Hidden Hard Modes: Agonizing over Attendamedes

28 April, 2011

Eighty-percent of success is showing up –Woody Allen

Forward

This is written not as a warning, ultimatum, or scolding. It is a frank explanation of the brain activity of a Raid Leader (or this one, at least) during the week leading up to a raid, the moments before a raid, and immediately after. My best trait as a raid leader has always been my resilience to frustration when things haven’t gone right. Dealing with new folks, folks that mess up, blatant failure, I’m pretty good at shrugging it off. Two months straight of grating problems have whittled me down. As my steely resolve begins to unravel I wanted to express why. This is part confessional, part catharsis, part informational.

Hopefully this is something you can pass along to your fellow raiders as you see some of these signs creep up in yourself or your own raid leader.

I’ve written it using “He” for the sake of editorial brevity.

Your Raid Leader

Your raid leader is a dedicated individual, as I’m sure you are. While your dedication rests on the play of your character and it’s job for a particular encounter, his rests on the face of your guild. He is dedicated on a physical level. He gems his gear correctly, he knows his role, and keeps up with the rest of those in his class on most occasions. He is also dedicated emotionally. You may think that you are as well, but like how one can fail to understand the connection between mother and child, one can fail to understand the connection between a Raid Leader and his guild.

The guild hasn’t killed a new boss and you feel it. You would like those extra check marks and to see more of the content. He feels it for all 35 players he currently has rostered and the dozens of players that came before him. His decisions affect the play time of all those people, and some of those are much harder from him than simply calling the next Lightning Rod target.

After the last raid of the week your raid leader starts thinking about the next week. He breaks out the logs and starts going through looking for anomalies. Who stood out? Who didn’t? Why did we wipe 5 times here? How did people stack up on this second kill? Why didn’t we get that new boss down? This breakdown is usually superficial, it’s just a quick hit list of what did and didn’t work.

Immediately what springs to mind were what was missing. “If so and so was here, this would have been easy, but we had to teach such and such this job.” Don’t misunderstand him. The person that has to learn is at no fault in this scenario. Sometimes a new person has to step up and fill in.

Everything has a breaking point for your raid leader’s immeasurable patience. One boss after the other, you learn the instance as a group. You develop strategies and individuals with specific tasks are identified. Sometimes you switch it up just so that someone has the practice. Intangibly, this time is also spent building confidence in your teammates. Trust is important, and confidence in the strategy and your fellow raiders breeds quicker, more efficient kills.

The wildcard is attendance. You need to be there. Your raid leader has established a schedule and a recruitment level so that you can have a full, healthy raid every night.

But

It’s two days after the raid. That ugly Twin Dragons kill and the sound deaths from Atramedes are a little hazy at this point. Your Raid Leader is now firmly focused on the next reset. He is looking at his roster and formulating the perfect raid composition in his head. There are even contingencies put into place. “This fight is easy with 3 mages, but we have 5. Bonus!” He draws out the next strategy and who he thinks will be great at that job.

The day before the reset has arrived. Your Raid Leader is examining your progression. He sees that a good 10 pulls at the most will finish off this raid boss. If that happens, he should be able to work in a full night on your next target and with some luck… maybe there will be more than one kill! Maybe three!

Elation. “You’re getting back on track,” he says.

Until that moment just 20,  maybe 30 minutes before the first raid of the week. That’s when the tells start, that’s when the notification of absences start to roll in. What? Wait? Why?

“It was looking so good! Everything was in place to take out these new things and progress and I’m going to be missing a tank, 2 of my healers, and all of my warlocks!? The one guy was doing a kiting job, now I have to teach someone new!”

His plan starts to unravel.

Instead of starting in one instance you have to settle for old content in another. Now you realize that those two healers you’re missing are priests and you’ve always had cooldowns for a certain portion of this fight! Maybe you’re working out tank healing, but have no paladins! Four of his best aoe players are gone!

He sits down and wonders where everyone is and why they aren’t in the raid.

But he isn’t angry.

Let Down

Attendance issues give your Raid Leader a helpless feeling. He can do everything right. The best strategy, the best composition, perfectly assigned healing and dps. He’s on time and motivated, but without the tools he’s just a guy on the internet floundering to get something done while not punishing those that are available.

He can teach one new tank, two new tanks, three new tanks, four new tanks, five new tanks, but at the sixth one I guarantee that it’s just a scrambly “please do it right, so we don’t wipe again” prayer more than a tutorial. As you progress your raid leader wants your strategy to go from learning to instinct. This fosters new kills as the old kills get easier. If he is constantly having the raid re-learn the same fights you don’t ever progress. He has the raid attempting to climb out of a hole with a rope that keeps getting longer.

The more you go up, the higher the edge gets.

He will push recruitment and he will get new people into your raid. The chances those folks have done what you’ve done is small, and the cycle above repeats as those raiders become accustomed to a new environment.

Your raid leader is thankful they are there, and he appreciates the patience put forth by existing members to assimilate recruits into the ranks.

But he isn’t sad. He feels good about this next raid week.

Your absence is justified. You had to work late. Your son is sick and needs to be attended to. You had a vacation planned. Maybe you had tickets to a show this evening that you purchased several months ago. The biggest storm of the season knocked out your power, or your ISP just put the clamps on your bandwidth. Your account got hacked two days before you could get an authenticator activated. You caught the flu from the guy that works in the cube across from you.

That’s 8 down and your Raid Leader is deciding which instance to start in.

Are invites out?


MS Paint Friday: Random Raid Strategy

21 January, 2011

First up is the Theralion ground phase of the Double Dragons encounter in Bastion of Twilight:

TANK, MELEE, RAID, DRAGON, FABULOUS FLAMES

I’ve seen a lot twitter chatter and forum posts about issues in this phase of the fight and I was having a hard time understanding why. The enrage timer for this fight is very generous and the incoming raid damage is 95% avoidable.

What I figured out was most folks are using the common (and seemingly most logical) strategy for Theralion-Ground: One melee group, one ranged group, run out with engulfing magic, eat the meteors, get out of fabulous flames (big purple circle), etc.

This strategy has a few flaws and it was something I recognized our second time on this boss:

1) The Twilight Meteorite has a very small soak radius. You have to stand right on top of someone to soak the damage. For a 10 man with maybe only 5 ranged players, it could be hard to soak this damage with the movement required due to fabulous flames.

2) Fabulous Flames not being predictable. The Flame radius is huge and lands very quickly, which means every raider takes a lot of damage and has to move at the same time.

3) Engulfing Magic is a single-point failure. If one person screws up their Engulfing Magic and doesn’t run out, you’re screwed.

How I decided to combat this (and I’m sure I’m no pioneer) was to do the exact opposite: spread out around Theralion, tanked in the center. The only mechanic that requires stacking is meteorite. Because this particular meteor marks it’s target and has a cast-time/time-to-death, you know exactly who the meteor is going to hit.

When Valiona marks someone for Twilight Meteorite, that player runs to the melee group. They are tightly grouped at Theralion’s tail and never have to move. Since the rest of the ranged DPS/healers position themselves evenly around the dragon, the number of players affected by Engulfing Magic (other than the target) is 1 or 2 on 25 man and 0 on 10 man.

Try it out to make your farming attempts as smooth as butter.

Now let’s take a look at Magmaw Trash:

TANK(S), MELEE

This is a quick one.

1) The two Drakonids get tanked on opposite sides of the room.

2) The Raid is tightly packed in one group between the two trash mobs.

3) The melee is tightly packed behind the Dragon on the left at max melee range. These dragons cleave and the cleave will chain through the raid. Don’t get cleaved.

Occasionally the dragons will charge the target furthest from him (keep this in mind if you die and try to graveyard zerg the trash). With this positioning it means they will simply switch places. All DPS should continue to attack the mob on the left hand side and keep the two NPCs at the same HP so they die together. On death, the remaining Drakonid will enrage and do insane damage to the tank. If you don’t kill it soon after, it will get pretty dicey for your raid.

Healers: Keep the raid topped off from thunder-clap ( focused on the melee if ranged DPS stay out of the Keep Out area. The tanks will be taking a lot of damage (especially after a charge) so don’t slack.

DPS: Don’t be the Dead Hunter.

Trash Healing

A quick rant on trash healing. The trash in Cataclysm is not that big of a deal and (other than the beginning of Bastion of Twilight) isn’t that heavy. What’s different about this expansion is that healers have to try as hard as DPS for the first time since Tier 5.

You can’t zone out and just go through the motions on trash. Treat it like a boss fight and stay engaged. If you take some packs off, you will lose a lot of players and waste a lot of time inside of the instance.

These has no relevance to the current content, but they’re some of my favorite MS Paints (apologies to the color-blind. I use a lot of red and green):

 

 


Coachability: Handling Criticism/Raising Your Game

18 January, 2011

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual. – Vince Lombardi

Last month I wrote about how it is important in Cataclysm to properly handle mechanics, take advantage of crowd control, and generally, just play the game. The underestimation of damage and the tendency to treat trash as if it’s no harder than navigating the queue at Disney world, will lead to pain.

So much pain.

Today we’re going to bring that discussion down one more level: to you and those you raid with. During this week’s Matticast, I briefly touched on how important it is for a player to be “coachable.” In other words, the ability for someone to look at your play, evaluate it, and then give you feedback on how to improve.

Coachability is valued on my list of intangibles just as highly as talent. Obviously a person who is always in the right place but is losing to the tank in damage is too far to one extreme. The sweet spot is finding a player with above average ability that will take in a strat and perform it on every play.

Starting at the beginning

There are two elements to coaching when it comes to raiding:

1) Ability to take direction, follow the strategy, make reads in an encounter: “I am Jack’s unwavering situational awareness.”

2) Ability to trust others will do their part, allowing you to give 100% focus to yours: “I am Jack’s third eye.”

I will explain these two components using a typical play in hockey (this is hockey for those not already familiar), the two-on-one break, and how it is typically defended. A defender and the goalie are facing two attacking forwards. This obviously poses a problem. Who takes who? How do we keep them from getting a goal?

The defender takes away the pass between the two attackers, the goalie always takes the player carrying the puck. The defender trusts he can leave the shooter, and the goalie trusts the defender will lay down and block the pass. They don’t have to worry about what each other is doing. If they do, the puck is in the back of the net.

If you let them pass to each other, will they always score? No. If the goalie cheats and doesn’t challenge the shooter, will he always score? No. Sometimes you get lucky. Players on both sides can make mistakes (or get a bad bounce), but the result is always not the best indicator of complete success.

You often hear of guilds who struggle to repeat a kill on a boss. Most of the time it is lack of a tight strategy or just the simple fact that all players aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. You got lucky, the RNG’s dice fell just the right way. Our first Kalecgos kill came after only a few nights of work. Almost 5 resets later, we got our second kill. It was after that when I started to really look for weaknesses in strategy or at players who keep doing things wrong.

“Hey, we’re winning, there’s no need to call out players for doing things wrong!”

Conversely, that is the BEST time to tell people they weren’t properly handling a mechanic. Everything doesn’t hit everyone on every attempt. Where the problem occurs is correcting people that don’t always like to be corrected.

Let me talk to those people for a brief moment.

My guess is that WoW is your first, if not only, experience in a team-gaming setting. You’re probably used to picking up the latest platformer and just running into things at your own pace. Maybe you dabbled in a little Halo or some Goldeneye with your friends, but none of them never really told you that you could kill someone with 3 shots from the pistol and the shotgun wasn’t great for long-range kills.

If they did the likely response was “I like the shotgun.” And then no one cared as they proceeded to paste your insides to the walls of Hang ’em High.

That was a little mean-spirited. Everyone that didn’t play a team sport or a team game in the past isn’t a completely obnoxious bad. My point is that most video game players spend their time by themselves just figuring out their own way to get to the finish line.

Now you’re in a raid and some skinny white dude from Pittsburgh is telling you to keep out of the void zones or get the hell out of the raid! It’s a different experience, but one that is essential for raiding progress.

Give and Take, Getting Better as a Team

It’s frustrating when you don’t pick up something right away or can clearly see you’re a step or two behind your peers. Having one of your contemporaries look at your armory, look at your log parses, or watch a fraps video of you playing, to give you tips is how you step up to the next level.

And as hard as it is to listen to someone breakdown your rotation, it’s just as hard to send out that criticism without coming off as a complete ass. How forward you are is generally a function of how “off” the person is. If they’re literally thousands of DPS or HPS behind you on a similar encounter, you might want to have a talk with them immediately.

“Did you know it’s better to stack this stat rather than this one?”

“I do well here because I move to this spot right before AOEing, it saves me time.”

Don’t keep tips to yourself. You aren’t competing with your fellow raiders, you making someone else better raises the level of play of the whole raid. If someone sends you a tell or a PM with some tips, don’t blow it off. Maybe they see something that can help make you better.

The wrong way to do it is to bitch about how bad someone is without finding out. “He doesn’t know you need to stack haste to 1000? What a noob. I’ll continue to beat him on the meter while our raid continues to wipe. I’ll show him!” Withholding that information in order to gain an advantage for raid invites is equally deplorable, if not more-so.

“I was looking around at the people with Lightning Rod, and forgot to get the right debuff!”

Don’t let this happen to you. It is the raid leader’s job to worry about the other 9/24 players. If all 25 were watching the other 25, you wouldn’t kill anything. That responsibility is focused on one player so that you can do your job at 110% capacity.

“It’s a copycat league”

Cookie cutter specs and strategies exist for a reason: they work. You might not be able to perform exactly on par with some of the best in the world, but you can closely re-create what they do and put yourself on the front side of the bell curve; above the pack of “average” players.

I’ll bookend this post with another powerful quote from coach Lombardi:

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. – Vince Lombardi


Evaluating Encounter Balance: 10 vs 25

11 January, 2011

The hallmark of Cataclysm raiding was the new one instance  lockout. You can kill a boss on 10 man or 25 man, but not both (heroic raid-size locking aside). The immediate and obvious question: how are they going to balance these encounters?

The Impossible Task

Their intention was to make the difficulty between the two sizes equal. Anyone with a brain (or a calculator) can see that it’s simply impossible to manage that kind of balance. It’s not to say they haven’t tried. On paper, many of the fights look identical and even in practice, some of the fight mechanics aren’t much different on 10 or 25 man.

We’ll do it like those checkmark lists you see before big football match ups. All of these judgments are based on equal gear and equal skill (“all things being equal” as they say). I’m going to be talking about a lot of raid mechanics. Seek out the usual sources for boss strategy and in-depth ability descriptions, let’s get right to it!

Throne of the Four Winds

Conclave of Wind: Not nearly as exciting as the Concubine of Wind, but an interesting fight nonetheless. Any time the raid is forced to split up in separate rooms/platforms, I give the nod to 25 man. More healing coverage, less touchy on the DPS balance. Advantage: 25 man

Al’Akir: Lots of mechanics in this fight that involve movement and individual responsibility. From running between tornadoes to spreading and staying within your own sector, it all favors a 10 man raid. Healing is slightly easier in the 25 man version, as is often the case, but I have to give this one to 10 man. Advantage: 10 man

Bastion of Twilight

Halfus Wyrmbreaker: This is completely dependent on the combination of drakes you get. If the Storm Rider is active, 25 man has a huge advantage (almost too huge). Now that I think about, even the other drakes are easier to handle as a 25 man raid because you simply have more options available to you. More tanks, more healers to assign, etc. Advantage: 25 Man

Valiona & Theralion: Limp-preventing DPS timer, a little bit of movement in different phases, but quite possibly the easiest encounter in Tier 11. Advantage: Even.

Twilight Ascendant Council: Advantage: 10 Man, all that needs to be said.

Cho’gall: Cho’gall is an interesting fight to look at in terms of raid size. There are some ground targeted things and corrupted blood which require some individual responsibility. Based on my experience and the thoughts of others who have done this fight, the variety provided by a 25 man raid is a big help. You have more things to help interrupt Worship and damage splitting for add control in Phase 1 is always more easily handled by a 25 man raid. Phase 2 is about even, difficulty-wise, with maybe a slight edge given to 10 Man. Advantage: 25 Man

Blackwing Descent

Omnotron Defense System: Lots of different abilities that constantly cycle. All of these abilities go from “meh” to “wow” by adding another 15 players. Things like interrupting, slime kiting, and Lightning Conductor become noticeable in a 25 man setting. Advantage: 10 Man

Magmaw: Magmaw is another tough call. There are some ground effects that will endanger more players on 25 man (not to mention the parasites), but the larger raid probably has an easier time killing the parasites and keeping DPS up while chaining Magmaw. Another boss that is too easy to really analyze at this level. Advantage: Even

Maloriak: This analysis will vary greatly based on raid composition so with that being said I’ll give it to 25 man. AoEing a lot of adds, RSTS that only ever hits one person. The healing is significantly easier under 25% in 25 man. Advantage: 25 Man

Atramedes: Another prototypical “spread out and stay away from the poop” fight. There is less of everything in 10 man, but with the recent nerfs, 25 man doesn’t have too hard of a time. Due to room size and the strategy…Advantage: 10 Man

Chimaeron: A pure healing check. This list is trending towards giving the healing-heavy fights to the 25 man crews and it’s no different here. Advantage: 25 Man

Nefarion: This is the only fight I’ve done no significant progress on, so I can’t really comment. Based on the complexity of the fight it might favor 25 Man, but I don’t have enough personal experience to rate it.

If you’re keeping score at home…

By my count that gives 5 fights to 25 Man, 4 fights to 10 Man, with 2 as a toss-up with 1 undecided. I would say that’s a pretty even balance from top to bottom. My 5000 ft view of Tier 11 shows me a slight edge to 25 man just because many of the fights can make use of so many class mechanics. If you were to take 1 of every class in a single 10 man, you would be able to cover everything in every fight but it isn’t uncommon to have 2 of a certain hybrid class (or even 3 in some cases).

Taking out just one of those (maybe a warlock for healthstone, as an example) could hinder you on a particular fight. If players have to handle mechanics on an independent level, 10 man has an edge.

Twenty-five man raids still incur the logistical challenge of maintaining a large crew but the amount of loot (and extra Valor Points per boss) you receive cannot be discounted.

I’m currently loving the single lockout and what it has done to really improve the outlook of a raid week. I don’t have to get on people to make 10 mans on the weekends, and even if folks have to sit out for some bosses, they aren’t missing a ton of loot/points. Maybe 25 man raiding isn’t dead after all.

Encounter Order

Many of you might have waited until after the New Year to start into raiding, and might have a tough time deciding on where to go or what is appropriate. This is my ideal kill order based on difficulty, travel time, and also strat complexity:

1. Halfus Wyrmbreaker

2. Valiona and Theralion

3. Magmaw

4. Conclave of Wind

5. Omnotron Defense System

6. Maloriak

7. Atramedes

8. Ascendant Council

9. Chimaeron

10. Cho’gall

11. Al’akir

12. Nefarian

You can flip Council/Chimaeron and Al’akir/Cho’gall and get a list that is just as good. My reason for putting Cho’gall first is because his loot is much better than Al’Akir’s.  In any case, Nefarian is a difficult boss that definitely should be saved for last.

Be Heroic

Don’t look at what the “Top Guilds” (Top Guilds) have done as a model for your team. Only you will know when you’re truly ready to tackle the hard mode encounters. It will likely take some trial & error with plenty of log digging to determine what needs to improve to take that step over the heroic hump. Don’t fear it, but also don’t waste time on something that needs a little more juice in the gear department.

(Keep in mind you need to complete an instance on normal before opening it’s heroic mode)

Our raid week involves 3 full 25 man raid nights with a 10 man running Monday to try out any new encounters or work out strat kinks for the next raid week. Having that little bit of extra info can mean several attempts with your full raiding crew.

Raid leading is fun, isn’t it?

Obviously this all just my opinion from doing the fights, I’m looking forward to hearing how other people’s raids have been going early in Cataclysm.


[Healing] Are you quitting on me?

23 December, 2010

Coming up a little rant on healing and then a quick blurb on Halfus Wyrmbreaker

A quick excerpt from one of my first blog posts here at Borsked:

Without [these qualities]: confidence, the ability to work without thanks, adaptability; you are doomed as a healer.  Accepting that you can’t heal and continuing to do so is a disservice to those you play with.  It’s ok, healing is a deceptively hard job.  It is one where mediocrity is celebrated and greatness is rarely noticed.  You know you just saved the raid, but nobody cared, and nobody is really going to care when you say “we wouldn’t have won if I didn’t…” No.  That is your job.  If you aren’t making 3 to 4 raid saving heals a pull then you are not properly utilizing your ability.

DPSing and beating an enrage timer is acknowledged as a group failure.  Seventeen players couldn’t get it done.  Healing is nearly always boiled down to 1 or 2 individuals.  If you cannot handle the blame of a wipe being placed on your shoulders then healing is not your game.

We aren’t the guys putting up the high scores, we’re the ones keeping the machine running.

It would be a moderate understatement to proclaim the current healing model is drastically different than previous expansions. More than ever healers are placed in a difficult position in heroics and raids. A sub-standard DPS or mishandling of mechanics can lead to a significant amount of damage that is (sometimes) un-healable.

But I’m not letting any of you off the hook.

This is what you signed up for. I’m not sure exactly when you clicked through and applied a healing spec to your favorite class, but depending on when that was probably has a lot to do with your current feelings toward the healing game in Cataclysm. It isn’t easy and it isn’t supposed to be easy.

As I had hoped and prayed for on this blog was that Blizzard would force me to intelligently use my global cooldowns. At this gear level, they have done that. If I mis-place a healing rain or cast too many chain heals on single targets, I will pay for it. If I cleanse the wrong players or double-cleanse when I don’t need to, I will pay for it. Every decision affects your mana bar. Choosing the right tool for the moment is exactly what healing is about and always will be about.

I’ve received tells from various players asking why healing is so hard and expressing that they might just go back to DPS after-all (some already have). Good. Wrath of the Lich King healing was too easy and now we’re all are suffering for it. Growing pains and adjustment are always a big part of a significant mechanics change.

I’ll admit that I’ve played poorly in some of our first few raids. Everything from over-healing to healing the wrong thing or simply just not casting enough. What’s good is that we’ve been successful and I can see some room for improvement. Playing a healer is no longer about how fast you can push those buttons but if you can push them quickly while using the correct spells.

To the players out there that are truly dedicated to healing and want to get better: stick with it. Just one week of heroic gear gave me a gigantic boost in my ability to heal through some of the worst situations. Now if a tank mis-pulls or breaks a CC early, I won’t have to scream for cooldowns. If you thought being a good healer before Cataclysm was an indispensable role, the need for solid healing is off the charts right now. You’ll get it, I have faith, but if you’re only going to complain about how hard it is and let groups wipe because you “can’t do it” then just roll a rogue and be done with it.

Rant off.

(editor’s note:  this is not directed at you. maybe you, but definitely not you or anyone in particular)

Halfus Wyrmbreaker

I can still fondly remember those moments before pulling Chromaggus when we sat in anticipation; waiting to find out what combination of colors the server gods had graced us with this week. It’s now the same feeling I get as I round the corner to Halfus’ balcony in the Bastion of Twilight. There are some drakes that both grant Halfus an ability, but also hold their own ability to take it away should you set them free. You get 3 per reset and there are 5 total (2 deactivated for the week).

(editor’s note: this is all for the normal version. The priorities could be completely different on heroic)

Storm Rider: Grants Halfus Shadow Nova. Release the Storm Rider to make the Shadow Nova interruptable.

This is the “Bronze Aspect” (to borrow a Chromaggus phrase) of Halfus. It requires a melee kick rotation to prevent a large amount of shadow damage/knockback.

Time-Warden: Grants Halfus’ proto-drake a buffed version of his fireballs. Release the Time Warden to slow the fireballs (a puff of red fire will appear where a fireball will eventually land).

While this is actually a bronze dragon, it is an easy mechanic to deal with: just move. It will reduce your dps and healing because of the movement, but it’s only a little annoying.

Slate Dragon: Grant’s Halfus the ability Malevolent Strikes (stacking debuff reducing healing done, 30 second duration, 15 stacks =90% reduction).

Let it stack, switch tanks, tanks will swap when their debuff fades

Nether Scion: Increases Halfus’ attack speed by 100%. Releasing the dragon will debuff Halfus to negate the attack speed.

Whelp Cage: Contains several green whelps. Release them to reduce the damage done by the proto-drake’s fire breath (raid-wide AOE).

  • Generally speaking, if we have 2 drakes, we release them both at the same time to nerf Halfus as much as possible
  • Each drake is burned down and then the whelp cage is opened. Kill the whelps, burn down Halfus
  • At 50% Halfus will gain a shout that will hit you 3 times in a row dealing physical damage on each hit (30 second cooldown).
  • If you need to interrupt Shadow Nova (Storm Rider was active), you’ll need to either heal through it, have a mage blink through the 3rd shout tick, or have a paladin HoP an interrupter of some sort.
  • Keep in mind the berserk timer. We lucked out out this week and the Slate Dragon’s debuff stunned Halfus as he enraged (giving us a kill over 30 seconds after).

(note: I’ve only ever seen 2 Drakes + Whelp Cage. I’m not entirely sure if you can get 3 drakes and no whelp cage)

And to sign off, Happy Festivus, everyone! Festivus:Yes. Bagels: No.


Months Later, Questions Remain For 25 Man Raiders.

10 November, 2010

This topic was prompted by Beru, so all the credit goes to her. I was going to leave this in the comments section, but I want to share her article as well as my comments/response. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Exactly How Are These Raids Going To Be Equal?

As I was ranting a bit to Brade, one of the biggest points I was making was that I honestly see no way that these two raid sizes are going to be equal in difficulty. I just don’t think it’s even remotely close to being in the realm of possibility. I mean let’s take a simple mechanic like needing to spread out. Unless they shrink the size of the room – a 10 man raid is going to have a significant advantage and greater ease with this solely based on the fact that there are only 10 of them. How are they going to equal that out in a 25 man setting?

Let’s take a look next at some of the healing spells available – such as WG, Echo of Light (new priest version of effloresce), CoH, Efflorescence, Holy Radiance. All of which apparently now only hit 6 targets at full strength. Now let’s take a fight with constant raid AE damage, and oh yes…they still exist, and a 10 man raid now has another significant advantage over a 25 man raid. Those spells will heal 60% of their raid while in a 25 man raid those spells will only heal 24% of the raid. How is that remotely close to being equal? How can you design an encounter with those mechanics that is “equal”? Sure a 25 man raid will have more healers, but the difference a single healer will be able to make in a 10 man raid vs a 25 man raid is hugely disparaging.

CLICK HERE READ THE FULL POST

These are questions that I approached some months ago when the changes were announced. Those in my guild were not very optimistic and neither was I (frankly). There are so many points that are left unanswered and glossed over that it’s almost negligent at this point.

A) The “split into two raids” hand-waving. It’s not that easy: on a logistical and “attitude” level. The chance of having 6 capable healers and 4 capable tanks in a raid that is already “short players” is 0%. Compound this with the A/B team and what happens if one of the team fails or stops or doesn’t do as well as the other team.

B) Blizzard’s other fallback of “people who like 25 man raids can still do them!” The drive for most players is the reward of raiding along with the social interaction. It’s a delicate balance.

If there’s no reward, social interaction starts to mean less. If you’re put on the bench for a few bosses, their lockouts will remain open but it puts the onus on you to seek out a PUG to kill that boss at some later date. Let’s not even start on the heroic mode restrictions.

The further “ahead” you are, the more trying to “makeup” a boss kill becomes a problem. How often do you see trade chat advertisements for ICC25 with the last 3 bosses up? My guess is “every day.”

C) Connected to B: there are droves of players, good players, that like 25 man raiding. Hell, I love 40 man raiding! I love 72 man EverQuest raiding! But…do I want to raid lead a 72 or 40 man raid. Hell no.

The death of the 25 man format will not come from the raiders. It will come from officers and raid leaders of 25 man raiding guilds that just don’t find the effort:reward ratio no longer worth it. There is a dedication investment that players in leadership roles make. You become responsible for the rest of the raid and are in control (somewhat) of their leisure time.

10 man raiding requires no loot system (/roll), it requires no (formal) attendance tracking, little/casual recruitment, and no rigid guild structure. Is that a put down? No, it’s just a simple fact of numbers. Identifying a problem, a weak link, or trying a new strategy is simpler. Players that end up on the fringe of your respective raiding skill level (get swapped or sat often) will drop off and it will be difficult to keep that extra player buffer.

Do you get geared up a little faster? Certainly, but at some point both raid options will become gear-saturated and that advantage disappears. Speed of gearing means nothing. More gear helps with farming, it doesn’t really help with progression anymore, especially when the difference is so tiny (one or two pieces of gear).

It is far more likely that you will clear the tier before becoming gear saturated (either mode/both difficulties).

Put the rope down…step away from the railing…

Let’s not keep it all doom and gloom, there is a very large positive in all of this for 25 man raiders. The fact that you can only take your main character to one type of raid per week means that your raiders will be hungrier to get back in the saddle every Tuesday. The pressure to run extra 10 mans for more gear to keep up will be eliminated.

The players that do raid on off days with alts are the ones that want to do that and can control their “burnout” level. If they raid too much on an alt, it’s easy to dial it back with no impact to their guild’s raids. That is what is keeping me the most optimistic heading into Cataclysm, and I hope it works out for the better. A larger group generally means better group think and a larger group to rally around. Older guilds are built to handle the rigors and logistic of large-scale raiding.

Only time will tell.


Over the Hills and Far Away: Back to the blog

17 October, 2010

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need…roads. — Dr. Emmett Brown

10 August 2010 – The last blog entry I posted

12 Jul 2010 – The last official raid I attended

It’s been interesting sitting back and reading the exploits of fellow bloggers and tweeps as they finish off the last stretch of this expansion. While some are continuing through the 4.0.1 patch, it is the signal for the bell lap on Wrath of the Lich King. This is part expansion recap and part words of encouragement for all raid leaders starting out in Cataclysm.

Blogs of Reflection

A short twenty-three months ago,this is where I stood. Looking out over Naxxaramas from above the alliance fortress nearby, I wondered what my first full expansion as raid leader would bring. Everyone was on even footing. It was like a new sports season. Everyone made their offseason moves and made adjustments that they think made them stand out this time around.

Our goal was to lead alliance progression and at the same time pick off a server first or two. I’m happy that we managed to do that through 90% of the expansion and held our ground as upstart guilds such as Imperative made their mark on both the server and US raiding scene. I would be fibbing if I said I wasn’t upset to be passed and finished out of first place, but all the credit goes to those guys. They stepped up and played their asses off to score a server first Heroic Lich King and high ranking US kill.

What advice can I give to raid leaders at the starting gate?

Set an expectation for when you want to start raiding. For us it was two weeks after release for WotLK. It will likely be similar for Cataclysm though this expansion is releasing late in the year and will butt up against the Christmas/New Years holiday nicely. We were able to complete Tier 7 content just before Christmas with a little over a month to do so. When setting the date, be sure to communicate what that date means.

Does it mean a loss of rank? How are players that pace their leveling and want to take in more of the content viewed against those that hammer out those 5 levels and get to max level in two days? The more you communicate these expectations/terms, the more fair it is to everyone involved. My terms have always been:

  • We’re starting on dd/mm
  • You won’t lose your rank, but we’re starting on that date. If I need to recruit to fill spots, I will.
  • Be ready! (Proper hit/exp caps, etc).
TL;DR: Communicate!
Census Taker

As a raid leader, it’s good to take a quick census of who is coming back for the expansion. No matter what you do, players will quit, players will move on, and some will just like to go full-casual and not raid. Ask for sure responses, and (here’s that word again) communicate that it’s ok if they don’t want to continue. An expansion transition is the easiest time for players to step away (and also the best). Rally those that return, and thank those that move on for the
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