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.

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Cataclysm raid refinements open doors, leave questions

26 April, 2010

Bibi’s quick take on [MMO-Champion]:

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.

The news came down this afternoon that these significant changes will be made to raiding when we get to Cataclysm. A little vague, a little bit left to be desired, but nonetheless thought provoking. From the perspective of a player that enjoys heroic raiding at the 25 man level, it certainly got me thinking.

Each tier so far this expansion has had a 25 man and 10 man raid. For hardcore raiders, it’s a simple concept, to gear your character faster, you do more content. Running both the 10 and 25 man each reset is an accepted practice. The only reason a person would kill the same bosses twice a week is for the gear. Also, with so much gear being placed on the badge vendor (tier starters in ICC), you also need that extra influx of badges to make sure you got the gear you need for progression right now and not 3 months from now (now being December ’09).

The biggest problem, aside from badge generation, was the fact that 10 man and 25 contained unique loot. But wait, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t they have distinguishable gear to really denote a “10 man” and “25 man” raider? The idea is good, but the itemization always fell short of the goal in a few unique circumstances. The biggest offender here were trinkets (Mjolnir Runestone, anyone?), but there were still a few weapons and other pieces of gear that just happened to be itemized better in 10 man. This meant that in order to get the best gear for your toon, you needed to do 10 and 25 man.

With 10 man’s removed from the docket of a main raider, it will relieve a lot of intra-guild stress generated from finding a 10 man group.  In a small roster situation, a 25 man guild barely has enough raiders to field 2 10 mans with a backup here or there. It’s a strange predicament and something, as a raid leader, you want to facilitate, but you end up going insane trying to do so. The new lockouts will now give you a hard number on the amount of gear coming into your raid.

So in Cataclysm the choice to be a 25 man guild will really mean something…

…or will it.

There was another practice that came about this expansion with the advent of gated content: running 2 25 mans. The amount of gear coming into your raid could be increased by running half of your guild’s mains  in 2 different 25 mans, filling each half with alts. This was easy to do in normal mode ICC since the content was easy and was released in small chunks. Once it went out to a full fledged 12 boss instance (and you had hard modes), trying to attempt this became harder to do so while actually having days in the week where you don’t raid.

The Cataclysm raids, according to the Blues, will be smaller (5 or 6 bosses each).  The temptation will be there (to split your raid), but I don’t think that the time in a raid week will be there. At the moment, you can already see signs that a lot of guilds are dialing back their raid time per week (and being incredibly successful doing so). Very successful, low hour per week raids are very attractive as they minimize time spent in game,  but maximize character progression.

The only difference between the two raiding types now is the fact that you will get more (badges, gear, money) from the 25 man. “More” is so subjective that it’s hard to comment, but this is something that I get a little worried about when I think down the line in Cataclysm.

End of the line for 25 mans?

Blizzard has now decided to support 25 man raiding only because there is a segment of the population that enjoys “large scale raiding.” Count me among that group. I love going in with 25 and battling a boss that needs the synergy and coordination of a lot of people. I hated the logistical nightmare of 40 man raiding, but liked the fact that it took so many people to kill one boss.

I don’t like worrying or speculating, or going doom and gloom, but this is something that I think is a good issue to bring up. The lure of 10 man raiding is how controllable the environment is. You are dealing with 10 people. Getting 10 schedules aligned and working is relatively easy. It’s possible to fit a 10 man into almost any day of the week and even change it week to week to suit the needs of the group. The group is also small enough that no loot system is really needed, and every decision can be made by the group.

Raiders were attracted to the 25 man setting because it had better gear and the encounters were (generally) more challenging. The only difference now will be the amount of gear. This begs the question: If I’m only raiding with 9 other people, why do I need more gear and badges? What are the chances I’ll be competing for gear if I’m the only Rogue or only Shaman?

Again, expansion talk is always precarious.

The difference in the drops (including badges and gold) could be incredibly significant. Twenty five man raiders may end up getting twice the badge/gold input as the 10 man raiders. However, this is an aspect that I think Blizzard needs to get just right, or it will mark the slow downfall (and eventual demise) of 25 man raiding. It is impossible to know at this point how big this will be. The price of badge gear, the exact amount of loot or gold, and the number of bosses will all factor in.

Turnover

There are a lot of established 25 man raiding guilds (Blood Red Moon being one of them). Our guild won’t die because of this lockout change, but it might be hard to maintain a roster as more “starting with Cataclysm” players enter the game and “older/veteran” players leave.

Over the life of an expansion, a guild loses players. Some of those players move on to other guilds, some just quit the game. During Wrath of the Lich King I probably saw no less than 20 players (if not more) join and then eventually leave the ranks of Blood Red Moon.  These players ranged from one week wonders to three year guild veterans and everything in between. It’s normal and something that is easy to handle with consistent, proactive recruitment. With the new system, what will be the motivation for a “new player” (Cataclysm borne) to seek out a 25 man raiding group?

My answer to that question is reputation. The rep of a server’s guilds will keep funneling players into them, but will that hold up once those players get a sense of what 25 man raiding and 10 man raiding are all about?

There’s still the question of current players. Maybe it’s easier for a group of in game friends to leave their guilds. Leave the dkp systems, the recruitment, and the logistics of 25 man raiding behind and start something for themselves and close friends. It might not be a new guild, but a new raiding group (you only get one lockout per character).

Could we see the rise of “raiding teams” along the lines of how people view “arena teams”?

Is an official format like this coming with the new guild leveling system (players being grouped by both guild and/or raid)? In game rankings, perhaps?

10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other

I’m anxiously awaiting what becomes of this statement. To me, the simple act of coordinating 25 people is harder, and Blizzard acknowledges that. I only hope that they align the difference in difficulty with their “more loot” policy for 25 man raiders. If 25 mans are more difficult, but drop the same loot as a 10 man, do fringe 25 man raiders continue to stick with 25 man raiding or instead opt for the 10 mans?

Does 25 man raiding end up being there only to serve guilds that have been around? Why would a player starting up a guild want to tackle building up a 25 man raiding force? Would it even be possible given the above changes?

Keeping the difficulty close will be, in a word, difficult. There was evidence of this during this expansion (10 man Sarth 3D was harder, comparatively, than 25 man), but most of it was the exact opposite. Icecrown Citadel Heroic, in its entirety, is simple on 10 man when compared to 25. The differences between things such as one Val’kyr vs. three on Lich King, or the minimized dangers of Lady Deathwhisper 10 (1 ghost, 1 add) are huge.

I would say the encounter designers really have their work cut out for them, but that is an understatement.

Toward the Future

I ask a lot of questions in this post because that’s what Blizzard has opened themselves up to at this point. I’m predicting a lot of forum rage and possibly a few rebuttals and clarification by the design team.

The direction they are heading: one lockout, same gear, same difficulty, gives players a black and white choice: 10 or 25 man., heroic or normal. For established 25 man guilds, this is a good thing. No more pressure to run 10 mans. Further, 10 mans can be reserved purely for alt advancement as a fun side activity. Smaller raid sizes encourage pickup raids. They also encourage raids at odd hours when you might have the people but not the time complete a full (12+ boss) instance without missing out on some of the encounters.

A unified loot pool will keep the quantity of epics down and hopefully control the itemization to a degree. There will always be bad pieces of gear, but now there should be less bad ones compared to ones that are actually desired.

Blizzard’s desire to focus game play and remove “grindy” elements is crossing them into a weird territory that other MMOs have not been. Formerly, the way to show how good you are in an MMO was how much time you put into the game. Blizzard’s divergence from this long established practice is an interesting one that pulls them closer to what people like from their console games. They want people to be able to show their stuff and achieve things in a small frame of time (and with the people they enjoy playing beside).

If anyone can pull that off, it’s Blizzard. I just hope that by doing this they don’t remove the challenge of the game that many of us have to come to enjoy in the format we’ve come to enjoy it.

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.

Cataclysm Raiding Manifesto

20 April, 2010

“Death can take me if I can’t be free. I am not like you, I’m a dying breed!”-Five Finger Death Punch

It’s hard to remember back to the time when there were no achievements in raids. We’re coming up on nearly two full years of raiding with those little 10pt boxes flashing on our screen after (or even during) boss fights.

The playing field for the whole game changed with those little boxes. Now, we are no longer raiding for perfection, we’re raiding to check off boxes on a list of things we need to get done. The necessity of being able to easily repeat a boss fight is now distilled down to one encounter: Lich King Heroic. A raid group needs to complete the heroic mode versions of Professor Putricide, Blood Queen Lana’thel, and Sindragosa to move on and use their remaining attempts to work on the pinnacle challenge of WotLK.

So it affects about 200 guilds. Cool.

The problem that this creates, in conjunction with Strength of Wrynn, is that gear is no longer a factor in progression. It certainly provides an edge to those that collect it and min/max their kits to squeeze out every last drop of DPS, but it isn’t required to progress nearly as much as it used to.

This has moved most of the hardcore raiding community off of the race track and onto a go-kart track. Someone might win the race, but it’s only about the ride and not the result. The choice we make to raid in a hard core environment and compete with other guilds is watered down, and has little in the way of actual competitive measurement.

After the jump my thoughts on Cataclysm, raiding, and moving back to a raiding system that melds the traditional with the contemporary.

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HHM: Lord Moralegar – Turning Raiding Momentum In Your Favor

15 April, 2010

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.–Vince Lombardi

Hidden Hard Modes (HHM) is a series dedicated to those bosses you see outside of the game. The bosses you need to kill just to make it into an instance and before you even kill one boss. This feature will be archived in its own page for easy access after it runs its course. Previous entries: Attendancegut, Recruitmentface

It’s been some time since my last entry on this topic due to a lot of progress, other interesting topics to write on, and the one first of two events this year that make this post actually possible to carve out. Also, this post is likely going to cover much of what I intended for Stratagosa, so we’ll count this as a “council boss” for Hidden Hard Modes ;).

Morale and confidence within a raid are strange animals. In one moment you can effortlessly defeat anything placed in front of you, and with one wipe at a low percent you’re struggling wipe after wipe, for seemingly no reason. There’s a reason that I’m constantly comparing what we do in game to those that skate and hoop in front of thousands: the mentality is similar

Seasons

In PvP there are defined arena seasons, but those are relatively abstract compared to an actual sports season. Raiding actually follows a more stringent schedule and time frame when compared to the typical NHL or NBA season. In a typical week, they’ll play 3 to 4 games. For Raiders, we’re getting up and heading into an instance the same amount.

Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The mental and physical toughness that it takes to be a professional athlete is so far above what a raider in WoW exerts it might as well be on Jupiter. That being said, in a typical raiding cycle (approximately 7 months) you’re suiting up to play 112 times with probably 70 of those nights being actual progression.

Handling that kind of grind is not easy. There will be off nights and weeks, times when you don’t really get anything done. Is the sky falling every time you wipe 10 times on a boss you’ve killed a half dozen times? Is it time to kick people or disband the guild if a bad raid night turns into a streak of bad nights? Of course not.

Bouncing Back

In hockey this phenomenon is referred to as “tilting the ice.” During a game or a season it might seem like one team is completely outmatched. No matter what they do or how many penalties the other team gets, they just can’t get anything going. It actually looks like someone picked up one end of the rink so that one team is playing downhill. When a game is in the balance, the tilt can go either way at any time. A quick streak of goals can send a team into a downward spiral, bleeding momentum.

Momentum when fighting through a raid instance is just as important. An easy one shot on a boss carries over to the next boss (and so far). Wipes happen just like goals agsinst happen. Expecting to go an entire season without being scored on is ridiculous. Especially on harder content, you need to expect that some bad things will happen or someone will make a mistake and you won’t be able to recover. That’s fine. You just recover, re-buff and pull again.

The wipes that really throw you off kilter are the “back breakers.” You just had a couple solid attempts where a tank DC’d or some dice rolls lined up the wrong way. Everyone is still pretty confident, but this time a melee loses his head and gets his group killed early in the fight. Ugh, killer. We played perfectly and wiped, we played poorly and wiped, how the hell are we going to beat this?

It’s time to bounce back.

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Strength of Win

5 April, 2010

Temper gets you into trouble. Pride keeps you there.–Unknown

Nearly 5 weeks into the era of the zone-wide Icecrown buff, I’ve taken some time to reflect on how it has truly affected the way that raids are run and the affect it has on progression.

Assistance

Icecrown Citadel is a series of glass ceilings. There are many guilds bumping their heads trying to break through each of them right now:

  • Sindragosa
  • Lich King
  • (H) Gunship/Marrowgar/Rotface/Council/Dreamwalker/Festergut/Blood Queen
  • (H) Deathwhisper/Saurfang
  • (H) Sindragosa
  • (H) Putricide
  • (H) Lich King

The timeline currently allows guilds 4 weeks to break through each ceiling on their own. After that, the buff will increase and nudge them through. This was evident on our server this week as several guilds broke through barrier 2 and 3 above to step up. Across all servers, everyone moved up together. Our US and world ranks changed very little, which is another indicator of just how granular the skill level is among guilds.

If you’re killing it, chances are everyone else at your level is also killing it.

We like to think that our accomplishments occur in a vacuum, but they don’t. Our accomplishments are grand, and often times astounding for the server that we play on. This is why many of us focus on intra-server progression more so than World or even US rankings. It’s a way for us to get good, fair comparison.

The guilds on your server are using the same forums, same pool of recruits, and have the same server culture. It’s also nice to actually pass your competition on the way to the instance and not have them be some mystical number and fancy name on a website.

Srength of Wrynn has ferried along everyone very nicely, allowing us to progress at a steady pace without doing the work for us. The final goals of Icecrown Progression are very clear:

  1. Glory of the Icecrown Raider (25 Player)
  2. Realm First! Light of Dawn
  3. Leveling Gear

Everyone where we are (in the 8/12, 9/12 heroic mode range) has a high enough raid-gear level to complete the instance. Blizzard only made 4 277 tier tokens available per week (and only 2 of those being realistically accessible). Expecting your entire raid to be decked out in best in slot gear to complete the instance would be folly.

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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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Behind the Screenshot: Fel-Missed

1 April, 2010

A look to the past as we explore what built up to and resulted from some of the most interesting boss kills I’ve been apart of.

Quick decisions are unsafe decisions-Sophocles

Edit: Video added!

Everyone remembers Sunwell right? It was a magical land of milk, honey, joy, and joyness. Where the beer flowed like wine and the epics rained down from the heavens like April in Seattle. It was a simpler time, a–wait no, we’re talking about Sunwell? The Sunwell. The same instance that Blizzard famously asserted was far too difficult.

We didn’t know any better. We were just a hard-nosed group of hardcore raiders looking for something to raid after Illidan met his demise. The encounters in Sunwell were intense, cinematic, and presented challenges that no one had ever thought possible in a raid instance.

From the demon world of Kalecgos to the dueling Fire and Shadow Eredar, every step along the way was a test of mental toughness. Raid Leaders were forced to make wild swings in composition adjustments from one boss to the next (and there were only six!). Substandard classes were sat outside on buff duty to prep the brave raiders who had the cajones to enter and face these bosses. One such boss, the third in the instance, Felmyst; a blue dragon struck down by the mighty Brutallus and resurrected with his demonic essence.

Felmyst was a challenge. In raid composition, tactics, and the raid leader’s ability to make lightning quick decisions that decided the fate of the entire raid. In just mere seconds, that decision could be the difference between a wipe or a kill.

The Original Post

Smelly Pixel Dragon

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