The Raiding Bubble

29 March, 2011

Can nobody save us? Will anyone try? The pyre is burning, the severance is dying. And all along they say it. Help is on the way.” – Rise Against

Housing crisis! Gas prices! Unemployment! Tsunamis! Urban cobras!

This is about none of those. Despite the above topics not receiving nearly enough coverage in today’s reserved media climate, I’m going to leave them alone and focus on what is quickly becoming the latest hot topic in the World of Warcraft: recruitment, guild disbandment, and guild culture change.

Cataclysm’s Tier 11 and it’s consequences for guilds has resulted in the bursting of a “Raiding Bubble” that has grown and expanded like any other economic bubble. Let me take you on a quick journey through the history of raiding, and we’ll see how we’ve come to this point.

In the Beginning

From the perspective of a “lifetime” MMO gamer, and a player of this particular one since 2005, what has become of the raiding scene is unsurprising.

I tend to have long discussions with some of my fellow raiders about where we’ve come from, and what we’ve done in the long history of this game. Memories of spending hours and days and weeks inside of Ahn’Qiraj. Memories of spending hours and days inside of Tempest Keep. The list goes on and on.

Everything I do in this game is built on a foundation made of those experiences. Raiding on Zul’jin in the Molten Core days was different than it is now. You had about 6 or 7 serious Alliance guilds and 6 or 7 serious Horde guilds. All were doing 40 man raids, so everyone was ostensibly on the same “level” in a world where there were no heroic modes.

From Tier 1 to Tier 2 to Tier 3, those same guilds existed. Some fell only to see their remaining members take up with someone else, continuing on. They grew together and their cultures became established. Everything that runs Blood Red Moon today was the work of Guild Leaders 4 years before I ever came to be a part of it.

With the release of The Burning Crusade, we saw 10 man raiding appear, as well as the reduction of raid teams to 25. The transition was jarring but it was handled. The game grew in popularity, not surprisingly, and as a result more guilds appeared.

Blizzard’s internal goal as Burning Crusade went on was to make raiding a little less time consuming. It was clear that an extremely small percentage of their player base was participating in the lore-driving content of their game. Attunement quests were removed, the badge vendor appeared, and the use of tokens was expanded. Consumable use was drastically altered. Sunwell was the most hardcore raid anyone had ever seen and even it had the ability to trade spec-specific pieces (the beginnings of a reduced reliance on drops).

Raiding began it’s final evolution in Wrath of the Lich King. The second expansion was Blizzard’s two year long beta testing of raid content. Each tier of content presented a different feature to raiders.

  • Tier 7: 10 and 25 man raids, raiding meta achievements, activated hard mode available for one encounter, badge vendor as source of tier gear
  • Tier 8: Full instance of activated hard modes, essentially creating a Tier 8.5
  • Tier 9: Separate raid lockouts for hard mode vs. normal mode. Tier gear “trade up”.
  • Tier 10: Single raid lockout with hard mode vs. normal mode switch capability. Requirement of badges to get tier gear to start the “trade up” system.

The changes to the difficulty and creating so many incremental goals for players caused raiding to explode. All of the barriers of entry to raiding were removed. I had a different alt in each tier of this expansion complete the “Glory” achievements because it took no effort to make them “raid ready.” The arduous process of progressing through all the content no longer existed. Some may say that was a good thing. Some will say that it was a big mistake.

(Where you fall on the progression curve will determine your opinion)

Blizzard achieved their goal. Raiding guilds were popping up everywhere. Everyone was trying to get into a 25 or 10 man, even if it was a pug, to check out the big bad bosses. Whether you were cheering on vent for grabbing a server first Heroic: Anub’arak kill or elated that your new 10 man group killed Lord Marrowgarr and Lady Deathwhisper in one night, you got to experience the true greatness of MMOs: achieving success in a game as a team.

That rapid growth of raiding would not come without consequences.

Bait and Switch?

No one can really argue, even if you’re a so-called “Wrath Baby” that raiding has never been easier than it was at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. Including knowledge of the game, mechanics, and encounter difficulty. More people were running around in raiding gear than ever before.

The confidence of those raiders, some helped by the gradually increasing Icecrown Citadel buff, were enthusiastic about Cataclysm. Only one raid lockout. Same gear for everyone. Oodles of changes to the game such as guild perks, achievements, and a further simplification of gear? Bring it on!

What none of them (or me, or anyone) could have anticipated was how much Blizzard was going to ratchet up the difficulty of the introductory tier of content. “It must be just the gear and healing changes, we’ll work it out.” But it never got worked out, it stayed hard.

The difficulty focus in Tier 11 is on each and every player to play their class to the best of their ability. The strategies aren’t very complicated despite a large number of mechanics. This isn’t the difficulty I started my 10 man (or even 25 man in some cases) guild with!

The result? LOTS of guilds raiding. LOTS of guilds blocked and not progressing as fast as they think they should be. I know that we felt it in Blood Red Moon. It caused some significant changes internally that we’re finally starting to see come to fruition and help us out.

Whether you’re an established guild or one who just picked up in the recent expansion(s), you’ve felt the bubble, and now you’re feeling it start to burst.

Feel the Burn

For the newer players that didn’t have more experienced members to fall back on for support, they realize that maybe this isn’t what they signed up for. Bosses that die quickly and then get noticeably easier from week to week aren’t there. Each one takes execution until you over-gear. That means you are going to fill up a lot of raid days and spend (potentially) many hours inside a dimly lit castle staring at a smirking dragon that repeatedly smashes your face into the cold, stone floor.

How do you react to that? This isn’t fun. If I’m a raid leader do I know what I’m doing? If I’m just a raider does my raid know what they’re doing? This World of Logs thing says Duder the Mage should be doing 18k damage and he’s only doing 11k!

As a new guild, you may have never seen what happens when suddenly you lose a main tank or a main healer. Now you have to go looking for players. Lots of players. But you don’t find them, people get impatient because you just called another raid. Folks start to look else ware to raid or just give up and go back to watching every movie on the AFI Top 100 or some other hobby (I’m only at 51/100 by the way).

What had once been a rollicking good time is now you fighting with people to log in or hoping that someone decides to apply to your guild. You get your rogue to try tanking on his neglected DK, but it doesn’t really work out. You’re screwed.

Maybe you’ve been playing this game for 3 years, maybe even 6 years. Sitting around and waiting for folks to log on just isn’t something you’re interested in doing anymore. The recruitment crunch has hit you and your guild. You have no healing priests, and sometimes you are even running with less healers than you really should. The extra wipes are taking their toll.

This isn’t the first time that you’ve gone through this, but now it just seems like there is literally no one out there that is going to step in and be the tank, healer, or DPS you need right now. Your raiding core is starting to look at newer games like Rift, the latest console craze, or competitive games like StarCraft or League of Legends.

Not Enough Cooks

The refrain pre-4.0 in response to the 25 and 10 player shared lockout was that it would likely be the death of 25 man raiding. Who would put in that extra logistical effort when you can get the same loot from a smaller raid? Everyone has 9 pro-level friends right? Just take them, stop carrying the bads.

I feel the same now then as I did then: for guilds that have everything in place and have leadership that want to raid at the 25 man level, there will be 25 man guilds. I don’t have to raid 10 mans for better gear along with my 25 man raid. The raid week is 3 days, giving me tons of time to plan, administrate, and take some time to myself. WoW’s footprint on my calendar is ridiculously small compared to my 7-day Vanilla raid week (40 mans 5 days, 20 mans 2 days).

Blood Red Moon has players that are only interested in 25 man raiding. Whether it’s because of friendships, preference for the format, or just because it’s what we’ve always done, it doesn’t matter. We ran into the problems I detailed above, and we responded to them. The guild put the time in, and we’re starting to turn the corner back towards steady, consistent progression.

I’m in a unique situation in that sense. People want to raid and they have fun doing it. Most, if not all of them, have seen the down times that come with every raid group. This time around, recruitment is a completely different animal.

Going three weeks with literally no applications makes you seriously question everything that you do. Is it the website? What do I say in my recruitment thread that will make people want to come here? Applicants aren’t knocking on my door, hat in hand, looking for a home. They’re giving me notice that I’m one of four guilds that they’re looking at. You go from recruiter to salesman.

“Join Blood Red Moon, we have punch, pie, ginger ale, and marshmallows.”

It forced a significant overhaul in our approach to recruitment and our guild’s image. On Zul’jin, people know who we are, but folks that think Zul’jin is a weird drink based on a Ghostbuster’s character might think differently. They notice that bit of dust in the corner, and the typos in your responses. Are the other guild’s bad mouthing mine? Paranoia. Paranoia. Paranoia.

We’ve done innumerable things to help our guild image and recruitment:

  • Trade chat recruitment. Not too many apps directly from this, but it gets the word out.
  • Recruitment forums: Well worded posts with consistent bumping to keep them visible
  • Realm forums: Likewise. Same post, just bumped constantly
  • Social media: From Facebook to Twitter to just asking around to see if anyone knows anyone looking for a guild.
  • Overhaul of our application forums. We dumped all our old applications into an archive and are strict about who posts there/what is posted to keep it as on topic as possible.
  • Clear/updated posting of recruitment needs
  • Quick responses to apps with in-game interviews, vent interviews, and trial runs. Show me what ya got.

And many others that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Recruitment is suddenly in favor of the applicant with literally dozens of guilds at various progression levels vying for your services. This is coming from someone that in the past has been asked “no one is recruiting, what do I do?” Full 180 degree turn from that. I’ve had recruits from 25 man teams and 10 man teams. All gave the same reason for leaving: we just stopped raiding.

What you are seeing is raiding scene bounce back to where it always was meant to be: for those dedicated to raiding and not just playing. I don’t think Blizzard wants it to be easy enough to pug everything, and they saw that at the end of WotLK. Guilds and the community they foster are very important to them. Needing a team that can work together and support each other in difficult content is not a bad thing and not a hardcore vs. casual thing.

It’s a team thing.

The Aftermath

Does your guild’s dissolution mean you aren’t a dedicated player? Probably not. In fact, I don’t blame folks that like playing the game, but want something else out of it. Guild and raid leading are not easy. Again, 90% of everything that runs my guild now is the result of over 6 years of progress. Nothing good happens without growing pains.

This expansion is very young, with raiding content just under 4 months old. Many of the guilds that have been created in the past year will likely go by the wayside. Those that do stick around through this content and continue to grow will be among the next class of, what Blizzard hopes are, long-term raiders.

What we have learned is that if WoW wants to have a competitive and difficult end-game, it cannot support an unlimited number of guilds. A lack of guilds with strong cores and dedicated leadership groups is bad for the game. However, raiding is a completely player driven feature. Blizzard can’t dictate how many guilds can be on a server or who or who should not be raid leading.

A balance will naturally occur between number of guilds vs. number of raiders. As more people realize guild leading is more than just asking folks to show up, less guilds will exist. When those in charge of some of the best guilds in this game decide that it’s time to hang up the guild tabard, less guilds will exist.

Blizzard claims that they are “ok’” with the current pace of raiding progression. The end of Tier 11 and Tier 12 will tell the true story about how they really feel. For now, 25 man raiding isn’t dying, 10 man raiding isn’t dying, and raiding as a whole isn’t dying. It’s simply balancing itself back inline with the difficulty of the current content.

Just keep on raiding. As Andy Dufresne said, get busy living or get busy dying.

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11th Hour Speed Leveling Tips: Dispeling Myths

6 December, 2010

Speed Kills – Al Davis

Before we start, that is probably the first and last time I’ll ever quote Al Davis, but it’s apt to the discussion. The hot topic swirling around twitter and the blogosphere is on leveling to 85. Do I go with no sleep? Do I go without food? What zones do I level in? How do I get a realm first?

Speed leveling, or to bring it down a notch, leveling quickly, is not the same as Realm First! leveling. I was able to achieve a double realm first on a relatively high population realm doing nothing crazy. To be fair, my competition wasn’t nearly as steep as it will be tomorrow.

A lot of folks are spitting rumors and talking crazy so I’m going to dispel a few myths about getting back to the leveling cap efficiently to get back to raiding as soon as possible. Your guild leader wants you to get back to cap in a week. What do you do? It seems like a tall order unless you go without sleep and chain chug Red Bull! Again, this isn’t about getting a realm first, just getting the grind done.

  1. It’s too crowded! The first goal of new expansion leveling is getting a level or two and getting out of those starting zones (make sure you finish them, I hope you collecting dailies to turn in). If you can climb out of a starting area early, you’ll run into less and less players. If you’ve taken time off work or don’t have class, take the time and move away from the pack.
  2. A Daily Boost. Collect quests and fill your quest log. You might have already missed out on this, so I hope you’ve already done it. Twenty-five quests is a nice little boost for about 2 minutes of work turning them in.
  3. I need to chain Red Bull to stay awake! The most common whisper I got when I dinged 80 in WotLK was: “Now you can sleep!” What they didn’t know was, over the two and half days it took me to get to the level cap, I slept ~9 hours (which is just slightly below average for me, I’m a 6 hour a night person on a good day).
  4. Can’t shower. How long does it take you to shower? Three hours? Hop in and rinse the morning stink off. It’s a nice wake up call.
  5. Can’t make real food. Trail mix or bust!If you’re worried about something good to eat, make a pot of soup or cook a nice pot roast. You don’t know how to cook? Not my problem. This is one of those times when being able to make some good high volume comfort food comes in handy.
  6. I want to enjoy the leveling experience. If you’re concerned about getting to the cap and want to save time, read the quest text on an alt. Enjoy the scenery and dungeons after you get your main up and ready to go.
  7. What about professions? Unless you have gathering professions (wait I thought you were a raider :P), start them when you’re done leveling. You’ll save travel time and all the time you’ll spend making things and getting materials.

Focusing on questing and only questing will get you to your goal in plenty of time and ahead of most folks. The time you save will pay off and you can start collecting gear from heroics!

Best of luck to everyone on their grind. I’ll see you at 3 + Augh-Server-Down-Time a.m.


[Guest Post] Cross Guild Raiding and Out-of-Hand Officers

17 November, 2010

Below is my first guest post…post by a guest…whatever. I thought that this would be an interesting read for those that follow me here and are always looking for insight on different guild-politic situations. Everyone knows that there is more to raiding and running a guild than logging on at 7pm to do some invites for a romp through the latest epic loot-filled, gloomy space.

Many officer dealings occur on forums, late at night on vent, and in officer chat at the worst times. In this post, a friend of mine from the Twitter-verse describes a situation that recently occurred in their guild. Here’s what happened and how it turned out. My comments on the situation follow the article.

So this is how the story goes:

Officer holds onto rage and turmoil from something that happened over a year ago that the GM thought was a dead issue.

Officer begins behaving very badly, eventually culminating in a post that basically says, “I’ve been behaving badly because I want to step down but I want it to look like someone else’s fault that I had to.” The target is, of course, the GM.

Everyone else, not being a participant in the struggle between the GM and the Officer, strokes the Officer’s ego, saying they are too hard on themselves and they should really reconsider and come back. Their ego assuaged, the Officer has a miraculous change of heart.

The Officer and GM have a discussion. The GM says the Officer needs to move forward and stop taking their anger out on other guild mates. And that the Officer needs to be more open about problems rather than stuffing them all down until they explode.

Time passes. All seems to be well. The Officer then begins a tawdry love affair with some other guild that they have been running raids with on their alt. The Officer pushes for an alliance and the GM, having been down that road and seeing no point to halting their own progress, declines. The Officer becomes somewhat hysterical, claiming that the GM doesn’t know these people and would want an alliance if only they were given a fair try.

The GM replies with logic – namely that it makes no sense to walk away from an 11/12, uncompleted 10-man raid to go start all over on 25 man so late in the expansion.

The Officer eventually takes an alt from the other faction and transfers it to be in the other guild. The GM does not like this development but has no stake in that character so keeps their mouth shut.

Shortly thereafter, the GM makes a change to guild policy that the Officer doesn’t like. The idea was presented and several officers gave some feedback but this particular Officer didn’t bother to reply to the thread at all.  The Officer makes a huge stink about the Officers deciding the policy should be different. The GM replies that the Officers can give opinions but they do not ultimately decide guild policy as that is something the GM does.

The Officer declares again that they want to be demoted. The Officer then changes their mind before any action can be taken. The Officer is now seconds away from being decapitated by the GM.

The Officer sends a note to the GM, saying that they, the Officer, no longer feel special or important. The GM replies that it is not their job to make anyone feel special or important and being an Officer is not about feeling special or important.

The Officer says nothing back.

The Officer then backs out of a raid that they signed up for because they were invited by the other guild to work on the LK. They take their alt, leaving their own guild with only 8/10 people signed up. The GM sees red. The GM asks whether it is at all wrong to see red. The GM comes to the conclusion that seeing red is a fine reaction.

As is removing the Officer from being an Officer. That is where this whole tale has been headed.

Of course, nothing is ever easy in a guild. Nothing is ever that clear-cut. The other Officers have to understand the reasoning or they will revolt. The GM is not sure this is a bad thing. There is a lot of dead weight in this Officer group.

The GM is tired of crap like this.

At the same time, the GM feels that they really should be more decisive. The first time that the Officer resigned should have been taken at face value and carried out immediately. A person can only try to be reasonable and understand for so long.

Hindsight is 20/20 and all, but at which point did the GM go most wrong and now that it’s time to reap the whirlwind, what should the GM do?


 

My Take

Since I don’t know the details of the situation as it relates to specific issues between GM and Officer, I’ll just relate it to how I’ve handled similar situations in the past. Raiding with another guild (especially on an alt) during main raid times is in the “unacceptable” category of guild incidents. Around the time when Tier 5 (SSC/TK) was the height of raiding, we removed two players from the guild that violated that policy. One was for raiding with another guild and the other was for refusing to leave a 5 man when we were short and ready to raid.

To me, leaving your guildmates out to dry on progression content is one of the highest forms of disrespect you can commit. Everyone raids for everyone. All row in one continuous motion, and in the same direction. Creating a culture where showing up to raids because you want to be there, not because you have to, should be priority one for every GM. Is there a full-proof way to prevent players from rowing in the opposite direction? No. Convincing them to come back in line or getting them off the team is the real task.

If someone is already harboring mixed feelings about being in an officer position, they should be removed from that position with as little collateral guild impact as possible. Explaining that a player has stepped down or left because they were raiding with another guild shouldn’t be a hard concept for others to understand.

Anyone else deal with a similar situation? Feel free to leave some comments!


Account-Wide Achievements: Rewards For Multi-Classing

20 July, 2010

One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more — Washington Irving

Last night I read a great post by Larisa at the Pink Pigtail Inn concerning achievements at an account level instead of a character level. It goes against the grain which I always like to see. It’s what blogs are for, right? She summed up her post with the following quote:

In the end I think the danger of account-wide achievements doesn’t lie in the fraud that it actually is; the problem is that they would detach us from our characters. In combination with the increased use of our real life names as opposed to character names (brought to us by Real ID), it will bring us even further away from the RPG origins than we already are.

We’re [no] longer playing our characters; we’re John Smith, who has done this, this and this feature in WoW.

For me, that’s what it’s always been about. Our guild has a lot of players that function as virtual Swiss-Army Knives, switching up their main class or leveling an alt to assist on a certain fight. We’ve been doing it forever, so it feels like second nature or something that everyone is doing. In essence, we play our accounts, and our characters are just tools.

Though I go by Borsk (or Sov, as a reference to my former long-time main), all of my characters are ‘its’. As a carpenter opens his tool box and sees a hammer, a saw, and a drill, I see my Shaman, Rogue, and Warrior. At the end of a job, one doesn’t appraise the individual accomplishments of each tool (nails hammered, walls painted), but that the house was completed and looks fan-damn-tastic.

The same applies to guild achievements and those group screenshots you take after a first kill. There’s no DPS or healing meter shown (most of the time), it’s just 10/25 happy avatars looking out over the trophy they’ve just earned.

The case against account wide achievements is a solid one and hard to argue against. I took pride in completing Glory of the Raider (10 player) on both my Shaman and Warrior. It was a neat personal achievement to say that  I both healed and tanked it on separate toons. Riding the Plagued Proto-Drake on my warrior always reminds of it, even if nobody else cares (and I’m sure they don’t).

I think we can do better.

Read the rest of this entry »


We’re knights of the round table…

13 July, 2010

Our show are formidable, But many times, we’re given rhymes, That are quite unsingable.–Monty Python

After a weekend of early morning, late night, and mid-afternoon (depending on your time zone) recording, the Raidwarning.net, Shaman Round-Table (aka Totem Recall) is available for download.

I would like to thank Brian and Seven over at Raidwarning for inviting me and hosting this event. It was an awesome time and went by way faster than I thought it would. You guys should have recorded the post-show banter, it was even more fun sharing stories and talking about anything and everything.

Quick shout-out to Vixsin, Pewter, Lodur, and Jhamen for making the (resto) panel pro++.

Hope you all enjoy the show!


Shotgun Friday: And there was much rejoicing

9 July, 2010

I check the list. Rubber tubing, gas, saw, gloves, cuffs, razor wire, hatchet, Gladys, and my mitts. –Marv, Sin City

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. Starting with the always eventful US Independence Day celebration of cooking large chunks of animal while blowing things up. It ended succinctly with an announcement that had seemingly all 12.5 trillion (I think that’s the latest number out of Irvine) in an uproar over Real ID, player’s real names being attached to forum posts, and possibly having pizzas delivered thanks to trolls.

Un-Real ID

As quickly as the news of Real ID revealing your real name to the world via the Battle.net forums flared up, it was quickly put to rest today with a letter from Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime.

I’m a player that falls into a demographic that is affected the least by this change. Even though I would have (as always) avoided the official forums, the counter-points to this new system were akin to weighing a duck boat against the U.S.S Enterprise.

The best analogy I’ve seen is one that compares Real ID to the locks on your front door. Just because you live by yourself in the country and can leave your door unlocked, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your best friend that lives downtown to do the same.  But that’s all I’m going to say regarding this exhausted topic. It’s over, let’s all move on.

But wait…

Do we really applaud Blizzard for repealing the change? For all intents and purposes, the game is as it was last week before this announcement. They decided to implement an extremely controversial and poorly thought out idea, defended it for several days, and then chose not to put it in. Yes, I agree, Blizzard has done the right thing in listening to their community. They’ve always had their player-base in mind when making big decisions.

So, again, why make it in the first place? It’s like a kid that stole from the corner grocery and returned the items when his parents found them under his bed. “Thank you for being honest, Billy…you do that again and you’re never allowed in my store again.”

Real names will still be available via “Friend of Friend” in game, but remember, Real-ID friending is a two-way street. While doing things like “friending all females” on someones friends list can be annoying, but it isn’t nearly as intrusive. Decline all friend requests from people you don’t know, and only send friend requests to trusted friends. I’m more in favor of the online system, though I do agree that there should be more options on visibility.

One thing’s for sure, you can expect a lot of jokes and snide comments from the Blizzard team at Blizzcon ’10 regarding Real ID.

RESTO.CAN’T.DUAL.WIELD

Who cares? What the hell is the difference between using a 1 Hand + Shield or 2 1-Handers if you’re healing? You’re going to use whatever the best anyways, so it’s not really a play-style choice like it is for a DK or Warrior.

Calm down, heathens.

The new 31 point talent trees will be an outstanding change for new players. In my spare time this Summer I’ve been leveling an Orc Shaman on the desolate Moonrunner server (Duraku). I only wanted to use one set of heirlooms so I chose to level as Elemental/Restoration. Up until level 30 there is seemingly no difference between the two specs even if you throw all of your points into either tree. Since I was looking to heal dungeons and DPS (pre-level 40, dual-talent specialization), I split my points between elemental and enhancement. If I was new to the game this would be completely lost on me as a player, but such is the benefit of having played a Shaman for the past 2 years.

What I’m hoping to see is a tree where a player can take whatever path they want to their 31 pointer and still get the most out of their total output. Being able to customize my toolkit for my healing style is something that I’ve always wanted.

Totem Recall

Totem Recall: Shaman Round-Table, sponsored by Raidwarning.net

I’ll be joined my fellow Zul’jinite Lodur and Life In Group 5 blogger Vixsin Sunday. The show, unfortunately, will not be a live broadcast but you’ll be able to download the full, 3-panel, round-table later in the week.

If you have any Restoration Shaman related questions feel free to send them to me via Twitter, Email, or in the comments and I’ll be sure to add them into our show notes and get them answered. The questions that have already been submitted are excellent and should make for some great debate/discussion. Hopefully I don’t have to go to my notes too often during this!

World Cup

Championship: The Orange vs. The Red Fury

Third Place: Deutschland vs. La Celeste

I’m a lot more interested in the 3rd place match, not surprisingly. Forlan, Suarez, Klosse, Podolski, Sweinsthnersnsdngaoer. The world cup this year might have finally got me turned on to soccer. I might have to more closely follow the Premiere League next season.

Six weeks until football season. The other football.


Halion Post #72653: This is the good Twilight

1 July, 2010

Rebels souls, deserters we were called. Chose a gun, and threw away the sword. Now these towns, they all know our names. Six gun sound is our claim to fame. — Bad Company

You’ve already watched the TankSpot video, you’ve read the brief strat write-ups on WoWHead, and maybe even dabbled in a bit of the lore. Going back over all of that is just going to be a waste of your time, and mineso here are my brief (not) impressions/opinions on the last raid of Wrath of the Lich King.

Overall, I was pleased with the new visuals and layout of the instance. It’s only one room so my expectations weren’t amazingly high, but they did a good job capturing the Red Flight’s theme that you see in Dragonblight.

The mini-boss concept is something that they’ve opened up in Wrath of the Lich King and I hope continues into Cataclysm. The dogs and the valkyr in Icecrown Citadel, along with the drakes in Obsidian Sanctum and Lieutenants inside Ruby Sanctum, break up the trash clear in a good way.  They have mechanics that you actually have to worry about and give your DPS some time to actually ramp up and use their real rotations.

For healers, we get to glance back at the monitor during trash which is nice. So far in Wrath there has been no trash other than maybe Crimson Halls that required any sort of real attention.

Halion Phase 1

Being outdoors in an open grove, you immediately get the sense that you are going to need to use most of the area and do a lot of movement. The first step that I always try to take when setting up a fight like this is try and maximize the raid’s usable space, if possible. The fiery wall surrounding the fight area is a nice border you can park Halion’s side against. The breath and tail aren’t really a problem, and if a meteor or poorly placed “void zone” force movement, you can just walk along the outside rim.

Phase 1 is a big time joke. There is nothing in this phase of the fight that can kill you (even if you try). You can take  a meteor to the face and still live. Why? I have absolutely no idea. If it was so important to move out of it, why make it take so long to land or even give much of a warning at all. As it stands, anyone that’s even barely paying attention will reduce the raid damage to nothing.

Conversely, a raid with lower DPS might have to deal with more meteors and void zones. Our raid comp ended up being 2 tanks (Warrior/Paladin), 5 Healers (Shaman/2xPriest/2xDruid), and 18 DPS (10 ranged, 8 melee), which is very DPS heavy. As we reached 75%, we were consistently getting 2 void zones and 1 meteor. Yawn.

Zone into the Twilight. Don’t touch the Dragon. He bites.

Hallion Phase 2

BloodlustHeroism as soon as everyone is phased in.

Going into this fight, you might ask yourself: “self, how the heck am I going to see the people to cleanse in the right spot while I’m running around dodging this big lazer!?” The answer is simple, just cleanse it right away. We tested fairly early on that the damage done by the void zones (both shadow and fire) in normal mode are easy to heal through for quick bursts.

Cleansing people immediately in the Twilight gives you these benefits

  1. Mindless. Your healers won’t have to think a lot about people’s position and whether it’s “safe” to cleanse. The debuff pops up on your grid and you just knock it right back down.
  2. Small void zone. An immediate cleanse creates a void zone that’s about 8ish yards across. Even if it’s dropped in melee, Halion’s hit box is so big that you almost don’t even notice it. They disappear in enough time

Phase 2 doesn’t last all that long (a trend from Phase 1).

Halion Phase 3

Shieldbubblebear Wall while people are zoning in/out and healers are making sure the Physical Realm team is safely ushered back upstairs.

If assigned, zone out into the Physical Realm. Don’t touch the Dragon. He bites.

Your raid is now split in two. We sent the melee upstairs (+hunter) and kept the ranged DPS downstairs. The Twilight Cutter is impossible to get hit by if you’re a ranged dps unless you’re standing right on top of an orb. Conversely the melee are always in danger of getting caught up in their rotation and being zapped.It’s also easier to just say “melee up, ranged down” and you don’t have to bother with pesky group assignments.

Physcial Realm (Top)

One Healer. One Tank. A little bit of fire. We started off with our healing split being 2 down (Me and a Druid) and 3 up (Druid + 2 Priests). We then went to 2 up, 3 down (Me/Druid/Priest), and by the time we killed him we determined that the top can be easily solo healed. Four healers, split between tank and raid, is good insurance for the Twilight Realm which is significantly…more involved than the Physical Realm.

Twlight Realm (Bottom)

Healer tips for those that are new:

  1. If your tank is closely following the beam (like he should be), a good place to stand is right on the bosses front leg. This will keep you in range of him with some buffer if a void zone is dropped oddly, but will also keep your DPS healing targets within 40 yards.
  2. That being said, make sure you don’t get cleaved or breathed on, it’s easy to lose track of which way the dragon is facing while you’re running.
  3. The tank is your number one priority, do not focus on keeping raid members topped off 100% of the time. Make sure you are keeping them in a safe range, certainly, but this fight is over immediately if that tank drops. Dead raid members can be battle-rezzed (also: ankh, soul stone) and take the portal back down.
  4. Riptide and LHW are your best friend. Being soft-capped on your haste is a good thing here.
  5. Communicate with your tank and let him know if you’re out of range for any length of time. Even if it’s only for a little, Halion hits hard enough that an unlucky avoidance streak will equal a wipe.
  6. I found myself hitting my NS cooldown as soon as it came up and waiting on it for a quick burst when I was moving (prelude to Cataclysm and spirit-walking).

One thing to keep in mind if you choose to do a melee up, ranged down strat, Halion’s corporeality will dip under 40% quite often as the ranged DPS will be forced to move as a group much more often than the melee. Just have the Physical realm pause for a bit and let it come back up.

Stay out of the Twilight Cutter and you’ll have little problems. Like I said above, a competent healer can handle the Physical realm on their own. Even with the movement requirements in the Twilight, I never felt overly stretched. Though, after healing Putricide(HM) Phase 3, Halion phase 3 is a bit of a breather.

Impressions

I made the comparison of raids to Theme Parks a few posts back, and that analogy holds true for Halion. Halion is a boss that’s all about making you feel like you’re about to die at any moment, but never actually does anything that will kill you. The void zones aren’t really void zones, you can run across one and live with just a couple heals (if any). The Twilight Cutter is dangerous but the extensive emotes and the slow movement mean you really have to leave your computer to be killed by it.

We obviously haven’t done heroic mode (yet), but I’ve read enough about it to know that there is a lot more potential in this fight. Heroic additions such as adds from meteors, void zones appearing in both realms, and two simultaneous twilight cutters means that if you didn’t have enough things to not stand in before, you can rest assured that you’re available space will be much tighter.

Anyways, as far as the normal mode version of the encounter goes, it was a fun and refreshing take on YADF*. Anything that splits the raid in half is always a challenge of balancing and coordination. You never quite know what is going on so it forces you to actively communicate and keep vent cleared. The vent clogging can get out a bit out of hand as the Twlight Realm will be talking a lot more than the Physical Realm.

The first two phases were just too short for even very average DPS. Because of this, you don’t really deal with any of the mechanics until the last phase and by that time, as long as your tanks stay upright you can limp home if needed. The meteor and void zone timers do not require your movement and positioning to be as strict as I thought they would. Things tend to disappear rather quickly.

I stayed in the Twilight Realm, but from what I heard over Vent, the Physical Realm is the trivial portion of the encounter.

On hard mode with the adds and additional damage/void zones, it will likely be the more complicated half of the raid. The disappointing thing about normal mode, sadly, was that we only got one upgrade (Caster DPS trinket). The other pieces were given to offspecs/side grades. We’ve spent a lot of time farming hard mode ICC, so that is expected, but it seems like we could have used this boss maybe 2 months ago whenever we were plodding along still with some 251 gear.

My question is: Why not have encounters in all of the Wyrmrest portals? Both Sartharion and Halion were incredibly enjoyable experiences top to bottom. It would end up being a set of 1 encounter dungeons that would form a pseudo-full instance. There were a lot of breaks in content throughout Wrath of the Lich King, adding fights for the Green (with Ulduar?), Blue(with ToC?), and Bronze (with ICC?) flights would have been really cool.

All in all, we notched another boss kill in about 6 attempts. By ICC standards it ranks on the low end of difficult fights, but nothing I didn’t expect. In the next couple resets I hope to get into hard mode (10 man and possibly 25) to see what’s in store to snag some i284s.

Bottom-Line: Very fun and engaging encounter, but lacks a real danger factor once you’ve seen how tame some of the mechanics really are. A nice punctuation mark on a successful expansion.

*Yet Another Dragon Fight