Friday Five: Five Things to Remember on Halion

  1. Druids, remember to dig out your hibernate button. You will need it for a mob or two in here. Dragonkin sleep so peacefully with your help.
  2. When in doubt, run out. Oh wait, I mean, run back in if the trash kills you. Yeah, that's what I meant.
  3. If combustion or consumption explodes on you, keep all your means of self preservation in mind. Instant heals (including lock rocks and pots), damage reducing effects, etc. Personal accountability is key on this fight.
  4. Those lines of flames from the meteor strike? Run away from --not through-- the fires. Think about Archimonde and his nasty fires. Fire burns! See also, if you get a battle rez, check the ground near your rezzer and ensure you don't accept only to revive in the midst of a fiery death patch.
  5. That shadowy line between two orbs that cuts across the room? Make sure you don't get hemmed in by it. Immediately move the opposite direction fro where it's going when the twilight cutter pops up between two orbs.

BONUS FROST LORD AHUNE TIP: Please don't berate your casters about focusing all their DPS on him while everyone else manages the adds. Ahune takes 25% damage (a.k.a. a 75% reduction) during phase 1. So it's not the optimal use of our mana. If we DoT him and help fire down the adds, that usually works just fine. And it makes us nerd rage to see 5 adds up smacking us and the healer b/c you insisted...

Happy Friday!

BQL25 and Dreamwalker25 Also Completed!

Wow. What a week for us Pirates...

Two new bosses down in 25-man tonight, and after killing Halion on Tuesday. I'm wiped out just thinking about all that raiding...


Blood Queen gave us a little trouble, thanks to blips with the bite order, then Dreamwaker was a relative cakewalk. I think we got her on our second try. Which was probably our third try ever on 25man. Thank you WoW Gods for a great night of raiding.


Halion Dead!


It was cool to get to sub in unexpectedly tonight when I got home. My second shot at him, and WHAM! Dead! Whooohoo!

I had an easy job -- stayed out in Phase 3 if I understand it correctly. Ran around and avoided that damn fire that gave me Mount Hyjal flashbacks. Avoided the General Vezax void crashes on the ground. Ran away from the fire circles. Had a great time. Not bad for a Tuesday night.

Small Moments: Raiding Traditions

Note: if you have never stepped foot inside of Icecrown Citadel, and would consider anything relating to the plotline therein to be a spoiler, please do not read further today as it contains a small spoiler.

  ICC Raid reduced to a herd of bouncing bunnies

It's the little things that can make or break a raid.

The guildie who turns everyone into bunnies or ninjas or pirates as you wait for your last raider to log in.

The nekkid danceparty screenshots for especially hard-won victories.

Ever since working on Chromaggus in Blackwing Lair, I've had my own small tradition: before a final or near-final boss fight, I make a basic campfire.

Back in the day that small spirit increase helped my druid eek out another few smidges of heals I'm sure. 4 1/2 years later, it helps rekindle the focus and excitement of inching closer to a kill. And it provides a great visual marker on the floor for whatever it is we're doing.

The first night we stepped foot in Icecrown citadel, however, a new tradition was born for me, due to this exchange started by Highlord Tirion Fordring:

    Highlord Tirion Fordring says: Our march upon Icecrown Citadel begins now!

    The Lich King says: You now stand upon the hallowed ground of the Scourge. The Light won't protect you here, paladin. Nothing will protect you...

    Highlord Tirion Fordring says: ARTHAS! I swore that I would see you dead and the Scourge dismantled! I'm going to finish what I started at Light's Hope.

    The Lich King says: You could've been my greatest champion, Fordring. A force of darkness that would wash over this world and deliver it into a new age of strife.

    The Lich King says: But that honor is no longer yours. Soon, I will have a new champion.
    The Lich King says: The breaking of this one has been taxing. The atrocities that I have committed upon his soul. He has resisted for so long, but he will bow down before his king soon.

    Highlord Bolvar Fordragon says: NEVER! I... I will never... serve... you.

    The Lich King says: In the end you will all serve me.

Bolvar! Here in ICC? Without thinking, in that split second, I yelled in reply: "BOLVAR! We will save you!"

And that became my rallying cry every first night in ICC, when we would hear that exchange. And finally, once we faced the Lich King, my rallying cry each night.

On the few occasions I did not make it to our weekly raid (vacation, or being sat out when we have an overflow of DPS), it got back to me that my battle cry was yelled in my stead. To say this warmed my heart immensely doesn't even begin to capture how it felt to hear that.

The night we defeated Arthas, I changed things up a bit. I said, "Bolvar! We will save you, TONIGHT!" And we did.

A small tradition, to be sure, but one that gave my raiding throughout ICC a purpose. Bolvar Fordragon had long been my most beloved hero of the Alliance, and thus inspired this small tradition, that I will remember always.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has made their own raiding traditions. What are yours?

The King is Dead! Long Live the Lich King!

Last night, after 11 raiding nights, spread out over 5-6 weeks, at a cost of about $1,000 gold to those of us who came most nights (we had a few weeks with repairs turned on which was a blessing, but this is still our RL's ballpark cost), we defeated the Lich King.With 10/10 standing for the ending which feels pretty damn impressive to me for a first kill.

This also meant I FINALLY got to experience the cut scene and the ending of the fight myself. The cinematic was a perfect end cap to the Wrathgate cinematic, and an effective closure to this expansion.

Good job Blizzard. And thank you for keeping one of my favorite characters true to himself to the very end. Sniffle. That's all I am saying about the ending and the cinematic, to avoid spoiling it for anyone. And yes, at the end of the fight, I thanked my guildies for allowing me to make it through that fight to see the conclusion myself first-hand, without having it spoiled.

The spoilers from twitterland prepared me somewhat for the ending but did not totally ruin the impact for me. So that's a good thing. And thank you for Naie after that incident for encouraging me to keep hope alive I could attain my personal goal, retaining the rallying cry I yelled every night 1 of every ICC raid we've done as a team.

It's been a long road to the Lich King. My RL just reminded me it has been 3 tanks, 5 healers, and 10 dps that participated in the learning curve from start to finish too. A huge effort. But we're done. It feels pretty amazing to actually kill the final boss of an expansion before the next expansion (or all its uber talent changes hits -- hello patch 3.0 I am looking at you.)

I took a ton of screenshots, none of which I am posting here as most are incredibly spoilerific, like this one. And I sat down on the stairs of the frozen throne for a very long time, and got screenshots there with some of my favorite raiders.

How We Stack Up

Just for fun, here are some statistics regarding our server's raiding progress, courtesy of Guild Progress:

Ranked Guilds: 310
209 Alliance 101  Horde
Icecrown Citadel 10 Boss Kills
    • Lich King 5.81%
    • Sindragosa 10.65%
    • Rescue Valithiria 18.39%
    • Blood-Queen Lana'thel 15.81%
    • Blood Prince Council 18.39%
    • Professor Putricide 19.35%
    • Festergut 39.03%
    • Rotface 33.87%
    • The Deathbringer 44.84%
    • Gunship Battle 48.71%
    • Lady Deathwhisper 49.68%
    • Lord Marrowgar 50.97%

  • Friday 5: Blackwing Lair Retro Raid Edition

    I would  have loved for this to be the Kingslayer edition, but we had one healer beg off in advance (whom we replaced) and one no show after having to work late (who didn't contact us and thus for whom we waited 40 minutes), which meant no attempts were made on the Lich King last night. Our somewhat dejected band of pirates cranked through the weekly (XT) and then indulged me in something I've wanted to revisit for some time: Blackwing Lair.

    I spent months and months in there in vanilla WoW, healing on my druid, and really wanted to go back in a role that could focus on more than just the tiny health bars. I think we tore through in about 40 minutes. It was a great ending to a long, tough day.

    And thus, I bring you, 5 screenshots from BWL:   

    shadow priest in the supression room of Blackwing Lair

    shadow priest in Blackwing Lair

    shadow priest in Blackwing Lair gloating over the demise of Chromaggus
    shadow priest in Blackwing Lair calling on Lord Victor Nefarius
    shadow priest in Blackwing Lair checking out Nefarian


    Knee-deep in skelly bones...

    shadow priest in Blackwing Lair


    I managed to avoid the Lich King cut scene on the Dalaran fountain.

    I managed to avoid the comic contest spoiler.

    I managed to avoid the original MMO Champion dialogue and cut scene post spoiler.

    But in the excitement over the leaked Alpha screenshots MMO Champion posted today, I finally found out what I wanted to see for myself when we finally kill the Lich King.

    And I am bummed out.

    We got the Lich King to 32% last night. So we are very very close now.

    We go back in to see him tonight.

    But I won't be able to give my usual battle cry. because it's been spoiled for me. And it does bum me out a bit.

    Over the next 5 months or 6 months, the Internet is going to be filled with spoilers galore. And again I will implore folks to think twice about what you post that other folks can not avoid. Consider keeping your spoilers to your blogs where you can provide a spoiler alert. Twitter, alas, doesn't give folks a real opportunity to skip over the spoilers. And I for one don't want to have to stop reading twitter. So please do think twice before posting spoilers there.

    Thanks and safe travels.

    And P.S. Asros I know you didn't mean to spoil it for me.

    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?

    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.

    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.

    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!

    When Your Raid Leader Says Everyone, This Means YOU!

    Apparently, there’s a bit of a semantic problem many raid leaders are having. It seems that some raid members are unaware that when a raid leader notes that everyone needs to execute task X, that means…each individual member of the raid. That’s right. ALL members of the raid. Even if you think you know better. Even if you don’t want to do it, THIS MEANS YOU!

    I’ve been bumping up against the THIS MEANS YOU monster a lot lately. The place wherein this seems to be happening most consistently, and most annoyingly, is in raid fights that require DPS to switch their focus from the boss to the bone spikes/beasts/whatever or to interrupt or cleanse targets. It’s not a lack of awareness on the part of the raid members.

    When you say over vent, the expectation is all players need to swap to target X when it pops up, that is pretty clear. When you see said targets pop up and you remind folks over Vent and in raid to DPS those targets, at a certain point it becomes evident that some of your raid members have decided their meter humping is more important than executing the strat the rest of the team is performing. And when you see a DPS raid member standing right next to a fellow player who is spiked, and not landing even a single blow to help break them out, you’d need to be Mother Teresa to not be seeing some red. Because at that point, that player’s disregard has become rudeness/lack of respect for the rest of the raid.

    So why does this happen?

    Because, quite simply, some raid members seem to feel their personal performance, as measured by the shiny numbers on the DPS meters, are more important than being a team player. The reasons I’ve recently heard for why folks won’t switch targets have included:

    • It’s too hard to maintain DPS in my spec if I swap out targets
    • My spec is AOE based, and thus I can’t help being on the boss the whole time
    • I’m on the phone/have someone here/am otherwise multitasking and it’s too difficult for me to switch
    • I forgot
    • I didn’t hear you

    The problem with the above excuses is they are complete rot. And they all show a lack of respect and courtesy for the other 9/24 people in your raid.

    Debunking the Excuses

    It’s too hard to maintain DPS in my spec if I swap out targets
    Please do not cry to me that your DPS suffers if you swap targets. I am a shadow priest. My primary damage involves stacking up DoTs to do damage over time. My DoTs don’t have much time to tick on adds. Thus I usually mind flay as much as I can ‘til they die. P.S. Taking a look at my 10-man logs last night, somehow, I was able to swap to bone spikes and adds and still come out on top for overall damage and DPS. Above even folks who decided to stay on the boss despite being asked to switch. Remember this is a team effort—your DPS dipping for a few seconds isn’t going to cost us a farm boss. I promise. You leaving a healer bone spiked just might.

    My spec is AOE based, and thus I can’t help being on the boss the whole time
    Wouldn’t that mean you’d do some damage at all to the adds right next to the boss? See also the raid team doesn’t care if your DPS dips for a few seconds for you to do your job.

    I’m on the phone/have someone here/am otherwise multitasking and it’s too difficult for me to switch
    If you are too distracted by what’s going on IRL you should not be in a raid.

    I forgot. I didn’t hear you.
    I lump these two together as they are both incredibly lame. Your first time here? OK, I will cut you some slack. But do realize that to be prepared for a raid, you should have read up on the strat and asked questions to ensure you knew the expectations. If you didn’t hear me the four times I reiterated that everyone needed to do X, either your Vent client/speakers are not working or you have some wax to dig out of your ears. Or you are doing something else while playing.

    How Can You Tell that Folks Aren’t Doing Their Jobs?

    Did you know that when I or anyone else in the raid looks at the logs after the raid, or skada/recount I can see:

    • What you DPSd and how much (you see this on mouseover on recount making it clear when someone is not switching at all)
    • How much activity you had on each target/with each spell (i.e. they did low DPS but casted on it a sufficient amount of times)
    • Who interrupted or dispelled, and how many times
    This is how we can tell when folks are not doing their assigned task.

    What’s a Raid Leader to Do?

    Hold your raiders accountable.

    You can start with polite Vent strat reminders mid-fight. If it continues, make yourself a RW macro that says “EVERYONE needs to switch to the adds. This means YOU %t”.

    If, after those reminders, you still have someone not doing their assigned task, remind everyone in raid warnings before the pull of the expectation everyone must swap to target X. After the fight is over, call out the folks who did not execute the strat, and ask them to explain to you and the raid why they did not. Do not fill the silence gap if they don’t initially answer. Ask again if necessary. And be ready to boot them from the raid if they refuse to comply.

    Raiding is a team effort. No one cares how well you do on the DPS meters. Especially if as a result you have people dying, or everyone else picking up the slack of whatever task it is that you would prefer not to do.

    Common Sense: When in Doubt, Sit it Out

    Do you make plans with two of your friends for doing different things at the same time, then pick whichever one you feel like doing at the last minute? Leaving the other friend standing around waiting for you somewhere, wondering if/when you will show up? I don't. But it seems like all of us must have had guildies as a part of our raid teams who do just that when it comes to signing up for --and flaking on-- scheduled raids.

    This past week, I've noticed that blogs and the twittersphere have been full of mentions of raids starting an hour late while the hassled raid leader tries to scrounge up a final member or two. Officers annoyed at people who only show up for farm night. Erratic raid members who /gquit after losing a piece of loot to a raid member with near perfect attendance.

    That's right, Spring is in the air and we are at that cyclical point in the expansion (or is it every Spring?) where raid drama is rearing its head.

    I've said it before in more depth, but the key points are worth repeating: 

    • If you sign up for a raid and are slotted to attend, it is a reasonable expectation for your raid team to expect you to honor that signup.
    • When in doubt about whether or not you will be able to attend, don't sign up for a raid so folks won't plan on your helping to make it happen.
    • Raid start time is not the best time for you to AFK
    If you're not feeling it -- DON'T SIGN UP. It's 100% easier for us to replace you a week in advance than it is at raid start time.

    When Raiders Only Partially Depart a Guild

    When you've decided a guild's progression in raiding is not to your liking, or there are fundamental conflicts between the guild's raiding style and how you'd like things to be done, that's typically a good reason for a gquit. My horde guild has seen a few such gquits over the past few months, and I have to say, it was a good decision for the folks who did so, even tho I was personally bummed to see the folks go. 

    What's been interesting to me over the years is seeing how many folks choose to leave their alts in their departed raiding team's guild, and still clock in on the guild forums each day. Because whenever I've left one raiding guild for another, I haven't felt the urge to keep a toe in where I was leaving, because I've never left on a whim -- it's always been due to some sort on intractable issue or incompatibility.

    In most cases, I've done a full-scale move into a new guild. But on one occasion, I only moved my main out of my friends and family guild so she could raid, leaving all my alts behind. The alts' guild has not been raiding this expansion, so it wasn't any sort of an issue for folks that I'd done that. In fact, several members had done likewise once it was clear our scrappy little raiding team wasn't going to head into Naxx when the bulk of us hit 80. 

    Former Raiders and the Guild Forums: Not a Match Made in Heaven

    In the case of my first time in this position, our guild forums were not especially active, so my moving one character out and still spending a ton of time on my alts didn't cause even a ripple of drama. I wish I could say the same for other folks in that position in guilds that had a more active forums culture. In most cases, it became a source of ongoing drama in the guild until the person either voluntarily moved on, or had the gkick door hit them in the ass to show them the way out.

    The primary issues that can flare up are pretty consistent:

    • Bragging about their new guild's progress. Guess what? The guild you left probably has had to struggle some as a result. They aren't really interested in hearing about your successes. And if they are, people will ask you directly.
    • Bagging on their old guild's policies/strategies. You chose to take your ball and go home by taking your raiding toon out of a guild. To me, that also means by choosing to be part of the problem, and not part of the solution to the issues that made you leave, you should also give up your right to lecture/ harangue/ complain/ berate others about said issues.
    • Providing unsolicited advice. The fact that your new guild flawlessly executed on a fight your old guild has been struggling on is not an open invitation for you to school them on how to do the fight. You forget you were right back here with the rest of us, struggling, not so long ago. I assure you, if folks want your advice and tips, they will most certainly ask for them. If you find yourself incapable of keeping unsolicited advice to yourself, go play on the WoW Forums or start a blog!
    • Continuing to fight old fights. You've gone on to greener pastures. Get over those old grudges. bury those old hatchets. Move on. Don't camp the forums and pick fights with the same people with whom you have been picking fights with for months.
    • No one cares at all about the new gear you've obtained. Your momma doesn't even care. Don't link it to us in chat. Or post about it on the forums. Seriously, no one cares. At best, it makes others think your primary motivation is lewt. And no one wants to be that guy.

    Having been on both sides of the fence with this quandary, I have to say it's incredibly difficult in most cases to have someone move their raiding main to a new guild and maintain a collegial relationship with the guild they left their alts behind in. Even if you aren't engaged in any of the above guild forum faux pas, the folks you've left behind may perceive a hidden agenda in anything you say after you've left. And honestly, you've taken your ball and gone home. You can't expect others to not feel a little bitter about that.

    That said, you may be in the position of having had a personality conflict with a guild leader that drove you out. Or some other big ticket issue that you tried really hard to resolve to your liking before finally going out the door. Your leaving on your main did not resolve that conflict. it is still there. And in some cases, it escalates the conflict. I suppose if you are someone who thrives on drama and conflict and loves to argue, this is a dream scenario. But I know for myself personally, it's neither fun to watch nor to participate in.

    So What's a Guild to Do?

    There are a few ways to minimize the conflict that can result when a main raider leaves the guild and wants to still participate on their alts.

    The guild leadership can:

    1. Consider creating a special level of forums access that somewhat restricts the discussions in which these persons can participate. Give those left behind a place where they can talk about raiding challenges amongst the team -- without feedback from those whoa re no longer participating as part of the raiding team.
    2. Restrict moderation and special forums access only to those with mains participating in raids/the guild.
    3. Continue to check-in with guildies to see how they are feeling about their former raiding peers' interactions with them on the forums. If the scale tips too far into the bad, you risk losing currently active members over those who've already left you once.

    The guild member can:

    1. Consider the issues described above and try to participate in a respectful manner on the forums.
    2. If you had a conflict with a specific guild leader, put them on ignore. You can make your friends swear to tell you if they are talking crap about you. Ignoring them doesn't make the conflict disappear, but it keeps your blood pressure down and can keep drama from flaring up.
    3. Make sure you are remaining in the guild on your alts for the right reason, i.e. because you really love playing with the members. The wrong reasons include because you want a safety net in case your new guild doesn't work out, or because you want to show everyone else how awesome you are and they aren't.
    4. Check in with yourself often to make sure it's still working out for you to continue your dual life. It's hard to maintain friendships -- or even get to know new members -- when your primary play time sink is outside of the guild. Knowing when to say goodbye and leave on good terms can be hard. Which is why it is important to periodically self-evaluate how things are going.
    How does your guild handle this sort of a situation?

    Another One Bites the Dust!


    That nekkid dance part is in celebration of our Blood Princes kill, on our 7th attempt of the night (our first real night of attempts. woot!) We moved on to Sindragosa, with our best attempt around 28%. I think we can get her next week if all goes well and we have some time on her.

    It's always nice to tick another boss off the list.


    Another step closer.

    Raider Performance Evaluations

    At work, we just completed our annual review cycle. Contrary to popular P.O.V., I actually somewhat look forward to my annual review, because I appreciate getting an outside perspective on where my strengths are, and where I need to focus on improvement. And it’s really cool, since we solicit input from colleagues, to hear from the folks that work with you day in and day out how you impact their work.

    Going through this process led me to start thinking about ongoing raid team evaluations, and how that could work. In a perfect world, I would be able to click on my name in a World of Logs/WoW Meter Online report, and come to my own personalized dashboard. In addition to it showing me how I did on that night’s fights, it would have a homepage that would chart, over time, how I am doing overall in my role over time, as well as allowing me to drill down on a boss-by-boss basis to evaluate my progress. Unfortunately, unless you have a player who’s ranked in the top 200 for their spec on that fight, you don’t really get to see that sort of data on WoL.

    I did find some of that historical data on WMO, available on a raid and individual level by boss basis. It’s still not going to help track how you are doing on boss fights you are working on (it only shows boss kills) and its graph plot line is a little wonky, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. It can at least show you the highs and lows of any individual player’s attempts versus this boss.

    I’m wondering how other guilds track performance over time, or if in fact they do. If yours does, let me know how they do it.

    Personal Accountability: A Raider's Checklist


    It's really easy to be that guy who posts a complaint in your guild's forums about how everyone did a crappy job last night in the raid. Or to start pointing fingers via raid chat and vent when things start to go south. But regardless of how thoughtful or valid your criticism may be, if you're not doing everything you personally can to help your raid be successful, your comments are going to fall on deaf ears. Because if you don't demonstrate personal accountability, frankly, no one is going to listen to your point of you.

    What is personal accountability?

    Personal accountability in a raiding setting can be roughly defined as being aware of how your personal actions and decisions contributes to the overall success or failure of the raid. That's right, YOU. Regardless of what your raid role is. Your choices and actions affected the outcome of that last raid in which you participated. Not just what everybody else did.

    When tempted to start diagnosing the causes of a less than spectacular raiding night, you need to start with looking at yourself, and answering these questions:

    Did I come to this raid prepared?
    • Did I read the strats/watch a video of the fights with which I am less familiar?
    • Was I online, gear repaired, with all my reagents/consumables, en route to or already at the raid location at invite time?
    • Did I ensure my significant other/parent/dog understood I was going to be unavailable to them for the course of the raid time, and was OK with me spending the entire raid time online, not tending to them?
    • If I know in advance that I can not stay through the end of the raid for some unavoidable reason (think called in to work, not buddy called and wants to go grab some beers), did I tell the raid leader beforehand so I could be replaced either for the whole raid or the portion I can not attend, or better yet did I line up my own replacement?
    Now that I'm at the raid, am I focused on the task at hand?
    • Did I turn off IM, minimize the Farmville, turn off the TV so I can pay attention to the raid?
    • Am I listening to Vent/TeamSpeek at a reasonable volume so I can hear anything my raid leader is trying to tell me?
    • Have I turned off any downloads/backups/console Internet connections that might cause me to lag horribly or DC?

    Am I correctly performing the role I am assigned?

    • Did I switch targets when the raid leader asked me to do so, or did I stay on the boss or AOE instead?
    • Did I get in your fair share of interrupts/dispells/cleanses? Or did someone else on the team get stuck doing all that heavy lifting?
    • If I was asked, for the good of the raid, to swap into my off spec, did I do so pleasantly, or did I grumble/whine/complain/threaten to log off and hold up the raid for 10 minutes while arguing that someone else should have to swap roles and not me?
    • If someone else had the same job assigned, did I perform roughly the same as they did?
    • Did I die in a pool of slime, or in a fire, or in some other place I should not have been standing?
    • Did I die from pulling aggro off the boss?
    • Was I the first to die in every fight, due to some sort of avoidable issue/mechanic?

    Am I playing my class to the best of its potential?

    • Is all my gear properly enchanted and gemmed?
    • Do I roughly understand the stat weightings for my gems and enchants, to evaluate which gem/enchant is better?
    • Is my main spec gear appropriate? i.e. I am not trying to heal in hit gear, or tank in DPS gear, or DPSing in PvP gear.
    • Do I know what a good solid rotation is that makes the most of my special abilities and cooldowns?
    • If there is someone else in the raid with my same spec, am I performing roughly as well as they are? If not, do I know why not? (Hint: If they are doing 2K more DPS than you, blaming their two pieces of better gear is not going to fly as a reason for that disparity)
    • If I am in a raid with someone who plays my same class/spec and they are a superstar, do I check recount and raid logs and armory or even PM them to see how I might improve my performance?

    Tough Love

    This is a big checklist. And from time-to-time, we're going to slip up in one of these areas, such as by not knowing, after a patch, our most effective rotation. Or maybe we forget and put on a piece of gear we got last night and didn't yet gem. These kind of goofs happen and are forgivable. But if you can't confidently check off most of these items, you are not in the best position to be offering up your unsolicited advice as to what the raid's problems are.

    Because you are, in fact, one of those problems.

    But the good news is, the checklist doesn't just show you potential issues, most items also include the "how to resolve the issue" portion too. No one expects their raid members to be perfect. But most folks do expect you to give a damn, and to make an effort. Addressing any gaps you have ID'd via this checklist is a great start.

    Long Weekend Update Grab Bag


    Alts and Achievements

    Slowly but surely, I keep pushing my alts up that leveling hill. My warlock hit the big 4-0 on Monday, which meant...PONY!! The druid actually hit 78 too, but all she got were some feral talent upgrades she'll never use.


    Anexxia got her Love Fool title while my shaman got started on it, and I tried to make a small dent in the Elders achievement as well. I get a little restless doing an achievement as unwieldy and far flung as the Lunar Festival with its trekking across the globe to honor the Elders. So I have combined it with outstanding area exploration and herbing. I do need to give props to Blizzard for replacing the TB Elder with Ezra Wheathoof. It was a classy touch.


    Raid-wise, we had a good attempt on Putricide in 10 (40% when most of us in the team had not seen him), and in 25 we got Festergut to 9% which far exceeds our prior attempts. It took a while to get the spore management flowing properly, and we had to suspend attempts while a raid member had an extended work-related AFK. But our final attempt showed we can do it if we get folks to show up and focus next week. It was a positive end to a week that found folks expressing frustration in our forums RE: the lack of progress in ICC over the past month.

    Personally, I would, of course, like for us to progress more quickly. And I also get frustrated when folks haven't come to raids prepared (i.e. both knowing the strats and having their flasks/food.) And I understand how it can feel annoying when folks get caught up on fight mechanics that seem simple.

    To be frank, given the turmoil we had earlier this month with all of our raid schedulers quitting that task, a healer and DPS giving themselves a multi-week time out from raiding and a tank and DPS leaving the guild entirely, I am happy we have tread water. And I am confident as things have stabilized that we can and WILL do better.

    Furthermore, the guild's charter is to be inclusive with the raiding, which is always going to mean a slower pace. But since we don't even have a Cataclysm BETA in place, we are looking at not having another raid to conquer for what? 6 months? Thinking back to the end of BC, folks got to where they could get in BT (or not as the case may be) then defaulted to running their myriad alts through Kara. I personally ran and geared up 4 toons through there and made myself thoroughly sick of it.

    We've got plenty of time to conquer the Lich King. And unlike Ulduar, which only 1 10-man in our guild completed, and only one time at that, we won't be running up against an easy loot pinata raid with better ilvl gear.

    We have time to work on this and to improve. Folks just need a little patience.