Matticast Episode 2

Welcome to Episode 2 of The Matticast. This week Matt, Borsk, Kat, and Brian discuss:

  • How to spend those first Valor Points
  • How to deal with a guildie who is not enjoying their class (or what to do if that guildie is you!)
  • Are Druids and Shaman really not useful in High End Raiding
  • Community Responsibility to the Average Player

Don’t forget you can send us your questions or topic, and be sure to checkout and participate in the listener topic every Wednesday.

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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!

[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. 

Crafting Your State of the Guild Address

For guild leaders, expansion transition is one of the most perilous moments. I know it can be difficult at times to convey thoughts and desires, but it is absolutely vital to do so before the expansion. This guild leader has a bad habit of occasionally forgetting to communicate. Like any relationship, back and forth discussion is always key.

What is in a state of the guild address?

Every guild will have different points to cover. There are a few similarities. The basic intent here is to state what it is your guild is going to do in the expansion. Even if there is zero change in purpose from Wrath to Cataclysm, it’s a good refresher for existing players and serves as a good place to start for prospects.

Some things your might want to cover are:

  • Direction: Casual guild? Social guild? Raiding guild? PvP guild? What is the point of this guild?
  • History: This is a good time to reflect back on the expansion of your guild accomplishments and anything you wish you could have improved upon.
  • Recruiting: Has anything changed regarding recruiting? Are you accepting max level characters only? What about re-rolls?
  • Raiding: Is the  raiding schedule going to change? New days or new times? What about 10 vs 25 man?
  • Policies: This is a great section to list any updates for any policies like alts, guild bank, loot system changes, attendance and so forth.
  • Timeline: For progression oriented guilds, consider stating intended timelines for leveling and raiding. Which week will the guild hit level 85? When will the guild begin formally raiding?
  • Leadership: Any officers stepping down? Any promotions being handed out?

In your address, you mainly want to target your guild. Your members want to know what is going on because there will be players who might wish for a change of scenery. At the same time, leave it in a publically viewable area like the front page or on a recruiting forum. This way, potential applications can read it and have a better idea of what your intentions are.

Here’s the one I wrote for my guild and I’ll do a breakdown of what I was thinking.

Raiding progression plans

There were a large number of players who have entered the guild. Raiders will come and go. Life happens, right? But I wanted to acknowledge their contributions.

Conquest started during Wrath. The first two years were spent seeing consolidating and seeing what we were capable of. I want to thank the over 100 players who have played alongside Conquest over the years. Without your efforts, we would not be where we are today.

I want to elevate this guild. Right now, we’re a little over 20th on Ner’zhul. I’m not going to be satisfied until we break and maintain at least top 10. Ner’zhul is extremely competitive. There’s over 20 guilds that have downed heroic Sindragosa 25 (pre-patch 4.0.1). I think we can reach that next level.

Our raiding interests will remain in 25 man.

What did I want to do differently? We’re already raiding. There were points during Wrath where I felt the guild “lagged” a bit compared to other raiding guilds on the server. Yes, this is a Wrath guild but now that the guild had been around for an expansion, I wanted to “get there”. I know that over time, we’ll eventually see bosses but I want to clear out the entire expansion. The ambition and the drive wasn’t completely there for me in Wrath and consequently there are a few encounters we did not take down.

A shift in recruiting

After discussion with officers, it was decided to open recruiting up further. With the expansion weeks away, there isn’t much of a point to recruit for current content. We’re just in farm mode and finishing up drakes for players who still need them. The time is best used to recruit anyone who wants to raid in the expansion regardless of their level.

Getting into Conquest is easy. Raiding with Conquest will require a little extra effort. For the time being, we have shifted our recruiting policy. In light of the new guild leveling system and guild perks, we have opened our doors to any player who believes they can contribute. Friends of current guild members are welcome to apply as is anyone else looking to hang out.

Rerolls and non-maxed characters

If you are not max level or wish to reroll, simply go ahead and apply anyway. List any existing 80s you have and fill out the application as normal. Add a note at the end saying that you have no desire to raid current content and you’re here to have a shot for our Cataclysm raiding team.

Why?

We’re planning for the future. We’re not simply looking for appropriate class or spec make up. We’re looking specifically for players with the right character and personality for the guild. Evaluation is always an ongoing process. Players that pass their trial period sometimes leave weeks after citing difference of opinion or other problems. I encourage players to experience the guild environment first before committing themselves to raiding after.

Trust me when I say I made some mistakes regarding personnel. I have no intention of seeing it happen again.

I have always maintained that different players will favour different guilds. I would not last very long in a casual raiding guild or a PvP guild. Can you see me in an RP guild? It would be amusing to watch me, but I would simply drown.

Scheduling

It’s not enough to say that you want to get there. In my case, I had to back it up. I didn’t want to another day or more hours. But I knew there were times when if we had just one or two more attempts, we would have gotten that boss. The decision was made to add 90 minutes overall to the raid schedule. I’m banking that it might be enough to put us over the top.

In light of the renewed commitment from the leadership, we’re looking at a minor extension of the raiding schedule. A fourth day will not be added. Instead, the intent is to run 2 raiding schedules: One for progression and one for farm.

During progression, an extra 30 minutes will be added per raid night.

Tuesday: 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Thursday: 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Monday: 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM
On farm, we will continue at our current pace and adjust accordingly.

Tuesday: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Thursday: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
* Monday: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

* We’re going to reach a point where all content can be cleared within that time. As we do not know the scope nor difficulty of the new raids, it is hard to say. Raid times may still be adjusted depending on our progress.

Naturally, this will depend on what raid instances are like. How many bosses are in them? How much trash do we need to blow up? All that stuff adds up.

Timeline

I leveled to 85 once on beta, so I had a rough idea of what to expect. I number of my guild mates have already scheduled time off of work for that opening week (on a side note, have you cashed in on your sick days?)

Here is the expected course for the first opening weeks of Cataclysm.

December 7th: Cataclysm released

Week 1 (December 14th): Guild members at 85 and geared to run dungeon heroics.
Week 2 (December 21st): After farming and acquiring mats for craftable gear coupled with heroic items, we should be ready to begin raiding.
Week 3 (December 28th): Multiple raid boss kills by now.
Stock up on the red bull and the pizza pops.

Please note: 10 man raiding operations will begin immediately the moment we have enough players and the appropriate raid composition. The goal is to get in there and start familiarizing boss mechanics. Any extra loot is a bonus. An item earned then is an item we don’t have to craft or waste time on getting from heroics. We will transition to 25 as quickly as possible from there.

On the beta, when I took down those raid bosses, my average ilevel score was approximately 350. I believe a minimum of approximately 340 ilevel could be sufficient enough.

This is a really optimistic time line. It took me about 50 hours combined just to go from 80 to 85. But I had the advantage of being on a PvE beta server and rested experience. Ner’zhul is a PvP server and I seriously doubt I’ll have that much rested experience lying around. Clearing out the entire normal mode bosses by New Years is something I secretly wish for but that might be too wishful. We entered Wrath as a 25 man guild and we’re going to go into Cataclysm the same way.

Those were just some of the major points. If you’re interested in seeing the rest, feel free to check it out. There really isn’t a wrong way to writing one. You could deliver it verbally over Ventrilo or Mumble but you’ll want to avoid cases of “he said, she said” type situations. Having it laid out in text keeps everyone on the same page.

Now I’m trying to remember what’s next on my to do list. Transitioning expansions is never easy.

[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)

How to Melee DPS Without Making Healers Cry

This is a guest post by Shazrad of Zul’jin. One of the best players I’ve ever had the pleasure of raiding with. ~Lodur

As DPS it’s our job to do as much DPS as possible.  We can’t do that if we can’t stay alive. We can’t do that if we are irritating our healers to the point that they think it would be more mana efficient to res us rather than heal us. In truth, nothing irritates healers and raid leaders more than DPS who have little or no situational awareness.  With that said lets break things down a bit.

To start with let’s break down what DPS really is. I know what some readers are thinking.  “DPS means DAMAGE PER SECOND dummy!” I’m sorry but you are wrong.

It stands for this:

  1. Don’t stand in things that damage you
  2. Placement, placement and placement
  3. Stay alive

Any raid leader will tell you I am right.

Matt’s notes: He’s right.

Those 3 things are the most common obstacles that melee DPS face. Your rotation can be perfect. Your spells can be up without missing a beat. Yet if you fail in any of those 3 areas you become useless to your raid. In order to help you better understand what each item means I will break them down for you.

  • Don’t stand in things that damage you - This sounds easy. I guarantee you that almost every raid leader will agree that standing in fire/defile/desecrate/ (insert random boss ability here) causes 90 % of raid DPS deaths. Standing in things that damage does not just mean health dropping. Some things cause your attacks to slow, some cause you to miss more often and so on and so forth. There are rare occasions where standing in something will give you a DPS boost. Those instances are so rare, it’s best to just not stand in anything that appears on the floor during a boss fight. If you’re not sure, ask. No good raid leader will be mad at you for asking but you can bet that you will hear it if you don’t ask and die repeatedly to the same thing when all you really need to do is move.
  • Placement, placement and placement – Where you stand is just as important as where you shouldn’t stand. This typically means that unless told otherwise melee stands BEHIND the target, casters stand off to the side or behind the target. DPS who stand in front of the target are dealing with cleaves, parry, and everything else the tank is dealing with. It’s not somewhere you want to be on most fights. Always know where you need to be and be there and you will be loved by all. (Disclaimer: I probably still won’t love you I’m anti love unless you’re a chicken salad sandwich.)
  • Stay Alive – No matter what you must live. Dead DPS is not DPS; it’s a corpse. Corpses (unless you’re a ghoul) sit there and rot. So do whatever you have to do to NOT die.

If you can do these three things you are already a step ahead of the game.

Tips and Tricks:

In this section I will go over some basic things that will help you survive.

  • Keyboard Turning – Its bad! Do not do it. Keyboard turning is using your arrow or A and S keys to turn. This method of turning is to slow. Instead use your mouse to turn. Right click your mouse and move it to the left or right. It’s about 100000 times faster. Keyboard turning is just too slow for raiding. The abilities that bosses throw when you need to turn and burn hit so hard that if you keyboard turn you will most likely die. Dead characters are useless.
  • Jumping out of Damage – Its bad do NOT do it. Jumping in World of Warcraft is not like jumping in the real world. When you jump the game records your position. When you land it updates your position. So when you jump out of damage the game registers you in the damage until you land. In most cases your jump is farther than you actually need to go. This means you are taking damage the entire time you are in the air. It’s bad. Don’t do it.
  • Strafing – Is useful. When fighting most bosses they have a tendency to throw stuff right at your feet. Try to get in the habit of strafing left and right to move out of the damage. Moving this way is easier and faster than turning and moving.
  • Zoom Out – Zoom your camera out as far as you can. This allows you to not only see what you are doing but you can also see what’s going on around you. Knowing what’s going on in a fight is the key to winning.
  • Situational Awareness – Without this you might as well go back to soloing Dead Mines. Get yourself a good boss mod. Set it up so that the information it provides is easy for you to see. I try and keep all my important alerts right around my character. This way my eyes are always on what my character is doing. Try to avoid sticking it way off in a corner somewhere. With it up there you are having to constantly take your eyes off the action.  Also make sure you enable the audio alerts. These sounds will draw your attention to important details even if you’re focused on something else.
  • Stay Behind – Unless your raid leader tells you to specifically stay in front of a boss attack from behind. Attacking from the front causes you to miss more often (except in certain special boss fights).  Bosses also often have cleaves and other nasty effects that will usually kill you in a single hit.
  • Ask Questions – Do not be afraid to ask your raid leader a question. I know this is cliché but “There are no stupid questions unless you don’t ask them.” So ask. Even if you have asked before. Do not go into an encounter with a question. Unasked questions are the same thing as not knowing what to do. You will likely die or even worse you may wipe the entire raid out because you didn’t know what to do and didn’t have the guts to speak up.
  • Get Some Mods – There are plenty of mods out there that will help you with every aspect of a raid. Mods like Power Auras Classic and GTFO can be set up to let you know when you are taking damage. Deadly Boss Mods and Big Wigs are extremely good at letting you know when to move. These are just a few examples of mods that can help you know when to move.

Final Thoughts:

In closing there are three things I would like to stress:

  1. Anything on the floor be it fire, funky red glowing circles or a big fluffy blue line is probably bad. Get out of it unless your raid leader says to stand in it.
  2. Know the fight before you start the fight. Watch a video, read a strategy, ASK YOUR RAID LEADER! Know when to move.  Don’t be that guy…
  3. STAY ALIVE NO MATTER WHAT. If you die you are useless to the raid.
Can Your Raid do More With Less?

Can Your Raid do More With Less?

Its a dark and stormy Monday night. Rain drops are slowly streaming down my face as I wearily walk through the door. I kick off my shoes and my feet are practically screaming in glee after escaping the cold, damp prisons of my New Balance sneakers. I hustle straight to my computer and flip the switch on. As the machine slowly spins to life, I change into something drier and comfortable.

“Gentlemen.” I spoke after joining our guild voice server, “How are we looking tonight?”

I received a chorus of acknowledgements ranging from “Good, what are we doing?” to “Your mom”. Just another day in Matt’s guild.

Once I logged into a game, I noticed of activity in officer chat. During the minutes that lead up to the first pull, we’re constantly assessing our roster and determining what bosses to aim for. One of the initial steps is to see what our attendance is like. There are times where there are some last minute player signouts or late notices. I got my raid invite and took a mental stock of our roster.

23 raiders with no other players in sight. It was about time for first pull. Some were starting to wonder if we would go since we didn’t have a full raid. The only boss remaining was Lich King. We wanted more weapons.

“We have the tanks to do this.” My tanking officer reported.

“More than enough stuns and slows for valks. Good to go.” Confirmed the raid leader. “Matt, healing?”

I quickly assessed my healers. There were five of us. We normally took six. I felt we could operate with less but I’ve always preferred the extra safety net when we were short bodies. It was time to get out of the comfort zone and see what the healing unit was capable of.

“It might be choppy. Being down two isn’t going to help. I think we can pull it off.” I responded with confidence.

Pushing the limit

I’ve always wondered what the minimum number of players for taking down Lich King would be. Could he be taken down with 24? With 22? How about at 80% capacity with 20? There was only one way to find out. You’re not going to know what your raid capacity is going to be unless you actually try it. Its good to stress test the raiders in shorthanded situations because you never know when it’ll happen during future raids. Someone might disconnect early on an attempt or die halfway through it.

Can your raid adjust to that sort of temporary setback?

Raid potential

raid-potential

While it is somewhat simple to quantify exactly how much DPS or healing is needed to successfully get through an encounter, there are other factors which you can’t really put a number on. Things like raid intelligence, awareness, and skills are all variables that determine whether your raid has the that mentality to gut through an encounter.

I’ve been surprised before in the past. When I think the raid group is lacking in certain roles or DPS and we go out and take down a boss, a little part of me inside cheers. The inverse also holds true. On moments where we wipe when I felt certain that we had the kill in the bag, I experience that sinking feeling in my stomach wondering what went wrong.

You’re never going to know what your raid can do unless you go out and try it. Obviously if raid potential is far below whatever the raid requirements might be, then the unpopular decision of calling it an early night might be the better course of action. When raiding short handed, the performance of everyone else needs to go up in order to compensate for the lack of players.

Unfortunately, we found out after a while what our limit was. Turns out if a player is lagging out, they’ll always get targeted with a Defile. On a side note, it seems that healers seem to respond to the instinctive need to keep healing. What else is a healer supposed to do with player who has lagged out in the middle of a Defile?

(Hint: The answer isn’t to keep healing him)

Alas, with multiple disconnected players the executive decision was made to call it an early night. Better luck next week.

Have you ever been in a raid where you were astonished at what the group could do because of class composition or lack of numbers? Was there any creative strategy used to get around the problems?

POLL: Will you raid 10 man or 25 man in Cataclysm?

POLL: Will you raid 10 man or 25 man in Cataclysm?

One of the best — or worst things depending on your view — to happen to raiding in a long time was the inclusion of smaller group sized content. I talked a little bit about this over on BDTU with my pieces on the Evolution of WoW part 1 and part 2.

The trend started with the addition of Zul’Gurub, a troll instance of now infamous reputation, when it broke from the 40-man raid standard and offered 20-man content. It hailed back to the days of Blackrock Spire being a multiple group raid, and people loved it.

Karazhan further stoked the fires of the smaller group raid desire, and did so while offering epic and story filled content. Players loved it so much that the forums were filled countless replies asking for more smaller group . With Wrath came the revelation that all raid content would be be available in 25-man flavor as set forth by Burning Crusade, but also  in new raid 10-man flavor (all of the raid, less than half the calories). Different levels of gear purchasable by badges came out (as well as loot tables that varied between 10 and 25 man), and both 10 and 25 man raids dropped the same badges. The trick, and the problem, was that people felt compelled to run both 10 and 25 man versions to maximize badges. Some people felt that you absolutely had to run both to “beat the game”.

This is also a result of how loot was distributed. Badges gave you the entry level gear for the items at the end of this expansion cycle. Badges gave you the “entry level” piece for the tier set, this was considered the 10 man version of the tier. Tokens in 25 man raids would drop that allowed you to upgrade the 10 man piece to the next level up. Heroic 25 man dropped yet another token that allowed you to upgrade it to it’s maximum potential. You can see how it would be assumed the more badges you had the better gear you had and the quicker you could climb the gear ladder right?

Well, the devs didn’t like that, nor did less hardcore players (or those of us who don’t have the time to devote to constantly running raids all week long) and a new system was proposed for Cataclysm. The system says that the same content will be provided for 10 and 25 man versions, and the reward levels will be the same. That is to say that the Ilvl of gear will be on par between versions, and they will share the same loot tables. The major difference will be that 25 man will have more damage and more health to worry about in boss fights and such, and you will get MORE loot drops than the 10 man content does. Also, a raid regardless of being 10 or 25 man, all share the same raid ID and lockout. Do a  25 man version and kill a boss? Cool. Split into two 10 mans of the same thing and that boss is still dead for both groups. You can’t up-convert from 10 to 25, but you can down-size if attendance becomes an issue or some such.

So this brings up an interesting question for a lot of guilds and raid groups right now. Is it worth it to run 25 man content if the rewards for 10 are the same? Is the extra loot enough of a benefit to keep you raiding in 25 man content or do you give up and just say screw it? I know a lot of guilds are going through this debate right now. I know some of them personally. This happened in a smaller capacity when Wrath was announced to have 10 man content. Some guilds decided the smaller size was for them and paired down into tight-knit, more tactical 10 man groups. So now that the gear is equal level between 10 and 25, aside from quantity, I know many guilds that have weighed the pros and cons of both formats and decided to go for the smaller size.

My guild Unpossible recently had this discussion. We pulled all of the officers into a private vent chat and hashed it out. it was about even split on the case of 10 vs 25, and there were a lot of good points made. After a good half hour discussion, we decided that we would stay a 25 man raiding guild. Our structure was already in place and had been since the release of Burning Crusade, and it has been stable and working since. We have a dedicated group of raiders who love the group we are in and the dynamic we have going. We also decided that we just felt more comfortable in the 25 man environment.

For me personally, I voted in favor of keeping the 25 man raid group. I love the logistical challenge of tracking so many players — and yes I know it’s not the 40 man content or raids from vanilla but I served my time in those — and the dynamic we have set up between all the various parts of the raiding group works well together, and I’d hate to break that up. I also didn’t like the idea of balancing multiple 10 man groups. Something I’ve seen over the last few years, people have an easier time being benched for a raid than they do taking part in a raid that is behind another group. I didn’t want to breed an environment of Group A vs Group B and cause any unnecessary drama.

So with Cataclysm on the horizon, has your guild discussed this at all? Has your raid group decided whether it will raid 10 man or 25 man content? Were you already raiding as a 10 or 25 man group? What do you think the benefits of both are? What about the drawbacks? I’d love to hear your opinions on this and see how the community as a whole has decided.

Will your guild raid 10 man or 25 man content in Cataclysm?

  • 10 Man / 10 Man Hard Mode (69%, 346 Votes)
  • 25 Man / 25 Man Hard Mode (21%, 103 Votes)
  • Banana (12%, 61 Votes)

Total Voters: 498

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Until next time, happy healing!