Don’t Ask your Guild about Shadowlands

(No story spoilers)

I missed writing. But between raiding, orchestra practice, and the esports job, something had to give and it was blogging. Though with the current states of affairs going on in the world right now, I find myself with a little more time than usual. Dusted off the site and applied some paint to give it some more life. I’m going to need to dive deeper into the rest of the archives though to see if anything broke.

How about you? How’ve you all been? Take care of yourselves (and each other) out there.

Shadowlands

If you’re like any other guild and you ask them their thoughts on Shadowlands, I guarantee you the consensus you’re going to receive is that it is literally going to be the worst WoW expansion ever. Some of the reasons include:

  • Covenants are going to make everything so imbalanced.
  • Literally every class is going to be overpowered.
  • There is clearly no testing going on.
  • There is a mission table (still).
  • Rogues exist (still).

I’m telling you, Shadowlands is going to be the best expansion (for Holy Priests)! As I was huffing around beta, I jumped into a dungeon queue. Bless that 2 minute healing queue which is both a blessing and a curse. If you ever want to feel pressure, it’s setting up your keybinds via the default system UI, dragging spells out of your spellbook, and configuring talents whilst keeping your party alive.

Everyone’s been all over Discipline in this expansion and Holy Priests are like that forgotten lip balm you have tucked in your drawer somewhere. Prayer of Mending is instant cast. Casting Circle of Healing can reduce the cast time of your next Prayer of Healing (via talent Prayer Circle). The resurrect cloak from Legion has returned in some fashion. Power Word: Shield can be spammed again across the party. I can access Power Infusion (take a number, stand in line)! I am quite delighted with where the class is at right now. Are we going to be throughput monsters in Shadowlands? That’ll most likely be a hard no. Holy was always designed to be above average to good at everything but I know we’ll never excel at one thing.

There is no way I can contain my giddyness. There is going to be a boss somewhere that involves some kind of soak mechanic or else the raid is going to wipe. Obviously, it’s going to go to some Ice Blocking Mage or a Bubbling Paladin first. But there will come a time when the raid leader will say, “Matticus, we’re out of options. You know what to do.” and I will gladly take a dive in the name of progression!

Seriously though, it does seem like my guild has a giant, dark cloud looming over them. I wish I could snap them out of it but I don’t know how. My worry is that they’ll be so demoralized to the point where they want to quit the game. Then what am I going to do? I’d have to go look for another guild to raid with again :(. I understand how seemingly inflexible covenants can be but to Blizzard’s credit, they’ve actually come out and said they’re prepared to allow for ease of use for switching if the system is deemed unsalvageable. I can’t remember the last time the dev team openly saying something like that about a new system they’re shipping with an expansion. So in a way, the acknowledgement is a step in some direction.

Other news

  • We cleared Mythic N’zoth (316 pulls).
  • Reached Platinum 1 in Valorant.
  • My vibrato technique continues to be non-existent.
  • I haven’t cut my hair since January.

Five Months Later and a New Expansion

The Battle for Azeroth has arrived. With it, we get to explore new lands and face new (or old) villains. I remember the last real mention of Kul Tiras was in the old Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. It was the Horde side campaign where you played as Rexxar. This was one of the first times where the Horde invaded Theramore and where Daelin Proudmoore ultimately met his demise. Fast forward to World of Warcraft, and Kul Tiras had a few mentions and appearances throughout the game like those early zones in Tiragarde Keep which held Kul Tiran marines. The formal arrival of Kul Tiras into the game answered many questions for me and it was like revisiting the past in a new light. In Warcraft 2, Kul Tiras fleets were the backbone of the Alliance naval forces. So it was always weird to me that when WoW came out, you knew what happened to the Kingdoms of Lordaeron, Stromgard, Alterac, the Kirin Tor, and the rest of the different Alliance factions, but Kul Tiras was nowhere to be found. It was after the events of the first Horde assault on Theramore that we never found out what formally happened to them — Until now.

Levelled to 120 – Twice

Ugh, I think I’m getting too old for this. Reaching 120 on the Priest was just agonizing as Shadow, but I still managed to do it. My server, Proudmoore, went down for about an hour during the evening. I didn’t end up hitting 120 until about 6 AM. After clearing out the first emissary, I took a nice nap before waking up and striking through into heroics and mythic 0’s.

We can’t seem to recruit Rogues for the life of us, so if there’s any free agent Rogues out there, check us out. It’s a great guild with a fantastic, but disciplined atmosphere. I love our pacing and level of organization at all areas. One of the few downsides are the few dad jokes or feeble attempts at assorted puns. Like, c’mon guys, it seems that raid progression is inversely proportional to quality of dad jokes. I’d totally step into that arena and show these guys how it’s done, but I don’t want to jeopardise my raid spot for being too witty, know what I mean?

The past couple of weeks have been fairly calm. Week one was all about rushing characters to 120 — In my case, it was my Priest (main) and my Ret Paladin. Previous expansions, I would have levelled up my Elemental Shaman first. I will say that after the Priest, playing Ret was a relief. I could delete anything without taking forever. I had assorted outs at my disposal in case I unexpectedly over pulled (and those of you who have levelled with me know that happens fairly often).

Tomorrow, my real game begins. The raiding season starts again. After almost a month off of no raids, the time has come to zero in on health bars and ensure I don’t stand in bad. I am so excited. Miss my res cloak though :(.

I also miss my talking knife. She kept me company throughout Legion. What would she say now if she were by my side?

The Gaming Stadium

Speaking of unexpected, an opportunity came my way to help grow the esports scene in Vancouver. I’ve been a Hearthstone Fireside organizer since 2014. One of my constant challenges is finding a venue to run an event out of. The back of hobby and comic book shops, to University lecture rooms, coworking spaces, convention halls, and casino ballrooms have been different places where I could hold Hearthstone.

Then out of the blue, the idea of a dedicated esports community centre came up. Anyone that lives in the Vancouver area know that there’s already enough LAN centers here. Players go in and play with their friends for a few hours on Fortnite or League of Legends, or what have you. The pitch to me was, “not just another LAN center”. Regular, recurring tournaments would be a priority. Recreational weekly leagues would be on the calendar (like a beer league for gamers). We could have a space to watch majors or host viewing parties for HCT or OWL games on a big screen with your friends instead of at home. Vancouver hosted The International last month, and the packed atmosphere was crazy.

I haven’t heard Rogers arena that loud and energetic since 2011 (That’s a Canucks self burn, by the way #Sadface).

Another thing that came up was during my time hosting Hearthstone tournaments, I’d get into conversations with parents who were asking about coaching for their daughter, or their son wanted to learn how to play a specific deck. The best I could do was point them out to a few players and have them observe. But now I’d be in a position where we could run like a bootcamp, a Hearthstone master class, or like a Fortnite 101 and invite local community players to provide a crash course.

Lastly, this one might be a little more selfish on my part than anything. There’s been some unflattering news lately about Riot and but they’re attempting to turn their culture around. There’s an opportunity here to affect and influence players at the local level to be a less toxic, to play nice, and to play fair. It’ll be good to remind players when they’re in here that there’s another person on the other side of that character whether it’s on their team or on the opposition. I can’t change the world overnight, but if I can shape even a fraction of younger players to be less toxic, less misogynistic, and more welcoming, maybe I can do some good here in the long run. It’s too late for me to compete on any kind of world stage. I grew up too early. But maybe one day I can say that we had a hand here in developing players and gave them the right amount of media training and guidance to compete in the HCT or Overwatch League and not get suspended or ejected for behavioural issues. Or maybe it’s a lost cause, I don’t know. Too optimistic and naive? Probably. I have to try.

Wait a minute though, what does this mean for raiding? Won’t this eat up most of my time? Thankfully, my guild won’t have to worry too much — I specifically negotiated a clause where I could raid from the office uninterrupted in the evenings if it was needed.

Hellooo Argus!

Mythic Argus. It’s been a long time since I’ve been at an end boss of an expansion with so much time before the next expansion release. We did reach him a few weeks ago and have slowly chipped away to the point where we’re consistently-ish getting into phase 3. Our struggle now appears to be in mastering the movement of Argus slowly around the perimeter of the room — With everyone alive. Raid extensions are now in full swing. We haven’t done a Mythic re-clear since the first time we killed Aggramar and we’ve committed. With the gear options from Mythic+ and titanforging chances from Heroic or Normal, we haven’t had much of a real need to go back and spend that week on re-clears.

Right, I forgot to mention, I passed my trial. I didn’t think I was going to make it.

I find myself in the precarious position of splitting healing time on Argus. There are five healers on the roster but only four can be taken into the encounter. There are essentially two ways to go about approaching progression here rosterwise:

Option A: Shorten the bench significantly. Pack 4 healers and use them as often as possible. Now each healer gets the same amount of practice and experience with opportunity to learn. If all goes well, they’ll be well-versed in the different timings and nuances of Argus. Though depending on the personality of the benched healer, they might not take kindly to that which could result in a departure.

Option B: Rotate and split healers throughout the night. Alternate players during the raid night. Healers now have a varying degree of experience against Argus, and some will have more than others. By diversifying though, no healer is left too far behind in case a player is unable to attend a night which could severely hamper progression.

The longer progression attempts go, the better option B looks. That’s ultimately what we decided to do. I would have been prepared to go with option A and set up camp on the bench just to speed progression attempts along and get the kill quicker. I just want to see Argus dead. Maybe I don’t get in on the first kill or two, but as long as I can secure it later, I’ll be satisfied with it. If this was years ago, I would’ve been disappointed at not being involved in the first guild kill. Now I’m at a point where I’m comfortable getting in on it later.

What happens once Argus is down? I suppose I could relax a bit and come back to Battle for Azeroth later or stick to a lowered raiding schedule. But now I’m getting ahead of myself. We need to crush Argus first.

Dear Friends

We’re entering the holiday season! I hope everyone’s been doing well. The past few months have been quite taxing. Some updates are in order, perhaps.

Warcraft

Antorus is just lovely isn’t it? From a difficulty standpoint, it feels a little easier compared to Tomb of Sargeras. Argus went down much quicker compared to Kil’jaeden. Agrammar wasn’t as challenging as Avatar. I’m trialing with a new guild on Proudmoore and we’ll see how that goes. The mind is willing capable, but the body may be slow to act which could tank my shot at making their roster for mythic. I’m okay with that though. I’m at the point in the game where if I don’t crack the starting lineup but am good enough to keep as a second option in case of absences, I can live with that.

I’m still playing Holy but it does look like Discipline might be integral to this tier. I regret not trying to learn the new Disc style of play as much as I should have. Now I’m playing catchup in learning both a new spec and new encounters.

Speaking of Antorus, going into week 2 of Antorus after the hot fixes was a little more challenging. We ran into the Coven of Shivarra block. If you missed the hot fixes from yesterday, the key is that the health of the ads now scale up. Whoops. We’re gradually losing players over the course of the fight (Healing absorbs, or storms seem to be the one picking players off). Day 1 was just heroic for chances at tier pieces and trinkets. The rest of the week will be aimed at Mythic and that’ll be the real test.

Antorus, the Burning Throne

  • Coven of Shivarra

    • Corrected an issue that caused the health of Torments to not properly scale with raid size.
  • Eonar the Life-Binder

    • Players who are disconnected during the Eonar encounter will have access to Surge of Life once they reconnect.
  • Argus the Unmaker

    • Cheat Death and similar effects will not reset their cooldowns when you die during the final phase of the Argus the Unmaker encounter.

    • Boss Health increased by 10% on Normal and Heroic difficulties

    • Soulbomb and Soulburst now deal periodic damage more rapidly

    • Edge of Obliteration damage increased by 50%

    • Constellar elemental vulnerabilities reduced from +200% to +100% damage taken

Hearthstone

I’ve taken on the full mantle as an Innkeeper now and organizing local Fireside Gatherings and tournaments. Blizzard entrusted me with the opportunity of hosting the HCT Summer playoffs in Vancouver and it was incredible. 110 players showed up to play some Hearthstone and watch the tournament over that September weekend. I am definitely down for doing it again. It’s a significant logistical challenge in some ends. You have to find a venue that fits within your budget. You also need to ensure there’s an area where the competitors can play in peace away from the rest of the attendees to minimize distractions. The attendees that are also there would also want to be able to follow and watch the stream so there needs to be the equipment for it somehow. It also helps to make sure you have activities for them to do throughout the weekend. It could be tournaments, or mini events, or deck building challenges.

Although Hearthstone’s in the offseason right now, I’ve got a launch party coming up this weekend to run to help celebrate the Kobolds and Catacombs opening.

Sisters Can be a Real Pain

We’re getting the fight consistently down to about 55% but it wasn’t until yesterday we had a breakthrough and started seeing attempts go into phase 3. A personal raid best of 28%? Seems good! What seems to be killing us the most are the Glaive Storms but just grinding it out and practicing it repeatedly has given most players the experience of seeing and reacting to it. On average, I think most players can survive getting one tick of it (or maybe two ticks if there’s a Spirit Link or a damage reduction ability going off). Still, players do get repeatedly picked off with the Throwing Glaive (the one that homes in on the player), and Phoenix Style often reports these guys as taking 2.5 million damage or more almost always resulting in an instagib.

If we had a consistent and stable roster, we’d be making further progress. Having a turnover of around 2-3 players a week (or at least, that’s what it feels like) means we’re constantly retraining players to get accustomed to the new abilities and our system which is just depressing. At the rate we’re going though, we should be able to knock this encounter out within the next week or two.

Healing comp

Our composition’s a little funky. Right now, we’re running with a Druid, a Monk, a Shaman, a Holy Priest (me), and a Holy Paladin. One of us can sit but lately we’ve been fielding 5 healers during Mythic. Our 6th healer on sisters usually results in an extra Paladin or an extra Priest (who’s Discipline). Pretty handy having that stability in the healing area.

Healing CDs

We don’t have much in defensive cooldowns outside of healing ones which makes me sad. Zero Warriors. One Demon Hunter. One Shadow Priest. So no extra help from outside the healing corps. We’ve nailed down when healing cooldowns ought to be used in the first and second phases, but the third phase is going to be a pain. It’s nice that we don’t have to stack up to maximize healing off the bubble, however we still need to remain somewhat in a line for the Incorporeal Shot to ensure it gets soaked. But we still need to adjust and get used to the Glaive Storm bouncing all over the place.

So close :(.