Burn and Drown and Crush and Suffocate

I’m tempted to take back everything I said about heroic tier 11 being awesome. I’m tempted to stop this rollercoaster ride entirely and burn down the whole theme park for the insurance money. The reason for this sudden change is that Marshmallows is currently in the thick of week 1 on Heroic Ascendant Council. The fun factor, going from Sinestra to heroic AC, is like going from 10/10 to something more like -3. I want my dragons back. Unfortunately for me, I think the others might actually be enjoying this fight, and I doubt some of our raid could hate any fight more than they hated Sinestra. Opinion is split.

There’s an old meme that Illidari Council is “THE SUPER BOWL OF NOT STANDING IN THINGS”. Heroic Ascendant Council is the Super Bowl of something very specific that my raid is traditionally bad at (and most raids despise). It has elements of Heroic Conclave, Heroic Zul’Gurub, Heroic Nefarian, Heroic Tron Council, BQL, Algalon (yes, really), and more! In fact this fight has a lot of elements. All at once. You are going to burn and drown and crush and suffocate. We sure as hell are, for the moment.

 

Update! With some changes to our strat, fight actually became fun! The fight also became dead. Even with all its punishing, punishing elements, the numbers-check on the fight is quite lenient and once we got good at the mechanics it only took a few more pulls. 12/13.

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Dare to Use Flares

Like a lot of tanks, I use raid flares. I use them in raids, I use them in 5mans, I use them to annoy guildmates in Stormwind. Sometimes I use all 5 of them. Now that Blizzard upped the time before they expire from 10 minutes to 4 hours in 4.1, I no longer have to re-set them every attempt on a heroic boss.

Sometimes during a heroic raid boss, things don’t go as planned. Flares might expire (if your raid lasts longer than 4 hours), plans might change, that spot you want to use for boss ability X might be covered in a blanket of fire. Learning how to change flares on the fly can help you react to this. If you know how to Warrior Leap or D&D in the middle of a fight, you already know how to flare, once you have the appropriate tools. I’m going to give you those tools. Make 6 macros, and prepare to use up to 6 keybinds.

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeader OptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button1

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeader OptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button2

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeader OptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button3

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeader OptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button4

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeader OptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button5

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeader OptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button6

You’ll need to remove the space between “Leader” and “Options”, it wouldn’t fit on the page without a space breaking it up. These macros allow you to keybind your flares, ending the horrible necessity of opening those Blizzard raid frames to do it. Buttons 1-6 correspond to Square, Triangle, Diamond, X, Star, and clearing all flares. If you have a flare down and you hit the keybind, it will clear the flare and you’ll need to hit it a second time before you can drop the flare again. I have Star bound to F10, and the other 5 macros bound to various modifiers plus F10. I am a flare-tossing champion, in-combat or not.

One thing that most people don’t know though, is that keybinding your flares allows you to use them in any group, not just raid groups. This is occasionally useful for flaring spots the way you would in a raid, but it’s also quite good for trolling people who irrationally hate flares for no reason at all. I made a healer leave the group at the Deadmines ship because he didn’t like my flare rainbow and couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it.

I don’t give away a lot of tank secrets, but this is a good one to start with.

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I am a weapon of internet dragon destruction.

Sinestra is dead. Dragonslayer is the new fashion choice this summer in Stormwind on Moonrunner. While this only brings Marshmallows to 11/13H, the hardest fight, the biggest prize, is now done and the rest of tier 11 is just a matter of mopping things up at whatever pace we feel like. The princess is not in another castle. We broke Bowser’s back and the Duke Nukem theme started playing. Damn, I’m good.

I’m making this post because I want to tell everyone out there, everyone who’s 6/13 and still fighting, everyone who’s 2/13 and struggling along, everyone who got to 8/12N or 10/12N and gave up – Heroic Raids Are Awesome. If you’re considering whether or not to stick it out, I’m here to tell you that the later heroic bosses get more, and more, and more awesome as you go along. Getting the first 7/13 was fun, but it mostly just felt like practice, practice for the big angry endbosses that will push you in a way that makes you want more of this whole raiding thing. Getting to the Super Bowl of t11 made our people better at this game – and we were already really good to begin with, mind – such that after murdering Nef and Chogall we took in a hilarious halftime show and killed Conclave in an hour, from our first serious pull ever to dead heroic monsters. Despite being completely terrible at Throne and avoiding it on purpose for months.

From there, we decided that 5 months of doing the same bosses was enough; it’s time for new stuff. Rather than get to 12/13 like most groups do and leave the hardest fight (which it is, on 10) for last, we wanted the big gold. We wanted something we hadn’t already killed on normal every week prior. We wanted Sinestra. We fell down that hole and felt pretty good about our chances. Then we got crushed. Then we got crushed some more. I don’t think we made it past phase 1 a single time on our first night. All our glorious raider muscles and suave gameplay and Super Bowl experience didn’t mean nothin’ to this chick. We didn’t even make the friend zone. The phone number she gave us turned out to be a dry cleaner on the lower East Side.

Then we got mad.

Getting mad proved to be important. Our phase 1 dps shot up by 30% overnight (not even joking), and I may or may not have learned how to make the boss pause hitting me by shouting YOU CAN’T STEP TO THIS at my computer. She hits pretty hard, so you can imagine how this came in handy. We learned how to ride the red-and-purple beam like a surfboard and soon, every night we spent would get the boss a little bit lower. Finally, on the last hour of the last day of our raid week, we became the US-31st 10man to finish what Deathwing started. The whole realm received word, as everyone got 10 lines of spam from us. We won tier 11.

Even if you don’t get to 13/13 before 4.2, I want you to know: this is a fight worth doing. It’s the kind of fight that will get a lot easier once you can overgear it. It’s the kind of fight where there are at least 4 different ways of beating it (at least on 10). It’s the kind of fight that doesn’t care how well you did on the other, punier endbosses, you’re still going to get owned by your friends with a giant purple death-laser. And you’re going to like it.

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Staying Casual to Stay Sane

This rollercoaster ride has now been rolling for four months.

I’ve been a raider now for about eleven years. I’ve spent around 15,000 hours killing internet dragons. Yet I can say, without any kind of hyperbole or exaggeration, that these four months of tier 11 have been the absolute best raid content I’ve ever done. The encounters are fresh, they’re enjoyable, and they’re really freakin’ challenging. When Blizzard warned us about a year ago that 10s and 25s would become “similar in difficulty”, I didn’t really expect heroic 10s to become the hardest content in the game. I certainly didn’t expect that after four full months of working on content that had no gating at all, only two guilds in the entirety of US servers would be done. Through it all, the thing I expected least would have to be that my casual, non-serious weekend fun-run raid has come within striking distance of a top-100 ranking, surpassing many, many hardcore guilds that raid four, five, some of them even up to six days a week.

Unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t finding tier 11 so fun. Lots of guilds, even really good guilds with track records spanning years, have struggled or died under the weight of the new content. The complaints have been very loud: Tier 11 is less accessible, tier 11 is less forgiving, tier 11 is too hard. These are all probably true. Even I agree that it’s not okay that only two guilds in my region (241 realms!) have finished the 10-man content after four full months.

Others complain that other MMOs are killing WoW, but I can’t agree with this one at all. MMOs can co-exist and have co-existed in the past just fine. Most of Paragon is playing EVE right now while they wait for Firelands, but you can bet that they’ll be back. I’m sure Rift is a nice game, but all the reports I’ve heard about its raiding sounded like I was back in 2003. Even if Rift remains successful for years, there’s room for more than one game in this market. I survived when WoW “killed” EverQuest, and 80% of the raiders that left for WoW came back within a year, because vanilla raids were terrible. EverQuest is still alive today, lumbering along toward its 18th expansion. If EverQuest can survive being dwarfed by WoW’s budget being twenty times bigger, if it can survive having its most popular players literally being hired by Blizzard to advertise switching over to WoW, if it can survive and keep coming out with new content despite being 12-years old and its playerbase having been in decline for 7 of those 12 years, imagine the kind of tremendous failure it would take to finally kill WoW. WoW isn’t dying.

There is something that is dying, however. For a long, long time (at least a decade), the “proper” way to raid was to take the biggest group of people you could get, gather them up at the entrance of a raid zone at 7:30 6-nights a week, and spend the next 5 hours slamming your faces against the big bad internet dragon until eventually everything clicks and it falls over. That’s called hardcore progression. Some guilds still do it this way, but what Blizzard has been trying to accomplish since late BC is the idea that you do not have to do it this way. Finally with tier 11, they’ve done it; they’ve created a raiding tier that at least tries to be fair to both 10 and 25-mans, and at the same time they’ve created a tier that encourages players to take raiding more casually for the sake of their own sanity. It’s one thing to maintain a grueling, 6-day raid week for 4 weeks until the content is done, it’s another thing completely different to maintain that pace for the entire four-month stretch that this rollercoaster ride has lasted. Most of the guilds that I’ve seen struggling lately, have had a lot to do with just how hard they’ve pushed the content rather than the content itself. They raid so hard that it’s not fun anymore, hoping that pushing that hard will get them some more boss kills, when they could actually enjoy themselves if they didn’t raid that way.

The top raid group on my realm has actually fallen victim to this lately. They’ve been raiding 4-5 days a week since December, and they’ve managed to stay a little bit ahead of everyone else for four months. However, one of the casual groups below them (my group) has managed to almost keep up with them in progression through it all, which kept them pushing ever harder and harder to try and stay ahead. After that casual group “stole” a realm-first kill from them, even though they were working on a different boss at the time, cracks started to form and they took it as a sign that they needed to go even crazier. Finally when they got to Heroic Al’Akir, they snapped. In eight days they pushed themselves, eventually wiping a total of 250 times in their mad push to stay ahead of those damned casuals. 100 of those attempts happened over two days. They haven’t raided since.

I’m not going to deny that Cataclysm is tough. It’s absolutely the most challenging tier of content that I’ve ever done, and I’ve been raiding a long time. The most important thing to remember though, when you’re raiding in Cataclysm, is to do it in a way that’s fun for you. If you try to tackle tier 11 in a way that’s not fun, then it doesn’t matter how hard the bosses are, you’ve already ruined it for yourself by approaching it that way. I promise you, tier 11 can be fun if you take it on in a manner that suits you. Surround yourself with people you like, take the content at your own pace. That’s really the key.

Stay sane.

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