LotRO: the Endgame Experience

(One big difference between LOTRO raiding and WoW raiding is that although there now are some raiding guides and websites, those mostly didn’t exist when Arb’s guild did these raids. They had to work out these encounters for themselves, with a mostly casual player base. Even now, raid guilds are quite cagey about sharing their tactics for more recent raids …)

First of all, some disclaimers:

I’m in a fairly casual kinship in LotRO, but we’re big and we have a lot of players that enjoy raid content, myself included. We’re a mature bunch who’ve built up a certain level of skill playing together and we’ve always managed to clear endgame content just before a new addition to the game. Because we take it quite casually, we have a rotating raid group rather than a fixed one, where anyone who wants to (and who has the required radiance) can join the pool. This has worked in my favour and against it as we have had a fluctuating number of Captains, and somehow people still find Captains useful in raids ;p

I’ve been playing LotRO since just before the official launch in Europe. I don’t really like to alt, so I’ve stuck with my Captain throughout. That’s a melee secondary healer to you non-LotRO folks (and to many LotRO folks who don’t really pay attention to what Captains do much). We can heal, we can buff, we can use a get-out combination of skills which reduces damage across our entire group by 50% and takes it upon ourselves, coupled with a self-invulnerability which lasts a short time. It’s the latter thing we are seen as ‘essential’ for. We do a TON of other stuff, and contrary to popular belief we even do some dps!! But the heal/buff/last stand combo are the raid essentials.

I do also have a Minstrel (primary healer) which I levelled up purely to help with Rift raids in the early raiding days before the kin swelled a lot, but I never got the Minstrel any radiance or to level 65 – I’ve let it languish at level 64 out of pure stubbornness. So, I have a Captain.

Helegrod

thorog

Thorog

The first LotRO raid is Helegrod, soon to be scaleable, so everyone that skipped it can go back and do it in chunks at appropriate levels. The end boss is an undead dragon. It’s a throwback to the old days of LotRO, a raid designed for 24 with distinct ‘wings’ – the giants, the spiders, and the dragons, leading up to the big fight in the centre. Not a lot of casual kins did it because of the 24-man requirement and the end boss, Thorog, was a notoriously nasty fight that Turbine needed to tweak a lot, and which changed quite often. I’ve done it a couple of times and it holds a good whack of nostalgia for me, so I do look forward to returning to that one soon (with the Free-to-Play a lot of old content has been retooled and made scaleable and given radiance rewards, so you’ll be able to get your radiance gear from your choice of a variety of places).

The Rift

Then entered the Rift, so so controversial at the time for introducing Thaurlach to the world – a Balrog that /players/ could fight and kill. Well, with the help of a First Age elf to keep within the bounds of the Lore, but still. Wow, I remember at the time I didn’t like the idea one bit, and yet, for many of us the Rift represents the halcyon days before radiance gating made raiding in LotRO feel like a chore that only the select few who worked hard on their radiance to take part in.

The Rift is 12-man, and introduces the Eldgang (a slow and sonorous race, who’ve been a little conned by Evil), the fights are challenging, as any raid – and learning them certainly presented many months of week-in, week-out failures and little successes. Many of our amusing raid tales stem from the Rift; little slip-ups that became comical. And, through nostalgia, we forget the relentless depression of some of the wipes, the frustration over learning how to take on Thrang (second-to-last boss).

But, it was the taking down of the Balrog that gave me personally my first really excited/relieved/cheering moment in LotRO raiding. At the time we had a fairly fixed group with some revolving dps classes, and many of us went for every single raid. It was a big commitment, and it paid off. While we needed a big break from it at one point, I now really love going back there to show it to others, or just have a nostalgia kick with the benefit of some level 65s being along.

Moria, and Radiance Gear

With Moria, we gained a ton of new 6-man instances, all needed for radiance. Initially they had to be done a ton of times, now the process is streamlined, there’s also some 3-man radiance instances and as I said before, soon you’ll be able to get radiance from all sorts of places including the Annuminas instances which are a ton of fun – so I definitely recommend them, they were my favourite ones to work out the tactics for, and they’re not really done that much these days. Why back to instances from raids? Because with Moria we had radiance gating, something that separated those who COULD raid gearwise, and those who needed more gear to do so. We also got two one-boss raids; the turtle and the Watcher in the Water.

The turtle is a gateway drug raid. One boss, no radiance needed, but drops tokens and the occasional radiance piece. It’s a dps race, not THAT interesting or exciting, but it’s there and you can practise working as a 12-man group there. Once you get the tactic and you have a relatively decent mix of classes, you’re good to go. The last proper non-gated, ‘pick-uppable’ LotRO raid. The Watcher is a 3-stage raid, which is tough on positioning at first and then demands some element of focus and stamina and knowing how to play the raid. It’s short when you know it, but it’s caused more wipes because of its length than many!! Expect big repair bills. It also needs radiance, so you need to play other parts of the game to even get in there.

Dar Narbugud

Then the 12-man raid in Moria – Dar Narbugud. It’s dark and dank and takes place underground, working through corrupted orcs/goblins/many ugly pestilent thingies and it has some challenging and interesting encounters. It involves more radiance than the Watcher and has more bosses (6), leading to The Mistress of Pestilence (a giant slug thingie). I used to find it quite depressing and again, had to make almost every raid night as we were down on Captains at the time. But, when you get to the knotty bits of tricky fights, I enjoyed it again. Hell, now I’m almost nostalgic for the place, which just shows you how crazy our minds are.

Mirkwood and Dol Guldur

And Mirkwood, more radiance needed, more 3-mans and a 6-man to get you the higher radiance needed for the final LotRO raid of the moment; Barad Guldur in Dol Guldur, leading to a fight with a… Nazgul. Not as controversial as a Balrog, after all, there were more Nazgul in the books, right? And it needs the highest radiance, and is probably the least forgiving of any of the raids in terms of positioning, being on focus and lots of tricky tactics to take on board. Really, people should raid in the mornings not when starting to feel sleepy! Anyway, it only has 3 bosses, but you have to do them in both normal and challenge modes to really get all the gear/deeds from the raid. Which is actually kind of annoying, because the fights don’t change THAT much between the modes, they’re just harder/easier. For me, I think it’s meant it’s grown old faster than the old 6-boss content. We’ve done the first two bosses both ways, but inconsistently, and we just have the Nazgul left – it’s not a particularly enjoyable fight for me, but I have no doubt we’ll get it on ‘farm’ eventually.

High Points of LOTRO Raiding

Rather than focusing on the negative and my dislike for the radiance gating, I thought I’d end this piece with a list of my favourite raid encounters from LotRO so far:

  • the Barad Guldur non-stop fight gauntlet – I love the mania, and I feel I actually make a difference, but mainly I like the mania
  • the spider boss fight in Helegrod (I love being a poison bomb, honest!)
  • Thrang in the Rift (because I love the Eldgang dialogue during it, I adored working it out however frustrating, and it’s multi-stage flows really really well)
  • Istum in Dar Narbugud for.. the mania (work out a pattern here), well, it always feels like an accomplishment to kill him, however skilled and experienced we are – acid pools, exploding worms – what’s not to love?

It’s always great to get the end boss down, sure.. and I love the housing trophies they drop, but sometimes we forget the journeys.

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In memory of absent friends

Towards the end of the year, it’s normal for us to look back over the last 12 months and take stock. What has changed? What goals have we met? Have we made any new friends? Lost any old ones? Learned anything new? Had major life changes? Anything unexpected that we coped with well … or badly?

And looking over the raid roster, I’m struck by how many people I have raided with since the release of Wrath (call that about a year). Many of them I barely knew when that year began, if at all. We aren’t all best friends, we don’t all mix or chat socially outside raids, but I feel that I know all of them even if that just means names, personality traits, voices on voice chat and maybe a few shared jokes and experiences. We spent a fair amount of time in each other’s company — even my one raid per week is a regular 3 hour weekly slot. That’s more time than I spend with a lot of my real life friends, whose lives are so busy these days that we have to plan a few weeks ahead to meet up.

Some players  we were fond  of had to bow out during the year either for good reasons (new job! new baby! switched up to more hardcore raid guild!), less happy ones, or just plain burnout with the game. It’s very easy when you are bound up with a regular raiding schedule to feel that people in online games have short memories. If you take a couple of weeks out, you might be replaced – after all, the raids need to keep running either with or without you. And it’s easy to feel that you’d be quickly forgotten also.

But when I look over the old Naxx signups, I don’t think we’ve forgotten those names who no longer raid with us (I’m sure there are some which have a special place in raid leaders’ memories, for sure :) ). I think we’d be thrilled to see them if they ever hopped back into the game to say Hi. I don’t know whether there would be room in raids, that’s harder to organise, but I know they aren’t forgotten. Thinking even further back, I still chat to Arb about people we used to play DaoC with years ago. For most  I never knew their real names, but there was some level on which we knew them as friends with a shared hobby, who used to play games with us. Or else they were ‘those guys’ who were jerks in game and still are the subject of massive bitch fests when we can be bothered.

And it’s part of the normal cycle of gaming that people join and leave. Life happens, circumstances change, people get bored. There is a quote I read (and I don’t know the origin) that runs: We will all be the same in five years as we are now except for two things: the books we have read and the people we’ve met.

Here’s to all the people we met this year, and to the people we’ll meet in the year to come.

My love of multi-phase boss fights

I first got the notion of multi-phase boss fights from kids cartoons. In Battle of the Planets, when a fight got really bad the various team members would combine their powers and turn their ship into the awesome fiery phoenix … which would then kick serious arse.

Admittedly I didn’t think “Hm, a 2 phase boss fight. Note to self: make sure lazydin puts up fire resist aura in phase 2,” but that was because I didn’t have the wealth of raid leading experience then that I do now. Also they were the heroes so you weren’t really supposed to spend too much time thinking about how you’d fight them. (Am I the only person who spent serious amounts of time as a kid thinking of ways to confound Doctor Who in case I grew up to be a space baddie?)

This weekend we had some good attempts at the 10 man Trial of the Grand Crusader (ie. heroic edition), and it brought home to me how much I prefer leading progression raids through multi-phase encounters to single phase ones.  The reason is because it is much easier for everyone in the raid to get some feedback on how we are progressing. If you start the night with wipes at about 5s into phase 1 and end the night getting solidly into phase 3 on every attempt than everyone can feel as though it was a good solid night of learning. Even though you might not have actually killed the boss.

I think this is key to the idea of making learning fun in groups. After each failure, you get to tweak something about the raid or the tactics and try again, and get some instant feedback about whether that helped or not. The phases help by ringfencing different parts of the fight. It’s a more interesting way to judge how the learning is going than saying ‘We got him to 42% that time, that’s a 2% improvement in efficiency over the previous attempt.’

Also the WoW raid fights tend to have fairly spectacular phase change animations which at least keep everyone awake. Or give them a chance to adlib amusing commentary to the inevitable long speeches and keep everyone else awake.

On the other hand, I’m not so fond of the phases on farm raids where I have to actually explain them to the person who hasn’t been there before and didn’t read up on the tactics. The worst WoW culprit I can remember was the 5-phase horror of Zul’jin. Firstly it wasn’t that fun of a fight anyway but you also couldn’t really expect a newbie to remember 5 phases worth of instructions (cluster on this phase, spread out on this phase, run away from whirlwinds in this phase, etc etc) off the bat.

Our raid leader wrote a macro for that one in the end.

Ulduar Update

How’s patch 3.1 going for you?

I logged in after the patch and was immediately grabbed to go tank Emalon (new Wintergrasp Boss) in a PUG. We didn’t kill him, but we were improving on each attempt. And then Wintergrasp came up so we did that instead.

After that, I ran off to grab my dual specs. Dual spec joy!

In the evening, we took our first steps into Ulduar. The mood in the raid was electric as we zoned in. People were singing, chattering excitedly, discussing their dual specs, bringing out all the old jokes that probably should be retired by now. It was so very very different from the week before when we were dragging our tired carcasses around Naxxramas again.

We saw lots of other raiders on their way into Ulduar and everyone was waving to each other. Our server was being surprisingly obliging, for once. Things got a little ropier later but Blizzard EU ™ did a fantastic job with it, considering the load.

So we zoned in. Nope, no achievement for just zoning into Ulduar. There were some steps! We ran down them. No achievement for running down the steps?!! Man, we’ve been here 10s and no achievements yet, Blizzard is slacking.

This was forgotten as soon as people caught site of the cool vehicles parked in the courtyard ahead of us. Cue: “get to the chopper” jokes. We didn’t have much of a clue what we were doing so we piled into vehicles:

  • tanks got to drive tanks (YES!!)
  • ranged dps got to be tank gunners
  • healers got to ride choppers (Note: In the UK a Chopper is a kind of kid’s bicycle, which we all thought would have been funnier)
  • and I can’t remember what the other vehicle was but everyone else got those

So I jumped into my tank with a warlock as my rear gunner and together with everyone else, we set off.

The first obstacle is a long gauntlet of (destructible towers), other vehicles, helicopters which need to be shot down, and various bits and pieces for the Demolishers (hah! I did remember the name) to pick up to use as fuel or ammo. It was pure crazy fun. Not knowing what we were doing wasn’t a major hindrance and it didn’t take long to get the idea. I was really enjoying smacking down towers, and steering the tank so that my gunner could get a good angle on the flying enemies.

Then we came to some vehicle healing patches, from which we figured that the boss was close.

Flame Leviathan is an easy fight. Tanks kite him around (wtf is my armoured tank attempting to run away from things? That was weird), choppers weave in and out dropping patches of oil which demolishers can set on fire, non-kiting tanks interrupt his flame jets and … best of all … demolishers can catapault spare moonkins onto Leviathan’s back which is as good a place as any for them, I guess :)

In any case, we one shotted him/her/it although it was quite a close-run thing. Finally, an achievement!

I looked round at the end and there was only my tank and one of the choppers left standing. Everyone excitedly discussed whose vehicle was most fun as we ressed and sorted the loot (another achievement for the first badge of conquest, now we’re rolling), and planned to try next week with some towers up (ie. one of the hard modes).

Now the thing about Flame Leviathan as an encounter is that it’s easy, yes, but also very enjoyable. I defy even the most hardcore of hardcore guilds not to have had fun with their vehicles. This is what a vehicle based fight should be like. It was also a nice boost to more casual raiders coming in for the first time, even if they struggle with the other bosses, they get to see the fun vehicle fight and retrieve some loot.

The NPCs chattered to each other about setting up teleporters and we moved on. There isn’t any trash before you get to the next few bosses, just wide corridors and pretty scenery. And then we got to see what the teleporter was all about, it’s possible to port from the entrance to past Flame Leviathan without having to run all the way back. Nice work, NPCs! You can stay.

We took a brief look at Ignis and started to clear some of his trash mobs. But from discussion with other raid groups, we heard that he was bugged and raid leaders decided to take a crack at Razorscale instead. Incidentally, we kept getting updates which we were in Ulduar about how other raid groups were doing. Raiding on Argent Dawn is fairly tight knit, so many of our raiders have friends who raid with other guilds or groups. And it’s really handy when it comes to passing on information like this, about which encounters to avoid.

Razorscale is hard. There’s a first phase with lots of adds that need to be collected and killed, some which need to be tanked separately because of the badass whirlwind attack and others with a crazy chain lightning. In brief interludes, the captured drake descends and you pile on as much dps as you can before she takes off again. There is also fire. Because all Blizzard encounters have fire that you need to move out from. In a spark of originality, this fire is white.

We spent the rest of the night figuring out how best to handle phase 1. I think we had the tanking mostly sorted, it’s just a case of how best to get the dps onto Razorscale quickly when she lands.

Note: Razorscale and Ignis were both hotfixed on EU servers after the first night’s raiding.

Second Night

I wasn’t there for this one. More attempts at Razorscale, they had her to phase 2 a few times. Then they moved on for some learning wipes on XT-200 which apparently has awesome voice acting. I’ll look forwards to seeing it.

10 Mans

I’m not sure how much 10 man raiding I will be able to fit in now. The weather is brighter and my weekends are becoming more booked up so the regular Saturday run is off the cards, for me at least.

I’m sad, because I did really enjoy running them, but not sad enough to … you know … cancel my social life over it.

Another guildie took over the organising and they took down Leviathan and XT-200 this week. On Sunday I was in an impromptu 10 man which knocked off Emalon and then wandered off to kill Malygos too.

Looking Forwards

I am really looking forwards to getting back into Ulduar for another crack at the drake. But, I know that dps has always been the weak side for our raid group — yes we have some awesome players but we don’t have 16 consistently awesome dps. If Ulduar continues to be heavy dps checks, then I can see us struggling and it won’t matter how much effort I personally put in. We may need more runs through Naxx to gear up newer people also.

But, we’ll see how it goes.

More on Dual Specs

I had always said that I wouldn’t level my druid until I could dual spec her. Last week was that day. She’s now level 72, has healed three instances as a tree and topped the dps meters as moonkin in a fourth.

It’s been fun. Thumbs up for dual specs and for the new looking for group interface.

In which a lich dies and I walk a lonely road

wot I did this weekend

wot I did this weekend

This is an achievement shot with a story behind it, it may not be a very exciting story but it’s mine!

The Gang’s All Here!

I’m going to go back a bit in time for some background … a month or two ago, I was busy getting lost in Dalaran when I was whispered by the alt of a friend I hadn’t seen around in a long while. She and her husband are good friends of mine in real life. The sort of friends you sometimes don’t run into for a few years. But when you do you’re always happy to see them and hang out. She sounded very down. And she wanted to know if my guild was still as laid back and chilled out as they used to be.

You can probably guess the rest of this. They had been playing on a different server, they had run their own guild, and it had just split up very painfully due to raiding drama. She just wanted somewhere friendly and supportive and non-drama prone to hang out that was far far away from them all. So we said, ‘Come join us! We love you guys!’ and a couple of weeks later both she and her husband decided that they liked it enough to transfer their level 80 characters over. And they turned out to be a feral druid and a resto shaman (ie. tank and healer) who were well geared, good players, and liked friendly raids.

At the same time, my husband was chatting to one of his mates at work who played WoW and persuaded him to transfer his character over to Argent Dawn so we could all hang out. And he turned out to be a well geared, good player, who liked friendly raids, and had a holy priest with some shadow gear also. (ie. another healer, who could also be ranged dps).

And it did not take long to occur to us that together with my protection warrior and my hubbie’s affliction warlock, we had a very solid nucleus for a 10-man raid group. This was pure luck.

The hardest job of all

So having discussed with the guys and checked that they all were free on Saturday night, I started talking to other guildies to see if I could put a 10 man group together. It was a delicate job because I didn’t want to promise more spaces than I had, but also I didn’t want to guarantee a spot to anyone unless they were sure that they could make it.

I also decided not to just announce the run openly on the guild forums. This was for selfish reasons, and although they were good reasons, I’m not proud. If you announce a raid openly, you can guarantee that half the people who sign up will be undergeared, underlevelled,  or just want to come to play tourist. And much as I’d love to bring everyone who was interested, I also selfishly wanted to take the best group I could.

I also hate telling people that they can’t come. I don’t get paid enough in this gig to have to give people bad news. So that meant personal invites to the top dps, who also conveniently are nice guys we’d been running a lot of heroics with. Some I whispered, some I sent private messages to on guild forums, and by Saturday I was fairly sure we’d be good to go.

However, there was another raid being put together via an open forum post by someone from one of our allied guilds (this was happening simultaneously with me trying to get in touch with people privately). And I knew fine well that some of the people who had signed up to his list had also agreed to come to my raid. And I also knew that because I was able to say, “Want to come on a guild-only run? We have the tanks and healers sorted out already,” that every single one of them would choose mine.

I’m not beating myself up over this. Raid leading is a bitch and putting the group together is by FAR the hardest part. And also, players can decide for themselves what they want to do of an evening. But raid leading is a bitch. The only thing that can make it worthwhile is for the raid to be so successful that people forget about the rest.

Plateramas does not disappoint

The rest was more fun! We rolled up on Saturday evening (just for the record, the group was: protection warrior, feral druid, resto shaman, holy paladin, shadow priest, affliction warlock, moonkin, fury warrior, retribution paladin, (blood?) death knight) and headed into the floating pyramid.

Four hours later, 12 bosses were dead. Vast amounts of shiny purple loot (much of it plate) had been distributed. We knew we had a good group going in, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to make such a clean sweep of it. And at least one of the guys hadn’t seen most of the fights before.

People were commenting, “You know, maybe this is a bit too easy?” I was thinking, “Yes!! I put the raid together and am attempting to lead it and it has not been a total flop!!!”

And it was 11pm which is our usual raid end time so I called it before we made any attempts on the four horsemen. I figured people were getting tired (ie. I was getting tired) and I’d rather end on a high note.

Second day, same as the first

That was going to be it for this week’s 10 man raiding. But our raid group, which only runs 25 man raids, had a Sartharion kill scheduled for Sunday evening. And it just so happened that almost every member of the previous night’s 10 man group was there. The shadow priest couldn’t make it so we swapped in a second death knight instead.

So after the Onyx Guardian died, we went back to finish the job. This was by far the harder and more fun raid. These were bosses which we hadn’t yet killed in the 25 man version. We had some learning wipes but it was fun, and we had to think a bit more about our strategies and what would work for our group.

My husband in particular was thrilled because he got to tank one of the four horsemen in the successful attempt and he loves doing that sort of stuff with his warlock. I say successful attempt — it was the second attempt.

By the fifth wipe on the big undead frost dragon Sapphiron (the novelty here is that you have to get out of the icy chill, not out of the fire), I was thinking that I would really rather have had a night off from raiding. He died on the sixth attempt.

And then we ran down a corridor and were staring at the end boss of Naxxramas. We decided to take a 5 minute break to get tea — did I mention that we’re mostly English? (The dutch guys have largely acclimatised to us by now :) )

Our first attempt failed due to a combination of me failing to correctly estimate the size of a void zone when getting out of it and too many melee clustered around the boss. It is a fight where they need to stay as far apart as possible. So for the first time in known guild history, people observed our retribution paladin actually casting heals. He nobly volunteered to stand back and help heal so that the other melee would have more space.

Our second attempt was one of those heart rending 1% wipes that seemed to be so much more common back in the day. This one was due to an unlucky ice blast on our bear just as the adds turned up in the last phase, and before she had a chance to grab them. We wiped when Kelthuzad had 1% health left… but it was 11pm.

So as is traditional, I called a vote on whether we wanted to stay for one more try. And the rest is history.

Why do I always miss the good raids?

We had another surprisingly good week in 25-man raids. On Wednesday after the reset the raid leaders scheduled us up for the one wing in Naxxramas that we hadn’t attempted yet….

You’re in the army now!

The military wing is notable for its execution fights and it probably says a lot about our raid and it’s general (lack of) coordination that the RLs left this one till last. When I say execution fights, I mean encounters that aren’t as gear dependent as they are ‘people knowing what to do’ dependent.

The first boss is a gimmick fight, and the gimmick is that no mere player can tank him. He has to be tanked by one of his adds, and this has to happen via players casting mind control which is a priest spell. He’s also notable for me personally in that I used to play an alliance priest back in the days of yore and I was one of the mind controllers on this fight and boy did I hate it. Every week I would say to my class leader afterwards, ‘I’m never doing this again.” And he’d say, “Same time next week then.” I think it was having 38 other people yelling at me on voicechat that did it, even when we were doing it relatively smoothly.

He’s a LOT easier now.

After a few wipes our priests got the hang of it and he hit the deck. I was on dps duties (fear my 1.4k protection dps, even despite having spent some badges to get a new dpsish trinket and necklace!) for this one, which at least gives everyone else some kind of benchmark. I look at it this way: someone has to be at the bottom of the damage meters. And I guess at least I have room to improve.

Then we moved on to Gothik the Harvester (otherwise known as ‘that git with the beard’), which is a fight I think I’m going to really enjoy once we’ve done it a few more times. The raid splits into two and moves into two different rooms, live side which is a boring room and dead side which is a boring room with piles of bones in it. When the encounter starts you get a few minutes of increasing numbers of adds pouring into the live side where we (attempt to) tank and kill them … and once dead they appear at the dead side where the other guys have to do the same.

It gets increasingly frenetic until you get to phase two where the boss appears and teleports around a bit and then finally the raid gets to join together again and he dies shortly afterwards. I was tanking the live side and the two paladin tanks on the dead side. We had another couple of wipes here and eventually stuck a feral on backup duty with me, and then we got him! I think next time I’ll ignore the little adds and just focus on the tougher ones, and try to get the rest of the guys to stand further back. Anyhow, I think I can do it better but hey, he died. I thought it was a pretty fun fight.

We then moved on to The Four Horsemen which was a fiendishly complicated and technical encounter back in the day. I know it’s supposed tobe a lot easier now. In essence there are 4 bosses which need to be tanked in 4 different corners, and there’s some dancing around and tanks have to swap bosses and so on. We wiped a few times trying to get the pull right — it’s not supposed to be that hard but the guys on the back bosses weren’t seeming to pick them up properly — and then hit end of raid time and called it.

Two new bosses and a bit of learning time on a third, not too bad. I also distinguished myself with an inane number of accidental trash pulls. I think the best was when I had lined a mob up to shoot and instead I hit the charge button (ie. so instead of shooting it, I charged into the pack). The fact that none of these mad pulls wiped the group shows that a) people are reasonably on their toes and b) Naxx trash is NOT what it used to be.

Another time, same as the first

Last night I was out and the guys went back in and … cleared all the bosses we’d killed last week. So that’s spider wing, plague wing, and first two bosses of the construct wing. There was one plate-wearing tank there so naturally loads of tanking gear dropped and he got almost totally outfitted without having to bid more than minimum DKP on any item.

I’m dead proud of them all, but I have to steel myself to log in now because he is that guy who will spend all of this week boasting about his stats and copy/pasting his new purples to guild chat. I wouldn’t mind but he also got geared up in a single Karazhan run in the last expansion!

There must be a downside to being ultra-lucky with drops and lack of competition but I can’t see what it is. And naturally if we’d scheduled the runs in the opposite order, I would be bitching about missing the first kills instead ;)

In which I lead a raid

Over last weekend, we also took out Sartharion. Because he’s a fairly easy fight, the RLs decided to use this as an opportunity to rotate a few people into the raid who aren’t really geared for Naxxramas yet but are keen to raid. We one shotted the dragon, but it was a drawn out messy kill and I personally cannot wait until paladins get a regular taunt next patch (hopefully next week) because one of ours kept taunting the boss off me, which is annoying.

After this, I organised a 10 man raid to the same boss. It is definitely weird having the encounters available on both 10 and 25 man mode, but was quite fun to go in with a few guildies and trash him with feeling for being such a pain earlier. Had compliments on my raid leading which amuses me because I thought I was being laconic to the point of comatoseness, plus its hard to really give useful instructions with a dragon in your face.

This week’s bitching in raid forums

The main discussion this week was about DKP. I can’t stand DKP, its only redeeming factor in my eyes is that it makes life easier for the raid leaders than the alternative. So this week we were discussing some new tweak someone thought up to our scheme where when you bid you have to also say if it’s a major or minor upgrade for you.

I personally think this is dumb. Clearly if it’s a major upgrade you’ll just bid more because it will be worth more to you? Unless you are that guy who lucks out and gets everything for min bid but I’m not bitter.

The road to raiding

My guild alliance ran its first 25 man raid in Wrath last night. This is a milestone for any raid group, like when your startup gets its first real customer or your band gets its first gig and someone who isn’t actually a relative or partner turns up to see it (bonus points if you didn’t bribe them with free beer).

The reason it is such a big deal is that it’s  a delicate process to get raids running in a new expansion. Players are deciding which raid group they want to associate with, and everything is up in the air until the point where you can strongarm or cajole enough people along and bosses start dying. I know a few people in our group had already been to pick up raids (ie. someone on one of the public channels asks for more random people to join them) or been triallists in other raid groups before deciding that they wanted to stick with us instead.

The startup is a pretty good comparison. Imagine that you are starting up a new business and it’s in an employees market so most of your potential staff have their choice of places to work. Even if people agree verbally to contracts with you, you’ve no guarantee they won’t suddenly change their mind when they get a better offer. Once you actually have real customers and can show your candidates some track record, your chances of attracting them are higher.

Of course raiding isn’t the same. You’re only paying people in terms of providing entertainment (that’s what running raids is about really), although there are social benefits too. But when people commit to a raid schedule, they want to know that they will be getting something worthwhile in return — to whit, a working and viable raid to be part of.

So the first successful raid is like a callout to all the guys who hung in there even before the raid had proven itself. It shows they made a good call. This is also why it’s great that the initial Wrath raids are fairly easy; if you can get 25 people together you WILL be able to go kill something.

Anyway, my guild alliance is a fairly casual setup. They’re being a bit more organised in Wrath than they had been in the last expansion and trying to keep a quota on class/roles so that we don’t end up with a gazillion tanks (again). This is a bit of a culture shock but going reasonably well so far, mostly because people from the old raid got grandfathered in and they only recruited for roles they were lacking.

The raid yesterday was notable for some other reasons:

  1. I was main tank (my main is a protection warrior). I spent a lot of the afternoon chewing my nails nervously and reading raiding websites; it helps that a) I was at home with a cold and b) I don’t work wednesdays anyway. Oh, I was nervous alright. 24 other people relying on me to not mess up their evening.  In practice, it’s nowhere near that bad. If one tank dies, someone else can often pick up. But you do feel a sense of responsibility. I also feel lucky to have the chance to raid as a protection warrior because it’s traditionally been an oversubscribed role.
  2. We were late starting raiding. Although other raid groups have cleared all the content, and actually quite a few of the people there had seen much of it in pick up groups, we knew that as a more casual group we wanted to wait until January when more people would be ready. One of the odd side effects of that is that some of the guys we recruited were knocked back from more hardcore groups due to lack of room — so we were not their first choice but they wanted to play in 25 man raids and … well, there you have it. But it’s nice for everyone involved to see that even if you start late, you can still get things rolling.

We did clear a couple of wings in Naxxramas for anyone who wants the gory details, and we were happy with that for our first 3-hour 25 man raid.