Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘raiding’

Some Say Fire, Some Say Ice

(with apologies to Robert Frost)

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There are different schools of thought on whether you play a spec, or you play a class. I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t consider yourself a (Fire/Frost/Arcane) mage but a MAGE – able to switch specs accordingly should the need arise. This is an attitude that ticks off other people who really only like one spec for their various classes.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle and have actually changed my mind over time. It’s a little-known fact that I originally created Millya with the intention of making her a Frost mage. I seem to remember even choosing her appearance accordingly. Thank goodness I didn’t name her “Frostwizzard” or anything like that. Or another mage I knew, Icyfire… what if they wanted to go arcane later? But as I was leveling, Frost just wasn’t working for me. Conventional wisdom at the time (Burning Crusade) said that Fire was bad for leveling. And you know, I died a lot. But by gosh I had fun doing it. Later on when I hit 70 I went to BGs as the best kind of glass cannon – the kind that would merrily explode in the face of a dozen people. I think it was Christian Belt, the erstwhile great Archmage from WoW Insider who joked that all Fire mages really wanted was a spell that would just, literally, make them explode. They’d be okay with this, as long as they took plenty of people with them.

I’ve played all three mage specs over the years as their fortunes rose and fell. I was Frost at the start of Wrath for leveling. I was a Frostfire mage when I hit 80 because it was actually pretty good at low gear levels for awhile. I was Fire unless I had to be otherwise – at the end of Wrath I was Arcane for a good chunk of it because Fire was too far behind Arcane to ignore it. For all of Cataclysm, I was Fire, and so far for all of Mists I have been Fire as well.

I like the changes they have made to the spec. Heating Up helped to smooth out some of the frustrating RNG aspects of Hot Streak! and Inferno Blast gives you a reliable way of managing your procs to a certain extent. It’s better than just fishing around for HS procs as we used to do. Combustion is, by its nature, still very RNG dependent. You have to get a super ignite and manage all of your other DoTs in order to time it just so. The reduced CD on Combustion itself makes this less punishing than it used to be, though. I think they did something about ignite-munching? Don’t quote me on that though. I’m not a theorycrafter and I never made that claim. It’s not really my thing. I’m just an avid mage who has been predominantly Fire for a long time.

Recently, I was tripped up by a problem, though. I felt as if I was holding our challenge mode group back from success. Fire’s AoE power in this expansion has always felt weak to me. I miss Blast Wave/Instant Flamestrike. I don’t like having to get right into a group of mobs and spam my Arcane Explosion button. Nether Tempest is nice, but you still have to put it on a group of mobs before it really starts to ramp up, and by that time our shaman’s chain lightning has already killed stuff. It’s not fun. Taking into account the lowered gear levels of challenge modes (a normalized 463 ilevel), being Fire was even less fun. I found, frustratingly, that things were living too long and my trash DPS just wasn’t high enough. On boss fights, I wasn’t getting enough HS procs or a really nice Combustion. Fire seems just too dependent on gear to be the most effective in challenge modes. So I thought the time may have come to do something radical: set my Fire spec aside and play Frost in challenge modes.

I dusted off the spec. I fixed my keybinds and buttons. I read guides. I reforged and regemmed. Once I made the decision, I wanted to just go ahead with it. So I figured – hey, I’ll play Frost for our raids this week, too. Everything is “on farm” anyway, I wouldn’t be holding us back while I fumble around a little bit. I stood at the target dummy getting used to the “feel” of the buttons and I updated my Weak Auras to include some new notifications. I went into the raid feeling excited and a little apprehensive. I take pride in being a good DPS, I didn’t want to be at the bottom of the meters because of this change.

But something strange happened. I wasn’t doing poorly. In fact…well, let me just show you. If you like charts and things, you can look more closely. If you don’t, let me just tell you, that I gained between 16-26K DPS on the fights shown. I omitted Council because I actually did better as fire there and I think my DoT uptime was a bit poor on the Frost version. I’m not too worried about it. I also omitted Tortos for the opposite reason – as Fire, my performance was truly pathetic, but the Frost combat logs are not an accurate comparison either because I was helping to AoE bats. I had AoE! Bats died! BIG YELLOW NUMBERS. (This basically sums up my DPS mindset in a nutshell).

adfs

Fire is on the left, Frost is on the right.

So I was thrown into a quandary, except it wasn’t much of a quandary. Playing as one spec clearly and roundly has trounced the other spec for me, and so I will be staying Frost for the foreseeable future. Still, I know for a fact it’s not that I was suddenly playing miraculously better as Frost… In fact, you can see that my active time went down in every case. It’s hard to avoid this kind of human error. Our motto is “always be casting,” but I was still a little fumbly and getting the hang of Frost, so I wasn’t managing it as well as I could be, and yet I still beat my own DPS by a significant amount. I have to admit, it’s a bit disheartening. Now I’m questioning myself – did I never truly get the hang of the “new” Fire? Is it just that because I’m not a heroic raider, I’m not able to play Fire to its fullest potential? It’s true that Frost isn’t subject to the kind of RNG stuff that Fire is. I find it plays really smoothly. There’s always a button you need to be hitting. You can imagine it did make a big difference in CMs, too. My contribution felt much greater than it had in previous weeks.

I have had a few Frost growing pains, too. Mostly related to suddenly creating a truck load of threat unexpectedly. I’ll put it this way, I used to use Mirror Images as a safeguard, especially at the start of fights. Now it’s the only thing standing between me and (buh buh buh bum) CERTAIN DEATH. This is how I came to be shrieking around dragging Horridon last week while yelling “Get it off, get it off!” I also had a retrospectively hilarious death at the end of our last Lei Shen kill. I don’t know if that’s directly related to being Frost… but let’s just say that Alter Time -> Thunderstruck -> Blink -> Alter Time doesn’t end well for anyone wearing a dress.

If I’m being honest with myself, I guess I have to admit that maybe I just wasn’t pushing myself as Fire any more. In the past, many of the times I switched specs was because my damage had been lagging behind. It can help to mix things up, and some of that may be at play here. Although I try to stay current on my information with any spec I’m playing, maybe I had gotten complacent and that’s the biggest reason why Frost has been such a marked improvement. One thing is clear, though. It’s time for a new Frost transmog!

The Greatest Night

There have undoubtedly been rocky parts during Business Time’s transition to “casual” guild from “reasonably hardcore.” It felt really smooth back in Dragon Soul because we already had the entire place on farm, so it was no problem to reduce to one night a week and smoke through it. Then it wasn’t a problem to take a break altogether. When Mists launched, it was the first true test of our new reduced schedule (two days a week, two hours per raid for a total of four hours). We’d never tackled new content this way before. To me it was a raid tier of fits and starts. We progressed easily through the first four bosses in MSV and then slammed to a halt on Elegon for a lot longer than any of us would like. When we finally downed Elegon, we killed Will the same night. Moving into Heart of Fear, we hit another wall in the form of the second cyclone boss and we spent a good amount of time on him as well. Throughout this all, roster changes and recruitment were dogging us and making it hard to have a steady pace. When we finally got Tay’ak down, it didn’t take very long to kill Garalon or the council style fight and then we encountered our ultimate nemesis – Amber Shaper Un’sok.

I could tell you how I feel about this encounter design, but I don’t want to sour my mood. Basically, Un’sok is my least favourite fight EVER, in any expansion and any tier. We wiped to him more than any other boss in T14. But he did die, like all the others. Unfortunately he died at a time when it was starting to look like we wouldn’t have time to finish the tier. Patch predictions were for March, and we hadn’t even touched Terrace. It seems that two hour raids were taking their toll. I know there were many nights when it felt as if just a few more pulls would’ve made the difference between a kill and no kill.

We killed Empress Shek’zeer very easily (14 pulls total, I believe), and launched into Terrace with a vengeance. Everyone knew that we had to clear it fast if we wanted a chance to actually finish the raid tier as well as earn ourselves a feat of strength. I’m not sure if it was the urgency of knowing we had a deadline, but everyone really showed me what they could do. We one-shot Protectors and killed Tsulong the same night, cleared Lei Shi and spent some time on Sha of Fear during our second to last raid. Everyone knew that yesterday’s raid was our last chance to finish “on-time.”

The raid started out in the best possible way for me. We were all hanging around the summoning stone getting everyone there when our monk, Zhem, told me: “Millya, check your mail please.” Mystified, I checked my mail and there was a letter from him with a wrapped gift. It’s my birthday on Sunday and I am turning 30, but I wasn’t expecting a gift! The accompanying letter said it wasn’t just a birthday present, but also a token of appreciation for everything I do for the guild. I opened it up, and this is what was inside:

!!!

!!!

It’s a Jeweled Onyx Panther. My own VOLTRON. To say that I was flabbergasted is the most extreme of understatements. Honestly, I teared up a little bit. It seems that Business Time had been planning this for weeks, since the start of February. They helped gather the materials to make all four panthers using a communal spreadsheet and they made this for me. Oh man, I am tearing up again. I am overwhelmed and humbled. It honestly means so much to me, and not just because “ooh shiny mount” but because the mount itself is indicative to me of the power a raid group has. Not just to kill internet pixels, but to support each other and to be friends over long distances and different lives. We are all greater than the sum of our parts, just like Voltron and the Onyx Panther. We’re always better together. I can’t say anything more about this than thank you, thank you, thank you. Even when we’ve moved on and the servers are dark, you’ll always have a friend in me. You all are the true gift.

I promised them all a sappy blog post, which is something of a forte of mine. But honestly, the night just got better from that point on, this was only the BEGINNING of the raid after all! Because we went in and read Sha the riot act; it was only our second night seeing him and we all felt the pressure to perform and make this a cleared tier. We did it!

And Itanya set Ullariend on fire.

And Itanya set Ullariend on fire.

This was pretty much the best conclusion any of us could have imagined to the tier. I couldn’t stop grinning all night. I’m so proud of these guys (and lady). We are set to go into the next tier with a clean slate, if you will, and no obligations to this content. We will go back and get kills for some people who unfortunately missed them, but we’ll have a solid footing for the new stuff, too. Incidentally, we are still looking for a hunter to finish off our roster. We’re sitting at thirteen at the moment but we’d prefer fourteen. Even when our numbers dipped we didn’t cancel any raids in the past tier, but we’d like to continue in that direction.

You would think I’d be satisfied with a night like that. An amazing gift from my guild, a Sha of Fear kill just in time for patch day… but no, there was more yet to come! After the raid I realized that I wasn’t VP capped. After doing a heroic, I was still 95 points short. So Pargath, Zierlyn and I headed into LFR for the 90 VP. We chose Vault of Mysteries because that’s the only thing that Pargath hadn’t done. We waited a little while in the queue but it eventually came up, as they do. Spirit Kings was fairly uneventful and I thought the raid was going to be generally fine, until we got to Elegon.

It has been pointed out to me that waiting until Monday night before a patch to do my last LFR guarantees there will be shenanigans. I hadn’t considered this exactly, but it was only a minute or so on Elegon when we realized we’d be in trouble. Neither of the tanks was bothering to tank the adds that spawn and they ran around freely trying to kill people. We were able to get four spark “cycles,” but as soon as the floor disappeared, so did a number of our raid. (I want to say five, off the top of my head, including a tank). But okay, no matter, we could still do this. Until after the second add phase when our OTHER tank plummeted to his untimely death. We were heading into Elegon’s last phase, with no tank. You might think at this point we were guaranteed a wipe. I say: NEVER SAY DIE.

I hit Time Warp as we pulled and started DPSing Elegon as if my life depended on it (which it did). I thought that at least I could do enough damage to him and possibly keep him busy long enough with Mirror Images, Cauterize, etc. before my inevitable death. We might manage to kill him yet. Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that I never died. Cauterize didn’t even proc! Sure, my health was crazy spiky, but the incredible healers in LFR (most prominently, a paladin) kept me alive. I TANKED ELEGON.

Hilarity ensued (you’ll have to click to read the raid chat from right after we killed him).

I TANKED THAT

I TANKED THAT

I was pretty proud of myself, haha, but really it’s the healers who deserve the props (and you’ll note that I said that, too).

elegon02

elegon03

LFR was suitably happy about the whole thing. Maybe I should just retire now on that note, the highlight of my illustrious mage career. Forget Krosh Firehand, I tank star dragons. I think it’s only fitting that I happened to be wearing the title Dragonslayer Millya at the time.

So that’s it – an account of the greatest night I’ve had in WoW in a long time. Possibly the greatest night I’ve had in awhile, period. I am really excited for the T15 content now. I hope there are no repeats of the Un’sok debacle. But mostly I know you can tackle anything with a group of friends, or barring that, exceptional healing strangers who can keep your berobed body from going splat!

Millya of Pandaria

We’ve been in Pandaria for three weeks now! Time sure flies when you have 50 dailies to do every night, doesn’t it? Sorry, I’m being a bit tongue in cheek, I’d better begin at the beginning.

I love Pandaria. I really do. In fact, I probably owe a big ole public apology to Rades because I made such a stink about pandas and now I am eating crow. (Although actually, it’s crow/birds of prey that are eating me – have you ever gone AFK anywhere in Valley of the Four Winds?) I think that so many things are right with Pandaria. Perhaps I wasn’t captivated exactly from the first moment:

Because this happened.

But after I gave up on the idea of leveling Millya right away, I really got lost in the landscape. You see, two of my guildies, Fsob and Supplicium, were aiming to be server first Mage and Warlock, respectively (as well as server first level 90s, period). There is a trinket for alchemists with a 4000 int proc or something similar that Fsob could only get by turning in three Golden Lotus. So I’d promised to help him get them using my herbalist druid. I ended up logging her in and just jumping off the airship into Pandaria and herbing and mining my way all through the Jade Forest. I was on Mumble with other guildies and friends who were leveling so it was far from lonely. I admit that I started to lose steam long before I’d actually found any Lotus for Fsob but I wanted to help however I could so I pressed on. He did pay for me for the lotus too, so it’s not entirely altruistic. It took about four hours to get my herbalism up to the right spot and find the lotus. I was looking mistakenly in the wrong place, assuming lotus would be more plentiful in the later zones. It was Walks who pointed out that he’d seen them mostly in the starting zone, which makes total sense. Because GL are a rare spawn on a random herb node, they would be most plentiful in a place where the herb turnover was high. In Jade Forest, lots of people were picking herbs but very few had the skill to pick the lotus itself. When I doubled back and started combing the Jade Forest for them, I found Fsob’s three within about an hour. Success!

Fsob and Supplicium achieved their server first goals as well, so congratulations to them! I think they had a fair lead on everyone so the lotus was probably extraneous but as Fsob put it, “I like to be sure about things,” which is a good trait to have. Every little bit helps! So that was my first night in Pandaria, and I actually love that my first experience was mostly as an explorer and gatherer. Running through the forest, jumping off cliffs and dodging angry orcs and shadowmelding and using travel form to escape gave me a real sense of immersing myself in the new continent. That sense of danger and wonder only deepened as I ventured into Valley of the Four Winds. I kept exclaiming aloud – giant carrots! Giant turnips! A MOB OF ANGRY BUNNIES COMING STRAIGHT FOR ME RUN AWAYYY!

Pandaria was perfectly and cleverly designed to be seen from the ground. The scope feels epic and vast, there are so many hidden things and little nooks and crannies, corners and waterfalls. It is luscious and beautiful. Once you hit 90 and can take to the air, it’s just as perfect because it’s not too big. You can easily fly most places in Pandaria in a few minutes without it feeling onerous. It even still maintains that sense of danger because of aforementioned birds and other hostiles. I recently went AFK in Vale of Eternal Blossoms and returned to my screen to find myself dead. I have no idea what happened, but it’s definitely an environment that will punish you for inattention.

The Good

Pandaria is beautiful, and there really is so much to do. I’ve spent hours just relaxing and fishing, seeing the scenery, questing through it with Voss, tending to my farm and yes, doing dailies. I’ve also really enjoyed most of the instances so far. A few of them feel a little bland – whichever one has you dropping buckets of goo on advancing bugs, and the one where you fight a boss that blows you backwards with wind – these are encounter designs that probably sounded better on paper than they are in reality – but overall I enjoy them. My favourite is probably Shado-Pan Monastery, much to the chagrin of all healers everywhere because I understand it’s toughest for them. I like the fights and the trash and the length of it.

What I’ve seen so far of the raids has been excellent as well. The first three bosses of Mogu’shan Vaults are all interesting with enough “different” stuff to keep your attention and no mechanics that are really annoying. I have a secret love of fights where I get to go to another “world” as it were, so Gara’jal might be my favourite so far. We’re going back in tonight, so we’ll see!

Farming deserves its own paragraph, I think. I can’t express how much I love my farm. Not just because planting and harvesting useful things is fun and completely self-directed, but because it’s a private space that is entirely mine. I’m not usually one to make a big fuss about player housing (although I’ve missed having my own “place” since my Ultima Online days). Honestly, I often get lost in my own world and forget about the people around me but occasionally you are jarred back to reality that other people can see you or are watching you. Someone who has you targeted in a public place, random whispers, or my guild mates making fun of how I fly – we’re very much in a crowd. Sometimes I do things that are embarrassing. It varies from character to character – because of where I’d put my heroism button, inevitably on my shaman alt I hit heroism as I’m standing at the mailbox. I can only imagine how this looks to other people. Random /CROWD CHEERS and then a giant draenei standing and checking her mail. On my shadow priest banker I keep hitting dispersion as I go into the auction house, and it makes such an obnoxious sound. Hey guys, giant purple cloud come to do some auctioning, don’t mind me! So anyway, my point is, your farm is a place where you can do really whatever you want. If I want to just stand there among my veggies for a few minutes chatting with guildies, I can do that, and there’s nobody else around, period. That tiny solace and reprieve from a dangerous world is much welcome and I think it’s a big part of why I personally love the farming. I’m sure the fact that my virtual veggies are much more successful than my real life ones ever were doesn’t hurt, either!

The other thing I’ve enjoyed so far, and I think everyone should do at some point, is making a Pandaren character to play through the starting experience. It’s head and shoulders above the starting experience for either Worgen or Goblin. It also gives some insight into the inherent conflict between the Horde and the Alliance and why we have such a hard time seeing eye to eye. If you haven’t had time to make a Pandaren yet and you want a break from your “regular” stuff, I highly recommend it. I won’t say more than that, although I’d love to talk about it with you once you’ve done it. I think it is a better setup for Mists as an expansion than the entry quests as a level 85 character, but I’d be interested to know what other people think.

Other things I love include the questing, the grummles, yak washing, air balloons, and fishing. At the start before I could actually fly, I got overexcited and jumped down into the reservoir between Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds to fish the Jade Lungfish pools, not realizing there was actually no way for me to get out of the reservoir again. I was doomed to swim in the reservoir forever like a Sim and die of exhaustion. (Well, I’m a mage so I just ported myself out, but it was still pretty funny).

Also the lore in Pandaria is amazing. I would probably pay Blizzard too much money to have similar “gather the story” quests for Burning Crusade or even Wrath. Run around finding scrolls that each contain a part of a story and then be treated to a little re-enactment narrated at the end? Yes please. I want to hear the story of the flight from Argus or other things from Draenor. In a way, it’s a bit like the Muradin story you uncover as part of a questline in Northrend, only there are more stories and it’s an actual faction. The little flying disc reward at the end is just icing on the cake for lore nerds.

Pet Battles are probably something that deserve their own post – the kind of thing I could easily waste days of time doing. I was surprised by the depth of something that was “just” a mini-game (I never played Pokemon, so I have no other frame of reference). I think it’s a fun addition to the game and jokingly teased my guildies who weren’t level 90 yet but getting pet battle achievements. “Hey, I thought you were leveling! BUSTED.”

The Bad

This is where the nitpicky stuff goes. I’d say for me it’s probably an 80/20 split. 80% I love Pandaria. If you’d asked me before I hit level 90 I would’ve had only good things to say. After the fact, I do have some complaints that have already been detailed by other folks. Here’s my big one: putting Valor Point gear behind reputation vendors. I hate this idea, and I don’t use that word lightly.

I can appreciate that they removed reputation tabards because they didn’t want “double dipping” and reputation tabards didn’t necessarily make much sense in the context of a game world. “Oh, you’re killing me AND you like the Tillers? Fair enough.” So that’s fine. It essentially combined two activities into one so that you could just run dungeons and never interact with a faction you wished to impress. And historically, factions have had desirable items since the Burning Crusade. You could grind reputation with the Cenarion Expedition to get their mount, but they also had some epics and rare items to purchase at various levels, and this was also true in Wrath and then Cataclysm. This model is fine. But having to grind out all of these different reps just to spend VP points to get gear? I don’t like it. It seems like a major throwback to a grindier, more time intensive time.

This complaint feeds into the next, one that I know is shared by many. Dailies. So many dailies. I started out, over zealously trying to do them all. I’d do Klaxxi, Golden Lotus, Tillers, Cloud Serpents, Anglesr, and the Lorewalkers. It got ridiculous. I started to have to dial it back, and so soon enough I was only doing Golden Lotus, Tillers, Cloud Serpents. Now I’m doing Golden Lotus and Tillers, and that’s it. I want to open up Shado-Pan, I needed Golden Lotus for the tailoring epic recipes. Keep in mind, too, that I am someone who likes dailies. I always have. I have diligently done dailies in many quest hubs since I started playing this game, and even for me it’s too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that the dailies exist. I look forward to diving into Anglers rep (har) and finishing my Cloud Serpent stuff. But that’s the crux of things, there are so many “mandatory” (ie I need the gear behind them) reputations that it hasn’t left me the time to spend on the fun reps I want to work on. Had the VP gear just been on normal vendors like before, with the slow rate of VP acquisition the gear would have still been “gated” plenty. It feels a little bit like they just wanted to force people into or extend the content that was there, and that bugs me because there’s plenty of content and I would like to do it on my own time. I have yet to do more than one scenario. Challenge modes? They sound like a blast, but who has time? I’m in favour of gating SOME things. Like the way raids have been released – I like that. It’s better to slow it down at the beginning than drag it wayyy out at the end (Dragon Soul, I’m looking at you). But that’s the most frustrating thing about all these dailies. Was it really necessary? I’m inclined to think “no,” although of course you may disagree.

Of course, you can always argue about what is or isn’t necessary for individual people and their gaming wishes and expectations. So for some people 300 stat food is absolutely mandatory for their progression. For the average player, it’s probably not the best use of your time. Some people must gain access to the VP gear from various reps as soon as possible, others might say “Forget this.” I’d say we’re somewhat middle of the pack. Personally, a number of us pooled resources to make sure we got Darkmoon Faire cards when the Faire arrived, but we didn’t expect every single person in the guild to do so. I recognize that it basically comes down to this: you suffer what you choose to suffer, but when you want to maximize your performance, sometimes a little less sufferance might be nice.

For example, what’s up with cooking? I love cooking. I like to put on my chef’s hat and cook up some grub. Yesterday I was talking to Voss about this and I exclaimed suddenly, “I’ve made food in REAL LIFE that took less work than this!” I’m not even kidding. With the 300 stat food requiring x amount of vegetables, one fish, one meat, and one Ironpaw token, it’s a little ludicrous. I could actually cook an honest to goodness stir fry in the time it takes to do a daily to get a token and vegetables and everything, and that’s assuming I am just buying the vegetables instead of growing them on my farm. Granted, in real life I don’t have to go kill a chicken to make my stir fry, but the point still stands. I feel like the mats involved in cooking this should make a stack of food, not just five. It pains me to have cooking, one of my favourite WoW pastimes, become arduous. I haven’t become Master of the Ways yet (too busy selling vegetables) which also gives me a pang. Cooking/baking is somewhat integral to Millya’s character, but I’m going to metagame it for the time being and put her wishes on hold.

The Ugly

My biggest complaint about Pandaria is really the time sink stuff. Right now, trying to do Golden Lotus or Tiller dailies is an exercise in patience. People will steal your vegetables out from under a mob that you are fighting, they will try to tag a mob you are almost standing on top of, and just generally all civility and decorum has gone out the window. Quest givers are covered by stupid flying mobs and it brings out the worst in folks that I don’t much care for. The same has been true of some of the pugs I have seen since hitting 90 – just some really incredibly rude people. Two of my guildies have been kicked out of pugs for shenanigans that didn’t even make sense – a tank aggros three of those Shado-Pan packs and when the group wipes, they kick the healer for being a “scrub”? Um, right. We were in a pug where the healer would’ve surely tried to kick our bear tank because he “wasn’t geared for this/was wearing pvp gear.” His ilevel was fine, his tanking was fine, and as far as I could tell the healer didn’t have trouble healing him at all (despite being all in PvP gear himself, something I hear is hardly a cardinal sin these days). So some people are rude and impatient. Also, I don’t know why they re-introduced the “extra benefit for one daily PER DAY” rule. It was great that you could do your weekly heroics on your own time, now we are back to a daily obligation if you want to cap your VP each week most efficiently each week.

Pandaria is beautiful and overall I love it. Honestly, even the bad is not SO bad because I know it has an ending. We’ll reach a point where none of the gear from those vendors matters. We’ll either have gotten what we need from finishing the reps or from raids or similar. Right now, I’ve just had to make some hard decisions about pursuing fun things or pursuing chores. Millya has more errands to run than I do.

“Okay, I have to reseed the farm, cook some fish cakes for the Cloud Serpents, fish up some Golden Minnows, kill some Mogu in the Vale, free some Pandaren spirits, stomp on some fires, kill some pixies, kill some spiders, kill a big spider, fish up some fish for supper…”

It’s a good thing we are superheroes, because all of these chores won’t do themselves! That’s what I need – the next guild perk should be an assistant hired to take care of all these things! He/she can pick up my dry cleaning, too.

There Are Many Like It, But This One Is Yours

At the beginning of Firelands, I made a mistake. I’ve acknowledged it before, but let me go on the record here to re-iterate that it was a mistake. It wasn’t the first time I’ve made it, but it was definitely the last. I switched characters so that I could play what I thought the guild needed instead of what I wanted to play. I’m not going to belabor this point because I’ve discussed it here, but I think this is seldom a good idea. Unless someone is really and truly unattached to any character and willing to play whatever (and I know there are people who are this way), you should always play what you want to play. Except that I didn’t.

So I took myself out of the running for a Dragonwrath. I was thrilled for the very deserving Fsob who received it, but selfishly I was always a bit sad. I’d danced when the legendary staff announcement came up at Blizzcon. I wanted to see the accompanying lore, I wanted to carry a piece of Warcraft history, and by gosh I wanted to be a blue dragon with jewelery. But I had done it to myself, and I told myself I would just have to suck it up. Except that Blizzard changed Real ID to allow people to run raids. “It would take too much time,” I said. “Isn’t it selfish?” I told Voss. He said, “Maybe it is, but you deserve it, and I’ll be there every night if you decide to do it.”

So on February tenth I posted on our guild forums to say that I was going to organize a Firelands alt run, probably normals, just for kicks. Anyone who wanted to could attend, and I’d find Real ID friends to fill in where necessary. I had big ambitions at first because interest seemed high so I thought I could organize a 25-person run. That didn’t happen the first time (although I did organize one 25 during the course of things!) But that Saturday we headed out to Firelands and we killed some fiery things. I didn’t realize at the time just how fortunate I am. Over the following three months, at least three people never missed a single Firelands run. Several more missed perhaps one or two, but were there for the majority of the runs. Voss held true to his word, and he never failed to tank the Firelands bosses for me. On weeks when Saturday wasn’t possible, we did it on Wednesdays because it was the only day that worked with everyone’s raid schedule.

For twelve weeks, a mixture of close friends and acquaintances came to Firelands because they wanted to help me and because I asked them to. Our little Firelands raid went from a “let’s clear through here on normals” to “let’s clear this thing on heroic every week” to “why don’t we pull heroic Ragnaros?” over the course of that time. We got to know each other better. I’ve had the chance to raid with friends who might not be in the guild but who are really fun, great folks. I organized that 25-person raid and it was nerve wracking. I’ve never organized a 25 for anything before; the sheer amount of organization and coordination required made me admit that I gained new respect for 25s folks (not that I lacked respect, but walk a mile in someone’s shoes, etc.) Each week everyone got together to do this and I couldn’t articulate my feelings about it. I experienced a mixture of excitement, guilt, awkwardness. Part of me couldn’t believe that I had friends like these, who would devote so many hours of their time to get me some pixels in a video game – because they knew it mattered to me, and so it mattered to them.

I don’t want to sound at all pompous or overstate the importance of Dragonwrath itself, though I will cherish it forever and it is my most prized virtual possession. There are many Dragonwraths out there, and many casters wielding them. But this one was pieced together by Fsob’s fireballs, Voss’ shield slams. I imagine each piece to have healing powers from Nowell, Itanya, Karanina, and sometimes Yahwen. It has Shaen’s elements, and Tassager’s bear butt, Bittersteel’s howling blast and Sara’s daggers. It even has some fel magic courtesy of Supplicium and DarthRegis, but we’re going to pretend otherwise. Apple Cider and Kurnmogh DPSed for me one night when we were really stuck without a tenth person! Solard and Cutaia and Rooster helped to tank, Beru, Tikari and Jasyla all had a hand in it. Killskillz, Priggle and Nyxy all helped to DPS. When I did my 25-person run, Korixa, Cordella, Oathblade, Luthvian, Tsunomi, Maelinixi, Fyriat,¬†Rhuanious and Pix all came along. That’s a total of 31 people who helped out with Dragonwrath. I tried to be comprehensive but unfortunately I didn’t keep a running tally so if I have forgotten you and you attended, please know that I am so grateful to you and didn’t mean to leave you out. (Incidentally, there is going to be a special surprise for you Wednesday, May 23rd. Just check From Draenor With Love).

I do want to mention especially the people who were most instrumental in this endeavour: First of all, Vosskah, without whom I probably wouldn’t have organized the runs at all. As always, anything I do is made more fun when you’re by my side.

Nowell/Walks: You said that you would heal for me and you meant it, and you never missed a single run or complained although I know you weren’t really interested in Firelands at all. That means you were there especially to help me. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a friend like you.

Karanina/Snack: You said that you’d heal for me and made it clear that you weren’t taking no for an answer! It’s been a blast to rediscover Firelands with you alongside. You are an outstanding healer and a great friend. I’m thankful to know you and I hope someday I can repay your generosity of spirit.

Fsob: You are an indispensable part of Firelands for us; despite the smallest stature you never shirk from the largest tasks. Thank you for driving Rhyolith, assigning Baleroc, dog wrangling and flying through all those hoops with me. There’s no mage I’d rather have by my side. Mage mage, my friend.

All of my guildies: I hope you won’t mind me lumping you together, but I happen to think we operate best that way. For coming to Firelands to help tirelessly for so many weeks, I can’t thank you enough. You kept it from ever feeling like a chore to me. You are a fantastic bunch of people who brings excellence to everything you do. Thank you.

Last night when I siphoned that last essence from Baleroc and the moment approached when I’d be reaching the end of this three month task, all the words flew right out of my head. As I said, this is more than pixels, it’s more than a Dragonwrath. To me, it’s like carrying something that is a piece of friendship, kindness, and team work. I think it’s going to make me smile whenever I think of it. I don’t care that it’s a tier late, or that there are many other people out there with one. Dragonwrath itself isn’t unique, but the experience was unique to me. I’m left with only gratitude to everyone who had a hand in it, and most of all for Blizzard: who made the world that allowed me to find all of the people who gave me this great gift. Some of you I’ve met in real life and some I hope to meet someday, but it’s not geography that determines friendship. Last night culminated in a Stormwind rooftop party including a bunch of off-server folks who had seen the Dragonwrath ceremony a million times but they wanted to see mine. You all helped to make it special, and we created enough of a rumpus that random people flew in and said, “What is this?”

This is my friends helping me celebrate something we made together. It’s the spirit of this game for me, and everyone who helped is an indispensable part of that.

Learning to say: “No, thank you.”

One of the toughest things for me (that I always struggle with) is not specific to WoW, although it applies to it here. It’s something that’s always proven difficult, so I shouldn’t be surprised that it rears its head again now. My problem is this – I overestimate the time I have. I underestimate how long it’ll take me to get things done. I overextend myself and commit to too many things.

I’m sure this isn’t a unique problem. It’s not even that I am that busy a person or anything, but my tendency to say “yes” to everything leads to me making myself frantic. In a Warcraft context, this is an issue exacerbated by the easy access to friends on other servers and in other raid groups. It leads me to say things like, “Hey, I can gear up my goblin alt so I can do Horde stuff with xyz!” and then “Hey, they are running a T11 heroic group on these days, I could go and help them…”

It seems to stem from both a desire to help (everyone) and a wish to experience things. Immediately after BT scaled back our raiding, I couldn’t believe the free time I had. Voss and I spent several leisurely evenings in succession – walking the dog, cooking new meals, hanging out on the couch reading, talking, and watching a movie. It felt decadent to have so much time to deal with day-to-day things like laundry, housework, and recreation not spent in front of a computer. Formerly, with 2-3 raid nights a week (usually three) Voss would get home at 4:30, I’d probably start cooking supper at 4:00 to have it ready by 5:00, sometimes 5:30 if I miscalculated, we’d eat and squeeze in a 20 minute dog walk in time to login for the raid at 6:30. Raids don’t actually start until 7:00, but there are things that need doing beforehand to get ready. Check the forums – has anyone cancelled at the last minute? If so, is there a standby? Are we all clear on what we’ll be attempting? Have we prepared the strats? The raid itself goes until 10:00, at which time we log off, get ready for bed and try to be there by 10:30. All too often we wouldn’t, because we wanted to talk and spend some time together, so we’d go to sleep too late, get too little sleep, be tired, and then come home and do it all over again.

This schedule left little time for just relaxing. It made us take something that was supposed to be fun and turned it into a chore. Sure, I enjoyed the actual raiding, but too much was being sacrificed to make it happen. We didn’t have a non-gaming spouse who would prepare supper or take care of outside of game things for us. It was just us. I had a conversation once with the late, much missed Roksi of Production Company. She described the pre-raid chaos she and her husband went through with racing home, getting everything ready and logging in with food still in their mouths (or at their desks!) She wondered if Voss and I experienced the same thing, and I commiserated. We knew where the other was coming from, but of course it’s a choice you make – up until it doesn’t feel like a choice any more. The time commitment that amount of raiding demanded was like a slow squeeze. I didn’t realize how I’d shaped my life around it until I’d been doing it quite literally for years. We always said “Real life is more important than WoW,” but they were just empty words. My family knew I wouldn’t see them on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday most likely because if we both took the night off the roster would be wrecked. Our bench was theoretically deep enough to handle it but that didn’t always work out. We felt like frogs in a pot with the water was being incrementally and gradually heated – we’d reached a boiling point and never even knew it. If we did happen to do something on a Mon, Wed or Fri I couldn’t stop Voss from checking the forums (and the Mumble status) to make sure “everything was okay.”

We had started to resent the pull the game had on us. It had nothing to do with the guild, who are fabulous people we enjoy spending time with, and everything to do with the unconscious choices we’d make each week. Every time we put off plans because they fell on a raid day, we weren’t putting life first. Every hour I’d spend scouring the forums looking for recruits to shore up a dwindling roster was time I wasn’t spending on something else. Now that I have a bit of distance and it’s been a few months, I recognize how deeply unhappy I was with the situation, and how much better things are for me now. I’m slowly asserting order in our life and environment. I don’t have any more laundry that’s been allowed to pile up. I’ve cooked some (if I may say so myself) amazing meals since January. I love cooking and didn’t realize how little I had done of it because it was usually easier to just order in or eat something fast. We’ve both lost some weight and are much happier and more relaxed. I think it makes us more fun to be around anyway at the raids where we ARE doing stuff.

How does this tie into saying no? Well, first and foremost, we had to reduce our raiding, which wasn’t easy but was absolutely the right thing to do. The problem for me came when it had been a few weeks past that major change. The same free time I’d luxuriated in started to look so open. So full of…possibilities! Awesome guildies like Fsob organized old-content MMLA runs (Mogging Mounts Legendary Achievement). I always love to see old content! Folks spent some evenings in BGs. Hey, I like to BG with my guildies! I decided to start running a Firelands group on Saturdays. (By the way, we’re still looking for a few DPS for this week’s run, we’re trying it on 25! Check out the thread and sign up if you are interested, especially if you’re a hunter because we need your survivalfulness). After a little while, it was possible for Friday to be an MMLA run, Saturday to be a Firelands run, and then Monday to be the guild raid. It was too much. Actually, it was exactly the same number of nights that had made us feel too committed to raiding in the first place! I had to regretfully stop attending each and every MMLA run, because I realized that for me, FL and MMLA were often mutually exclusive. I felt guilty about it, because I like running old content and I like Fsob and I didn’t want his raid to lack for people. But I just can’t have that much scheduled WoW time any more. It’ll be nice when we are done in Firelands so that it’s a non-issue.

As far as other commitments go, it’s so tempting when you see other people who need someone for whatever it might be – a single raid, a series of raids – at least for me, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Raiding is fun. It’s nice to be able to help your friends! But it’s also important for me to look at the bigger picture from the opposite perspective – if I spend x amount of time doing THIS, what will I not have time to do? It’s never an easy question, and can make you feel like a colossal jerk when you know that you could help but seem as if you’re choosing not to. I am fortunate to have some amazing folks willing to help me each week in Firelands, and I’m aware that I’m accruing some sizable debts because of it, which I hope I can someday repay. For now, though, I’m just trying to remember that the time I SEEM to have doesn’t actually exist, being already filled with a number of obligations already. I have to remind myself I can’t join every raid or every five-man that contains people I genuinely like and want to help. I have to pick and choose and sometimes be a bit precious about what I’m willing to spend time doing. I owe it first to myself and Voss to not get grouchy because I didn’t set limits on the amount of energy I had to commit to this. It’s a delicate balance, but I keep reminding myself of a therapist’s advice: You have to take care of yourself before you take care of others. You know, the whole airplane oxygen mask thing. You’re no use to anybody if you’re just gasping there.

I want to hear about how YOU all maintain this balance! Are you juggling everything with perfect poise? Do you feel a bit rushed sometimes, or guilty when you can’t help out your friends? Do you somehow manage to ‘do it all’? Are you tired of hearing me write about how happy I am to be raiding on a reduced schedule? I made the joke about a month later that I didn’t have anything to write on my blog because every post would have just been “I LOVE RAIDING ONE DAY A WEEK, PART I,” “RAIDING ONE DAY A WEEK IS AWESOME, PII…” We killed H Ultrax the other day, too, which puts us at 2/8 heroic at an execeedingly leisurely pace, but then we killed Ultra the first night we even tried it. It’s nice to kill heroic bosses while not caring when we did it, or stressing out about wiping for hours if we don’t actually feel like doing it. It works for us. What’s working for you? Or what isn’t? I’m feeling chatty today, so feel free to let loose if you just need an ear. Have some tea.

The New Guild Order: Why Your Guild Tag Matters Less All The Time

It’s been quiet around here because generally things with me have been status quo. I raid with BT once per week on our “new” casual schedule, and enjoy it a great deal. I play WoW on the other days when I feel like it, but otherwise all of my management responsibilities have been greatly reduced. I don’t have to stress out about performance or progression because we aren’t pushing for it like we used to. I hope the rest of the guild doesn’t mind, but if anyone does mind they haven’t mentioned it to me! On the contrary, the past month has seen an explosion of guild activities, more than we ever had before outside of raiding. There was a brief lull after we slowed our pace, and then all of those free raid days began to fill up with other activities organized by other people. There’s an arena team that runs Tuesdays, people run BGs together a few times a week. I started a Firelands run on Saturdays which is a whole entry unto itself, and Fsob has been organizing what he dubbed “MMLA” runs (you heard it here first, people). That is: Mounts, Mogging, Legendary and Achievement runs. Because Real ID now allows for grouping up to do old content, we’re no longer limited by the number of people available to us.

These runs started off small – a concentrated group of BT people and a few friends doing Sunwell, Black Temple, etc. But the changes to Real ID have allowed it to explode into almost an entire group of people running Ulduar 25 for achievements, a shot at Mimiron’s Head, transmogging gear, and meta-achievement drakes. A few people even brought characters locked at level 80 because they need the gear to eventually do a Herald of the Titans run. I was thinking about something as we were doing Ulduar last night, hanging out on Mumble and “meeting” some of the people I’ve known via Twitter for a long time. Business Time’s footprint is small – I mean, we are a small guild, kept that way intentionally. We have maybe twenty members, tops, at any given time. (Probably less). But our reach is wide. Through Twitter networking, blogging, and runs like Fsob’s run, we interact with a great many more people than our small guild size would seem to suggest. The fact is, the guild we are in almost doesn’t even matter anymore, and will come to matter even less after Battle Tags are implemented.

Think about it. Via Real ID, I have been running Firelands with a holy paladin from Apotheosis for a month now. We were friends before, but now we also raid together. Likewise, the guild leader of Waypoint on Medivh has been running with us each Saturday. Last Saturday we brought Tikari (also of Apotheosis). Now of course, Nowell and Tikari are still members of Apotheosis, and Karanina is the guild leader of Waypoint. But what are they to me, and what is BT to them? It’s not exactly nothing. You might call them “friends of the guild.” If they wanted to make an alt and hang out in BT, I would absolutely say yes. The bonds of friendship online, in a game like Warcraft, are forged through three things: communication (via text), communication (via the spoken word) and shared experiences. I’ve been raiding and talking to all of these people once a week for a month now. I raid with my guild once a week. So how do the two groups differ?

I think in many ways, they don’t. The most important and key way, obviously, is progression raiding. Apotheosis is raiding hard-mode content with a group of 25 people. Their policies and involvement may differ considerably from Business Time’s. But in the space that we intersect, we get along famously. I also cannot overstate that this is absolutely the best thing that could possibly happen for guilds of any size or goal. Guilds have typically been (largely) insular operations. You have your own guild chat, you have your guild events, you may sometimes invite “outsiders” along but generally it’s all about what happens within a guild. Thanks to the new connectivity between guilds, this mentality has been exploded. Small guilds (such as ours) can tap into a much larger resource of players. The challenge to keep your guild engaged and interested has just been greatly reduced! It used to be that I worried if I wasn’t online every day, or I worried if we didn’t have enough events being planned outside of raiding that people would get bored, or stop logging in, or even leave. I imagine that other guild leaders may have the same fears. It’s tough to maintain a community of people when everyone has commitments outside of playing a video game. Especially in smaller guilds players can be like ships passing each other in the night – never even seeing another soul online for hours at a time. That may still be a true, but an influx of organized activity that members can participate in keeps people happy and engaged. As far as I’m concerned, there is no downside to this at all. I get to meet and raid with friends that might not necessarily share the same progression raiding goals as I do, and we don’t have to be in the same guild, but we still have a good time!

It also means opportunity for everyone involved. Cross-pollination of guilds widens the community, and bridges the gulf that’s always existed between isolated guild communities without impacting the singular goals of the guilds themselves. Thanks to the contribution of these folks, I am making progress towards building a Dragonwrath. Yes, I decided to go ahead and get it done, no matter what it took. That wouldn’t be possible without the help of these friends. We usually have a critical mass of BT players each week, but are just 2-3 people short of a “guild” run. To me, it’s been pretty amazing. We’ve been doing heroic modes and having a blast. I think everyone has fun. (Although ask them how they feel in a few months…) On the flip-side, Val’anyr shards have been going to Jasyla in the Ulduar 25 runs. Somehow it seems “right” to me that our guild members can help her build a legendary while some of her guild members are helping me build one, too. I’m not a member of Apotheosis, and they aren’t members of Business Time, but as I said – we aren’t nothing to each other, either.

Meantime, I haven’t even touched on the raiding communities that have sprung up as a result of this Real ID change – people who want to make cross-server raiding their primary game activity! The guild that you are in at that point matters even less, because there is not likely to be a “central” guild organizing an event, rather it’s an individual bringing together raiders from all over. It’s radical to suggest that you might not even need a guild to enjoy raiding content, but with Looking For Raid and cross-server raiding, that has very quickly become our reality.

So where do we go from here? Let’s break down even more barriers. I wish I could group with people from the EU. I wish I could raid with my cross-faction friends. Let me invite friends from other servers via the in-game calendar! Consolidate these things so I am spending more time in your game. Let me offer guild repairs for everyone in my raid, the same way I can drop a feast and provide flasks for them. The final one, I’m a bit more trepidatious about: the ability for Real ID groups to join raids for current content. If that one becomes a reality, your guild tag really might cease to matter in a way that’s dangerous for guilds, although it might also really help to be able to fill a raid last-minute with a friend. The structure of guild and group play in WoW has been fundamentally altered. I’m not quite sure where it’s heading, or where Blizzard will draw the line, but for the time being I am pretty happy about it. The recently announced Scroll of Resurrection plays into this too. Characters and guilds and play are ultimately malleable at this time. It’s as easy as snapping their fingers for Blizzard to create a level 80 character, to race/faction change a character, and send them to whatever server they want. All of this is accomplished usually in a matter of minutes – I know, because I’ve poured money in that direction before. Now that the floodgates have been opened to allow us to play together, I predict that people won’t be content to stop there. We’ll probably see current content Real ID raiding, guild raiding coalitions, possibly even guild mergers. (It’s possible to server transfer a guild now, too!) More and more, we’re going to be playing together however much we want to be.

So how about you? How have the Real ID changes impacted your gameplay? What do you think about the “new” social reality of World of Warcraft?

Business Time, Hard Modes, and the “C” Word

I thought that it started when our most recent tank recruit went missing. Voss pointed out that actually, it started when our DK tank stopped raiding about a year ago, and thereafter followed a cascade of turnover such as we’d never tackled before. Constant recruiting is wearing on a team, and the subsequent struggle as new players joined and the recruitment pool shallowed have made this a fairly hellish year for one small tens guild. Obviously, I can’t claim to speak for all guilds, and never have. I’m sure many guilds have had great years, and I’m happy for you. But not in this post, because this post is all about me, and my guild.

Players dropped out one by one, with expressions of regret. They weren’t leaving for greener pastures, they were just leaving. “Tired of raiding,” “Not really feeling it,” “Would rather be doing something else.” I used to say to Voss jokingly, “We’ll stop recruiting if we lose x number of players at a time, or we’ll stop recruiting if we lose x percentage of our original team.” (I never followed through on that, by the way). Each time we lost someone, I’d hit the forums and WoW Lemmings. I’d refresh tirelessly throughout the day in-between work I was doing. I’d write personalized messages to convince people that BT was the guild they wanted to be in. For the most part, it worked. But it was like a full-time job. I spoke to potential applicants, fielded questions, did my best marketing pitch. I was always positive about the guild, and always happy to bring people to it, because I believed in the small community we’d made and wanted people to join it.

Meantime, our progression started slipping. From a One-Light and a Tribute to Insanity to an H LK guild we slipped – to a 7/13 H guild, then a post-nerf 6/7 H guild, and finally, in this tier, a 0/8 H guild. Vosskah was right – the missing tank was only the last straw in an uphill battle I feel I’ve been waging all year, a struggle to stay above water.

I’d committed to raiding Dragon Soul despite a deep tiredness that was underscored by the loss of my Grandfather at the end of November. It caused me to question many things personally – was I spending too much time on what is, ultimately, a video game? Did I want this to be such a major feature of my life? Could I reinvest my energy in another area? Who would I be if I wasn’t the guild leader of Business Time? How central was it to my identity? And more importantly, to me, how could I let everyone down like that?

It was a question that pushed me to start out in Dragon Soul even though I was tired, even though I knew I wasn’t doing my best as guild leader any more. I wasn’t logging in as often as I should, I wasn’t pursuing applicants as aggressively as I should. I wasn’t keeping up with the standards I had set for myself, and when our tank failed to show up for last Wednesday’s raid, I had a sinking feeling. A day went by with no word from him, two days. We still hadn’t heard, and I realized as the weekend loomed, two facts:

He wasn’t coming back.

I didn’t have the heart to replace him.

In a moment, just like that, I was done. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, as if a lethargy had settled over me. I knew that if that’s how I felt, I had to come clean to the guild and tell them exactly how I felt. So I did, in an epic post that will remain for BT’s eyes only. I talked about our struggles, I talked about how damn proud I was of them, and more than anything I told them how sorry I was that I just didn’t have any more left to give. I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, and I couldn’t even clearly articulate what had driven me to this point. I knew that by posting it, I was acknowledging the possibility that the guild would disband, or at least dissipate. It was a hard realization, but it was a choice between the dissolution of the guild and the continuing impact on my personal life and I think, my health. Please note (because guildies do read) that I have to write this for myself, to get it all off my chest and to sort through it, and none of it is meant as an accusation or a criticism of the folks in BT. Of course they aren’t perfect, and neither am I (duh) but really, there’s no hindsight ‘if only this’ or ‘if only that.’ Burnout happens. I think that ‘victims’ of burnout are probably often to blame because they failed to delegate properly, or even to give warning signs that they were feeling that way. That is absolutely my failing. I’m a firm believer that strong leadership doesn’t show weakness because as soon as you show signs of faltering, the entire team begins to doubt. In this case, I did us all a disservice because there was little warning. I posted that I needed some help, around the end of November, and then the beginning of January I was saying: I need to not be guild leader.

I blithely pretended that our slow progression through heroics didn’t frustrate me. Of course it did, it frustrated all of us. What we were selling (a hard mode progression guild) wasn’t matching up with the reality: a guild that did hard modes but not all of them, and lately, a guild increasingly struggling with hard modes. Our new tank was very green and hadn’t done hard mode raiding at all. It was evident that he would have to learn, even before he disappeared. Underscoring all of it, I felt, was a sense of ennui.

Forums that used to be hopping with activity in the strategy threads slowly dwindled to very little discussion. Mumble grew silent on progression nights. Voss admitted to me that he didn’t have the interest in hard modes that he’d once had, and I had to admit I felt the same. Was Business Time doing hard modes because we liked to do them, or were we trying to do them because they were what we’d always done? I asked myself this and many other questions. In the wake of my massive forum post, a few guildies spoke up. They wanted to have a meeting so that we could talk about what I’d said, and what the potential outcome might be.

I prepared for the meeting with open eyes: There were three potential outcomes to this kind of guild shakeup.

1) Someone could step forward and assume leadership of the guild, with the realization that it would take a lot of time and work and recruiting. With Vosskah and I ceasing raiding, at the least, they’d need two new tanks and another DPS and a healer who’d also declared his intent to slow raiding.

2) I considered this a compromise between the two options; Business Time could decide to go casual, scale back our raiding operations significantly, and no longer attempt hard mode progression.

3) We could cease all raiding completely (effectively an end to the guild).

Option two was my favourite, and I even admitted that in light of the reduced requirements of option two, I would be willing to remain guild leader. We wouldn’t really recruit except friends and social members if folks had anyone they wanted to bring aboard. Every single guild member attended the meeting, and every single guild member voted for option two. (I am not so secretly pleased that, like a true DPS, I tricked my guild into spamming “two.” That might only be funny to me.)

So from there we had to figure out just what shape option two would take. Would we raid on the same day? For the time being we’ve agreed to make it a variable day based on availability each week, as well as tracking who has to sit (because we still have a roster of thirteen) so that nobody has to sit unfairly. This week we’re raiding Monday, and I’ll admit, it feels completely weird to be writing this on a Wednesday. Wednesday is Raid Day. All night I’ve been wandering around a bit lost, cooking supper at a leisurely pace, browsing the internet, chatting with Voss, and letting it sink in. For two years, we were raiding any two to three days of Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. He’d come home, we’d cook supper hurriedly (or I’d have it ready beforehand) and we’d race to be online a half hour before raid time. Even on a night when we were on standby, we’d often check in to make sure we weren’t needed. We’d check the forums for any “I’m not going to be able to make it” messages. We’d prepare the raid roster, although in recent weeks that task has been assumed by another officer. We’d talk about the roster and any difficulties. Every day may as well have been an “officer meeting.” I don’t feel at liberty to go into Voss’ personal reasons, but we were both exhausted.

What made it even harder though, was that we were tired of the raiding, not the people we were raiding with. I think many hobbies do have an expiry or a limited time on them. Gaming in general is a life-long hobby for me. Even WoW itself I have played for almost four years now. I couldn’t turn my back on the raiding without feeling that I was turning my back on ‘my guys.’ So to say I was absolutely astonished at the guild meeting is putting it mildly. I steeled myself to this decision. I wrote the post. I sat there crying for five minutes while my mouse button hovered over the “submit” button, feeling like I was pulling the trigger on something I loved, that had been a huge part of my life for two years.

I was pretty shocked when I decided to turn away from my guild, and they wouldn’t let me.

We went down the list of people, giving each a chance to talk about their feelings and goals. Many admitted that their life circumstances had changed since we first started raiding. Their enthusiasm for hard mode content had waned, their time available to play the game had been reduced, but they still loved playing with all of us. “I love you guys,” our rogue declared.

“You’re going to make me CRY,” I admonished them all. (Cry AGAIN, that is).

“Yeah, we actually agreed to do that beforehand, it was an e-mail FWD titled, ‘Let’s see if we can make her cry.'”

*pause*

“Voss was in on it.”

I don’t want to get into my feelings about hard modes in general, encounter design, or why I think Ulduar was still the best raid I’ve ever done. Perhaps that’s for another post, and anyway, that strays into “maligning the way other people play” territory. I still respect hard mode raiders, it just took a great loss and a potential second loss to make me realize that I’m no longer one of them. I don’t have the drive to succeed at that level of content that I once did, and you know what? For the time being, I’m okay with that. Ironically, considering my last post, we had just as much fun messing around in LFR last week when our tank didn’t show up. We like the time spent raiding together, and that’s not dependent on the content we’re doing.

All of this to say: I’m still a guild leader. I’m now the guild leader of a one-night-a-week, social and casual raiding guild. It feels a bit odd, but I’m sure it will grow comfortable over time. I don’t know what the future will bring – there may come a time when commitments or other interests drag people away from the game altogether. But as I told Business Time at our guild meeting, even if they quit to play Diablo III: Battle.net allows us to play that together. Those who are playing SWTOR have made characters in our little sister guild. I have a lot of the guys on Steam. If I’m playing any multi-player game, I want to be doing it with them. If that’s what I take away from this game the day the servers go dark – friends that transcend any particular game, any specific pixels – that’s more fortune than any person could ask for. I’m humbled, I’m proud, and as of this week – I’m also casual. It feels good.

Doesn’t Go To Eleven: One Guild’s Tens Experience Post-Cataclysm

Our latest stint of recruitment unfortunately coincided with me being away for family concerns, so recruiting feels like it’s taking a little longer than usual. I’ve written about recruiting being hard this expansion before (harder than I’ve ever seen) but I’ve been thinking about this a great deal and I’ve started to isolate some specific factors. It’s pretty interesting, actually. In a strange way, we’ve contributed to making things difficult for ourselves.

Special Snowflakes

Back when we were a “strict” ten hardmode guild, there weren’t that many out there. Kae over at Dreambound was my ‘strict ten’ buddy in the blogosphere, and perhaps there were others but I didn’t know about them. Some people expressed confusion about the strict ten ethos – why deliberately avoid acquiring gear that would make your encounters easier? For us, strict ten was a specific challenge. Hardmode tens encounters were often overtuned or designed in such a way that they were afterthoughts to the 25-man version, or ham-handed adaptations. Doing the heroic Lich King encounter while wearing tens gear meant something. It took ages for anyone in the world to even do it, and then it took longer for more groups to follow. (In the interests of full disclosure, we defeated H LK following patch 4.0, so it was easier than it was for people who did it prior, definitely. But it was still an achievement).

Strict tens guilds faced challenges in many ways. Recruiting was difficult because you were seeking players that wanted to do hardmodes and had the ability and will for them, but many such players gravitated towards 25s and considered tens the more ‘casual’ raid size. That was a hurdle we managed to overcome by appealing to that niche player – burnt out 25s raiders who wanted a smaller format, or people who were just a bit offbeat but still didn’t want to waste their time. A “serious” tens raiding guild seemed like a contradiction in terms to many, but we managed to bring in players despite that. Some of them were those seeking 25s that I managed to convince, others were those who wanted a tens environment on their own, and we built something we could all be proud of.

Having secured a roster, we faced other challenges – the perception in the community still being that tens wasn’t “real” raiding. 25s would farm our instances for gear (things like the trinket from H Gunship 10) all the while laughing at how easy tens were. But naturally, they had a significant gear advantage as they did this. This all changed with the adjustment to raid lockouts, something that I know a lot of 25s players weren’t happy about. Rather than doing “this AND this,” suddenly it became an either or choice. You were either raiding tens, or you were raiding 25s.

But ICC was hard on people, and many players in our guild teetered on the edge of burnout as Cataclysm loomed. Overall, we were ecstatic with the announced changes – shared raid lockouts meant that tens were a viable progression track and not just a place where 25s players went for an alt run or to let their hair down on the weekend. The announced changes to gear distribution in Cataclysm were amazing. We’d no longer be at a gear disadvantage, which meant that there would be less reason for people to turn up their noses at tens! Balance would be less of an issue (they could balance around existing gear because it’d be the only gear there was). It was like a tens raider’s wildest dream! I remember being giddy and feeling like our efforts as a strict ten had finally paid off. We’d stubbornly insisted on treating tens as the viable progression path we felt they were, and finally Blizzard was acknowledging it, too.

Be Careful What You Wish For

In a twist that strikes me as truly ironic, though, what was our wildest dream has also turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. I feel like I am Hipster Guild Leader. “Hipster GL knew about ten-person raids before, but you probably haven’t heard of them.” In Cataclysm, everyone knew that tens would be getting the same loot. They’d even be eligible to make legendaries (something that hadn’t been true ever before). They already shared a singular lockout with 25s, and a raiding populace burnt out after six months of ICC flocked to ten mans in droves. I remember hearing about 25s guilds splintering into several groups, or forming up an “elite” team and leaving their other members in the dust. Ten man hard mode guilds sprung up like weeds, and suddenly our pretty small pond of tens raiding guilds was flooded. Ten person raiding went mainstream.

What did this mean for a hardmode tens guild that had been raiding tens since April 2009? It meant that suddenly there was a whole lot of competition. We went from being this odd little guild of people with the funny notion about tens to being one in a crowd of tens guilds – a single fish in a vast school of swimmers. Our server now has only tens progression guilds. All of the 25s guilds either folded, splintered, or downsized. The raiding world saw tens and saw that they were good. If tens raiding was our little indie band, suddenly we were hearing it on the radio twenty times a day. We were a pop hit.

We no longer had our elite strict ten ranking to use as a recruitment tool. At the height of our achievements, we were ranked tenth in the US (among strict ten guilds) during ICC. This was an awesome way to attract the kinds of players that we wanted. That method of recruitment was gone. I removed the ranking from our recruitment ad, because it’s not impressive anymore. We’re not in the top ten, or even the top hundred. There are thousands of guilds doing just what we do. The strict ten ranking was an odd thing that has engendered more than one debate over the past few years. The strict ten designation was very restrictive; it operated by counting the number of people in your guild who’d achieved a particular kill (25M Marrowgar, for ICC). Then it set an arbitrary limit, e.g. you could have seven people in your entire guild who’d downed 25M Marrowgar, but any more would disqualify you from being a strict ten guild. This meant that some people’s alts couldn’t join the guild. We maintained this level of monitoring for a long while, because it WAS one of our strongest recruitment tools. We had a big discussion in the guild about keeping it or letting it go, and we decided to ultimately drop the ranking (although we didn’t actually obtain any additional gear for our H LK kill so I still consider it pretty strict. Maybe strict-ish).

Comparisons are Odious

The problem for me all along, I’m realizing, was a shift in how and why we considered our rankings. Were they a tool we maintained for recruitment? Or perhaps did we fall a little bit in love with that number, and that spot? I can’t use our ranking as a recruitment tool anymore. So why was I checking it all the time? Also, what is our strongest selling point in a market that is 1) shrinking all the time, and 2) has an abundance of choices to buy what we’re ‘selling’?

It’s no secret to my friends and guildies that I am pretty hard on myself a lot of the time. Each time we slipped down a rank or failed to achieve a kill, it felt like a personal failure of mine. Why was I unable to keep those guildies from losing interest in the game? Why couldn’t I retain these members who’d been with us since ICC? Why didn’t we get that kill? Why didn’t we achieve this within a “reasonable time frame” (as measured by other guilds’ accomplishments?)

The big problem for me personally is a saturation of information. Twitter and blogs allow us to be connected to fellow players more than ever before. Heck, I have Twitter on all day long and when I’m not home I have it on my phone. Thus I’m in a position to see messages come rolling in like, “Just killed x boss,” or “Finished the entire raid!” and anything less than that feels like a personal failure. I actually think the raiding community is a lot smaller than we think it is. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of “coincidences” in the form of raiders joining our guild who used to raid together, or people leaving to join another guild that someone else is in who I am personally acquainted with. I think it’s more than just coincidence, it’s the fact that our pond is actually a lot smaller than we think it is. Which is part of the “too much information” syndrome.

For me, it’s a strange process. I have to consciously examine the facts of the guild at another point in time: We had very little turnover for a year. Our roster was stable. We had much less competition. We also used to raid four nights. A stable roster meant no readjustment period with new people coming in. It meant most people had experience with the same fights. We knew we were at a gear disadvantage, and perhaps that had a psychological impact as well. When we needed to recruit, we could point to our GuildOx ranking as a way of saying, “Look, we have credibility.” We were doing hard mode progression raiding with an adult roster of friends and dedicated raiders.

Then I have to consider the facts of the guild as it stands: We’ve had a ridiculous amount of turnover (in my mind) since Cataclysm started. We lost almost all of our healers, several tanks, and have had a veritable revolving door of DPS. But we only lost them to general disinterest in WoW, not to our guild personally. We downsized to three raid nights at the end of Wrath, so we have one less night and three fewer hours than we used to. Our roster raids less overall, and thus doesn’t master fights as quickly as they once did. Our old biggest selling point (GuildOx ranking) is no longer applicable. I think one of the biggest things we have to recommend us is that we are a stable guild (despite roster turnover) and have been so for going on three years. We still are doing hard mode progression raiding with an adult roster of friends and dedicated raiders.

Just Socks

At the end of the day, I have to recognize that Business Time – like any group of people – has changed over the years, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ve all gotten a bit older, and/or recruited people who are older. We have jobs, girlfriends, wives, family obligations, children. We adjusted our raid nights to reflect that, and it’s impossible to pretend that wouldn’t have an impact. I should note, this isn’t an invitation to tell me all about how YOUR guild does xyz in x number of hours. I’m happy for you, but I’m talking about my guild, and the expectations or achievements of one guild can’t be applied to another. There are no rankings for things like dedication, maturity, longevity, and the ability to tease Voss. For the record, as far as I’m concerned we rank pretty high in these intangibles (especially teasing Voss). We are still dedicated to progression within the time allotted to us, and I think it’s important that we focus on what we’re doing, instead of constantly having one eye on server rankings or Twitter. And yes, I’m mostly directing that statement at myself. I took GuildOx off my quickbar bookmarks. Not because I don’t care if my guild does well (I do) but because I want to focus on what we’re doing. I think I’ve let myself be distracted by things that are of lesser importance, and that I need to focus on one boss at a time instead of always bemoaning what we didn’t do. We earned those purple birds last tier, we have a blast raiding three nights a week together. I am damn proud of what my guild does, that it’s managed to stay together and reasonably stable for all of this time – that even though we have to search really hard sometimes, we can always find the right people that want to be part of BT with us. This is your Business Time. There are many like it, but this one’s yours. (It’s not a Booterang, although that would make kind of an awesome guild name).

Finally, an entirely shameless plug, we ARE still recruiting and the link above will take you to our post. We’d like a shadowpriest or moonkin, ideally, with a working resto off-spec. We did find a paladin tank so we’re halfway to our recruitment goal!

Last but not least, tell me about your experiences this expansion. Has your recruitment gotten harder? Did you change raid sizes? Are you happy with the change?

Mages, Don’t Let Your Brethren Grow Up To Be Sheep

This isn’t a problem specific to mages. As new patches hit, abilities, damage and specs are tweaked. Gear scales, and different encounters favour different classes or types of damage or roles. Shadow priest DPS is the new hotness. Shadowpriest DPS is too low. Mages are too low, buff mages (yes, always!) And it’s true – the game isn’t always perfectly balanced. We have so many tools to track this in-game and out-of-game. Damage meters let us know where we are. Things like Spec Score analyze all available World of Logs parses, and they can paint a grim picture. But there’s also a story they aren’t telling.

Imagine this.

1. Joe plays a mage! He enjoys playing his mage. He hits 85 and runs dungeons as a frost mage to get some gear from heroics and have fun. Joe’s friends tell him that Frost is “no good,” and he should spec Fire or Arcane instead. Joe takes his friends’ advice and becomes an Arcane mage. He begins to raid with his friends and does well! Everyone tells him, “See, we told you, frost mages are no good.”(He had really poor gear when he first started out anyway, so who is to say how he would have done as a frost mage in 5-mans?)

2. Joe plays a mage! He leveled up as Frost and he really enjoys it, but when he wants to get into raiding he starts reading some different sources. Elitist Jerks and all mage sources he can find say that Arcane is the top spec, so reluctantly he gives up on Frost. After all, Frost mages don’t even appear on the list of ranked DPS specs! Joe wants to do well.

The problem with both of these scenarios is that they keep Frost mages out of the pool of Mage specs being considered for evaluation at all. It’s not even a question of “Is Frost good relative to the other specs,” or “Is Frost viable?” because all of the info is peer pressure, hearsay, or purely anecdotal. Fewer (or no) raiding frost mages lowers the sample size. Let’s say in a fictional world, there are one hundred mages. 90 of the mages play Arcane, 9 play Fire, and only one plays Frost. The “highest ranked” DPS spec is always going to be the Arcane mages, simply because there’s a greater chance that more skilled players will be playing Arcane. The lone Frost mage could be an average player, or he could be awesome, but his representation is so low that nobody even considers him. (I’m ignoring the fire mages for the moment).

This isn’t to say that some specs don’t do better than others. Simcraft and other tools are able to math out these things to ‘prove’ superiority of one spec over another (in an ideal situation with the best buffs, gear, and choosing to ignore movement or player error). I haven’t done theorycraft for mages in awhile, so take this with a grain of salt. In those ideal conditions, given equally skilled players, Arcane is probably ahead. It scales so incredibly well with gear. But by how much of a percentage is it ahead of an equally geared Frost mage? Basically, you have a playerbase that looks and says, “Well, arcane is whatever percentage ahead, so I guess Fire and Frost are bad.” No! Blizzard has said themselves that PvE Frost is much more viable than we give it credit for. The real struggle here is against player stigma and popularity.

The fact is, Arcane is an easier spec to play than Frost. It is. It has a much higher margin for error. I’m going to avoid the “two-button” joke because that’s not what I’m saying. The nuances of Arcane aren’t necessarily easy, mana and Mastery management takes forethought, planning and understanding, but by and large – an average Arcane mage can still do pretty well for him or herself without knowing all the nuances of the spec. Not so the Frost mage, who needs to carefully manage a series of procs and buffs to maximize damage. Is one “easier” or “harder?” It’s not really my place to say, but they require different things. More importantly, playing Frost requires a willingness to overcome a massive and pervasive prejudice that I’ve been hearing pretty much since I started playing this game.

Frost mages are for PvP and are bad for PvE. 

The problem with this statement is that it’s completely false. Yes, at one time it was true. Deep Freeze didn’t used to be usable on immune targets (read: bosses). Many Frost changes have been rolled out over the years with intent to make them completely PvE viable. Blizzard themselves has said that through their own internal testing, they are absolutely viable in PvE.

I didn’t need Blizzard’s internal testing, because I raid with an amazing Frost mage. He could frost any mage up one side and down the other, any time, any day. I am confident in saying that he is the best mage I have ever played with, and he plays Frost. Back in Wrath, he raided for the last part of Wrath entirely as Arcane because it was clearly superior at the time. (He also hated it, which is neither here nor there). He relegated his love for Frost to a secondary mage alt that would come on ICC runs with us (and I’m pretty sure he still did top DPS in those alt runs). With the changes to Frost that came with Cataclysm, he went Frost full-time. As I’ve said, he is consistently our highest DPS. Some might say, “lol get better DPS noobs if ur Frost mage is highest you are all BADS!”

Well, he’s too polite to say it, so I’m going to say it for him: Everyone who knocks on someone for playing a spec that they are too myopic to recognize is a strong spec can go to hell. This includes all the “hurr hurr” types that you meet in 5-mans who start ribbing on you before they’ve even seen you play, just because you have a water elemental by your side. It especially includes the mages who happened to be in an ICC 25 run the other week along with our mage.

It’s actually a pretty ludicrous scenario, when you think about it. Five mages were there – four of whom were Arcane, naturally – and the mage ‘in charge’ starts handing out Focus Magic assignments, which I imagine is something like a self-congratulatory circle. “You FM her, she’ll FM you, I’ll FM him and he’ll FM me,” he said, “And Fsob, you need to learn how to spec your mage.”

I wasn’t here for this personally, which is probably good because my head would’ve exploded on the spot. Again, because he’s classy, he didn’t say anything beyond a simple sad faced emoticon. I would’ve had a lot more to say to this guy, especially after Fsob beat ALL of their DPS on the heroic Lich King fight. This is what I wish I could have said.

Just because someone chooses to play an “unpopular” spec doesn’t make them wrong. It doesn’t make them bad. It’s bad enough that other people like to shit on individuals playing an uncommon spec without mages jumping on board to do it too. You’re not in Vodka. The day that we wipe because Fsob’s DPS is too low is a day I will eat my hat, and he could out DPS you any day of the week.

And he did! (Colour me unsurprised). Being someone who thinks for yourself isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Being someone who refuses to bow to the spec of the month, or play something because that’s what everyone says they should do is someone you should admire, not give a hard time. If Frost were truly not viable in PvE content, I’m confident that Fsob wouldn’t play it. He, too, wants what is best for the team as well as himself. But I’m happy that he does, because I know it’s his favourite spec.

You can take this and apply it to any of the “unpopular” DPS specs, or any class or spec at all that people say “isn’t worth playing.” Right now, for me that’s Fire. I went to the Fire EJ page and it basically says “Nobody is interested in this spec right now.” Fire is receiving massive buffs on the PTR so I know that Blizzard is aware that Fire mages are behind. They don’t usually leave something unbalanced for too long, and I have faith in them. I have the good fortune to be playing a class that usually has three viable PvE specs, which is not something every class can say. It makes me happy. I’m playing Arcane right now because we don’t need two Frost mages, Fire is a bit hurting, and I don’t actually mind Arcane. I am not knocking on Arcane mages, either. If you love playing Arcane, more power to you! Keep on keeping on. Just please don’t be the kind of Arcane mage who is going to put on some kind of superiority dance because you happen to run into someone who has their Squirtle by their side and is freezing things in place. Worry about your own game. More importantly, play what you want to play unless it truly matters. I said Fire is “a bit behind,” which for my purposes (heroic raiding) is a bit too far. That doesn’t mean you “can’t” be a Fire mage either. It’s up to you to judge the requirements of your group. Buffs for Fire are coming soon. Meantime, remember: we turn people into sheep, we don’t seek to emulate them. Millions of Arcane mages CAN be wrong, if they take their spec’s numerical superiority as an excuse to try and bring other people down. The “best” spec is all relative, and I think the best spec for a mage to be is whatever he or she wants.

p.s. There are resources out there for those of you who’d like to take a walk on the Frosty side. You can also always ask a question here; if I don’t know the answer I have access to a Frost mage who definitely will, for either PvE or PvP.

How To Get Into That Heroic Raiding Guild You’ve Always Wanted

This was the first time I ever saw Algalon's room. I have taken so many screenshots of it, it may be my favourite place in the game, period.

On Friday night, I joined a few guildies in a pug 25M run that was meant to be an ICC 25 run but turned into an Ulduar 25 run. (It’s a long story that’s boring, trust me, and not really essential to the rest of this post). So we’re in Ulduar 25, ripping it up, despite tremendous amounts of general confusion. I don’t usually join these kinds of runs simply because my tolerance for pug shenanigans on a grand scale is fairly low and I’m wont to rage, but I’ve been feeling the achivement bug lately. For reasons that will become clear in a few lines, when I DO join these types of runs I don’t usually talk in Vent/Mumble. I just join, do my thing, and type in raid chat.

Because our raid leader was getting progressively distressed about the fact that someone had opened Algalon’s door, I felt compelled to speak up briefly in Mumble just to say, “The timer doesn’t start until you actually engage him for the first time, so we’re fine.” No problem, right? Well, I was reminded about why I don’t usually talk when immediately one of the rogues said in /say:

“OMG! WAS THAT A GIRL? :O :O”

Those of us in BT had fun mocking him in guild chat (“I hear those do exist in the wild,”) but of course I couldn’t resist and so I replied in say, “OMG WHERE!?”

So he whispers to me (because I’m the only one who deigned to reply to him) and says, “Was that you???”

I sit for thirty seconds or so, pondering possible answers. I could lie (just to get rid of him) and say that it wasn’t. I could say that it was and potentially risk whatever that will unleash. The important thing to me is – I honestly don’t care what he says or does, and I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I don’t make a big deal of “being a woman” playing video games. I know so many bloggers, folks on the Twitter community, etc. that are amazing female gamers and it’s not even an issue to me. There are tons of us, aren’t there? But I suppose in some scenarios we’re still a bit rare, yet I won’t go out of my way to emphasize my womanliness, because just as it doesn’t matter whether the person at the other keyboard is a man or a woman, why would they care that I am?

Except sometimes they do. I reply to the rogue with a simple, “Yep.”

He came back with something I didn’t expect.

“I don’t mean to imply that girls can’t raid,” he says, “But how did you get into a heroic raiding guild?”

Whew. It’s a good thing he didn’t mean to imply that girls can’t raid or anything, because the way those two statements were linked I might have gotten the wrong idea there! Anyway, the implication to me, is pretty clear. How did you (a woman) get into such a guild (when everyone knows women can’t raid) when I (possessed of appropriate chromosomes and sex organs) have been unable to find and join such a guild?

Any number of snarky answers went through my head, but I decided to just keep it simple (and blow his mind at the same time).

“How did I get in?” I wrote back. “It’s my guild.”

“:O :O” (that’s the visual representation of someone’s mind being blown, swiftly followed by mine exploding in return as he wrote…) “Do you have any room?!”

Go ahead and guess my answer! (A polite “No,” actually. I try to keep it polite. Most of the time).

You might think I started this entry so I could write about sexism, stereotyping, and ill-mannered pugs, but truthfully I didn’t. I’m not upset about what the guy said, it’s just eyerolling (and I thought you’d find it funny). I’d actually like to write about what he said in a completely serious way. How did I get into a heroic raiding guild? Or on a related manner, how can anyone get into a heroic raiding guild if that’s their goal?

Voss and I actually started out on the Moon Guard server, because when we first started playing I was especially interested in the roleplaying aspect of the game. I’d taken part in text-based roleplaying previously, and the two of us had actually met on a roleplaying, private-run Shard of Ultima Online. I was interested. We played on MG for about a year and a half, and I still have really fond memories of that time. Our experience is in no way meant to illustrate RP servers in general, but towards the end of our time there we were having trouble with raiding. (That is to say, I’m not saying that folks on RP servers can’t or don’t raid, because obviously they do). But for us, we were stymied by schedules and timezones. Many of the raiders in the group we’d organized were in the UK, and could only raid on Saturday afternoons/evenings. One day a week was not a lot of raiding, and it was hard to always commit our Saturday to this. I’m sure it was tough for them too.

To make a long story short, we decided to move on and find a guild that could give us the kind of raiding we longed to see. We wanted to clear entire instances (at the time, we’d killed Hodir in Ulduar but couldn’t get any further without extending our lockout). We wanted to see what heroic modes were all about. We’d been raiding through Kara, ZA, and had cleared all of the Wrath content up until that point but not through Ulduar. ToC had been out for some time and we hadn’t set foot in it. I started browsing through the recruitment forums and I saw an ad for the guild Business Time. It was a ten-person guild (a requirement) that focused on strict ten, hard-mode progression. They were working on hardmode Ulduar (Firefighter!) They needed a mage. I should preface this by saying that I was raiding Ulduar as a resto druid and was fed up of healing. There wasn’t anyone in our raid group who was really interested in healing full-time, so every week we’d find a pug healer, with mixed results. Two-healing Ulduar was a challenge. Two-healing Ulduar with an unknown pug quantity was even more stressful. Without an actual healing “team” I felt very adrift and found raiding to be stressful. I was starting to have more migraines and regular headaches, and realized I’d gone through the better part of a bottle of Advil in a really short amount of time. This was the impetus that pushed us to consider finding another guild and transferring away from all we’d known up until that point. The schedule fit. The approach fit. The name was a Flight of the Conchords joke that cracked me up.

And Business Time needed a mage. I wanted to be a mage. I’d mostly raided in Wrath as a priest and then a druid because healers were always needed. So I applied to BT with my mage, and Voss applied as a fury warrior (because they didn’t need tanks).

I think, at present time, our app would have been a hard sell. Business Time was just getting into hard-modes, so they weren’t yet as stringent in their requirements. (The preceding link is actually an Officers’ Quarters column with a letter written by the former GL. I had read the letter at the time, and secretly wished I could be in a guild like that). I was under geared, and inexperienced with many of the fights they were working on. I was also really freaking out about leaving the server I had known for one and a half years, and moving to a completely unknown server type. But I really really wanted to be a mage again, and I really liked what I had seen of the guild. Heck, I’d read about the guild back in June and then completely forgot!

Business Time talks strategy before Anub'arak. I am too busy making faces and taking pictures in the smoke bombs.

Take full advantage of the point/emblem system to ensure that even if you aren’t raiding, your gear is the best it can possibly be.

Even though Millya hadn’t been my “main” raider, her gear was by no means bad. She had quite a bit of T9 stuff, if I remember correctly (it was purchasable with points from the vendor!) She also had such BoEs as I could find like a Darkmoon card, etc. I was definitely still undergeared compared to the majority of BT raiders, but that meant that once I started raiding it was easy to get gear because nobody needed it. The point wasn’t that you need the best gear to raid, it was that my character showed dedication. Before I applied, I went through my gear with a fine-tooth comb to put all the best gems and enchants on it that I possibly could. No stone was left unturned to ensure I was putting my best face forward. Your gear is the most immediate indicator of your commitment to your character and attention to detail. Don’t miss any enchants or enhancements! Go over and above what you think is “necessary,” because in most guilds the best is an expectation.

Don’t be afraid to leverage your personality.

Business Time took a chance when they recruited Voss and I. We were inexperienced, a bit undergeared, and had no logs to prove our chops. What we DID have was an application that I took great care in writing (and it was long). We each wrote separate portions of the application so they could get a sense of our personalities. And we really clicked in the interview. Despite some misgivings about class balance, only our grumbly shaman voted no to let us in (I like to bug him about this, the truth is I can’t blame him at all, though I’m glad nobody else agreed). They voted to let us in because they liked us. We promised we would research the fights and prove that we had what it took to succeed with a guild like theirs. They took a chance, but really it was fairly win/win on their side. If we hadn’t worked out, it’s our money on the line, and they could’ve just found some other folks. Personality and attitude is something that is magnified in such a small group – if you have exceptional players that are jerks, they’re never going to fit – unless your guild is predominantly a jerk atmosphere. Saying thank you, being friendly and engaged and being fun to talk to are huge points. I think this should go without saying, but don’t be late, either! We’ve had interviewees not even show up, which is pretty much an automatic disqualification unless you have a great, emergency-level reason like being attacked by a bear or a car breakdown.

Do the research to show you’re ready, especially if you’re facing fights you’ve never seen.

Voss likes to remind me that when we first joined BT, I had pages and pages of notes about every boss we were going to be facing. I watched the videos, I jotted quick notes on every salient point to make sure I’d know the mechanics. So it was that on our first night in BT, when I was pulled in to replace a DPS for hardmode Mimiron, I was ready. Sure, I was nervous, but like I said to Voss (cue Rocky music) “These bosses have no ‘normal’ mode. I am going to treat them as if this is just what they do.” And so I did, and it worked for me. Later when we went through and killed Mimiron on normal I was astonished at all the things he didn’t do. I was so used to his soul crushing hardmode version because I refused to even acknowledge that anything else existed.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as long as you’re still seeking answers on your own.

People always say “know your class” as if it’s that easy. What about players that genuinely want to do well but are pretty new? My best advice would be to read everything you can get your hands on. Read Elitist Jerks, read blogs written by people of your class, read threads on the official forums or MMO Champions. Read the class columns at WoW Insider. Talk to people who also play your class if things are unclear or you have further questions. You can’t help but improve in the face of that much information, and as you play more you will fine-tune what you need to know and do. There’s a wealth of available information and support out there for the taking. Take it! Be prepared to answer class specific questions such as “What would you do at xyz” time or “Why did you choose the spec you did?” (Hint: Don’t just say “It’s what EJ said to spec.”) Know why you are doing something and not just what to do. Players who can think on their own and contribute to strat in unorthodox ways are invaluable, and if you are a creative thinker that can really impress a prospective guild.

As proof of this, BT’s other mage was someone I met on Moonrunner who found OUR guild forums and registered there to talk about mages with me. He was in a more social guild at the time and struggling to make his guild care about hard modes. When that guild folded, it was a natural choice for me to talk to the theorycrafting mage who I knew would be a fabulous fit and had thus far only lacked the opportunity to do many hard modes, not the aptitude or the drive.

Be prepared for rejection.

If you’re trying to get into a heroic guild without ever having done heroic raiding before, you’re starting from a disadvantage. It’s not an insurmountable one, and the way recruitment is these days, it could possibly be no obstacle, but you may still be turned down. Don’t let it get you down. Guilds need the best fit for them just like you need the best guild, and if it’s not a good “match” it wouldn’t end well in any case. If you are really impressed with a guild but your application is rejected, you could also see about joining as a social member with intent to raid. Participation in alt runs and 5-mans with the members of the guild could make you an easy choice the next time they have a spot on the roster. Alternatively, seek out another guild. Maybe you were overreaching. I know I used to shake my head regularly over ads that said, “Must be 8/13 heroic or better,” when the player themselves hadn’t done any hard modes at all! Don’t set your expectations of a guild too high. There are many reasons why progression in a tier could be slower (and needing to recruit heavily is definitely one of them). If you join a guild that’s seeking to progress, you could find a great home in that 2/7 heroic guild rather than the 6/7. The distinction is pretty fine, and having you on the team could mean that next tier things progress even better!

I don't wear this title any more, but when we earned it ranks among my top three best WoW moments ever. It was such a struggle to get there, and yes, we did it in tens gear!

It should go without saying that my final advice to anyone seeking to get into heroic raiding is: Don’t whisper the GL and act astonished that she’s able to use her keyboard to kill heroic dragons, because if you do that, you can do all of the other things above and they won’t get you anywhere. Alternately, as a sub-tip to the above, you COULD also marry a mage and then join a guild that really needs a mage and will take you even though they didn’t want a warrior at all. Just ask Voss! We actually just passed our two year anniversary of being in Business Time (October 12th!) and it’s been awesome. I hope it goes without saying that the subtext of this article is tips to help you if you WANT to be in a heroic raiding guild. If you don’t, these tips could be applied to any guild, or applied to “getting into raiding” in general. I don’t think there’s anything in there that won’t serve you well no matter what your aspirations might be!

Feel free to add your own tips, experiences or questions in the comments! After all, this is just based on my story, yours may be completely different.

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