Heroic dungeons, and what is the optimal length for an instance anyway?

I’ve been reading an increasing number of blogposts from dedicated WoW players recently who are finding that the current Blizzard model of instances just isn’t working for them.

Understand also that it’s hard for someone who’s been so tied to a game to start criticising it, and trying to understand why it’s not so fun for them any more.

Kaozz writes:

Last time I queued I waited 40 minutes (as dps) for a normal instance and logged before one popped up. While they want to take the pressure off healers for ‘covering’ for other people by flinging out tons of heals- it still falls on the healers as they sit OOM holding the group up. Even if the dps was too low they will still get blamed in many cases. It’s not a fix. It’s not fun. It’s not harder, its wasting time.

Here’s the dirty secret of heroics this time around. A lot of people don’t enjoy them. It’s not just the difficulty, it’s the time and focus that they require and the fact that you can add quite a lot to that time if you have someone along who doesn’t know the place.

If you always run heroics with your guild and you’re all well geared, you’re probably thinking this sounds inane. Because they are quite smooth if everyone is well geared and knows what they are doing. This however is not the PUG experience.

And once you add really long queues for dps into the mix, it’s not surprising that people start to fret. Telling them all to play tanks or healers is AN answer but for all you know they might have tank/ healer alts and just want a break. I’m not sure how easy it is to organise runs on trade chat at the moment either, I hear people doing it so presumably it must work ok. So there’s one option.

Joining a larger guild is another option, but some people enjoy smaller guilds for reasons other than gameplay. It worked well in Wrath to be able to be guilded with RL friends and still run instances whenever you wanted via LFG. People, understandably, don’t want to be forced out of that mould.

lonomonkey adds his voice to the mix:

We’re all very casual, playing when we feel like it and when time allows. We’re not out for epics, achievements or guild levels. Yet, we do like the occasional raid and we do want to progress our characters with heroics for example.  We can’t do that anymore in Cataclsym since we’re a small guild that doesn’t always have five member ready to run heroics.

I suspect that Blizzard had something fairly special going in Wrath with the combination of quick instances and LFD. Maybe in a few months time the Cataclysm instances will be like that as well, but right now they aren’t. And once you have burned people out on a game, they may not be in a terrible hurry to come straight back.

Or in other words, the model of “start hard, and then nerf” is just going to lose casual players who happen to be in at the start.

The perfect instance length

In college, we’ve always been told that 45 mins is about the right length for a lecture. Longer than that, you can’t concentrate. Shorter than that, you won’t learn as much. If ours go on longer, we always have a 5 min break at the 45 min mark. So I think 45 mins should be the upper bound on instance length, even allowing for a few wipes. Possibly with some exceptions, marked clearly, for people who want a longer run and longer instances could have save points along the way.

But how can you measure the length of an instance? A well geared, well drilled team will demolish just about anything in a smooth run. A first learning run will always take longer than a farm run. Even Wrath heroics  took awhile when we were first learning them.

It is an interesting problem. But one thing is clear, there’s a demand for shorter easier LFG-friendly instances right from the start of an expansion, rather than halfway through …

My WoW Report

Boss: I told my son about you playing, what is it? World of Warcraft?

He said ‘I bet she’s like EIGHTY and EVERYTHING’, so I said ‘what level are you, Jack?’, and he said ‘12!’.

kizi1That is a legitimate exchange between my boss and myself while discussing whether I could have the week of Comic Con off work in 2011, on the off-chance I can sort myself out for going for a third year in a row. But it reminded me I have never really spoken about my return to WoW, a little intimidated by the number of WoW players amongst Spinks’ readership.

I left WoW just before Burning Crusade. I’d been playing since Friends & Family Alpha and was classically burned out on the game. I mostly played druids, in fact, it was a kind of joke that I’d played around 5 druids consecutively, bouncing between Alliance and Horde between various alphas, betas and the launch. This was at a time when druids were a little bit rubbish and although I played them to heal and because I loved all the hybrid goodness, I found things pretty tough. But mostly, I was burned out on the game and blamed it on the people, my last guild and the struggle of raiding Molten Core and how long it always took. So I left, and took a fair break from MMOs until I eventually landed on LotRO by way of the disastrous Vanguard launch month.

From that time on Spinks has still been playing WoW, and keeping me abreast of the changes. Some I was sceptical of, still harbouring some bitterness towards the game, but others sounded cool. Mostly, I never really felt a pull back to it, my account was gone and I didn’t want to start over from scratch even if I did go back. I’m pretty stubborn about things like that. So I ignored Burning Crusade and the launch of Lich King. I was pretty busy with LotRO also, and didn’t really have time for a second MMO.

But, last year sometime, in all the talks about Cataclysm, I thought it might be interesting to have another look, using the refer-a-friend scheme to play with Spinks. It wasn’t a completely successful first 3 months. While we enjoyed the added xp and summoning abilities, I kind of played one month on, one month off, so I didn’t get the full rewards for the r-a-f scheme. But it did get me to level 40-ish, which was over the hump of ‘how many freaking times have I done all these starter zones’. I picked a class I’d never liked previously, the shaman – and started to truly love it around level 30. Why a shaman? I was fairly sure I’d never want to play one in Cataclysm, I’d never managed to get one past level 5 before but with Spinks playing a hunter we could pretty much manage anything!

The dungeon finder really impressed, even when some of the PuGs created were rude, it was a nice break from grind if I needed it. Also, being on WoW meant I could catch up with my other sister who’d been chugging away soloing a rogue over there. Using realID meant that we could always tell when each others’ alts were on. And eventually I caught up to her level (I have more time on my hands!!). I had a really rough start to Lich King content and was really unhappy around level 70, but a few months ago I got to my first ever level 80 on WoW. And I adore shaman now, naturally – thinking of making another in Cataclysm. Yes, I have a problem remaking the same class over and over, I know this!

So Spinks has been trying to teach me about emblems, gearing up, heroics, tournament stuff and anything else I may need to do to be ready to raid. I tinker with it. I log on and do a dungeon or two, sometimes heroic, I head to Wintergrasp and I mine or muck around. While I’d quite like to see a raid, I’m not feeling really pressured to do so, and I think that’s been the real reason I’ve enjoyed my return to WoW so much. It feels quite peaceful to me without any pressure except to heal to a decent standard. Though I am considering switching to Spinks’ main server and possibly joining her guild there so I can explore the raiding side of the game.

I’m not the greatest player in WoW. I’m not trying to be, yet. But I’m no longer a snob about it either. It’s a great game, with the same grindy, rocky patches any MMO has. And sometimes it’s nice for me not to have to care and to just find a fun class and chill out with it.

Alas, poor deathknight, I knew ye well

dualwielddwarf

Readers, I have a confession to make.

I have not one, not two, but THREE level 80 Death Knights in my stable of alts vs only one of any other class. For me, the class has been one of the great successes of the expansion. I haven’t done much raiding on any of them other than the odd VoA, they’re my fun alts.

And every single one of them has a talent spec which will disappear in the next patch. I can’t help that I like blood dps and frost tanking!

Things I love about my Death Knights:

  • Hair colour. People ask where my dwarf got the awesome hairdye. I say that’s not dye, it’s BLOOD! Or else I lie and say there is a special barber in Silithus, just to make them run across two continents because I am a death knight and I am eeeeeeevil.
  • Free weapon enchants. Why did Blizzard think it was a good idea to give Death Knights a free rune enchant that is the best weapon enchant in the game when everyone else has to pay through the nose for Berserking? I have no idea. There is no conceivable balance reason for this.
  • Levelling is such a breeze. For sure it doesn’t hurt to start with a nice set of blue quality gear, but access to fast running and lots of self heals in combat makes for a happy melee class. Expect this to change in Cataclysm unless you want to level as a tank.
  • Everyone hates them. The bar for a DK is very low, so if you are even moderately competent as a tank, people tend to be impressed.
  • Not one but two interrupts. Suck it, paladins. (OK, my warrior also has plenty of interrupts, massive numbers of stuns, and charge but the DK is almost as good.)
  • Pet army of ghouls. It doesn’t get better than this, and the fact they always piss everyone off is a bonus.

I’m sure at least one of them will struggle through to 85. I still like my warrior best, but death knights do run them a close second for me.

edited to add: I will write a proper comparison between warrior and death knight, but was inspired by Larisa’s post on how she loves WoW to write about something I really enjoyed in this expansion. Suffice it to say I enjoy both classes very much. And warriors will be amazing to level in Cataclysm too — getting Victory Rush so early minimises downtime.

How to acquire Wrath (level 80) heirloom items in WoW

heirloom sword

Heirloom PvP sword - note the bound on account and gold coloured text

Heirloom Items have been one of the great innovations of the current Warcraft expansion. There are three reasons for this:

  1. They are account bound. You can pass them freely between any character on your server which is on the same account, even between horde and alliance.
  2. These items are designed for alts. Whereas a normal WoW item has fixed stats, an heirloom grows in power in proportion to the character wielding it. It will always be roughly equivalent to a good blue item of similar level, and will scale smoothly from level 1-80. Plate heirlooms even scale down to chain if the wearer is below level 40 (so that low level warriors and paladins can use them), similarly chain items scale down to leather at low level.
  3. As well as scaling with level, some of the heirloom items also give the wearer a permanent xp boost. Other games may let you buy a temporary +10% xp potion, but some heirlooms offer that bonus permanently.

Currently available heirlooms include a wide choice of weapons, chest pieces, shoulders, trinkets, and a ring. And characters can equip any heirloom of an appropriate armour type or lower (so for example, your resto shaman could use cloth heirloom shoulders).

If you can equip a new alt with heirlooms, you are not only giving it a boost but also making the levelling process much easier on yourself. No need to keep looking for a new weapon every few levels, just use an heirloom and don’t worry about it.

OK, so you are playing WoW at the moment and would like to earn some heirlooms for your alts and to help prepare for Cataclysm, how can you do that? There are three different methods for buying heirlooms – all of them will require a high level character as the buyer (at least level 70 although it will be difficult to get enough emblems, seals, shards etc before the buyer is level 80.)

A fourth method is that an heirloom ring (+5% xp) can be acquired if you win the weekly Ka’luak fishing derby. The ring cannot be gotten in any other way.

Buying Heirlooms with Emblems of Triumph (Group PvE Route)

Emblems of Triumph are the rewards given for running Wrath instances, heroics, and lower tier raids (Naxxramas, Malygos, Ulduar, and Trial of the Crusader).

  • In general, you will receive 2 emblems of triumph for completing a random (normal) instance via the dungeon finder (first instance of the day only, any random instances after that give cash and xp instead.)
  • Heroic instances give more emblems. There will be one for each boss in addition to the two awarded at instance completion (the first instance of the day will give two emblems of frost instead.)
  • Lower tier raids award one emblem per boss.
  • The weekly raid quest awards 5 emblems of triumph and 5 emblems of frost.

You can run normal Wrath instances in levelling gear. If you wish to run heroics, it would be a good idea to gear up a bit and get some practice first. This means that there is a trade-off between spending your emblems on gear that will make it easier for you to run heroics (and hence get emblems more quickly), or saving up for the heirlooms first.

To put this into perspective, you would have to run  random normal instances for 20 days to acquire enough emblems to buy an heirloom chest. You could acquire the same number of emblems from 6-8 heroics which you could run back to back in a single day, if you really wanted to (warning: I don’t actually recommend doing this).

Heirloom costs with emblems of triumph

  • Chest (+10% xp) – 40 emblems
  • Shoulders (+10% xp) – 40 emblems
  • 1 handed weapon – 40 emblems
  • 2 handed weapon – 65 emblems
  • Trinket – 50 emblems

How to buy your heirlooms with emblems of triumph

allyvendor

The heirloom vendors are located with the other emblem vendors inside the Horde or Alliance specific areas in Dalaran.  Enchanter Isian is the Alliance vendor, and Enchanter Erodin does the honours for the Horde.

allyemblem You will notice that the vendors want to be paid in emblems of heroism. But you only have emblems of triumph!

Fear not, it is possible to convert your emblems into lower tier ones (which is what emblems of heroism are), although it is mildly annoying to have to do so.

conversion

1. First go to the emblem of triumph vendor. On the very last page of items which they sell, you will see Emblem of Conquest. You can exchange emblems of triumph for emblems of conquest on a 1:1 basis. So if you want to buy an heirloom chest, first buy 40 emblems of conquest.

2. Then go to the emblem of conquest vendor. Just as above, on the very last page of items, you will see Emblem of Valor for sale which you can buy for emblems of conquest. Buy 40 (or however many) emblems of valor with your emblems of conquest.

3. Then go to the emblem of valor vendor. Again, on the last page of items that they sell emblems of heroism and each one will cost one emblem of valor. Swap your emblems of valor for emblems of heroism.

4. Now finally you can go and buy your heirlooms!!

If you also have spare emblems of frost which you’d like to use for this, you can convert them into emblems of triumph at the frost vendor in the same way. So do that first and then go to step 1, above.

Buying PvP Heirlooms with Stone Keeper’s Shards

Another way to buy heirloom items is using Stone Keeper’s Shards. These are awarded every time you kill an instance boss while your faction holds Lake Wintergrasp. They are also awarded for completing daily PvP quests in Wintergrasp.

You’ll tend to acquire these in large amounts if your faction does regularly hold Wintergrasp and you run instances, and the cost of the heirlooms reflects this. If you don’t want heirlooms, you can also buy gems and enchants with the shards.

The PvP heirloom vendor is inside the keep in Lake Wintergrasp so you can also only buy the items when your faction holds the zone.

Costs are as follows:

  • Shoulders (+10% xp) – 200 shards
  • 1 handed weapon – 200 shards
  • 2 handed weapon – 325 shards
  • trinket – 250 shards

Note: Heirloom chests are not available as PvP rewards.

Buying PvE Heirlooms with Champion’s Seals (solo PvE)

The last way of buying heirlooms involves the Argent Tournament. Before you can even access the vendor, you must have completed the Crusader achievement and also be exalted with the Silver Covenant/ Sunreaver faction. (Note: This may be very grindy and does involve lots of jousting and daily quests.)crusaderemb

Champion’s Seals are awarded by the Argent Tournament for any quests that you complete for them. This includes all the Argent Tournament dailies that you access once you are a champion for at least one faction. You can also earn Champion’s Seals by completing the Trial of the Champion instance on heroic mode. (1 seal per boss.)

The heirloom vendor is located inside the big Argent Crusade tent at the tournament, the heirlooms are identical to the PvE ones which you can buy with emblems of triumph, and costs are as follows:

  • Chest (+10% xp) – 60 seals
  • Shoulders (+10% xp) – 60 seals
  • 1 handed weapon (melee) – 60 seals
  • 1 handed weapon (caster) – 75 seals
  • 2 handed weapon – 90 seals
  • trinket –- 75 seals

The easiest way to buy heirlooms is by instancing, and then using emblems of triumph for PvE heirlooms and shards to buy PvP heirlooms (either of which will be fine if your main goal is to ease levelling).

It is very difficult to buy heirlooms before the buyer is level 80 (this has been a big criticism of the heirloom system). The only way to do so would be via daily random normal instances (2 emblems of triumph per run) — although you can also access the Argent Tournament at level 77, by the time you have done enough quests to get the Crusader title, chances are that you’ll have hit level 80 anyway.

ps. I would not be surprised to see these turning up for sale in the cash shop at some point, but Blizzard have not yet mentioned any plans to do so.

The Myth that One Raid Endgame Fits All

scrusi posts today about why he thinks the Lich King endgame leads to boredom, and underused raid instances. I read this, and I think about the TBC endgame, which also led to boredom and underused raid instances. (Ask anyone whose raid was stuck in Serpentshrine for most of the expansion.)

I suspect that all raiding endgames, when stretched out over months or years, will lead to … boredom and underused raid instances. The only difference is who gets bored, how quickly, which raid instances are underused, and which guilds feel most of the pressure.

So what is the ideal?

  • Raids become a regular hobby. The raid group becomes like a sports team with scheduled games, et al.
  • You should always have something to do, and something to aim for both individually and as a raid group.
  • Your group should be able to replace any members who leave so that it can keep raiding.
  • If you come late to the expansion, you should be able to join a group of your friends.
  • There should be enough new or varied content that people in your group don’t get bored.

To my mind, the big issue with raiding endgames is that players have to balance up group progression vs individual progression. If all raid content consisted of PUG raids with relaxed gear/ ability requirements and there was a lot of solo (or small group) content where players could go for progression, then we could have a setup in which one endgame fits all. It might be that newer games try a version of this model. It’s probably easier to support and would make a lot of players much happier and less stressed.

And yet, progressing as part of a group can lead to a deep and rewarding gaming experience. For a lot of players, it’s key to why we enjoy MMOs, because we can play alongside team mates and friends for weeks, months, or even years. If all players started at the beginning of the expansion and progressed alongside their raid, then they’d be able to take on the content when it was introduced. Given enough difficulty sliders, they’d get through it somehow at an appropriate pace. But this doesn’t always happen. Some players start playing later into the expansion. Some change groups for social reasons, scheduling reasons, or play style reasons. Maybe you want a more hardcore experience. Maybe you decide you would prefer to raid with your mates. Maybe something comes up iRL and you need to switch from raiding four nights a week to one.

There are no easy answers. Either progression is less important, so newer players can catch up easily with established groups. Or else progression is king, players are forced to raid with other people at a similar progression level, and guild hopping returns as the recommended way for people to ‘jump a few tiers.’

Accessibility means that Blizzard have prioritised letting newer players gear quickly and raid with their friends in Wrath. Those friends have no need to go back and run older instances again, and (more importantly) they don’t generally want to because they already burned out on that content.

In TBC, recruitment posed a different type of issue to guilds. It was harder to just gear up the new alt or new player and let them join. Guild hopping was recognised as the best way for a new player to manage this, which probably suited some people but made others a lot unhappier. Ultimately, forcing progression raiders to go back to older instances to gear or key new recruits certainly didn’t help with avoiding burnout for them. Using less progressed guilds as feeders to more hardcore guilds (ie. they recruited new people and trained/ geared them, who then left to join more hardcore raids) also gave them a demoralising level of turnover. It wasn’t a better raid system, it just hit a different group of players more harshly.

We know that players can be enticed to run content by suitable rewards, but that adds an extra element of pressure into the game which won’t suit some groups. (Imagine if the rewards for running Naxx, Ulduar, and TotC in the same week were so high that competitive raiders felt pushed to do as many as possible.)

Weekly raid quests have been fairly successful. PUGs form quickly. But it’s not really the same experience as running those old raids when they were new, with a bunch of similarly geared people.

For all that some people complain about WoW’s lack of innovation, Blizzard have tinkered a good deal with the raid game, and how new content is introduced into the end game in general.  They’ve made changes during Wrath that would have really eased pressure in TBC. For example, being able to extend the locks on a raid instance means that even raids on a very casual schedule aren’t pressured to clear everything in a week before it resets,

So why don’t new players form new raid groups?

So if people who aren’t burned out on the older instances still want to run them for fun, what is stopping them?

The answer is, because you need a group. And because a lot of people don’t want to organise one, especially not with other new players who they may have to teach. Only at the very start of an expansion do raids start from the beginning (and even then, a lot of them will be full of experienced raiders from other games or expansions.)

Logic says that raid progression is an old and outdated mechanic. The type of progression that groups can earn via rated battlegrounds will probably work much better for WoW. Gear matters but good play and tactics mean that a skilled team can work around it while gearing new members. But that’s PvP.

And yet, some of the best experiences I’ve had in MMOs have been watching entire raid groups grow and learn together. Very soon, I suspect, we’ll rate these experiences alongside waiting 17 hours for a boss to spawn or crippling death penalties: memories of an earlier and more hardcore era.

[Guest Post] Raid Leading in Wrath, One Tree’s story

(Thron is known in other parts of the Internet as Natural20.  You can
find him on Livejournal here –
http://natural20.livejournal.com/ or on
Twitter here –
http://twitter.com/natural20 He tends to talk a lot
about Irish politics as well as gaming and conventions, you have been
warned.)

thron poses in front of the frozen throne

It's a long way from Zul Gurub ...

A short introduction, I’m Thron, a Resto-Druid and raidleader of Cobra, the raiding community that Spinks mentions here.

I’ve been raiding with Cobra since the community started up in Zul’Gurub and I’ve been a leader since Karazhan.  As Spinks mentioned we’ve recently killed the Lich King and I wanted to share some thoughts on leading the Cobra community through eighteen months of raiding in Wrath, from the first boss in Naxx to our final victory atop the Frozen Throne.

Cobra was set up with the express intention of getting members of three guilds (Ashen Rose Conspiracy, Oathforged and The Red Branch) into content they would never see if they didn’t band together.  In Wrath we wanted to progress more than we had in TBC, but also try, as hard as possible, to bring as many people with us on our journey.  The goal was, of course, to have Arthas lying at our feet, but we knew it was going to be a very long road.

Thron and Cobra killing the lich king

Spot the tree

We benefited hugely from the company of some raiders from outside the three guilds who were looking for a more casual group than they’d been with in TBC, or those whose groups disbanded at some point during Wrath.  Integration has been hard on occasion, making sure that we held true to our guiding aims, while trying to make sure people didn’t get bored.  As all raidleaders will know, this is far from an easy task.  It’s also something I’ll come back to later.

The raid pool has always hovered around fifty toons, but the composition and balance has varied greatly.  There were times we thought we’d never want for healers and other times we’ve wondered if the hunters had a secret breeding programme going which would eventually overwhelm the group!  To be fair, druids have always made up the biggest single class, but that has always seemed right and proper to me.

This has meant we’ve struggled at times and mostly we’ve been saved by folk who were willing to play more than one spec, but we’ve held fast to our rule of only allowing one toon per player, it’s kept things much more straightforward.

So, we started out in Naxx in January 2009, speeding our way through the bosses as most groups did, running up against our first roadblocks with the Four Horsemen and feeling very accomplished when Kel’Thuzad gave up his first Journey’s End, although that’s all we ever seemed to get from him.  But clearly Naxx, easy as it was, showed us we could do it, at the appropriate gear level.  According to the realm forums we were in or around the seventh Horde-side raid to clear the instance, a position we were to occupy most of the way through the expansion, with a few notable exceptions.  This gave the raid group a lot of confidence, knowing that we wouldn’t be at the forefront of progression, but we’d be keeping up, managing to get through the content on an average of six hours raiding a week.

death of malygos, with the raid all mounted on red drakes

The Cobra synchronised red drake flying team never won any marks for style ...

And onwards we went.  While we never managed Sartharion + 3,  we killed Flame Leviathan the day Ulduar went live and pushed on until Yogg-Saron was defeated.  Trial of the Champions had already opened at that point, so we did outgear the god of death in the end, but we were happy to take the kill.  TotC was almost the death of Cobra.  Like many raid groups the instance bored us very quickly, but the heroic versions were just too difficult for us and wiping repeatedly without any sense of progress gets very boring, very quickly.  This lack of progress (and mindless repetition), combined with a number of situations where one mistake could wipe the raid didn’t please anyone.

Cobra has improved in leaps and bounds since we started, but that kind of situation has never suited us and the awful instance design and bad tuning didn’t help.

cobra eyes up rotface

We were incredibly lucky that Ice Crown opened when it did.  The raid is almost as much fun as Ulduar and the increasing buff seemed to be designed for a group like Cobra.  It was far from all plain sailing, but up we climbed, sticking with our six hours a week schedule and even getting a Horde-side first kill along the way (Princes).  And then finally, with patience and the 30% buff, we managed to kill Arthas.  What an amazing night that was.  I cracked open the very expensive whiskey and got to sit back and bask.

And reflect, with articles like this, on the journey.  We started off in Wrath with four raidleaders and we’ve ended with three.  Between us we have encouraged, explained, dragged and occasionally bullied Cobra through the expansion.  We have been amazed by just how good the group is and how individual brilliance has saved a wipe, while at the same time wondering if sometimes players just ignore everything we say before a pull.

death of halion

We’ve dealt with emo, both explicable and inexplicable, and despite Spinks’ request I’m not going to reveal which group generated the most!  We’ve managed to compromise between the hardcore raiders who want to push on to hardmodes and the more casual players who sometimes forget just why standing in fire is a bad thing.  I’m not entirely sure how we’ve managed this, mind, probably because the people in question trust us, at least that’s the assumption I’ve got to make.  We’ve nearly kicked people from raids and we’ve nearly had people quit mid fight.  Toons have come and gone, some will be missed, others less so.

Over eighteen months there have been nights when I just didn’t want to log in.  I didn’t want to have to guide the twenty-five brave souls on the list for that raid through the content and there have been times when the ten minute break couldn’t come fast enough.  But these times have been far outweighed by the moments of brilliance and fun.  And this is what sets Cobra aside.  This is why I think we’re one of only four Horde-side (25 man) raiding groups on Argent Dawn (EU) to kill Arthas.

We’ve been through things that would kill other groups dead and there have been moments when I’ve thought I was going to get zero sign-ups for the next raid, but the actual sense of community and friendship has carried us through.

map of the world

We come from all over the world

Our raiders come from as far north as Finland and as far south as South Africa.  We have raiders from Donegal (in the extreme northwest of Ireland) and others from far more easterly climes in Europe, it’s a varied bunch.  But it’s a bunch that have grown to know each other, to take humour from the strangest things, to laugh when the only other option is to cry and, ultimately, to support Phoenixaras, Elelereth and I while we, in turn, try to support them. I don’t know of any other raid group who would react to repeated wipes by riding mammoths around Deathbringer Rise and then jumping off, one by one, while voice chat is filled with gales of laughter. Cobra is a true community and it has, when we look back, managed to fulfill the mission and it’s made me proud.  It’s probably also shaved about ten years off my life, but thems the breaks.

We’re looking at Cataclysm now, staring down the barrel of a complete change in how raiding works in WoW, and I don’t know what Cobra will look like once everything changes.  My hope is that we’ll keep on raiding, but we really won’t know until decisions have to be made.

Either way Wrath raiding will always be a special, wonderful, frustrating, maddening and ultimately rewarding experience and I’d probably do it all again, even knowing what I know now.  That said, I do a few things differently, increase the number of raidleaders from day one and refuse a few applicants who turned out to be more hassle than they were worth, but these are the things you learn and nobody ever said learning was painless.

For now we’ll get the rest of the raidgroup Kingslayer, then relax for a little while and see if there’s a bunch of raiders who still want to be given orders by a loud Irishman (me) and a soft spoken Englishman (Elelereth), while a rogue picks their pockets (Phoenixaras).  I hope there will be, there are still stories left to create.

*** (Blame Spinks for the lack of good kill shots and general lack of any screenshots of Ulduar (!) )