Kae wrote a really fantastic post about Heroic Lich King. It’s worth reading even if your guild isn’t necessarily working on Heroic Lich King because it applies to any tough raid encounter that’s going to take your raid group a long time to beat successfully. Since I’ve been in Business Time, we’ve had a few of these albatrosses. In a funny way, when you overcome an encounter like this through perseverance over a period of time – your raid is that much more prepared for the next to come. Perhaps to make myself more clear, I need to get retrospective:
When I first joined the guild, they had done quite a bit of hardmode Ulduar. They had completed the hard modes for every encounter – up to Mimiron, and Yogg-Saron. If you aren’t familiar with Firefighter, I’ll lay it out fast and dirty for you. On his normal difficulty, Mim is a Four-phase fight. When you push that red button, he becomes a four-phase fight of WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN. The hard mode adds the mechanic of spreading fire on the ground that is being put out by robots that can and will kill you or knock you into something that will kill you, along with heavier damage from all of his abilities, and targeted abilities on the raid members that could nearly one-shot us if we didn’t get urgent triage from a healer. But despite all of that – the frustration of a grueling and unforgiving encounter, it’s not what I remember most about Mimiron.
Firefighter was like a marathon. We started running it together and night after night we’d be in there listening to his screechy voice, just happy to have made it that much closer to phase three, that much closer to phase four. I kid you not, I dreamed about Firefighter. We learned the dance, we learned the positioning, we learned how to manage the fires, and eventually it all came together. But before it did, we had some casualties. No, they didn’t die to Mimiron’s fire.
We caught one of the guild’s tanks standing at the Ulduar summoning stone on an unguilded alt, heading into Ulduar after he’d set himself unavailable for our raid. (Incidentally, we were also short people that night). When we whispered him to ask him what was going on, his reply basically amounted to: “Going to Ulduar with my alt’s guild, have fun with Firefighter lololol.” Our guild leader at the time booted him on the spot. Obviously he didn’t want to spend the time with us working on hard content. Firefighter had claimed its first victim. He lacked the commitment.
Healer tension between a Holy paladin and our then-Holy priest came to a head that culminated in the paladin leaving. He felt that we were not going to improve at the fight as long as she was there. Granted, she did have a tendency to die to situational things, which was the kiss of death for that encounter. We had our second Firefighter casualty.
The other thing holding us back with Firefighter was overall DPS was low and some people had a tendency to stand in the fire. The next two losses were a bit uglier, because we had a warlock who just… wasn’t getting it. His DPS was low. He claimed it was because he was taking utility talents, but I was routinely leaving him in my dust (by a large margin) and his gear was significantly better than mine. (I recognize this sounds very “Look at me, I’m so awesome,” I’m not a jerk; I was actually embarrassed to be in the position of making him look bad as “the new kid.” I really wanted him to improve, too.) He proved resistant to any suggestions as to how to improve his DPS. His friend (the aforementioned priest) was very protective of him. The unfortunate combination: They both ended up leaving. I don’t want to get into the messy, dramatic aspect of this. It’s all water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned. I think they probably found a place where they are happier. But statistically, they are important.
The last raider was someone who just didn’t see the point in hard modes. He didn’t leave the guild (then) but he did later. He just didn’t want to do them, felt they were a waste of his time – he came to Firefighter once, but hadn’t watched the videos and was a giant liability. I was just as happy when he stopped coming.
Didn’t You See The Sign…
So that’s five raiders broken by the challenge of Firefighter with our guild that opted to go elsewhere. I discuss them not because I mean to say “Haha, we beat this encounter, even after they left,” but because I want to highlight just how intense this kind of progression can be. I think some people thought we’d never successfully complete Firefighter. We all got tired of it. Conversations I’ve had since included talk about how boring it was, how tiring it was to do it for hours, night after night – to always know it was there, waiting. But those conversations also include the awesome, inimitable feeling of FINALLY DOWNING HIM. When we killed Firefighter we screaaaamed. The sound in Vent was overwhelming and awesome. It’s that feeling that makes your hair stand on end. It’s the reason why Firefighter was the single most satisfying encounter of Wrath for me. If you ask me what my most memorable kill was, it’s going to be that one every time, without hesitation. We worked so hard for it, and we earned it.
In the end, it took us one hundred and twenty-one wipes before we beat Firefighter. That’s only times I was there for, since Voss and I joined. In the course of beating it, we lost five raiders (actually seven, if you count spouses/friends who left with various people). With a roster of fifteen, that’s more than a third of our total fighting strength. That’s huge. Its significance was more than just being short-staffed, though. It marked a turning point, if you will. A schism. Those who stayed were people who were willing to really throw themselves against a brick wall until it was the wall that gave, and not them. Those who left were people who, for whatever reason, didn’t think we were the team to do it with, or didn’t want to do it at all.
From then on, when we were recruiting people we emphasized attitude and willingness to wipe on hard content to learn it – for weeks, yes, months at a time. In a way, it doesn’t matter what encounter specifically you are facing down. Let’s face it, they are all somewhat interchangeable pixels. You dance out of this fire, and you target that thing – those are the mechanics that stand in the way of success. But what really can prove to be the greatest obstacle is the attitude of the group. We’ve been fortunate to assemble a really awesome group of people – dedicated people who have stuck with us through fire and youurrr pathetic magic will betraaayyyy youuu. The summer boss hit us pretty hard so we were set-back, but we’ve been resuming H LK with a vengeance and seeing some tremendous success since the patch changes. More than ever I know this fight is within our grasp. Our best attempt was 38%, which means we’ve SEEN Phase 3, previously we hadn’t. I know that we can do this because I believe in our people. They are the team that came through the fire and were strengthened by it, not broken. We don’t stand in the fire, though. Never that.