One down, two to go!

15 February 2011 § Leave a comment

In what surprised me as a fairly quick kill, Cho’gal died last Monday. Ridiculously, he died on the first pull of the night, after we had spent about 3 hours on him on Friday. I may do an impressions post on the fight, which was nice but utterly crazy.

We poked Al’Akir the rest of the night, and got him to 37%, so I think we basically got him, aside from some tweaking to improve uptime of feedback (and, you know, get to P3 before the healers just give up in frustration). We have not even started on Nefarian (aside from a couple of pulls at the end of the night just out of curiosity), but I’m still pretty happy with our progress. Heroics are close, and they seem to be pretty hard (albeit Halfus seems to go down more often than the girls at Berlusconi’s parties, after the patch) – but I’m kinda looking forward to them. So far, though, I have thoroughly enjoyed the fights in this tier of raiding, so let’s hope that continues!

We win

12 November 2010 § 3 Comments

It’s taken us way, WAY too long, but finally, here we are. I’m going to reflect a bit more on this, and post something soon with my reflections and thoughts (most of which should not surprise my fellow raiders, given we had about an hour to talk about these same thoughts after the kill).

 

25 Kingslayers

30 October 2010 § 2 Comments

The 25-man raid run by Dawn Vigil, my guild, managed to kill Lich King tonight, after a fairly remarkable progression. We extended once again, dispatched Sindy in 3-4 tries (last week she was pwning us), and then proceeded to go poke at the Lich King. Now, keep in mind that I am not sure we had ever got to P3 (I’m pretty sure *I* never got to P3 with the 25-man, but I know I missed a couple of progression nights), and the last we had seen LK was ages ago, as we focused on doing Heroics and getting a Shadowmourne done (we had a couple of Kingslayers from another raid who had kindly taken some of us along).

The raid proceeded to work incredibly well, to work out the MANY problems that were there at the start (from people not focusing on valkyrs to people not spreading out correctly, to defiles…) and steadily progressed to P3. With 30 mins of raid time to go, we got to P3 and 25%, and the following pull, the last pull of the night, everything came together and we managed to get through the whole fight. It wasn’t pretty, our tank died and got b-rezzed because of a failed Soul Harvest management (he may in fact have died twice – soulstone + b-rez – but I’m not sure, I may be mixing attempts up), but in the end, with about 10 people up, we wiped, rezzed, and pwned.

I know I normally just focus on 10-man achievements on this blog, but I want to recognise the effort of everyone in that raid: because of our relatively casual style, the “flexible raid lockouts” (please note the inverted commas of sarcasm) hit us fairly hard, as people were forced to choose whether their main and best characters were going to the 10 or 25-man version of ICC. So, 3 weeks ago we found ourselves with a third of a raid in 264s and 277s, and a third barely in 251s as some of the alts were not exactly the top geared ones. Mad props to Malicent, who since April has managed to lead this ragtag band, and to keep both the “hardcore progression” people and the “social/casual/farm content” people happy.

Personally, I know it took me a long time to stop trying to “backseat raid lead”: this is not my 25-man, and it will not always do what I would like to do. In the beginning, I think I tried to have the advantages of raid leadership (influence, deciding what to do, choosing strategies) without the hassle, and it just didn’t work. After a couple of tense moments with Malicent (which we fortunately solved through tells, posts and other relatively private channels), I’d like to think I’m a much more positive contributor to that raid now. I appreciate the fact that Mali took the the time to answer every time I wrote a /rant post, and I think in the end I’ve become a better raider for it.

Going forward, I think I’ll put my weight behind trying to keep the 25-man going in Cataclysm. My “hardcore fix” will always come from the 10-man: the team we have is likely to go further, and we can push towards hard modes, achievements and all the things that frustrate me to no end, but also get my adrenaline going. I believe however that a 25-man raid serves an important function in a guild as a glue that keeps the community going. Once Cata is released, there will be a flurry of activity as people level their mains and alts, gear up in dungeons, do quests and achievements and grinds. After a few months, though, all though will run dry, as it always does, and the main focus will be on raiding. People will log on during different times, because of time differences and schedule and life styles (and the fact we have people in Europe, Australia, and the US…). Without a 25-man to hold us together, I think we will go back to being effectively a group of smaller communities, and this will make us lose something. Beru posted a great collection of ideas about preparing your guild for Cataclysm, and while we are certainly nowhere close to Monolith’s size, I think her post started me thinking about what we can start doing now, so that Cataclysm doesn’t catch us unawares.

See-sawing our way around

27 October 2010 § 2 Comments

After last week’s completely fail raid, I almost dreaded logging on Tsark anymore. Around this time in expansion, my game time on Tsark is basically spent raiding, and the last raid left such a sour taste in my mouth I wasn’t really ready to try the experience again. So no daily Heroic, no Vault, no PvP for Tsark this week: it’s been strictly Headless Horseman farming on several alts, and daily Heroics and daily quests on my Alliance toons (and some levelling, so my Alliance platoon is now starting to look almost acceptable :-)). Because of the flexible raid lockout (never has name been further from what it designates), of course I had to take someone else to the 25-man, so no Tsark there either – and because our shaman was unavailable on Friday, we did not go back for the rest of the week.

So, today, with a certain dread, we extended the lockout, zoned in, and went straight to the LK.

And it wasn’t as bad.

After three hours, we managed to get into P3 and to 37% health – which is not very far from what we were doing pre-patch. Of course, then we were getting to those percentages consistently, while today we barely managed to get consistently to P2. But it certainly beats our performance last week, by about a gazillion miles. Most importantly, the whole fight felt a lot more under control, which meant that the generalised feeling was that yes, with some work, we could get this done.

Some random observations:

1. I finally managed to get into the new Shield rhythm. I still get a lot of “Spell is not ready yet”, but partly because now I know about it, and partly because I pay more attention, I can handle that. Also, panicking a bit less and watching the general health a bit more, I managed to weave in wome Archangel work, too, mostly for the mana regen.

2. … which we really need, because not being able to proc multiple Rapture at each Infest means we run out of mana like nothing else. Most of our P2 attempts saw me chugging a potion and watching nervously my Shadowfiend and Hymn of Hope cooldown. I may look at some of the Spirit trinkets, or at least undo some of my reforging to get some Spirit back.

3. I also ended up being the plague dispeller – the paladin tank was just too busy to be able to do it reliably. This cut into my Evangelism time, but I can still at least do the Infest shielding, which is the essential part.

4. Boomkins being awesome back up healers is a thing of the past, as their mana regen is so tightly linked to proccing Eclipses that they cannot really sustain anything else. Elemental shamans, instead, seem to have more mana than they could use, so Jahag switched to the back up healing position.

5. I suspect our P2 are a LOT shorter than they were – they certainly feel that way to me, which would make sense with the increased dps of most classes. That means less valkyrs, which is an all around good news of course (we used to get about 4-5 valkyrs, I think, and now we’re closer to 3-4).

So there you have it, things are looking a lot brighter than they were. Now, the problem of course is that we do not have any other raiding scheduled this week (our paladin tank is moving across the US, so he won’t have his stuff before next week), then we will have one good week, then one of our rogues is away for 3 weeks for work… So basically we either kill him next week or almost not at all, as by the end of November I doubt we will keep the focus to do this. The thought is slightly scary…

In other news, on Monday we finally got Earth, Wind & Fire – we had tried it a few times before halfheartedly, and this time we got it with 3-4 pulls, so it was nice (albeit it was anything but a clean kill). On the alt levelling front, my Alliance priest is now Holy and enjoying Chakra immensely. She’s also on her way to Outland (2 more levels), so she is almost ready to get to the Big Leagues. Alliance hunter has reached 40, and of course my mage is now gearing up seriously.

Most importantly, Tessarquia, my SAN shaman, has finally managed to get a shield, which means I can go back to being a shaman with a 1H and a shield, not a stupid staff. Seriously though, 35+ runs of Pit of Saron normal, and nothing to show for it: I sincerely hope itemisation is done a bit more carefully in Cataclysm.

The Glorious Icecrown Raiders!

25 May 2010 § 1 Comment

Just as we programmed, we completed Glory of the Icecrown Raider this week, which means we now have 10 frostwyrm mounts! We may need to run some of those achievements this week too, to get Jarbel his mount (he was missing last week, given our regular 11-man roster, and the fact he had been away the previous 3 weeks or so).

The achievements left were actually kinda fun. Full House is crazy towards the end, as you are juggling the adds, the spirits, the D&Ds, the frostbolts and trying not to AoE/cleave the adds to death. The Plagueworks ones are easy. As expected, the really tough one is All You Can Eat. I heard some people are using 3 tanks, and I can see why: the dps check is non-existent anymore (we had 3+ mins spare on our kill), and a third tank really makes transitions a lot easier. As it was, we did not have that luxury, so we were stuck with two tanks who had to transition almost perfectly every single time. The good news is that by now we are getting Sindragosa to P2 after only 2 air phases, so attempts are faster and you hear her voice less.

Our kill attempt was a cliffhanger, because, after 4+ hours of wipes on her total (over two nights), everything was going perfectly until, at around 2% health, our resto/boomkin, Tildie, yelled that her stacks had just ticked over to 6. Of course, it was too late for us to stop, but we somehow still got the achievement. I’m not sure whether there is a time buffer (don’t have 6 stacks for more than x seconds, x being very small) or a “stealth nerf” of the achievement (you cannot have more than 5, but really, it’s more than 6 that makes you fail). Either way, we’re not complaining! I have to say, I have enormous admiration for any raid that manages to pull this achievement off in 25-man: it was crazy enough managing 10 people and their stacks; with 25, it would be absolutely insane.

Now, I’m not exactly looking forward to playing with the Lich King, to be honest…

Cataclysmic raids

27 April 2010 § 2 Comments

Shhhhh! Can you hear that? No? Listen harder!

*WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

That’s the sound of me jumping up and down with joy at the announcements Blizz made about raid changes. On the very low chance that you haven’t heard about it yet, you can find the original posts here (about raiding and tiers) and here (about badges). Let me give you the main points and my reactions to them – including how that is going to impact my own raid in particular, and some mumblings about raids in general.

10-man and 25-man will drop (almost) the same loot

This is above and beyond what I could ever hope. If you check my previous posts on loot and gear and raids, I always kept as a given the fact that 25-man would drop better quality loot. Now Blizzard, basically out of the blue, tells us that no, really, they will now drop (almost) the same loot. I keep saying almost, because 25-man would drop more loot than 10 – more gold, more items and probably more badges. I assume that is more gold per person, and not just more gold in absolute terms or it would make no sense. The trick here will be balancing how many more items – my estimate is that bosses in 25 should drop about twice as many items as in 10. A straight mathematical equivalence would suggest 2.5 times, but more items become more beneficial also because of more chances to drop the specific item you need, so that should encourage a slight discount. I really don’t care about gold, so I cannot be bothered with more gold going to the 25-man raiders. Badges… eh, I’d prefer if we had an even playing field, but as long as the difference is not TOO big (e.g. the 2 vs 3 badges of ToC), it will be fine – if the difference is 2 vs 5, that may become a problem.

From Blizzard’s point of view, this change means they will need to design a lot less items – in fact, in one fell swoop they cut down in half the number of items they need to design, both in terms of stats and in terms of art. I hope that means we will be getting items with unique art, because let me tell you: it sucks to have a staff off the Lich King 10-man look EXACTLY THE SAME as one from the second boss in 25.

It also means that they can drastically reduce the gear scaling issues through an expansion. During Wrath, we had 9 tiers of gear, in 4 tiers of raiding: 200, 213, 219, 226, 232, 245, 251, 264, 277. Although Blizzard could have reduced that (having Ulduar give 219/226/232, then ToC give 226/232/238 and ICC 232/238/245 would have cut three whole tiers), having each tier of raiding drop one tier of gear means the Cataclysm progression will be something like (normal/hardmode): 300/313 for tier 11, 313/326 for tier 12, 326/339 for tier 13, 339/352 for tier 14, or 5 tiers of gear for 4 tiers of raids (assuming we will still get 4 tiers of raiding). This should make designing Cataclysm easier, as it reduces the inflation of stats we currently witness (my priest is hovering around 40% crit rating self-buffed…)

10-man and 25-man will share lockout

The counterweight to that change is that the two raid formats will share a lockout. Not suprising, given otherwise the double-dipping would make gearing up a breeze for people with time to run both 10-man and 25-man (and we will note later that Blizz seems to be discouraging playing more than a limited amount of time per character).

The obvious consequence is that people will have to choose whether they want to do 10-man or 25-man. Personally, I think I will simply designate my main, Tsark, as a 10-man raider, to keep going with my current group, and then use all my alts to attend the various raids that need me and I can afford to attend. If anything, this may wreck my levelling plans for Cataclysm, as I will probably level a second healer after Tsark to be able to heal in the guild 25-man raid (healing being clearly the role I am better at/enjoy the most). Up until now, I was thinking to do the traditional Tsark – Parocles (miner, needed for too many things) – Torjin – Alteria – Kleraton – Gramlor. I may switch around Alteria and Parocles now, which would mean getting a paladin tank/healer geared up quickly after Tsark. I suspect this change will encourage more people to level multiple alts, to be able to go with different raid groups.

Badges will become point, and decay with each tier

Instead of getting badges, we will get Hero (lower tier) and Valor (higher tier) points – roughly equivalent to the current Triumph and Frost badges respectively. Once a new tier of raiding comes out, your Valor points will get converted to Hero points, and you’ll restart accumulating Valor points. This is an accounting change, if anything – and it will actually make lowest badge/points more valuable as the tiers progress. Currently Emblems of Valor are basically worthless, but with this system, they would (effectively) become as valuable as Emblems of Triumph at our current status. A  minor change, but hey, a very slight improvement.

Top points are capped weekly

Blizzard has been stating for a while that they are unhappy with the current system, where the Dungeon Finder daily feels like something people NEED to do, given Frost Emblems are so scarce. Capping the amount of points you can earn per week would mean that you would not want to run Heroics with your raiding toon, as he’s getting his points somewhere else. The devil here is in the amount of the cap: let’s say that a full clear of the 25-man raid gives you 10k points, and a full clear of the 10-man 7k. A limit set below 10k would mean that a raid clearing the current tier of content would have no incentive to even do the raid weekly. At the same time, a raid clearing 10-man content would still want to run Heroics, and still feel like they HAVE to (or, in other words, no change) – so I suspect the limit will be even below that. In other words, we may well go back to the Karazhan days, where badges (or points) are a nice cherry on top, but not really the goal of raiding (sometimes, it feels like the purpose of raiding is much more to get emblems than loot, currently)

Of course, the numbers are totally fictitious, though I do think that the 25-man premium will be around 50%. I think however that this is a place where seeing the actual numbers will change the actual mechanics of the system. I do like the idea that I will not feel like I have to run the weekly, Vault, and the Heroic dailies on all my alts – and can instead spread my attention across characters.

Gating will still be there – but no limited attempts

In principle, I don’t mind this too much – in fact, I like having no limited attempts, though I admit we never used up all our attempts in Icecrown Citadel. They apparently also want to keep the “Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.” Please please please, make this a “per-boss” or “per-wing” limitation – in other words, I would have had no problem with having to defeat Saurfang twice before opening up the hardmodes of Lower Spire. I just think that having to clear the WHOLE instance once (or twice!) may frustrate some guilds needlessly. This may be what they have in mind anyway, given their stated preference for more (and smaller) raids per tier, instead of one big one (so the TK+SSC model, rather than ICC).

I can see the value of keeping limited attempts for optional bosses, à la Algalon – brag bosses can have that allure. Again, I would prefer to see a system of limited time or limited attempts but with no additional reward for no wipes/killing the boss in a shorter time frame: the Algalon/ICC model instead of the ToC one, basically.

Raiding consequences

Where will that leave us? 10-man raiders are rejoicing all over – mostly, because we won’t feel like the bastard child of big raids anymore. Balancing encounters will be easier for Blizzards, given that they can correctly predict what gear people will be in (as opposed to having to think about people being in 10-man or 25-man gear). Also, assuming Blizzard will manage the closer balancing of difficulty, we may finally have an end to the pointless debate of which is harder.

Blizzard has stated that they have not taken a decision about Legendaries/special mounts (e.g. Invincible) yet. It would be nice if 10-man got those too, but I’m trying not to get my hopes too high, and just be happy with what we got.

Our 10-man may see some changing of roster, as some of our raiders will need to choose which alt to bring to 25-man and which to 10-man. I don’t think we will necessarily lose people: assuming they will still play come Cataclysm, it’s not as if their time use would be very different if they play both raids with both character or with 2 characters (admittedly, there is a higher set-up cost to get both alts to level cap, and to keep all sets gemmed/enchanted/etc, but honestly, that seems a very minor issue).

I’ve seen some people predicting that this will spell the end of 25-man raiding. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I tend not to like these doomsday predictions, and this is no exception. I know very few people who raid both 10-man and 25-man that doesn’t have an alt at max level – so all that it’s going to happen is that people will have two characters, and do both raids in different formats. Will 25-man lose some people? Possibly, but it would be the people who only go there for the easy loot – because let’s admit it, it’s far, FAR easier to carry someone in 25-man than in 10-man (let alone in our 10-man, where Lyshai keeps us all on our toes!). I suspect that by encouraging people to only do what they like most (be that 10-man, 25-man, Heroics, or PvP), we may end up with better players, less stress, and thus a more enjoyable experience.

To buff or not to buff

3 March 2010 § 8 Comments

As you probably know by now, this week Blizzard introduced the “zone buff” they had promised when they previewed ICC. Hellscream’s Warsong (Alliance have a similar buff, but we don’t care about them anyway) increases health, damage and healing by 5% – and there’s future ranks pushing it up to a 30% total increase (that would mean having tanks with 65k+ health…). The most interesting thing was to observe the reaction of people around me.

Most people I talked to welcomed the buff: these are people who raid casually, and are most often strruggling through the Plagueworks on their 25-man, and have been for a few weeks. The buff, for them, is a way to push forward and see the rest of the content. Some of my fellow raiders felt the same – maybe because their 25-man was stuck as well (though normally on Blood Queen or Sindragosa), maybe because they saw this as a chance to move forward on our Lich King attempts. The reaction on the blogosphere has been more cautious. Miss Medicina feels this is a pity buff; Bobturkey feels that it’s too early, and wonders if this will make people wonder if their future progression is thanks to the buff or their effort. Dreambound is more cautious about it, simply regretting not finishing the instance before the buff went live – but the cautiousness may simply be due to her feeling a little sick (get well soon!).

My own reaction has been a study in contradictions. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you may recall I was in favour of the buff. When I read the announcement on various news sites, though, I felt like Ragnaros: TOO SOON, BLIZZARD! Like many of my fellow bloggers have said, no guild has killed the Lich King in Heroic yet (actually, one guild just has, on 10-man – but yeah, not very different), and even the worldwide kills of the Lich King in normal are very limited. On Feathermoon, my realm, only one guild has so far (and they’re on Alliance,  did I mention they don’t count?). I also felt a lot of Kae’s disappointment about needing it. At the same time, the lure of finally killing the Lich King that much sooner, and thus start on hard modes, was pretty strong, so I decided to wait one raid and see. We assembled today, decided to forsake the badges of a full clear in favour of working more on the Lich King, extended the raid lockout, and in we went.

Oh boy. What a difference.

We had worked on the Lich King for about 6-7 hours, spread over a few different days. Our best result was getting to P2 and killing the first valkyr. Today, we got to see P3, and one of us went into Frostmourne to help Terenas. So there’s no doubt the buff is working. Do I feel diminished by the fact we got there with a little help from Garrosh? Well, the buff certainly helped us handle P1 faster, and kill the Valkyr consistently in the required time. It did not help us deal with the general mechanics of the fight though: from handling the Necrotic Plague, to moving correctly for Defile, to getting all the adds under control first, dead later. All these mechanics are not trivial, because Defile still wipes you if there’s more than a couple of ticks going, Necrotic Plague still is the only way to kill the P1 adds, and the various adds still kill you if they’re not under control (I should know – I died to them twice in a row today!).

In many ways, the buff is simply relaxing the gear check aspect of the raid – and not changing the actual fun mechanics. Of course, the two things are related: when you overgear an instance dramatically, you can simply ignore some of the mechanics because they don’t matter. Case in point as a sidenote: the weekly this week is Malygos, and the Power Sparks have been totally trivialised by the two additional tiers of gear since we last did it. Clearly, however, we’re not there for ICC. All this is giving you is a bit more leeway to play with: all in all, if this allows more people to progress, see more content, and feel less burnout (and there’s a lot of that going around, apparently: Linedan, Jov, BobTurkey…), then so be it. I’m sure that some of that burnout is not related to raiding and being stuck on bosses – but maybe a small part *is* linked to that, and that’s the thing Blizzard can act upon more easily.

In many ways, I go back to the Sunwell days. Dawn Vigil, my guild, managed to kill Kil’Jaeden before the release of Wrath. We did it because we got extremely lucky. Just as we killed Illidan at the end of August 2008, Blizzard nerfed the hell out of Sunwell, making it possible for us to clear the whole instance in little more than two months. Many raids ahead of us in progression got burned out on “unnerfed” Sunwell, many less progressed never made it there, or stopped at the first couple of bosses. Maybe, if they had introduced a zone-wide buff to Sunwell raiders, more people would have experienced the great relief I felt as Velen re-ignited the Sunwell we had cleared with the help of Kalecgos and Anveena.

And hey, if things get too easy, we still have the option of opting out of the buff!

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