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The skies are ours now

And yes, I am dead there. Classic ES kill.

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November 10, 2011
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Back in the saddle

If I had to describe this raid week in three words, it’d be “short but sweet”. And yes, I arbitrarily chose three words so I could use that phrase.

Last week was a pretty big disappointment with us failing to secure a follow-up kill on Heroic Majordomo Staghelm after spending most of the second night working on him. We got close so many times, at least four wipes around 1-4% health, and definitely two that were in the decimal percents. It was rough.

As a result, the goal this week was not to repeat that travesty. And on top of that, this week marked the end of Zilga’s tenure as raid leader as she prepared to step down from raid leading entirely to attend to her proceeding maternity. In her place Antigen and I would begin swapping off on raid leading duties. I was taking this week, so I used the opportunity to make one major change to the strategy.

This time, I’d give a 2 seconds warning before Leaping Flames were to occur, ensuring that everyone was moving, and hopefully preventing any damage from the “standing in bad” ticks as people would clear puddles immediately, rather than being stuck in them for a second or two.

I mean, it wasn’t as good as people just — perish the thought — looking at their screen and seeing if the cat was headed their way. But, if you’re going to smash tunnel visioning into tiny kibbles, baby steps are required. This would do.

We managed to kill Domo on the third attempt, with the first two attempts ending ignominiously but hopefully. The movement change definitely worked, as the first orbs phase went flawlessly. Didn’t even need a battle rez, in stark contrast to preceding weeks. The second orb phase was a little stacked against us. North side had two orbs right next to each other, the south had three. RNG strikes again.

Still, ranged handled them pretty well, only getting overwhelmed at the very end, right before they despawned. I called for the collapse, we switched it to Scorp, and then attempted to shave off the last 6% of his health before the enrage 30 seconds later. We easily pulled it off, marking our cleanest kill yet. And, more importantly, proving we can easily steamroll the fight — “farm!” the Rogue called out — and thus devote a lot more time in the second night to Heroic Alysrazor.

On top of the great progress we had on Alys on Tuesday, that portends an imminent kill.

Of course, the shoulder token I wanted did not drop. With my occupying the top of the PR chart, that was bound to happen. Fate refuses to allow me to have peace, no sir. On the bright side, Sulfuras didn’t drop off Rag for Antigen as well, so I’m firmly convinced at this point that we’re locked in some kind of death pact where neither can get our desired gear until the other does, and then when we finally do we’ll get run over by a bus the following morning, at the exact same moment.

Yes, these are the weird things I think about ever since I started raid leading again. Coincidence? I think not.


I’m trying to make a point of blogging more often, and one of the ways I plan to do that is removing the laziness concurrent with forcing out a huge post regularly through the clever deployment of microblogging. Basically, posts like that erroneous stub I spit out last night. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to do substantive posts, but if I catch a small little thing, or see an interesting and pertinent video or quote, I’ll throw it up all-tweet-like on the blog.

I’ve been slacking a lot over the past few months because pounding out 200 words or so for a PTR patch note felt like a titanic requirement. This should remove that malaise from the equation a bit. Apologies in advance if this comes across as me half-assing! I assure you the entirety of my ass is involved in everything I do.

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October 27, 2011
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First night on Heroic Alysrazor

Hit Heroic Alysrazor for the first time last night. Looks like it won’t be too difficult a fight to knock down — we’ve already picked up the additional mechanics, now we just need to make every change second nature to survive the endurance test.

I especially like the thrill of having three hatchlings to dispatch every go-around. The tank dps race feels like an actual race again! I’m cleaning killing them right before we collapse behind the meteors, but I can do better. I’ll have to look into swinging some Ret pieces, or perhaps the arena gloves.

It’s always nice to have an impact on the fight outside of not dying.

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Dropping Domo, oncemore

The last two weeks have been building weeks for us in heroic Firelands. The Shannox kill came much, much too easily thanks to the undertuned-ness of the fight and the impact of the general nerf. Ever since our first kill, every subsequent one has been a simple one shot. I always catch myself suddenly noticing his health at 30%, and then a heartbeat later he’s dead.

Unfortunately this set up some rather insurmountable expectations for the rest of the hardmodes. People didn’t initially give them the proper respect, so as we began to work on Rhyolith some were expecting a road paved with cakes to lead them to a pot full of 391 iLevel gear. That… did not happen. To put it lightly.

Our first night with Rhyolith last week was painful. The shots we put in on him Tuesday went similarly. There are foundational issues with how we’re doing the fight, between driving not being as crisp as it needs to be, to dps attempting to lone wolf which leg they are attacking (rather than following the directions of the driver), to target swaps happening excruciatingly slowly or not at all.

So after Tuesday it was decided to put that fight on the back burner, our heads just weren’t in the game for it. Instead we pivoted (much more quickly than Rhyolith, may I add) to focusing on Heroic Majordomo Staghelm.

Hello, Domo

Our exploration attempts last week were hopeful. We hit the hard enrage timer once, so it was possible for us to eventually close the deal with another night or two of work. Though, our biggest obstacle was going to be Burning Orbs, which we’ve never handled with any particular agility. The orders came down — the name of the game was going to be communication, communication, communication. Mumble was going to be a cacophony, if that’s what it took.

So we talked, and talked, and talked our way through each Burning Orbs phase. And each time it got a little better. Finally, in our latter attempts, we were hardly losing one person. As opposed to throwing our hands in the air in disgust each time four people died to Orbs.

Also starting that night, Falowin and I began handling the Orb that invariably popped up in the dead center of melee. I’d park myself under it, hit five stacks and drop out, and Fal would take it. We handled the Orb flawlessly and it had no noticeable impact on my survivability, since Cat phase is usually a cakewalk. Indeed, any attempt with a melee Orb was usually much easier than the opposite.

It was getting close to the end of the time we had allotted for heroic Domo and we were still dancing with the kill, while the hourglass was slowly running out on us. With Ragnaros still up, we really wanted to not close the week without getting his Smouldering Essences, tier tokens, and remaining loot — even if that meant a Domo kill. So, at 10pm we called for the last attempt, and wiped at 3%.

Dark tidings

Of particular note on that attempt was that previously a shaman had reincarnated after the wipe to cast Mass Resurrection. A couple of us have been trying to break that habit for the longest time, but only with hardmodes has it begun to have the chance to screw us. I asked him why he would waste a battle rez he can use after we use up the three normal battle rezzes, which could potentially affect the outcome of an attempt.

He protested, claiming that he never dies. I affected a voice of prophesy and informed him that one day — one day — he would die after we used all our battle rezzes, and his reincarnation cooldown would be used up from a mass rez and that I would be there to see to see it. Oh yes, I would be there.

So yeah, three people died, then the shaman did. So he couldn’t battle rez himself and in an alternate universe we scored the kill because he was able to do that 3% dps we needed. Of course, in another alternate universe those three other people didn’t die either. But that’s neither here nor there.

I was just amused because I’ve never been proven right that quickly before.

(That’s a joke, before Vili fires up the snark machine.)

And the triumph!

In any case, determined, Antigen said we’d do one more — evoking the classic ES magic of performing best on your very last attempt of the night. We proceeded through the fight like normal, everyone taking care not to make dumb mistakes that would cost us DPS. Approaching the end, we lost two dps in the Cat phase after Orbs. The enrage timer was looming. We told everyone to buckle down and we could mathematically come ahead, we just needed to focus.

Finally, at the very end of the attempt, I prepared to do what I could to buy us a few seconds. At one second to go, I taunted for the fixate effect and popped Divine Shield. Of course Staghelm then leaped away, eating up any time I bought. I popped GAnK and then Ardent Defender, doing what I can. I got rocked pretty quickly thereafter.

As people got picked off, the dead shouted encouragements in Mumble. Those seven second beyond the enrage last seven eternities until finally that little bastard expended his last life, keeled over, and coughed up his purples. The kill felt infinitely better than our post-nerf normal Ragnaros kill a few weeks prior.

We’ll have see if we can repeat the kill this week with many fewer attempts. I think we have a good shot from all the new ground we broke on communication and Orbs this week. For the first time since our normal kill, we don’t have to just stumble our way through it, we’re actually doing it correctly!

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October 17, 2011
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All I have to say about the Firelands nerfs

The first round of hatchlings died with 37 seconds left on the clock. The second round I delivered the death blow with 30 seconds left. We never got a second round of tornadoes.

Majordomo was perhaps the most pitiable boss in there, as we entirely skipped his Burning Orbs phase. We killed the poor bastard in the Scorpion phase right before. In the lead up to the fight, we were figuring out what to do while missing one raid cooldown that we usually had, when I pointed out that the whole damn raid now has a 25% Divine Guardian up the entire time thanks to the nerfs.

It was embarrassing for poor Domo. The guy used to really give us a run for hit money. But now he’s been completely declawed.

Bottom line on the nerfs: Too soon, Executus. And too far.

It’s great that some guilds will finally get to see the bosses they’ve been stuck on forever. But at the same time, it really feels like the place has been outright cheapened. “Victory at what cost?”, and all that.

Ultimately, Firelands yesterday felt more like 30%-nerfed ICC. It was eerie, the deja vu.

On the bright side, we’ll probably kill Ragnaros tonight. About two weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to this handicap that’s been shoved down our throats.

I expect this will be our reaction when we’re standing over Ragnaros’ defanged corpse:

Not like this…. not like this…..

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(Yes, pun titles. How I love you.)

So Sunday night we killed Majordomo Staghelm for the first time, but in 10man mode. Which was strikingly easier than our 25man attempts and somewhat demoralizing. I understand a lot better now why 90% of the raiding guilds on Lightninghoof are 10man only now.

But that’s neither her nor there. We obviously (as a 25man guild) didn’t have a “legit” kill for our chosen raid size, so we weren’t going to even bask in the victory. We prevented a shoulder token from being left on the table, no more, no less. The real work was still left to be done with the new raid week.

Tuesday was sort of a rough raid night, but only in comparison to the previous raid weeks when we one-shot everything and rolled over all opposition. This week — horror of horrors — it took us four attempts to kill Baleroc and three for Alysrazor. Such backsliding! And as a result, unfortunately, we didn’t get any shots in on Domo on Tuesday. We just disembarked for BH as a palate cleanser and then called it a night ten minutes early.

Wednesday, the thinking goes, we’d roll in fresh and finish off Majordomo once and for all after our amazing 8% attempt the previous Wednesday.

Initially hope was strong, but then as real-life RNG intervened it began to wane. Several disconnects occurred during attempts. We had to replace one healer and bring in one that was back from extended hiatus and hadn’t even seen the fight yet. Later, another dps had to go for a family matter, so we had to replace him with the disconnecting healer because none of our other standbys were available. All signs pointed to us being quite doomed.

And yet, immediately following that replacement, our attempts started going a lot better. DPS was tightening up because we came to a big revelation: we weren’t stretching out the Scorpion phases enough. Those were our “big money” dps phases. So we went from taking the first Scorpion to 10 and fleeing to holding him up to 12. Personally, I wanted to go farther and eating two additional Scythes with Ardent Defender and Guardian Spirit, but I was vetoed.

It’s probably for the best — I’m not sure how much faster the Scythes would be getting at that point and if I’d get immediately one-shot by a third follow up before everyone could flee.

Like Zilga says, “I don’t get you people — you post this amazing attempt and you try to change what already works!”

So the first Cat phase then, we ate seven leaps, without much incident. Then it was back to Scorpion phase. And so on and so forth.

We kept taking the Scorpion phases up to 6 or so and then splitting. Raid cooldowns were used extensively for the Searing Seeds/Scorpion phase.

After the Burning Orbs/Cat phase, we somehow still have the entire raid alive — which is crazy, that phase is usually the bane of our existence, but it appears it clicked for everyone. Then hastily going into another Scorpion phase we took quick stock of our raid cooldown inventory and proceeded to mitigate our way through every Scythe. His health ticked down slowly but surely, until finally, on the fifth Scythe he was in low single digits. Zilga called for us to scatter like rats, and we quickly did. There was no way we could eat another Scythe.

We quickly switched Domo to Cat form and went to town on him. The decision was made to ignore the adds, as he was around 4%. Around 1% or so, Staghelm took a flying leap away, but that only delayed the inevitable. As soon as he closed into melee, we finished him off with a starving fury. A roar of joy went up as he switched to human form, and then dropped to the ground, coughing up his purples.

Antigen won the only Conq token, but it’s ok. We’ve agreed on a visitation scheme so I can get 12 minutes of wistful sighs in once a week. (It’s going to be a while before I can win a pair of my own.)

And then we went to go give Ragnaros a few pokes.

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August 25, 2011
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We shall pass

Let’s be honest, Baleroc is supposed to be an homage to the Balrog. And, much like how it took the Fellowship to throw their token old guy at its fiery foe to overcome the challenge it posed, so too did Enveloping Shadows have to sacrifice Falowin on the altar of victory Wednesday night. Along with most of the rest of the raid.

Much like our best attempt the previous night, I ended up buying the farm in the single digits, leaving just Ronada to tank. He did his best to stay up, and even lucked out by having the next blades phase being an Inferno one. But, he couldnt’ last past the high damage and bit it around 4%. DPS started frantically plinking away at the boss while those of us who perished cheered from the sidelines. Then the boss enraged around 2% and it looked like we were going to suffer the same disappointment of the night before.

I watched Baleroc’s health as it trickled away. Suddenly, it passed the 400k point around when we wiped in that amazing, heartbreaking attempt on Tuesday. I allowed myself to hope. Then it was under 100k, well within the range of one dps to take care of and we still had several warm bodies up and kicking. It was going to happen.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity later in what felt like bullet time, Baleroc keeled over dead and coughed up his purples.

And one of those, unfortunately, was that accursed shield. (I know, woe is me, an upgrade. It’s still ugly as sin.)

I’m really looking forward to writing a column about tanking this fight. It’s probably one of the more intense, reactive fights I’ve ever tanked which requires a great degree of trust and communication between you and your co-tank. It’s very rewarding to have the amount of synergy required to watch each other’s backs and successfully make it to the end. Well, not that we’ve done that yet. But, we all know that’s the healers’ fault.

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July 22, 2011
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It burnses us

What a close wipe.

We steamrolled through our farm bosses last night, two shotting Beth, one shotting Shannox, one shotting Rhyolith, and then lined up to face Baleroc with a few hours left on the raid clock. Plenty of time to really learn the fight and get some good licks in.

It was hard going for a while, getting everyone on the same page, but piece by piece it was coming together.

For the tanking, Ronada and I worked out how to mitigate the Decimation Blades phase where I’d taunt off him if he ate a hit until I ate one as well, to buy him some time to get topped off. I would also reserve the right to blow Lay on Hands on him if the timing was right.

Second to last pull of the night and we had this amazing go, getting him crazy low and doing a great job on crystals and healing. Finally, at around 13%, I bit the dust with all battle rezzes expended. Ronada bravely soldiered on through a Decimation phase that just had to occur as soon as I died. He managed to get through most of it but died on the last swing of the duration.

With Baleroc at 9% or so, he turned to start murdering the raid. Plate dps did their best to hold him off while people tried to whittle the boss down. It was looking like it would be close, like we might actually get him down.

Then, at 2%, he enraged and just finished us off. The last straggler and the remaining DoT ticks signed off with the boss at around 400k health.

The pain was unbearable. Though, it gave us hope.

We’ll get him tonight.

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July 20, 2011