What is missing from the Arthas fight?

What is missing from the Arthas fight?

First before I begin I would like to say congrats to Matticus on his 10 man Arthas kill!

Now onto the matter at hand. My guild is plugging away at the Lich King 25 man encounter, our 10 man team is just about to take him down as well. There is a certain sense of accomplishment when you get to the end of not only the content, but let’s be honest in this case the entire point of the expansion! This entire expansion has geared us up for this fight. Egging us on, pushing us to greater heights and taunting us at every turn. The Lich King has been found in so many quests, instances and cinematic events it is impossible to not want to kill him.

When Trial of the Crusader was released, I’ll be honest I was not impressed. In fact I down right hated ToC. I’m an old school raider, I like instances with trash and having to work at getting TO the boss. I mean in every book I’ve read the hero and the villain don’t just run into each other randomly and just go to town. The hero normally goes through various trials and or henchman before they get to the big bad. In James Bond movies, he has to go through the henchman before making his way to the final bad guy for the show down. To me that is what trash is in an instance, it is a warm up but it’s also story fodder. These are the creatures the various bosses thought good enough to guard them from US. So when I walked into ICC for the first time you can bet I was over-joyed at the amount of trash that lay before us. One of my fondest memories as of late was when we were first heading into the Plagueworks, I was flying solo leading the raid that night and we were coming up on Stinky and Precious. I didn’t warn the raid about them at all, instead as we pulled I laughed maniacally at the frantic screams of “HOLY SHIT WHAT THE HELL IS GLUTH DOING HERE?” as the raid wiped. Everyone laughed about it afterward  and I felt happy that there was trash that was actually DANGEROUS if you weren’t prepared.

My guild has fought our way through all the bosses up to Arthas and there is a sense of accomplishment there. The fight itself is amazing fun, if for no other reason than because there is so much going on. So, why then am I feeling slightly ripped off with this fight?

Arthas is one of those lore characters that has shaped this game. Warcraft 3 was a game I played to death and out of it what I got was the setup for World of Warcraft. It was heart-wrenching when Arthas slew his father and you saw the darkness in complete control, it was epic when Illidan and Arthas fought. The story, even though it was an RTS, was colorful and rewarding.

So last night Unpossible was working on Arthas and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with the fight, that something was missing. After the raid I thought back to burning crusade and Black Temple. The Illidan fight felt epic. The scene opened up with Akama going to face Illidan and speak his peace, followed by him running off to hold off reinforcements and give the group time to deal with Illidan. Partway through the fight, a fed up Warden Maiev Shadowsong bursts in to help try and take down the demon prince. He had wronged her so much that she had to have her revenge. In short the fight felt epic. It felt like great payoff to all the work of getting there. I attribute this to a well designed encounter, but a lot of that had to do with NPC interaction.

When you reach Arthas there is a small back and forth between the fallen prince of Lordaeron and Tirion Fordring. To be honest the back and forth is a little weak, and Tirion is one of those characters I could do without. I mean, of all the people Arthas has pissed-off and messed with over the years they picked Tirion to be the one to confront him. I mean I guess I expected him to be there from the beginning, after all he is the bearer of Ashbringer, but I expected someone faction specific to be there along side him as well. I know Jaina and Sylvanas made an appearance in the 5 mans, but this is the big show, the big payoff. Personally I expected them to be there, or rather someone who Arthas has wronged on a deep personal level to be there.

Before you say anything yes I know the history of what happened between Arthas and Tirion and the subsequent exile. My point though is as fun as the fight is (it IS an amazingly designed encounter), it just doesn’t feel as epic as I think it should.

We have airships right? After we’ve taken down the Frost wing, why not have the ship fly up to assault Arthas only to have him blow it out of the sky? How about King Varian Wrynn or Thrall gets to deliver the epic speech debasing Arthas and spurring us to victory. Instead we get Tirion running forward, and getting hunter trapped.

I still love the encounter don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that there are a thousand things you have to watch for and so many ways you can die. I like having fights that have consequence and Defile is the greatest thing EVER created (no sarcasm on that). I guess in the end I just wish there was a little more NPC interaction at the end to help lend the cinematic / literary climactic feel that the encounter truly deserves.

What do you think about the encounter?

So with that I bid you all a good day, hopefully next week I’ll be writing you as King Slayer Lodur. Until next time, Happy healing and may all your heals be swift and your mana plentiful!

Heroic moments

Heroic moments

Last couple days I’ve been talking with a few friends about the heroic or epic feel of the game. This was spurred by the recent Cataclysm class previews. My friend felt that the game was making players too over powered and he feels that what he wants is and I quote

“To have the ever loving shit beaten out of the raid by a boss. Like seriously have Deathwing be so badass he just looks at us and we die.”

I replied with a little snark informing him that he could always level to 60 and turn off xp and raid classic content while it still existed, whatever was left of it.

To me the game is taking a logical step in many ways, I mean let’s take a look at all the things we’ve done in the game (and by we I mean as a collective player base).

  • Defeated an elemental lord
  • Defeated the son and daughter of the aspect of earth and the progenitor of the Black Dragon Flight
  • Defeated and old god and his followers
  • Defeated troll tribal leaders and their god
  • Defeated the Lich Kings floating citadel and his right-hand lich
  • Cleansed the home of Medivh
  • Defeated a Daemon lord
  • Stomped a troll hero into the dirt
  • Defeated a power sucking Prince of the blood elves
  • Defeated Illidan
  • Restored the sunwell while repelling a powerful Eredar
  • Trudged through the snow and ice to set fire the the Lich Kings floating citadel AGAIN!
  • Killed the aspect of magic
  • Beat down ANOTHER god and the servants of titans
  • Slapped around the custodian of the titans
  • and Dethroned an undead king

/breathes

So…  Yeah. Safe to say we’ve done a lot right? but if you look at it it’s been big bads right? So why shouldn’t we feel a little powerful right?

We’ve all had those moments too, where after a boss goes down or a particularly hard fight is won where you want to stand up and thrust your fists in the air and yell in victory. I know it’s just a game, but you can’t help but feel accomplished sometimes. For me it’s those moments of the harrying first kill. My guild’s first Blood Queen (25) kill, there were only two people left standing. Me and the feral druid stood over her corpse amid a sea of raider bodies. It may sound weird but in that moment I felt really good at the kill, being so close to that wipe and trying EVERY trick I had to stay alive / res / keep someone up long enough for the DoTs to tick was heart pounding, and that kill is among the ones I savor the most. I count that as one of my heroic moments in the game, where I felt that this could see this as a scene from a movie or book and wanting to throw my hands up victorious in the air and scream my defiance at this villain that had stood in our way threatening death, and nearly delivering it in full.

In every story I’ve ever read as the main character got more powerful, so did his enemies. We are about to go up against the corrupted aspect of earth. EARTH. That little thing all of Azeroth is comprised of. Safe to assume he’s going to be something of a jerk right? So with all the class changes happening I think it’s in good form that we are starting to feel well…. uber. It fits with the progression of the game.

Also consider that encounters are changing. The way we handle fights now is for the most part pretty linear. Don’t stand in fire, don’t stand in front of the boss, let the tank get aggro etc etc. Even the current mechanics can be boiled down to simplistic measures in many cases. In Cataclysm however the dynamics of each role are changing. The mechanics of each class are changing and this is going to allow developers to make more interesting encounters.

Me, I’m looking forward to Cataclsym and all the changes. I’m looking forward to having to approach different encounters differently. I look forward to feeling like yes I am powerful, but still have a damn good challenge ahead of me. I’m looking for more spells, more encounter mechanics, harder mana regen. I’m looking forward to feeling like the team I belong to earned EVERY kill with sweat blood and perseverance. I don’t think we’re overpowered, I just think we scale with content!

So how about you? How do you feel about the changes coming? Do you think they are over powered? Do you have a heroic moment to share? A well earned kill?

That’s it for today folks, until next time, Happy Healing!

 

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?

It Came From The P.U.G.!:Voted Off The Island

It Came From The P.U.G.!:Voted Off The Island

For those who might not know yet, my gluttony for abuse knows no bounds. As a result I find myself in a rather large number of P.U.G. groups. At the end of the day I bring you, my readers, the stories of my travels in the random grouping of Azerothian adventure!

This week I bring you a story of a monumental event. Something so earth shattering that babies cried, women ushered their children home and men cowered before it’s terror inducing visage! You may need to sit down for this… ready? Lodur was vote kicked from a heroic group! Now I’m sure there are some questions about what happened and what was the build up. Here goes my tale of woe.

I’ll start by saying yes I was healing, and yes the mace was equipped. I was decked out in my shiny new T10 loot after freshly enchanting and gemifying them. I queue up and promptly my invite button pops up. I join the group and off I am to an adventure… or so I thought. The screen load shows the Pit of Saron and I’m a bit excited. I enjoy healing the place and it beats out Gundrak any day of the week! The instance loads and I’m looking around for the rest of the group. I notice that most of the mobs have been cleared. This is red flag number one. My immediate response, in a joking tone of course

“What did you guys do to the last healer?”

I get a response from the rogue of the group

“Horrible healer we vote kicked him.”

Ok, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Mainly DPS folks have been rolling in as healers to get quick frost badges so it wouldn’t surprise me too terribly if that’s what happened. I see they are over at the Ick and Krick encounter and make my way over. We buff up and pull. Things go smoothly until two things happen. First I notice the prot warrior is taking a whole lot more damage than he should be and his health is only at 29k total. Second thing that happens is the poison nova. The rogue tries to cast Cloak and run but instead becomes a stain in the ground. Not believing that you can release and come back while the encounter is happening , they wait dead. We’re doing fantastic though otherwise until the boss marks the hunter and chases after them. The hunter then proceeded to drag the boss back past it’s threshold point and the boss leashes… at 1%. Ok, stuff happens I’ll just res the rogue and we’ll get started again right? Wrong! As I’m sitting to drink so I can resurrect the rogue, and before the tank is ready, the hunter pulls, runs to us and then casts FD. Needless to say I got squashed with the rest of the group. We run back in and drink and buff and get ready for round two. I inspect the tank and see he’s in some pretty low tanking gear… and a bunch of dps gear. I make a mental note of the fact he’s not defense capped and look to see I still have 7 minutes left on my LFG debuff. Time to soldier on! Before we’re ready again the hunter pulls, this time the tank picks it up and we proceed as normal. The rogue dies again to poison nova but this time we kill the boss.

This happens two more times with various mobs on the ramp leading to the final leg of the instance until finally I say something

“Dude, stop pulling.  I need to drink and you’re wiping the group .”

It was then I noticed something I had not noticed before. All of them were in the same guild. Everyone stopped moving and there we were sitting at the base of the ramp leading to the collapsing tunnel. There’s this long, hanging silence while we sit there and then next thing I know I’m booted from the group!

Back in Dalaran I’m in shock at what just happened. Seriously I got kicked because I called the hunter out on pulling and doing stupid things! I look up at my buffs and notice the debuff was just wearing off and that I can re-queue, but still… wow just wow.

Luckily the next one I get is full of people who communicate and pull sensibly. All from different guilds but all with the same rough gear level. We plow through Halls of Lightning, I get my two Frost Emblems and we part ways.

Seriously I’m alright if you want to do wacky things in a guild run. One of our DPS raiders rolled a healer so when I’m on my tank I like to do silly things (within reason) to mess with her (Hi Jaha!) but we always laugh about it, and I never do it when it’s a non guild run. If there is even one pugger in the group I try my best to behave. But to be kicked for calling someone out on pulling and feigning while watching the group wipe, that dog just won’t hunt monseigneur!

Any interesting P.U.G. stories from this week? Good, bad, awesome or terrible? That’s it for today folks.

Until next time, Happy Healing!

 

Image courtesy of CBS

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.

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)?

Your Wish List vs. The Need Before Greed System

Your Wish List vs. The Need Before Greed System

LEWT2

The other week, as a gift to you from us, we each offered to write and discuss a topic of your choice. Here’s what we came up with!

What do you want for Winter Veil? You want to wrap your boomkin snugly in an Ancient Polar Bear Hide or keep your holydin’s toes toasty in a pair of Mudslide Boots? Well you can’t have it.

Bah, humbug.

Patch 3.3 has hit just in time for the winter holidays – a time when a lot of us players manage to squeeze in extra time being a hero and getting shiny treasures. 3.3 brought a sled-load of new toys to play with in game, including the new dungeon finder system and its potential for random group member loot drama. As a result while using the dungeon finder we are all limited to needing only on items of our class’ armour type. You’re a paladin? You roll on plate. Plate, y’hear, no cloth for your healing set. Certainly no leather for you DPS warrior types! It’s not exactly ideal for anyone gearing up.

It’s the Winter Veil equivalent of a pair of socks: practical, but not exactly what you wanted.

What, I hear you cry? The 3.3 patch notes describe it best;

“Need Before Greed will now recognize gear appropriate for a class in three ways: the class must be able to equip the item, pure melee will be unable to roll on spell power items, and classes are limited to their dominant armor type (ex. paladins for plate). All items will still be available via Greed rolls as well as the new Disenchant option should no member be able to use the item.”

I can see the practical sense in this. It removes some arguments about loot before they’ve even begun. The rogue won’t get miffed at the shaman needing on and winning leather melee gear because the shaman just can’t. Likewise, the death knight who is prone to shiny object moments and rolls on spell power items accidentally – just can’t, and won’t have to explain himself to pitchfork wielding casters. Reducing the potential for arguments is a sensible, if slightly cynical, move in a system which promotes meeting random strangers who have no reason to relate to or sympathise with you.

Yet what does that do to your characters? It might be taboo but we all know that paladins do incorporate all types of armour into a healing set, have done since the beginning of the World … of Warcraft. A paladin friend of mine has recently started gearing up for his holy off spec. He would prefer plate items of course, but any type of item with spell power on it is better than healing with defence rating gear. We had the Azure Cloth Bindings drop for us just earlier today – and he couldn’t roll on them. Sure, he’d only have used them as a stop gap until something better and more, well, platey came along. But until then they would have seriously boosted his off spec prospects and none of the actual clothies in the group showed the slightest interest in wanting them anyway.

The only option for my friend, or anyone looking to boost their off spec with drops forbidden by the loot system, is to greed the item and hope that RNG is kind to them and doesn’t shard it for someone else. Or of course to keep running Heroics, waving sadly at these drops, and waiting until they’ve enough badges to get the badge equivalents.

Take another situation. You’re a tree who is so bored you’ve taken root in the middle of Dalaran and didn’t bat a branch when children – sorry, gnomes – covered you in tinsel and shiny lights two weeks ago. You want to do something different. Something fun. You’ve had the cookie-cutter spec for a while, got the gear, done everything you want to do. So you start playing around building your own spec – something hybrid that allows you to heal and CC or DPS without changing spec. Yes, healing and DPS – you know it happens, especially when people are bored. And Heroics aren’t exhilarating, let’s face it.

Say you want your druid to be able to do all that in one spec – well then, you’ll need to play around a bit with your stat distribution and probably get some new armour. Would you like some hit with that? How about a new party hat – the cloth Sightless Crown of Ulmaas would do the job. Oh wait – you’re a druid – you can’t roll on cloth, even if the rest of the party consists of three death knights and a warrior.

There are still a couple of loopholes, too. To my knowledge death knights and druids are able to roll on loot with block rating on it. A pointless stat to them, but perhaps your death knight tank decides that he is so desperate for something to upgrade from his blue helm that when Second Helm of the Executioner drops it is a must have even though the itemization is aimed more at the group’s paladin who is only tank as off spec.

Well, gratz to the death knight for the upgrade – but it’s only a minor victory for him, and leaves both him and the paladin a bit cold. Should Blizzard further tinker with the need before greed system? Perhaps add class specific tooltips – “classes: paladin, warrior” – to the aforementioned Executioner’s helm. Similarly for every item, and a filter that only allows the specified classes to roll on items with stats meant for them.

If this came into play then it would likely automatically further restrict itemization choices for players. Every rogue of the same playing level would look the same. Every healing priest would be in the same dress, every restoration shaman would have identical mail shoulders for restoration shamans. That Winter Veil tree druid in Dalaran would have even less freedom to play around with his spec and try new things. But at the same time – everyone would get loot cookie cuttered to cater the ‘correct’ stats to their spec.

Say that our off spec tank paladin from earlier wants the correct stats – for his protection off spec – and rolls need on the Executioner’s helm against the death knight tank. Whatever his reason, I’d bet the death knight isn’t impressed with him rolling for his off spec. Would you be, if someone else rolled against your main spec items? We’ve all seen it. Perhaps the need before greed system should take specs into account. A priest is healing in a random dungeon? Right, says the loot system. He can’t roll on items with hit on them like Bracer of Worn Molars, under any circumstances. On the up side he won’t be able to ninja, on the down side he won’t be able to prove he’s trustworthy or improve his shadow kit if everyone else passes on the toothy armguards there.

These are ridiculous ideas, I hear you cry. They’ll never happen! Maybe you’re right, or maybe they’ll happen at some point. I’m just saying that the need before greed system is already restrictive – unnecessarily so, perhaps. I for one am perfectly happy with a holydin rolling on cloth items so long as no clothies need the item, and so preventing holydins from doing it seems a potential waste of an item. It may be a slippery slope we find ourselves on in the name of wrapping classes up in their own specialised cotton wool.

What do you think? Is the need before greed system protecting us just the right amount in random dungeons at the moment – should it be more or less protective? Are you getting infuriated trying to gear up your new fury warrior? Is all this an argument to make a premade group so there aren’t limitations on loot?