The Odyssey of Borsk: I’m still here, and I’m recruiting.

17 March, 2011

…I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back. ‘Til things are brighter…I’m the man in black. -Johnny Cash

The brief story of the trials and tribulations of one guild leader, a raid on the edge something great, and his best efforts to push his team over that edge.

It’s been too long

2/21/2011

That was the last time I’ve posted something here, my (somewhat) brief take on the strategy of Al’akir. Why such the long time between posts? This blog has always been more of a raiding journal for me than anything. A little place to collect my thoughts on a raid week or disperse some knowledge or advice for a specific fight. Those little things you only learn after a few kills that trip up everyone.

You can find raid strategies at better places. There are shaman out there that do a far better job of breaking down mechanics than I ever can. I’m not interested in commenting on the ever-changing PTR, or the latest hot-fixes. You can find that news anywhere and reacting to it is the epitome of premature chicken counting.

Most of the content I would normally write here, I end up talking about on the Matticast with my good friends Matt and Kat.

So in a nutshell, that is why you’ve seen no updates here, our raiding progression stalled. Why report when there is nothing to report? I don’t like to complain in print. I voice any issues with my guild before anyone (as it should be).

In the past month I’ve had to take my free time (and not-so free work time) and devote it to my guild 110%. Blood Red Moon is a group that I am incredibly passionate about. It isn’t all about raiding for me and for our members. We’ve had folks in guild for 6 years, this is their home.

Why are you complaining?

Looking at our progression, one would assume I would be elated, thrilled to be in a guild that regularly clears Tier 11 (with some hard modes) on 25 man, every week. And I am. We can get jaded at times and forget the amount of effort and skill that our raiders possess. I’m more guilty of it than most.

Where the frustration creeps up is in unused potential.

You can see it. It’s right there. It’s inside that glass case. The only way you unlock it is a key made of pure confidence. To say our raid group lacks confidence would be to say the Sahara lacks an abundance of lemonade stands.

Confidence is an easy thing to lose, and it’s even harder to get back. You see it in sports. The one guy on a 9 game streak with no goals. He finally pumps in an empty netter and the goals just keep coming.

That is where we are. Through a combination of raiders leaving, raiders lives abruptly changing, and a lack of new blood, we’ve hit a wall. That wall isn’t in gear or untuned mechanics. It’s in the 6 inch space between our ears.

Read the rest of this entry »


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


Last chance for round table questions!

10 July, 2010

Be sure to submit your questions to be answered on Totem Recall. We’re recording tomorrow!


Twitter Discussion: Relics Getting Overhaul In Cataclysm

16 April, 2010

Nothing better than sitting on your couch doing the two things you love the most: watching NHL Playoff Hockey and writing about WoW. Blizzard held one of their (in)famous dev chats on Twitter today and answered some interesting questions about the soon-to-be-in-beta Cataclysm Expansion.

Via MMO-Champion:

Q: Will relics and wands be getting any new attention in Cataclysm?
A: With relics, the plan is to make them class agnostic. In other words, there might be a +strength relic that a death knight or paladin might want to equip. We think that will let us add more of them to the game without them being so specialized. They will feel more like wands.

How to make wands and relics a bigger part of gameplay is something we’ve had many, many discussions on. Ultimately though we’d rather see warlocks, mages and priests casting their spells, not zapping someone with a wand. In Cataclysm we don’t expect to see much wanding, even at lower level.

A bittersweet change that has been long overdue. Relics have been an enigma since their inception; wasting spots on loot tables and basically having raiders question their value every tier. Through Wrath of the Lich King their usefulness definitely increased (some specs even had a couple situational options), but until ICC they remained on loot tables. Every time a relic dropped instead of a weapon you wanted to kick a small animal.

The double-edged sword of relics was also, as the Blue pointed out, the necessity of having the buff on you. If you aren’t using it with the intended spell (i.e. proc on Chain Heal, or stack with Riptide), then it’s value drops to nil. Gear dictating your play-style is poor design.

Calm down, rogues, this isn’t the same as having to use daggers or swords. It would be more like having a rogue-only bow that provided a best-in-slot advantage to fist weapons. Even if you wanted to use daggers and liked mutilate, you would be have to use fist weapons or use an inferior ranged weapon. This never got that extreme with relics for Shamans because I don’t think anyone ever refused to use Chain Heal. The Riptide totem really pushed this to the limit though. Having a 3 stack buff on a tightly-cooldowned ability puts pressure on you to keep that buff up instead of focusing on your job (ya know, healing).

The new relics will be focused on a stat grouping, bringing them more in line with wands. I’d suspect that the relics that are actually focused on class abilities will be obtained via quests or at low levels.

What makes this change to a more “agnostic” relic style bittersweet is the overall value of the relic itself. In many cases, the procs that some relics provided were actually better than their wand counter-parts. For those of us using relics, it’s a sucky change, for our cloth wearing raid mates, it’s a nice balancing act.

Neither wands or relics really add anything more than what a ring or neck does so that whole “Blizzard is making everything the same” argument looks rather silly. The goal of Cataclysm is clear: make playing the game fun by actually playing the game. That’s redundant, but having to battle spreadsheets to get the most out of your character is not fun. Sorry.

Other than the relic news, this was a fairly innocuous chat. Things like 310% mount speed for all your mounts and a new raid healing UI were all announced at Blizzcon.

The waiting game for Cata-Beta has begun.

(Blizzard still has yet to repay me for not allowing Worgen to become shaman and making new totem graphics for everyone. New totems to replace my warped plastic lamp bases would be nice)

NHL Playoffs

What a game played by the Nashville Predators! I’m a big fan of Patrick Kane and the ‘Hawks, but Barry Trotz’ frustrating, patient system paid off and a janitor-style goal near the middle of the third sealed the upset away victory for the Preds. The Predators are looking to win their first playoff series over conference favorite Chicago. Things could get verrrryyyy interesting.

As I sit here writing this the Wings are down by 1 to Phoenix, who is looking to take a 2-0 lead.  As we all know, a playoff series hasn’t started until the home team loses. The Joe is a very tough place to play and we’ll see how the young ‘Yotes do in the D.

Update: In the time it took me to finish up this post, it’s now 3-2. Wolski answered Zetterberg. Lombardi answered Datsyuk. I love playoff hockey.

Update 2: They wouldn’t even let me publish. Filppula scores to tie the game at 3. Ridiculous

Sidney Crosby Does It All.

The Devils, expectedly, even up their series with a win over Phily. Now they make their way across the Delaware River into the Insane AsylumWachovia Center. Powers Booth needs to go all Sudden Death on that place this Sunday (Coming soon on Video Cassette and LASERDISC!).


Shotgun Friday: Shiny Ponies, Mini Robots, Ragnaros, and Pllayyyofffss?

16 April, 2010

It’s a great day for hockey.– “Badger” Bob Johnson

Time to take a little trip around the blog-o-sphere on this beautiful NHL playoff Friday.

Short and sweet, but my blog-o-read-o-matic is rather shallow these days. If you got something you would like to show off, just post it in the comments and I’ll throw it up, I mean, I’ll post it the next time I get a chance.

Random Friday Thoughts

Ponys and Robots

Micro-purchasing in WoW reached a new high (or low to some folks) yesterday with the release of the Celestial Steed and the Lil’ XT mini pet. The Celestial Steed is an account wide mount that’s both ground and air. It scales with your riding skill so you can use it on every one of your characters from level 20 on up. All I have to say about this mount is that it looked cool…until they released it. Now it looks like some bloated ghost pony.

The mini-XT on the other hand is an amazing non combat pet. It smashes trains, it shoots robots, and it makes a lot of noise. I’ll likely be picking one of these up very soon…

GC gave you a pony. Now shut up about it (and fork over $25 US)!

Nagas On Fire

Blizzard released a couple brief previews this week for some of the new Cataclysm zones: Vashj’ir and Mount Hyjal. The latter is going to contain one of the new raids at level 85 (The Firelands) and is something that I’m sure everyone is looking forward to. The Firelands obviously is going to contain one of our old friends, Mr. Ragnaros (or is it just Ragnaros, maybe Sir Ragnaros. I’m not really into the whole brevity thing).

The Firelands needs to have lava that you can tumble into and maybe even some sort of Red Tunic-esque fire prevention item available. I definitely do not want to go back to farming loads of resistance gear, but I think to recapture what made the fight against Ragnaros so epic, it needs some sort of resistance element to it. Gearing up for Rag, the Fire Resist gear, the consumables, all fed into the epic nature of the fight.

Maybe a resistance tabard or cloak linked to reputation?

[MMO-Champion]

Strength of Wrynn: 15%

Our projected time-line of four weeks per level is nearing of the end of it’s cycle for the 10% buff (April 27th). We’re currently working on Heroic Putricide in 25s and just starting some attempts in on Heroic Lich King in 10s. This gives us a raid week plus one day to finish up and start work on Sindragosa before we get bumped up another 5%.

The last increase to 10% really opened the flood gates on a lot of hard modes. The way a lot of the timers/benchmarks are looking for the stuff we currently do, 15% is going to put a lot of people up against Heroic Lich King in 25s very soon. The battle for the Realm First Light of Dawn is starting to heat up very quickly.

NHL Playoffs

If you are a casual hockey fan and really enjoyed what you saw from the coolest game on ice in the Olympics, don’t miss a second of the NHL playoffs this year. Every game so far has been absolutely fantastic. Last night two games went into Overtime and ended in the most dramatic fashion possible. The home team has only won twice out of the first 7 games so a lot of series are still really up for grabs.

Go Pens!

Have a great weekend, folks.


What does Arthas Menethil look like?

15 March, 2010

He looks like a Lich…King?. I wonder how many times that one’s been used. If I had to guess, probably about as much as March of the Penguins this month. Anyway, our Sunday evening 10 man thought it might be fun to try something after coming up a bit short on some hard modes.

Maybe we were searching hard for some comedy, but we found this pretty humorous. Also, below is a much more impressively fun clip of Goon Squad taking care of Tirion Fordring.