Cataclysm: It Wasn’t All Waffles and Honey

It's been a long, somewhat bearable road.

So it won’t be too long now before we are bouncing our fat and sassy behinds all over Pandaria, discovering the long-shrouded continent in the new expansion and gearing up for a new tier of raiding. As a bear, I will say goodbye to the grand tradition of “bearcatting” and settling in as a Guardian druid. I will be waving hello to abilities with imposing names like Incarnation, Might of Ursoc and Ursol’s Vortex. My old friend, Savage Defense, will be an active button I hit, not something that procs Bear Block. At the same time, I will bid adieu to kitty-specific moves like Shred.

Overall, however, Mists of Pandaria will provide me another set of tanking challenges — and more opportunities to become a better bear. Cataclysm taught me a lot as well through three tiers, from the dark hallways of Bastion of Twilight and Blackwing Descent, to the twisted maws of Dragon Soul. I’ve been through a few guilds too, and even faction changed (more than once). [Some of the things that happen in the sewers are horrible. Oh, what, you thought your characters sat in an ethereal bus station while their server/faction changes were pending? No. Not at all.]

Anyway, I figured I’d separate this post into a bit of what scared the crap out of me and shoved lessons in my face as a bear in each tier of Cataclysm.

Tier 11

Going back to Bastion of Twilight. Again.

After marching through heroics that were, at release, fairly challenging, I wasn’t too sure what to expect inside the first tier of raids. I really didn’t have much of a guild at the time. I had pugged my way through a couple bosses in Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight. Getting farther inside these places was another matter. It wasn’t until I joined Lowered Expectations on Alleria that I realized what was in store.

However at this time I was a moonkin, not a bear (at least most of the time). I found myself struggling to solar cleave the whelps on Halfus Wyrmbreaker properly and exploit multi-dotting for higher DPS. We trudged on, however, and finally got our normal mode clears of BWD and BoT. Throne of the Four Winds, however, proved to be a different challenge altogether, and this is where I finally switched to tanking. Al’Akir’s knockback-and-tornadoes combination was giving our other tanks fits. After learning what a bear was supposed to do on the fight — including wrangling Stormlings and dodging ALL THE THINGS — I finally felt comfortable enough to help us win. We even started one-shotting the elemental dudebro.

I won’t lie to you, though, starting heroics in these raids was scary. I didn’t have my four-piece bonus at the time (which made Survival Instincts last longer) so my warrior co-tank took on Magmaw while I handled his bony adds. You can see at the end of this video that, uh, I didn’t do things perfectly. Thank goodness for cooldowns! ūüė¶

We had some similar challenges on heroic Halfus, not the least of which was having to two-tank the encounter because people didn’t show. Interrupts also mattered here, as well as knowing when to let go of the giant boss because the Malevolent Strikes debuff was a freaking nightmare. I really was happy when I had a good string of dodges, though I can still hear my co-tank yelling at me. Still, I learned a ton from that warrior about how to help your group succeed.

The rest of the heroics we killed were in BWD, and honestly I was ecstatic once I got that four-piece bonus because it made Chimaeron’s Feud phases much easier. Atramedes wasn’t too difficult, but again I was moonkin here. Maloriak heroic was probably one of the most fun fights for me in this tier, except when I messed up interrupts on Arcane Storm after the green phase. Yikes. Even though I had the Prime Subjects in phase two, it still felt like I had a lot to do. It turned out I wasn’t the best at avoiding Magma Jets.¬†We ended this tier with one heroic down in BoT and (I think) five down [Magmaw, Maloriak, Chimaeron, Atramedes and ODS] in BWD. We did go back later to attempt some heroic Cho’gall, Nefarian and Sinestra, but we never killed them as a guild.

Tier 12

So obviously, as the videos above show you, this tier was all about fire. Lots of fire. And burning. And hot things. And death. I was 95 percent tank by this time, with a bit of feral cat thrown in for good measure. [Oh by the way, you will have more laughs at my expense toward the end of the Raggy video. Enjoy.] We had no PTR raiding under our belts, so we didn’t really know what to expect beyond what we might have seen on YouTube or read somewhere. Sure, we killed Beth’tilac the first night in three pulls, and cleared the instance fairly quickly on normal, but later this tier turned out to be a lesson in humility.

OK, well, Shannox heroic just took some coordination in when to run the boss away from his canines. A lot of it was ensuring the healers stayed with their targets and my co-tank could benefit from timely life grips and Heroic Leap. I also learned how to keep moving so I could make sure I didn’t hide any Immolation Traps with my giant bear ass. As a side note, I eventually ended up with a total of six Vanquisher tokens from this boss.

I’d make a return as chicken on Rhyolith, the RNG Master, blowing up adds and trying to help steer the giant rock in the right direction. We spent so many frustrating nights on this boss that I can now do a fairly good impression of his annoying voice. [Soft, little fleshy things, here? Nuisances, nuisances!]¬†Tranquility was a big help for our raid in phase two, with his crushing stomps and people running into the laser beams.

Our final pre-nerf boss, Majordomo Staghelm, gave us a realm-first kill and allowed me to experiment as kitty (albeit in a bear spec because I needed the moonkin spec still). I’d tank this boss as well, later in the tier. I was always amazed at our ranged and healers having the awareness to avoid his leaps and still take minimal fire damage.

Alysrazor showed me how much I had to learn, especially about positioning. At the same time, I had to make sure I did enough damage to the Voracious Hatchlings to kill them before Firestorm. I was making mistakes all over the place: turning around when I shouldn’t have, dying to the birds’ enrage or various environmental damage, et cetera. I blame myself, more than anyone else, for us not getting this boss lower than 8 percent pre-nerf. We finally killed her the first night post-nerf, but it felt kind of shallow. We also took down Beth’tilac and Baleroc soon after, though honestly my co-tank on Beth’tilac had the harder job downstairs.

We did make some progress on heroic Ragnaros (getting to the Phase 2.5 [?] transition) but by this time we had focused on switching servers/factions and converting to a 25-man raid format in advance of Dragon Soul. I’d still love to get Firelord one day.

Tier 13

I tell you, he dead.

Zonnie bites the dust.

So our 10-man team that was a tightly knit group exploded into a 25-man behemoth, for better or worse. We all had to get used to working together for a common goal: dead bosses. In that vein, we walked right up to the trash mob that was Morchok and slapped his butt down. It took us a bit longer to punish Warlord Zon’ozz and Yor’sahj the Unsleeping — I only tanked the latter — but the addition of Looking for Raid had at least given us a preview of these bosses.

Warmaster Blackhorn meant I had to be quick to pick up the threatening adds while making sure I helped people soak all the purple fire. Once we all got our healing assignments and DPS machines working, the boss fell over. However, once we got to Spine and Madness, it became rather clear we needed to kill them on 10-man first. We did get close to a Madness kill on 25-man, but I flubbed a pick-up on one of the Elementium Terrors at the end of the night. I hated myself. Eventually we did roast Deathwing in our normal format.

With that, it was on to heroic Morchok the next week. Even though he became this tier’s Halfus, the boss even pugs could down, at the time I was intimidated. All I had was a pair of subpar stamina trinkets to help me survive Stomp and the immense melee hits that come when you’re debuffed. Add to that the stress of positioning the boss correctly so the DPS and healers can soak crystals, and you had a very nervous bear. People were complaining and yelling and blaming, and we all wanted the same thing (read: dead Morchok). But somehow in this larger environment, I felt the guild was kind of disjointed. Communication was not getting through.

When we finally got him down, I was reassured by my parses. They showed that I took less damage from Stomp than my paladin co-tank did, though he was able to block part of the melee swings. Still, the whole experience left me feeling icky, and this led me to get sucked into the vortex of anger and frustration that followed on later bosses. I said some things I should not have. I did end up paying for those words, but through it all came a blessing: the return to 10-man raiding and an old friend of mine.

After the guild and I parted ways, I felt lost. A friendly shaman reached out and invited me to join a guild I had been in before, so it was back to Alliance. I was a Worgen again, and I had my beloved Darkflight again. I loved having that tool on Ragnaros. In a bit of a comfort zone, I allowed myself to breathe. My shaman friend, who was also now my raid leader, helped me get back on my bear saddle and tank things again. We killed bosses. We grabbed loot.

I did have to re-learn heroic Morchok on 10-man, because I now had to move the boss closer to the crystal instead of the raid running behind me. Yor’sahj proved tougher, and we spent tons of attempts trying to get the healing and DPS just right. (Three healers or two? What to use during purple phases? Do I glyph or unglyph my FR with my four-piece bonus?). We settled on two healers — and my DK tank, even though my bear had the Mirror of Broken Images trinket and my DK did not. And what do you know, the boss died and my heroic staff dropped. Wrong toon, RNG Monster!

Hagara probably took us the longest out of the five bosses we have downed on heroic so far. It wasn’t just about my use of Stay of Execution to survive Focused Assault, but also using Sunnier’s suggestion of Drums of Speed on the ice phase. And we also figured out that we had to save my FR bonus for the lightning phase. Said phase is a lot different on 10-man, with conductors in different places and raid members adjusted accordingly. Rumor has it that there are just as many ice lances on 10-man as there are on 25-man, but I can’t confirm this. It was really sweet when we finally euthanized the worgen, though. This fight, to me, was also about knowing when to use my survival cooldowns — and when to ask the healers for help (Guardian Spirit, Lay on Hands).

People gave me grief for not taking down Ultraxion before Hagara — “Dude, it’s free loot!” — ¬†but we had to do things our way. Again, I have to thank Sunnier for her Power Auras setup for Fading Light. Nothing says “Click the button now!” like a giant timer in your face. The toughest part of this fight was getting our soaking rotation for Hour of Twilight rotation for the rest of the raid down. Our DPS was a bit on the low side, though this was after the stacking nerf came into the equation. I probably could have done better with a bit of bearcatting. I am still working on that concept to this day, though it will be a thing of the past soon.

Our last heroic kill before changing to the Horde and looking for a better talent pool was Zon’ozz. We flailed endlessly, it seemed, with the boss’s health at nothing less than 66 percent. People couldn’t kill adds. People couldn’t heal correctly. I even died after Zonnie stacked his Focused Anger too high. And then … we killed him. It literally came out of nowhere. I was basically the last one left alive after our holy priest threw a clutch GS on me. It felt great to whittle down the last of Zonnie’s health. Guess what? Hunter loot. Next week? Hunter loot. Yeah. We don’t need any more Horrifying Horns, dudebro. OK?

We still have our struggles, but we are hopeful that we can fill in the missing pieces, maybe wrestle heroic Blackhorn to the ground and then push hard when Pandaland: My Little Pony goes live. I’m going to farm so many darn carrots you will not know what hit you. Seriously. And my Vampiric Batling is going to totally destroy your Lil’ XT in a pet battle. And yeah, some bosses will probably die, too, dropping even more hunter loot. Yay.

Some of the druid talents on beta have me worried, but thankfully there is an active theorycrafting community that is looking out for ferals (I mean, Guardians). I’d love to tell you everything about my bear’s exploits in said beta, but I can’t do so much as attack something without a critical error crashing my client.

Until then, I leave you with:

Sunnier’s Art of War

The Inconspicuous Bear

The amazing people behind these sites I just linked — along with my Cataclysm experience — have helped me become a better bear. What does Mists have in store? I don’t know. I just hope I can learn enough in time.

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Tanking LFR: Where did we go wrong?

We’ve all felt that way, huh? You stroll into an LFR run, thinking you won’t have much trouble obtaining something useful. Maybe you can get that trinket you’ve been after. Maybe you can just grab that 250 VP and be out the door. But as soon as the pull happens, you realize that all you’re going to get here is a very large, steaming dose of nerdrage, with frustration sprinkled on top. That other tank (despite his ilevel) has no idea what he or she is doing, aggro is a mess, and despite your efforts to correct things, the encounter is a disaster.

How did this happen? Whose fault is it? Is it the rest of us in the tanking community? Would we rather rage at the noobs who stand in the way of our pugging success than teach folks after this long? Do we blame Blizzard because five-mans don’t prepare tanks for raiding? Blizzard apologists say that LFR is for introducing players to raiding in general, so expecting raid-hardened tanks is crazy. However, as we all know, it’s never more obvious when someone makes a mistake as when a tank fails. People die, and they die fast. I should know; I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years. Ask anyone in my guild. In fact, last night I spaced out and forgot to use a cooldown on Ultraxion normal. I died. It was very embarrassing.

As you look at Dragon Soul, most of the tank goof-ups don’t really happen right away. I’ve never seen an LFR group fail on Morchok, what with the Crush Armor debuff being rather mild on this difficulty. Unless your pug tanks are horribly cheesing the ilevel requirement by using intellect plate or some weird PvP items, they can normally handle this fight just fine. Folks seem to get the tank-swap-then-run-out system. Warlord Zon’ozz doesn’t require much of the single tank, except for maybe a CD for Psychic Drain now and then.

You can have problems starting at Yor’sahj the Unsleeping. This not only requires tanks to pick up adds during dark phases, but they have to trade a much more virulent debuff in Void Bolt. [Disclaimer: I have taken up to 10 stacks of this on my bear, but I significantly outgear the average LFR tank.] I’ve seen some tanks run off chasing the targeted globule and forget to taunt back when the boss receives his buff. Other times they just zone out, and my healer has to save a barely geared tank after they eat five or more stacks. Not every tank with the minimum ilevel of 372 can survive that, obviously, and if they’re already zoning out they’re not going to use a cooldown appropriately either.¬†Hagara the Stormbinder doesn’t really eat tanks unless¬†they don’t: a) strafe out of Focused Assault; b) pop a significant CD if they choose to stay in; or c) lose track of Ice Wave. [Disclaimer No. 2: I didn’t know you could strafe out of Focused Assault either, at first.]

Of course, the most infamous instance of tank fail comes on Ultraxion, the Super Bowl of “Can You Hit This Button?” And that’s not even mentioning the special tank treat of Fading Light. It isn’t so bad to put a one-shot mechanic like Fading Light on the fifth boss of the instance, but I guess word spreads slowly via YouTube and various forums about how it works. I say this because at least 50 percent of tanks don’t know how the mechanic works in action, causing them to die and an “innocent” DPS to get aggro and eat floor. I would mention Hour of Twilight, but that damage on LFR is kind of a joke and won’t kill the average tank. This all causes much raging in raid chat.

Warmaster Blackhorn and Spine and Madness of Deathwing don’t have very difficult tank mechanics, per se, but you do have to pay attention. The only big errors I’ve seen on these three encounters are not picking up elites fast enough on Lootship; failing to gather bloods and position the Hideous Amalgamation correctly on Spine; and knowing when to use CDs on Madness.

With all this said, when The Great Derp happens in LFR, where do we look for change? Who do we blame?

A rather upset European player asked Blizzard this:

Now one would ask, why do you do it then? Well, I want to raid. I do not hate LFR, I think its wonderful idea, but my oppinion is that it is created for apes. New target audience for Blizzard? Monkies, Gorillas, Chimps… you know em all. Because when I do LFR I feel like it is made not for human players or has humanity sank that low?

A Blue from Europe responds:

We actively encourage feedback on things such as the LFR, because we want to make it fun for everyone. Fun isn’t wiping over and over because you have people in the group who are new to the raiding environment, or perhaps aren’t up to speed on the latest tactics as you might expect from someone attending, say, an organised guild run. As we’ve said on numerous occasions, this is why we’ve designed LFR to be easier than normal raids, to enable a range of players ‚ÄĒ including less-experienced people or those with less-powerful gear ‚ÄĒ to see the content and gear up a little before perhaps trying it on normal, then later possibly heroic difficulty.

So if LFR is supposed to be the lowest rung of raiding — meant for people who are “new to the raiding environment” — then how do we as players or Blizzard get tanks ready for it? There aren’t any five-man dungeons that would prepare someone for, say, the Heroic Will mechanic on Ultraxion or where to position Amalgamations. Most people I know personally watched YouTube videos of the fights, but there’s one problem with that: LFR mechanics are slightly different. On Yor’sahj, for example, it’s better on LFR to kill the yellow slime, whereas people often choose the green on normal difficulty. That doesn’t necessarily apply to tanks directly, but people often look to us to call things out and know what’s happening. And it’s always our job to know when to use CDs accordingly.

You don’t really learn any of those things by leveling, either. Faster leveling and BoA gear have made low-level dungeons a horrible joke. If a DPS pulls off you, it’s really no big deal. And honestly, most tanks do top DPS anyway. If someone goes from 1-85 never stepping in a raid, then I honestly don’t see how they will learn raid mechanics. And even if they do pop into, say, Karazhan or Icecrown Citadel along the way, you can bet they will have some of their level-capped buddies tagging along and trivializing the encounters.

My guild learned LFR by doing it. But we did it first without pugs. Obviously the hate-chat is a lot less vicious in that environment, and people are more forgiving of mistakes (sometimes!). We all of course hope that everyone else reads as much as they can about these encounters, no matter what role they have. There are, indeed, tons of resources out there, from the official Tanking forums, to specific class forums and unofficial bibles like The Inconspicuous Bear. I try to learn everything I can from tanks who are far, far better than I am. Then I can pass on that information to others.

I’ve vowed in 2012 to try to be a more patient person, more of a teacher than a finger-pointer. I’m working on it. It’s not easy. You will never see most of the people you teach ever again. I guess you just have to hope that TankBot will use the information and use it well. I am sure Arielle and Reesi, TheIncBear’s leads, are tired of me pestering them with my billions of bear questions.

But is all of this pointless? Are we expecting too much here? If LFR isn’t a “real” raid, then should we really be expecting “real” play? Is it right to get mad at someone in ilevel 380 gear when they completely flub up a core mechanic? People most certainly do get mad about that, and LFR doesn’t check for the achievement except as a gate for the last four bosses.

Does this mean it’s far too easy to get to ilevel 372 without learning basic mechanics about your role and class first? Or is that all on the player? How much time should a player put into developing his or her character for a “fake” raid? We’d like to think that TankBot is guiding a character through LFR on his or her way to normal and heroic raids, but who knows?

Let me know what you think!

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Tier 13, the Hour of Fading Light?

Deathwing, reduced to a pile of ... dragon bits?

We may have had to claw our way there, but we finally pulled together what we had from our normal roster and destroyed Madness of Deathwing. After last week’s 7 percent wipe on 25-man, we knew we had a kill in sight. Unfortunately, when this week came — so close to Christmas — our guild pane was looking dismal. Criticism had two choices: postpone all raids until next lockout, or form a 10-man to nail Neltharion once and for all (until heroic mode, that is).

So we did what all quasi-democratic organizations do: vote and then decide if it means anything. Fourteen people wanted to form the 10-man, four others did not. My co-officer, Disclosure, has been very ill this week with The World’s Worst Sinus Infection, though several guildies enjoyed her husky, pack-a-day voice. With our GM vacationing in Alaska, her home state, Disclosure formed the 10-man and we one-shot Warmaster, blew through Spine … and two-shot Madness.

Yay, Kiril staff for me and awesome healing trinket for our holy priest, Defaulty! But something was wrong. Did this cobbled-together amalgamation of raiding mean anything? Why didn’t this feel the same as finally downing Arthas in Icecrown Citadel? That was on 10-man too, but I can tell you that when Terenas rezzed us and we beat that paladin’s ass, it felt AMAZING. Downing Deathwing just didn’t feel important for us. It’s but one step in our progression, and “Destroyer’s End” is kind of blah right now.

Bastion of Twilight, do we even remember?

The question is this: Why?

It’s LFR, stupid. This was my first thought. What I mean is that our guild killed Madness on a lower difficulty than “normal” before the real thing. In my mind, this takes away from some of the wonder of the encounter. Sure, you can watch a YouTube video or listen to what someone says about a fight, but until you see it yourself you can’t say you’ve experienced anything. Madness is a bit tamer on LFR, of course. You don’t have to worry about Shrapnel or Impale generally killing anyone. The Elementium Bolt is far less dangerous. This is all great for learning the encounter, with training wheels, but you are seeing the end of Deathwing. It’s the same end he meets on normal and heroic. So does that detract from how much you might enjoy said death?

One of the more learned raiders I follow on Twitter said:

To me, it’s like asking if getting an A on a test still feels good, when you already had an A on the homework. Yes!¬†To continue my analogy, beating it on heroic will be getting a perfect on the final exam.¬†LFR is a movie trailer, Normal is seeing a choppy stream version of it, and Heroic is the book that it was based off of.

Others said they were lucky enough to kill Deathwing before his four-boss wing was released on LFR.

It’s the raid size. We killed the boss on 10-man, which isn’t what our guild is about at this point. Not everyone was very happy that we did so, even if I am confused about what it all means. Maybe it’s a little bit of guilt eating away at me for finishing this normal stuff. I know we can do it on 25-man, but I do feel a bit bad for those few who got left out. Everyone loves ilevel 403 loot and titles. The other side of that is being able to call yourself an 8/8 guild in the never-ending recruiting process.

We wanted to switch to 25-man to avoid the composition issues that run rampant on 10-man, as I’ve said before. But I’m finding you can run into the same problems on 25 when you just plain don’t have enough bodies. Throw in the holiday season and things can get dicey.

Of course, 10-man guilds are a lot more common these days. We used to be one on Alleria. Our new server, Area 52, now has 32 guilds labeled as 10-man at 8/8N or better. In contrast, A-52 has only five 25-man guilds at 8/8-plus. Statistics on these things — including those available at Wowtrack — seem to show a mixed picture for Tier 13 on “relative difficulty” for each raid size and encounter. For instance, Wowtrack lists Ultraxion and Spine of Deathwing as being significantly harder on 25-man, but none of the normal modes for the same marker on 10-man. (Heroic: Hagara is shown as tougher on 10-man, however.)

It’s just normal, silly. As I’ve grown as a raider, surely far behind other druids out there such as Reesi, maybe normal mode end bosses don’t mean as much to me as they once did. Oh we’re done with normal? Means to an end, baby. Let’s get into those heroic modes and this tier’s supposed Halfus/Shannox, aka Morchok. See, I guess what I’m saying is we’re trying for something bigger out there. Progression in 2011 isn’t the same as it was for us in the early Wrath days.

This is especially true on such a highly populated server. We’re a small drop in a big sea here, but we still have to try. And that means doing more than just normal modes. I know, you’re probably going to say that the top guild on A-52 is 4/8H, and the No. 1 group on Alleria is at the same place (albeit on 10-man). Both are true. But this isn’t going to stop our tough-as-nails GM from pounding us into the ground and trying to break our spines in the name of dead bosses. She really is a nice lady … to her husband. Sometimes. At night. Mostly.

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The 25-Man Strikes Back

So first off I’d like to apologize for taking so long to write this post. You see, being recruitment officer for a 25-man guild means I never, ever stop recruiting. This is especially true because we’ve found that Dragon Soul requires strong DPS and healing as you get past the first four encounters. [Oh hello, Ultraxion, you jerk.] Between Mumble interviews, poring over logs and searching the forums, I just haven’t had time to write much of anything. Sorry, folks.

Of course, getting people into the guild is one thing, and them performing at the required level is quite another. We’ve had to cycle people in and out to find what works. And yeah, we’ve received OVER NINE THOUSAND rogue apps who yell “GIEF ME LEGENDAREEE!” [No, not you, Critality and Kiwe the Fruit Cup!] Things got so bad we even considered going back to 10-man just to catch up on progression.

Fortunately, this week people picked up their game and Criticism killed Ultraxion and five-shot Warmaster. This makes us 6/8N, and I guess we’re staying 25-man for now. Now if only Wowprogress would update our kills. Grr. Apparently the site can’t tell the difference between LFR — which we are doing each week on the side — and normal bosses. Our server has something like 140-plus 10-man guilds and fewer than 10 25-mans. All this raiding has given me my uber-haxx four-piece feral set with Mass Regeneration. This spell can boost my healing (as a bear) to as much as 70,000 HPS at its peak, and even end up doing a cool 15,000 HPS for the whole encounter. Of course, Blizzard saw fit to nerf the actual healing amount, but Mass Regen is still insane. This does mean I’m kind of done for loot this tier, at least until I get Kiril, Fury of Beasts,¬†Wrath of Unchaining¬†and Seal of Primordial Shadow. I can get my helm, relic, second ring and my necklace from either valor or conquest.

So we are a 25-man guild for now, as Spine and Madness await this week. Before this experience, I never fully understand the “herding of cats” premise that 25-man raiders always mentioned. I guess maybe loot to our raiders is kind of like catnip or fresh tuna to the cats you’re herding. Hmm. [As an aside, my cat doesn’t really like people food, except if it’s vanilla ice cream or spaghetti sauce.]

As our other officer said, on 25-man, it’s a lot less obvious sometimes when one person makes a mistake than it is on 10-man. (Logs can help, of course, but that’s after the raid.) People who have poor computers or Internet connections are, conversely, more obvious because they tend to disconnect at key moments (i.e., Ultraxion’s Hour of Twilight).

I haven’t done more than one boss on 10-man this tier. So I don’t think I am qualified to say which format has it easier now. It does seem as if everyone has an opinion on the issue, and they run the gamut from “lol 25-mans are easy” to “10-mans shouldn’t even exist!” That is another story, for another blog post.

For now, I have to get ready to interview some applicants and impress upon them that Deathwing is in heat and is going to DESTROY ALL WORDS. Or something. Until he dies and comes back — as my Twitter friends say — as a pterodactyl bent on devouring every single cabbage on Azeroth.

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The Red Portal: Going Horde

After spending FAR too much time in Skyrim as a badass High Elf mage who maims people with Bound Sword, I realized that the change our guild had been hoping for would finally happen. We were getting off the dead rock that was Alleria and going Horde. Blizzard’s new Guild Services meant we would be going to a higher-population server with a larger pool of capable players. This also meant we could potentially expand to a 25-man raid group.

But the title of your blog won’t make sense!” you interject. “What about the lost intimacy? What about the dancing girls?”

And you would be right. I’m not exactly sure what to do about that. Somehow I don’t think calling this site The Ten (x2.5) Man Bear wouldn’t¬†make sense, though I do appreciate my GM’s suggestion. Maybe I don’t have to decide right away, as we are still a 10-man guild for now. [Though we are up to a roster of more than 20 at the moment, none of whom are dancing girls. And now, a moment of silence.]

I am happy to be Horde, because this is where Leafybrez — now Beefybrez, the Tauren druid — started out almost four years ago. As a wee, cowlike humanoid, my character lugged buckets of water back to camp, battled an untold number of quillboars and plains creatures and eventually found his way to Orgrimmar. This is my main, my first non-trial character ever, and he will probably be around until the game is bought by Wal-Mart/Activision/Bethesda.

Our warrior tank heads up our growing high-end PvP membership, and lots of them have said they are happy they’ve found a higher-population, competitive server complete with gladiators and High Warlords. What’s more, the people in guilds like <SO RAW TURN THE OVEN ON> are not only capable PvPers, but actually cool people too.

Back in my day, mounts were for level 40s — and we had to share the Raptor Flesh!

These days I am helping Alliance-brained guildies find their way in Orgrimmar, telling everyone how OP War Stomp is, and reviewing e-stacks of applications and trial performance threads. I swear my GM is one step away from using a virtual whiteboard to discuss guild-server synergy and brand awareness in the marketplace. I also think some people have this song blaring in their heads as they wander around in a strange city of orcs, Tauren and blood elves.

Well I’m sure that’s more than enough Michelle Branch for about 10 years.

We are at the end of Tier 12, of course, and that means it’s time for a gear reset. So we are talking to folks from all over the gear spectrum. It’s kind of nice, in a way, but we also are a progression guild. And that means that eventually, we have to replace people who die to [Improved Herp Derp] or think rolling their face across their keyboard is appropriate for anyone other than an arcane mage. We have already picked up what seems to be an exceptional couple of healers, and some amazing DPS. Good healers keep my blood pressure low, and that makes for a happy bear.

[Shameless plug: We need more non-plate melee DPS and some more healers!]

As far as the guildies who came from Alleria, I’m not sure if everyone will be staying in the same role they had before. Our warrior tank may be switching to his resto druid. Some DPS may be healers or switching to a previously less-than-ideal spec that is now uber-buffed (see: fire mage, unholy DK). I am excited about tanking 25s, though I had railed against the larger raid size in a lot of forum posts. I know, I know, insert “You hypocrite!” comments here.

I will probably have a lot more to say about the tanking experience in 25s once we actually have a full, regular raid group. I will be most interested to see what the healing feels like. Some folks say it is much harder to heal on 25, others say that’s hogwash. Who do you think is right?

It’s also interesting to see how our small management core is adjusting to the sheer number of people we have now. When I see our shadow priest officer rallying to someone’s defense after someone bemoans another’s performance, I can see her confidence. Our frost DK usually tries to remain more behind the scenes, though I imagine he will be pushing our melee DPS to the limit. And our GM, the Evil Warlock Incarnate keeps everyone rolling along, even if she does pick on me constantly for being Old and Fat and Senile. Things may develop into a more predictable pattern when we actually have class leaders.

As my GM said on our Web site:

“Welcome to the home of <Criticism>, a 6/7H Horde guild on the Area 52 server! We are a recently transferred progression raiding guild. Though we’ve been a 10m guild through the first two tiers of Cataclysm, we’re currently in the process of expanding to 25m raiding. Our roster is expanding fast, but we still have room for more DPS and healers. Check the recruitment box for class details!

The leadership of <Criticism> has been playing, and raiding, since Vanilla. We have former members of <Drama>, <Vanquish>, <Nether>, <Alpha>, and many more current or former bleeding edge raiding guilds. We’re looking for raiders who can play on the same level we are accustomed to playing at.”

This is a big adventure for us all, no matter how many of us there end up being when we’re balls deep into Dragon Soul. I will try my best to post often about what’s happening so The Five Actual Readers stay abreast of the changes. I will also welcome any news on what happened to the dancing girls. Man, they were hot.


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This is the end … (of Tier 12)

So the great prognosticators out there have said that Patch 4.3 should hit live servers sometime before December. This means people could be tooling around Dragon Soul, the three new five-man dungeons and the all-new Darkmoon Faire sooner than you think. What this also means, of course, is that The Little Ten-Man Guild That Could probably will not down heroic Ragnaros before this tier is over.

We’ve had a lot of Real Life casting CC on our raiders, others suffering from end-tier burnout, and an overall lack of consistency in Firelands. Our failure to kill him yet — best attempt was 38 percent in Phase 2.5 — is totally on us, though. I don’t blame Blizzard, RNG, The Blood God or even sun sparks. I think in total, we’ve made less than 100 attempts total, when it takes most guilds more than 200 to get a kill.

We’re training a new tank, and it looks like our warrior tank will be switching to his resto druid alt because we just lost two healers. Taking out the guts of your raid group and then trying to stick it in the wrong cavity just leads to flatlines all around.¬†Still, we’ve had fun this tier and learned a lot. I never thought I would see a fight where tank damage mattered so much (Alysrazor) or another where kiting would be so important (Shannox). I do wish we would have killed Alysrazor before the nerf, but the closest we got was 8 percent. And of course, I’d love to get my paws on the loot from heroic Ragnaros, but I just don’t see the stars aligning for a kill in time. In happier news, our GM should be completing her legendary staff tonight, just in time for it to be nerfed in 4.3!

The question is, does it matter? There seem to be three camps here: the posters in the official Dungeons & Raids forum¬†who think anything less than 7/7H is a complete failure; those who want to either “see the content” or call themselves casuals; and the trade chat trolls.¬†The first group absolutely has to be first, the best, ahead of everyone else or it’s a bust. The second just wants to kill the final boss on normal, maybe, or try a couple heroic bosses. I won’t go into whether these bosses should have been nerfed, as I covered that in another post and I’m sure people are tired of beating Teh Dead Horse. And the third just wants to troll you into emotional eating or maybe just watching XPlay reruns so you can gawk at G4’s babes some more. What???

The most insistent of the D&R people would say that our guild had no business even pulling heroic Rag, given that we were only 3/7H before The Giant Nerf on September 20. In fact, one poster said only about 1 percent of 6/7H guilds post-nerf were going to kill him anyway. The graph above from WowProgress kind of bears this out. Still, others said that heroic Rag is not a big deal now that his health pool has been reduced. I always pictured their collective mind as a hydra of some sort, a multi-headed beast that tries to kill you in Zangarmarsh. You know, that zone is totally dangerous!

The top guild on our server is a transfer, but they took the best raiders from their 25-man and killed heroic Rag last month on 10-man. I am not sure how close other guilds are getting on their attempts. It’s possible maybe one other guild may down the Firelord before the patch.

Obviously, not having a kill is not so great for recruiting purposes, especially when it seems as if a lot of recruits are of the D&R mindset. I shouldn’t care what other people think, of course, but the truth is as a recruiter I have to be aware of the consensus that’s out there. Sure, there may be skilled, effective, raid-aware recruits out there who don’t care about the elitist mantra and want to raid for the love of raiding. I’d love to meet them and kill bosses with them! ¬†I do not begrudge those same raiders, however, if they want to apply and move into a 7/7H guild. If they can make it, more power to them.

Some other folks may just be glad to complete Firelands and see a lore figure die … for the second time. They don’t really pay attention to server rank, U.S. ranking or even World of Logs placement. This does not mean these raiders are terrible by any means, but they are just more casual about WoW than the “fake hardcore” folks with a catheter and bucket. The funny truth is that after initial progression is done, hardcore guilds end up raiding less than the rest of us.

Then you have people in trade chat who will never kill a heroic boss but complain that the top guild didn’t kill Rag before the HP nerf. These are the same people who post on Level 1 Alts and lay into anyone and everyone for not being uber-leet. Alleria has lots of these folks, probably leftovers from the days when Premonition was on the server. One wonders, though, why they are still here.

I guess it comes down to either admitting we didn’t have the stuff to get it done — whether that’s dps, hps, tank skill or overall awareness — or blaming something or someone else. I don’t really care for the second choice, though that’s always easier as humans who don’t like self-flagellation and pain. Not everyone is supposed to kill every heroic boss while it’s current. If they did, the boss wouldn’t be very heroic, now would he? I think I can accept that we will end this tier at 6/7H, and maybe it means we will have to push as a more organized, determined group inside the bowels of Dragon Soul. Deathwing awaits, and he has to pay for burning my druid!

So who do you think is right? Does it matter in The Big Picture who kills what and when? Let me know!

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4.3 Shopping List: Honeylicious

So while we’re busy working on heroic Ragnaros and collecting the last bits of loot we need from Firelands, some of us have been popping onto the Public Test Realm and trolling Wowhead/Mmo-Champion¬†to figure out what we will be wearing in Patch 4.3. Dragon Soul looks like an amazing raid, even if it’s a bit buggy at the moment and, possibly, under-tuned.

As Blizzard has promised, it looks like we will obtain our tier gear from raids, not the Valor Points vendor. But there are some interesting items at the vendor nonetheless, including our offset helm.

I’ll keep this post short, but first, a disclaimer:

This list is based on my first impressions of test-realm loot and stuff that has been datamined. All of it is subject to change, though you should watch Reesi and Arielle’s site for the latest comparisons based on math. All drops on my list correspond to the normal-mode Dragon Soul raid, and not the Raid Finder, unless otherwise noted.

Early Dragon Soul Raid Gear List

Helm: Nocturnal Gaze (VP)

Neck: Choker of the Vanquished Lord (Heroic Ragnaros)

Shoulder: Deep Earth Spaulders (Tier 13, Hagara the Stormbinder)

Cloak: Dreadfire Drape (Heroic Rhyolith)

Chest: Deep Earth Raiment (Tier 13, Ultraxion)

Bracer: Bracers of Manifold Pockets (VP)

Weapon: Staff/Spire of Coagulated Globules (Yor’sahj the Unsleeping)

Relic: Ripfang Relic (VP)

Gloves: Deep Earth Grips (Tier 13, Warlord Zon’ozz)

Belt: Belt of Flayed Skin (Warlord Zon’ozz)

Legs: Deep Earth Legguards (Tier 13, Yor’sahj the Unsleeping)

Feet: Rooftop Griptoes (VP)

Ring 1: Signet of Grasping Mouths (Hagara the Stormbinder)

Ring 2: Seal of Primordial Shadow (All bosses except Deathwing)

Trinkets: Kiroptyric Sigil (VP) | Vial of Shadows¬†(All bosses except Deathwing) | Soulshifter Vortex (Yor’sahj the Unsleeping)

Obviously, this list is open to folding, spindling and even mutilation (and debate, too!). As I said before, things may change somewhat before trade chat is filled with the obligatory “Where is the Deathwing raid???!!!!ONE!!” spam. But I thought I would at least put together a kind of road map for now.

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