Shattered

I wanted to post this for a long time, I began it the day before 4.0 launched, when our imaginary world was shattered forever, but was struggling with what to do with the story. It seems to have gotten out eventually, as one of my friends stopped playing and I felt like giving his character a part in the story. It’s the story of my characters during the Cataclysm. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

——-

Neferna woke up and didn’t remember were she was at first. The room was different, the ceiling lower, the light dimer than what she was used to. They were in Stormwind. They had arrived yesterday morning and had been busy since. Between two elemental attacks, they had to find some accommodation but in this period of feasts, families gathered in town and no inn had room for them. Neferna had met the archdruid and they tried to find a solution but it appeared that a lot of refugees from the villages around had also fled from the elementals attacking their houses to seek safety behind the walls of the city.

After a few hours looking for a room, Neferna had come back to the guild hall to find her sister and her partner arguing. The mage wanted to invite them in his family house, it was small but there was a spare room, and the huntress was stubbornly refusing to be dependent on someone, even her beloved one. The idea that she was actually afraid to meet Ron’s parents crossed Neferna’s mind but she didn’t let that thought pass her lips. After realising there was no other solution, the three of them, the wolf on their heels headed toward the mages district. The two old people leaving there were nice and discreet, and, to the night elves relief, didn’t ask any embarrassing questions. When the old man found a toy and started playing with her wolf, he totally won the heart of the huntress.

The room was indeed tiny. There was barely room for a bed, a chair and their two huge chests… There was a tiny fireplace and a tiny window. The night elves loved tiny windows in towns : Nefernet used to sleep during daytime and preferred dark rooms. The day had been long for the young druid, and as her sister went out to check on the drakes and her wolf, she went to bed and felt asleep at once.

And now, it was morning, she began to hear the city waking up as the streets filled with workers and passer-bys. From were she was, she recognised the speech of one of those cranks, lecturing the citizens with their end-of-the-world theory. They were proliferating these days around Stormwind with all these elementals attacking towns and villages. The earth was regularly shaking and many druids and shamans were very worried. Something was threatening in the near future.

But this morning, everything was calm, as calm as it could be in the huge capital city. Neferna sat on the couch, and then she saw her sister sleeping peacefully in the chair in front of the fire. She smiled. She hadn’t seen her sister at peace like that for a long time. She tried to forgot her worries about the world ending and her nightmares of a world shattered in flame and chaos she had these days to watch her sister sleeping like a child.

Nefernet had not been the same since she came back from Ulduar, and battling the Lich Kind had not helped. War was over now but there was still a tiny shadow in her sister’s eyes all the time. The child she was died in the old Titans prison. The huntress had always been the older sister, caring for her younger, fragile sister. She looked strong, used to talk rarely, made decisions and took actions quickly for the both of them, if surrounded by friends, she would burst in husky laughers sometimes, but she loved to be alone with her wolf, in the wild, hunting. Now, she talked even less, if possible, and didn’t laugh any more. She would spend hours alone on the roof watching the stars.

Maybe she should begin to fight for herself now, Neferna thought. She had always had a weak health but was still able to stand in battle. Druid medicine and magic had made wonders.

Nana, as her sister used to call her, got up. After putting some wood in the fire, she found some paper and ink in her chest and put a note on the bed : « Busy with the druids today, see you at sunset. Take care. »

——-

Nefernet woke up in a start. Her wolf was pulling her blanket, whining and behaving strangely. The huntress get on defensive at once. Suddenly, the ground began to shake violently. The earth tremor was the worse she had ever experienced. It lasted many long minutes while she couldn’t move, huddled up on the floor after having slipped from the chair, her wolf in her arms, while everything around her was shaking badly. When it stopped at last, she got up on her shacking legs and looked around her. One of the logs had slipped form the chimney and she put it back in. The wolf was whining more than ever and she tried to get him up on his legs but he wouldn’t move.

At this moment, she noticed sounds, yells and howls coming form the street. People were getting out of their houses, looking for loved ones, calling for help. It was the middle of the afternoon and many people were busy outside. Her senses came back to her instantly. She grabbed her bow, put in a bag some bandages and some vials she found intact in her sister’s chest. That’s when she realised her sister was not in the room. She turned pale. Then she saw the message nonchalantly thrown on the couch. She stormed out of the room, the wolf tailing her as he decided he didn’t want to be left alone, pathetically whining, his tail under his belly, never letting more than 2 inches between him and his mistress ankles.

Downstairs, Nefernet found the two old people shaken but not injured. The old man was already cleaning the floor from broken crockery while his wife was getting bandages ready to help people outside. She opened the street door and discovered a stricken town. The sky was dark and smoky. Tiles were all over the streets. People were running everywhere, calling names, some people were laying around, injured by falling objects from the roofs or windows. Some priests and paladins were already outside helping and healing people. While running in the streets of the Mage district, she also met some druids and shamans from the Earthen Ring helping.

She met with Ron in the middle of the street, he was safe, but worried for her and his parents, after being relieved about their health, he explained he was in the guild hall with some guildies when it happened, everyone was safe and already helping around.

– Have you seen my sister ?

Ron’s face darkened.

– Wasn’t her with you at home ? I haven’t seen her the whole day.
– She said she was seeing the druids today.
– Right, druids district this way.

They ran down the street toward the canal. At the moment they went under the district gate, the ground began to shake again. And in the west, they saw a huge dark form flying in their direction. It was a dragon, the biggest dragon they had ever seen. It was flying at vertiginous speed toward the city. When it was near, they saw it was a black dragon, burning in the inside, they could see the furnace in his chest. He flew over the city, setting some houses in flames. When it flew over the huntress and the mage, they sensed a gust of burning air in their face, and Nefernet felt her heart throbbing.

The dragon left, laying only flames, ashes and sorrow behind him. The air was smelling of sulphur and an acid rain began to fall from the sky. People were running everywhere, some were jumping into the canal to protect themselves from fires destroying the houses. The wolf was howling to death at Nefernet’s feet. She was standing there, looking with horror at that big hole in the ground where the druids district was. She felt like she was falling in an endless precipice, swirling thoughts overwhelmed her, this was not possible, her mind could not process that her sister, that second part of her soul, may be laying there among the rubble made of earth, stones, wood and ashes that was falling into the sea below.

Nefernet stood there staring at the hole in the ground for what seemed like ages. When her brain seemed to work again, it was like in a dream, or rather a nightmare. She was vaguely aware of Ron shaking her and her wolf nibbling at her fingers. Someone else was here, she saw a familiar red-head woman getting hold of her as she collapsed.

——-

She was walking the great halls of Ulduar alone, someone was whispering over that corner. Or was it in her head ? What was she doing here ? Fear took her, there was someone lying on the floor ahead of her. It was an elf with white skin and white hair, beside her laid a mage with white hair, and she recognised him, then she saw someone else, a woman in heavy plate armor, she wasn’t breathing, her face was strangely blurred but Nefernet felt it was someone important for her, and further, she saw a dwarf laying face down, and a gnome, and an elf women with a weird angle with her neck, and other dead elves and humans she knew were loved ones even not seeing their faces.

Tears began to pour down her face. And the voice in her head became more distinct. It was a mad laugh, and the voice was saying : they are all mine, and you will be soon, mine, Death took them all, I’m coming for you now huntress, come, join your friends… Kneel down before the god of death !

She woke up in a start. Someone had slapped her. Hard. She was sweating and shaking. Her cheeks were wet with tears. The red-head woman was standing in front of her, and around her, several people had shocked expressions on their faces, mixed with being worried for the huntress. The sound of the slap had silenced everyone in the room.

– Stop whining or I’ll slap you again, said Poukie.

And she walked away. Nefernet was back to her senses. She was in the guild hall, nearly everyone was around her. Some had small injuries, but everyone looked fine. The warrior’s behaviour nearly brought a smile on her face. Most people used to feel offended by it, but Nefernet liked it, she knew it was because she was awkward showing her feelings. Poukie had always been there for her in hard times, she was always first to run into battle, her red hair flashing on her armour.

Nefernet felt all the looks on her. She didn’t like to feel the centre of the attention when she was weak. She sat up on the couch. Her wolf was at her feet, looking worried.

– I’m fine, she lied, more to the wolf than anyone else.

She knew she should do better to persuade people of it, but it seemed to be enough to let them go back to their business. Many of them were sleeping in the common room, as inns had no room for them. Near the couch, she recognised the priest armour of the black young woman leading their small guild.

The two druids of the guild had news for her. It seemed that strange things were happening at Mount Hyjal and they sent some druids to Moonglade that morning. They still had no news, either good or bad, from those who had left, but the rest of  the druids left in Stormwind, like the two of them, were working on something near the castle and were safe. Her sister was among those who teleported to Kalimdor and they should get news as soon as possible. She had asked the two guildies to pass the message of her departure to her sister.

It looked like her sister had her own battle now. Nefernet stood up as her leader walked into the room. She had the huntress armour and weapons in the arms. They understood with a glance. Her place was with the guild. They had a new war to fight.

Frustrations and rewards, not always where I expected them

My last post was a rant, I apologize for that. I didn’t answer the comments. It was a time when I got some extra amount of work in professional, personal and gaming life. I’ve had no time to answer, no time to read other blogs, barely time to read the patch notes of the last patch. Then, when thing slow down a bit,  I just could not see the point of answering so late…

The guild is slowly progressing. Four hardmodes done, the easiest. We have a few applicants too, one priest and some ranged dpsers. We grabbed a good ranking despite raiding 10-man. Guilds come and go on the server.

Now is a good time to review the old « what I want for Cataclysm » post.

Expected : a really good raid

I wanted to raid less but with more quality. I think we achieved this. The raid is overall good. Progression is there. People are committed, skilled, competition is there. The team is not exactly what we thought it would be. Some people stopped, some changed their mind and went to another guild with other friends, some people were not committed enough to deserve a spot in the raiding team and were put aside, however disappointing it was.

But the core of the raiders is there. Some people surprised me actually, one especially. When he joined us this summer after nearly one year of break from WoW, he had no clue. I thought he might not understand our goal, our project for a guild. But it was the end of the expansion, nothing was to be done really, and motivation wasn’t there. That guildie just bloomed in Cataclysm. He’s active, skilled, friendly, and I can’t imagine the guild without him now.

This guild we are leading, is a guild of friends, but like we say in our charte, our respect and friendship is earned in raids. We are very unforgiving in raids. We are a hardcore guild, yet we play less than most of the guilds performing at the same level on the server. We are proud and arrogant, because what we ask from ourselves, we expect it from others too and are often disappointed. We hate to fail. We are all like-minded on this : fail is our greatest enemy and we fight it every raid with all our heart.

This makes our raids not the more relaxing parties, but highly efficient anyway. That’s exactly what I wanted a few months ago. That’s an achievement : we have the raid we wanted, we are performing at the level we expected, and all the raiders have the same vision of what progression raiding is. We turned out a nearly perfect application recently because of that : the vision.

Unexpected : 10-man raiding difficulty

OK, that, we didn’t see it coming. For us, 10-man was just a way to not have to carry 15 extra people. Blizzard said the rewards would be the same, the difficulty too. That was not exactly true.

First, gearing the raid. Actually, gear is maybe the same, but gearing a 10-man is longer because the RNG is not as forgiving as in 25-man. In 25-man, the piece you need have more chances to drop and you have more chance that the piece that actually drops will be needed. As an example : the Agility staff on Halfus. We are 2 raiders needing that piece. It’s the only Agility 2-hander on this tier. In two months of killing that boss every week, we saw it once. But we sharded the leather boots countless times. So you might get as much drops per person on a boss in 10 and 25-man, but you don’t actually gear at the same rate. They fixed the ‘you may not get T11-heroic token in 10-man’ in the last patch and that’s more fair. Those are the issues I failed to explain in my last post.

Secondly, the difficulty. Before launch, we hoped that 10-man raiding wouldn’t be like it was in WotLK : easier than 25-man. Actually, there was really a few fights known to be harder in 10-man than 25-man. Sarth3D was one of them, if not the only one. Most other fights were doable, and made easier by the gear you could get easily in 25-man. Most guilds used to go in 10-man first, with their 25-man gear, and then bring the knowledge to the 25-man raid. Only the 10-man strict guilds could say how difficult the content was with 10-man gear.

Except with Sarth3D. The mechanic of the fight made it just much more difficult in 10-man. You needed a death knight tank, you could not afford a third tank contrary to the 25-man, I’m not familiar enough with the fight actually to say more. But it is a good example of what 10-man guilds are facing in Cataclysm. For every hardmode fight.

Important : I’m only talking about hardmodes here, progression. Normal modes can be done with nearly any raid composition as long as the players are awake, there is no real difference between 10 and 25 raids. That’s why both 10 and 25-man guilds progressed at the same pace at the beginning, maybe a little quicker for 10-mans. That’s why Larisa said in my comments it was harder for 25-man guilds at that moment. Normal mode is like that : easiest in 10-man for logistical reasons : easier to set-up, to find raiders, to find puggers. Normal modes are forgiving and you can afford bad apples : we see it every week in our alt raid. Guilds running 25-man will have problems recruiting as long as they don’t do hardmodes.

But when you enter the hardmode race, things go the other way. This week, two 10-man guilds of the server, respectively 3rd and 5th on the server (we are 4th), both stuck at 4/13 HM, decided to run 25-mans together : 10-man encounters are badly tuned. You need raid compositions you cannot afford in a 10-man guild. Blizzard nerfed some encounters in the last weeks, and it was most welcome, as it made the encounter possible. It was not hard, it was impossible to do. Wonder why all the world first were done in 25-man ? Because most 10-man encounters are just not tuned for a 10-man raid. Nerf after nerf, we see they are now feasible, and that gives us hope. Those guild decided it was not worth the effort to do 10-mans. They chose the easy path.

Frustration : or, who thought it was fun to put RNG on that crucial mechanic ?

There is one fight that is as difficult in 10-man than 25-man : Atramedes. Because all you need is a tank, 3 healers, and 6 dpsers. You can have any class (even if having a paladin healer for the tank and a holy priest for the raid is great… Druids and shaman really are the poor ugly little ducks of this tier) as long as your raiders open their eyes. Maybe it’s even a bit harder in 25-man because you have less room. It’s a fun fight, wipes occurs on individual mistakes, someone dying on Atramedes generally have one person to blame : himself, or the one who should have clic that shield a second earlier.

Why is it easier : because no RNG is involved in crucial mechanics. The RNG is there of course, but with surrounding awareness, you can beat it. But there is always an explanation to a death, to a wipe : individual fail, bad positioning, lack of healing. Skilled players will find this encounter fun and easy. We killed him first server, I know why. Bring your A-team, whatever the class, don’t suck, win, don’t get the damn bow because it didn’t drop…

Chimaeron and Maloriak are totally different. There is RNG involved in those encounters that can make the encounter hell on the raiding earth.

On Chimaeron, Feud is a crucial ability. If you have enough time between 2 feuds, your tank has time to reset his stacks of debuff, if not, you’re unlucky and might survive. If it happens a second time in the fight, you wipe because your tank already used his big cooldowns. And you are anyway likely to wipe because you tanks won’t have their cooldowns for the final phase. In 25-man, just bring another tank and it’s fine. In 10-man, we can’t have that extra tank, we lose too much damages. We must use a plate dps to tank between Feuds, our enhancement shaman had to bring his DK alt so we were able to kill him. You also need paladins and priests for the cooldowns, and will need a shaman for the mana tide.

Noticed the lack of druid here, again ? Bring the player not the class ? Are you kidding me ? Our druid healer is awesome, it’s heart breaking to put him on the bench for progression because his class just can’t bring what is needed, even if the player behind it is among the 2 best healers of the guild.

Maloriak is a bit different, but also have it’s RNG silliness. Maybe there is a trick we missed, but we noticed that sometimes he releases aberrations before entering the black phase, sometimes not. We tried to slow dps in case it was related to his HP, but it seems it’s totally random. The thing is : if we can have 3 aberrations during the first black phase, the fight is doable : they are killed with the goo in the aoes, and we will only have 6 aberrations in green phase, our tank will survive and we won’t get diminishing results on the aoes. If not, the tank will take huge damages and will very often die during this phase because we can’t kill the aberrations quickly enough.

To be honest, we think Chimaeron is a waste of time. We are not even pulling him again in hardmode. Our raiding time is precious : we have few raid nights, we want to hold the top 5 of the server ‘against’ the other guilds raiding 5 to 6 times a week, we can’t afford losing time on this stupid boss. It’s not fun. Maloriak is actually fun and you can make him reset if he doesn’t cast the aberrations or have awesome healers and tank able to survive the extra adds, but Chimaeron, there is nothing we can do. Better be trying other fights.

It seems that the other fights, after the tuning they got in the last patches and hotfixes, are now feasible, really hard, but feasible. Chimaeron is just a stupid fight, too bad it’s the among the first ones we tried. We want to do hardmodes after all, not impossible modes.

Rewards : leading friends and holding our rank on the server

I wanted to end this post on a good note.

Our raids are hard. Progression nights are great and tiring, but we make progress. We also have to bring our applicants and the people who were not in the original killing composition for a fight. We use to bring always the same comp, if possible, on a progression fight, which means that some people don’t know the fight as well as others and need practice we not always have time for. That means we often have to chose between doing progression and farming gear on the hard bosses. We have had weeks when Nefarian didn’t die, it’s been two weeks, since our first and only hard Chimaeron kill, that we simply kill him on normal mode to gear people. There are weeks when we don’t put the foot in the Throne of the four Shards, as we call that raid, for lack of time.

Yet, we are 4th on the server, 2nd as a 10-man strict. We claimed the first Atramedes heroic kill. Spirit goes up and down, especially when some raiding night, we spend the evening wiping on stupid. There is no fun in wasting 2:30 hours on Nefarian or heroic Atramedes because of individual repeated fails by the same people. But overall, we have a solid team of raiders.

And that’s the reward for leading friends. Sometimes, it’s not easy to tell a friend he needs to bring up a better game. On another side, you don’t want to disappoint your friends and try your best. And it’s something quite unusual, at least on our server, to see a guild held by that strange bound, fragile bound of friendship. It’s hard to became a part of the team, but once you are one of us, you don’t want to go. For the first time in 2 years of hardcore raiding, I haven’t been looking for another hypothetical guild.

We have a friend guild on Horde side, ex-guildies run it, we share the same TS. They lost a bunch of people to another guild recently. That’s something that won’t happen in our guild at the moment. Our GM joked about that, telling the officer of the Horde guild ‘See, why didn’t you join us in the beginning ? Look our raiders, I yell at them every night, I could piss on them, they stay, I don’t understand why…‘ It’s not true of course, there isn’t real yelling at, it’s more like ‘man, I thought you were better than that‘ with a disappointed tone that makes you want to bury yourself 6 feet under. It makes applicants go very nervous and the old raiders feel the guilt of their failure harder than any shouting from a random stranger. Maybe it’s the accent… (*tease* I know he reads this blog…)

And I already said that for our Herald of the Titans kill, but with each first kill, during each progression night, there aren’t anyone I don’t want to see breathing the same virtual air. We managed to grab good rank and yet raid as a tight group of friend. There have been casualties, some people couldn’t follow the rhythm, the pressure we put on ourselves, and we also know we may not be able to climb more ranks because of our tight schedule, but we try our best.

The 10-man raid and the brick wall

Now we killed Nefarian and Cho’gall, we can go into heroic raids. And we began with Chimaeron this week, we spent more than 5 of our 10 raiding hours wiping the floor of its lair, ruining our chances to clean the rest of the content as we had no time to kill Chogall, Nefarian and the whole Four Winds raid. Morale wasn’t very high in the guild since what happened two weeks ago, but this fight is even harder on our nerves. We just wiped, came back, pulled, lost the tank again, wiped, came back, … As a dpser, it was just boring : I have as much fun in front of the dummies of Darnassus… Except the last phase which is a bit more fun : I need to Feign Death ! Woah ! Amazing ! … Yeah…

(For your information, this will be a rant, maybe even a long one…)

This fight and our wipes leaded us to forums, to see how other 10-man guilds were struggling with hardmodes. We already knew than some leader of top world guids said it was clearly the hardest tier of content they had ever done, in term of progression : no downtime for gating, Christmas holidays in the way, leaded to lots of work to stay in the competition for world firsts. I feel far from world firsts, those are top guilds, with nearly professional raiders who choose to dedicate some months of their life for these achievement (If you want an idea of what a day in a Paragon’s raider life is during progression, read this). I’m not like them. I play a lot but I can’t quit my job or cut my working hours for two months for a raid. If I’d take 2 months holidays, I wouldn’t spend those in Wow but I’d take a plane to somewhere far away…

What we discovered hit me quite hard. We found several posts (you can read this one, or that one, and that article on Paragon’s blog I really liked), setting aside the usual whiners and trolls, where people were calmly explaining how the 10-man encounters were badly balanced, and some were not even feasible. I remember when Blizzard announced back this summer how we would have one lock-out for 10 and 25 raids, and would have to choose between the two raid sizes. I remember raiders rejoicing to be able to raid as 10-mans without being second-zone raiders like it felt in WotLK : same rewards, same difficulty in the encounters, so we were told.

We prepared for it. We built a close team, with friends, and intended to play better with less raiding nights than most guilds of the server, to rush through the content and have fun in hardmodes. It would be nice and fun, we would have only friends, chosen skilled players and would meet the same challenges as every other raiders in the game. Reality hit like a trunk when you live in care-bears country… Reality is that some healing classes are badly struggling with issues, that we need more kickers than we have, that consumables for raids are ridiculously time-consuming to farm, and, as we realised this week, 10-man hardmodes are horribly balanced and very demanding in term of raid composition.

I remember my guildies in the summer, hoping that 10-man content won’t be trivial. Man, be careful with what you wish…

My guild started seriously raiding on the 6th of January, we raid 12 hours a week when we have the raiders. Our roster is currently 14 people : 3 tanks, 4 healers, 3 melees, 4 casters as main specs. All our healers have either a dps spec or a tanking spec, our SPriest has a holy spec, tanks have dps or healing specs. Than means we can be quite flexible with specs, but sometimes, we just don’t have what is needed. You can’t get a tenth raider from nowhere when only 9 people signed up, and there are times when, even if you wish you could, you can’t put 12 raiders in a 10-man raid…

Like many of the 10-man heroic fights in this tier, Chimaeron is a great example of the exact opposite of  ‘bring the player not the class’ that Blizzard is trying to make us believe. Even in 25-man it’s not true, look at the ‘half-the-raid-is-druids’ Nefarian kill from Paragon, or their ‘no-shaman’ Sinestra kill. For Chimaeron, we need to rotate cooldowns on the tank and the raid, that means we must bring at least 3 of our four paladins, and our healing priest, we need a plate dpser to tank normal phase (needs to be able to taunt), we have only one, meaning we can’t do any progression on this boss when our retpal can’t attend to the raid.

Raiding 10-mans now feels extremely unfair. Lesser rewards for bosses, less loots per player, slower pace to gear your raid, but as much time spent in raid, as much consumables to farm, as much researches to do, and for the officer teams, as much hair-pulling to build raid comps, if not more.

I read on forum some people arguing that the better rewards you earn in 25-man raids is a compensation to the largest management you need to get a 25-man together. Having been in both 25 and 10 progression guilds in the past 2 years, I can tell you it’s far easier in 25-man. In 25-man guilds, with rosters of around 35 people, if you lose someone (RL, burnout, aliens), you can go on the time to find someone else. In our 10-man, when one person is in holidays, and another one is just missing his usual raid because he plays football on Tuesday nights, we sometimes can’t raid, because we are one healer short, or missing a tank.

The problem in 10-man team is not building the team but rather keeping it together as we hit a wall together… In a 25-man, there is a high turn-out in the raiding team. People can afford to miss a raid or two, they can be sure that at least someone will be able to fill their raid spot. In my 10-man team, if my boyfriend and I are not around, that means 2 of the ranged dpsers are missing, that the raid will need to bring offspecs, and everyone will have to compensate for our absence. It’s much heavier on the shoulders of raider, and leads to burnout more quickly.

Same during combat : when one player dies, 10% of the raid is down, 1/3 of the healers, or 1/2 of our kickers/dispellers or whatever buff they bring… In 25-man raids, if one player die, the remaining of the team can cope with it as the share is wider, you won’t lose a buff as there is a high chance there will be someone else bringing it. And they have 3 battle-rezzes anyway… If a hunter dies in 25-man, the rest of the raid just go on, they lose 4-5% of the dps of the raid, there is another hunter to bring this buff, or an enhancement shaman, or a frost DK… In my 10-man, if I die, we lose 17 to 18% of our dps, we lose my buff, but also the buff brought by my pet which is really important as I usually have the pet needed to bring a missing buff, we sometime lose the frost trap, or the misdirection, or a crowd control. And I’d rather not talking about losing a healer. Losing someone in 10-man hardmode means a wipe.

And what do you get for all these efforts, hair-pulling, tears and sweat ? Less valor points, less gear, shards,… Being an officer in a 10-man guild have never been more thankless : bosses are not dying, people are not gearing, they are burning out and unhappy more quickly. Officers want their raiders to be happy, because a happy raider make a good raider, which incidentally, helps to kill hard bosses, and makes them even more happy. Unhappy raiders don’t kill bosses. My guildies are unhappy…

Pugging in Cataclysm

Tam and Shintar talked about it, maybe others, but I don’t have much time to read blogs these days sadly. It seems they had quite good experiences with pugs and LFD tool.

As of today, I got my hunter and my shaman to 85. I usually don’t pug with the hunter. When levelling and gearing the hunter, there was always a bunch of guildies to go with, maybe with one pugged dps, but more often, we had two groups running at the same time. The run was either careful with crowd controls, delicate pulls, or just a wotlk-like run once everyone was geared and the mobs weren’t too tricky. We usually finish our heroics in 35 minutes, even the longest ones.

I don’t pug with the hunter because I do heroic for either loot or badges. I can live without both of them and if I can’t find a guild group to do my daily, it’s not a problem for me. I don’t like unknown tanks with my hunter because I don’t know if the aggro will be ok or if I will be able to CC correctly without the big loaf in plate aoe-ing around like an idiot… And, as a dps, I find it more tiring, because you have to be active all the time, like the tank. I don’t feel like that when healing.

I levelled my shaman as elemental for questing, but did dungeons as a healer. I levelled nearly on my own because not many guildies had levelling toons, and only my boyfriend sometimes came with me to tank. I noticed people said it when they didn’t know the dungeon and generally, people take time to explain the strategies. But when I reached the level 84-85 dungeons, things became to get odd.

I noticed a lot of 85’s around, most of them quite geared, because they were literally mana sponges. When a mage and a tank feel like they have the same amount of HP to the healer, there is a problem. I have a theory. There is several reasons why 85’s are in normal dungeons. first, their ilvl isn’t high enough to get to heroics. This is easily solved, I didn’t need that much time to reach my 329 cap, with quest items, honored reps and a few drops.

Another reason is that they grind rep. I hate that because healing overgeared people compared to you is stressful. Spend half a mana bar to top off a rogue is disgusting really… I actually don’t top off anyone except myself and the tank, the rest is supposed to have food, or cooldowns.

The last reason is that nobody want them in their heroic… This is my own opinion. People are pretty touchy around the vote-kick feature in heroics. It’s very understandable : heroics are fun and well balanced, but an idiot not knowing anything about crowd controls or doing two miserable thousands dps is one fucking dead weight. In normal, it’s alright, the healer will just have to drink after every single pull but who cares… In heroics, people wipe and get pissed, and kick.

I remember my first Vortex Pinnacle with the shaman. My BF was tanking with his DK. He sets up marks, and ask the hunter to trap the blue square, while I would control another elemental. We asked him to pull. We waited. Waited. Waited. And then we got bored and pulled, only cc-ing one mob, while healing through. We had to wait for him at every pack, his dps was abysmal, he was always afk. I don’t know why we didn’t vote kick him. He was clearly leeching xp on our back. It served us as a lesson.

I also ran a normal Grim Batol with all puggies, they were nice, didn’t know the fight, didn’t play exactly well, but we got through it without too much wipes (and spent 2 hours there…). They broke controls, they didn’t switch targets on adds (you know, the elemental Drahga summons ? Yeah that one… Healed through… Or not…), stayed in aoe in general, but they were nice and chatty, and willing to learn. It felt like babysitting a little but I liked it. They were very happy to kill the last boss and thanked me a lot about guiding them through pulls, assist order and bosses. It wasn’t very productive (I don’t remember if I got any loot or whatever), seeing the time I spent there, but I had great time.

About the spirit gear debate, I don’t have any special opinion. For me, LFD is the jungle. If I need something, for main spec, I need, for offspec, I will generally check if a caster needed it too and leave it because I’m a carebear. I understand some people trying to get inappropriate gear (like mages and warlocks with spirit) just to pass the 329 ilvl threshold. I won’t approve it if you roll against a real Spirit user, and would probably vote-kick you. There is plenty of ways to pass that threshold without ninjaing.

I tried a few LFD heroics, but so far, I didn’t stay. Maybe it’s my battlegroup, but heroic pugs seem pretty shitty. In the guild, we never go LFD if out numbered, 3 Quichons is the minimum, preferably with a guild tank. It looks like most people in LFD think Cata heroics are facerollable. We are pretty quick at kicking a pugee : when you are a dps breaking cc and barely doing 5k dps when everyone is at 8k, including our rerolls, or a healer not able to hold our geared tanks under cooldowns during a pull with at least 2 CC, you’re out.

I’m getting used to healing in Cataclysm. It’s fun. I’m not panicking when everyone is low HP, because it’s not actually as low as we might think : health pools are quite high now and if your frame is showing 10% hp, it’s still around 10k hp left. I’m having a lot of fun with the shaman new tools. I used to quick healing wave everyone at the end of WotLK, but in Cataclysm, I needed to adapt and I’m enjoying it so far.

I really like the synergy between the new shaman spell (unleash elements) and the other spells. I’m now quite well geared, well enough to relax in heroics. I find healing very relaxing now, you have some time to think it over a bit : which spell, who to heal, in which order, will they take more damage soon ? I would never heal dps between packs of trash, they will either regen automatically (out of combat regen is very high) or they should have food. And anyway, they don’t need to be full life. They won’t be killed. I would top off before bosses when I have time to drink.

I noticed though that melee dpsers tend to die a lot in my dungeons. The thing is that I don’t know why they take so much damages. Are they staying in shit or is it a fight mechanic I can’t see ? At the beginning of the run, I would check if the melee player takes a lot of damage, if this damage isn’t too tedious to heal (big health pool = mana sponge) and where he is on the damage meter. You have to put pretty high numbers here to climb my healing priority ladder. If you enter the category « useless mana sponge », your repair bill will be high, because I will only save your butt when I have extra mana and time, which never happens except when someone goes afk, or when I need to keep you alive if I don’t want to lose more time and mana rezzing you.

I also don’t heal dpsers staying in fire. When you have something bad under your feet, you will get the heal you would need if you run out of it immediately. If you screw up, you die. It’s not that I’m angry at you, even if I am actually because you drive my attention to you when I need to watch out for the rest of the team. It’s because if I try to save your butt, I’ll need heavy healing spells, costing an arm and a leg in mana, I might lost my tank or someone else and might not have enough mana to finish the fight. Letting you die means the fight will be longer, but I should have enough mana.

There is no more debate between the officers in my guild about « should I change main toon between my hunter and my shaman ? ». At first, we needed me in raid, on the hunter or the shaman, whatever, and the shaman wasn’t ready : so we decided i would focus on my hunter, what I did. So I geared the hunter at best, I bought a Darkmoon Fair Card, it cost me half of my savings, I put rare gems and enchants, got exalted to both reps giving me epics, I did a lot of heroics to get every Justice points item that was an upgrade. Then, we recruited a healer. And now, I got quite a few loots this week in raids : I have an up-to-date ranged weapon and TWO trinkets, something that never happened to me before so close after the release of new content…

So, changing mains isn’t an option any more. We need my dps (which is insane… seriously, SV hunters will be nerfed), all that gear I got mustn’t go to waste. I feel odd, because I love raiding as a hunter, but I’m currently dying out of curiosity to see what it’s like to heal in raid now. I didn’t changed many things as a hunter, I watch my health as much as before, I do as much dps as possible while helping to control/dispell/whatever. Nothing new except the new fights. Healing changed a lot. And I’d love to see it.

Maloriak guide

I’m learning to use the drawing software Inkscape these days. It’s a free tool to create vectorial designs and pictures.

I did a few drawings for my guild, to describe Maloriak fight and wanted to share because the drawings are funny enough. I’ll add a quick guide so this post won’t be totally useless like the rest of the blog.

Right !

Maloriak is in Blackwing Descent. When you enter the instance, you have Magmaw on your left, Omnitron on your right : kill them (I might draw some guides for them, at least Omnitron). Good ! Now you can take the elevator, be careful not to fall, because it’s a long way down. Don’t be stupid by casting any slow fall spell too early : you might fall into the lava and you can’t get out. You are now in a huge hall : in front of you is a crater with lava, this is where you will fight Nefarian once you killed everything else. Around, there is a walkway with trash, including three drakes. Each of them is named and have special abilities. Each drake guards a gate to a boss.There is three bosses : Maloriak, Atramedes and Chimaeron.

Maloriak is the first boss on the right. The dragon guarding it does a debuff on the tank, you have to switch. And you need to dispell its enrage (hunter’s Tranquilizing shot, or other spell dispelling enrage I don’t know of), if you don’t, or can’t, he will gain stacks and will hit hard on your tank if you don’t kill him fast enough. Be careful to not aggro the patrol : it’s not pretty. There is no other trash.

Maloriak is a phases boss. He will drink things from his cauldron and you will know which phase it is with the color of that thing.

The succession of flasks will be :

Red (or Blue) -> Blue (or Red) -> Green (If the first is blue, the second will be red, is the first is red, the second will be blue.)
Red (or Blue) -> Blue (or Red) -> Green
– 25% -> He drinks the three of them and became angry : hurry up to kill him.

There shouldn’t be another blue or red phase : if you get one, your dps is not good enough and you will reach the enrage timer which is quite close. And don’t kill him too quickly either : you need the green phase to kill the adds.

Wait ? What ? Adds ? Yes, during the coloured phases, he will summon adds that your offtank needs to aggro and kite in the back of the room. This summoning can be interrupted to monitor the number of adds your offtank got. Each summoning spell calls 3 adds. At each green phase, there should be 9 of them. This is important : there is a total of 18 adds. More than 9 is too much for the tank because he must gather them, but also because they buff each other. You need to help your tank kite the adds with frost traps or things like that. (Sorry it’s very hunter centric…)

There is also two other things to be aware of during the fight :

– He cast a spell on himself healing him : steal it or dispell it !
– He cast an aoe spell, arcanic storm : kick it !

So, into the colored phases !

The red phase :

Pack on your tank. It makes a cone aoe in front of him, dividing the damages between people. Trendy mechanics I find, in the expansion, you find it quite often, the « divided between number of people » one.

One person will get a debuff dealing fire damage. It hurts a lot and needs to be healed seriously, and you take more fire damages so get out of the raid and don’t take your share of the breath.

Red phase

Red phase : gather up together

Your offtank does his thing with his adds, put a frost trap if you’re a hunter. Mages can help to.

Remember to clic on the lolwell which isn’t lol anymore during the aoe.

The blue phase :

Everyone spread out. Someone will get a debuff dealing damage around him, if he’s a melee, he needs to get out of the way of the other melees.

The boss will target someone and freeze him, and if you’re around, you will get frozen too. Like Sindragosa. One of your casters need to free that person by killing the iceblock. When you kill it, it explode, dealing damages around, and make any other iceblock around explode too. Don’t get frozen with someone else : you will get double damages and will kill yourself and your team-mate too.

 

Blue phase

Blue phase : spread out !

A hunter is very good at taking care of ice blocks. I use a cheap arcane shot so I don’t need to wait for focus or cast a steady shot, as I nearly always have enough focus for an arcane shot. Have another caster ready to free the hunter if needed.

Your offtank is still kitting, let him some room. You have the right to shout at him if he comes around casters during this phase and threaten to make a chain ice.

The green phase :

Aoe time !!! The adds are not protected anymore and take double damages, so does the boss. Gather all the mobs on the freezing trap and aoe your heart out. Quickly. Profit of that time when the boss take extra damages. There must not be any remaining adds at the end of that phase.  Remember to interrupt the summoning of new adds during this phase, your offtank might not like to have to aggro new adds while your raid is aoe-ing like mad.

Green phase

Green phase : aoe !!!

We like to cast Heroism on the second green phase, to quicken the process of killing the adds and do extra damages on the boss, and to have it during the end phase.

The final phase :

From there, your raid will stack a debuff (Poison, Nature), it will need to be healed through. There will be ice stars going after someone, they are very slow and you just need to get out of the spot where they spawn (look at your feet) and out of their way. It’s easy really, no one should get hit. And the boss make a huge fire attack in front of him, so the tank must have him facing away from the raid. The fire stay on the ground so the tank have to move out and rotate a little bit. Get out of his way.

End phase

End phase

There is an enrage timer (6 minutes from the pull I think). The poison stacking works like an enrage too. Finish him off quickly.

Have fun !

I hope you enjoyed this guide. It was really to have some fun with Inkscape, which worked so I may draw more guides… Omnitron will be next, as it seems my guildies can’t memorize the various abilities of the trons…

———–

As an update, we killed Al’akir, and I definitely hate this fight… Especially the first phase, the rest is ok… Atramedes too…

First days in Cataclysm

Soooo.

I’ve been busy. Levelling. Of course. Most of my guildies rushed to level 85 as they hate levelling. I tried to keep up but without much conviction, I know I’m not too slow a leveller and I turned 85 quite quickly enough, while taking time to read quests and enjoy the scenery. And as I absolutely hate when 5 million people are trying to get the same quest mob, I sometimes just stopped questing. I played the AH for levelling my professions, but prices were insane, so my professions didn’t levelled too much. And finally, at 85, I’m doing my dailies with an enthusiasm I never had before and hitting some heroics with guildies. We even put the foot in Twilight Hold this Monday for 3 hours of the-floor-is-hotter-than-icecrowns-one. Halfus just ate our tanks. We need a little bit more gear. And maybe a new healer.

On levelling

I haven’t had as much fun questing ever. I’m usually a reluctant quester. I quest because I have to in order to reach other goals : levelling, gaining rep, having access to something, generally with a final goal : raiding. These last few weeks, I was avoiding questing or levelling an alt for the reason I didn’t want to burn out of my levelling mojo before Cataclysm launched. That made those few weeks very dull as the whole guild was playing an alt of some sort.

But there, with the new zones, I had fun. I had forgotten how much I love soloing with my hunter. I levelled as Beast Master of course : you can pick up quest item, or skin a mob while your pet is finishing off the next mob. My technique was : pull the mob with a big hit, pet in defensive runs to it and grab aggro just before the mob comes in melee range, get the quest item on the floor while the pet tears it to pieces, loot it at your feet, /pet Spirit Beast.

The guildies were horrible this week on TS : whining, bitching, moaning, whatever, instead of taking the time to enjoy the new zones. So I stopped logging on TS while questing. I did good. I could play in my own world, following my story along the one Blizzard made for us. I liked Hyjal and did all the quests, Vashj’ir was all right despite my awful ability to move in 3D space in this game : « loot, what do you mean not in range ? Man, I’m right in front of it, damn it and loot the thing ! ». I had to move to another zone after around 60 quests because it was a bit slow, but I liked it. Then I did all the quests in Deepholm, I really liked the zone, maybe a little bit too dark.

I was looking forward to go to Uldum as I’ve always been a big fan of Ancient Egypt, as you may have guessed seeing the name of my hunter. Nefernet comes from the name Nefer, which is old Egyptian meaning « beautiful » or « good ». And I added « net », thus naming my hunter and first ever character « the good net », hoping it would bring me luck during my first travels in the MMO world. I love the name. I also remember asking my guildies not to call me Nefer if they didn’t want to say the whole name : it’s a male name ! Nef is all good though… The exact female name is Neferet (« the Beauty ») which is very close. And some of my pets are names from Egyptian names too. Did I tell you I love Ancient Egypt ? Did I ?

My guildies made fun of me about the town named Neferset in Uldum. I found it quite disturbing too, especially when reading the quests with either of the names. The most disturbing fact about Uldum was that I arrived there at maybe 6pm, after an afternoon off work questing in Deepholm, and it looked like every single scholar or worker decided it was time to level too… All the mobs were tagged, the zone was swarmed with toons rampaging my world, I hated it. I was so disappointed. I decided to follow my guildies advice and go quest in Twilight Highlands where quests give much more XP. I liked the questing here too, and it was a bit less busy, a bit…

After finish my levelling, guildies dragged me in dungeons, and it was fun playing in a group again. I took time to finish all the quests in the TH though, the questlines are really good, I loved it. Except the very last one qust which is bugged. I went back to Uldum this week, now that the big wave of levellers reached other zones. I haven’t had time to finish the zone yet, but I need to do it quite quickly : the Ramkahen enchant is the Agi one. And I want to see the whole story…

During the questing, one thing I didn’t like was the too strong linearity. When questing, I like to be able to take all the quests, do them in the order I choose, and come back take the following. There, you had 2 or 3 quests in a hub, rarely more, asking you to do things, and then you can have more quests and then go to the next hub. If one quest asked for an elite with 20 people waiting for it to respawn, you had to wait 15 minutes until you can at last tag the said mob. You had no other quests to do while waiting and you couldn’t go on with the story and keep the quest for later.

Another thing is professions. I levelled skinning pretty quickly. I had some trouble with herbing with my druid : she had a feral spec I never played, and I needed some time to get used to it. I went to farm in Vash’jir, with the aquatic form of the druid, it’s que du bonheur ! I spent gold to level my alchemy, and my leathercrafting. I have a problem with LW on my hunter : I can’t learn new recipes : I got an error when I clic them : « Can’t find the object ». It’s a big problem as my hunter is the only leatherworker of the guild for the 2 druids, the rogue and the shaman, not counting alts… I opened a ticket Saturday, I’m still waiting for the answer.

On mains and alts

Speaking of mains and alts, I began to seriously level my shaman. It’s very fast as I don’t take time to read quests, seeing I just did them a week ago. She’s primarily a healer, and has an elemental spec for questing and being the good hybrid in raids. You know, that third healer asked to go dps on some fights… The guild might be in the need to recruit a new healer, and we have no resto shaman at the moment. I might have to change main.

A few months ago, I would have been reluctant. I can play my hunter pretty good, and I need some time to get used to a new role and class. But I’m also healing for two years in raids with my druid, and I did quite a few raids with my shaman as a healer too. I’m a good raid healer. Not so used to tank healing though.

I don’t have the same feeling when healing than with my hunter. With the hunter, I like to see big numbers and put some green on top of Recount, it’s competition with the other dpsers. As a healer, of course I will check Recount to see if anything was wrong, but my priority is not losing anyone and managing my mana. If at the end of the fight, no one lies on the flood except the boss, I’m happy. Sometimes, I’m sweating on my Vuhdo, but that means it was good sport.

In a way, it’s maybe less rewarding, it’s certainly different. I realised this summer, when I was healing a lot, that I missed to put my name on Recount. That I missed spamming my keyboard like mad to finish a boss, and seeing its life going down with my effort and the effort of the rest of the dpsers. On another side, saving someone at the last moment, or holding the whole raid in heavy damages is pretty satisfying too.

It’s a big dilemma. Healing or huntering. I love my hunter, it’s the hardest part : Nefernet, it’s me. Despite the fact that I have some difficulties to get used to the new hunter, in my head, my shaman and all the other characters will always be alts.

Nearly there : the guild is ready

Cataclysm is near…

The world change was huge. The revamped zones, especially Stormwind and Orgrimmar are really cool. I was a bit sad to see Darkshore’s state but the zone was so boring before that it is an evil for a good…

I began to write a story about that night when Deathwing woke up and put the world upside down, seen from my two sister elves, but I haven’t finished yet. I’m quite busy around.

I visited the new Orgrimmar too, with my baby shaman, and « dey put a’ oil pump in our pond, Mon! No more freshin here… » Sad troll. I created a new troll hunter, but there is a queue on Argent Dawn now with everyone coming back for Cataclysm so I stay on my Alliance server and will level it later.

The guild is in levelling mode : everyone rolled one or more characters, is levelling an old alt, or doing the new quests with their main character. I’m gearing my new tank so it’s quite boring because it’s all WotLK instancing…But it’s fun to hear everyone discovering new things.

I don’t want to level or quest too much : I know I’m not a great fan of questing, it might be fun the first time, I would have a lot of fun with some quests, but I will get bored quite quickly. I don’t want to run out of my levelling steam before Cataclysm launch. I will have to level my hunter pretty quickly if I want to gear her a little before Christmas holidays, as we will officially start raiding on the first reset in January.

Last Friday night, we did an ICC25, picking people on /2 to fill the raid. We had some bad eggs but the raid was cool and relaxed and we did a full clean, even Lich King, which some people did not expect. We had chosen to clean more bosses in normal mode to get to LK and we had to extend the raiding time but everyone was still concentrated and we got him. One of the tanks was picked up, and hadn’t tanked him yet, poor guy. His aggro was depressing and his adds were happily run around shrieking on the raid, but thanks to the buff, it didn’t kill anyone, the dispells on silences were done quickly, and the healing team was all right (with 4 Quichons).

I was healing with my druid, it was fun. I also had the ML and it was a chore… I should have let the automatic mode, who needs loot anyway when the patch is in 10 days… But it might have led to drama because some loot would have been disenchanted by mistake, or because one would have need it for a second spec, yada yada… That way, I could check quickly and after a few bosses, it wasn’t too slow.

This is one of the many reasons why we are not raiding as a 25-man guild. The loot process is too long and complicated. In 10-man, there is fewer loots, and it’s rare when 2 or more people want the same item. We choose a DKP system though, first because most of us find the betting process fun, second because we want to be able to balance loot among raiders, and we want to track and acknowledge attendance. Our system is based on the Shroud Loot System, where people spend half their DKP when they really want an item, or they can give the minimum price and be in competition with other people with a /rand. Runycat had a very good post about this loot system and ours is basically the same. This system enable us to keep some randomness too, that some raiders like, and we hope it will avoid any loot drama.

We generally despise loot but some items are sometimes really wanted by some people. This way, if you have more points, you got the item. Point blank. No brainstorming among the officers about who should get that uber trinket first, leading to a suspicion of « they gave it to their favourite first ». Like our GM said, DKP is there for 10% fun and 90% of don’t-piss-off-the-officers.

We tried the DKP addon on Halion the other night with fake DKPs, people seemed to like it. I will need some time to get used to it and do the looting quicker but as long as people have fun, I’m fine. We’ll see what it does in a progressing raid. For now, everyone is geared and the loot was for rerolls and guild friends.

We also decided of a reset of the points at any new tier content. That way, everyone will be on the same line for new loot. It seemed fair.

The good thing is that people are taking it very well. Some of us raided with DKP for nearly a year, with a classic system of open bets, and with all the downsides of this system : points hoarding, geared veterans always getting the new shinies first. On our previous server back in the day, there was a loot council, which is okay depending on the officer team, but can lead to useless drama. Letting the loot free for all would be ok in a 10-man guild like ours, but we can’t check if everyone is getting fair loot depending on RNG. It worked for us in the past few months but half the guild was already geared and we were not running for firsts server.

When we discussed the guild rules during the summer, most people were clearly not caring about loot. I’m quite confident about loot drama with these people : some are quite fond of loot, we know them, and the DKP system is an insurance for them that loot will be fair. The rest of the guild don’t give a damn about who gets what first. Its not that they wont be happy to get a new shinny, but they won’t be bitching and moaning for half an hour because their new dagger didn’t drop… Everyone has in mind the progress of the raid : the first ones because they think that their character needs to be well geared and perfectly opti for the raid, the rest thinking that as long as a piece of loot is an upgrade for someone, it’s all good for the raid.

Anyway, the guild is ready. Some people planned their levelling with great care, the rest of us will just be « where do I go now ? », enjoying the new zones. The guild rules are written down for good, we will make them public for Cataclysm. They are very long and tedious to read, it’s on purpose. And I wrote them, and you know I don’t know how to write short things…