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April 2010

Creating Benchmarks for Raid Performance

How can you assess a raid's performance if you haven't identified and agreed upon the criteria for success? You can't, beyond "Did we kill the bosses?" And that's simply not enough when dealing with progression content you're learning.

In my non-WoW life, once per month, I analyze a number of metrics to determine how successful a variety of communication campaigns were over the course of the month. Then I report out to my team to let them know what worked and what didn't, and we set about revising tactics as necessary. We're able to engage in this constructive dialogue thanks to having clearly defined benchmarks and performance expectations identified that we all agree upon.

Frequently, the same can not be said for raider performance evaluations. If you've ever tried to nail down a set of criteria in a group setting, you may have found it impossible between healers saying their effectiveness could not be measured by data, DPS complaining about certain fights leaving them at a disadvantage, and the Off Tanks arguing that their role gimped their TPS. No one wants to be measured! Because we are all uniquely awesome snowflakes who want to measure and discuss how everyone else is doing.

But as long as you are logging your raids (simply type /combatlog at the start of your raid and /combatlog after to have a log generated and saved into your World of Warcraft Logs folder), and uploading their results into a reporting tool like World of Logs or WoW Meter Online, you can set and measure against benchmarks.


Although it has largely fallen out of favor due to it not being actively updated and maintained, I still upload a log each night to WWS because it has a lot it can tell you at-a-glance about your DPSers and help focus your attention for perusing the other logs.


Your key takeaways from the main screen: 

  • Your top overall damage dealers/DPS
  • The percent of active time (lower numbers mean the person was dead/AFK/not DPSing)
  • How close each DPS was to the other in terms of their output percentages -- you want to see folks within a couple of percent of each other.
  • You don't want to see your top DPS doing 14% of the damage and the rest doing 7%.
  • And you would expect similarly geared players of the same spec to be close to each other in output. If they are not, those are the folks for you to deep dive into with the other logs.

WoW Meter Online (WMO)

Although some folks are put off by its gratuitous use of Engrish, I am still a fan of WoW Meter Online for its ease of use and a few features that are exclusive to it as of this writing. My first stop in a WMO log is the All Bosses link.

From here you can check each players' presence (amount of time active in the raid), their DPS and overall damage, and their number of interrupts. Next, I pick whichever player I want to drill down on and click their name. This takes me to a control panel where I can see their damage and healing done and taken, plus all the debuffs and buffs they applied over the course of the evening. I typically drill down on that last tab. It allows you to see who was buffing the raid, how many flasks the person used, if they were in someway incapacitated during the raid (mind control, impale) which might account for a performance decrease on a fight, and if they were applying the requested slows/stuns/debuffs on any given boss fight.

After checking out that tab, I head back to the main window, and pick a fight I want to analyze. From there, I click on an individual player's name. And this is where WMO excels at helping you determine whether or not the performance you are looking at is good, in line with the player's previous performance, and how it compares to others. Up at the top next to the person's name, is a link to Historical Report. Clicking on that link brings you to a summary page that graphs that individual player's performance against that boss over time. From here you can see:

  • How many times has the player fought this boss in 10/25
  • Their DPS/HPS/TPS charted over time in the 10 and 25-man settings.
  • What you want to see here is a line moving upwards to the right. That shows consistent improvement over time.
  • If you see a more erratic performance output graph, you need to determine if it is due to your raid being inconsistent with the available buffs from week-to-week, or if the player is not always as focused and prepared for some raid nights.

Going back to the previous window with one character's performance showing, you can access the other unique feature -- Compare with Other. Clicking that link will bring up a page showing other performance logs for players of the same class and spec on that same fight. Pick a person to compare to. You'll generate a page that will allow you to see, side-by-side, how many casts of which spells that player performed in that boss fight, which can help you give players feedback about how their rotation might be improved. If you click on one of the actors names, you get brought to their homepage which includes a link out to their armory so you can also compare gear/spec to ensure you were comparing apples to apples.


I personally consider these two WMO features to be some of your best tools for setting individual class/player benchmarks and coaching your raid members on their performance.

World of Logs (WoL)

World of Logs has been the favored combat log parser for the past year or so, and for good reason. It provides a lot of easy to digest information for raid leaders to digest.


My first checkpoint on WoL is the survivability report. Dead raiders can't do their jobs. And although it is understandable if someone dies early from time-to-time, if you have a player sitting at 50% for the night, while the rest of your raid is in the 80s and 90s, that says someone needs to work on their moving-out-of-crap-that-can-kill-me skills.

Picking a DPS and drilling down, I like to take a look at the Damage By Actor report tab. This is also known as the "proof you switched to the adds" check. If someone has no damage done to the Bone Spikes or the Blood Beasts or the Web Wraps, they need to receive the chat about meter humping not assisting the raid in being successful and that when the Raid Leader says Everyone switches to the adds, this means them as well. Like WMO, buffs gained and cast are shown as sub reports here as well so you can determine if a player has been coming to the raid prepared and staying focused on what they can do to maximize their performance.

Now heading back to the main report page and choosing Healing Done as my report from the pulldown, I pick out a healer to drill down on. Note that the main healing page labels the HPS as DPS. You can again see how much of the player's healing done came from which spell as well as whom they were healing, which can help check if they were on their assigned targets.


The final piece of benchmarking data you can glean from WoL is the data from their Ranking Info report. Based upon their compiling the top performers by DPS and healing on each fight uploaded to their website, this report shows you how close each of your players were to the max recorded #s for their spec on the fight, as expressed by a percentage. Depending upon your level of experience with the bosses, you may want to set your bar higher or lower. But again, overall, you'd want to see your players performing at similar percentages on the bosses.

If you are seeing a significant percentage gap amongst your team, especially between 2 players of the same spec, you should take that as a coaching opportunity and suggest that the player with the performance gap might want to receive some coaching from the higher-performing player, or at a minimum, go and look at their armory and at the logs of the attempts to see what they were doing differently.

The nice thing about this data is that it is, by its aggregated nature, neutral. If you have a player who maintains a specific fight is just impossible for their spec, it gives you a benchmark against which they can compare themselves to see if that's actually the case or if they have some room for improvement.

Getting Started

The absolute first step for evaluating your raid's performance and getting on the road to performance benchmarks is to make sure your raid team runs and uploads combat logs for every raid. Try not to get overwhelmed with the amount of data available to you, and start small, such as by setting overall HPS/DPS or overall healing and damage benchmarks for specific fights. This WMO Raid History report for a boss is a great starting place for setting your benchmark for what it takes to be successful for a boss.


Avoid temptation to over-analyze your raid data, and drill down to individual-level benchmarking data only when you need to solve a problem you are having with a specific fight, or with a specific under-performing player. And encourage personal accountability -- challenge your raiders to keep an eye on how they are ding, and to strive to exceed their previous performance, and to experiment with small tweaks that can give themselves a boost.

Cataclysm to Take iLvl Out of the Mix for Deciding What Raid Size to Seat

If you were on twitter yesterday morning, you'd have thought the sky was falling. I was pre-coffee and pre-reading anything on MMO Champion or WoW Insider, so it took me a little while to decipher why there was 25 man raider versus 10 man raider sniping going on amongst my normally civil twitter reading list.

Lots of sniping that 25-man raiders weren't such special snowflakes. Other sniping that 10-man raiders were ruining WoW. People predicting their 25-man guilds would be falling apart. Pure chaos. And totally reminiscent of when Blizzard told us our 40-man raids were going by the wayside for Burning Crusade.

First, the Facts

  • 10- and 25- man raids in Cataclysm will share the same lockout.
    There should be no circumstances under which you kill a boss more than once per week on the same character. However, in the same way that you can decide on a per-boss basis whether to try normal vs. hard mode, we might allow you to change between 10 and 25 on a per-encounter basis for additional flexibility. If you started a raid in 25-player mode and then found that you couldn’t get everyone together later in the week, you might be able to downsize the next few bosses to 10-player.
  • 10- and 25- man bosses will drop the exact same items.
    We're designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve. That closeness in difficulty also means that we'll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They'll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items.
  • 25-man bosses will drop a higher quantity of loot, but not quality.
    We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people.


Now, My Thoughts on the Changes

The disparity between iLvl loot meant that many guilds that had great progress on 10-man content, and meh progress on 25s still felt obligated to cobble together 25-mans every week, even if for only a few bosses, to keep their players from falling behind in the gearscore gap. These changes will mean that successful 25-man guilds will gear up a bit faster than those doing 10s only, but that 10s will finally be able to be viable for guilds as a primary raid offer, without fear of losing their more ambitious raiders to 25s. Folks will be able to choose their raid size based on what is most appealing to them without the iLvl quandary thrown into the mix.

For a guild like mine, which any given week was able to field one night of 25s, 2 nights of official 10s, and up to a half dozen 10-man alt runs, I think there will be some interesting possibilities. Those of us who were used to running 25 and 10s each week now have a gift of time since we will have to pick one or the other to do. What will we do with it? I bet it means we'll work on those beloved alts more. At the start of WotLK I had 2 raiding mains, which was not optimal as they had to swap out for each other in 1 raid ID. But if they'd each been able to gear up and be played, that could have worked out longer term.

But more alts in raiding can be a tricky proposition. It will work if we all agree upon solid requirements for the raids overall -- and make the alts stick to them. It won't work if only the couple of official raids use them and the rest of the time it's a free-for-all. Some weeks, we might have enough people who want to raid on a given night to do a 25. Other weeks we might not. So if my 10-man team has been making great progress, why shouldn't I bring a different toon to the 25-man since I can't do both on my "main"? Which raid takes precedence? Who gets to make the choice? Will anyone even have a main anymore?

I have lots of questions at this point, and not so many answers. But overall, I think this will be a positive change for casual guilds that have struggled to fill 25s but had good success with 10s. It will keep the altoholics among us happy and busy (and playing those alts more in raids will probably also make us better at playing them.) And besides, how can we pursue archaeology if we're raiding 5 nights per week?

The sky didn't fall when we slimmed down to 25s from 40s with the launch of BC, though it did give folks the freedom to vote with their feet and find smaller guilds and other raiding teams to join. I'm cautiously optimistic that once Blizzard figures out the details, and we all have some time to reflect upon them, we'll determine our own paths for adjusting to these changes and getting our raids together.

Safe travels adventurers!

More Reading

Get some additional POVs on the changes from these fine folks:

How do you think it will affect your guild?

Friday Five: Vacation Five

For the first time in forever (or at least a year) it's vacation time! Which means missing a few raids in the pursuit of leisure.

But I do have a few things I hope to accomplish in game before the week off is up:

  1. Get the warlock to 65 and get started on her last big engineering push.
  2. Actually be online at the same time as Milchel so I can run him through SM (yeah for having an Alliance friend testing the horde waters! WTB more of same!)
  3. Eek out another level each on the Alliance Mage and Shadow Priest.
  4. Actually write up and send out the two WoW-related freelance pitches that have been on my mind.
  5. Get through my screenshot backlog (rename and organize the shots from this year.)

BONUS: My guildie Naie gave me her extra eye of shadow, so if I am actually on at the same time as Axe, I have a willing paladin co-conspirator to help me take a crack at Majordomo in MC for the other piece I need to be able to do the Benediction quest line!!

What's on your WoW to-do list?

So Close...But Still Some Work Remains


We are on our third raiding week of our Lich King 10 raid ID. We have been alternating weeks with this ID and a clear ID for one of our two 10 man teams.

We've gotten phase 1 down (although last night we did bring a new healer into the mix, which meant some ramp up time, as to be expected), and are usually pretty solid for Phase 2, but typically have a defile-soaked meltdown right at the edge of transitioning into Phase 3. We have seen the special fight within the fight mechanic that shall remained undescribed to avoid the spoilers, but we have only gotten to that point once.

Last night, as we chipped away on perfecting our LK attempts, our second 10-man raid team downed Putricide, earning a couple of folks their Plagueworks achievement. This leaves them open to work on the Blood Princes and BQL this Saturday, which will be a first peek at those bosses for many folks. Huzzah!

It's a great feeling to see the little raid team that could keep chugging up this hill.

It's hard to believe the guild did not get through SSC in BC. Or that they started out WotLK with ad hoc Naxxramas runs without the ability for the guild at large to sign up and participate in. Now, we have a fully transparent to everyone process, public signups and schedules. It is in fact one of the most above board raid processes I've ever particiapted in.

It is awesome what putting some structure around raiding, having a committed core of folks who really wanted to see the content of the expansion, plus the hard work and dedication of the many raid schedulers and raid leaders helped make happen.


Our Victory is Your Victory

As those of you who read here regularly know, we've been making slow but sure progress through ICC10 on one ID. We typically run two 10 teams per week, but really only have enough top performing players to have 1 that's working on LK.

But starting with the night we killed Blood Princes I've noticed something disheartening: the sour grapes. Not even as much in the realm of people complaining to Officers about not being included in the progression team (only had a handful of that.) And not a ton of folks, mind you. But enough that you take notice.

More along the lines of peeps not saying grats when G chat lights up with an achievement for completing the wing. Or not giving a cheer in the kill thread on the forums. People who only have something positive to say if their nameplate is in the boss kill screenshot.

I know it sucks to be sat, or to not be able to attend on the nights we are working on progression fights. I sat a lot in my first 4 months as a pirate. (I barely eeked out a solitary Vezax kill as a matter of fact.) And I still sit every few weeks now so we can cycle in other DPS on weeks we have a signups overflow.

I feel like folks can forget we are a team. And the guild's success is OUR success as a whole. It's their $15, and I know I can't expect everyone to share my passion for the guild and our progress, but I would prefer to see all of our raiders enthusiastic and supportive of each other when one of our teams hits a milestone. Instead of just looking at what's in it for them.

I am going to miss ICC 25, and a night of 10s for vacation week. It is entirely possible that there will be some new boss kills I miss out on. And I will be right there cheerleading for the guild if we are so lucky as to get to see some kill shots on the forum.

Because the guild's success is MY success.


P.S. Naie, I am looking at *YOU* to be in charge of nekkid screenshots in my absence.

Friday Five: Twitter Dev Chat Qs for the Class Designers

There's another WoW Developers BlizzChat happening on Twitter this Friday today from 5-6 PM PST with the class design team. Here are 5 questions I hope to see answered:

  1. Shadow Priests are losing some of their unique utility; what else is planned to enhance them, other than shadow orbs?
  2. Will a shadow priest be able to use Leap of Faith while in shadow form?
  3. Mind Spike as a nuke is great. What will keep shadow priests from spamming it non-stop, akin to warlocks and shadowbolt spam in BC?
  4. Preventing DoT clipping will make shadow priests and affliction locks easier to play. Was that an overall goal for many of your class changes; lower barrier to excelling?
  5. Are the announced level 80+ abilities intended for all players of a class, or will they be tied to specific talent trees?
What are the questions you have ready to ask in 140 characters or less tonight?

Thoughts on End of the Expansion Cycle Raiding

Right around the time BETA starts for a WoW expansion, I've watched the seams and cracks start to show in my raiding teams, and in those of the folks I read in the blogosphere and on twitter. It was the same pre-Burning Crusade as pre-Wrath as it's starting to seem now pre-Cataclysm.

You go from folks pitching a fit for cycling out on a raid night, positive this means they won't get that piece of gear they're coveting that would make their gearscore hit that magic number to those same folks no showing for raids, or not even signing up.

You have officers and raid leaders burning out, and taking out their frustrations on their raid members and each other. Tempers flare in raids, leaving folks who were previously friends wishing each other would go die in a circle of fire somewhere already. Raids that had previously been fun and full of chit chat and joking around, are mostly silent other than a tank or raid leader yelling at someone else. Healers/Tanks/Ranged DPS or whatever your guild's weak link was become impossible to recruit for raids, and inspire frequent pleas for help online. Frustrated raiders leave casual guilds en masse to start their own raiders only guilds. Key members of raiding teams pack up and server transfer, looking for greener grass, all too often finding out it was astroturf.

For every squee post I've seen on Kingslayer titles in hand, I've seen one on an imploded guild, plus one on a gquit and LFG ICC25/ICC10. And a third about an impending hiatus from WoW til Cataclysm lands.

Have we reached the point of no return for Wrath of the Lich King? Are we doomed to frittering away our time (as we pine for an elusive BETA invite) in 5-man RDHs, watching GOGOGO tanks chain pull while we're out of mana, then complaining at us if we stop for a second to take a drink?

If that's what I have to look forward to for the next 6 months, then that's certainly not a good use of my $15/mo.

Luckily, I have a vacation week coming up soon, which will be low on the WoW and heavy on the getting out to enjoy the many fabulous cultural and scenic features of the city I live in. And there is always plenty to do outside of game, so I don't feel compelled to fritter away time online when the mojo isn't there.

In-game, our progression 10 man is working on Arthas again this week. This puts the SO's soul gathering on hold for another week (he's only up to 300 or so souls since we've had a prior week of just Arthas, and a canceled 25 in the mix), but for a good cause. Making a valiant effort to save Bolvar Fodragon and defeating the Lich King is my primary driving goal in the game right now. I wants him dead. I wants him dead nao.

I'm also working towards getting my warlock to 80 before the expansion, and to getting my gnome mage to 80 so she can help liberate Gnomeregan eventually. And I feel like I am finally getting a little traction with convincing my favorite druid to roll horde (or faction change) on our server once she heads back into the workforce and can't raid on my vanilla raiding guild's schedule.

But I know for sure, having been here and done this before, that once any of it stops being fun, it's coming off the must-do list. I don't want to raid with burnt out, cranky people any more than they want to raid with me if I become one of said people either. It's important to keep pulse-checking yourself to make sure you're still having fun. And that you're enjoying playing with your team. Because having fun -- and working together to accomplish raid goals is the whole point of the raiding. It's not about ePeen as measure via Recount. Or achievement points. Or by your gear score. It's about having a good time playing with your friends and getting to the Frozen throne, together.

Safe travels, adventurers.

Ding! Baby Warlock Hits 60!


That's right -- warlock dinged 60 and got to make her helicopter today!

The one upside to a weekend shut up in the apartment thanks to the stomach bug that KOd me.

Believe it or not, she's my first lock. Which means I also got to enjoy doing the Infernal quest chain for myself as well (I'd helped the SO do that at level in vanilla.)

So far, I am really enjoying the warlock. And am toying with her being my backup plan should anything horrible befall shadow priests in Cataclysm.

Huzzah! Oracles Cough up Green Proto-Drake for the Shadow Priest!

shadow priest on protodrake

I'd forgotten to check my Oracles egg. I've been buying them for years now. I wasn't expecting to see another proto-drake, figuring my druid had taken all that good luck already.

This was taken on the Purple Parlor's balcony, looking out over Dalaran.

Continue reading "Huzzah! Oracles Cough up Green Proto-Drake for the Shadow Priest!" »

Friday Five: Cataclysm Priest Class Changes Reactions

  1. Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or "Life Grip") is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can't seem to get out of the fire in time. Instant. 30-yard range. 45-second cooldown.

    Oh yeah, baby! I can pull back those sassy tanks if they let a mob get loose. Or I can bribe the mages to pull them out of whatever it is they seem to stand and die in, in exchange for a permanent lock on their Focus Magic. Mwhahahaha.
  2. All HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. Hasted HoTs and DoTs will not have a shorter duration, just a shorter period in between ticks (meaning they will gain extra ticks to fill in the duration as appropriate).

    No more rethinking your rotation flow as your haste fluctuates. It wasn't a huge deal, but I suppose it's part of simplifying the play style that they are doing for all the classes.
  3. Preventing dot clipping is something we want to do in general. It obviously benefits Shadow priests just as much as warlocks.

    For some reason, they didn't include in the priest changes this tidbit from the lock changes: When reapplying a DoT, you can no longer "clip" the final tick. Instead, this will just add duration to the spell, similar to how Everlasting Affliction currently works. Presumably this means they are doing this for DoTs in general, not just warlocks. Thus, again, they're trying to make the rotation easier, and less affected by how well you can time your re-up casts. Another nod towards making it easier to do well as a SP, regardless of your quickness or your lag.
  4. Mind Spike (level 81): Deals Shadowfrost damage and puts a debuff on the target that improves subsequent Mind Spike damage. The intent of Mind Spike is to fill a niche missing in Shadow DPS, though it may be occasionally useful for healers as well. Mind Spike provides a quick nuke to use in situations where the priest doesn't have time to set up the normal rotation, such as when adds are dying too fast or you have to swap targets a lot. Spamming Mind Spike will do about as much damage as casting Mind Flay on a target afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain. The idea behind the debuff is that when you cast Mind Spike, we expect you to cast a lot of them; we don't intend you to fit it into an already full Shadow rotation. It also provides Shadow with a spell to cast when locked out of the Shadow school. (School lockouts will no longer affect both schools for multi-school spells.) 1.5-second cast. 30-yard range. No cooldown.

    It will be interesting to see if this plays out as intended (as a nice boost for smacking around adds) or if Shadow Priests, like warlocks in BC who stood around spamming shadowbolt, are just going to nuke with this. Probably depends upon the mana cost.
  5. Inner Will (level 83): Increases movement speed by 12% and reduces the mana cost of instant-cast spells by 10%. This buff will be exclusive with Inner Fire, meaning you can't have both up at once. Inner Fire provides a spell power and Armor buff; Inner Will should be useful on a more situational basis.

    I suppose this will be nice for running away from things. Except my cast bar is already full. Even before adding Mind Spike to it. So I suppose I'll have to make a macro for swapping to it then swapping back to Inner Fire, and assign it a key. I'm just a little underwhelmed is all. It's a nice to have but not a ZOMG how awesome!

For the full round-up, check out MMO Champion's Priest Changes post.

I'm not excited about the addition of shadow orbs (Casting spells grants a chance for Shadow Orbs to be created that fly around you and increase your shadow damage. This will help lower-level characters feel more like "Shadow priests" before they obtain Shadowform.). I have orbs on my shaman. I didn't need them on my shadow priest.

And by removing our misery hit debuff, they bring all of us casters closer together with less unique utility/abilities. So that, in their words, "In general we're going to push even harder in Cataclysm for bringing people you like to play with, not bringing people who have awesome buffs. The answer to almost every question of "But why would they bring me?" should be "Because you know what the hell you're doing." Which I thought was what they said when they made all the WotLK class changes... :) At least some things stay the same


Me and My Two Mains


When I started this blog, almost a year and-a-half ago, I was starting to get burnt out on playing the Alliance. Yes, I'd been named an Officer in the 10-man raiding guild I'd joined with my main (my F&F guild had done Kara runs with them for the last few months of BC). I was raiding Naxx weekly, clearing it even, but I wasn't having fun anymore. In part, due to the never ending thanklessness of having to swap in my healer whenever we needed a third healer, then getting attitude from the main spec healers for having the nerve to ever roll on gear.

After becoming a core raider and an officer in a 10-man guild, only to watch it fall apart due to a lack of leadership + an inability to make and act on decisions + interpersonal dramas of the kind a married man with children shouldn't be having with a lady officer old enough to know better, I was over it. Over with playing my druid. Over with the drama from the folks I'd known and played with on that server for three years.

It was about this time, I started spending more time on the horde. I leveled up my long neglected shadow priest, and transferred her to a server to play with some WoW Ladies. She hit 80 and had her crafted gear waiting for her, and started the reputation grind while PUGing heroics as often as she could. This coincided with her horde guild finally having enough geared up mains to consider running Naxx 10. Which is how I became one of those persons with two raiding mains. Which was the last thing I'd intended.

I went from having a couple of nights per week raiding on my toon of three years, to doing that plus spending my weekend mornings raiding on a toon that was the equivalent of being my alt. Yes, I'd played a shadow priest for months Alliance-side, raiding Karazhan, and yes I'd made this character several years prior, but she'd never been a focus.

I had the advantage of having cleared Naxxaramas on both a healer and a DPS character and farming the content for a few months prior to jumping in with both feet horde-side. But I still had to spend time researching the best/most appropriate gear upgrades, how to optimize my performance on the bosses, and special tasks I'd likely be called upon to do, like cleanse disease on Heigan after dancing my heart out.

I loved the challenge of getting her up-to-speed. But as we all know, there's only so much time in the week. I have a pretty demanding full time job, so that's not a place where I could slack. I can't even read gaming related content on the Web there if I have 5 minutes thanks to the firewall. No, the place where I cut back was my Alliance raiding main. I became that guildie who only logged on for raids, or for holiday activities.

Splitting my week between two characters left me feeling as though neither of them got my full attention. I needed to do dailies and farm in two places now to have the flasks and repair cash I needed. And I wanted to get to know my new horde guildies and become an active, productive member of the guild.

After a good solid month of raiding on the shadow priest when they had a spot open, I made my decision. I said goodbye to my newly-forged motorcycle and my main of three years, and became full time horde.

Maybe it would have been possible to have continued splitting my time between both raids for longer. But I'm not happy being an adequate player. I want to excel at my class, excel within my role. And that takes both butt-in-seat time, to gain that situational experience, and it takes some planning and theorycrafting. And at a certain point, you need to pick a focus to avoid becoming a jack of all trades, master of none.

This is also why I never seriously pursue raiding on my alts. Yes, over the years I have drug a number of alts through a ton of content as time has allowed. But other than in vanilla, when my frost mage was in one of our two alt MC raids every week, I've never made it a priority. Although I have done a good job on my alts, I've not found I've been able to do an exceptional job on them. That's only been possible with my main characters, whomever they may be at the time.

Coming from this POV I've been surprised to see how many of our recent applications, as we've progressed through ICC content (11/12 in 10-man, 6/12 in 25) have been alts. Alts of raiders Alliance-side on our server or others, who think it would be fun to join us and raid with their often not-yet-raid-ready alts. I struggle with this.

On the one hand, I know we can certainly use some extra raiders in key positions, but having been there and done that, when I see those who have stated outright they have no intention of leaving their Alliance homes expressing interest in our raids, I do wonder how long such an interest would hold. And, frankly, I wonder if they will be able to perform as well on an alt in our raids as our mains perform, or as well as they perform on their own mains. Even in guild where swapping in alts for specific roles is the status quo, it's been a rarity that I've seen main-worthy performance from a person's sideburner toon. I'm hoping to be proven wrong, spectacularly, on this.

Should I tire of the purple lazers of death, I'll quietly put Anexxia on the back burner and move on to the next character, not try to draw things out by having a foot in two camps. It's great if it works for others to split their attentions, but for me, I'd rather not.

Shadow 4 Life!

It would thrill my 25-man raiding team if I woke up tomorrow and decided I'd really like to heal on my shadow priest. But that's not going to happen. And that's a good thing.

The introduction of dual specs has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has provided players who really like to perform several roles to do so on the same character. Or allowed raiders to save costly respec charges when they want to go PvP. But it's also created potential issues for players who truly enjoy one specific role a hybrid can play and who may then feel pressure from their guild to swap out and execute that other role "for the good of the raid."

I have to stop at this point for an aside.

At the start of WotLK, I shelved my Boomkin to level my shaman healer, "for the good of the guild." As in, no one else was going to level their healer so if I wanted to do any instances I'd better be able to heal them. That spilled over to my first forays into Naxx with an affiliated 10-man guild that my shadow priest had ton a bunch of Kara with at BC's end. Although I'd made it clear my druid was still my main, and she was a Boomkin (having been very unhappy with 3.0 changes making my prior 3 years' spec and healing style no longer competitive), we kept having fights we needed a third healer to accomplish. After failing at healing the four horseman fight, as the sole healer in the back, off spec on my druid, I was convinced to bring in my shaman.

This became a recurrence. If you look at my shaman and druid's armories side-by-side, you can see the failings of my raid team. The fights they just could not get down to accomplishing with 2 Main Spec healers. Not only did I start to resent having to swap out to heal, missing out on gear, I was missing out on the sheer fun I had when playing my main in her main spec roll.

Now, back to our main topic.

A key factor in deciding to make the leap to the horde last Spring was finding a group of folks starting Naxx, who overflowed with healers and welcomed having a shadow priest in the raid. In the three plus years since I rolled Anexxia, and for the 6 months I played my Alliance priest, rolling through Karazhan weekly, all I have done as a priest is melt faces. Since the very first time I threw out a purple beam and eviscerated some unlucky creature, I've been hooked.

I've spent the past year, i.e. the bulk of my WotLK experience, raiding on the shadow priest. I've tweaked my gear, my rotation, my knowledge of maximizing my output to a point where I am almost always in the zone when I'm playing. You know -- that point where you're not thinking about what you need to do next, you're just flowing, and kicking ass. I've taken it seriously to try to get my knowledge of my role, in playing my shadow priest, up to the level of competence I felt I had in my three years of raiding on my druid.

I feel pretty close now. I am typically our top spellcaster in our raids, and even, every so often, edge out my SO the DK with the monster DPS. I've attended 2 or 3 or even 4 raids per week since July, depending on if we needed a little extra push for a progression fight. I've proven myself as being a totally capable, committed, core  part of our progression raiding team.

The one thing I have not done in the past year? I haven't learned how to raid heal as a holy priest. Why? Because I have a healer (my shaman) that I have raid experience with and whom I enjoy healing on. I can still do that with minimal add-ons (I had grid set up for her and that's really it.) And I perform my main role exceptionally well. Have I been sat from 10 mans on occasion, seated so another DPS can take my place? Of course I have been. We have enough DPS whitelisted to raid 10 mans in our guild to have 3 10-mans a week If only we had the tanks and healers to support that, which we don't.

Luckily, we do have some folks who do enjoy their off specs, and do them well enough to act as a band aid when we don't have a full team of main spec healers, which seems to be more often than not these days. We also have two DPS whom we'd allowed to swap out from being Main Spec'd healers during the healer glut at the end of the year, whom we've tapped to do some healing again lately.

But to be frank, if you want to make progress or progression bosses, you need Mains, playing their main spec'd roles. Yes, we all know a person or two who kick as much ass in their off spec role or on their alts as they do on their mains. But that is the exception, not the rule.

I lack both the time and the interest to download a bunch of mods, configure them, learn how to use them, then absorb a ton of theorycrafting in case I am needed to turn in my kick ass DPS to perform as a crappy healer for a raid night. It would take months of practice for me to realistically get a spec I have never played (in a role I have only done in a few farm alt raids on my resto shaman) to be able to be performed anywhere near on par with the expertise with which I play my shadow priest.

And then there's the fact that I simply do not want to do it.

I raid healed for 3 years on my druid. But it's been a year and a half, almost two years since I played her in that role. That's not who I am as a raider any more. I'm Anexxia. The shadow priest. And I kick ass at my job.

I am all for allowing those who want to swap to an offspec to make a run happen do so. But I draw the line at forcing anyone in our raid into a role that they are not interested in pursuing. No one should feel as though they are being asked to carry the raid on their back. "You need to do this for the good of the raid" becomes a cross far to heavy for any of us to bear. I know -- I've tried to carry it, and it made me stop enjoying the game.

We've had this gap we've been trying to duck tape for several months now. And there is clearly only one solution...

WTB Healers!

Straw Hat Pirates, the oldest horde guild on Bronzebeard, is in need of ICC 10/25 raid ready healers. We are 11/12 in 10-man (got our first peek at the Lich King this week), and 6/12 in 25. Raid times are 6:15 p.m. Paciific (Server time) to 9 p.m. Raid schedule can fluctuate, but Fridays are a night off, and Tuesdays are the weekly raid quest night, with the 25 man and two nights of 10s other nights.

If you are interested in a sociable guild that has a casual raiding team, head to the website and submit an arrplication. You'll make a shadow priest smile.

Friday Five: 5 Things to Keep in Mind on a Progression Raid Night


We extended our raid ID this week, and hopped into ICC 10 on Wednesday night, easily 1-shotting the Dreamwalker encounter, then running back over to BQL, whom we dispatched in our second try. And then it was on to Sindragosa, whom most of those in attendance had not seen before, and whom we took down at the tail end of our extra Thursday night raid. And thus, I bring you my list of 5 things folks need to keep in mind when taking part in a progression night, fighting against a boss your raid team has not killed:

  1. Don't run off after the boss kill. We want screenshots! (See above for a screenshot of not 10 people as a case in point.)
  2. Do not start complaining/whining/sighing when you don't kill a new boss on the second attempt. News flash: progression bosses take more than 1 attempt for folks to figure things out on. Especially when you are talking about the boss before the Lich King. Buy some patience already! Or I will bore you with the story of how it took my old guild 3 weeks of non stop work to kill Lady Vashj back in the day.
  3. Keep quiet on vent if you're not the raid leader if you are calling out placements. 5 people talking at once, over the raid leader, leads to confusion and usually to someone dying. Save the chit chat for the run back.
  4. Ask questions early and often. If you are having a problem remembering what an ability is called or what you are supposed to do in a certain part of the fight, ask your raid leader.
  5. Be nice. If a member of your raid team asks the same question more than once, or has the same issue twice in a row, cut them some slack. They're not an idiot, or a loser, or a dumb ass or they wouldn't being there with you learning that new boss (unless your raid leader is a masochist). They are clearly grappling with something and need the assistance of the raid team. And thus you need to cut them some slack and try to be helpful, not rude. And if you don't, you may find a raid leader's foot coming into contact with your butt.

Killing a progression boss is a major rush. And that rush is the reward for the hard work it took each member of your team to put in to get there. Keep your chin up, and a positive attitude, and you will succeed -- with a little help from your friends.

Happy Friday! And congratulations Pirates for an amazing week of teamwork!

Faction Change Completed: Tuskarrnexxia


Finally, my fisherwoman's dreams have come true!

Ever since the first time one of those shiny yellow potions in the Dalaran sewers transformed me into a Tuskarr, increasing my fishing abilities and making me have an urge to say "UrrrrAWWWRRRRGGG", I've wanted to be a Tuskarr for more than 10 minutes at a time.

I woke up this morning, and BAM! Tuskarr.


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