Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moon Guard in the spotlight!

A quick note to say that a rather generous and awesome player from my realm (the infamous Moon Guard) was featured on WoW Insider's 15-minutes Of Fame feature. Venita is someone I've passing contact with here and there for the last couple of years, and she's been nothing but wonderful for the community of the server, and the project she's working on now is nothing short of extraordinary.

We have a guild-member or two in common between us and there has never any question of integrity or poaching or drama or anything of the sort, not once in the years we've shared players.

Anyway - recognition well deserved - and so good to see my beloved home realm cast in a good light for once.

Paladin Tier 13 and Multi Specs

Is it me or is Blizzard in love with exorbitantly winged helms this tier? Compare the helm this time around with the Death Knight helm from Tier 12.


Unlike a lot of non-paladins who are poo-pooing Tier 13, I actually like it quite a bit, the color-scheme is subdued but still noble, the shoulders and helm manage to look very ceremonial - I imagine it's the kind of thing you'd wear before a grand ceremony.

Laying swords on shoulders to create Knights, bowing with a long white cloak to receive blessings from the Bishop. Sitting atop a white horse leading a parade. Or just giving a speech to rally the lost, exuding the powerful image of a white-knight to inspire and uplift the broken and huddled masses. Can't you just see that white armor glowing when the Paladin casts Holy Radiance?

Does it sound like I'm talking a bit like a Holy paladin? Don't tell anyone, but I've been futzing and tinkering with a holy set. I respec'd the other night and ran a couple of heroic and didn't kill anyone - and it was even fun. I would kill for a triple spec (or even unlimited specs) just to be able to try out different play styles. In an ideal world, I'd have the following on standby at any point:

1. PvE Protection Raid Progression (for Single Target tanking and survival)
2. PvP Retribution (For Arenas & BGs)
3. PvE Holy (For Dungeons & fill-heals during Raids)
4. PvE Protection Dungeon/Farm Raids (for AoE tanking and damage)
5. PvE Retribution (For off-spec play in encounters where we only need 1 tank)
6. PvP Holy (To putz around in)

They're ordered in my play-style preference right now. And I would happily pay incrementally more gold for each spec. And having a lot (a lot) of off-spec holy-gear that I've soaked up helps as well. I think my Holy set is about at par to heal through up to Domo probably. My Holy set which is, like, my fourth set of gear? - let's see - Protection, Retribution, PvP Retribution and Holy, yep, fourth set, not counting off-set pieces for mitigation or threat or whatever. I'm addicted to hording gear. Help.


As for raids? Well. Let's just say Monday Tuesday night we cleared through 6 bosses in 2 hours and the only wipe we had was when I pulled 3 trash packs at the same time like a douche-bag. But you know what? I still had fun. And I know once everyone feels like giving heroics a shot, it'll be back to painful progression again, despite the nerf to heroics. And hey, this way, at least we'll be decked out in heroic raid gear when we face up to Tier 13.

I'll chalk this one up to a failure, and try to do better next tier. See? I can sound like a grownup sometimes. Man, this was a rambling post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Now what?

The nerf lists finally made an appearance today and man, they're taking the entire tier out at the knees. It's tremendously disappointing to me that we didn't clear Ragnaros, though things weren't helped by all the other crap that hit us in the meantime.

We lost our third healer two weeks ago and haven't had a third healer in that time other than our top DPS respecing to fill the slot really, really, really set us back. The last two weeks let us barely squeak past Domo on the second night let alone get 6-kill nights like I was expecting to after we cleared through Domo the first time and realized how simple things should be getting. Our third healer situation got so bad we wound up 2-healing Alysrazor just to make it go faster and it actually worked out just fine.

Though starting tonight I imagine it really won't be necessary to three-heal anything but maybe Baleroc, Beth'tilac and Domo. Or maybe we'll just do everything with three so that the night has that much allowance for mistakes...

I'll be frank, this has really taken the wind out of my sails. Even two weeks ago, I was dedicated to achievements, kills and getting a few hard-modes down before 4.3 but now it all feels worthless and pointless and I'm spending less and less time logging in or playing other games instead.

It's not even a hardcore/casuals thing honestly, it's a disappointment in myself and not achieving the goal I set out for myself a few weeks ago. A lot of my guildies seem to see this as me being upset with them, or with their performance, or me being critical of them, or of our server ranking, or whatever else, but it has nothing to do with any of that.

I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to achieve what I wanted to in the game, and now I'm looking at months of farming nerfed content with Heroic Ragnaros being the exception, and he's the other end of the pendulum in terms of difficulty - the Heroic Lich King of this tier that guilds will throw themselves at for months just to squeeze out that one kill.

A lot will depend on the raid tonight - if it feels like T11 and is just a faceroll as I'm expecting, then we'd better at least get Rag down, so I can, with my tail between my legs, go into Heroics next week and never look back.

But right now, I don't know. I don't know. Raiding is why I play this game. If I don't enjoy the one raid left to me, why am I logging in?

Monday, September 12, 2011

4.2 Nerf and the bitter taste of failure

When the nerf hits next week, it will be the first time in a long time that we will have missed the end-boss of a raid pre-nerf. And it's killing me.

I've always taken pride in killing bosses in their normal incarnation and we've only had a little bit of time on Ragnaros this time around, we had a slow, slow start, it took a while for a raid-team to fall into place, and we're dancing around a million issues with the roster but I was confident we would get through it.

And then this news comes along and it's just crushing my motivation. Unless I push for an extension this week and just spend two nights straight on Rag with maybe a third night added for progression, I think we're going to miss killing this guy pre-nerf.

My pride is tied up into it, and I won't deny it, but that doesn't make the experience any less frustrating. We've always raided on the lower end of serious progression, but I've never let that check my ambition. When I play the game, I want to play it with some level of competitive end in mind - not competing against other people, but against our own expectations of what we can achieve.

A lot of folks in my own guild seem less disturbed by this than I am, and I guess that's good - I'm sure I'll get over it myself, but right now, it smacks of failure.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ragnaros: Night 1

Phew. Ragnaros reminds me a lot of Lich King - very tightly tuned mechanics, very high individual raid performance requirements and a very fun fight.

The first Lava dude puts slabs of lava cutting off travel over the platform  every so often - we just kind of hopped around and it wasn't too onerous, but I saw that on the first cast, we were stacked and it forced him to put one right under his own feet and since he has a cast, if we backed up or moved up, we should be okay. Not bad at all.

Killing two Magmaws so easily is a bit sad. They put fire under your feet, dodge it. When they submerge and re-emerge, make sure tanks are in place to pick them up. Focus one down then the other. Doesn't matter which one you do first. Or it didn't for us.

Phase 1:
We actually cleared all the way through the first phase into the first transition on our very first pull! Of course, I'm pretty sure that was exclusively on the shoulders of the healers who got us through a ton of mistakes. But we quickly spent the next hour cleaning up Phase 1 so it has become a non-issue at this point - it's a very simple phase as long as a few things happen exactly the same every time:
  • Everyone has to be the right distance from each other and they need to make sure they're not getting knocked into lava from the knock back
  • The person who's triggering the traps (our awesome mage took every trap) needs to give the healers a heads-up and watch the timers to make sure two AoE's don't go off at once
  • Everyone needs to dodge the lava waves from the hammer (especialyl if there's a knock-back coming right afterward - tanks and melee need to be smart about how they're dodging the lava here)
  • The melee WAIT for the tanks to be in melee range before getting into melee - especially on the pull and after the knockback. Our feral kitty and rogue were dashing in over and over and getting hit for 150k until we figured out they were just getting to the boss faster than the tanks after knock-backs. Just have them wait 2 secs
That sounds like a lot but it's really not. It's very rhythmic and organic once you get into it.

Phase 2 and 3:
We didn't get too much time in this, but with so many abilities gone from this phase, it should be significantly easier (no knock-back, no traps). The Seed seem to be like the Defile/Valkyr mechanic - run out/group up/run out - but I think we should be okay, as long as we can dodge the flames on the ground. It feels kind of like a Heigan dance. While being chased by living bombs. And getting 30% of Rag's health down. But I'm not too worried about it. Yet.

Phase 3 replaces the seeds with Meteor tanking - which I don't know how complicated it is. We should be able to push him over before we get more than 3 hopefully as the more meteors we get the lower our DPS will be on Ragnaros. Our DPS has been pretty high lately, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed - our basic strat on LK was that if we got to phase 3 and all the adds from transition were dead, we could basically just kind of bum-rush him the rest of the way. Blunt, but it worked. I'm hoping the same sort of thing (or something similar) works here.

Transition Phase:
This is the hard part of this fight.

The first transition and second transition are the same except for the second transition having 2 extra adds that complicate things significantly. 8 adds spawn around the platform and rush towards a randomly placed Sulfuras and if they hit the hammer, it's a wipe. You need the 5 DPS and 2 tanks to split up and handle the adds, stun, slow and kill them before that happens. But the nature of the thing is that it's very random and the placement of the Hammer gives you about 5 seconds to figure out where everyone is going and what to do, communicate that, and get into position at the same time. So it took us probably ten attempts in the transition phase to put something together that looking like it was starting to work.

We had to be very explicit about where the melee were going and where the ranged were going with relation to the hammer - the melee and tanks would always take the 4 closest with specific people assigned left to right and the ranged would be on the rest. It worked a couple of times, but we were still having the odd add slipping through. I really want to nail this to the floor and put a rug on it before we get to the second transition phase because we need this phase to be like clockwork before we handle the two extra adds in that phase.

I was talking to Thistle afterward  and she said she wished we could just replay the fight to get an idea of what's going wrong in the transition and I so wish you could do something like that. Starcraft lets you watch a whole match but there it's just a series of action that have to be duplicated, the amount of data in a 4 minute long raid encounter can be significant. Maybe I should try FRAPsing a raid...

It was a fun night learning this fight and I wish we had one more night to go back to him with, but we'll get there again next week, and we'll have another handful of items upgraded which should help numbers across the board. Every week we come back it will get easier, so we'll see how it goes.

I'm not ready to push lock-outs yet - maybe in a couple of weeks, but not yet. The way I do lock-outs is that I will push a lock-out on the first night, and if we can't kill him, we just go back the second night, drop the lock and do the other bosses - this lets us have the best of both worlds. If we kill him - yay! If not, we can still get our gear without risking getting stuck on an old boss for whatever reason and not getting to him on the second night.

Anyway. It's fun to have a really tough boss to sit on for a couple of nights. I'm already hungry for next week. Rawr.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Too Soon, Majordomo?

Just an update on where I am raid wise. I keep trying to make time to write up some productive things but this last month has been crazy with Earthquakes and Hurricanes hitting New York City. What is going on? Anyway. I hope the coming months are more quiet.

We've had some really awesome raids over the last three weeks - consistent people, who're actually getting geared and learning fights - it's kind of crazy. And full guild groups too. Of course, it wasn't meant to last, and this is the last week for one of our three core healers for a little while as he goes off to college to settle in, and we'll miss him, but it's an awesome time in his life and I hope he makes the best of it.

That does leave me a bit in the hole, and I'm hoping to find someone within the guild to swap characters or step in to heal for a little while until our AFK Healer makes it back. That's an odd recruitment call to make, isn't it?

LF 1 Healer (preferable Paladin) in T11+ gear for progression raiding, 2 weeks only. PST.

Er. Not so much.

This week was our most solid performance yet, clearing all farm content and Baradin Hold in a little over two hours on Tuesday. Shannox is almost on auto-pilot at this point, and Beth'tilac is getting easier and easier - this time she accidentally snagged a few spiderlings and healed up but we were still able to get her down with only a bit of a hiccup. After that we went on to solo-tank Baleroc successfully for the second week in a row, and then cleared up Rhyolith to leave Alysrazor and Majordomo for Wednesday.

The loot tables were stacked in my favor and I was able to snag both Beth'tilac's Mandible and the Shard of Torment (tanking with a DK has its perks!) That leaves me with only the head and shoulders to upgrade. Last night, after Alysrazor went down after a few very good pulls, I hit Revered with the Avengers and snagged both the Mastery/Strength and Dodge trinkets for some awesome CTC action.

I've been at 102.4% for some time now, so now it's just a matter of balancing mitigation for total avoidance rather than blocking. CTC is awesome on Rhyolith where I single-tank the adds and barely take any damage (though my shield tends to break or turn red each time even if I repair right before the pull.)

In addition to Alysrazor, we also pounded Majordomo into the ground after just four pulls, after cleaning up orb tanking (wipe 1), healer placement (wipe 2) and seed management (wipe 3.) I love when we can be super coordinated like this and just knock stuff out of the park - this is what I mean by having a good group that shows up for a few weeks in a row. We could've been here a month ago if we'd had this team then. But I don't mind - we're here now. Tonight, we'll face up to Ragnaros and say hello. I imagine it might take a couple of nights for him to plunge back into his lava pool but we'll get there just as we got here.

And afterward? I'm not sure I really want to push us into hard-modes too much after we clear up Mr. Ragnaros. I think a good project to do next might be Heroic Shannox since he seems like a roll-over, more or less, and then farming out the mats for our Legendary. Maybe going back to Heroic:T11 for titles - maybe Sindragosa or Nefarian though Al'akir seems like he is the easiest of the three.

With the end of normal-mode Firelands starting to take shape, I want another project to keep us focused and working towards and Heroic Tier 11 and the Legendary seem like they will be less stressful than diving right back into Firelands Heroics.

Speaking of the Legendary I think we're at 12 fragments right now, which means another three weeks where we kill at least 6 bosses before the law of averages grants us the rest of the fragments and then our Shadow Priest can at least get the 378 staff. Then starts the long hawl towards the next part. Augh. I really hope we can complete the Legendary and get started on a second before 4.3 comes out.

As for Firelands - I'm quite enjoying these fights. They're challenging, but not back-breakers like a few fights were in 4.0. Majordomo is the only fight that seems ridiculously under-tuned. But hey, I don't mind, makes it easy to farm up some Tier. If we can manage this performance again next week, we'll be in solid shape to clearing farm content in a single night and leave the second night for Ragnaros.

The only fight I'm worried might give us trouble is Alysrazor but the more we kill her the easier it becomes. But at ~12 minutes, it's a long, long fight and requires solid attention the whole time.

Good times. I'm excited for tomorrow.