My Chars

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thinking of the new 3.2 Raid Instance

There are so many 3.2 news items right now, it seems almost a shame not to write about them.

On the other hand, I hate writing about PTR changes. Here one week, gone the next... so much for the buckets of words you spent on them :)

But I will say this, so far, I like the gem and profession changes (although I wish the Alchemy perk had been beefier). I like the token changes, badge changes and the new druid look (but I wish holy priests wouldn't get nerfed). I like the possibility to extend the raid lockout.

I don't especially like what I'm reading about the new raid instance. If I understand correctly, it will be basically a ring-style event rather than a proper instance. Now don't get me wrong, I like beating difficult boss fights (right now my guild is wiping on phase-2 of Yogg-Saron and I'm loving every minute of it :P). But I also love a dungeon's atmosphere, I loved it that SSC and TK and Karazhan and Molten Core and BWL and AQ (20, never did 40) etc. each had a unique look and feel and that as you progressed inside you not only saw new bosses but also new interesting rooms opening up. The instance would draw me inside and the feeling of being in an epic place enhanced the pleasure of fighting epic battles. Let me put it this way, would the Ragnaros fight had felt half as epic if you hadn't had to make your way to the very center of a huge underground cavern full of molten flowing Lava? If all you had to do was enter a bare round room and poof he would appear in the middle of the simple dirt floor?
The trash clearing up to bosses is also part of the challenge of an instance and while I never liked too much trash, too little trash is also I think problematic. No trash at all is just not appealing to me and I think ultimately detracts from the fun of the raid.

What can Blizzard do to spice-up the new "ring-of-blood raid"? Maybe have the look of the room change when the boss appears, so that you actually got a room with different size, LoS mechanics, etc. for every fight. Even better would be if at every "stage", the raid started out not directly fighting the boss but at the beginning of a small instance with a short distance and a small amount of trash to clear before getting to the boss room.

But in my nightmares I dream it will be none of the above, that instead we'll get a simple arena, dirt floor and all, and bosses appearing out of thin-air, completely devoid of atmosphere, lore and setting, like giant pinyatas ready to shower epics if only the raid can get the tactics right... if that becomes the new end-game raiding instance I fear I will lose a big part of my motivation for raiding :(

There I go, writing buckets of words about un-released content that is sure to change 10 times between now and release... so I think I'll stop now :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ulduar-10 Hard Modes

Apart from the regular Ulduar-25 runs during weekdays, my new guild also does Ulduar-10 runs during the weekend. Sometimes it is 2 groups, usually a strong "A" group (who have cleared Ulduar-10) and a much weaker "B" group.
Last weekend there were not enough people for 2 such groups so there was only one group, a mix of people from both groups. Since there was pretty good firepower and healing, we took on some hardmodes and achievements.

XT - we managed to kill him within I think 200 seconds or something like that. Very nice DPS, even I as a healer helped a bit :)

Hodir - we went for getting him down within 3 minutes, did a very good job with the crit buff but we were just 6 seconds short - I blame it on the fact that I had to heal all the time so couldn't help the DPS :)

Freya - we went at first right to the biggest challenge, taking her down with all 3 adds up. The complexity and intensity of the ensuing fight has to be experienced to be believed, I seriously have to say I didn't feel as challenged since trying OS+3. As a healer, the amount of stuff I have to do and be aware of is way above a normal Freya fight. Unfortunately, I was suffering from lag and DC issues (which in fact I have been suffering from for the last week or 2) all evening, and a healer not there 100% means an almost sure wipe in this fight. Nor was I the only one with such problems, plus we also started with an under-geared OT who was simply impossible to keep alive when he was tanking the 3 big adds. Well to make a long story short, after quite a few tries the RL decided to give up, we took down one of the adds and proceeded to 1-shot Freya+2. I guess all those attempts on Freya+3 helped us learn the fight well :)

We continued to Mimiron however it was too late to do anything serious with him so we just did normal mode, no hard mode for him. After Freya+3, one-shotting Mimiron seemed almost easy :)

I read in another blog that hard-mode fights were just "gimmicks", or "more of the same (boss abilities)". Having experienced first-hand some of them, I have to say that this is only partially true. At least so far for Council, Freya and (from what I've read) Mimiron, this is plain wrong. In addition, while there is nothing different about the Hodir fight mechanics when you are going for hard-mode, execution becomes everything and this does change the fight - it's no longer enough to beat the enrage timer, you now have to really execute perfectly in order to beat the much harder 3-min timer. If good fight execution isn't a test of hard-core raiding, then I don't know what is :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Running Molten Core

Last night there was no raid scheduled and I decided to pursue an old dream of mine, try to get the legendary Thunderfury for my DK. What set it off was a friend telling me he wanted to work on his reputations and mentioned a few names, including Hydraxian Waterlords.

So my friend (on his rogue) and myself (on my DK) started out to Molten Core. Neither of us had the required object to douse the runes but we figured we would get all bosses except the last 2, he would get rep and the bindings for the sword have a chance to drop from bosses before the last 2. However it turned out that Blizzard have changed it, now when a boss is killed his rune automatically goes out, so we would clear MC.

When we got there, I found out my DK was not attuned to MC so we quickly did the ATC quest (took us all of 5 minutes). Luckily for us as it turns out, a druid friend decided he wanted to come as well. He is boomkin specced but he healed us a lot and really without his healing we would have wiped a lot more so I'm glad he came.

As it is, we did manage to wipe, 2 times due to silly stuff and once due to wrong tactic. The first time we wiped was trying to take out Shazzrah before Geddon, instead of course we pulled both her and Geddon and a patrolling hound at the same time, plus I got lag spike at the same moment (but we would have wiped even without the lag).
Second wipe was when I pulled Geddon while rogue was AFK, I and the druid forgot that Geddon does a magic debuff on the raid that burns mana and without a paladin or mage to remove it, the druid's mana was gone in a second. Without healing on me and too low DPS, I died with Geddon still at 50% health (rogue came back to find himself dead :)).
Third wipe was on Majordomo, we thought the healers would be a problem so I suggested the druid go bear, taunt one healer to him far from the pack, quickly take him down with the rogue and so on, while I tank the rest of the pack. Well that turned out not too good, especially as I DC'd mid-fight. Also it turned out it was not a problem at all to AoE down the entire pack.
So after that wipe we simply AoE'd the entire pack down, with the rogue using reduced-healing poison and interrupting heals where he could and we quickly won the fight too.

Ragnaros actually was a bit harder than I expected, not because of the boss (he hit like a wuss) or adds - we took him down after only 1 pack of sons and the sons ofc we AoE'd down within seconds of them spawning. The problem was, I had never before been at Ragnaros as melee/tank so I didn't know where to stand, and the knockbacks he did threw me in the air so high that I took considerable falling damage every time I landed on ground. Thankfully the druid was able to heal me through it and eventually the rogue found the right place to stand so that I fell into the lava every time. TBH I don't remember the tank and melee getting thrown around like that at level 60, but it's been a long time and I played a mage back then so I didn't pay too much attention to melee positioning.

All in all it was a very nice full-clear of MC, we did it 3 people in about 2 hours, including 3 wipes which we could have easily avoided. Of course we ran past most of the trash instead of trying to kill them, as that really would have taken too long. It was a fun evening, a little bit of a challenge and brought back a lot of nice memories (just before the Ragnaros pull the druid goes "ok no pulling now before you give us 15 minutes of tactics", that set me lol-ing, we really did have some of the longest tactics sessions back at 60 on Ragnaros :)).

No bindings of course, but enough gold to cover the repair bill and then some - not really good gold/hour but than, that wasn't the purpose. Oh, and my DK got the Molten Core achievement, which is nice :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Running Ulduar-25 with the new guild

Here are some impressions from the few runs I've done so far with my new guild:

* Raid setup is fast - while typically in my older guild, even though we were doing only 10-man raids, it took us a long time to get started. According to guild rules we were supposed to start invites at 19:45 server time, in reality we would still be missing people at 20:00. Many times our raids would start only at 20:10 or later - sometimes much later. With the new guild, you are supposed to show up online at 19:30, even though raid invites are at 19:45. Invites start on time and no special effort is made to make sure people come, e.g. asking if people need a summon. People are just expected to show up on time at the Ulduar entrance, and typically they do. Yesterday was a very good start for example - invites were on time and raid was filled by 19:50. I had to go AFK for 5 minutes - by the time I got back (19:55), most of the area leading up to Flame Leviathan was already cleared... by 20:05 FL was down.

* Optional (non-tier loot) bosses are skipped if possible. In my old guild we did FL, followed by Razorescale, XT and Ignis (who is IMO the hardest boss in the first wing). Only after first wing is cleared did we use to continue to the second wing, where we would go for Assembly first, followed by Kologarn, and the bosses after him. My new guild takes down FL, XT, skips Razor and Ignis and the Assembly and goes right for Kologarn, opening the way to the harder bosses. Last night we wiped some on Thorim but had we taken him down quickly and managed to do Freya, we would have had all of today for Vezax and Mimiron and Yogg-Saron - bosses which are still hard for the guild. I like this method of clearning Ulduar and I'm sorry we didn't think of it in my previous guild. Live and learn.

* Minimal setup time before boss fights - if someome doesn't know tactic it is explained briefly but the sentiment seems to be "lets do it and if we wipe at least you would have seen the fight which is better than a long explanation". On the one hand I like this, spending 20 minutes in my old guild explaining tactics to people new to the boss was something I always found very annoying. However I think the new guild takes this minimal setup approach to an exterme, for example, there is almost no healer setup done, except when required by fight mechanics (e.g. split up the group on Razorscale to 2 sides or gauntlet and arena group on Thorim). On the one hand this saves time, on the other we have wiped in the past due to healing problems... well, time will tell what is the correct balance.

* Back to the DKP - a 10 man raiding guild is small enough to just roll on loot, I think (I hope I am right) that after a week or two all people got at least some loot from bosses. In the new guild they use a DKP based system, on the one hand this is good due to the inherent advantages of a DKP system (the more you raid the more chances at winning loot), on the minus side it seems to make people only care if they have enough DKP, some people I've seen out-bidding on items even when it was clear the other person bidding needs the item more.

* We have nothing to be ashamed of - basically the people who came over from the old guild are 1 DPS, 1 tank and 2 healers (well and 1 social :)). In tems of doing your job in the raid, knowing to "get out of flames" and being high on meters I think we are all doing a great job. Our DPS has been as high as 3rd place, incredible considering his gear (mostly 10man Ulduar). On healing meters we are lower but healing meters in any case don't measure everything and the important thing is that the raids we are in manage to take down even hard bosses (there are some hiccups but those will go away as our gear gets better).

Oh yeah, last point - it feels good to be raiding regularly again :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A New Guild

Sometimes, love just ain't enough...

I remember a song in the 90s with those words, or something similar. Somehow it was the first thing that jumped to my mind when I thought about why I had to leave my current guild.

Sometimes people leave their guild because they don't love it, or they don't fit in somehow. Last night I left Phalanx on my main, Solidfaith. I did this together with 4 other people, not because we don't love Phalanx, but because raiding had completely stopped lately and there was no solution in sight.

In hindsight, perhaps it should have been obvious. A 10 man serious raiding guild is a strange beast, caught in the middle, not good enough for the serious raiders who want 25man loot and achievements and the casuals who only want/are able to play once or twice per week, who cba to read boss tactics or show up for raids prepared and on time.

So, as much as we (the Phalanx officers) tried, we just couldn't recruit serious raiders. And the casuals who sometimes joined us claiming to want to raid but then barely showing up to raids just made things worse. As we lost raiders due to attrition and RL reasons, we simply didn't manage to replace them.

Some people might think that us leaving Phalanx is just another variation on the raider who has geared up enough in his current raiding guild and jumps to the next higher level. But there is a big difference between leaving a guild still actively raiding and leaving one which doesn't even manage to have enough people online to raid, night after night.

My new guild has at least 3 people I know previously (have guilded with), apart of course from the people I moved-in with from Phalanx. There are also several people I have pugged with who I know to be good people. So I felt comfortable right from the start, not a "stranger in a strange land".

In addition, right after we joined last night we were invited to a 2nd 10-man Ulduar run (the guild does 25man raids during the week and 10man during the weekend). Even though we were new and this was the "b-group" we still managed very nicely, taking down FL, XT, Kologarn, Auriaya, Hodir, Thorim and Freya. Not exactly the order I am used to but still half of Ulduar cleared after a late start and with people not used to playing with each other? Not bad :)

In addition, even though I am new and have no DKP I still was allowed to win (by roll) several items of gear - I won new shoulders and a new 1-h weapon (dagger) which are a very nice upgrade to my gear.

So long Phalanx, it's been a long road, not easy but with a lot of satisfaction. We did very well for a non-hardcore guild IMHO, and I have nothing but respect for all the great people who made it happen, including those who due to RL could not show up for every raid. I'm sorry it didn't work out better but I think those left behind understand.