Posts tagged ‘Raids’

The return of the Naxxramas power run … ?

I wrote in a previous post that the upcoming Emblem of Conquest change will make the endgame even more accessible than it already is, in part by allowing casual raiders to remain competitive, and in part by reducing barriers to entry for new raiders.  

While this will certainly be true for guilds, like mine, that will choose an undergeared but committed applicant with a good attitude over a geared-to-the-tusks raider (Horde blog, remember? ;)) with the manners of a rabid furbolg, I suspect it could have the opposite effect on the PuG community. 

I predict that the renewed interest in Emblem-farming that is almost certain to follow patch 3.2 will lead to a resurgance of “power runs”: trade channel PuGs with high minimum requirements (such as Ulduar gear, hardmode achievements or inflated DPS thresholds), intent on brute-forcing stale content in a short amount of time.  We saw this towards the end of The Burning Crusade, when Sunwell badge gear made Karazhan an attractive alternative to running laps in Shat, and again in those long months between the WotLK release and 3.1, when there was simply nothing else to do.

In both eras, new or undergeared players who were barred froms these power runs complained bitterly about what they perceived as artificial, or player-imposed, barriers to entry.  At the same time that Blizzard was striving to make raid content more accessible, it seemed, the hardcore elite were conspiring to make it less so. 

The most common complaint was levied at the inherent Catch 22: in order to run Naxx, you almost had to have gear from Naxx (or be willing to buy your way into guild-sponsored, auction-style raids in which loot was literally sold to the highest bidder).   The more-casual accused the less-casual of being ridiculous, while the less-casual belittled the the more-casual for expecting to be carried … and much unpleasantness ensued.

Not surprisingly for someone who considers herself firmly middle of the road, I empathize with both sides.  

On one hand, I can almost guarantee that if I were to organize a Naxx PuG today, I would only invite players I knew personally or who had previous clears under their T8-crafted belts.  It isn’t about being elitist or hardcore or just plain mean; it’s about having already logged more hours than I care to count learning Naxx and then farming it into the ground with my guild.  If I ever wipe on Grand Widow Faerlina again, it will be too soon. 

So, no, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong — and certainly nothing high-handed or immoral — about with setting a goal (“A full clear in two hours with no wipes,” for example), and recruiting players accordingly.  

On the other paw, (sorry!, shifted into Ghost Wolf to scratch an ear!), I can sympathize with those who are just now leveling to 80 and looking to catapult themselves into endgame raiding.  Getting shut out of one trade channel PuG after another — not because your gear is inadequate for the content, but because you don’t yet outgear it — can be a frustrating and thoroughly demoralizing experience.

And then there are the gray areas, such as the new alts of raid-experienced players who may not have an achievement to link but know a particular instance inside out.  My main is Of the Nightfall, but my warlock alt can’t join a VoA PuG because she doesn’t have the Emalon achievement (or a single Emblem of Conquest!) to her name. 

In general, I think the best way to avoid the frustration and unpleasantness associated with PuGs — especially as power runs become increasingly prevalent — is simply to resolve to run content with comparably geared players.  This is just common sense to me.  Ten or 25 brand new level 80’s in quest blues and a smattering of leftover Tier 6 can clear Naxxramas.   They won’t do so as quickly or as smoothly as an Ulduar-geared group, but they aren’t meant to.  The advent of patch 3.2 won’t change this, and may even prove to be equal parts blessing and curse for those looking to break into the raiding scene for the first time.

The Emblem of Conquest change will make the current content more accessible, but it won’t completely obliterate linear progression.  Nor will it eliminate player-imposed barriers.  On the contrary, it will encourage them by making old content profitable for progression guilds and raiders — in other words, for those players who are most likely to set the bar high.

I’m sure reactions will be heated and varied — if not now, then a month or two from now when the Crusader’s Coliseum is considered endgame and Ulduar is the new Naxxramas.

June 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm 7 comments

My Penpal … Yogg-Saron.

I think I must be channeling Ambrosyne’s inspired Letters from Ulduar, because for the last few weeks my guild’s Message of the Day has been an open (and ongoing!) letter to Yogg-Saron.

Last night, I was finally able to change it from —

Dear Yogg-Saron,

Your tentacles creep me out (even if a certain rogue thinks they’re sexy).  Die soon.  Please.  ❤ Elle

— to —

Dear Yogg-Saron,

HAHA, WE WIN.  ❤ Elle.

Someone (I’m not sure who, but I have my suspicions!) added this postscript:

P.S.  You’re still creepy.

As another face-planting rogue put it:

The real game begins now.

June 18, 2009 at 10:25 am 3 comments

The Death of an Old God

Last night, my 10-man “achievement team” cleared Ulduar for the first time.

We knew from the moment we zoned in — okay, we knew after a quick pre-Flame Leviathan conference in /officer chat (in which Keaton made the executive decision, because I was channeling my inner Libra) — that we wanted to eschew the early achievements and hard modes and spend as much time as possible on Yogg-Saron.  Our 25-man raid had come within a few harrowing percent of defeating the Old God on Saturday night, so the 10 of us who regrouped on Sunday were very eager to see him die.

Spurned onward by the increasingly desperate wails of the duplicitous “Sara,” we sped through the outer ring of the Titan citadel — evading the Flame Leviathan’s orbital defense system, deconstructing faster, bypassing Ignis and Razorscale and even skirting around the Assembly of Iron. 

(“Shall we slay the Council tonight?” Ouchilicious asked, peering around the corner with her frosty eyes. “They’ll keep,” our leader replied with a shake of his massive, ursine head. Even in bear form, with his mouth perpetually agape, Keaton was a portrait of Tauren stoicism.)

Kologarn was easily disarmed.  We wiped once on Auriaya, when pushback from the guardian swarm caused me to miss a heal (sorry, bear!), but each of the Keepers was a clean one-shot.  Even Vezax fell with little difficulty, as our protection paladin switched over to his holy offspec to assist with healing while our feral druid main tanked the General.  (None of this fancified DK-cooldown tanking for us!  And, yes, a holy priest and I two-healed the entire rest of the instance.  /flex)

It took us a few tries to master Yogg-Saron: Phase 1.  We accidentally killed a Guardian on top of the raid (on the very first cloud-spawn, no less!), but after that embarassing mistake — and subsequent wipe — we serious’d up and pushed into Phase 2.

It wasn’t elegant, not by any stretch of the imagination.  Ranged DPS — delivered by a mage, elemental shaman and shadow priest — was excellent; our casters controlled the tentacles beautifully and maintained their sanity throughout the fight.  Melee DPS was a slightly less coordinated.  Out of habit, all four of our melee took portals into Yogg-Saron’s brain, which left me stranded outside.  The feral druid and two Death Knights managed well enough on their own, but — lacking the hybrids’ survivability — the leather-clad rogue fell and spent the rest of the battle facedown at the floor.  That freed a spot for me on subsequent brain phases, but I was accosted by a tentacle and missed my next portal anyway.

Fortunately, Keaton and the surviving Death Knight (we lost the other one at some point, but I’m not sure how) handled the brain just fine without a healer (or my bloodlust) — and before we knew it, we were in Phase 3 for the very first time! 

Then there were way too many adds and an insane mind-controlled kitty clawing his way through the raid (bad druid! no cookie!) … and suddenly, amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, Yogg Saron was dead.

… and then there was drama, rendering our victory bittersweet.  >.<  But I’ll chronicle that another time.  Between job interviews, my newest obsession (saaaaaaronite!), and frantic cleaning in advance of my best friend’s visit next month — and my boyfriend’s two weeks later — I haven’t had much time to blog.  I may be a bit down, but I promise: I’m not out!

June 15, 2009 at 5:43 pm 5 comments

In which I respond to Abigore and reflect on the easy-mode/hard-mode dichotomy

Abigore of Fear.Win posted a comment with regards to easy mode vs. hard mode encounters that I feel compelled to respond to:

You have the option of either killing each boss the “easy way” for loot and telling friends “yay, we downed Yoggy!” but if you want more of a challenge your guild can go for hard modes for bragging rights and better loot.

Everyone has downed Sartharion, but add a drake or three in the mix and it was one of the most challenging fights in the game. Lots of people, myself included, felt that Naxx and a majority of the rest of the raiding content that was available for release was entirely too easy but the only encounter available with hard modes was Sartharion.. now we have that option for an entire raid zone.

First, the obligatory disclaimer: my guild isn’t “hardcore.”  With the exception of the night that Ulduar was released, we have never been on the cutting edge of progression.  In fact, we have never been ranked higher than 12th on our server, and usually float somewhere between 15th and 20th.

Sure, we did 3D on both Normal and Heroic — but we trailed behind the truly hardcore guilds by months.  When we finally posted our 10-man 3D success on the realm forum, one of the ever-present trolls responded with (not atypical) derision: “Time to turn of that Of The Nightfall title, since it seems that anyone can get them.”

As I mused to Tara in another comment, it really is a matter of perspective.  I may seem like a hardcore raider to those who are just starting Ulduar or still progressing through Naxx, but my server (which is admittedly more competitive than most) labels me as a casual, and isn’t always nice about it.

So, speaking as a less-casual-than-hardcore, but more-hardcore-than-casual guild leader: I don’t want bragging rights.  I want a challenge.  I want the raid zone to be fresh and exciting — because once it loses its luster, it will be damned hard to motivate people to return to it.

We saw this with Sarth 3D.  Half of the guild was eager for the challenge and enamored with the idea of “defeating the hardest encounter in the game.”  The other half just didn’t see the point.  Why wipe for four hours at a time on the hard mode when we could knock out the easy mode in half an hour or less, and then go do something just as fun but less expensive (like, I don’t know, fishing)?

Is this a fundamental disconnect within the guild?  Yes.  Undeniably.  But it has never been an issue before, because we trace our origins to the dawn of The Burning Crusade and the easy mode/hard mode dichotomy is unique to Wrath of the Lich King.  I suppose I could try to recruit people who are more psychologically aligned, but the reality is that many of us have been playing together for well over a year now and are united by far more than a shared desire to topple raid bosses.

Thus, the new endgame is forcing us to re-evaluate our guild’s purpose and compromise on collective goals — and while these are both very healthy things for any organization to do, they aren’t always easy, and they are without a doubt a source of trepidation for our officers and vets.

To build on Abi’s example: Sartharion 3D wasn’t a guild-breaker because it was hard.  Sartharion 3D was a guild-breaker because it forced guilds to make decisions about what was important to them — to weigh the long, arduous (not to mention expensive!) progression versus the satisfaction of the eventual kill and (as Abigore phrased it) “bragging rights and better loot.”

Unfortunately, because nay votes often take the form of no shows as players who just aren’t interested in the hard mode encounters opt out of raiding altogether, even guilds that chose to take on the hard modes can find their progress stalled by members who don’t entirely buy into the decision.

I’m not asking Blizzard to preempt the inevitable guild drama by removing our choices.  Far from it!  As I’ve said over and over again, I understand, appreciate and (tentatively) support the developers’ attempt to compromise between the two extremes of the player base.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m anything other than keenly aware of the unique challenges that the new endgame will present for those of us who fall solidly in the middle of the casual-hardcore divide.

We will have to make compromises of our own as a result of Blizzard’s evolving design philosophy.  Because I know my guild, I know that farming the easy modes until 3.2 (or whatever) won’t be an option.  Maybe we’ll take on the hard modes, one by one, and continue to play the tortoise to our server’s many hares in the race to Algalon.  Maybe we’ll take a page from Liore’s book and alternate alt-friendly farming runs with achievements and hard mode progression.  I don’t know yet; that particular discussion is far from over for us.  In fact, I rather suspect it’s just beginning.

May 6, 2009 at 10:43 am 5 comments

Highs and lows

Work is kicking my tail this week (/whimper), so as much as I would love to make an appropriately epic “First Impressions of Ulduar”-style post, all I really have time for are a few quick thoughts about Week One. 

For me, it was all about highs and lows …

Highs

Over the course of three days, my 10-man raid cleared Ulduar through Mimiron, leaving only General Vezax and Yogg-Saron undefeated.  I had so. much. fun!  Especially with Mimiron, a wonderfully chaotic fight that reminds me a little bit of the Lady Vashj encounter in SSC.  I also really enjoyed solo-healing Thorim’s gauntlet — a challenge for a resto shaman, because while versatile we are, mobile we are not. 

By the way, Supremus has nothing on Freya when it comes to trash.  I will never look at flowers in quite the same way again!  There is definitely some sort of phototropic effect going on, too, because those menacing little cutlings are absolutely drawn to Chain Heal.

Also, Mimiron’s trash is actually named Trash, which totally awesome (not just awesome, but totally awesome!) in my book.

Speaking of books, check out our Mimiron-10 killshot:

Can you find the shamans in this picture?

Yes, that’s right!  While the rest of the server was frantically grinding Books of Glyph Mastery, I was farming for — and then crafting — Rituals of the New Moon for my entire 10-man raid. 

Can you pick out the real shamans in this picture?  (Hint: I’m the cute one.)

Lows

My 25-man raid was crit by an unlucky combination of server downtime, Naxx-induced laziness and Real Life®, and only managed to down two new bosses: Flame Leviathan was a two-shot, and Razorscale took a bit more effort but ultimately went down (and dropped a very nice healing mace in the process).

Saturday’s Deconstructor attempts were thoroughly disappointing.  XT-002’s very simple, Solarian-type mechanic got the better of us — over and over and over again.  To be fair, we were missing several of our core raiders (nerf finals!), and running a 24-man group that included a handful of undergeared fill-ins from our Friends & Family rank.  We ended up calling the raid when our fury warrior’s game card ran in the middle of wipe recovery (sigh) and our healadin’s finance came home, armed with wedding plans (double sigh). 

Oh, well.  I’m willing to write Saturday off as a practice round (spring training, as it were).  We’re heading back into Ulduar-25 tonight with our core raid intact, and I’m hoping to see some significant progress.  If not, I’ll have to look at making some changes to bring my 25-man raid up to the admittedly higher standard set by my 10-man team — but that’s something to worry about another time. 

Work is summoning me, and I don’t dare decline. ;.;

April 21, 2009 at 11:38 am 7 comments

Finally!

Of the Nightfall!

April 1, 2009 at 10:32 pm 6 comments

The Undying still isn’t fun … but I never have to do it again!

As of last night, I am officially Liluye the Undying.  And believe me, the last five seconds of Kel’Thuzad’s (un)life were the most nerve-wracking of my entire WoW career! 

In that short span of time, a void fissure spawned beneath our MT’s paws and the second-squishiest member of the raid suffered from an untimely case of Iwishiwasamage-itis.  Fortunately, Keaton /danced out of the fissure like the amazing trained circus bear that he is, and we spammed heals on our iceblocked ‘lock … and because they are awesome, our deliberately-stacked-for-ranged-DPS DPS group managed to burst Kel’Thuzad down before P4 started. 

(In P4, Arthas takes pity on KT and sends a Feral Lag Monster to Naxxramas.  Affectionately known as Bob5, the Feral Lag Monster casts a stacking debuff on the entire raid, increasing the likelihood that afflicted raiders will freeze up, lag out or be randomly disconnected and ported to their hearthstone’s bind point.  Or Crossroads.)

I’ve suffered through my share of 1% wipes and been solely responsible for more 2%-99% wipes than I can count, but the Undying is a uniquely stressful experience in that there are absolutely no do-overs. 

Die in a doomfire and spoonfeed a soul-charge to Archimonde?  Apologize to the raid, toss a few gold in the guild vault to cover repairs … and try again.  

Flail around in a panic and loose constructs on the raid?  Run back, screw around with the simulator during the inevitable post-wipe /afk’s, resolve to never again be that guy … and try again.

But mistime a heal on the iceblocked fury warrior, lag out on Heigan, neglect to turn your spell detail back up before Grobbulus or forget to switch from Seal of Blood to Seal of Command before Gluth’s Decimate?  Congratulations!  You just wasted the week-long reset for nine other people.  Even if they’re really understanding about it (and my guildies are! <3), it’s still an awful feeling.  Trust me, I know.  (I was #1 and #3 on that list. >.>)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled to have the title and be one Naxx-8 and a Sarth 10-3D away from my Glory of the Raider meta-achievement (not to mention a swifter-than-very-swift ride).  But I stand by what I wrote last time.  This is a horrible achievement, based as much on luck as skill, and I couldn’t happier that it’s being re-worked for Ulduar.

March 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm 5 comments

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