Which Cataclysm Raid Boss Should You Attempt First?

There’s no rush on shooting for raids at the moment. The holidays are over now and I know a number of guilds have scheduled their raids after New Years. While Conquest began informal raiding operations in December, I know that one question I struggled with was trying to decide what raid bosses to go after first. Each boss had it’s own set of challenges which made some easier than others. Raid composition also plays a role as some (Most?) encounters are ranged friendly compared to others.

You know you’re ready to raid

  1. You’re bored to tears of doing heroics repeatedly
  2. You’ve gotten all the epic gear you can get from reputations
  3. You paid an arm, a leg, and auctioned off the naming rights to your first born to buy epic quality gear
  4. Full set of augments including shoulder enchant, helm enchant, normal enchants and superior gems

You have 9 or 24 other people that are in the same boat as you are. It’s not enough that you are ready. You need to have a composition that looks like a competent raid group. Make sure you have enough tanks, healers and DPS players. If you’re serious about giving some of these bosses a shot, you don’t want to go in with 4 tanks, 4 healers and 2 DPS. While you might get certain fights down eventually, several of these encounters function as DPS checks with enrage timers.

Let’s take a look at what your raid leader need to figure out.

  • Can your raid group handle dynamic encounters? The Omnitron Defense System varies every attempt. You may not get the same sequence of Trons. Your raid group must be able to respond to different sets of abilities depending on which Trons are up. This is ideally suited for players who can pick up abilities quickly. It can be frustrating the first few times especially when your group is learning how to deal with poison clouds, ch ain lightnings, red lasers and so forth. But if you log enough hours on the encounter, you’ll eventually get a feel for the mechanics.
  • Does loot matter? Scout out the loot tables of the various bosses and see which one offers the greatest variety of loot which can be used. I wouldn’t worry about this too much though as this is the first tier of raid content. I guarantee at least someone will want something.
  • Is time of the essence? This may not be a big deal for some guilds, but others have extremely limited raid hours. Blackwing Descent only has one set of trash per boss. Bastion of Twilight has multiple pulls which involve up to 10 mobs on 25. Throne of the Four Winds has no trash at all. If you want to start throwing yourselves against a wall instead of grinding through the fun that is trash, then Throne of the Four Winds or Blackwing Descent will be the instances you’re looking for.

Great! So which boss should I aim for?

This is the order I would personally recommend and why.

Argaloth: I refer to him as Brutalus’ brother. This is a great DPS check for your raid composition to see how they do. If Argaloth repeatedly enters the berserk phase and your raid is unable to take him down without dying, it’s a good bet that some of the players need to acquire more gear somehow to meet the requirements. It also awards tier gear and PvP gear.

Magmaw: This boss will be easy to take down after a few attempts at it. Your raid will know what to watch for and expect during the two same phases.

Omnitron Defense System: A little tougher compared to Magmaw but the learning curve is steeper. Your raid group will need to make repeated pulls to cycle through all the Tron abilities and see for themselves what to do.

Halfus Wyrmbreaker: The trash leading up to him is a good check of DPS, tanking and healing. In the past 3 weeks we’ve taken him down, we’ve always gotten at least one epic item from trash. In fact, last night we received two Chelley’s Staff of Dark Mending. I grabbed one of them and we looted the other to a resident Resto Druid. I believe the heroic version of the staff is one of the best weapons out there for healing priests.

Conclave of Wind: The loot from this boss is an epic belt or epic ring which has a random enchantment on it. In other words, we don’t know what we’re getting when we take down the boss. I’d rather aim for the bosses where we do have an idea of what will drop. Conclave is also slightly more technical in the amount of coordination among the different groups that is required.

Regardless of what you choose, remember that you’ll experience all of them soon enough.

Raid Leading 101: What’s your motivation?

Welcome to Raid Leading 101! I’m Thespius, and I’ll be writing weekly about the in’s and out’s of what we see (or what you can expect to see) stepping into this coveted leadership role. I plan on covering a variety of individual topics: Tips, Lessons, Conflict, Loot Systems, Recruitment Systems, Scheduling, Add-ons, and whatever you feel needs to be covered. I am a new Raid Leader myself, so I look at this entire experience as a discovery. I’m certainly not perfect, but then again, no one really is.  If you have a topic you’d like covered on “Raid Leading 101″, email it to elder.thespius@gmail.com.

On your mark, get set, GO!

I don’t believe any of us woke up one morning thinking, “Wow, I think I’m gonna be in charge of 9/24+ people!” For the most part, our desire to lead has come from experience. You may have started raiding for the first time, and saw the command that the raid leader had. He/She knew the encounters inside and out and what everyone’s job needed to be. People listened to that “General” and obeyed orders.

OR, you had a horrible Raid Leader. Maybe you felt he/she didn’t have a good hold on the situation, using out-dated or unrealistic strategies. You just felt that the job wasn’t being done correctly, and you started to see all the things NOT to do. Therefore, you take it upon yourself to be a better and wiser Raid Leader.

In either scenario, you most likely learned from what you saw. Something in your past experience guided you to this position. You’re taking the lessons you learned and the stories you lived through, and you’re putting it towards your own system. You have a great trust in what you think is helpful and what is not. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Why?”

Meaning of Life My Leadership

I got my raiding feet wet in Karazhan, and I wanted more. My original guild <Sword Through the Horde> didn’t have the roster to do Serpentshrine Cavern or beyond. I joined <Rise of the Phoenix>. Drama on a low-population server tore it apart. I joined up with the newly-minted <Team Sport>, but the raiding was just too casual. I got cozy with <Concedo Nulli>, but drama crumbled that fun to the ground. I aligned myself with Lodur’s <Unpossible> and found a great home, but it was missing something.

I was missing the friends that I “grew up with” in the game. You’ll probably hear about them throughout this “column”. They’re near and dear to me, which is why I decided to go back to <Team Sport>. However, I knew (as they did) that we needed to implement a more solid structure. They all loved hearing the stories of our boss downings in <Unpossible>, and I would even invite my friend Jayme over to watch our Lich King kills. They were slightly jealous and wanted similar. It was at this point I started to tip-toe into the leadership position.

I’ve discovered that the most important thing to me is to progress through raid content with my friends that share the same mindset. There are 6-7 of us that share the similar belief of a light schedule but with solid progression. Hence, I’ve tasked myself with creating a Raid Team based around that. My closest in-game friends and I taking on 10-mans with force.

Your turn, Grasshopper

So you have to take an inward glance. If you’ve ever thought about taking the “Reins of the Raid”, you have to ask yourself, “Why?” It’s not an easy job, so you need to be passionate. Know what it is you want to accomplish, and stay true to what got you here in the first place. Maybe it’s friendship, maybe it’s hunger, maybe it’s adrenaline. Whatever it is, take some time to identify it. It’s going to be the backbone of your leadership.

What drives you to be the Raid Leader? What is it that convinced you to take on the role?

Raid Leading Backbone

**Image from “Patton” courtesy of 20th Century Fox Films**

I have a fault. Well, I have lots, but the one I’m going to talk about is my propensity to be “too nice”. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated confrontation. I wanted everyone to be happy. People in Team Sport (my guild) have called me “The Politician” (without all of the negative stigma from current American politics). I try to make sure everyone is listened to and catered to as much as possible.

However, with regard to leading Team Sport’s Raid Team, I’ve hit the biggest snag. I can’t be “The Politician”. I have to be a leader. Previous incarnations of Team Sport raiding were very casual. If people happened to be online that night, we raided. If not, no big deal. As time went on, I noticed a few of us were very passionate about getting a raid going, while others were very lackluster about the whole ordeal. I always tried to get us raiding while not being inconsiderate to those that weren’t interested that particular night. Everytime we came close to getting something solid going, it would fall apart. Someone would have a real life issue (totally understandable) or just randomly disappear on a WoW break. Each time it would fall apart, I would most likely take my raiding desires elsewhere but found myself always back in Team Sport once it looked like raiding was possible again.

With about 2 months left to the expansion, I worked with a buddy of mine to throw some much-needed structure into the system. It started out great. We did a merge with another small guild that had the same issues, and we killed 10-man Arthas within one month. This proved to me that our team has what it takes to be a good progression crew. We just need some structure and drive.

The Present

We’ve had a good amount of guildies return to the game from “retirement”. A lot of them seem incredibly excited to raid the current content. However, when I mention this new structure (scheduling, accountability, responsibility), a few have balked at it. The main goal of the team is to actually progress through content while it’s still current, not eventually bash through it when it’s old news and nerfed to the ground. To do that, I’ve been working diligently to implement some guidelines:

  • Consistency – I justly understand and sympathize with real-life issues. Sometimes I have to work late, or I have something important that needs to be taken care of on a raid night. However, the core of us have done what we can to work our schedules around being able to raid together. We raid 3 hours each night, 2 nights each week. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for core raiders to be consistently available (within reason…don’t miss the birth of your child or risk getting fired).
  • Responsibility – A cardinal rule of raiding is being prepared. Make sure your gear is enchanted and you have flask and food available. Take the time to look up the fights. Don’t take unannounced AFK breaks or breaks that are longer than what the Raid Leader has set forth. Pay attention and look for ways that you can contribute.

If a Team Sport raider can’t consistently be available, or just lacks responsibility and preparedness, they’ll be placed in a standby slot (at best) or just not on the team (at worst). I’ve made it clear that we’ll do more casual raiding nights any other evening of the week (akin to the “if we have people on, we raid” mentality), but the Raid Team core wants Tues/Thurs night to be focused and dedicated.

The Challenge

There are some that have thought that it is too much to ask. I’ve been told that I’m making raiding “feel too much like a job” and that I’m “taking the fun out of it”. Frankly, I expected this out of some. These are people that have always enjoyed the “casual” mentality of our old raid style. I don’t blame them. It was fun when we all had the time and were just kind of strolling around Azeroth, hittin’ up a raid when we could. However, many of us don’t have that kind of time or mentality any longer. That is the precise reason these changes were made.

I’ve been recruiting to fill those spots that were once occupied by the more casual players or ones with unpredictable schedules. It does pain me to be looking for other people instead of the long-standing Team Sport members that I’ve been playing with for 3+ years, but it’s just not fun for the Raid Team core to log on, and find out we’re not raiding because of people that we can’t rely on.

So the challenge I face: How do I institute this structure and work toward the raid’s success, while still maintaining in-game friendships with those that simply don’t want to be a part of a Raid Team like that?

Matticus already told me: “Don’t be friends with your raiders.” I get that. It makes sense. It’s why there are corporate rules of management not fraternizing with employees. It muddies the water. However, I feel it’s possible that I can be strict and firm with regard to the raid, and then just be myself whenever it’s not about the raid. The trick is to let them all know that’s what’s going on.

I need to continue to be firm on what the goal of the raid team is, and how we plan on achieving that. I also need to be diligent about communicating what’s going on with the raid and its raiders. If I make sure everyone’s aware of what’s expected, then they can’t legitimately get angry when something is not up to snuff.  I have to hold the raid accountable, as well as hold myself accountable.

Have you ever dealt with being a Raid Leader of your friends? What tricks have you used to keep things moving forward without sacrificing friendship?

On that note, Team Sport is looking for a melee DPS or two for core slots. Other roles are full. However, if you’re interested in being a part of the team in a standby role, those applicants are always welcome. Outside of raiding, we’re very active in PvP and regular casual gameplay. We’re an Alliance guild on the Ner’zhul server (PvP-PST). Further info and an application @ http://teamsport.guildlaunch.com.

How to Smite Heal Your Way through Heroics and Raids

I’ve written about the Archangelism spec and style before, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t make it work at all on live. I thought it might’ve been a personal “learn to play” issue on my end and it turned out that’s what it was. Conversing with Priests who prefer the style of Archangel and Evangelism, I ultimately learned that I was doing it wrong.

A Fresh Slate

First thing’s first. Wipe out everything you know about Discipline healing. Approach it with the eye of a new healer because I would refer to this as the 6th healing spec in the game.

Setting up

The spec

33/8/0 is a spec I’m currently experimenting with with heroics and raids.

Essential glyphs

Select whichever Prime glyphs you like as it’s more personal style than anything else. I personally shoot for:

The Major glyph you must have:

The style of play

Atonement is the key talent here. Damage dealt with Smite heals the closest, weakest target which is usually the tank. Think of Smite as the spell used in place of Heal. Use it to help soften the blows your tank will take. When they get to a certain health level, switch back to Penance or healing spells and get the tank back up to the green.

So when do I trigger Archangel?

Do not look at Archangel as a mana return talent. Look at it as a healing buff talent. When you use Archangel, your healing spells get buffed. The tradeoff is that Smite does not get that extra damage boost therefore you must rely on actual healing spells during the period the period that Archangel is used. You must keep an eye on the buff timer though.

For me, everything clicked when I looked at it as a form of stance dancing: Smite healing during slow and steady periods and then activating Archangel to begin casting standard healing spells (Prayer of Healing, Shields and Penance) during intense moments.

When Evangelism is able to be stacked up again, resume the Smite fest.

Numbers wise, Smite will heal anywhere from 9.5k to me to top end critical heals of 15k+ with a mix of dungeon blues and heroic dungeon blues.

Problems

In a raid environment, you don’t have precise control over who gets the heal. I’ve had the Heal off of Smite hit a Bloodworm or a hunter pet instead of the tank (or worse, Ret Paladins). Quick reactions were needed to level off the tank with a Power Word: Shield or something. It’s because of this variability that I wouldn’t use this for raid healing unless there was a gimmick about the encounter.

An example of this is the Halfus encounter. The more drakes and whelps you take down, the more damage your Smite does which leads to stronger heals.

Another issue I ran into is that I’d let my Evangelism stacks fall off. Either I was moving around or the group started to take damage. At the first sign of not being able to refresh Evangelism, activate Archangel so you don’t incur the mana loss.

It’s certainly a fun spec to play and offers a fresh change to the normal healing grind that Priests have had. It takes a bit of getting used to.

Just don’t forget that you have other healing spells in the event things start going sour, so please use them.

Conclave of Wind

Conclave of Wind

Conquest scored their first 10 man raid boss kill a few weeks ago with the Conclave of Wind. It’s another Council-type encounter that involves multiple bosses. They don’t share health pools or anything. Once a djinn (genie?) goes down, you have a minute to take down the rest of them otherwise the disabled djinn’s will have their health restored to 100%. When engaged, the djinn’s need to have someone within attacking range otherwise players will get hit with a really strong wipe-inducing debuff.

Otherwise, keep reading for an account of each healer’s perspective on their platforms along with a quick breakdown on what actually happens.

Nezir

nezir

Nezir is the Frost djinn. He places Frost patches on the ground which needs to be avoided as the movement slow effect will stack. His Wind Chill deals Frost damage. His Sleet Storm is a Frost DoT. Be wary of Permafrost as it is a conical Frost spell hitting anyone near the target. Wind Chill is the mechanic that forces platform teams to switch as it steadily increases all Frost damage taken by 10% (in other words, it’s a stacking debuff).

His ultimate ability is Sleet Storm. It deals ~30000 damage divided by all targets within 100 yards. Make a note of this effect.

Alette’s point of view

My starting platform was Nezir’s, which is the frost platform of conclave. The damage that the boss deals scales with how many stacks of Wind Chill that the tank and I had. When 5 stacks of Wind Chill is reached, the healing becomes intense. We originally tried switching platforms at about 8 stacks but shifted it down to 5 instead. As a healer, try to always be behind or to the side of him to avoid taking permafrost damage. His ice patches are a nuisance, but I used Hand of Freedom to remove the slow effect. 

Once I reached 3 stacks, I started moving towards the ramp. At stack 5, transition was signalled verbally and the jump was made to Anshal’s platform. 

Pro tip: Don’t forget you can cast instant spells when flying through the air from platform to platform.

Make sure you hit the ramp straight on and not at an angle.

Anshal

anshal

Anshal has an AoE effect which silences any players within it and heals any of his allies. Melee players will have a field day here. Every so often, Ravenous Creepers will appear with the ability to eject Toxic Spores. These Spores will infect players with a stacking toxin. Unfortunately, there’s no direct way to remove it. The Toxin hits for about 500 damage and  it stacks. When the stacks get too high, a switch is called where the players jump over to Nezir and do a bit of damage to him for a while before jumping back. The key here is all about Ad control. Make sure those ads are dead or as weak as possible. Anshal’s ultimate heals all of his allies for 25000 health per second and they deal and extra 15% damage. In the seconds leading up to his Zephyr (his ultimate spell), you’ll want to ensure his little friends are down for the count. Once they are, all the DPS players here need to make the jump to Nezir’s platform immediately.

Ophelie’s point of view

It started like any other fight: Beacon on the tank, Holy Shocking players, and building up Holy Power. Anshal actually doesn’t hit that hard and my concentration started to waver… Then adds spawned and it took every bit of Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn and pounding my fist on the keyboard to make sure our DPS survived. The adds had barely stopped moving (and the dps had barely been healed enough) that my tank suddenly jumped onto the wind tunnel on the side. Being a good loyal healer, I jumped after him, leaving the DPS players to their misery.

I found myself in front of Nezir. I avoided frost patches on the ground the best I could. I secretly thanked the existence of Hand of Freedom, which sped up the delicate process that is reaching the frost boss. By then, the DPS had caught up with me, demanding to be healed again. I pulled out Holy Radiance, Light of Dawn and my fist again before adding Aura Mastery + Resistance Aura to the mix in order to do my best in keeping everyone alive as Nezir cast Sleet Storm. After all the excitement, the DPS left to kill more of Anshal’s flowers and I hung out with my tank and Nezir, until we noticed that we’d each gathered 4-5 stacks of debuffs, making us take more frost damage. Not wanting to mess with that, we jumped back onto the wind tunnel to hang out with Anshal, the flowers and the dps.

Healing the DPS on Anshal’s side was frustrating at times. My AoE heals were able to keep everyone up long enough for me to blast them with some Divine Lights.

It’s a coordination fight, notably coordinating damage dealt to the right boss at the right time, but from a healing perspective, it’s about communicating with your tank and with the other tank-healer team to coordinate jumping. The DPS doesn’t like to be left alone on a platform with no tank and no healer. And occasionally you have to communicate with the team working on Rohash (but they get really edgy late into the fight, so be forewarned).

Get your utility spells right too:

  • Lay on Hands is a wipe saver if your tank decides to jump while you’re mid-cast.
  • In times where your tank and your DPS are fighting for your affection, Hand of Sacrifice lets you keep the tank alive while paying attention to the DPS.
  • Bubble can be used to remove frost debuff stacks, but I found it more helpful in avoiding aggressive flowers.
  • Hand of Protection can rescue a softer DPS from those flowers.
  • Hand of Freedom can help you (or your tank) navigate the Nazir’s frost patches.
  • Holy Radiance and Light of Dawn are fantastic when you’ve got the DPS bunched up in front of you. During alone time with the tank, or to quickly save a DPS, use Word of Glory as your holy power sink.

Rohash

rohash

The big threats to watch out for from Rohash is his Wind Blast. If he faces you while casting it, you better move fast (and note that the wind spout turns in a clockwise direction). Veterans of Serpentshrine Cavern will recognize the ability as one based from the Lurker Below. His ultimate spell is called Hurricane where players on the platform are throw around in the air (akin to Malygos’ Vortex). The only spells which can be cast are instant ones. Otherwise, a tank is not needed. In fact, it is strongly advised that no melee players engage Rohash at all.

Matt’s point of view

Don’t let the other two Paladins fool you. We drew straws. I lost. I got arguably easiest djinn in the instance (which I also found fairly boring).

We took two approaches to Rohash. We tried with both a Mage or a Mage and a Warlock. We were able to progress quite nicely with both ranged DPS on this platform. There were times when our Warlock needed to switch to other platforms for diagnostic checks to ensure everything was being done properly or to help level out the damage. For the most part, Rohash was the key. Once he was down to a certain percentage, everything would come together.

Healing the damage by Rohash is a piece of cake. Heal was enough to slow down any damage dealt before relying on either Flash Heal or Greater Heal to get players back up to full again. I’ll admit I got caught off guard once or twice by the Wind Blast. The trick to avoiding Wind Blast is to pay careful attention to his bars and the direction he is facing. As a Priest, I was able to Body and Soul my way clear fairly quickly. Don’t stand too close to him as he conjures these three mini-cyclones that revolve around him. Their radius is slightly larger than the graphic. Get nailed by one, and you will get knocked back.

During the Hurricane portion, I relied on instant spells to keep myself at a high health pool as much as possible before hitting Levitate so I wouldn’t take fall damage. Yes, Circle of Healing if you have to.

How it works

The majority of the DPS will be between Nezir and Anshal (actually, that might be dependant on your raid composition). Melee players will definitely be working on Anshal and jumping platforms to Nezir as necessary to help mitigate Sleet Storm. Once the ultimate abilities have worn off, DPS players are free to resume their original positions. Our game plan was to concentrate on Rohash and Anshal. Incidental damage and DoTs or AoE would be used to gradually lower Nezir.

As soon as we took Rohash down to about 10%, we checked to ensure Anshal was near death. If he was not close, we held off DPS on Rohash. If Anshal was close to death, we lit up Time Warp and dropped both Anshal and Rohash as quick as possible. The moment the Djinn’s fell, we hightailed it to the central platform where Nezir was waiting. 1 minute was more than enough time to eliminate Nezir with concentrated fire.

We just completely blew them out of the sky.

Interview: Blacksen

I conducted this interview about two weeks ago with Blacksen of Blacksen’s End. He is both a GM and a blogger. I picked up several neat ideas as we discussed the raiding environment and guild management tips.

Hey Blacksen, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions. I understand you’re a guild leader yourself. Could you tell me more about you, your guild and how that organization came about?

Back in early December 2009, a few of my RL friends (Faux, Rissara, Krisys, and Dez) and I transferred to Zul’jin with the intent of PvP’ing together. After reading more about rated battlegrounds, we decided to start a guild doing battlegrounds on Sunday/Monday and raiding on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday.

We knew from the beginning that our primary guild value would be performance. All of us were excellent gamers who wanted to excel in the content given. Recruitment was kicked into overdrive over the Holidays and our first 25man raid was January 4th.

It’s funny to look back on it all since we specifically told people in our February, March, and April interviews that “we are not a server first guild. We can’t get server firsts raiding 3 nights per week on a very competitive PvE realm.” Now, we’re recruiting and driving for national competition while staying on our limited schedule. We’re the #3 3 night/wk guild in the United States, behind Surprise Mutiny and Arathian Knights. We’re hoping to become #1 with Cataclysm.

Over the past few months, we’ve actually split the guild into two separate “teams” under the same guild tag. I’m the main coordinator of Critical, our PvE progression team. One of my officers, Faux, is the main coordinator of Vital, our Rated Battlegrounds team. We want both teams to be able to compete at a national level while still accruing the same guild achievement, experience, and reputation benefits. This system allows the two teams to achieve that while operating completely independently.

As a guild leader myself, I’m always interested in learning about the management techniques of other guilds. Have any trade secrets?

There are a few things we learned pretty early on that helped us out, the first of which was making value-based recruitment decisions. We told people that we valued performance above everything else, and we accepted anyone who came to us saying “I also value performance.” We accepted several undergeared and underqualified applicants simply because they said “I know I’m a good player” – Toragon, Annaleise, and Anosh, to name a few.

Another thing we learned was how to specialize the trade chat macro. I still have a few examples:

  • A horse walked into a bar and the bartender asked “Why the long face” and the horse said “Because I’m not in Imperative.” Imperative is recruiting! Join now!
  • You can pwn if you wanna. You can leave your guild behind. Cus your guild don’t pwn and if it don’t pwn then it ain’t no guild of mine. Imperative is recruiting!
  • Just a city dwarf, born n’ raised in south IF! He took the midnight train going to Imperative, with a light raid schedule and 8/12 in ICC-25! Spots open, join now!
  • Apolo Ohno? More like Apollo Fail-o! Why? Because he’s not in Imperative.

These macros were essentially designed to grab attention. Most people just completely zone-out when it comes to advertisements in real life, and trade-chat advertisements are no different. These macros were designed purely to get people talking about our guild and what we were about.

Another successful idea that we implemented were guild meetings. We hold an officer meeting at the end of every raid week to discuss recruitment, member concerns, and anything else that we want. In addition, we also hold a guild meeting on the last Monday of each month. Our guild meetings serve as a reminder to individual players that we’re focused on both short-term and long-term goals. It’s easy for a lot of guilds to get so wrapped up in each progression cycle, so we created our guild meetings to reinforce long-term guild goals.

One final policy is officer chat. Anyone in the guild can talk in officer chat at any time, but only officers can read officer chat. At first, this might seem a bit strange – members type something in /o but they can’t even see their own message. Overall, it has provided an excellent flow of information. It allows members to talk to all officers simultaneously without pulling us aside. If a member has a problem with another member, an emergency afk, a strategy suggestion, or anything else that officers should be aware of, they can simply say something in officer chat. This policy ensures that some officer will see it and that all officers are aware of it, rather than just the “favorite officer.”

With regards to Cataclysm, how is your guild preparing for the expansion in the opening weeks?

We’re going to take it easy. We’ve set out first “official” 25man raid for January 4th. Between Cataclysm’s release and that date, we’ve set out some expectations for our members such as 40 heroics minimum completed, all of the good gems/enchants (including reputation ones), tradeskills high enough to incur personal raiding benefits, and strong familiarity with your class mechanics and all introductory fights. However, I’m sure we’ll end up doing some 10man raiding to start getting familiar with the fights. We might end up raiding on December 21st.

Right now, Cataclysm is looking like you cannot “skip over” heroic dungeons. WotLK had players walking into Naxxaramas with essentially quest greens, and the raid instance itself was extremely easy. Blizzard seems to be overcorrecting for that mistake, making most of the introductory encounters complete gear checks.

Our rated Battlegrounds team, Vital, is likely starting December 18th or 19th. We now know that it will be a 15v15 weekend, and we’re all very excited to dive headfirst into the competition. It’ll be interesting to see what teams show up that early and how the season scales with resilience.

How do you utilize your guild bank? How are the resources being used?

Right now, the guild bank pays for all repairs during raiding hours and provides fish feasts for all raiders. We’ve accumulated a static 225k to “sit on” going into Cataclysm. Anything over 225k is split among all active raiders at the end of the month. We sell Light of Dawn for 40k each week to two players, in addition to selling heroic run-throughs and gear.

We’re hoping to be able to provide Flask Cauldrons, but, with the changes to 10 and 25man raiding, that may not be sustainable. With the merger of 10man and 25man lockouts, it’s become difficult to sell both gear and raid spots. However, the guild leveling “perks” that deposit gold into the guild bank in addition to BoE items might transfer things over.

About raiding

Let’s talk about your raid environment for a moment. I’ve heard from a variety of raiders at upper levels that a top 100 guild is different from a top 50 guild which is different from a top 20 guild (and a top 10 guild). Do you know what I mean? Do you think you can explain that a bit? What kind of mindset or mental state is the raid in when on a progression run?

I think the main thing that varies is the collective view of the most brutal progression fights. For the most part, we were nowhere close to competing for US until we seriously pushed heroic Lich King. In fact, we spent the entire month of January competing to get on the front page of WoWProgress on Zul’jin. When we got out first heroic Sindragosa and Putricide kills, we were just under the “top 250” cutoff. We were a guild that was 4/12 heroic until the next zone-wide buff, and we’d jump 4 more bosses.

We raid three nights per week and strictly adhere to our schedule. We’ve never raided past 12:20am and never raided on a non-raid night. Most of us felt that, with 10 hours of raiding each week, things like server firsts were beyond us. We told people in interviews up front that we likely wouldn’t be getting server firsts just due to time constraints.

Our mindset changed drastically at heroic Lich King. When we learned that other guilds on the server were making limited progress, we saw an opportunity to actually seize a server first. Our raid environment went from joking-fun raiding to semi-serious and professional attitudes. Whenever the officers elected not to attempt heroic Lich King, people became extremely agitated.

There are a lot of different “modes” that raids can enter when pushing progression. There’s an “unfocused” mode where people crack up at Shadow Trap wipes. There’s a “bad luck” mode where people start feeling that elements are out of the raid’s control (disconnects, for example). There’s “rapid fire” mode where you’re literally just throwing bodies at the boss and trying to get as many attempts as you can (Quedar hates this mode. I love it). These modes are all fairly detrimental, but all difficult to control. It’s hard to make sure that people are both focused and having a good time. The worst thing that I can ever hear as a raid leader is one of my officers saying “this is miserable” – you’ve gotta keep morale up.
The one thing that all top-level guilds have in common is the high emphasis placed on performance. I’ve been playing WoW for over 4 years, and I know how challenging it can be to be an awesome player surrounded by bad ones in a terrible guild. So, in case there is any doubt, there are guilds out there where everyone is an excellent player and no one is getting carried. You just need to find them.

Can you summarize the recruiting process after the initial application? You probably have a trial portion of some sort. What does that involve? What happens when a raider passes it? What happens when they fail?

Once you submit an application, you’ll get assigned a unique application ID number that gives you and only you access to your application. The application also gets posted on our private forums so that members can post questions and comments for the applicant to see. I firmly believe that all applications should be private for both the applicant and guild, but I also wanted applicants to be able to engage in a dialogue about their application – this system allows them to do that.

After you submit an application, we usually get comments posted about it within 18-24 hours. If we like your application, you’ll get flagged for an “interview” by one of our officers. Interviews, for us, usually consist of no questions. Instead, we just lay out how we operate and what our expectations are. It’s then the burden of the applicant to evaluate themselves and critically analyze if they can meet our expectations. Nearly every applicant who gets to the interview stage is accepted.

We don’t have any “initiate” or “trial” status. Once you’re in, you’re in. You’re held to the same expectations as every other member. We do not allow “I’m new” as an excuse for poor performance. We expect everyone to get things correct on their first try, even if they’ve never seen it before.

What type of players are you looking for when you’re recruiting? Are there any specific or shared traits among the players in your raid group?
Simply put, we recruit “skilled players.” If anything, the past year has proven to us that skill drives progression – not time input. We want players who are world-class record setters and don’t need to make mistakes in order to learn the lessons.

However, there are several other elements that go into our ideal applicant. Applicants for either team are expected to be team players. We frequently call upon individuals to set aside their personal goals for a larger team goal. We had three rogues and three hunters when pushing heroic Lich King, but we only brought one rogue and one hunter due to their weak classes. In the 10-weeks prior to heroic Lich King, we received 40 heroic tier tokens in which every single one went to a DPS. We asked our healers to set aside their personal healing goals so that we could gear for the fight (heroic Lich King being a pure DPS race).

To screen for team players, we usually look at guild history. Players who are essentially “guild hoppers” usually hop whenever asked to set aside some personal goal, while players who’ve been in a single guild for 6 months or more have inevitably been asked to do something they didn’t want to do, but did it anyway for the team.

Another strong element is cultural “fit.” Imperative’s culture largely emanates a feeling of “professional college gamers.” 90% of the guild is between ages 20 and 25, and 96% of the guild either already has or is currently pursuing a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. Culturally, the majority of our members are extremely professional – no one would greet their friends like “gangstaz”. We want players who fit well with our raid environment. To do that, you need to be a generally nice person who doesn’t screw around in raids and enjoys being around other people. In the past, we removed two main tanks for extreme personality clashes (and generally being assholes).

What immediately happens after a wipe? What is the leadership approach to players who aren’t “getting it”?

Immediately after any wipe, every officer writes down what they interpreted as the cause of the wipe in addition to any mistakes that were made in the previous attempt. This data is then compiled later in our officer forums for analysis. We then explain what we interpreted as the cause of the wipe and what we need to do to improve.

If individual players just “aren’t getting it,” their raid spot will immediately be called into question in both the short-term and long-term. If someone is simply having an off-night, they’ll get replaced for the remainder of the evening. However, if someone is sincerely struggling at learning an individual boss mechanic, their long-term raid spot will also be questioned (sometimes publicly).

We are a guild of rising standards, and, to us, WoW is an easy game. At one point in time, we recruited based on the ability to run out of normal-mode Sindragosa’s Icy Grip. We later (much later) recruited off the ability to down heroic Lich King and heroic Halion. For the past two months, we’ve been recruiting off the ability to farm heroic Lich King. When Cataclysm hits, we expect all of our members to rapidly learn and perfect fight execution. With each fight, there’s a new performance standard set. If they fall significantly behind, we’ll open recruitment for someone who can meet the new standards.

Rumor has it you instituted a “bottom 3” policy at some point in time. What was that about?

The “bottom 3” policy was in effect until September earlier this year. Essentially, the policy states that we’re always seeking to replace the “bottom 3” players in the guild. At the end of each week, officers meet to discuss who were the three least skilled players in the guild. We then inform those three that they were in the bottom 3, and, if they do not significantly improve, we recruit over them. Being in the bottom 3 also removes all loot privileges until we see an improvement. When it comes time to critically analyze an individual raid spot, we look at how often that player appears in the bottom 3 and if we believe their performance level can change. Once we receive an application from someone that we are convinced is better than someone in our bottom 3, we replace them. Once that recruit proves to be actually better than the player in the bottom 3, we remove the player.

At first glance, it sounds brutally harsh, but it has proved extremely effective for us in the past. First, it’s worth noting that no one who was meeting raid standards has ever appeared in the bottom 3. Second, it’s generally hard to “convince us that you’re better.” We need to see long-term attendance levels and performance levels that are better than our current players. One single raid-night parse doesn’t cut it here.
Finally, the policy doesn’t really do anything different than most other raiding guilds. Most guilds look to replace their weaker players with stronger players, and the weakest players tend to get more urgency attached onto them. It’s nothing new to say that we “remove our bad players.” The bottom-3 policy forced us to focus on only 3 bad players rather than a potential 10 that were on our roster early on.
What type of loot distribution system do you run and what was the thought process that led you to it?

Ironically, I was a DKP-addict throughout all of Burning Crusade. I spent countless hours trying to create the perfect system that would give the correct incentives for showing up and performing. It wasn’t until I joined Aftermath on Lightning’s Blade that I was enlightened to the brilliance of loot council. Aftermath had a perfect loot council that made decisions purely based on progression and performance. To them, gear was a means to an end. When starting Imperative, I attempted to copy several of their policies.

Early on, loot council made sense for us. We wanted to ensure that our best players got all the gear they wanted, while our weakest players got absolutely no gear at all. Point-based systems tend to over-emphasize attendance and downplay performance, so they weren’t an option.
Loot council is the optimal form of loot distribution at high-end progression raiding. For us, “fairness” is completely irrelevant. Gear is allocated purely for whatever is going to get us the most progression the fastest. As mentioned earlier, the 40 tier tokens that dropped prior to downing heroic Lich King went to DPS’ers. Stronger AoE classes were given preference on the tokens over weaker AoE classes. We were gearing to down heroic Lich King, not to be “fair.”

Now, I consider myself an expert in loot councils. I’m the author of the #1 Loot Council mod, LootCouncil_Lite. The mod gives loot councils a solid voting interface with the ability to quickly compare upgrade sizes. It has become a critical part of our loot council procedures.

*Edit: I personally use Loot Council Lite and I love it.

What you did for the red shirt guy was touching. What made you decide to offer that gesture? How did the rest of your guild take it?

After BlizzCon and reading the horrific comments on the forums and YouTube, I went to track down the red shirt guy. After learning his identity, we extended him the offer to come to a 12/12 heroic clear, getting all gear that he could use including heroic tier tokens and Lich King weapons.
We felt that, out of everyone in the United States, he would get the most enjoyment being a part of the most epic battle that has ever been made within any MMO. He genuinely appreciated the meaning and lore behind Invincible – it wasn’t just a “cool mount” to ride around. A lot of people have tried to make him feel bad or feel like a nerd, so we thought he should get the gear to feel totally badass.

We did not reveal the identity of the red shirt guy until after the raid, so most had no idea what was going on. We didn’t want him being harassed by individuals in the guild or on the server. We instead told the guild that I had a “personal friend” transferring over, and that he would get any and all gear that he wanted during our 12/12 heroic Icecrown clear. He walked out with two heroic Tier Tokens, the heroic Deathwhisperer dagger, the heroic Lich King axe, and a few other pieces.

Most notably, we gave the red shirt guy Invincible. One of my officers (Faux) won the roll and elected to give it to him, sacrificing his vanity item eligibility for a few months. After revealing his identity, a few members outright didn’t believe us and were a little disgruntled that we gave Invincible to “some friend of Blacksen.” After the red shirt guy made the YouTube video, however, everyone was happy and warm inside.

About the blogs

What’s Blacksen.com about? Are there any projects you’re apart of?

Blacksen.com is about a wide range of topics, from guild and raid leadership to zone critiques to game design suggestions. I originally started it as a feeble attempt to improve my chances of getting into the gaming industry. Once I really got going and Imperative started making significant long-term progress, blogging became more of an hobby.

The majority of the blog focuses on guild and raid leadership within World of Warcraft, but there are a few other things I’ve tossed in. A lot of my guildmates have recently become enthralled with League of Legends, so I’ve written a couple of entries on that. A significant number of us also participated in the Cataclysm beta.

I’ve also been a part of the MMOLeader.com launch. The title pretty much explains what it is – a place for leaders within MMO’s to congregate to discuss various strategies and issues that they’ve experienced.

Thanks again to Blacksen for taking the time to participate in this interview!

A Must-Read for the Cataclysm Player

Needless to say, I’ve been enjoying a nice little break from WoW before Cataclysm. Spent time with family for Turkey Day, beat Mass Effect (never played it before), and I’ve been looking forward to the new expansion for the WoW TCG–not for the loot card but to actually enjoy the game.

I came across a great post on the MMO-Champion forums which let me reminisce about my original post here when I was still a guest. I’ve tried to focus a majority of my blogging on how everyone can help each other. The name of the guild I’m in is Team Sport, and that’s what I believe this game is. Hence, when I read the forum post by Daetur, I felt like a proud father. Not because I had any direct impact on him/her but because it goes along with everything that I believe this game should and could be. Instead of making a small link to it in the midst of this text… I’m going to make sure you don’t miss this:

DAETUR’S CATACLYSM FORUM POST

Daetur discusses what each player (Tank, Healer, DPS) can do to ensure the success of any dungeon or raid. He takes the stance that many of us have gotten “complacent” in WotLK with regard to raiding and dungeons. Through my experience, I have to say I agree. We’ve come to expect AoE’ing down 3 packs of mobs, healing through debuffs, and risking death to get a few more casts in. According to Daetur, we’re in for a rude awakening. I’m excited! A few things he mentions:

  • CC is key. We are going to need to CC mobs, and avoid breaking them at all costs.
  • Defensive cooldowns are key all around. Tanks, Healers, and DPS are going to need their cooldowns to help stay alive.
  • Healers need to manage their mana, since it’s now at a premium and no longer infinite.

I can’t help but feel like the whole thing meant to make the job of the healer’s more manageable. Well, it’s true. The goal of any fight is to kill them before they kill you. We may be able to burst to high hell, but if we can’t stay alive doing it, then what’s the point? I’m already bracing myself for the backlash of the “uninformed”: “L2Heal noob.” We no longer live in a world of invincibility. Everyone is reponsible for helping everyone else stay alive and do their job easier.

Remember, I only lightly summarized the forum post by Daetur. I implore you to please read the entire post. You may not disagree, and all of it may not be pertinent to you, but you’ll know what everyone is up against in Cataclysm. Help each other out.

[VIDEO] A Preview of Cataclysm Raid Healing

Cataclysm raid healing (Watch in a larger resolution if possible)

No post for today but I figured there were a number of healers out there who really wanted to see what raid healing would be like in the expansion. Here’s a video which includes the first two bosses from Bastion of Twilight on 10 man. I narrated the entire video (and if you’re tired of my voice, by all means, feel free to mute the audio) explaining what was going on and what I was doing.

I also learned how to do slow motion action which I’ve put to great effect towards the end. Don’t miss out on Life Grip in action!

Twitter followers get to watch my videos first (along with those who can find the elusive World of Matticus facebook fan page). I usually use them as guinea pigs a litmus test to see whether or not I should publish a video here.

Lastly, the official guild announcement regarding the rated BG team. 

Cap on Rebirth and Soulstone?

Zarhym just dropped a bomb for us raiders. With Rebirth being restored to a 10 minute timer and Soulstone creation at 15 minutes, the devs have decided to add an additional limit.

You can only use 1 Rebirth or 1 Soulstone per attempt on 10 player raids and any 3 combinations for 25.

The design for combat resurrection effects has changed a good deal for Cataclysm, and we want to make sure players are clear on how spells like Rebirth and Create Soulstone now function. Rebirth has a 10-minute cooldown and Create Soulstone has a 15-minute cooldown. On raid boss encounters, you can only use one of these combat resurrection spells (so one Rebirth or one Soulstone) per attempt for 10-player raids. For 25-player raids you can use three forms of combat resurrection per raid boss attempt (so three of any combination of Rebirth and Soulstone). The count is incremented as soon as a player accepts a resurrection, so one can always choose not to accept if he or she wants someone else to get the resurrection instead. There is no equivalent of the Sated debuff (which tracks Bloodlust/Heroism usage), but you will get an error message if you try to resurrect too many players, and we might add tracking to our raid interface if there is demand for it. Outside of raid content, you can use as many battle resurrections as you have available.

Source

As a GM, I have a few issues with this. I understand the design intent behind it so that we’re not using 8 Druids in raids or anything. As it is, I feel that I’m burning through Rebirths more often then I like but I do enjoy having the safety net that they offer. Ultimately, we need to do better.

My question is what will happen with the Reincarnate from Shaman. I remember Divine Intervention was removed as a form of wipe prevention. I wonder if a Shaman will get exempted or it it will count. The limitation begins when a player accepts the resurrect not when it is cast upon them.

I’m hoping they’ll add a tracking interface to it. I had to use addons like RaidCooldowns to determine which Druids busted their Rebirths and who has theirs available. Ideally, the interface will tell me who used their Rebirth so I know who not to call on when I do need one. Speaking of hope, it seems a bit of a stretch, but I  hope our defensive cooldowns will not be limited in the same manner. Can you imagine only using a certain amount of Hymns or Pain Suppressions and Guardian Spirits per encounter? That would be a big problem.

We’re limited on second chances now if this gets final approval. We really need to pick and choose which players to select for a resurrect.

[VIDEO] Omnitron Defense System

Here’s a video of the kill I was a part of when we took down the Omnitron Defense System during Sunday. Special thanks to Blacksen and his guild for allowing me to participate. I wasn’t actually healing at all on this fight. I’m the elemental shaman that’s throwing lightning bolts. It’s a hectic encounter and there is so much stuff going on. Three healers were used for 10 man. It’s a good indication of what to expect.

Read my writeup on WoW Insider (It should be up sometime around 6:00 AM PST, Tuesday morning)