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Archive for May, 2011

Drama is funny…

When it doesn’t involve you!

I got to be an on-the-sidelines popcorn muncher for a couple bits of drama this week and it really made me appreciate how our guild handles things. First, on Tuesday I took my paladin to the third guild raid, the one that’s trying to get off the ground. Counting my paladin, we had two healers and we really needed three, so Jhudora the raid leader went and found us a resto druid somewhere.

Three or so months ago, I was short a healer for our raid. We’d brought in a friend of Karius from her old guild to tank, and he suggested we invite a rather new guildie of his, Jhudora. I did and she fit in great right away. Then it turned out she lives in the same town as me. So when I convinced her to be a part of our raid group, I hoped she’d move over to our guild. It took a few weeks but she eventually did. Yay!

Now she was raid leading, on her other healer, the one that doesn’t raid with us. And bringing in another non-guildie healer that none of us knew. I inspected the druid; ok gear, good stats, and a respectable spec. The night before I’d run with a resto druid who had a 2/0/39 spec. I didn’t even know it was possible to put 39 points into resto.

Anyway this druid was really good, and we downed Magmaw, Omnom, Maloriak, and 4 winds and would have got Halfus but ran out of time. Jhudora invited the druid back for Thursday, and throughout the raid we’d made remarks about her being welcome to come to our guild, we’re always looking for good players.

At the time the druid said no, she couldn’t do that, she even knew some of her guildies in real life.

Wednesday afternoon I log on and the first thing I see in guild chat is someone’s achievement. The second thing I see is that druid saying “Grats”.

I ask what happened and she said her guild yelled at her for raiding with us and so she gquit. Now, I don’t know any details. But I do know that she had only killed Magmaw and Halfus before coming with us, had seen some Omnomtron, but nothing else. The guild she was in wasn’t very advanced at all. Did she blow off her guild to raid with us? Did she get saved to something she wanted down? No idea. But whoever handled the situation in her guild, did it wrong, because they lost a very skilled healer.

Then later that evening I’m hanging out doing archeology and I start getting whispers from a new guildie, someone we’ve been raiding with, wanting advice. He’d just run a low-level guildie through a dungeon and the other guildie was asking for more runs, and gold. I’m not an officer but I am the new guy’s raid leader so I guess he felt comfortable asking me. I told him not to give the gold over, and then let an officer know what was going on. That officer hopped in vent with me and the kid and got the story, made sure everything was ok, and let us know that it would get passed up the chain and dealt with. And that no, nobody ever had to give anyone else money.

Now, we’ve had guild drama. Bad guild drama, and recently. Several times people have been removed or /gquit in a huff due to drama.  But what I’ve seen is that the officers and our guild leader Troutwort are willing to take time and work on drama. They try really hard to be fair but when it comes down to following the stated rules or keeping a long term guildie, they follow the rules. Which to me is essential. If you don’t do that, you don’t have rules, you have anarchy.

Any group of more than one person will have drama at some point. The important thing is how you handle it. Crits handles it well. From what I’ve seen, most of the people we’ve lost permanently have been no major loss to the guild. The ones who leave that I wish wouldn’t go, end up coming back. And when other guilds in our orbit have drama, we have a way of absorbing their best and nicest players.

Crits has 450 members. A lot of that is alts; I think it’s a rule that you must have at least four alts to be in Crits. And there’s a lot of inactive members. But if there’s a raid going we often have 20 people online at a time. And even with all those people, I think we’ve had two bouts of drama in the 9 months or so that we’ve been over there. Not bad at all. Good job, Repgrind and Troutwort.

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Friday night we went straight for Bastion of Twilight, as planned. Logarithm’s still off playing Army Men so we brought the new tank who joined the guild last week, Sirius. He worked hard all week and got a lot more epics.

We started right on Cho’gall  – well, we had to kill trash first of course. But we started settling in to the fight. Everyone knew what they were doing. DPS switched to the adds, healers had a good balance.

We worked hard for two hours and then one attempt we got solidly into Phase 2. His health ticked down…. and down… and down. We started losing people. We called for the shaman to pop and keep killing him. He was at 1%…. then less…. then the last of us died. At .6%. That was a heartbreaker.

We did a few more tries that night but were getting sloppier so made the call to go to BWD and kill some farm bosses. We had a couple tries on Magmaw, then one shot Omnomtrom, then failed twice on Maloriak. It was pretty clear that the hard work on Cho’gall had made us tired and sloppy.

Next night, just before raid time I realized my third healer couldn’t come and we looked around for options. Kerick and I briefly discussed two healing it, but while I knew we could manage phase 1, I was really worried about phase 2. Fortunately we were able to get hold of Sharelore who runs with us a good bit. She agreed to bring her priest and we headed back.

This evening, our dps seemed even better but Sirius wasn’t surviving as well. After a good few wipes, we asked him to step out and brought in another guild tank. He did so pretty graciously and we got to work.

Things were a lot more stable with the new tank. He didn’t need as much healing and since he was a druid, his dps was pretty insane. He could even go cat when Reversion had the boss and get some real numbers in.

It took a few tries to settle in. Then we had an attempt that was working beautifully. Cho’gall was up on his throne calling eyeball adds. Our dps stunned and killed them. Our healers chained cooldowns. Both tanks took turns  using their Tranquilities. I died. Other people died.

Then Cho’gall died.

The achievement spam was awesome; not just the kills for all of us, but the guild achievement too!

We lined up for screenshots but none of mine seem to have saved. I don’t know what’s up with that.

For the rest of the night, we were on a high. Reversion stepped out and let Sirius come back and we went and one shot Maloriak, Atramedes and Chimaeron – technically Chimaeron was a two shot, but the first attempt, someone accidentally pulled before the robot came up. So I’m not counting that.

Everyone in the raid really stepped it up this week. Some of our dps added 4k to their average. Most everyone got new gear or used Ask Mr. Robot to optimize and it really showed. Our next progression is going to be Al’Akir; we went and tried him and got into phase 2 twice in our four attempts. I don’t think we’ll have as much trouble with this guy.

But anyway, after a lot of thought I’ve realized why I really like Cho’gall. It’s the best fight I’ve done this tier for emphasizing the the raid as a group. Chimaeron is about your healers being good. Other fights are about positioning. Omnomtrom is about DPS switching targets. Maloriak is all on the tanks. Halfus – well it’s a little different every week; the first minute is a healing check, then it’s a burn fight.

Cho’gall requires tanks to trade swaps perfectly, to keep the boss positioned right, and to handle adds that have to be very carefully placed. A good tank will use all his cooldowns many times on that fight.

Healers have to coordinate who heals whom, who runs around healing the raid during the adds phase and who stays with the melee. In Phase 2, stacking cooldowns is really important.

Ranged DPS have to switch to adds, burn them down, and get back to the boss. Slowing and killing the Blood of Cho’gall adds is absolutely key to the fight.

Melee really get to shine in phase 2 with the eyeball adds. A good melee-er can keep one stunned while he slaughters it. They can help a lot with the worshipping too, although we found a good trick this time; have the whole raid stack carefully and then set our fire mage just a little farther out. If he wasn’t mind controlled, his Blast Wave could break out the affected people instantly. It meant we really didn’t have to think about worshiping when the adds weren’t out.

And of course, everyone has to not stand in bad. I thought our raid is really good at this, and our Cho’gall attempts showed me that I’m right. We almost always went into phase 2 with most people at 10 or less corruption. The adds tank usually had the worst time with corruption because he’s flirting with those stupid puddles.

So, I really think this fight shone as an example of a really good raid fight. I hope we have a lot more like that in 4.2!

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Payday

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Transcript:

Boss: Happy Friday. Here is your pay stub

Minion: Wait! What is this? It just says “12”.

Boss: That was your roll

Minion: Roll?

Boss: We stopped using time and switched to main/ off spec  rolls

Boss: Much less paperwork…Ted got 95 this week so he got all the pay… Good luck next time!

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Every so often you have to take stock of where you are and look for ways to push your game to the next level. Well… that is if you care. If you are happy with how your occasional heroics go, or are satisfied farming one or two raid bosses, then you can live complacently. But if you want progression you have to progress. If you want to progress to harder content then you have to progress your game.

Don’t be satisfied

I am not a min-maxer. Really I am not. I like to tweak things. I min-max more than the average player… but I don’t make my own spreadsheets. I avoid the math. I get enough of that at work. But I do pay enough attention to second guess guides, and do my own thinking. If I see a guide recommending Stamina stacking for a bear tank I laugh and go somewhere else. But I know I am not the best. I can always get better. I play a pretty good bear but… the other day I ran a ZH with a guildie and his bear did more damage than mine even though mine has better gear. Wake-up call time! I pulled up the meters and check some rotations and right away saw some things he was doing different. Different and better. We can always do better. As long as I was a bear comparing 10k dps to 6k dpsing prot warriors I was happy. But when a 11K+ bear comes by I get a wakeup call. Don’t get satisfied. Don’t get complacent.

Play smarter not harder

The funny thing about getting to the next level is that it does not always mean you have to be any faster or smarter WHILE you are playing. Don’t convince yourself that you have to have faster reflexes or quicker hands in order to improve your play. It is often not the case. Subtle differences in which abilities you use when can make a large difference. Even moving things around on your ability bar can help. Those things are small and don’t require you to hit keys any faster than you already do.

One thing I have been doing ‘wrong’ is stacking Lacerates too fast and hitting Pulverize too soon. I should be waiting until the buff is about to fall off. I keep it up all the time, so I am not doing it BADLY…. But I refresh it too soon so I can do BETTER. Because I do that I tend to prioritize getting my lacerate stacks up too much. I focus on that more than I focus on getting Mangle off every time it is ready. That is a dps loss and I need to do better. Because I am not a min-maxer I did not know that it was a mistake to do that. But because I challenge myself to improve my performance I went out and found the information I needed and am tweaking things. It is the little things like that that matter.

Read, Re-read and then read again

Don’t just read one guide, do a few things and then assume you have done all you can. Read another guide and then another. Wait a few days and read the first guide again. Tweak things and then re-read the second guide. Things are not always obvious. On the second or third look at something you might make a connection you did not see the first time. Many of the subtle things are in emphasis. On your first read you might think “Oh, they say that ability is important. Well that is nice. I use it a lot.” But the second or third time you check that guide you might see those words again and thing, “Oh they mean it is REALLY important, and is MORE important than this other ability that I usually hit first. Oops.” It might be that you already use two important skills all the time but you use one slightly more when you should been using it slightly less.

I just did a reread of Inconspicuous Bear’s bear 4.1 guide. It is good stuff and I had read it before but I got a little more out of it this time. That little tidbit about using pulverize and lacerate too much? Yeah that took more than one read of more than one guide to really click.

Another subtle change I need to make is reforging dodge. Now I am analytical. Plus I am stubborn. If I don’t see how someone reached their conclusion I am likely to doubt it. Dodge was one of those. When I did not know WHY forging crit to dodge made sense, I sort of dismissed the concept.  But then, after I read several things more than once it all clicked for me. You see, crit helps your Savage Defense… but only to a point. Once it is going off all the time then you can’t make it trigger any more often. So crit is not very useful after that. Also if you crit less but dodge more it trades off. Critting less might make your SD trigger less but when you dodge your SD lasts longer, so it does not have to trigger as often for the same amount of mitigation. Something similar goes for forging away expertise and hit. It does not matter (to mitigation) if you miss more. The only way hitting helps mitigation is if you crit AND if your Savage Defense is not already up. If SD is going off lots already then you might as well toss out the expertise and hit and get more dodge.

As long as I thought I understood something, I did not value the counter argument. Once I figured out why they suggested a change then it all made sense and I bought in. It turns out I am more stubborn than analytical :P

The thing is, when I THINK I understand what a guide is saying I might THINK I am doing that. But if I read again I might see that what they were getting at in the guide was subtly different. Then I find that what I am doing is close…. but no cigar.

Things change

Patches can change things. You might read the patch notes and think you follow the change. “Oh hey, I will just use X ability more.” But miss something subtle. “No wait, that means to use Y more and then use X when Z procs.” If you don’t min max yourself you should at least read what those who do are saying about expansions. Read it before one comes out. And after…. And then weeks or months later read it again. The ‘current wisdom’ is always changing. Even if you are not on the cutting edge ‘generating’ that ‘wisdom’ you can be following, reading, understanding, and adapting to what others are figuring out.

It is not just patches!

Every time you swap a piece of gear your stats change. Over time those changes can add up a lot. What was a good idea before might not be now. Don’t wait for a big patch to look into it.

Break points matter

My wife Analogue recently did a bunch of reforging to haste. Because her gear levels are high enough now the reforging puts a breakpoint in range. A haste ‘break point’ is a point at which your hots tick one more time. Other stats have breakpoints too. A break point is where that stat interacts with an ability or a mechanic such that you really want to be at that point or a tiny bit higher. With Hots and haste being a few points low means you get the same number of ticks as always but once you pass that point you get another tick and that is it… you get little more out of haste until the next break point.

Small changes add up.

Little things add up. In the case of my wife reforging haste she gained 1.5k more heals per second. But even more than those numbers, she gained a critical margin of safety for healing Chimeron, a fight where fast targeted heals are critical. People that before died JUST before a hot tick saved them now are getting saved. The small change matters.

Anyone who has ever had a raid boss enrage at 1 or 2% health can tell you that even a TINY bit more dps can really add up over the length of a fight. On our Cho’Gall attempts Friday we were popping potions like crazy to beat the 4th add. With another raid on Monday a slight bit more dps meant they hit phase 2 more cleanly…. But their RDPS was lower so the adds were more of an issue. A small change in dps here or there can make a world of difference.

Don’t be satisfied! Do what it takes to get that extra dps (or healing or mitigation). One person doing 1 K more dps means the average raid’s damage just went up 1%. Over a 7 minute boss fight? It is almost a half a million hitpoints of damage.

There is always something… I have not listed all I need to work on. I need to use berserk more often and better. I need to use mangle a tiny bit more and pulverize a smidge less. I need to reforge a lot. I should probably check over my gems too. There is always more to do. We are SOO close to getting an end boss down. Time to push to the next level… again.

P.S. This darn wordpress keeps bugging and posting things I am not done writing…. grrr.

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Pull!

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Raid Goals and Milestones

I love being co-raid-leader with Reversion of our raid. I think the job is too big for one person to manage, honestly. I handle logistics and back end stuff; he gives fight strategies and leads Vent. Behind the scenes we spend a lot of time discussing the raid, our raiders, goals and priorities.

This weekend we extended our BOT lockout to work on Cho’Gall. Until he’s down, he is our progression boss. Friday night we brought in a brand new to the guild tank, a healer we haven’t run with in ages, and after two hours we had back to back attempts where we got below 25% and into phase two. After that we went and killed Magmaw/Omnom/Maloriak, to get a head start on Saturday.

Saturday we headed back with my preferred healing team (me, Kerick the paladin, Jhudora the shaman) and tried Cho’gall again. We’re getting really good at getting to phase 2. It’s going to take time to get through that and down Cho’Gall but I know we can do it. After we put in about 9 wipes on him we did our Four Winds kill  – I still enjoy that place even now that we have it completely on farm – and then to BWD to finish off there.

We one shot Atramedes. I believe that’s our third kill of him as a raid but it really feels like we’ve got that one on farm. We can handle a little sloppiness, we aren’t having issues with sound, people know what to do.

Then we went to my archnemesis Chimaeron. We discussed cooldown use and healing assignments and started. First attempt I did terribly. I managed to forget what group I was healing and I’d stacked the cooldowns wrong too. We died at the third Feud. We came back, I fixed my attitude and readjusted what cooldowns we use, and we killed that – creature.

I was actually surprised but this is the first time we’ve had my favorite heals team in there in a long time. Add in the new shaman cooldown, plus we had a paladin tank so we had a cooldown there too, and the fight just wasn’t bad. For the record, first Feud we used my Tranquility. Second Feud we used the Spirit Link totem. Third Feud we used Rev’s Tranq, my tree, and the pally cooldown.

So we’re making good progress but we have a lot of work to do to stay progression minded. For the next…. well, more than likely it’ll end up being all summer, we have people out. I’m working on that. The guild just invited a very cheerful new tank who I’m hoping to lock down as an alt for us since we can offer him a guaranteed slot for basically the next two months.

4.2 is on the horizon somewhere and Rev and I are talking about our goals. Our raid is not a heroic mode raid. We’d like to go back and do some heroics once we down end bosses but that’s just not quite where we are right now, or we’d be more than 9/12 regular right now. So when Firelands comes out we’re going to concentrate on getting new content down. We will finish all of the 4.0 bosses though.

See, as a raid I want us to put together the caster staff. I’ve talked to a few raid members who’ve agreed that Falahla, our Arcane mage, is the  choice for that staff. It represents to me a great goal for us as a raid. We have to clear the 4.0 content. Then we have to get 4.2 bosses on farm to get the shards. And at some point we will have to kill Ragnaros.  I have no idea yet what sort of timeline we can expect to try to live up to but if we do it before the NEXT content patch I’ll be happy.

I know a lot of raids are hurting right now. The summer slump hits us all hard. But with both short and long term goals in mind, it motivates me to get the work down to keep our raid running. We have 6-8 people who will attend unless they are physically unable to. That means even if we have to pug a blind walrus and a melee hunter, we will run our raids every week. It’s a very reassuring thing to know, as a raid leader, that unless you get really really unlucky you won’t have to replace more than two people any given night.

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Progression

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