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.

One of those days…

17 March 2010 § Leave a comment

Warning: whiney rant incoming

Ever had one of those days when everything seems to be going wrong? I just finished a raid like that – and yet the signs were all there for a stellar raid. We’ve been working on Lich King, and now have P2 down fairly well. We’ve also been plagued with inconsistent attendance (yours truly being one of the main culprits), but tonight all our raiders had signed up. Other raids that have matched our progression pretty closely got the Lich King in the last week or so: Dreambound/Kae’s raid, but also “local” raids on Feathermoon Horde. So, we were all pumped up.

The plan was to extend the raid lockout, and work on Lich King tonight, precisely because of the strong attendance list. Then, in case we had not killed him yet, we would reset the instance tomorrow and grab a couple of reserves to fill in the missing spots and re-clear  – and eventually work again on the LK on Monday, our last raiding day of the week.

So, 2am comes, our start time – and Lyshai, our Main Tank is nowhere to be seen. He’s the epitome of reliability, so I wasn’t too worried – probably just got some extra work to take care of, and thus will be logging on any minute. So I assemble the rest of the raid, tell everyone to head in, start discussing strats on vent for P3 and reviewing what typically goes wrong for us in P2, then decide to kill the two valkyrs between the Upper Spire teleporter and the teleport pad to the Frozen Throne. Still no sign of Lyshai, and it’s now 2:30. We normally do the weekly, when we have similar situations, but the weekly is Lord Marrowgar, so no go there. Well, standing on the Frozen Throne does no good, so we decide to switch to alts and try to get the raid weekly done. We wipe twice on Marrowgar (thanks to not being used to our alt roles), not a big deal – when Lyshai finally appears. Turns out he had had a family occasion, which screwed up his sleep patterns. So, back on mains, we go in for the LK.

And we start wiping.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect a one-shot, so wipes are fine with me. The problem is, we are wiping to really stupid stuff: early dispels of disease for Necrotic Plague, standing in front of Shockwave, not enough dps on Valkyrs, pulling aggro on Raging Spirits and even, in one occasion, on the Lich King. I cannot even, in all conscience, say that it was the fault of one person or another. As a collective, as a group, we were just not there at all. We were distracted, making stupid mistakes that were costing us wipe after wipe. We managed to get to the second transition once, only to have it all fall down because of a late call for incoming transition, which meant three people died to Remorseless Winter.

What’s worse, I see the raid being distracted, and I have no clue what to do to put it back on track. This is where raid leading turns out to be much more of an art than a science – and sadly, my art was just not up to par. By that time I could not even speak on vent to try to cheer everyone up – my partner was moving around the flat and I know that if I want to keep my threat under manageable levels, I’m better off not speaking. Let me tell you – cheer leading through raid chat really doesn’t work very well. Breaks, in my experience, are a bit of a mixed blessing when it comes to refocus raids – so I didn’t call for one. I probably should have insisted on removing the raid extension and re-clearing the instance, given we were not going anywhere. Instead, we kept wiping for a little over 2 hours, and about 10 tries – only, in the end, to give in to the evidence and reset the instance.

In the remaining hour, we cleared Lower Spire, which gives us a bit of a head start for tomorrow. We also got the Rampart weekly quest, and the daily done (all good because I’m not going to be able to go to 25-man this week, and tomorrow I won’t be available for 10, so at least that’s 5 badges I got). I also got some more rep – now I’m 2k away from exalted, which means I’ll get it next week. So it wasn’t a total loss. But boy does it taste sour…

I think I’m just going to go ahead and hide at Single Abstract Noun for a while…

Recount fear

23 October 2009 § 2 Comments

Me: “Actually, no, you didn’t die to untanked whelps, you died because you got cleaved by Onyxia”

PUGPriest: “That’s not true, I got eaten by whelps – people, let’s not get punted into the pits”

Me: *links Recount death metre, showing PUGPriest getting cleaved*

Me: “Let’s also try to stand away from the front of Ony, please – chaining cleave is really a bad idea”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One attempt later:

PUGPriest: “I was eaten by whelps again – tanks need to control them better”

Me: “Hmmm no, sorry – you were hit by Ony’s flame breath. She was in an awkward position, but we need to make sure only the tank is in front of her”

PUGPriest: “No, I tell you, it was the whelps”

Me: *links Recount death metre, showing the one shot due to a 25k Flame Breath*

PUGPriest: “Look, Tsark, I don’t care what that mod says – I know what happened!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t care who you are – whether you are my best friend or a PUG I meet for the first time. I also don’t care how you die: however stupidly you do, I probably have died in a similar way in my past, and quite likely I have died in even more stupid ways. What really bugs me is when you

  1. blame other people, when you are not blameless yourself;
  2. try to argue that Recount is wrong.

In fact, this post is really about the second issue. I don’t think I am a metre fiend. I have never kicked someone out of a Vault group because their dps is too low (and I have left Vault groups that did that on at least two occasions, precisely because I don’t think it’s the right thing to do). I also hate it when people link metres after a boss fight (malus points if they are doing it during a loot roll moment, because that forces everyone to scroll around to see who won the roll). However, I still think Recount is an essential tool to figure out what happened.

During a raid fight, we’re all going to be busy doing lots of things: healing, tanking, dps’ing, moving out of fires, etc. It is highly unlikely that we will have perfect awareness of all that happens, and that goes double if we’re getting one-shotted by an unexpected source. If it’s slow damage (e.g. the fire debuff from Gormok the Impaler), we will notice; if a mob beats on us slowly (e.g. one or two untanked whelps during Onyxia) we will notice; if we are having a lot of whelps flying around, and at the same time Onyxia fire breathes and immediately after fears, then it’s unlikely that we can know for certain what happened. That’s where Recount helps: it tells us exactly what went on. Most importantly, we can check it after the fight, when things are a lot calmer, and we can think back about what happened and how we can improve. Note that what I just said applies even more to combat log analysis sites (e.g. World of Logs, which is the one I use currently), but that requires people to be even more “offline” (i.e. not busy in actual combat) than a simple Recount link does.

Once you see a Recount link, the absolute worst thing you can do is to say “the mod is wrong”. Newsflash: computers don’t lie. Sure, they suffer from GIGO, but that’s a different story. Also, Recount is pretty solid for recording combat logs – and while it’s possible that you died because several things hit you at once, they will all show up on the combat log. Recount is not perfect: sometimes, it will just record your death and little before it, for reasons that are unknown to me. But I’ve never experienced Recount doing a false positive, i.e. recording something that didn’t happen.

Now, of course, there’s different ways to use the information Recount provides. Pointing fingers and assigning blame is never nice – and often counter-productive. Clearly, seeing how people die can easily lead to just that – so as a raid leader I normally try to avoid doing that, unless the raider in question is insisting that they didn’t die from such-and-such, while Recount shows they did. However, if you’re called out and a recount link proves you wrong – the best thing you can do is say “Ooops” and move on. Really, dwelling on it is just going to make the matter much, MUCH worse for everyone – yourself included.

Learning and whining – the two faces of wiping

15 September 2009 § 2 Comments

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been leveling a druid to 80. He was the last alt I had got to 70 before Wrath hit, and after about a level as Feral, I decided I didn’t like that, and switched over to Balance. Fast forward to 76, when I made the big step of buying dual spec, and went Resto. Then yesterday, at 78, I see a call in a chat channel for a healer for Trial of the Champion. Given the quality of loot in there, I decided to go. Turns out the tank, an 80 warrior, was not very experienced (his first time in there) nor very well geared (26k health with Mark of the Wild). And of course, my Resto experience is quite limited, having healed only two instance runs formerly.

So we wiped. A lot. About 4-5 times on the Champions, once on Paletress, 3 times on the Black Knight. And at first, I thought it was my fault for not keeping up the tank, or the tank’s fault for not grabbing the mage (who proceeded to annihilate me), or use his cooldowns, etc. Then I started asking more questions: “Was Grounding Totem down?”; “Can we interrupt the mage?”; “Please Purge the Renews”; “Any chance we can Frost Trap the Ghoul?”; “Was Cleansing Totem down?”

In all cases, I pointed out stuff that hadn’t been happening before, and that did improve our next attempts. The tank had a fantastic attitude, trying to figure out what went wrong and to improve the next attempt. I was figuring out what to do with all my HoTs, and learning how to handle situations of tank at 50% health, with 3 HoTs on him, Swiftmend and NS on cooldown…

One of the group members started complaining about the tank to me in whispers – he and I had known each other for a long time, so I think he assumed he would find a sympathetic ear. He was complaining that he was “tired of training tanks, that they should know what to do”. In other words, he was blaming the tank for all the wipes, and whining about it. That’s when I started asking about the various things DPS could have done to improve the situation, and had not – and whispered back to him I was tired of training the DPS.

This however made me think. Aside from my snarky comment, I actually wasn’t frustrated. Sure, I would have preferred one-shotting everything and completing the instance in 15 mins, but all in all, I thought it was ok. It’s not that I enjoyed the wiping, but I enjoyed learning more about druid healing, from using Nature’s Grasp, to Barkskin, to Dash, to all the more normal healing spells – and the wiping was a mild side effect to it. Instances are easy when we go with our ultra-geared alts, but I think they’re also a LOT of fun to do when we’re pushing the envelope of our abilities, when we not only have to do max dps, but also interrupt, cleanse, off-heal, off-tank, kite, etc. These are all playing skills that will become useful in other contexts, when we will be faced with difficult encounters, like raids. I think too often we blame other people, instead of thinking about what WE could have done to help. If the tank is undergeared, reducing incoming damage through interrupts is even more important. If the healer has 13k health, we need to kill the ghouls quickly, and make sure they are not on him. In other words, people need to adapt, and learn how to use ALL their abilities, and not just the three in the max-dps rotation.

Whining and learning are really the two possible answers to wiping – neither changes what happened before, but learning tries to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to always learn from my wipes, and never get frustrated. But it’s good to rationalize why some wipes with some groups are so frustrating, while other times I can wipe with no end in sight, and still feel like I’ve accomplished something.

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