Reflections of a Twilight Vanquisher
If you read Matticus through a feedreader, like I do, then you’re probably familiar with the quote in his security footer:
You miss 100% of the shots you never take. — Wayne Gretzky
I like the quote, and I agree with it … but more in passing than upon reflection, if that makes any sense? Until this weekend, I never gave it much more than a moment’s thought. Now, though — now, it rings so poignantly true that it almost brought me to tears this morning, when I opened my beloved Google® Reader to learn more than I ever needed to know about Lifebloom and five (more) reasons that the PTR sucks.
Yes, I’m a girl. I still cry every time Bambi’s mother dies, and whenever Sarah McLachlan asks for money for the SPCA.
… But why would a hockey quote, of all things, make my nose start to sting and my eyes just a little moist?
Because this weekend’s Sartharion 3D kill, a first for my guild, came perilously close to not happening — not because we couldn’t master the fight, but because we almost didn’t try.
* * *
Scott Andrews of Wow Insider printed a letter in his column this morning that could have come from any one of my officers:
After clearing all available 25-man content and having it on farm for over a month, a line seems to have been drawn in the proverbial sand. Half of our raiders consider multiple drake Obsidian Sanctum the next step in guild progression. However, the other half seem to be content farming content that it “easy” for us and are happy not logging on when we schedule attempts.
Furthermore, when we do get enough people for a “progression” raid, we run into the same problem. After a few attempts, we inevitably get one or two raiders planting the seed of doubt …
Don’t despair, anonymous WI reader! You aren’t alone.
This has been our experience exactly.
I’m sure I’ve written about this before: on the evening of our first scheduled Naxx-25, we had over 40 guildmembers online, leveled to 80 and ready to raid — including players I hadn’t seen in months and long-since demoted to “Friends & Family.” (As an ostensibly casual guild leader, I’ve come to accept that members will come and go. We have ridiculously low attrition, insofar that raiders very seldom leave us for other guilds, but we do tend to lose casuals to real life fairly often.)
The initial burst of energy and enthusiasm carried us through all of the content currently available. Within three weeks, we had cleared not only Naxxramas, but Obsidian Sanctum and Eye of Eternity as well.
Then … we stalled.
You’ve heard all of the reasons and excuses before — certainly from the blogosphere, and perhaps within your own guild as well. The absence of Heroic attunements and abundance of BoE epics make the gearing up process trivial. Two versions of each raid instance lead players to burn out on them twice as quickly.
The content itself is “too easy,” and there isn’t nearly enough of it: Malygos and Sartharion can be farmed in about 30 minutes each; Naxxramas takes longer, but lacks the replayability of Karazhan. (Remember how utterly random the Prince Malchezaar fight was? Even a T6-geared raid could catch an unlucky series of infernals and wipe!)
Taken together, these things conspired against us: by the time we returned to the Obsidian Sanctum on Saturday, it had been three weeks since we had cleared Naxxramas with more than 20 people in our raid. Even more disheartening was the fact that we had been forced to either cancel or downgrade all but two of our previous Sartharion 3D attempts for lack of interest.
Right up until invite time, Saturday’s raid looked to be more of the same.
Our single-highest DPS — a Death Knight — signed up as “not attending.” So did our holy priest and both of our part-time resto druids. One of our rogues was called into work at the last minute, and a mage claimed the same (but was probably just boycotting the raid, since he isn’t interested in any boss that doesn’t drop The Turning Tide).
Several of our casuals had recently leveled to 80, so we were able to fill the most glaring holes in our raid. For the first time in almost a month, we had 25 people ready and even eager to go! … The problem was, they weren’t the right people.
We had five tanks (one more than we needed), six healers (one less than we wanted) and two brand-new DPS who had PuG’d OS a few times but never before attended drake attempts with the guild.
And, because we opened the night with Malygos-25 and PuG’d liberally from /guild chat to do it, we ended up inviting everyone who was capable of clicking “accept” — from the newly 80 holy paladin who had all of his gear enchanted with stamina patches to the beastmaster hunter who can raid once in a rare Saturday (and only then if we’re desparate, since his transatlantic connection makes it almost impossible for him to dodge void zones and lava waves).
Looking over the roster at the start of the Obsidian Sanctum portion of our raid, Sartharion 3D looked impossible. Feeling more than a little trepidatious, Keaton started counting the number of “save-the-bear” cooldowns we had available to us. There were all of two: his, and a single Pain Suppression.
Was it even worth attempting Sarth 3D with this group? we asked ourselves on our private u2u channel. Or should we take the quick kill and break into 10-man groups to gear our newer members and work on our Glory of the Raider achievements?
We discussed our options briefly on open Vent, acknowledging that we didn’t have the “ideal group composition” for progression, but expressing our willingness to continue if the rest of the raid was. Worst case scenario, I mused (while Keaton scurried off to Moonglade to respec bear), we could work on our positioning, practice the movement of the fight and perfect the healing and tanking assignments for next time.
We put it to a /readycheck vote: 22 for; 3 against.
Cleary, I raid with optimists.
* * *
On our very first attempt, we killed Tenebron before losing too many healers to uncontrolled adds and calling the wipe. By our third or fourth attempt — and to everyone’s shock — we were starting to see actual progress, and what had started as a resigned, “might as well get a couple of learning wipes in” attitude became to transform into real excitement and real determination.
We started to take things seriously. Our fifth tank respecced DPS. Our undergeared paladin subbed out for a warlock (which elicited more than one raised eyebrow, because it took the total number of healers in the raid down to five). And one of our two ret paladins switched over to his Death Knight, who he retired a few weeks ago but still sufficiently outgears his current main.
Things went wrong; we fixed them — talking through our strategies on Vent, experimenting with new roles, adjusting the timing of our Bloodlusts and how we dealt with portal phases.
DPS seemed a little low; we told our high-DPS rogue not to bother with anesthetic wound poison, and put our lowest-DPSing hunter on tranquilizing shot.
Twilight Whelps were chewing up our healers; we switched tanking assignments and had our protadin handle the drakes, while our warrior took over adds. He was paired with a second prot paladin, and together they had both the snap aggro (thunderclap) and the AoE threat generation (consecrate) to keep the whelps and fire elementals under control.
A handful of players struggled with void zones; we had an elemental shaman with high-situational awareness call them out on Vent.
And so on.
One obstacle at a time, we inched closer and closer to victory. The one thing we couldn’t overcome were the breaths; with all three drakes up and only two cooldowns to rely on, Sartharion could easily one-shot our main tank.
Our prot-turned-fury warrior had dinner plans, and reluctantly stepped out. We brought a holy paladin in to replace him, which brought our total number of healers up to six, but didn’t help our cooldown count since he wasn’t specced for Divine Guardian. “Should I respec?” he asked as he zoned in.
“No, just run with it,” I /whispered in response. “We’re doing really well and don’t want to break our momentum. Respec after this wipe to minimize downtime.”
… except, we didn’t wipe. And we didn’t need a single cooldown, because our DPS burst Tenebron down before Shadron even landed.
It was one of those magical, once-in-a-raiding-tier nights when everything just clicked for us, and the fight flowed together.
And suddenly there was just Sartharion to deal with, and our epic battle became one we’ve done a dozen times before. Still, I don’t think I was the only one holding my breath with Sartharion finally bit the dust.
And to think … it almost didn’t happen. Because we almost didn’t try.