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Time for the lightning round


Over the last few weeks, the general theme of our raids has been “wow, we’re doing great — but if only we had more time.” The first night would always see us clear the first half, and then the second we’d knock out the rest of farm and push progression. Every week (or maybe every other) we’d knock down a new boss, and then look ahead daunted at the prospect of somehow jamming another boss into our already-packed raid week.

At that pace, I assumed, we were looking at least another month before we would get to Lei Shen. Give or take.

Then last week, Voss did something bold and declared that we were going to extend the lockout and start the raid week at Iron Qon. We’d move to a new system where every other week we’d extend, making our raid week essentially four nights long across two real weeks.

We had already put half a night into Iron Qon, and were pretty well versed with phase one. All we needed to do was learn and get down the remaining phases, however long that took.

Apparently it wasn’t going to take long at all. First pull of the night and we pushed right through phase one, lost three people on the phase two transition, rezzed one and kept going to get some more practice in, and then somehow managed to navigate the encounter to a kill despite being down two and never having seen the rest of the fight before.

It was a bit confusing, but who would say no to a kill, especially one that was decently executed — considering the handicap we were working with for most of it.

So, mightily impressed with ourselves, we continued onward to go throw ourselves at the Twin Consorts. I wish I could say we had a pretty interesting tussle with the twins, but instead we just rolled them like a cheap rug. An inglorious one-shot of a boss that we had never seen before (save LFR). I can’t recall a single moment of peril at that. Kind of disappointing to tell the truth.

Twins now ranks up there with Primordius in the pantheon of fights that were as exciting to kill as a slowly deflating souffle is to eat.

Sad trombone.

With the twins having been dispatched, all that was left was to somehow put some credible attempts in on Lei Shen. No one was prepared for the fight — who could have imagined we would have killed Qon so quickly and then the twins as well? Unheard of!

We took a long break so everyone could watch the video for Lei Shen and then did some break discussion before marking up the platform (is that officially the Throne of Thunder itself?) and getting in position for the pull to come to us. We were then off to the races, and put in a solid hour of attempts before having to call it a night.

I must admit, I foolishly allowed myself to get hyperoptimistic and believe that we could have killed him right then and there. I don’t think I was full prepared for how difficult, so to speak, the fight was going to be. It wasn’t, say Ragnaros-difficult, but it was definitely one of the tougher bosses we’d hit in Throne thus far.

The best we did that night was successfully get through the first transition, though not much farther than that. Regardless, we had a good basis and a lot to discuss on the strategy thread before the next raid.

And so on the following raid night, this past Monday, we reassembled with the goal more than ever to down Lei Shen and officially clear the instance.  We were not going to extend the lockout again, so if we didn’t down the Thunder King that night, we’d have to wait two more weeks (with the new scheme) for our next shot. No pressure.

We started off with some ok attempts, taking until try four to get our not-dying-on-transition mojo back. The first time we saw phase two, I had the pleasure of watching Voss get punted off the platform by a Fusion Slash. I laugh, but if our positions were swapped, I would have done the same thing having completely forgot about that ability until the millisecond Voss’ feet left the ground.

Second to last attempt saw us pretty much master phase two, and clear the second transition as well. Things were looking great and it felt like a kill was in reach.

On the very last attempt we had the first time we exited the second transition with no one down at all, so the battle rez was still available. Burn phase began and we went to town.

Much like how the tanks forgot about Fusion Punt, we also completely blanked on the stacking dot. A little ways into the phase, Voss asked what my stacks were at, and before I could report back that they were apparently forty (woops) I had collapsed in a heap. (I may have been tunnel visioning on attempting to squeeze out damage. May.)

They brought me back up and the tanks got their act together for the rest of the fight. We cruised to a kill as everyone failed to get killed by Lightning Whip, or blown off the ledge, or stand too close to Thunderstruck. Having failed at failing, we were rewarded with a kill and an Ahead of the Curve feat of strength.

Happy trombone.

It felt so good to get that kill, especially as a particular kind of redemption from our stumbling in tier 14. We really earned this particular dethroning. Now rather than entering the next tier with sub-par ilevels and a huge handicap, we’ll be heading in just about where we need to be. It’s very exciting.

And now we have heroic Jin’rokh on our plates for tonight, which hopefully will go smoothly. I know we’re horrifically late to the party, but I always prefer this phase of a tier, where the pressure of getting the normal stuff down is gone and you can enjoy the delicious gravy of heroic modes and collecting higher ilevels at a more casual pace.

Indeed, if there’s anything last week has convinced me of, it’s that we are ready for hardmodes.

Speaking of higher ilevels, I really need to get the remaining runestones and pickup my goddamn cloak.

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Come to papa!

Let's see how many bird puns I can fit in this post.

Ah, karma. I bitch and moan about the scarcity of shields, claiming that the best I can hope for is some benighted hand-me-down from one of two fights in LFR, and then Visage of the Doomed has the audacity to drop off of Horridon and make me look like an ass.

I am not embarrassed to admit that when I saw the item on Horridon’s corpse, my immediate reaction was to utter in mumble what someone might charitably describe as a deep, throaty gasp. (Yes, I’m aware how horrific that sentence is. When it comes to shields, even dodge/parry ones, I have no shame.)

I’m not sure I would have to, but I can’t tell you enough how much of a relief it was for that shield to drop. I really thought I was going to be out in the cold for a good, long time.

Things are looking up!

Plucked from the sky

Speaking of looking up, after raid last week (which, I must say, was fantastic) we found ourselves at the end of the night looking at Ji-Kun once more. We executed fights wonderfully and generally made great use of our limited raid time. Thursday lined us up nicely for a full Monday of Ji-Kun progression.

And so it was. Last night we hit Ji-Kun once more and before long it was Bye-Bye, Birdie. I have no idea what was going on with the flying teams, being firmly planted on the ground, but they were completely on top of smashing the nests’ contents. Healers were similarly on top of their arena, and puddles were not in danger of overrunning us.

As for tanking, Voss and I had a pretty good handle on our roles. At one point we noticed that he was having trouble getting back to Ji-Kun post-Down Draft before other people (or, tragically, hunter pets) would, because he’s so damn slow now that he’s a DK. However, he was also the only one between the two of use that was consistently tanking during Down Draft, so there was an easy fix to be had.

We switched up who started tanking the fight, which put me on the ball when Ji-Kun started flapping her wings. Thanks to Speed of Light, I could pretty much stand still if I lined it up with Down Draft, which completely negated the tragedy of Snarf the Wind Serpent getting cut down in his prime. Teamwork!

I must admit, being the optimist I am, I did not expect us to get Ji-Kun last night. I feel like it usually takes us two solid nights to learn a fight, at least according to the trend line from the entirety of Throne of Thunder. With last night only being the second night we hit Ji-Kun for real, by all rights we should have finished up the night disappointedly hopeful. And yet, there we were, victorious, with Ji-Kun plucked from the sky after only thirteen attempts.

The goal this week now has to be a repetition of last week’s farm night success: storm through all completed content and clear a night for progression. It was doable last week, but will it be so this week? With 12 bosses (and ALL THAT TRASH) and only two hours to a raid night, there is a wall coming where we can only kill so many bosses in a night and still have decent time for progression. After all, we’re no spring chickens.

The time may come soon to talk about extending lockouts …

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Better news, everyone

Back in March… or April, whenever it was… when we were working on Putricide for the first time and wiping endlessly on him, I would drive home from work at the end of the day and say to myself “this night can only end two ways–one is with Putricide dead, the other is with him alive for another week.” It was initially a mental exercise meant to brace myself for the inevitable disappointment that characterized those interregnum days.

Then, of course, one day I posed that question to myself and the former outcome was the one fate handed to us. Putricide was dead, and the renaissance of ES began.

I revived the exercise for our weeks of learning the Lich King. It was hard fought, but after about 4 nights of solid attempts spread out over a month (so it goes with a 2 day raid schedule) we finally nailed the guy to the way. The exercise metastasized a bit from devouring my attention on that long car ride home up 95 to on a bike ride I would take after work in the local cemetery.

I know that sounds creepy, but paved roads and no cars. Win-win my friends. And it’s quiet. (Ba-dum-bum.)

But I digress. I dwelled a lot on the fight and the viability of victory, and eventually inevitability won out. Like it usually does. And as we started working through hardmodes I didn’t really need to spend a lot of time agonizing on possibilities, because we usually downed new hardmode fights the first week we tried them.

Things changed of course with Heroic Sindragosa, which took us about four weeks to eventually down. A pretty epic ride, and you can bet that old saw came back in full force. And then after Sindragosa, I revived it for Putricide, but prematurely. It took us 57 attempts to kill Heroic Sindragosa. It took us only 16 to kill Putricide. And that’s with 11 of them being done with a suboptimal strategy.

An amazing turn around between the two fights, I think.

When we stood there in front of Putricide last night, I articulated a new strategy and some tweaks I wanted everyone to operate under. This is in addition to a commandment to download and install an addon called Plagued that tracks through /yells about someone’s head if they have the plague and counts down until they need it taken away from them. Last week, we were making people with the plague go to a safe spot.

This week, I told everyone to spread out, stay put, and put on their raid awareness hats. People were to call out in vent when they were taking it from the plagued person. Everyone needed to be cognizant of where those massive red yell bubbles were.

Other tweaks: pets had to be on green slime whenever up, and the DKs were taking turns popping armies onto the green slimes during transitions, for extra damage soaking.

The first attempt with this new strategy, we got Putricide to 50% before wiping, beating our previous record of 51% by inches.

Our second attempt we got him 12%.

Suddenly everyone was energized. We hadn’t even seen phase 3 before on heroic, and suddenly we just coasted right in to it. The raid was infused with equal doses of terror and excitement.

We proceeded to do a few more attempts, each time hitting phase 3 with ease and wiping due to the soft enrage. Something had to change. On the last attempt, I made a risky decision: when the orange slime comes down in the second transition, rather than hanging back and waiting for it to pick a target, melee go in and start wailing on it. In the attempts thus far, orange was up with at least 20% when Put activated, and we needed that dps time on the big guy.

Luck shined her golden countenance upon us, the first target orange picked was at range. My gambit succeeded. Orange died right as Put activated. Everyone was alive. It was go time.

We started rounding the outside of the room, and Put’s health was steadily dropping. We lost a few people here and there, but everyone was focused. We were going to make this happen. Suddenly I heard that a healer had died, and I popped a cooldown, and then my assigned raidwall.

We held it together as the numbers. Tank swaps continued until I believe Nordic drew the last tanking turn with 3 stacks at around the 2% mark. We held it together–along with our breath–and finally push the fight over the finish line. Putricide keeled over and coughed up his purples.

No Last Word, unfortunately.

After the exhilaration wore off, we trucked over and up to Arthas and did the Been Waiting a Long Time for This achievement to begin the long march for getting everyone their 25man drakes. A necessary, if not annoying, first step.

Oh, and duty and tankadin camaraderie compels me to congratulate Ana on ranking #57 on the Festergut 25H dps ranks for prot pallies. She’s been working really hard, and I’m sure in the next few weeks she can place even higher!

Ultimately, I think my favorite part of the night was right before LK when one of the dps said “I totally called this last week when I said Rhidach was going to come up with an amazing strat and we’d kill him easily.” That was a much needed confidence boost after the stomping my RLing ego took the other night.

Apparently some of them have faith in me, haha.

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Icing the Frost Queen

I’m still in shock we pulled this off. I mean, not completely, I did know it was going to happen. Mathematics demanded a kill, and we gladly complied. Still, it’s a pretty big deal for the guild that all our hard work paid off. I could not be more proud of our raiders, this was a kill we all needed to keep the faith.

We started the week with a rough patch, to say the least. Tuesday was… brutal… and we’ll leave it at that. So Wednesday we had something of a chip on our shoulders that demanded satisfaction. We buckled down and righted all the wrongs that held us back on Tuesday and still managed to get to Sindragosa with the usual 2 hours left in raid. Our game faces on, we got to work.

The first attempt was ok. We had a flawless first air phase, then a disastrous second. The second attempt we did immaculately until the third air phase, then the attempt collapsed. Shaking the rust off, as we say.

Subsequent attempts were so-so, generally requiring battle rezzes to be used in air phases, which was killing me. At least at this point we were hitting phase 3.

Finally after another attempt where the same mage (who I don’t often bring, but was dragging along as an Unchained Magic human shield) died for the umpteenth time to a Frost Bomb, I removed him from raid–something I should had done attempts ago–and brought in a newly recruited shadow priest.

Around this point we also imposed some pretty severe discipline onto vent. Basically, the rule became in phase 3: no talking unless it’s a healer announcement, a tank swap, or something life threatening. Everyone else just focus and lock it down. I think this was a huge key to our success.

The next attempt we got the fight to 7%. It was going fantastically, but Ana was cut off from heals momentarily and died, and then I went to pick it up but was eventually rocking way too much buffet stacks. Still, everyone was filled with hope. There was not a single air phase death that attempt. There was even a great raid awareness moment where a block got dropped the opposite way from where we were taking them, and everyone got out of the way, and then we kept the correct direction going afterwards. All in all, the mojo seemed to be back.

So we lined up again, and after a quick stupid wipe, we did what was destined to be the money shot. Air phases were nearly perfect, we had one death because someone was DC’d, but we kept going. Phase 3 starts and I get to work. Ana and I swap like clockwork, blocks go down with expert precision, healers are calling out roles and switches through vent without interruption. Finally we hit the single digits and it’s just gogogo time.

The enrage timer was ticking down, leaving us about a minute at that point. Everyone just pushed it as hard at they could and as I watched Sindy’s health slowly tick away from 3%, to numbers I never dreamed could lie beyond that. The “holy bleep” moment of “this is going to die” hit me in a euphoric wave, and then the Frost Queen crashed over dead and coughed up her purples.

I scored the 277 token from her for a hefty, hefty amount. Worth it nonetheless. Everyone was elated, and for some reason we rode that high over to heroic Putricide just to throw in some faux-attempts and get some idea of the mechanics of the fight.

Obviously we didn’t get very far. This is indeed our next dragon to slay, so to speak. I look forward to our coming weeks together, Putricide.

Oh, and as a humorous sidenote: remember how I said I was going to start rolling for Abom Duty? Well, prior to the first pull Ana, Nordic, and I rolled off for the right of riding the Abom. Nordic always wins, and I thought I finally had him when he rolled an 11. I then rolled a 6. Ok, well, Ana could be our last hope, right? Wrong. She also rolled a 6!

Curse you Nordicslayer.

Nonetheless, with five minutes left in raid we swapped it over to normal mode and quickly did the achievement in preparation for our eventual drakes scramble.

Great raid night overall, and a fantastic end to an ignominiously beginning week.

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… And knock ‘im down!

I originally wrote this title in my head last week as the companion to the post titled “Line ‘em up!” My thinking was Tuesday was another easy 11/12 clear and Wednesday would probably be the coup de grace, so the two work well together. Alas, my hubris got the better of me, and Wednesday we spent most of the night working on Phase 2. I decided that night we’d take what we learned and roll it over to immediately jumping to Arthas on Tuesday. The lockout was to be extended, the Lich King was to fall.

And last night was definitely a long time coming. We’ve been working on the fight for a total of four nights now. Which, for a guild that only raids twice a week for about 3 hours at a time, is no mean feat. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears have been shed. Ulcers have expanded like an ill-placed defile. Slowly but surely we clawed our way up there.

Last night I noticed as we were working through phase 2 during the first two hours something seemed different. Defiles usually were a bit scattered in previous weeks, but last night there were invariably perfectly placed out of the way every time. There were a few slip ups but nothing as major as a Defile being accidentally dropped in the middle of the room (aside from the second Defile which was always iffy because of how it lined up with Valks), which meant I never had to act on my threat of immediately wiping raid if Defile was dropped in the middle.

I love when no one calls my bluffs.

And, of course, it was key that even after weeks of defeats everyone stayed overwhelmingly positive. There were some lighthearted moments, mostly involving my propensity for letting Frank (my supposed ulcer has indeed been named) take over in vent. The first time we hit the Phase 2.5 transition with everyone up I yelled in vent to everyone “Don’t screw it up!”

At the time I meant aggro on the Raging Spirits, whom I hate, as you know, but everyone took that more existentially.

The running joke after some wipes was “Frank’s taking over!” which warranted a “There is no Rhidach, only Zuul” at one point. I’m glad no one took my spazzings personally, I’d rather people recognize that I tend to just get … carried away … so to speak. As long as everyone knows I’m not yelling at them, that’s all that matters. I’d be a terrible raid leader if everyone thought that I thought they sucked because of one mistake.

But, speaking of sucking, there was honestly not much of it to be had last night. I already mentioned how pro Defile drops were, which warmed the cockles of my heart. There were some clutch moments in Phase 3 with the Vile Spirits, which we basically had no experience with prior to tonight. Originally my plan was to kite them and have ranged burn them down, but that obviously wasn’t working, so we switched to the tried and true soaking method.

I worked out an order with the Paladins, and in one attempt that was generally leading to a wipe, all the Paladins were out of commission or dead, or Forbearanced, and in our moment of darkness I saw Sheepin (a mage) run into the fray and drop to the ground with a heavy thud, completely encased in ice. He then soaked up a huge chunk of the ethereal doom that was headed our way. It was a pretty clutch move, and something I completely didn’t think of. Major props to him for that initiative.

At around 9:30 server time, thirty minutes before raid end, I had to swap out a dps so we could keep going. Not a big deal, but it pointed out for me the mortality of the raid, we didn’t have much time left. I asked everyone if they could spare maybe an extra thirty minutes and everyone agreed down to a man (or woman). No dissent, everyone was gung ho on a kill tonight.

Right before the dps swap we had one attempt that ended with a 11.6% wipe. It was probably the third or so attempt that brought us into Phase 3, and the first that started with everyone alive in that phase. We kept losing folks to attrition, finally hitting around 15% with 10 people up. Every Harvest Soul fed Frostmourne, and I did my best to kite LK while hopefully the dps burnt down what remained of his health. Unfortunately I bit it at around 13%, though Anafielle sprung into action and picked him up. She, Sheepin, and Slorail (resto druid) did their best but the numbers were against them.

It was a heart breaking wipe, though it cemented for us all how imminent our victory was. Post-dps switch, we had a few more attempts consistently getting into Phase 3. Finally, at around 10 server, we had an amazing go taking us into Phase 3 with everyone up. Two attempts prior I really saw dps pick up as everyone seemed to hit a stride. Raging Spirits were dying before the next came up, Valks were only making it halfway to the edge, rather than 2/3rds of the way. There was an audible click, like someone hit the Pro button.

As we proceeded through that attempt, and steadily made our way through Phase 3, everything was coming together. Soakers were soaking, the remainder Raging Spirit died easily and no one walked in front of his screech. Arthas’ health was slowly but surely depleting.

At around 14% with 23 people up, this wave of calm washed over me. Time slowed down, that throbbing hum in my ears diminished, and I could hear a dulcet voice beckoning. It was Frank, mellifluously whispering, “you may have won this round, but I’ll be back.”

14% melted slowly into 13%; it was happening. You know that absolute moment of clarity you get the first time you are about to down a boss? That point where you realize that, holy hell, this was it. I could feel it, that endorphin rush paired with an enveloping wave of peace.

“Hold it together guys!” I shouted encouragement on vent. “We’ve got this, just lock it down!” 13 became 12. 12 became 11.”One percent to go!” Finally, 10%. “Oh, jesus, here it is! We did! Don’t release, ok?!”

Frostmourne was raised aloft and our lifeless corpses were laid low. You know the rest at this point.

When the dust cleared, there we were. Enveloping Shadows, 12/12 in ICC25 normal. Hot damn. Not bad for a plucky little guild that a year ago couldn’t clear Ulduar!


We’re now the 10th guild on our server to down LK25, and once we start working on hardmodes we’ll probably end up being the 3rd most progressed Horde guild overall. I honestly need to confess that such a possibility was unthinkable to me a year ago. I saw a guild that couldn’t even get passed Ulduar and thought we were doomed to be backbenchers for the rest of the expansion. A lot came together though, we brought in some awesome people, developed as players, brought in some amazing folks to round out the core, and improved as a guild. We deserve every inch of our victory. I am so very proud of each and every member of this guild.

Moreover, I am so very excited for the future. I always knew we were going to get to this point (though there were disagreements about the time table), and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for hardmodes for a month now. Our time has come, let the 277 loot flow like wine.

This was the most satisfying post I’ve ever written.

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June 9, 2010
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October 29, 2009