Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, win a little more.”–Louis L’Amour
I’ve always told the members of my raid that if you play well, play hard, and have fun doing it, your rank will reflect that hard work. Playing as a team and working towards that common goal pays off in itself. As soon as you get too caught up in how well other guilds are playing, you start to lose focus on what you’re doing: killing the boss in front of you. This is a philosophy you tend to be accustomed to in the cliche’d world of team sports, but it is just as true in WoW.
With the release of Wrath of the Lich King, our goal as a raid team was simple. We weren’t going to be satisfied playing at a level that would put us behind in content. We wanted to be out in front experiencing everything when it was relevant. If we were server 1st, Alliance 1st, or server 5th it didn’t matter, as long as we were staying at pace with the other top guilds on the server.
It wasn’t until Ulduar that we truly stepped to the front of Alliance progression, proving to ourselves that we could play at a high level.
Give No Pause To Your Attacks
Standing at the door to The Prison of Yogg-Saron with one guild in front of us and several trailing closely behind, was as much pressure as actually taking on the Old God itself. The environment of the server at the time was incredibly competitive. Before this we had never been above 3rd place on Alliance Side and the previous tier of content wasn’t deemed difficult enough to be measured as a true test of progression.
We were ahead a few bosses, but none of us were resting easy. Our guild was headed down the final stretch, but there were still several on the bell lap finishing up the final keepers and heading into the depths of Ulduar. Our surest path to victory was having consistent, hard-working, and focused raids. Having to take days off waiting on attendance and hoping for a raid comp wasn’t going to get us anywhere.
Unfortunately for us, the always informative StratFu was not yet developed for us to use and we were mostly going off of a scarce supply of YouTube videos for our strategy.
Phase 1 was always rough. Getting through it right away or wiping over and over again was a crap shoot. Sometimes the DPS would space out and hang around for a cloud to float over them. Other times healers would just be too slow keeping the tanks up. It was a coordinated dance/cycle of pick up add, DPS add (but not too much!), interrupt the add, kill the add in the center. Teaching DPS to stop pressing their buttons is like trying to teach an 18 wheeler to slam on the brakes and stop right away. You WANT them to stop, you’ll ASK them to stop, but they won’t and you’ll watch as things go out of control.
It’s not teaching them to STOP. It’s asking them to slow down, hold on, and then continue on the next add. Patience, careful planning, and staying calm are all keys to phase 1. If you over-think it or try to do too much, you’ll be there forever.
Look Upon the True Face of Death…
The Blizzard Old God Check List (this is straight from the Irvine, HQ):
- Two rooms
- A “Weakened” Phase
Oh the tentacles of Phase 2. Your first thoughts when entering this phase was “how the hell are we going to kill all of these tentacles?” The Keepers have buffed us with speed, a free life, extra healing, and supreme power, but we’re falling behind. In actuality, just like in C’thun, the key to fight lied in the other room. In Ahn’Qiraj it was C’thun’s Stomach, but for Yogg-Saron it was his brain.
You never really kept up with the tentacles. The melee entering the brain room were who decided whether the attempt would be a success or not. The faster they cleared the tentacles out of those rooms, the more time they had to DPS Yogg-Saron’s exposed brain. On the outside the ranged DPS finished off the frozen tentacles, and would be assured that no more tentacles would spawn until the brain became active again. How do you contstruct a raid with 9 melee, but also enough ranged DPS to keep up with tentacle spawns between brain freeze? Simple, you only took 4 healers.
…and Know That Your End Comes Soon
Healing Yogg-Saron as one of four players was different. There wasn’t really a lot of actual damage to heal. It was a cleansing fight. You played whack-a-mole for about 6 minutes since anything that could damage a player couldn’t be healed. There was one debuff of each type and luckily Shamans could cleanse 3 of these with only one mouse click.
Then comes Phase 3.
Phase 3 of Yogg Saron was a tense experience the first few times. As soon as the Brain Team brought Yogg Saron to 30%…it started. No speech, no role-playing cut scene, it’s on right now. Immortal Guardians begin to spawn as tentacles are being cleaned up. Healing for that last bit was always a choice. Cleanse that debuff or quickly heal the tank that just got hit. Should I stand away from melee range to avoid aggro? Or should I stand in melee range to avoid aggro if an add spawns in the raid?
All along, as the boss slowly gets burned down, you’re avoiding going insane. Insane from the fight mechanics and also insane from keeping your wits straight as you know an Alliance First is on the line. A tank might miss a taunt and result in a melee getting killed. A ranged DPS squeezing out a few more GCD’s while staring into Lunatic Gaze brings them ever closer to serving Yogg-Saron for the remainder of the fight.
The Fiend of a Thousand Faces
For BRM the defeat of Yogg-Saron meant more than a few achievement points and another entry into the progression thread. It meant that we had arrived as a guild. Yogg-Saron was, and still is, a truly challenging encounter. It is one that we would continue to learn, perfect, and make increasingly more difficult in the coming months to obtain Glory of the Ulduar Raider.
The time between our first look at Yogg-Saron and his eventual defeat was short, only a week from April 27th to May 4th, but it might have been the longest raiding week any of us have been a part of this expansion. The strategy refinements, the analysis of the combat logs, and the advice taken from threads around the web all fed towards one purpose: establishing a foothold as a progression focused raiding guild.
Prior to ICC25 hard modes, Ulduar was the last real progression race. No gates, no silly limited attempts, no under-tuned reused content. Just good old fashioned one boss at a time progression. Several guilds entered the gates on April 14th, 2009, and 3 weeks later the fate of an expansion’s worth of progression was decided.