[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

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 (!) )

You don’t have to be crazy to lead raids; but it helps

Everyone knows that leading raids is hard work. You have to work harder than the rest of the group, and the only reward you get is feeling  more involved and raids happen on your schedule.

And yet.

And yet for a lot of players, raid leading is the true metagame of their MMO. For people who enjoy the extra difficulty, the extra complexity, the feeling of reward for truly understanding how everything fits together, and maybe even the *naches of guiding a newbie raider into a pro, there is no better way.

A lot of raid leaders in WoW ended up there because they were progression minded and felt that the best way to ensure good progression was to arrange it themselves.

But there are plenty of players who choose to lead raids because they love it. DPS Meter writes a heartfelt letter to 25 man raid leaders, and its something that every raider needs to read. Especially if you’re burned out on raiding, or maybe forgot why you liked it in the first place.

One of the definining moments in my WoW raiding came in Vanilla. We were a very new 40 man raid. We’d zoned into Molten Core for the first time and somehow managed to kill Lucifron (the first boss.) And our raid leader said, “Guys, right now you are at a Hogger level of raiding. By the time we get to Ragnaros, you WILL be a proper raid guild.” A month or so later, at our first Onyxia kill, I knew he was right. That’s what raid leading is all about.

*I’m due a proper post about this as one of the big motivating factors in gaming.

Learning from Watching Others

I feel inspired to start today with a failure story.

My first MMO was Dark Age of Camelot and my first character was a minstrel. It’s a jack of all trades class with a bit of melee, a bit of buffing, some stealth, and some crowd control. The crowd control was a single target mez (it’s a sleep spell) with a short range, and you had to play a little song on your flute to make it work. When I first started playing, I tried this out and figured out very quickly that it was rubbish. I mean, the mez broke as soon as you hit the mob. Plus if anything hit you while you were playing your flute song, it didn’t complete.

So if people asked me to do it, I just explained that it wasn’t very good.

Later, I was in a group with another minstrel (this didn’t happen often, it wasn’t that common a class). And what do you know, he started tootling away on his flute and dancing around during the pull and sure enough, one mob got mezzed and stayed mezzed. It was a revelation to me.

He was actually even better than that because with all the dancing around, he could mez 3 mobs ON HIS OWN before they even got to us. And I was like “Um, I’m a bit shit, aren’t I?” (I didn’t say that though. I just thought it.) And sure enough, a couple of months  and a lot of practice later down the line saw me doing the same thing.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Now this is what emergent behaviour is all about. Someone thinks of something new and tries it, and finds that it’s cool. Other players either read about this, or see someone do it. Then they try it for themselves. The new tactic catches on. And it’s purely because of something that players learned from each other, not something the game instructions explicitly told them to do.

But for this to work, you do have to be willing to watch, to listen, to read, and to learn from other people. It’s also how you learned most things as a child.

And it’s more fun and immediate if you witness it first hand, just as I did with the uber minstrel in DaoC, than if you just read about it or see it on a Youtube tankspot video. Those things are good, but they don’t smack you in the face the same way as actually seeing someone else do something cool.

Things I learned about raid leading last week (from watching other people)

My quest to get more achievements for my alt without having to put any effort in continues. Last week I snagged For the Horde! and Heroic: Twilight Assist, both in pick up groups from trade chat.

PvP Raid Leading:

The guy who led the PvP raid would be a familiar name on my server and faction. He organises a lot of world PvP, city defenses, town defenses, attacks, RP PvP events, and so on. So he’s very used to grabbing a bunch of inexperienced PvPniks and steering them to some semblence of success, zerg-style. And to those who mock zerg PvP, that’s not as easy as it sounds. The raid itself was good fun, we met our goals, got to fight a few players on the way, and here’s a few tips I picked up on PvP raid leading:

  1. Make sure everyone knows where the raid is heading next. What’s the next objective?
  2. If people die, give clear instructions for what they should do. Should they res and run back? Should they res and wait for a summon?
  3. Keep the instructions basic. Keep the tactics simple.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go back for people who got lost, just make sure everyone knows what is going on.

I was especially impressed at how well he communicated the instructions for if people died. Everyone always knew whether they should run back or wait, and where the raid would next stop to summon people. It kept the momentum and stopped people from panicking about how they’d catch up with the rest (this tends to happen a lot with zerg raids – if people lose the zerg, they panic.)

It was a very relaxed, chilled out experience. And no small part of that was because the raid leader was relaxed and chilled out.

Oh, Sartharion! PvE Raid Leading:

Anyone who leads a PUG PvE raid has my greatest respect. I don’t make a habit of it, and as a result I’m really not used to leading a bunch of people of varying skill, experience, and who may or may not give a shit about the encounter. So I’m really bad at gauging the capabilities of a PUG. In this group, we were taking down Sarth+1. Our dps was not stellar. Our tank failed on all three basic jobs of “just keep its head and its tail away from the rest of the raid, and don’t get caught in the fire wall either.” But we got Sartharion on the second attempt. So here’s a few more tips:

  1. It’s not over till its over. Don’t give up too soon.
  2. This includes if someone makes a stupid pull. Just calmly call out the kill order and let the raid deal with the extra mobs. If you’re going to wipe, might as well die fighting. See rule 1.
  3. Trust your gut feel. If you know your raid can make the kill, don’t be dissuaded from trying again.

So this raid was pretty much a study in tenacity and the raid leader trusting the players to handle unexpected incidents like pulling an extra trash pack, or the dragon tail swiping the raid (although I am bitter about being tail swiped while I was about to get out of a void zone).

What have you learned recently from watching someone else play?

16 ways to speed up your raid

We used to have a cartoon up in my old office that read ‘Meetings: the alternative to work!’ and it showed ten people sleeping around a big desk, compared to one person sleeping at a desk on their own. When a group activity drifts from the core reason people came along, you’re potentially wasting a lot of people’s time.

I notice this a lot recently because I’m running ten mans on a very limited schedule. Three hours per week. It isn’t much, but we all wanted to see what we could do anyway. People enjoy the ten man raids and didn’t want to give them up.

And even though I’m far from a hardcore raid leader, there’s nothing like a tight time constraint to really focus you on making the absolute best use of the raid time available. I mention hardcore here because one of the big differences between raiding hardcore and … err.. not… is the emphasis that raids leaders put on keeping things moving quickly. So it’s a little odd for me to be in that position.

These are tried and tested techniques that I use to make it work. Our progression certainly won’t set the world alight and I still don’t know if we’ll be able to get to the end of the instance. But as long as people are keen we’ll keep trying. The key to my mind is that you don’t need to choose between having fun or having progression. You can do both.

  1. Don’t panic, have fun. Whatever is going through your mind, try to at least sound calm and focussed.
  2. Keep things moving. Don’t let people dawdle, they can chat on TS while they’re running to the next boss or waiting for loot to be sorted. One of the factors that separates progression from casual raids is how quickly people get back into the instance, buffed up, and ready to pull again after a wipe. Train your raid to do this quickly.
  3. Go in with a plan. Before the raid, have a plan in mind for what you hope to accomplish. Tell the raid what it is. Have backup plans also (e.g. what will you do if for some reason you can’t achieve your main goal), but don’t tell the raid that. In a raid like Ulduar there are some optional bosses – skip them if you know your plan involves fighting something new.
  4. Keep talking on voice chat. It sounds silly but it really does help people focus, even if you’re just reading out what they can probably see on their screens anyway.
  5. Use /readycheck freely (but also wisely). As well as letting you know if people are ready it gives the raid a heads up that it’s time to stop chatting and start fighting. It’s also much faster than asking on voice chat ‘Is everyone ready?’ and waiting for 9 other people to say yes.
  6. Get people to give you feedback after a wipe. How was the tanking? How was the healing? How was dps managing? Ideally they’ll do this while you are running back so by the time you get back to the boss you’ll have been able to formulate a new plan for the next pull. Remember: time is limited so you absolutely need to learn as much as you can from each wipe.
  7. Train your raid to read up on bosses beforehand so that you don’t need to spend five minutes before each pull discussing strategy (again). But do quickly run through the basics if anyone isn’t familiar with either the fight or your tactics. Make sure you know if anyone is attempting an unfamiliar role in a fight so you can make sure that they are prepared (ie. know whatever they need to know).
  8. Learn to delegate. Tank assignments, healing assignments, and loot master can all be done by other people if you don’t want to do them yourself.
  9. Know when to call the raid or move on. Sometimes you’re making no progress on a boss. If you don’t know why (i,e. there’s nothing obvious that you can ‘fix’) then don’t waste everyone’s evening on the same pointless fight. With practice, you’ll get a good sense for whether a wipe was useful or not. Similarly, some nights the whole raid – self included – is just playing badly. Some people have a 3 wipe rule, after three wipes, they move on. It can be a good idea to save an easy boss for last (Razorscale works well for us) so that you can always end the night on a kill, it improves people’s moods.
  10. Don’t dither. If you aren’t sure what to do next (ie. which boss to try next, which tactic to try next) then go ahead and discuss it, but do come to a decision. Also, don’t be overly cautious. You’ll learn more by actually trying a fight than by standing around for ten minutes freaking out over strategy.
  11. Before a pull, check that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and that tanks and healers have their assignments. When you are running through at speed it’s easy to forget something, a quick check can save a lot of time.
  12. Practice pulling trash quickly. Not really an issue in Ulduar, since there isn’t much trash in there.
  13. Use a lightweight loot distribution strategy. You don’t want to be spending ages sorting out complex DKP after each fight. Need/ greed works fine in small raids. I just let anyone roll who can use the drop.
  14. If you aren’t 100% sure whether your current raid is viable against a boss (maybe because of odd raid composition, or having one or two people who aren’t as good) do not let anyone know your doubts in advance. When your raid pulls a boss, they should all believe that you are absolutely certain they can kill it. Sometimes they will surprise you. At least give them that chance. After a wipe, you can decide if the fight is doable or not.
  15. Allow one 5 min break in a 3 hour raid. Pick a natural break in the raid if possible (i.e. when you need more time to think about your plan or the strategy for the next boss). Don’t let people take random bio breaks or afk outside this unless there’s some emergency.
  16. Have a plan for what to do about disconnects. If someone doesn’t come back after 10 or 15 minutes, what are you going to do? Try to find a replacement? Get someone to ring them who knows their RL number? Whatever it is, try to avoid having your raid sitting around for half an hour getting bored.

The meta-game of MMOs

Given how much extra work and hassle it can be, why DO people bother leading raids or leading guilds in MMOs?

I have been thinking recently about why I’m so drawn to raid leading in games, and in particular to leading casual raids rather than PUGs (although I have done that also).

Being a successful raid or guild leader definitely feels like a much more satisfying achievement to me than being random dps #12 in even the most hardcore guild. Not only that, but raiding itself becomes a more satisfying and immersive experience when you’re the one who is setting the goals for the raids, making the calls about what went wrong, and deciding what strategy to try next.

I also think of building a successful guild or raid as a meta-game that exists inside the MMO framework.  As a challenge, it’s definitely up there with anything the devs are capable of throwing at us, and maybe that’s part of the appeal.

If you can do it, the rewards are great. As well as more control over your gaming (for example, you can make sure raids always happen on days/times that are convenient for you), it’s a relatively high prestige position to hold in game.

If such things matter to you, people do also respect successful guild or raid leaders. It’s for the same reason that my cat loves and respects me – I am the provider of food (epics), entertainment, and cuddles (ie. positive feedback when appropriate).

But those I think are side-lines to the actual appeal. And if prestige is the only reason you take on a leadership role, you’ll likely be miserable and frustrated.

Build it, and they will come

OK, so leading is a role with higher challenge and potentially higher rewards than following. However, it’s also a lot more work and commitment.

But the reason I describe it as a meta-game is that it doesn’t end with raids. If you plan to run regular events, then your goal is to build up a core of players who:

  1. will keep coming to the event
  2. will get on with each other
  3. will provide a good enough mix of character classes/ roles to allow the event to work
  4. are skilled enough to run the event

So your game revolves at least as much around other players as it does around the game. And your challenge? To build a lasting, stable social construct within which happy players will run regular raids.

Because of people being people, this goal has the capacity to be endlessly entertaining and endlessly frustrating.

All over the web, you can read about excrutiating guild dramas, ninja looters, fascist raid leaders, and all the various amusing ways in which it can all go so badly wrong. Guild leaders write sad messages to each other on how to avoid troublemakers, what to do when people just stop signing up for raids, how to deal with burnout among core members, and so on.

But if you have never had to worry about avoiding troublemakers, struggling to get enough signups and dealing with other people’s burnout then you’re missing some of the big challenges of the meta-game.

It’s not that fretting over recruitment is fun in itself. But beating the challenge of getting a guild or raid together and helping to forge them into a working team is a fantastic feeling of achievement.

My point is not that everyone should go lead stuff. That’s silly and it isn’t fun for a lot of people (including many who do it). But it does add an exciting layer of challenge to an increasingly moribund genre. PvE may not be able to surprise you, players definitely will.

Feeling more involved in the strategies

Think you know the raids and instances well? Try it when you’re keeping an eye on what everyone else is doing, to help pinpoint where things are going well or badly. Try it when you’re figuring out the healing meters despite not playing a healer. Try it when it’s your call on what strategy seems to work best for your group.

I’m not advocating that one sole person does all of these things. In my 10 mans, everyone chips in with ideas. But I love that I feel more involved in the encounters when I’m leading. I can’t just ignore anything the bosses do that doesn’t directly affect me. For example, as a tank, I wouldn’t normally care if the boss was throwing curses around because it’s never my job to decurse. As a raid leader, I better know which bosses do it so that I can make sure there’s a decurser handy and remind them about it beforehand.

In the same way that going through progression wipes on a boss will teach any player more about the encounter than just coming in when it’s on farm and looks easy, leading through raids just gives you a deeper understanding of what’s going on.

I find that tanking is more involving than dps for the same reasons, and because tanks usually control the mobs in a raid fight. You need to really understand the positioning as a tank, especially if the boss needs to be faced a certain way, picked up at a specific time, or kited in a special pattern.

Feeling more involved is the way in which I have more fun.

It’s like those RPGs where you get to build up your own team, level them up, gear them up, and work out their strategies. But with real people who will bitch at you on TS if they don’t think they’re getting enough raid time.

Why w0uld that not be fun?

The world goes on without me

I find that I am torn between two contradictory impulses when it comes to casual (well, let’s call it semi-casual to be honest) raiding:

  1. The desire to be essential to every raid and to have my raid spot guaranteed whenever I feel like signing up

  2. Being able to take time off for whatever reason (holidays, family emergencies, hot date, etc) without feeling guilty because the raid can’t go without me

No one enjoys being benched, especially when you had set aside a raid night for gaming, and everyone likes to feel that they are important to the group. However, any functional raid group is probably going to rotate raiders, just to make sure they have enough people to keep going even when a couple fall sick or get caught in traffic on the same day. So if you’re in any kind of regular raid, #1 is an impractical thing to want.

Wanting to feel important is a perfectly normal human impulse when jostling for position in a group. And raid leaders, like management at work, are well placed to channel that desire in ways that are useful to the raid/ project. So you can call #1 the ‘need to be loved’ impulse. People who are ruled by this will literally sacrifice anything for the raid, it can all become quite unhealthy and obsessive.

#2 is not only practical but also necessary for any kind of sensible work/ gaming/ life balance. So it’s absolutely a good thing to not be the only tank, holy priest, raid leader, or whatever it is that you do. As well as being able to go on holiday with a clear conscience, it also gives you more freedom to alt or try a different spec.

This is true at work also, while it’s nice to be secure in your job because the company will fail without you, it also guarantees that you’ll be doing that job and nothing else until the place goes tits up, you retire, or you die of boredom – and doing the same job forever limits your chances to learn new and more transferable skills. Sensible management would make sure they were never that reliant on one employee in any case.

Succession Planning

Making sure that there are enough replacements to cover holidays is usually the raid leader’s job. But what if you are the raid leader? Or even guild leader?

Succession planning for guild leaders is a whole other topic (maybe for a different day) but as a raid leader, there’s a lot you can do to encourage other people to lead raids. Firstly you can recruit another raid leader and take turns. You can also encourage raiders to take a more active role in raid leading also. Discuss strategies on forums. Nominate a co-leader to help with tank or healer assignments. Encourage other people to try leading 10 mans. Coach them if it helps.

But at the same time, the more people who feel they have a stake in leading the raids, the higher the chances are for guild drama somewhere down the line when they disagree with each other. So you want to encourage an atmosphere where people are able and willing to lead raids without you, but they can also respect and work with the current raid leader and make any arguments in a constructive way.

It’s a moving target. Like many raid issues, recruiting people who are basically on the same wavelength as you is the easiest way to get to where you want to be.

I may be addicted to the readycheck

Any raid or group leader can enter a /readycheck command in WoW. When they do, a box will pop up on everyone else’s screen saying, “Are you ready?” with yes and no buttons. After 30s or so, the raid leader gets a report saying how many people picked yes or no and how many people did not respond.

It has a few different uses. I always run a readycheck before a raid boss fight to check whether everyone is *gasp* actually ready. Before the readycheck we had to just ask, see a few y or yesses and hope that meant everyone else was ready too. I also use it as a general “Are you awake?” check, or “Are you all back from making tea and washing your socks?” check after a break.

Sometimes we use it for general votes. For example: Vote yes to the readycheck if you want to stay past raid end for one more shot at the boss.

Sometimes I just run a readycheck because I can. I have that power!

It’s one of the few WoW UI features that I really miss in other games. Like most of the useful parts of the Blizzard UI, it was ‘inspired’ by addons. This is a smart move. It means that new features aren’t just random, “Hey y’all, look at THIS!” ideas that some developer had in the bath.

The first addon I remember with a readycheck was CTRA which was an incredibly popular raid UI back in the days of 40 man raiding. CTRA had proper support for custom polls too, and I do miss it.

Maybe I’ll dedicate next week’s 10 man raids to the memory of CTRA.

Blink and it’s on farm?

I ran another raid to 10 man Naxxramas this weekend. We had to swap a few people round because some of last week’s raiders couldn’t make it, including our fury warrior who regularly tops the damage meters. So we ended up more caster heavy this week, with two shadow priests.

We cleared the place in five hours. Also picked up the achievement on Faerlina along the way.

Every boss in lower Naxxramas was one shotted except for Gluth, including a good recovery from a slightly awkward “Arrgh, what’s he doing down that end of the platform?!” pull on Thaddius. I was most proud of the crew on the Four Horseman kill which was pretty much a model of calm and control, especially compared to last week’s semi-panicked chaos.

We had a couple of wipes each on Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad but we did also have three people who hadn’t seen those fights before.

So, my raid continues to impress the heck out of me. Either we’re good or it’s easy, I don’t even know any more! I do also wonder about the Naxx loot tables. At least two thirds of the bosses dropped paladin plate this week. That’s loot that is only useful for one spec of one class. We had to shard most of it because our holy paladin already had it from last week.

My main goal now is to speed things up. Five hours is way too long to spend raiding in one stretch. We’ll probably also poke more of the achievements, but to be honest the only one I really want for my raid is for us all to get Undying (which you get if no one dies in any boss fight).

I opened next week’s raid up to an open guild thread, and hoping at least one extra tank signs up because I’m out at the theatre that night. I asked people to say if they might be free on Sunday instead if we have to change nights as a backup. But I hope they can go.

Oh, and I also picked up a shiny shiny two handed axe that our Retribution Paladin didn’t want. Shiny!!

It’s Big and it’s Blue and it wants to eat us!

Last night we took our first 10 man attempts at the Eye of Eternity. It’s an unusual raid instance and an unusual boss fight.

You zone in to find yourself standing on a platform with the universe revolving around you. In the middle of the platform is an orb with a label on it reading, “DO NOT TOUCH!”. And high above you, a big blue dragon is flying around and shouting intimidating phrases about being the master of this domain. I don’t know why he doesn’t do a strafing run, I would if I was a dragon and spotted a raid zoning in. Clearly this lack of judgement is a sign that he is off his rocker and needs us to kill him.

To be fair, there have been plenty of other quests leading to the conclusion that Malygos, Lord of Magic is crazy and needs to be put down. Draconic mental health care is apparently not very advanced.

OK, maybe the orb doesn’t actually have a sign on it.

In any case, someone with the raid key activates the orb and Malygos notices us properly  (even though he was shouting to us earlier) and decides to get in close and personal.

It’s a three phase fight which only needs one tank (thanks, Blizzard! As if it wasn’t hard enough to find tank spots these days). I’d done some homework by watching videos of the fight, which mostly intimidated me with Ciderhelm’s ability to tank the dragon, swivel the camera around, strafe, kite in a perfect circle, and instruct the raid ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Fortunately, it is easier than it looks. I’m certainly not doing it as well as he does, but we got the gist fairly quickly. It also helped that we had a Death Knight along to capture sparks but I’m fairly confident now that we could manage without.

It was a fairly short raid. I called it after two hours because I thought we’d learned a lot and made good progress, and there’s a limit for how long you want to spend all trying the same boss (in my opinion). By that time, we’d gotten to phase three reliably on every attempt and were improving the speed of the first two phases.

Phase three is insane. The ground falls away below you and everyone drops through the sky … and lands on the backs of the flight of red drakes that have been sent to help you. So the third phase is a flying phase. Everyone is flying on their drake and circling the injured big blue dragon.

We will need more practice, but the coolness factor is incredible!