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?

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The Raiding Bubble

29 March, 2011

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

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

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

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

In the Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That rapid growth of raiding would not come without consequences.

Bait and Switch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel the Burn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Enough Cooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a team thing.

The Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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


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 »


Windlord Slaying For Dummies

21 February, 2011

“There are two kinds of spurs in this world, my friend; ‘those who come by the door: and those who come by the window”–Tuco, The Ugly

Al’akir, being end of instance boss (even if that instance is very short), is a step up in difficulty from the other fight in the instance. Usually this increase in difficulty is rewarded by a windfall in epics. Cho’gall and Nefarian drop 8 items! Al’akir? He drops a measly 5 epics of random-enchanted gear. Bleh!

Why spend the time to kill this boss? A boss with a learning curve and one with little payoff. You can spend that time on heroic bosses in the other two raid zones just as easily.

I disagree with this line of thinking. While the payoff for killing Al’akir isn’t in the loot department, you can find it in other, intangible places:

Defender of a Shattered World: It is both a title and a mount (with Guild rep at exalted). Neither has anything to do with more DPS or more healing, but it is a great morale boost. That may seem insignificant, but showing that you are a guild that takes on challenges, even if the epic reward is low, is a message to those looking for a guild and those already in the guild.

Second, his loot isn’t great, but he does give 90 valor points and the epics can be turned into Maelstrom Crystals. On Zul’jin those materials go for over 2000g each. With enchants costing as much as 6 per, you don’t want to waste that opportunity.

Lastly, I think clearing an entire tier is very important from a raid-measurement point of view. Al’akir is hard, but it isn’t nearly as hard as ANY heroic boss. Putting your raiders in as many situations as possible helps refine their skills. Al’akir is a big time personal responsibility fight. That’s the trait you want to reinforce the most.

There’s my pitch for actually doing the fight. Now I’m going to attempt to give you some tips on making this fight more manageable.

I’m going to refer to this diagram a lot, so take a look at the symbols and their arrangement.

The platform in BossBlueprint‘s map is arranged to have a “spade” at the bottom. Our raid sets up on the circles between the spades. We found the tornado spawn points to be more forgiving this way. This strategy also assumes a 6 healer arrangement, you can add a 7th to the tank’s spot easily.

Hot Spots

The tornadoes (Squall Line) spawn at fix locations on the platform (near the Orange Circles).  Tornadoes on the west go counter-clockwise, tornadoes on the east clockwise. Combine this with the Wind Blast cooldown and you create areas on the platform that are more difficult to stand than others.

The hardest sectors are the ones marked with Diamonds. Put your best/fastest learners there. This shouldn’t excuse poor play, but some people are just better at these kinds of fights. Timing a Wind Blast to get knocked off or not, timing with the tornadoes, all that takes time. Those positions will never be easy.

On the other hand, the positions marked with Circles are very easy. The Wind Blast and tornadoes are perfectly offset and you’ll never have to deal with both. Very straightforward, not a lot of decision-making.

The spot that I marked with crossed swords is where I put all of my rogues/other melee. In 25 man, obviously one sector will need 4 people. Load up that spot with melee that can mitigate damage/self-heal.

Note: When Wind Blast is casting, Al’akir cannot cast his lightning AOE. Use that to your advantage to get through a Squall Line quickly, but don’t linger! You’ll kill some raiders!

Healing Tips

Heal quickly. Use your quick, inefficient heals to top people up as soon as possible!

1. You’re going to be running around (and flying) a lot, you might not get a chance to heal them if you wait.

2. That group’s healer might not be able to heal so cross-heal and overheal if necessary

3. You get tons of regen time in this phase because of (1), don’t worry about your mana, the goal of the phase is to survive.

Phase 2, Stormlings, Feedback

Ranged DPS on the adds, melee DPS on Al’akir full time.

DPS the first Stormling to 50%, hold it until there are 3 Stormlings active, and then start killing them one at a time (we have our tank mark the kill target). This will allow you to keep the Feedback stack rolling and climbing. It will become more difficult to keep the stack as the adds will spawn as the debuff gets closer to finishing.

If you are quick, and wait at the proper times (kill the adds just before Feedback goes away), you can get crazy dps numbers. Our highest stack was 12!

Hit Herolust Warp at 7 or 8 stacks. If you can get the stack above 10 I recommend all dps switching to Al’akir and burning until Feedback goes away, then restart the stacking (you’ll be out of Phase 2 at this point).

Phase 3…go down…go down…go down…go down…

Start at the top. When you enter Phase 3 immediately fly as high as you can go. Stare the boss in the face and give him the finger.

Mark one player and go down after each cloud appears. After Wind Blast be sure to fly under the clouds if a new one has spawned. If you go below the marked person or bad things will happen. Don’t wait for a call! If you wait for the call on vent, you’re already too late. Look at your character from the side so you can see the clouds (they are faint if viewed from above).

Lightning rods: strafe to side to avoid killing everyone. You learned this lesson on Ascendant Council, just don’t go out of healing range.

Fin

This is by no means a full fledged strategy as I’ve left several mechanics out, but this should clarify some of the more difficult parts of this encounter. Use one or use them all, but don’t skip this boss. Get it out of the way. Collect Maelstrom Crystals, get people confident in the fight. You’re going to have to kill it eventually, might as well do it now.


Cataclysm’s Fantastic Four

1 February, 2011

Don’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger-pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory! — Bruce Lee

With a day off to literally do nothing in-game, I had a little bit of time to reflect on normal mode Tier 11. We still have plenty of farming time on it to go as we progress through heroic mode Tier 11, but we’re done with it.

There have been a lot of Negative Neds and Nancys out there hating on Wow 4.0, but I want to put a different spin on it.

In these past four weeks, there has been a lot of time to explore the newness of Cataclysm and settle into the 4th era of WarCraft. With so much content, some might find it hard to pick out the best parts of the expansion just one month in, but I’m selfish and 99% right, 100% of the time, so let’s have at it!

Let’s see how random we can mark these points

1. Guild Leveling/Perks/Reputation/Achievements

I’m doing this one first because I want to state up front how wrong I was about this feature  (I said 99% right, don’t judge me). Before Cataclysm, guilds were simply an angle-bracketed Ominous Latin Name or Abstract Noun. The only significant source of togetherness was a cropped screenshot after a boss-kill with that same guild name on it.

Now with guild leveling and reputation, all the players in the guild (from officer to friends & family) can contribute to the progression of the guild. Raiders in the guild contribute inside of the instance, but the quests, dungeons, and battlegrounds that the more casual members complete also contribute to the guild experience pool.

Giving a tangible goal to everyone in a guild grants ownership of that goal to every member. The guild rewards are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Most of them are just another pet or mount, but there are others that everyone can benefit from. Gold from looting put into the bank which can then be used for repairs (we have guild repairs turned on for everyone, all the time).

Remote access to the guild bank, experience and reputation boosts, and honor bonuses. If you contribute something, anything, you will reap the rewards.It encourages folks to stick with a guild and build it into something meaningful. The bonuses to reputation/experience given to guild instance groups help build camaraderie through cooperation.

As a friends and family member or retired raider, the fact that guild status was previously only tied to raid progression had you feeling like a passenger. Now you can give something as well, and that can only mean good things.

Read the rest of this entry »


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