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Ch-ch-changes and Ch-ch-cho-’gall

Last week was a bit momentous for me and my various dealings in this world of Warcraft. So, I apologize for being absolutely terrible at providing my usual fare of edu-tainment, but my mind was firmly ensconced elsewhere!

One of the biggest events last week was my guild killed Cho’gall on 25man mode for the first time on Wednesday. We’d been working on the fight for about three Wednesdays in a row by that point, and while the previous week was generally a giant pile of frustration, by the end of the night we were hitting phase 2. The first 75% of the fight was starting to become habit. So then last week imagine my glee when–on the very first pull!–we got him into phase 2. That meant our “base” for the fight was right where we needed it to be.

Cho’gall, as a fight, reminds me a bit of Professor Putricide: it’s seven minutes of repetition with an increasing level of danger, followed by a nervewracking burn phase. And learning the fight is a pain because you have to spend all this time learning that first 75% of the fight–mastering it–and then you can wipe before even seeing the most crucial quarter. So you keep doing that first 75% over and over again until it becomes second nature, and the fatigue is ridiculous.

I was worried last week we were going to spend an hour or so getting back to being able to hit phase 2. But, like I said, fortune smiled and we were on our game. So the following attempt we had similar success, pushing it to phase 2, but wiping soon after. At this point I assessed the situation and listed for the raid the things I wanted us to immediately fix before we could successfully kill the boss. Chief among them was Corrupted Blood totals. That last attempt, we had a few people at 50 before we even got to phase 2, which was unacceptable. The law was laid down: no one past 25 until phase 2.

The third attempt we did we really locked it down and got Cho’gall all the way to 7%. Immediately everyone was excited by the sudden inevitability of the kill. Fourth attempt was to 9%, a tiny backslide, but we were doing much better at the burn phase, just corruption was too high going in.

The fifth attempt wasn’t stellar, to put it lightly. We had tank deaths, people at greater than 50% corruption, and various other non-stellar things. I released Frank a bit on that attempt, unfortunately, and as much as I hated doing so I think between that and the shame of the backslide, a lot of us buckled down with a determination to achieve redemption on the next go. And so we began our next attempt, coasting through the add phases with no trouble what so ever. Tanks weren’t in any serious danger, slimes were blown up immediately, and (most importantly) blood remained very uncorrupted all the way to phase 2.

By the time we hit the burn phase, every was still under 25% corruption, which was incredible. I pulled Cho’gall onto his throne so that all his eye stalk adds would spawn immediately around him and go be easily AOE’d/splashed down. People held everything together, and after what felt like an eternity, we finally knocked Cho’gall over.

It was our first end boss kill on the 25s, and definitely very exciting. Three people got their four piece bonuses that night (Antigen among them, grats to him!) and the raid got a much needed shot in the leg after the last two Wednesdays that ended ignominiously on Cho’gall.

Changing of the guard

The other major happening from last week was a major shift in my guild. After a solid year of leading Enveloping Shadows, I’ve stepped down as guild master for a quieter existence as just an officer. In my stead, Zilga and Falowin have stepped up to divide up my duties, with Zilga taking over leading raids (Frank is dead, long live Francine) and Falowin taking over the remaining GM duties of the morale and complaints departments.

The game has started to become way too frustrating thanks to the excitement of the past few months and I wasn’t able to give the guild my all anymore without exploding into a supernova of stress and ulcerated tissue. Thankfully, my officers are a stand up group of folks and I know they’ll be able to continue in the job with a fresh determination that I definitely was unable to provide as of late. The guild is, beyond a doubt, in fantastic hands.

I’m currently suffering because I can’t wait to raid Tuesday night, finally being able to just sit back and just tank. It’s going to be a surreal experience.

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March 7, 2011
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The game is afoot… race

Unlike the last game, last night’s actually lasted a decent amount of time and was (at least for me) much more fun.

We did this concept before, everyone rolls a level 1 and then races from one point to the other on foot, with deaths a plenty just about every mob over level 10. Last time we did Orgrimmar to Everlook; last night we did a track I thought would be much more ambitious, Silvermoon to the Dark Portal (by way of the Tirisfal zep).

Starting at the gates of Silvermoon in a huge naked pile, the gun first and we all broke for it.

Eversong, as you can imagine, was little trouble. I’ve leveled through the zone many times and knew the danger spots. I cross the Dead Scar at the north end than dodged down the road into the halfway point and crossed east towards the scar, and then down into the Ghostlands.

Ghostlands was pretty breezy, with only one rough spot at the beginning that was promptly cleared for me by the pack leaders who were torn apart by lynxes.

Towards the end of Ghostlands I was chasing Antigen, and then took a screenshot of my pursuit. I didn’t realize screenshotting made you stop running momentarily, so I had to shelve that after it cost me a chance at passing him.

We soon passed into EPL, which was definitely the hardest zone of the race. It wasn’t just the mob levels (though that did result in bats flying from across the zone to eat our faces), it was that there was no clear way to pass into WPL without crossing through huge groups of mobs. I elected to go south down the road and then cut southwest along the mountains, north of the Infectis Scar, rather than follow the road and go through Corin’s Crossing.

That was a huge miscalculation and cost me any chance at a win, I suspect. The graveyard was way too far away to make corpse hopping viable.

At this point the leaders for the rest of the game were established, and those that fell behind terminally quickly settled into a perma-bottom place. Poor Falowin tried to cross the mountains at some indeterminate point and ended up spending most of the race in EPL.

Eventually I squeezed my way out of EPL, probably in 7th place, and started making my way through WPL. The West was all about following the road and then corpse hopping past choke points where mobs were parked on either side of a road. There was a bear pincer moment, a spider pincer, and one point where you pass a field with caster skeletons on your right and a spider on your left. No way out there.

I think I ended up gaining time in WPL, because once I crossed into Tirisfal I started seeing people again.

I barely made the zeppelin, and the entire time I dashed up the tower I could hear Vili (already on the boat) shouting “GO ZEP GO, LET’S GO!” To his consternation I disembarked with the rest of them to STV.

Heading north through STV wasn’t terrible, though somehow I fell far behind Vili, but ended up ahead of Antigen. Either way, a few tigers later and I was cruising into Duskwood, land of the roaming soldiers. The only make up for the annoyance of all the mobs camping the road was how close graveyards were to each other.

You could tell we were in the final phase of the race at this point. The leaders were passing through Swamp of Sorrows while myself and the two immediately behind me were barely entering Deadwind Pass. The next two zones (Deadwind and the Swamp) were amazingly easy, not a mob in sight. Well, I got chased by a crocodile at one point, but I easily outran him.

Eventually Cendra took the win and crossed the ribbon (aka, the Dark Portal) and passed into Outland. Vili and Freezedealer quickly followed taking respective second and third place. I managed to pull fourth, and the stragglers (except for Falowin, who was in WPL at this point) began to trickle in one by one.

While waiting there I’m sure we drew a few questions from the various 50s and 60s that crossed through the portal into Outland. How often is it you see a pack of level 2 and 3s just hanging out there?

At one point a demon ran up the steps and caused a minor panic, thinking he was coming for us. Once he passed someone, everyone opened fire, but obviously didn’t do much of a scratch. As Antigen said, “where was the defense on that?!”

Once the rest of the close-by stragglers came by, I took a picture and we called it a night.

I hope everyone who participated had fun. I personally had a blast, and was immensely relieved the results seemed by the books. One more game to go!

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August 31, 2010
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My guild, casual or hardcore?

Stoneybaby of Big Crits/ was asking on Twitter for posts regarding the variations of play and commitment between casual and hardcore guilds (to steal his wording). Through his tweet I realized that this is something I’ve always wanted to write about, but could never build up the courage to force myself behind a keyboard and expound upon, if only because I wasn’t prepared for the time investment such a topic requires.

Considering it’s now officially timely, I’m forcing myself to take the plunge. But only lightly… it’s more like dipping my toe in the pool. I won’t go into too many specifics, but I want to speak a little bit on the gaming “philosophy” that guides our guild and why I think that our MO has delivered the success that we currently enjoy.

I don’t want to get into the whole messy business of defining what is casual and what is hardcore, because I think such a task is sisyphean at best, and impossible at worst. It’s completely subjective, ultimately. It varies from person to person, much like the taste of Soylent Green.

Like the old saying goes, “it’s a recession when my neighbor loses his job, and a depression when I lose mine.” Well–one could say a common definition for many is “a guild less progressed than mine is casual, one more progressed is too hardcore.”

If I had to–subjectively–define my guild, my first answer from that dichotomy that comes to mind is “casual”. We only raid ICC-25 for 7-8 hours a week, two days out of the seven, we don’t maintain a military-like discipline when raiding, and we don’t always approach fights 100% optimally. And yet, we’re ranked 2013th in the US. We’re 9/12 ICC-25 HM. Obviously, we’re not that casual.

But then again, I guess casual isn’t so much the results, but rather the approach… right? If that’s the definition, then yeah, casual all the way. If not, then I guess we’ll wear that hardcore label, though we’re surely not as hardcore as many others.

Hell, we used to be a lot more hardcore in terms of our schedule, with far sparser results. Up until March we were running a schedule of raiding Tuesday to Thursday, which sucked, frankly. It was too much raiding, too clustered together. (Woops, my casual is showing.) Finally as part of the first wave of reforms to stem the bleeding we were experiencing at the time–and that’s another post for another time–we cut it back to two days a week. The result unexpectedly paid huge dividends.

We started doing more in those first two days than we did across three. It was like the Laffer Curve, but for raiding schedules.

And why did we cut back the schedule? Because at three days, the general consensus was that it was too hardcore! People didn’t want to spend three days straight in front of their PC. The vast majority of my guild’s raiders have RL commitments: significant others, spouses, children, night jobs. It was onerous for us to raid so much.

Of course, there is a downside: only raiding for those 7 hours limits how many progression shots we get on a boss week to week. We spent 2-3 hours every Wednesday for weeks while learning the LK fight. Then we extended the lockout to get a full 7 hour block on the guy, only to down him the first night of that week. Likewise, we’ve been pouring our energies into Heroic Sindragosa lately. Progress has definitely been steady, but I can’t help but think we’d have the old girl down by now if we had an extra 3 hours a week to spend on her.

But I digress. Surely the schedule we operate under is a tick in the casual column, with regards to time invested. Now, let’s talk about effort invested.

More of my dps than not read EJ. They do their class research. The two main raiding rogues are total spreadsheet junkies, a discipline that they’ve taught to every other rogue that have joined the raiding ranks. The healers spend their off time thinking and researching about strategies and techniques. Antigen obviously has his own blog, and knows his stuff. Ana and myself write about tanking, as well… as you know. We spend an unhealthy amount of time bouncing ideas off each other and diving through Maintankadin threads.

I think that’s a tick in the hardcore column. Not all guilds have a majority of their members spending time “off the clock” to work on improving themselves and their performance.

But we’re not 12/12 ICC 25 hardmodes. We’re not farming Invincibles. Which is partly why I am hesitant to deign myself fit to don such a moniker as “hardcore”. It doesn’t feel right upon my head.

Yet, ultimately, I think we’ve found a “sweet spot” in the casual/hardcore spectrum. Our input is casual–we don’t raid that often–but our output is in many respects hardcore. We get results, we kill bosses, we get loot. We might do it more slowly than other guilds, but in the end we’ll reach the same destination.

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August 27, 2010
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Fun while it lasted!

I’m debating how to phrase the toning of this post. While what happened was definitely fun (while it lasted) it was also very frustrating in that it definitely ended with suspicious circumstances.

Alright, cynical skepticism, you’re up.

So last night was the first of the “ES Olympics”, the three games we would use to disperse three of the Shadowmourne loot items: the Favor, the Music Box, and the Pendant. And last night’s game was “Hunt the GM”.

I made the ugliest human I could stomach to craft and fled south to what I thought would be a pretty ingenious hiding spot. The rules generally were I’d be in a contested zone and not move.

I considered several dick moves I could pull, like rolling a Night Elf and Shadowmelding, or rolling a druid, getting it up to Aquatic Form and hiding in the ocean somewhere. But I decided against being mean.

Here’s where I ended up, and you can see the path I took:

Believe you me, it was a pain in the ass to get to Darkshire as a level 1 with a wolf chomping my face off every 15 feet.

There’s a small grove behind the tower on the border between Duskwood and Deadwind Pass. I ducked in there and camped out behind a tree. I indulged in some masculine giggling while waiting for my eventual executioner.

I hung out in vent while I listened to everyone talk about trying to find me. It was like hide and seek on steroids. Everyone was enjoying themselves, and at 7:20 I dispensed the first of my six prepared hints, which was just a throw away.

And then a moment later, the guild’s resident shifty warrior found me. This is while everyone still barely had a clue what zone I was. And so the game ended, twenty fast minutes later.

To harken back to the cynicism I summoned at the beginning of this post, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the warrior did a /who check for each zone on another account and found the one level 1 character that was out of place, focused on Duskwood and then zipped around with a /target macro with that level 1′s name. If I was going to cheat that’s how I would do it.

Not that I would because, you know, I have principles. And stuff.

In any case, I have no proof; but 20 minutes is awfully suspicious. Eyebrows are firmly cocked.

Annoyances aside, the 30th is my guild’s 2 year anniversary, so the second game will be that day. Probably another lvl 1 naked alt race. That was a lot of fun, and is basically impossible to cheat at without being ridiculously obvious. And as for the third game, I have no clue what to do. Any suggestions are welcome in the comments.

And of course with the pace Morvain is getting Shadowmourne shards, we’ll be having another series of games soon enough.

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August 20, 2010
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Downed by Server Boss!

Tuesday is the first night of the raid week for us. This is always an issue on patch nights because the patching process inevitably grinds to a halt. So it was the first night of Ulduar, so it was last night. Our server didn’t even come up until 9:30 local time, a full half hour before we usually call it for a night. A huge debacle ultimately.

So, what did we do to pass the time? At first we congregated on the guild forums and Vent, complaining about downtime and the like while eagerly anticipating a start to the night. As time bore on though it became more apparent that Blizzard was taking their time. At around 8 server time, the first batch of servers started to come up, so to pass the time I rolled a DK on Chromaggus on a whim.

Eventually I got sick of all the nude alt parades and yell spams, and hunkered down to just focus on figuring out Real ID. My position on the feature has generally always been one of exuberant willingness to adopt. I have no illusions of privacy on this, the Interwebs, and recognize that anyone reading this blog could probably easily find my real name and address if they wanted to. So, it honestly doesn’t bother me that the people I play WoW with know my real name. Likewise, it doesn’t bother me that their friends could look up my name via that.

That said, I recognize there are legitimate concerns with the system. If someone’s be e-stalked they rightfully could have objections to their real name being out there. I’m not going to throw stones having never been in such a situation.

Nonetheless, that’s my two cents on Real ID. Oh, and some kind of Invisible status would be nice for those that like to hide once in a while. And I’m sure Blizzard will in due course add such a thing, I sincerely doubt this is the final iteration of Real ID that we will ever see.

Anyway, I digress. After some time a group of us decided to roll some lvl 1 alts on Aegwynn and form a guild to use as a refuge when Lightninghoof was down. Apparently all we needed was 10 silver to make a guild charter, so a mob of us scoured the Durotar country side, jumping harpies like a flood of feral carnivore squirrels, and ripping whatever currency we could from their hides.

Despite my hopes of getting at least 90 minutes to clear up to Saurfang, eventually the crisis (so to speak) dragged on until 9 server time, and with no Lightninghoof in sight we just called it for the night.

Did anyone get to raid last night? Also, did you all take Real ID for a spin, what’d you think of it?

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June 23, 2010
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Not seeing eye to eye

Personally I feel like the standby system we started using back in February has saved this guild, much in the same way the DKP system did back in Ulduar. We haven’t missed a raid since it was initiated, and since we began maintaining a “buffer” of folks to always ensure there are 25 raiders available, we haven’t missed a raid. Both Tuesdays and Wednesday nights have been happening like clockwork, and I consider than an amazing success.

Of course, there are always the folks who refuse to accept the system. Being put on standby is antithesis to them, and they will lash out if they don’t get their way.

One such example happened the week of our Lich King kill. We had a hunter (who was also an officer) that took a long hiatus for his wedding. He came back, raided for about two weeks, then went on hiatus again. It seemed like being newly married wasn’t working with raiding. Whatever, no problem. But then he came back a month ago and wanted to raid again. So he came to a raid and DC’d constantly while in combat. On one BQL attempt he even wiped us because he was the first bite and, of course, disconnected. Game over right there.

The following week we extended the lockout and pushed hard on the Lich King. Looking out for the success of the raid, as I am wont to do, I benched this hunter so he wouldn’t cause a wipe from an ill-timed disconnect. The hunter responded by quitting the game. He sent letters out to a wide swath of people thanking them for being good friends and all that, and all I got was the crushing feeling that I wronged someone.

I know I did the right thing, I couldn’t take someone that could potentially wipe the raid to progression attempts on last fight in the last raid of the expansion. Still, it was pretty depressing that this person–an officer no less–was so blinded by their own… perhaps selfishness is the word… that they couldn’t look beyond their own wants to see they could legitimately harm the progression of the raid and guild.

Another more recent example of this is a healer we have that just returned from their own wedding-induced hiatus. This particular person was usually never benched because they were the only healer of their class and it was pretty helpful to have that particular class/spec there. Anyway, when this person went on hiatus last month we lost one healer due to school aggro and another due to moving. We were down to barely having enough healers, and if a healer couldn’t make it one night, we might not have been able to raid. It was way tighter than I would prefer to allow.

So, I did the only logical thing I could do, I recruited. We brought in a few healers bringing the total number of healers up to 8. The buffer was restored.

This person comes back from hiatus and is nonplussed to see that not only did we recruit more healers, but also another one of that class/spec. And not only that, but they were (horror of horrors) benched on Wednesday. I got a miffed whisper asking why this was (because it was your turn) and why did we recruit healers (because we had to) and why would someone be benched only one of two nights (so people don’t have to be locked out for a whole week)?

Not only that, but it was asserted that rather than being on standby for one night, this person would prefer to be benched for the whole week so they won’t get saved to raid that won’t be finished and can just pug it. This left me a bit speechless, because again I’m not accustomed to running into such focused self-interest when I’m here trying to promote group cohesion. There’s really nothing to say to that other than that next time I’ll just bench this person for an entire week when it’s their turn.

I guess for me it has always boiled down to this binary question: if you had to sit out of a raid once a month to ensure that the guild always has a raid of 25 people available, would you be willing to that?

If you answer yes, you are good peoples in my book. If you say no, then we really have a problem. That’s a pretty huge philosophical chasm you and I have to cross.

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June 21, 2010
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Breaking in a new off-tank, &c.

This weekend Anafielle, of Twitter and Tankadin Errant, joined our happy ES family. Tonight’s her first raid with us and I’ve been sitting on a rock, all Rodin-like, think-think-thinking of ways to properly welcome her to our band of misfits.

Now, if I were some kind of jerk tank I’d relegate her all the annoying odd jobs. Like Rotface kiting, maintanking Putricide, holding Valanar, absorbing the Blood Mirror damage on BQL, playing D on Gunship, etc. Problem is, I like those jobs, so that won’t work. We’ve already had our first debate over who gets to tank Festergut first.

Truth be told, I’m really looking forward to this. The two guys that I’ve been forcing to tank our raids since Demogar went on hiatus have been doing a great job, but they were always dps at heart. It’ll be fun to have someone to talk shop with again.

More recruitment

I can feel the Summer Slump’s hot breath on the back of my neck. His sweaty hand clamped firmly on my shoulder. Whispering sweet nothings of doom and raids with only 23 members. I’ve been actively attempting to recruit some more dps to add to the much-needed buffer so even as we shed a raider every two weeks or so, there’s someone ready to step up and get the party going.

The addition of Anafielle and her two healer friends will be key, since it frees up those dps guys so both can stick to dps every raid, rather than one being forced to tank. And the two healers were a load off my mind as to how to deal with one healer burning out and the other going away for a few weeks for her wedding/honeymoon. So that’s one crisis averted, now to add to the raid core.

Anyway, my guild is recruiting dps. If you read this blog and are on the Hoof already, or wouldn’t mind a potential server transfer, check out our recruitment post and maybe app on our guild site if you’re so inclined.

Keeping us rolling

I think right now we’re in a pretty good place in terms of interest from the raid core. We’re knocking on Arthas’ door, so that’s keeping everyone engaged, and we have some ancillary guild goals like Nordic’s Shadowmourne. Once we unlock heroic modes we’ll have that to keep people coming back every week as well. I’m hoping we accomplish that sooner rather than later so we can start rolling in 277 gear.

In the meantime, to add some other activities for some non-ICC fun, I have a list of off-night stuff to drop on the calendar. For example, I think I’m going to push for a white item run of Kara where everyone loads up on common-quality gear then we raid in that, equipping any epics we win along the way. I think it would be fun in the sense there’d be very little danger thanks lvl 80 resists, while not being a complete steamroll if done in current endgame gear.

Things are pretty “steady as she goes” right now. I can live with this.

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May 18, 2010
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A new chapter begins

The night began innocuously enough, as most patch nights do, with everyone unable to log in or getting repeatedly disconnected. Invites went out, we raided ICC, etc. The usual.

After we called it a night I lingered in vent and the game, cutting gems for some folks before I logged. Ildara then mentions “did you see the forums?”

I look and there’s a post by Demo saying he was quitting the game, or at least going on extended hiatus. I immediately report this in vent and one of the people there asked who the new guild leader would be. “I guess me,” I sighed.

And just like that I was the new guild leader of Enveloping Shadows.

To be fair, it’s been like this for a while. Demo’s interest has been nothing but waning since January. I’ve been the de facto guild leader for at least two months now.

And to think a year and two months ago I first joined this guild and could barely get a raid spot. Now I’m the goddamn guild master.

There are no hard feelings between us. As difficult as it is to see him go, we always said you gotta do what you gotta do. If you’re burning out there’s no reason to hang around and become ever more miserable.

My immediate goals now are to arrest the morale decline of the past couple of weeks and get us progressing in ICC-25 again. I have no idea how we’re going to do that. I basically need to force a culture shift, which seems near impossible. I’m up for the challenge though.

Toynbee said that “countries die from suicide, not from murder.” I think the same is true for guilds. Leaders lose interest or their morale collapses. This trickles down and people stop trying, and then wipe to stupid things. Issues exacerbate issues until there is a critical mass of discontent.

I won’t let that happen. I can fix this.

If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

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March 24, 2010
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Using Google Wave as a guild coordination tool

Confession: I love Google Wave. I think it’s the future of Interwebz communications and have spent every waking second since I was hooked up with an invite exploring and evangelizing the technology.

As repayment for the initial invite, @ibroadfo committed me to doing a post on how I’d utilize Google Wave within my guild. So, here’s what I’m doing:

Truthfully, right now that only thing I’ve settled on is using Wave to consolidate raid strategies for Icecrown. Thanks to Wave’s collaborative features, I can write a full wave of raid strats, each “blip” (box of text) for a specific boss, and include any Waving guildies so they can comment and contribute to formulating a viable technique for each boss.


In each strategy blip I pasted a list of boss availabilities I stole from And then added little comments here or there, and highlighted colors to represent if something only really applies in heroic mode, or if it’s something a healer/dispeller needs to pay attention to.


Wave also allows me to embed videos from Youtube, so I can put up kill vids from the ptr.


And of course, others can comment or ask questions about specific bosses and we can work out answers or solutions.


Obviously, there’s still a lot more to do …


The sky’s the limit with Wave and I just need to figure out what else can be done with it within my guild.

I have some ideas but I think that depends on if I can manage to finagle most of the raid core into using this new technology.

Ultimately, Wave is a very powerful collaboration tool and can help streamline any brainstorming processes within your guild that might currently be done (clumsily) in external forums or in-game. Because anyone can add, edit, or contribute to a guild wave, you can do some awesome stuff with them.

Anyone using Wave inside their own guild? I’d be interested to hear how you’re approaching it.

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December 2, 2009