healer with any tips to add for the first wing? Any widely held tactics you’d particularly like to discredit? Any questions been troubling you about the healing on wing the first, whether or not you’re a healer? Comments are very welcome!

Guerrilla Raiding: How To Scale Up to 25 Mans

Guerrilla Raiding: How To Scale Up to 25 Mans

TheFuture

My guild is special. No, really. We’re like a guerrilla force descending from our airborne stronghold to plunge deep behind enemy lines in a surprise raid. This is, you see, an affectionate way of describing my guild’s raids.

We are a small, ten-strong band of fighters not all wearing the same colours because our roots are in a small core relying on PUGgers. It is sometimes a surprise when our raids get going, even though they’re organised in advance. Yet despite these things we’ve managed to storm the citadel right up to Rotface. Not only that, we’re thinking to scale up to 25 man operations. How I hear you cry, is that special?

My guild, you understand, is not a raiding guild. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves. Herding Cats is a small group of real life friends. But many moons ago we got together, grabbed a few random PUGgers, and poked our noses into Naxxramas, like guilds do. Northrend’s raids became second homes over the months.

In ye olde Naxx runs we decided we just wanted PUGgers to be friendly. Not imbah, not a great tactician, not rocking 18k DPS. Our raids might not be lightning fast but they should be jolly good fun, old chap. Whenever we found a friendly stranger we rejoiced. And kidnapped them. Oh, we didn’t recruit – only invited them to our raids. In this way we cultivated a network of friendly people who fit in with the raiding group.

Our network of non-guildies quickly outgrew the slots we had for 10 man raiding and priority was given to people who were already raiding with us. We thought it sensible to develop a core. Tactically the group would become a single unit capable of learning encounters and to work together in order to move forward. Naturally this had social benefits for our raid members, who were rewarded with progression, loot and group friendships.

The downside of this was that many Herding friends are left out. As the raid leader/organiser, I really feel bad about this downside, as we are lucky enough to have people ask every week if there’s a raid spot for them this week even though they’re often told “I’m sorry but we’re full at the moment.”

So my guild is special but not unique. I’d wager there are a lot of guilds either already in our position or considering adapting to something like it.

How can we include people? 25 mans. Our network is big enough to fill 15-20 slots of a 25 man raid. It’s one huge step for Herding-kind. Dangerous almost. It might bite. Going into the hydra’s den unprepared is a bad idea so we’re arming ourselves and going at it as a team. We’re still thinking about it but this is the current battle plan.

1. Delegation. There are a lot of hats to wear in a 25 man so we’ve agreed to split the hats between the five of us. We’ll have leaders for each role, and they will each have a chat channel to communicate with their players. For example, in the tanks channel the tank leader will ascribe tactics to the tanks and foster communication between them. The other leaders will do the same for healers and melee and ranged DPS. The raid leader’s task is to introduce the raid, keep an eye on the group chat channels, be the deciding force in conflicts and handle unforeseen shenanigans. We’ll also have someone acting as a mentor. Unofficially we’ll have someone else as a morale officer and someone acting as a raid HR department.

2. Housekeeping. This is a brief introduction to the raid, given by the raid leader, which sets out a few basic points. These include our core principles for the run – for example, that we will welcome people amicably and expect them to do the same in return. We’ll also set out other rules on behaviour, breaks, tactics and loot. I’ve spoken before about how important this is, and it can only get more important the more people you have to organise. Setting clear rules from the start creates a safe, fun raid for everyone, Herding Cats veteran or first-timer and gives everyone a fair warning of what’s expected of them before we start.

It relaxes strangers, too. I think that people can join PUG raids expecting an atmosphere of every man for himself; having to constantly defend their playing style, DPS, healing, gear, whatever. We’ve had PUGgers say they’re pleasantly surprised to find a group where this isn’t the prevailing culture.

3. Communication. I believe the more information you communicate the more time you’ll save on wipes. Tactics are fluid things, changeable in progression content and per player experience. We’ll explain tactics for all encounters, provide a chance for suggestions and encourage raiders to ask questions in chat or privately to raid officers at any time. Officers will also keep an eye on their players and have a quiet chat if they suspect a player isn’t clear on something. “Hello Mr.. rogue, nice work on adherents there but you didn’t seem to get any time stabbing Deathwhisper. Any questions about that?” Likewise, we’ll check in with random raiders at random times to find out how they’re feeling.

Communication is most important when things go wrong. When we wipe we have a quick brainstorm in Herding Cats Land. Then we talk to the raid, saying something like “ok, what went wrong there was a deformed fanatic getting loose as phase 2 started. Easy mistake, we’ll get it right this time. Oh, and nice work on her mana shield, guys.”

4. Social. I play this game for fun, don’t know about you. It’s not a single player game and I like interacting with other people. I hope our raiders do too, but in a large group it’s easy for negativity to spread. The morale officer will keep the atmosphere cheery. The mentor’s role is just as important. It’s his task to be there for anyone who’s in any way unsure or needing reassurance. They might be new to raiding, they might be unsure in group settings, they might still be learning their class (who isn’t?). We welcome new players – given the right encouragement they can turn out to be some of the most loyal and best you’ll find.

5. Networking. We can’t fill 25 spots off the bat. We rather like that. It means that we have room to do what we did way back in Naxx times: meet new people and kidnap them to our raids. This way our network will grow whenever we find a new person we like and the entire group will benefit both in raiding and social terms.

If we get a PUGger we don’t like? We call them ‘That Guy’. You know – the guy who backseat raid leads, continually pastes DPS meters, abuses other group members. The list can go on. Ideally we’ll have a very strict policy, backed up by the housekeeping which already informed people what standards we work by. Some people have different attitudes and expectations to raiding than what they find in our group: that’s fine, but if you join a group you go by their expectations.

If someone insults our group members or any Cat finds them annoying in some way, they’re out. Sorry. I don’t care if they’re saved for one raid lockout, I don’t care if they’re the leader of the server’s top raiding guild. I don’t care if they’re hitting 11k healing every fight. I’ll protect my own group over someone who’s just griefed the priest healer they know nothing about. I think this is the most controversial point of our game plan, particularly if we just find someone annoying.

So those are the basics of our arsenal. There are some finer points such as where to begin our venture: we’re thinking ToTC25 for the first raid. It’s relatively short and should be a good ground to help the raid find its feet and bond. Not only that but it should provide some folks with bits of kit for the real progression and leave everyone salivating over the prospect of more next time. We also have a raid spam addon tailor-made for our needs in the works.

And do we, the raid officers, know what we’re doing? Why, yes, old bean. We know the enemy lines and the guerrilla force we’re leading into the Lich King’s chambers.

What about you? Is your guild in a similar position, or considering something like this – are you worried it’ll be a lot more work than you have time for? Are you in a large guild that does in house runs? Are you a PUGger who wishes you did/did not come across more groups like this? Do you think leaning a bit towards carebearing is going to hold us back or benefit us in the long term (and what’s YOUR playing style)?