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

Posts tagged ‘raiding’

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.

Mage Revival

I don’t know if anyone else’s guild works like this, but ours seems to go in phases of popularity. I swear, for awhile there all I saw when I logged in was druids. Or paladins, druids, and warriors, which actually gave rise to the phrase “warrior warrior,” later adapted into “mage mage.” Anyway, I think it starts when someone has a lot of fun playing a class. Other people see the fun happening and think, “Wow, look at the fun they are having! I’ve never tried that class/I haven’t played my character of that class in awhile,” and suddenly the guild roster is positively awash in blue mage names.

I love it. People talk about leveling specs on the forums, gear levels, pugs giving us a hard time about when to use Time Warp (seriously, what IS it with this? When I am in a pug I’m just happy if all my fellow group members generally know where their keyboard is and are pressing buttons. I don’t ever give people crap about when they are going to use something like Time Warp, I’m just happy they know where that key is located and opted to press it. These people who get all bent out of shape because I used TW at the start of Jin’do must spend their lives angry because their expectations are pretty high. P.S. You don’t usually get TW at all on that fight because I’ll use it on Zanzil but absentmindedly forgot. WAY TO GO, MAGE). Anyway, I digressed a bit there, because my original point was:

1) Mages are awesome

2) Mages are contagious.

I’ve now been raiding as a mage again for several weeks, an endeavour that has not been without its minor mishaps but by and large has been awesome. Last night we beat our Baleroc record by a whopping one second so I feel that I contributed positively to that. Groups being held back don’t beat records, do they now?! There has definitely been a learning curve as I realized that I know very little about what DPSers are doing in most of these fights after healing them for months. It’s a good thing I’m not giving the fight explanations.

“So, um, on this one you’ve got to… I’ll be – Look, I’ll level with you, all I do is take a feather. I know that’s very important. And then I chase Voss around in circles. I look at the fire and make sure not to get hit by it. But mostly I see this green bar. It looks pretty much the same as it does on the other fights. So why don’t you just – I’ll be over here. The green bar and I.”

No, I’m not slighting healers. It’s just that I had to re-learn my role for DPSing, while at the same time growing accustomed to a new spec. Initially, gear was definitely holding me back because I was unwilling to relinquish my T11 4-set until I was able to get 4-set T12. Well, last night I got it, and raided for the first time! It was awesome. I’m almost at the same gear level now with Millya as I was with Vid; actually better because I got both a weapon and an off-hand last night. Three piece heroic tier gear in the amount of time I’ve been raiding is a bit ridiculous. Vid had one piece of heroic tier! I’m actually glad she didn’t have more and that I kept passing on stuff in favour of the other healer (I knew I’d be DPSing for H Rag anyway) so that when I switched it hardly mattered or affected anyone else’s gear level at all. But yea, verily did the loot gods look down upon Millya and smile, beam and begin to throw mage gear in her general direction. I know that doesn’t necessarily matter, but it is pretty nice. I’ve been fortunate.

Another story from the mage front; actually it requires some backstory first: One of our former raiders invited a work friend of his to play WoW, and so he joined our guild a few months back. He was completely new to the game, I think he’d played LoTRO or something but had never played WoW before. I seriously love him. He will ask questions like “I’m dueling this guy and he disappeared, how do I kill a guy like that?” (Freaking rogues, right?) Or he’ll say, “Hey, this Argent Tournament thing is pretty fun! Have you guys ever tried this?” (Oh, if only he knew). There’s something pretty awesome about knowing a person as they experience this game for the first time. We’re all so embroiled in the nuances, or jaded by the long grinds and hours we’ve poured into it, that sometimes I think it’s easy to lose sight of that magic – these “worlds we inhabit together,” as Metzen put it.

This guildie is level 84. It’s taken him a good long while to get there, and there’s no “end” in sight soon because he got distracted doing Loremaster (first of Outland, now I think he’s going back to do Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms). He’s not in any rush to “finish.” He’s just enjoying the journey and seeing what the world has to offer. He’s also the only one who laughed when I got the “My Sack is Gigantique” achievement the other day, so I love him for that too. (Come on, I spent 1000 G on that joke!) Anyway, so that’s to introduce you to my guildie, that’s the back story. The actual story is that I logged in yesterday and was running a dungeon as Millya (needed to get the last VP for those tier gloves!)

He said, “What are you up to?” and I told him, “Killing some trolls, taking their stuff,” (he laughed, how can I not love this guy?) and then he said, “You know I didn’t know that was an alt of yours.”

“Oh no? Actually, she is my MAIN!” I replied with great glee.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “I thought you were different people when you were playing Vid and Millya.” (Pause) “I always thought Millya was friendlier.”

I laughed and said I was sorry if I’d been a jerk when playing Vid, and he said no, you were nice, just Millya was friendlier. He’d clued into the connection between my characters when I asked Voss to make Millya the guild leader again the other day (so annoying not being able to do guild leader things on the appropriate character). So he had gone to work to ask our mutual friend if I was the same person. I had a good laugh relating this story to Voss, who just shrugged.

“Playing Millya makes you happy, so you’re friendlier.”

I don’t want to harp on about this, but Shintar mentioned that I had been a bit negative about Millya before switching. I tried to think back and remember this and I couldn’t (I know I could read blog entries, but I didn’t). What’s interesting about keeping a blog like this is that it’s highly filtered information. You only know as much about me as I choose to tell you, and also, I only tell you what I believe to be true. In other words, it’s possible for me to hide things from myself, convince myself something is true, or try very hard to convince anyone reading that something is true. What’s funny is that I’d written about “how playing my alt was hurting my raiding” only a few short weeks before I switched, and I’d been playing Millya non-stop (and loving it, honestly). I tried to spin it around and say “Oh well, I guess I was playing my alt for a reason!” but I’m afraid I lied – mostly to me, but by extension, to you guys.

We had an interesting thread on our private guild forums the other day where we talked about /played time and tallied up our totals for all to see. I liked it because it was interesting to see how much people have played (and which characters), but also because the inevitable, “I don’t know how I should feel about this number,” came up and there was no shaming, only agreement that we enjoy this game and have enjoyed those hours, too. I don’t tally up the time I spend reading or doing other hobbies and I don’t feel any guilt about those – why should I? As with WoW. So what was interesting about my numbers was that they were completely skewed. I’ve played 141 days as a mage. My next closest character doesn’t even come close, clocking in at a mere 50 (my druid) and poor Vid way behind at only 39 days played. I have played more as a mage than my other characters combined! My next closest character is almost 1/3 the time. I think that’s eloquent in itself.

The truth is, when we needed another healer, I sincerely felt I could help in that regard. I didn’t dislike playing a mage at all. The other other truth is, though, that I have sometimes been frustrated as a mage because I always feel I’m not as good as our other Super Mage, and that everyone is always comparing me to him (to my detriment). It’s tough to be in the shadow of someone you truly respect and you know is an exceptional player. I think that I’m a pretty good player, but not like he is. So there’s that. At the time, we also had our ridiculously good warlock and I was having a hard time keeping up with the two of them. It stung. I guess it was an ego thing. And I’ll be completely honest with you – I wanted to avoid the issue of The Legendary.

Fortunately, Dramawrath didn’t really cause any in our guild. At the time, I felt like an argument could have been made for either myself or our awesome mage, (who is indisputably an amazing DPS and also does a lot for the guild). Our shaman is also stupendous and ended up being second-in-line by virtue of guild seniority and steadiness. I hope we’re able to make one for him, too. He’s almost done with the cinders portion of the chain. I think I am no slouch of a DPS and I also do a lot for the guild. But I think it meant more to our other mage. (And I know he’s going to read this and if he’s reading it I want him to know this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. I wanted you to have this, and I still do. You deserve it.) He said to me when we talked about it that he would rather not have it, if it was going to cause drama. I couldn’t agree more. I have the kind of personality that unfortunately can be avoidant. Especially as a leader I have to consciously push myself to confront issues sometimes when I’d rather pretend they don’t exist – or maybe, when I’d rather just duck out of the way altogether, as I did when I switched to my paladin for one very specific tier.

I will admit, privately on the internet in front of everyone, there’s a part of me that’s a bit sad about the Dragonwrath. Caster legendaries don’t come along all the time, it’s a pretty neat thing to have, etc. etc. I was watching at Blizzcon when they announced that they would do a legendary staff, and I cheered so loudly. I see other folks getting theirs or read about their progress on blogs and I feel a slight pang. But I don’t regret my decision because I think having me as a healing paladin did help us in this tier. Yes, I missed playing my mage, and I am happy to play her again. Perhaps sometime during the next expansion I’ll see if I can solo any of Firelands and get an outdated Dragonwrath. The more essential thing, to me, though, is not Dragonwrath itself, and I’d actually like to invite you to think about that for a moment.

There are many Dragonwraths. Yes, it’s an “orange” item, but every raid group is making one (or more). Some raid groups will have several. It’s not Dragonwrath that matters at all. That staff is a visual representation of the teamwork and devotion of ten to thirty people. They painstakingly gathered all of those cinders, those embers, those shards, to put that together. I’m deliberately leaving out the “and then gave it to you” part here. Because in a way, that almost doesn’t matter. It’s an achievement that everyone can be proud of. That team work, that drive, it’s humbling and awesome. Braving the challenges of the Firelands night after night, through tension and tedium, elation and success, that is what’s truly legendary. I’m proud of the guild for doing it (we’re about one week away from completing it) and I couldn’t think of a better wielder of that honour. I’m really glad he will have it, and I’m also really glad to be a mage again (although it’s not like playing a paladin was bad). After all, I’m friendlier, which is probably a good thing!

The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II

Way back when, in the ICC days, I wrote about the troubles I faced as a hybrid player. At the time, I was playing a moonkin with a side of resto. You can read that post first if you like, I think a lot of it is still relevant to the problems that hybrids continue to face. It’s not entirely comprehensive, this is more of a personal viewpoint thing.

After my experiences as a hybrid moonkin, I swore that it wouldn’t happen again. When I switched to my mage, I was very “mage for life,” and I poured my efforts into her achievements and her mount and pet collecting. Unfortunately for me, even over nine thousand achievement points isn’t an effective deterrent when it comes to character switching (and it was a big reason why I knew I should never be a contender for something like a legendary weapon – I am too fickle). That is why, at this point in time, I find myself coming back to the same issue – only it’s as a paladin.

Tens and the Hybrid Dependency

It must be tough to design encounters effectively for a ten-person raid. Any raid has a set number of “required” tanks for an encounter, although it can be flexible. Some encounters can be tanked with one less tank or one more tank depending – For instance, we did Heroic Halfus with two tanks and three healers, but I’ve heard of guilds that preferred to do it with three tanks and two healers. It all comes down to what you have available to you. A raid team can only be made stronger by having flexible people willing to change roles when need be, but at what cost? At what point does asking players to switch roles become unreasonable, untenable, or even counter-productive?

The biggest obstacle to this is roster size. The majority of ten-person guilds are smaller (deliberately so). Some guilds will maintain multiple tens teams and perhaps a bigger bench, but by and large we don’t have the luxury of world first guilds that could just bring x number of available moonkins because their abilities trivialize an encounter. Sometimes we can have recourse to people’s alts, but for the most part we just make do with what we have.

The design of encounters in this tier has not been friendly for juggling the number of tanks and healers. As a friend of mine has complained, very often the second tank was expected to switch to DPS because a fight simply didn’t require another. Rhyolith is like this, as is Majordomo. An ongoing issue for us after the heroic nerfs was how many healers does a fight need? Historically, we’ve switched between three and two healers at different times and for different content. ICC was largely two healed up until the point where that wasn’t possible, and the roster was adjusted for three healing. We’ve stayed with the three healing model up to and through Firelands, when especially in later Firelands it becomes evident that three healers aren’t necessary or even possible for quite a few of the fights.

That leaves us with a problem – four active, main-spec healers on our roster and only two spots for healers on most nights (with the exception of Beth’tilac, and perhaps it will become more two healable for us but at the moment it’s more of a three healer thing). What this means is that on any given night, we either have a healer going off-spec DPS, or we bench a healer. I don’t think our healers signed up to raid for just one night a week. The other option is for a healer to switch roles entirely. All of these solutions hang on one question – what is the Dragon Soul going to be requiring in terms of healer and tank balance? We’re trying to plan our roster for the new tier of content but we aren’t sure what we should be aiming for.

The Unhappy Ret

We’re fortunate in that some of our players enjoy tanking and DPSing fairly equally. Our excellent druid is happy to boom it up with his laser beams for some fights, and our paladin tank plays ret without complaint. As a moonkin, I liked to heal (but I didn’t actually like to moonkin). Now I am a main spec healer, and I’ve been finding out that I don’t especially enjoy raiding as retribution. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it so much that I’m starting to loathe it. I’m not really great at it, so it’s stressful. I’ve chased heroic Rhyolith’s legs around for hours. Each week I’ve been Ret for Alysrazor – last week saw me dying to a fire sprinkler just before the fight ended. This week I didn’t die, but my DPS was the lowest by a great margin. When I’m DPSing as ret, I always have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that if I would step out for another (better) DPS, it would make fights easier, and I wouldn’t be holding the group back. I love DPSing. I don’t love ret DPSing. And as was my problem previously as a hybrid, I want to be the absolute best I can at what I’m doing. Off-speccing Ret and DPSing a fight doesn’t allow for that. The only solution would be to DPS even more as ret, which just pigeonholes me into a corner where last week I reached the breaking point and turned to Voss and said: I COULD get better at ret. But I really don’t WANT to.

I could practice art of warring until the cows come home, but ultimately it’s not why I’m playing a paladin. Now this is an entirely personal thing – nobody’s been “making” me play ret, but the fact is that we have all these nights with too many healers, and so somebody’s got to do it – or else healers sit to allow DPS to step in. I realized that I would rather sit than work on H Ragnaros as ret. It’s just that simple. I don’t learn the fight from a healing perspective as ret. I probably will hardly even see what’s going on in the fight itself, because I’m too busy hitting the buttons and hoping my Inquisition uptime is high enough and looking to see what’s procced and what hasn’t and what oh that’s fire it’s burning me ow.

I realize this probably sounds very “I’m taking my ball and going home,” and petulant, and I hope you’ll bear with me there (as I insist and reiterate that this isn’t a problem with my guild or anyone in it). I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me.

So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself? After taking the weekend while hardly logging into any of my main characters (and enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you) I realized that I had to make this known to both our other officers and my guild. They aren’t mind readers. It’s certainly not fair to them to stew quietly, getting frustrated with my position until one day I’ve just had enough and I don’t even want to raid any more.

The Hybrid Advantage

I still think that being a hybrid is awesome. Having them on a roster is even better! But you absolutely need to know that the people in the hybrid positions are willing and enjoy doing it. Some people are cut out to be hybrids in both aptitude and attitude. They genuinely have no spec preference. I guess, when it comes to my hybrid roles, I’m not really one of them. I’d rather be a holy paladin. But the way that encounters are designed, it leaves a great big question mark for ten person guilds in particular about each tier. Will their tanks be spending a lot of time DPSing? Will their healers be twiddling their thumbs, or will someone who is DPS need to swap to heals for a fight or two? We just don’t know, although the raid cooldown nature of the tank T13 bonuses seems to suggest that there will be a lot of damage going out. I will be happy to go into the next tier as either a healing paladin or a mage, but I don’t want to go as a ret paladin. Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs. Our raid needs hybrids – the question is, who will they be? We never have been able to find an awesome moonkin; the biggest thing for us right now is that our roster is actually over-full. Only two of our healers are willing to DPS (out of four) and I know the others feel guilty about it. But really, why should they have to DPS? Is it a better model to just start sitting healers for a “real” DPS?

If I move to a DPS role it means fewer available DPS positions. We may be doing some more shuffling, with having someone else move to tank and our current tank move to DPS, which would open up a position for me to do that. Overall, though, it’s frustrating. Speaking as someone who loves playing a “pure” DPS, it’s unfortunate that we have nothing to recommend us but our DPS, when the smaller raid size is so favourable for hybrids. Our raid would probably be perfect if we had an ele/resto shaman, a boomkin/resto druid, and plate DPS that was willing and able to tank. We have a fabulous elemental shaman, and he just doesn’t like healing. I can’t blame him! I don’t like melee DPS. I can’t expect him to do something he doesn’t like and probably wouldn’t be good at, and therein lies the problem. Finding 10-15 people with the appropriate specs, personalities, skills and willingness to swap roles is an almost indescribable juggling act. We shouldn’t be unduly penalized for having two mages, or two paladin healers, or whatever. Except that we are. One of the big reasons I am thinking of switching is because two paladin healers for one ten man team is often not just less than ideal, it’s nearly impossible. Neither of us has the raid healing strength to fill that niche. The upcoming changes are working to address that, but it remains that our holy paladin would be better off healing with any of the other three types of healers by his side – not another holy paladin. That’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing to me personally because I love paladin healing.

That’s not really what this is about, though. What it comes down to is that it’s usually better to have a hybrid, but when you’re a hybrid that hates your other spec you aren’t much use as a hybrid, and then what do you do?

I hope you’ll forgive the somewhat ranty nature of the above post. I have put off writing about this because I didn’t want to be too much of a whiner (hence the radio silence for the past two weeks while I quietly seethed). I want to do the best thing for my raid team, but I also want to do the best thing for myself, because if I’m not having fun then my priorities are severely skewed.

Edited to add: Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings wrote an excellent post this morning about this very problem, from a broader overview and 25s perspective. It behooves you (har) to go check it out!

100th Post: Paladins, Mages, and Something In-Between

So it’s been about three months now that I’ve been raiding as a paladin, and it happens that this is my one hundredth post at Manalicious! I’ve been waffling about what to write, considered doing a blogaversy style-retrospective of my favourite posts, but I think I’ll save that for my actual blog’s anniversary. I did also want to mention I have been horrible about replying to comments lately, and I’m going to try to get better about it. I do read and enjoy every single comment, and usually I try to always reply to them, too.

On Being A Paladin

This is a preview of a graphic I've been working on for ages with intention to put it on the blog. Secret unfinished image!

It’s ironic and sad for my husband, Voss, that he has such a rivalry going on with paladins. Every Friday when he is able to tweet more, he picks a fight with the paladins on Twitter. It’s actually hilarious to me that most of the people he talks to on Twitter are 1) Blood Elves and 2) Paladins. The cherry on the paladin sundae is that he’s married to someone who also plays a paladin. But, I don’t feel bad about it because being a paladin is fun. I am really starting to settle in to raiding as one. The healing style is in my fingertips, if you will. I have fixed some issues and bad habits and I think I’m doing a better job than ever before. So that aspect of being a paladin is going well.

I think I make better use of my toolbox. My gear has been steadily improving, although both Ragnaros and Domo have stubbornly refused to drop tier tokens while I’ve been in the raid – so now I’m at the point where I expect we’ll be getting heroic shoulder token upgrades and neither myself nor my priest friend will be able to upgrade them because we never got the normal ones. Naturally, I’m unhappy about this. I don’t really have a solution in mind, but four-set doesn’t look like it’s in my future anytime soon. I’ve heard that it’s really not “all that” anyway, so perhaps that’s fine. My fellow paladins may disagree.

Paladins have many neat things that I wind up missing when I am playing a mage (and vice versa). The two speed bursts make up for not having Blink, in my book, while in Retribution spec the Long Arm of the Law gap-closer makes me happy. Playing melee is interesting and it’s definitely been a change from the DPS I’ve been used to in the past. I find myself reaching for Crusader Aura when I am playing any character that does not have Crusader Aura. (Despite world-wide flying, there are still places like the Molten Front where it is incredibly useful).

On Having Divided Character Loyalties

I eased off on trying to re-complete achievements for Vid, realizing that I was burning myself out by trying to regain ALL THE THINGS that Millya already had. Instead of trying to rebuild a pet collection, I collected some more pets until Millya was able to get the Celestial Dragon. Right now I’m doing Brewfest stuff for both of them, but the only thing Millya needs to do is get drunk in Dalaran and then fall off something, so she just needs Brewfest clothing. Vid hasn’t done the achievements at all, but Brewfest is one of my favourite holidays so I don’t mind doing them all again. I also did just enough to get my druid (the original drunkard of my “crew”) a Brewfest Keg Pony.

FOR PONY.

I think I’ve come to the point where I am resigned to the fact that I’ll never have the one character with all of the achievements and things the way that some people do. (Voss, for instance, has all of his raid achievements on Vosskah because he never plays anything else). Me? I will have different achievements depending on the character, and I may go back and re-do some if I feel the urge but I can’t let it bug me too much because I’m too variable to only ever play one character. One of my guildies was teasing me because I said during the My Epic Heals podcast that I would probably play my mage again, and that she is my “true” main. What I really mean, but can’t explain, is that my strongest loyalty lies with her, raiding aside. Raiding is only one aspect of the game, after all. I’ve been playing Millya devotedly for three years, while Vid has only even existed (at max level) for about 1-1.5 years. But her name is also my online identity and I first started blogging while writing about her so… I guess, what it comes down to is that they’re just different. I’m sure I could never abandon either of them. I didn’t expect Vid to become my raiding main, but she has, and she is awesome.

On Being A Mage

My avatar on Twitter.

The Molten Front dailies suck. They really do. The second time around, they suck in a way I can’t even describe for fear of being sucked into a whirling vortex of suckitude. I’m doing them again with Millya because she likes achievements but seriously. 150 Marks to reveal more dailies. Then another 150 until you’ve done the same thing. Then 125…three times over? It just seems excessive. Even the first time, towards the end I was really losing steam with these dailies. And I am someone who really likes dailies. I did the Isle of WTF for weeks back in the day. Anyway, Millya will get some more pets and a mount, but I reserve the right to complain about it a bit at the same time. (I know, I do it to myself).

As far as maging goes I have delved into LFD a bit more with Millya as Vid routinely caps VP through raids primarily. I don’t actually mind the DPS wait too much. I do mind the way that groups often treat DPS, like expendable (and stupid) movable artillery. If you’re unclear about which Hatcher you want killed, you don’t get to yell at me when I kill the “wrong” one when you weren’t smart enough to go pick up the hatchlings, regardless of where they spawned! And the reason we wiped on the last boss is not because I “used Time Warp in the Lynx phase and should have saved it for Dragonhawk.” It’s because you are a terrible tank that wasn’t using your CDs, and the healer was a pretty undergeared and slow druid who let you die. Also, when one DPS does 40% of the damage in a run, you should stop giving him/her a hard time.

Most of my LFD runs go well, and are fun. After healing a lot of the time I find it’s nice to relax back into exploding things with fire in the face, fire on the ground, extra big fire, little fire…! By contrast, when I’m soloing and running around the world it will usually be as Frost. My water elemental and I, Speak, are an inseparable team. I actually did go Frost on the last boss in ZG when our group was struggling, though. The added control on the Spirits made a big difference, and I wish I had thought of doing it sooner!

By the way, my elemental’s name is Speak because of this video a friend inflicted on me years ago. Now, I pass it on to you. Don’t blame me if it gets stuck in your head, though. I dun wanna war. Yee, c’mon.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Nerfs

I tend to be a bit slower to comment publicly on news – especially contentious news. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. But especially when my reactions are strong ones, I usually want to sit on them for a bit, sift through why I am reacting so strongly, and only then can I express that reaction coherently.

When word of the upcoming T12 nerfs (to both normal and heroic modes) hit, I was spitting mad. I hit Twitter in a frenzy, posted on my guild forums, logged in to commiserate with my guildies. My nerd rage was at an all-time high. I thought it was unfair, I felt cheated – and didn’t understand why they would nerf content that is, to me, “mid-tier.”

Of course, I recognize that we’re missing some key pieces of info. We don’t know when T13 is coming out, how long it will be on the PTR and exactly when this tier will become obsolete. I was on vacation when T12 came out and so to me, it’s had a run from July to September. Two and a half months feels really short. I didn’t understand why they’d sweep the proverbial tier rug out from under our feet.

But do you want to know the real, naked and honest truth? I was upset because we were late, and I knew it, and I hated to admit it even to myself.

You’re seldom going to see a blog post where someone admits (especially a guild leader) that their progression just hasn’t been going the way they’d imagined. Granted, I don’t usually say much about my raid team anyhow; kill shots aren’t exciting for anyone but the people in them. When we achieve a particularly awesome kill I might write about and exult in it a bit (I was so proud when we downed Heroic Lich King, nothing could have prevented me from writing about that). This is the other side of that coin; the dirty, reluctant and secretive side. The uncertainty, the disappointment – yes, dare I say, even shame and guilt. I was the guild leader of a raiding guild that hadn’t killed a new boss in a month. That is the secret that I wouldn’t write about. It was eating away at me.

There are certain acknowledged risks that go along with pushing that big red button.

The Green-Eyed Monster

I could go into all the reasons (excuses) why BT was stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels, although it’s a timorous beast. Who can say exactly why a raid team may stall? It’s seldom any one reason. Was it the roster changes? Scheduling conflicts? Lack of interest? It’s almost impossible to pinpoint just one thing, and anyway, excuses are tedious and boring. But you start to doubt yourself, and you feel others’ doubt beginning to build, too. Please don’t mistake me. I am incredibly proud of my team and the people on it. The other reason I didn’t want to write this was because I never wanted to make them feel bad, or as if I had lost faith in them. Quite a few guildies read my blog. To write about how we’d been struggling felt like it would be a betrayal, and incredibly demoralizing. It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your guild leader expresses doubt about you, wouldn’t you start to doubt yourself too?

Yet it’s been agonizing, and I know it’s been hard on all of us. It got to the point where I hated even opening Twitter, hated to hear about the successes of others, each new kill announcement feeling like it was aimed specifically at me, shouting, “We killed this and YOU DIDN’T.”

It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s even worse feeling like your own self-doubts and frustrations are making you act like the worst version of yourself. I’ve always been (or tried to be) the kind of person who is honestly happy for the successes of others. In order to do that, you need to come from a strong sense of self. You can’t let your confidence be shaken, nor start to feel like others’ successes are a reflection of you. They aren’t, unless you let them be.

But the fact is, we’d still only downed Heroic Shannox after a month of work on other heroic bosses. It eats away at a person, and it eats away at a guild, slowly eroding the confidence that lets you move on to other kills. The longer you’re there, the deeper you become mired.

When the nerfs were announced, I read “nerf” and what I heard was “failure.”

“These nerfs are for you, because you haven’t downed the content in the allotted time frame. You are the intended audience and you need them.” I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whether you are working your way through normal or heroic mode raids, it’s hard not to feel as if nerfed content is a pronouncement on you. For me, I found myself wondering, what is a heroic raid guild that doesn’t kill heroic bosses? I had to think long and hard about this, and the answer I came up with is that it’s a heroic raiding guild that could, perhaps, at this time – benefit from some nerfs.

Whatever the reasons – and I don’t want to delve into them here, because our group is in the process of stabilizing once more – we’ve really struggled to move through this tier. We mowed over the normal modes for the most part and had great momentum going into heroics. It’s as if we were caught somewhere in the middle; quite strong for normals, but maybe not quite strong enough for all of the heroics. So, I was immediately angry, and then slowly started to drift towards acceptance. As I read some thoughts that other people had on the subject, I realized that I have to focus on what is important: the long-term strength and success of the team. We faltered somewhat in T11, not completing the heroic tier (something we’d not failed to do since Ulduar), and that was a blow to morale. We’d hoped to make a strong start in Firelands (and I think we did) but it’s tough to predict just what is going to happen – who is going to leave, who is going to be out of town, whatever. I’m not looking to point fingers at my people. The funny thing is, the guild has changed completely. It’s not the same guild it was even a year ago. Many of our long-term members stopped raiding, replaced by new people who – no matter how awesome – need time to click, and build a new team.

This whole process has helped me to realize some truths.

Sometimes it’s better to pick yourself up and build something for the future. So we weren’t on the bleeding edge of content for this tier. It’s a fact. But so what? Tons of guilds haven’t even made it this far – they’ve folded, collapsed, or exploded. We still have a full raid group. We’re still here. We’ve consistently cleared through Ragnaros for many weeks in a row, and our raid has been gearing up nicely as a result.

Success is all relative. A week ago, I was upset because we couldn’t move past 1/7 heroics. None of us joined this guild to only kill 1/7 heroics. The announcement of the nerfs and other changes we’ve been making really galvanized the team last night and we had a breakthrough of sorts – finally pushing through to kill Heroic Alysrazor. Nerfs or no nerfs, we’re going into next week with one more kill under our belts. That feels good, it feels like progress, which is why I play this game. Will I be puffed up and brag about our progress post-nerf? Probably not, because I will know that these kills will be much easier than kills made while the content was still at full-strength. But there’s a difference between not boasting and not being proud to complete things at all. These nerfs may be just what we need to continue pushing and have challenges to face leading up to T13 – and when T13 does come, we’ll have all the gear we can muster, and the experience of this tier, and we’ll be ready for it.

This time around, they nerfed the content when we were 28% of the way through heroics (or 42%, if Domo goes well this week). If next tier they pull the “to the ground, baby” move again, I’ll consider it a success if we are further through that tier than we were this one. Measurable, steady improvement is highly underrated. I’m still proud of my team and what we have accomplished, and what I know we will accomplish in the future. Besides that – we can’t be the only group that didn’t go extremely far. There has be a good reason for Blizzard to be nerfing the content before it’s truly through. Maybe guilds that only want to do normals couldn’t get as far in them as they would have liked. Maybe, with reduced raid schedules, not everyone is able to go through the whole thing. Obviously, Blizzard thinks so, and they’re taking this action as a result. It’s going to benefit my guild, and I’m okay with admitting that. It turns out that maybe – if you shed light on such a secret – it might not be so shameful after all.

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