ICC25 Hard Mode: Riders on the Storm

2 April, 2010

Come on, baby, light my fire–The Doors

The hard mode difficulty curve is a funny thing in Icecrown Citadel. The easiest layout for a raid leader would be the bosses starting out easy and then getting a little harder one step at a time, allowing for a natural progression path through the instance. ICC does not follow this pattern directly. In your path up the Heroic Mode Mountain is Lady Deathwhisper.

Tackling Deathwhisper right after Marrowgar is akin to following Captain Sobel up Currahee, taking a train down the other side, and then climbing Mt. Rainier. For a raid leader, going for progression on Deathwhisper is a tough call since it gates hard modes that are much easier to complete.

For me, the increase of Strength of Wrynn to 10% made this decision easy. We needed to drop Deathwhisper and we needed to do it right now. Our strategy was solid, and our strategies for the other hard modes in our crosshairs were solid. Getting Deathwhisper down didn’t mean one new kill, it meant 3.

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5 Things I Hate That Raiders Love

30 March, 2010

If life gives you lemons, go find an annoying guy with paper cuts–Unknown

This is an unprovoked rant, but one I’ve been meaning to put down in black and white for a little while now. Everyone that raids with BRM knows these very well, and knows the response (from rage to slight annoyance) when they happen to appear in my field of vision. Only some of these have been detrimental to the point of wiping the raid at an important moment, but all of them just seem to provoke some sort of inner demon (“behold the power” and all that noise). Without further delay…

5. Everyone Has AOE, but no one knows when to use it.

Every single dungeon, every single raid, every single trash pack, you can’t get people to stop AoEing. I partially blame Parrot/MSBT for this. Lumping all of that damage into one giant Mack Truck of a number that is like crack to a DPS. “35k FAN OF KNIVES WTF MAN!”

All of this stroking is in good fun when a gnome or two dies, but when there’s one mob in a pack that requires a moment of focus fire, everyone forgets where their fireball key went. You’re fighting a trash pack for a couple minutes, and you realize That One Mob (let’s say it’s a Darkfallen Tactician for arguments sake) is still alive, killing all of your healers and sapping your tanks. The raid topples over and what you’re left with is 7 mobs at 10%.

This gets completely flipped on its head when you get to a boss that requires quick, well-timed AOE. Rotworms on Heroic: Valithria Dreamwalker is a good example. A perfect candidate for an AoE fest. Eight or 9 little mobs all bunched up, but they need to be killed immediately. The AoE needs to be rolling as they spawn (think: I Choose You Molgheim!), so they don’t have a chance to attack anything.

Naxx and clever combat text mods have made AoE, and it’s proper use a Raid Leader’s headache. Let’s not get too extreme, though, nobody liked Kael’thas trash. That’s swinging too far in the other direction.

4. Battle Rez

You are saying to yourself right now: “Self, how can this idiot hate battle rez” and I will reply: “Here’s a graph.”The Battle Rez rules are thus: 3 strikes and you’re out, everyone starts the fight with 1 strike. The likelihood of receiving a battle rez goes down exponentially as content gets easier, despite the shorter cooldown.

3. Disengage

Times when Disengage has failed in glorious fashion:

  • General Vezax. Disengage to get out of the raid with Mark of the Faceless, hit a rock, don’t go anywhere, heal Vezax for 20%.
  • General Vezax. Disengage to get out of the raid, but instead launch into melee.
  • Sindragosa: Disengage to escape Blistering Cold, but the hunter is turned the wrong way
  • The Lich King: Disengage to get off the falling platform, hunter launches self off the frozen throne
  • The Lich King: Same result as above, but instead trying to be clever when escaping Defile

The response every time this happens: “Disengage always works! I just messed it up that time!” If only the same excuse could be used when someone shoots their self in the face when cleaning their gun. Never point a hunter at anything, they’re always loaded.

2. Heroic Presence

Why Blizzard? Why must you curse Alliance Raid Leaders with this epicly short range, group only buff that is counter to your itemization philosophy? Anyone that raids with no less than 5 Draenei, beware. Those DPS left in the goat-less group will be sending you tells. Probably during the countdown for the pull on the next boss. You gave us one advantage, why did it have to be this one? Why couldn’t we just get War Stomp?

This is purely raid leader annoyance/rant/bitching, but it doesn’t make it tolerable. I thought that group specific stuff stopped with Shamans. The thing is, people generally don’t whine when they’re missing healing stream totem.

And finally…

1. Army of the DumbDead

Where do I even start with this abomination of retardation (forgive the pun). It’s as if the Death Knight literally clicks a button to resurrect every bad raider to come back and haunt my raid. Every tank that could never pick up a mob, every DPS Warrior that pulled aggro all the time, and every healer that stood in range of a cleaving mob are now back in your raid to wreak havoc.

The fix to prevent these mongoloids from screwing your raid over completely (Ghouls cannot taunt Skull Level Mobs), only steeled the resolve of Death Knights everywhere. “They can’t taunt bosses! It’s ok to use Army whenever I want!”

No it isn’t.

Adds on a boss encounter are not skull level. If you still like Army, go do a Tribute to Insanity run and have the DK in your raid hit Army as the Nerubian Burrowers spawn. Hilarity (at least for me) will ensue as your tank scrambles to keep them on the permafrost and above ground. They will fail, your will raid will lose it’s pretty pony, and everyone goes home hating those stupid little ghouls forever. That situation happened to us, except it wasn’t on insanity but it was on 25 man at 5%. We didn’t win.

I’ve seen Army screw up Rotface, Deathwhisper, and just about every heroic that I’ve ever done with a DK. Houston to DK’s, come in DK’s, Army of the Dead is a tanking cooldown.

Lastly, Army pulls on Faction Champions are stupid. You should be doing the opposite of the Army pull and have your MT (in tank gear and spec) pull the Champions. Nobody should cast anything (even heals) for the first 5ish seconds as the tank debuffs the mobs as much as he can. This will make a majority of the mobs stick to one person. Your DPS can focus on the first couple targets before the melee Champions start looking for Mages to stick their weapons in.

There can be no rest until this spell is removed from the game and it’s pestilence lifted from the lives of Raid Leader’s everywhere.

Something I Don’t Hate

One of BRM’s long-time officers and raiders (longer than me even) has started his own blog:

Known As Kro

Kro is an interesting person and player, and I think you’ll find his more off-topic WoW (and non-WoW) musings very enjoyable. He has a very clever way with words and tends to serve as our resident Devil’s Advocate in officer discussions, so he always has an alternative view on things. Go give him a read, he already has plenty of posts ready and waiting.


Holding Out For A Hero

19 March, 2010

A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.–Novalis

Heroism/Bloodlust is an essential raid buff on nearly every encounter. On some it’s just a way to get it over with a little faster. Other fights require it to meet a benchmark or cover all of the healing required.

This is a simple post that simply lists in a simple fashion when I hit (or call for) Heroism:

  • Lord Marrowgar (Normal/Heroic): Start of the fight.*
  • Lady Deathwhisper (Normal): Start of the fight.*
  • Gunship Battle: By the time you’ve read this far into the guide, you already have won
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (Normal): When Saurfang frenzies at 30%
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (Heroic): When you think you can win in the next 40 seconds.
  • Rotface (Normal/Heroic): Start of the fight.*
  • Festergut (Normal/Heroic): As the first gas expunge is casting.
  • Professor Putricide (Normal): After one complete tank rotation (All tanks have 2 debuffs). This generally lines up with ~20% and will aid the raid healing quite a bit.
  • Blood Prince Council (Normal/Heroic): First time the Darkfallen Orb passes to Taldaram. The melee doesn’t have to move.
  • Blood Queen Lana’thel (Normal/Heroic): After all 16 vampires are active.
  • Valithria Dreamwalker (Normal/Heroic): After portal #3 or #4, depends on how fast you are moving. Make sure GS is ready to go up on her when you exit the Dream/Nightmare.
  • Sindragosa (Normal): Final ground phase (generally ~40%), this will allow you to push back the enrage and also not put your DPS in jeopardy if you use it later (Mystic Buffets!)
  • The Lich King (Normal): During the second Remorseless Winter when the first Raging Spirit spawns.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in To(G)C:

  • Northrend Beasts: After the first Jormungar burrow, when Acidmaw is mobile for the first time.
  • Lord Jaraxxus: Start of the fight*
  • Faction Champions: Start of the fight, when the melee are actually on their target (wait for them to run in).
  • Twin Val’kyr: After the second vortex, or when you see a good number of dps empowered. On Heroic Mode we tended to use this as late as possible regardless of empowered just to guarantee we had the healing to power through the last 20ish%
  • Anub’Arak: Start of Phase 3 (Leeching Swarm, phase). This is the best way to counter the massive amount of healing done as he transitions over.

*Make sure the boss is fully debuffed before activating Lust/Heroism (Sunders, Ebon Plaguebringer, etc.)

UPDATE: The above are from a 25 man point of view, but also all work for the 10 man versions of these encounters.

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Approaching Hard Mode ICC25, A Road Map

15 March, 2010

To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some may say that non-linearity is the true way to create interesting content. It provides choices and perhaps a different way of doing things. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe you get to choose a different path through the instance when farming the content, but that is quite inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

What Raid Leaders want, and look for, is the best path through an instance. If they don’t know what to choose, the choice will quickly be made for them. Let’s take a look at the “First Four” bosses of the original Naxx:

  1. Anub’rekhan
  2. Noth the Plaguebringer
  3. Instructor Razuvious
  4. Patchwerk

One of these things is not like the other.

Even if an ambitious raid leader wanted to tackle Patchwerk first, he simply could not. What he will fall back on is either experimentation (if he’s one of the first in), or the experiences of guilds that came before him. In the case of Icecrown Citadel Hard Modes, the latter is where most of us fall.  Plotting out a course of action based on the science of guilds that have already tried (and failed, in some cases) is the best way to create an effective map of hard mode progression.

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ICC25 Hard Mode: Power Overwhelming

13 March, 2010

We burn…We need focus…Thorasoh’cahp! — Archon, StarCraft

Our third and final night of hard modes included two bosses that supercharge the raid to ridiculous levels: Blood Queen and Valithria Dreamwalker. Killing off both would allow us to meet and exceed our goal of at least 5 hard modes this first reset. It turns out we were more prepared for both than I originally thought.

“Eradicate”

Leaving a raid with a boss at 4.7% HP, knowing you needed just 12k more raid DPS, tends to leave a good amount of trepidation at the start of next night. You worry of falling into a loop of wiping since your momentum from the last evening’s attempts is all but gone. The best thing to do before starting right in on a boss is get the blood flowing. A warm-up if you will.

For us it was the trash prior to Dreamwalker. We cleared to collect our free single Emblem of Frost and then back-tracked to the Crimson Halls. The message? Once we drop Blood Queen, Dreamwalker could be saved shortly after.

Once again we prepped for Blood Queen. Potions at the ready, food and flasks, a quick double check to make sure all the raid buffs were covered.

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ICC25 Hard Mode: Them Bones

10 March, 2010

Try to recover, but we collide with each other. We spin out of control–Kotov Syndrome, Rise Against

And now the real fun begins. Progression over the past two instances has been considerably different, from a mental point of view, than every previous tier. In Black Temple when we finally downed Illidan the feeling in the raid was “woohoo we just beat the game!”  Now that has completely changed. You down The Lich King, the (supposedly) final boss of the expansion, and you say to yourself “sweet! now we can start raiding for real!”

In a way this is like a second round of leveling. The goal (for raiding focused players) when starting a new alt is getting that character leveled, prepped, and ready to get into a raid instance. You get your ratings as close as possible to their minimal caps and collect some crafted/5-man gear, but you can’t really do anything until you hit 80. The same thing happened in ICC25. We worked decently hard to get those 12 bosses down (at least the later ones), and we finish the instance. Well, not really. Now we can actually start to raid at a level we’re accustomed to.

We have some hard modes to do. Will we achieve a Lich King 25 Heroic Kill before Cataclysm? That is certainly our goal and last night’s raid was our first big step toward achieving it.

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Ciderhelm asks: WoW, Toy or Game?

25 February, 2010

There are many other important elements to games, but those — especially Surprise — are the most essential ingredients to any great game. Without all of these, we are merely playing with toys, and we will find ourselves bored quickly.–Ciderhelm

Ciderhelm, Adminstrator over at Tankspot (link to the right), wrote a very intriguing article yesterday asking a very simple question: Does WoW still provide everything that one expects from a game?  I encourage everyone to go ahead and read it as it provides some great perspective on where WoW really stands currently, and puts forth some very valid concerns that Blizzard should be addressing if it wishes to keep it’s industry-revolutionizing MMO at the top of the heap at least until it’s next MMO venture is ready (we think maybe within the next 10 to 45 years).  Below is my take on this issue.

There is a very real difference between something that’s a Toy and a Game.  A football is a toy.  You can use that Toy with a group of friends and turn it into a Game, but a football on it’s own is something you pick up, toss around a bit and then set back in the garage when raid time rolls around.  Specifically, a game should provide some measure of challenge and provide a reward for completing this challenge.  The strategy used to complete said challenge and if any surprises crop up all go into how good or bad this game is.

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