Retirement Reasons and Reminiscing Part 1

It’s official. In eleven days, my World of Warcraft account subscription will expire and, for the first time in years, I will not be renewing it. This, I imagine, is not news to anyone who’s read this blog more than a couple of times in the last several months, or listened to Blessing of Frost since, oh, Firelands was nerfed.

I haven’t actually clicked the “cancel” button yet, but the last time I renewed my sub, I used a game time card so that even if I forgot to cancel, they couldn’t bill me again. Once I do hit that button, I plan to use these forthcoming posts to help describe my reasons for leaving the game. (There’s no way 500 characters or something like that would ever even put a dent into my reasons and feelings about the game.)

Anyhow, I’m not out to convince anyone to quit or that the game sucks or anything of the sort. Play or don’t play, that’s your choice and your choice alone. I feel compelled to document my decision and my reasons to better understand it all myself. I also want to blog about it because I’ve become more interested in the decision to game/raid/etc than the actual content of the game and so exploring my own reasons seems like a good place to start.

Reason 1: The Evolution of Raids/Accessibility of Raiding Content

Since I discovered what “raiding” was, back in Vanilla, I have wanted to raid. I wanted to be like that guy from my server, Thack (no, not Theck, Thack) who was in 9/9 Dreadnaught Armor (warrior T3) and who was a Scarab Lord. He would stand around Lagforge Ironforge on his bug mount, in his gear and would basically just look awesome.

I was fascinated by the idea of a team, a real team, of 40 people working together in concert to do stuff. So when I discovered what raiding was, courtesy of my brother who was killing Ragnaros with another guild, I went into research mode. I found out everything I needed to know about attunements and questlines and then I shared that info with my guildies. The old Fated Heroes guild had a significant problem in that people would join the guild, we’d work hard to help them get to 60 and then they’d hop over to a raiding guild on the server. So I approached the GM and asked him if he WANTED to raid. All the officers did, they just didn’t know how to retain the players. That’s where I came in. I helped to educate the players and helped to put into action these plans about raiding. I did attunement runs out the wazoo. I helped recruit people. It was a great team effort just to start raiding ZG, then AQ20 (to an extent) before finally hitting up MC and trying to down Onyxia.

Then, the guild kind of fell apart and we kind of went our own ways for the start of Burning Crusade, only we all regrouped in May and then formed Apotheosis on June 1st, 2007.

Here, I thought, was my chance to raid with some people whose company I really enjoyed and we’d do it better than we ever did back in Fated Heroes. We formed with the goal to kill Illidan. And, eventually, we did.

While we fell apart in Wrath of the Lich King, we reformed for “Apotheosis 2.0″ for Cataclysm and we put the old Apotheosis to shame by doing 7/13 HM in T11, 6/7 HM and Glory of the Firelands raider in T12 and following it up with 8/8 HM in T13 Soul along with Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider. These were unprecedented levels of raiding success for our guild. So many people had grown with the guild and had come back to play with us and it was really amazing to see this mix of old and new together, working as a team and succeeding.

Having said all of that, I play the game to raid. I LOVED learning Lucifron in Molten Core. It was such an epic fight to me back then. I remember this one moment where I realized I was about to die, because I had Impending Doom on me. I had used my healthstone. My health potion was on cooldown. My bandages were on cooldown. In fact, here… Since I knew I was going to die, I took a screenshot of it. This was taken on July 22nd, 2006.

So I did die after that Impending Doom. And yet, that ended up being the winning attempt. Lucifron down! And I got the Tome of Tranquilizing Shot. Then we played with Gehennas a bit (Magmadar with just 1 Tranq Shot? HAH.) and called it a night.

I loved the teamwork we showed in this instance. I loved setting up my hunter rotations for Tranq Shot — there was me, Toga, Kaiu, Sharpbow and a few others over the course of the next few months. We never missed a single rotation. We nailed it. Because we worked together as a team.

Now, you may be wondering, Kurn, don’t you still have to work as a team to defeat raid encounters?

Yes. But only to an extent. Why only to an extent? Well, dear reader, if you wait long enough, Blizzard will nerf the encounters.

In their ongoing goal to make raid content “accessible”, their design choices have changed drastically from what they did in Vanilla to what they do now.

TO ENTER MOLTEN CORE IN VANILLA:

- Attunement quest at Level 55, requiring you to defeat most of the bosses in Blackrock Depths in order to get your core fragment. This often required you actually knowing how to play your class well enough to be part of a successful core attunement run. (Or for you to be carried by friends/guildies/etc. Or summoned by a warlock.)

TO ENTER DRAGON SOUL IN CATACLYSM:

- Ding 85.

It’s not exactly even. And don’t get me started on Onyxia attunement. (Dammit, Maj, I still cannot believe YOU DIED on Jailbreak, dude. ;))

Now, and this is where I think a lot of people misunderstand me, I want to make it clear that I don’t much like jumping through arbitrary hoops, despite my admiration of attunements. I think a lot of things they’ve changed about raiding through the years have been quality of life changes.

In Burning Crusade, they introduced the “1 flask or 1 Guardian elixir and 1 Battle elixir” rule. They also changed food buffs so you could only have one on you at a time.

Lots of people cried “NERF OMG” but I was one of many others who were like “oh thank God, I don’t need to have a flask, plus another 5 elixirs on me.” I mean, look up at that screenshot again — I don’t even have an Elixir of the Mongoose on. (Bad Kurn.)

The change made sense. It allowed the devs to assume everyone would have one flask OR two elixirs and one food buff and they would build the encounters with that in mind and it allowed people who wanted to raid to not, you know, farm for the 20 hours a day they didn’t raid. ;) I was a fan of this. (Less of a fan of them nerfing holy paladins and Illumination, but ANYWAY.)

Later in BC, Blizz lifted the attunement requirements to Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, The Battle for Mount Hyjal and Black Temple. While we didn’t do the attunements for SSC and TK in Apotheosis back then, we did do the Hyjal and BT attunements just by virtue of progressing through T5 and we also wanted the shadow resist necks for the Mother fight in BT, so we got just about everyone that attunement.

While I wasn’t, shall we say, thrilled by the change, my guild benefitted from it. So I can’t really complain too much. And we did the “important” attunements anyhow, getting most everyone Hand of A’dal and their BT necks.

One month before Wrath of the Lich King was to be released, Patch 3.0 dropped. With new talents and abilities and such came a 30% nerf to all raid bosses. Unchangeable, couldn’t turn it on or off. If you were raiding, you were dealing with a 30% nerf to everything. More, it was initially undocumented.

This was the first really big nerf that Blizzard implemented.

Again, my guild benefitted from it. We were 4/5 Hyjal and 5/9 BT at that point. We knew we would get Archimonde down without the nerf, but didn’t have the opportunity to prove it. Then again, without the nerf, we probably wouldn’t have gotten through the rest of BT and wouldn’t have achieved our goal of killing Illidan.

I never thought this would become a trend.

The next time we saw huge buffs/nerfs like that was in Icecrown Citadel, with a stacking “buff” to make players more powerful in increments of 5% all the way up to 30%. I first killed Heroic 25-man Sindragosa at the 15% buff and later, repeated 11/12 HM progression on 25-man mode (with another guild) at the 25-30% buff level. It was still difficult, because fights like Heroic Putricide and Heroic Sindragosa were more about coordination than raw power.

I was okay with the buff, for the most part. It got pretty silly by the 30% point, but I told myself it was just because the instance was going to be the last major one (please, who counts Ruby Sanctum? Screw you and your boots, Halion!) of the expansion and it was going to last a while. And it did last a while. It lasted a year. A YEAR.

Then Tier 11 showed up in Cataclysm and, well, chunks of it were really difficult. Apotheosis went 7/13 HM before Firelands came out and we were like “SEEYA” to Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight and Throne of the Four Winds.

They nerfed T11 normal modes when Firelands came out. They did not touch the heroic modes.

I felt that nerfing T11 normals was a bad plan. My guild’s alt run carried me through T11 normals on my hunter post-nerf and it was ridiculous. In a single night, Kurn got Defender of a Shattered World, a title that had taken Madrana several weeks (three months?) to earn.

Still, they hadn’t nerfed the heroics and we weren’t touching T11 content anyhow, so I thought, well, that’s fine. I guess.

And then came the Firelands nerf. This is where I became acutely aware that Blizzard’s ideas on raiding were now significantly different from mine.

What had previously been end-of-expansion nerfs or buffs, what had previously been “last tier of content” stuff, was now hitting my CURRENT normal and heroic raid content.

That’s when it stopped being okay for me.

“We want raids to be more accessible,” Blizzard told us.

Fine, okay, I get it. And then we got LFR. And I thought “hey, there might be a bright side here. ANYONE can see raids through LFR. Now they’ll leave our normals and heroics alone!”

But I was wrong. They continued to nerf the crap out of both normal and heroic Dragon Soul, ultimately reaching a 35% blanket nerf on all encounters.

This was basically my breaking point.

I had started raiding back when it was a pretty punishing hobby. I enjoy many of the quality of life changes we’ve seen since then (don’t get me started on how they’ve now removed cauldrons and made feasts inferior to 300 stat food) and have enjoyed how raiding has absolutely gotten more accessible. However, when I started, people worked and worked to get bosses down. There was nothing on the horizon that was coming soon to help you get over that hump. All you had to work with was your raid team and all you could do was keep bashing your head against the boss, until you suddenly had a breakthrough and got the boss down.

These are the epic moments I remember best. People didn’t rely on just waiting until they became more powerful or the boss became weaker due to some developer tweaks, they worked hard to improve themselves — farming gear, using consumables appropriately, researching their class. Gruul did not just fall over for us one day, he finally died because we realized we needed this thing called “hit rating”. Lady Vashj was over 100 pulls of over 35 different raiders and a variety of strats before we got her down.

That’s the challenge I like, knowing that I am stuck on this boss until I down it, knowing that the boss will behave in exactly the same fashion time and time again until such time as I work out what it is we’re doing wrong.

When Blizzard buffs the players or nerfs the encounters, that changes and it infuriates me. I feel like they’re saying “oh, you aren’t progressing fast enough, so here, let us help” and then they drag that finish line closer to us by about 10 meters. That ruins the kill for me.

Let’s look at when Apotheosis first killed Heroic Ultraxion, shall we?

It was Tuesday, February 28th. We had had a crushing 0% wipe on Heroic Ultraxion on Sunday, the 26th. We had spent pretty much all night on Ultraxion by that point, but because we wanted to clear the rest of the instance that night, we had decided that our last pull on Ultraxion would be around 11pm, leaving us an hour to finish up the rest of the instance on normal. The date is important. Why? Because on Tuesday, February 28th, the 10% nerf to Dragon Soul went into effect. This made a huge impact on our decision for Sunday’s raid. “Well,” we said to ourselves, “if we don’t get it tonight, at least we’ll get it on Tuesday with the nerf.”

That’s my problem. Even though I have serious issues with Blizzard nerfing the instances, I had to take it into account. What was more important to us? To kill Heroic Ultraxion and maybe miss out on Madness loot (which was still a bit new to us) or to ensure a full clear and know, with total certainty, that we would kill Ultraxion on the next reset?

Logistically, it made more sense for our raiders to get new trinkets and weapons from Spine and Madness, so that’s what we did. Had we not had the nerf incoming, I think I would have continued to work on Ultraxion until he died, because that kind of “he will die next reset” certainty wouldn’t have been there.

The very presence of the nerfs altered the way I ran my raid. That isn’t a concession I’m happy to make. I do miss the old days where if you were stuck on a boss, you were stuck on the boss and all you could do was farm previous bosses and improve your own performance to get through it. Now, you just wait for the nerf. Even my raid group did it, although I’m not pleased about it, because it made sense for us at the time.

Of course, not everyone misses those old days of being stuck on a boss for weeks, months at a time. That’s a great segue to my next point. My next post will discuss the disconnect between other people’s thinking and my own as a reason for my deciding to quit.

(As always, please remember there is a comment policy in place. Thanks!)

Heroic Blackhorn

(Before I begin my ranty thoughts on Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn, I’d like to state that my guild has killed him on 25-man and that now that we’ve killed him, we are unlikely to change our basic strategy, so please, no “you should try this” or “no, no, do THIS” comments. Thank you.)

Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn has got to be the worst fight out there for my particular group of raiders.

I know, Heroic Spine awaits. We haven’t had a single pull on that encounter yet. I know it’s boring, monotonous, etc, etc, where nothing you do matters except for like, 18 second burns. However, I believe that’ll be something we’ll be able to accomplish with some time.

Allow me to tell you about some of the uncharitable thoughts I had about my raiders (my officers and myself included) during our 130+ wipes on Heroic Blackhorn.

“How the hell did they fall off the side?”
“… how the hell did they fall off the side AGAIN?”
“Move movemovemovemove goddammit, thanks for not moving and killing me.”
“Oh shit, they’re taking that one?! runrunrun dammit, shit, that’s my bad.”
“How many barrages can you die to in a single night? And whose fault is it if everyone in your group doesn’t go but you do?”
“FIRE IS BAD, JESUS CHRIST.”
“How many times?! HOW MANY TIMES do we have to remind you to MOVE OUT because of Blade Rush!??!”
“A SAPPER got through? SERIOUSLY?!”
“Oh good Christ, no battle rezzes are UP yet?”
“How many times can someone die to Degeneration before I sit them? Oh, wait, I DON’T HAVE A BENCH TONIGHT.”
“Yes, thank you for missing your Onslaught cooldown, now we are all dead.”
“Holy shit, we’re in Phase 2! … crap, that’s a wipe.”
“SHOCKWAVE IS BAD.”
“If you say even one more syllable, I will track you down and eviscerate you and I WILL ENJOY IT.”

This fight took every single weakness we have as a raid team and made it an integral part of the encounter.

1) Positioning. We are bad at positioning, collectively. I basically can’t say “spread out”, I have to draw out maps with specific areas for specific people to go to. That’s okay. I can deal with that. Drawing maps and layouts is part of a raid leader’s job. But we’re bad at it. We don’t clump when we should clump, we clump when we should spread. And, leading in to the next point, we are collectively awful at moving to somewhere we’re not necessarily expecting to be.

2) Dynamic fights. Again, collectively, we are awful at unexpected events, especially when they involve us moving somewhere. Heroic Majordomo Staghelm is a perfect example. I would organize everyone to stand in specific spots, but then fire would invade their spots and people would run around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s similar on Heroic Blackhorn and Twilight Barrage soaking. I discovered that my entire raid team, myself included, is awful with deciding whether or not to grab a Twilight Barrage and anticipating whether or not someone else will grab it. The sheer number of restrictions as to whether or not someone grabs a Twilight Barrage is absolutely ridiculous. (Is it centered on a beam? Screw it. Is it outside your immediate little box? Screw it. Is a Twilight Onslaught ABOUT to happen? Screw it. Did a Twilight Onslaught JUST FINISH? Screw it. Have we gone through two sets of drakes? Screw it.)

We tried four groups of four, we tried groups of 2 and 3, we tried damn near everything and tried keeping people paired with the same people more often than not so that they could get a feel for whether their partners would grab that one or not. In the end, we had four groups of 3 and two groups of 2 and this seemed a little more workable.

But by and large, people just kept immediately dying to barrages as we learned this fight. Over and over and over again. Generally, all my battle rezzes were used by the 90s mark. Actually, that’s an improvement from the earlier attempts where all three of them were blown by the 50s mark.

3) Decisive action. I am a fairly conservative raid leader. I always have been. I like to weigh my decisions before making them. That includes battle rezzes and calls for wipes. Delaying either on Heroic Blackhorn wastes a ton of time and with only 9 hours of raiding a week, with a total of ~30 minutes of breaks, means we don’t have a lot of time to waste. In the early attempts, I was hemming and hawing a LOT. By the last couple nights of attempts, I was like “fuck it, we are wiping” more often than not. But then, wipes are discouraging things, too. It’s a fine balance and it took a lot of time for me to figure out what was The Best course of action for the raid group.

4) Cooldown rotations. We’re actually not bad at this. We got REALLY good at them during Firelands (you kind of had to!), but incorporating the tank/DPS cooldowns makes things a little more difficult and yes, a little more — you guessed it — dynamic! And the tanks/DPS aren’t altogether used to being called on for CDs so they’ll miss them on occasion. I can’t even blame them — they just don’t always get asked to use those abilities.

5) Target swapping. We have, collectively, never been very good at swapping targets, dating all the way back to Tier 11. There were problems with people switching from Onyxia to Nefarian, for example, or on and off Al’akir’s adds or getting on or pulling off the right tron in the Omnotron encounter… Yet on this one, the ranged go from melee adds to ranged-side drake, to melee-side drake, to melee-adds. And the melee are going from melee add to melee add (not chasing when they Blade Rush), then swapping to the freaking drake, then back to melee adds. Oh! And yes! The Twilight Sappers, too! Not to mention how we don’t even really want to LOOK at Blackhorn funny until Goriona flies off.

It’s as though the deck was stacked against us for this encounter. It has been, by far, the hardest encounter for us to get down this entire expansion. And Spine awaits. Oh, good. ;)

That said, I have to say that the guild did a great job in holding in their frustrations, for the most part. We struggled, we were frustrated, we were angry and yet… we’re still going. We even managed to have some laughs in the face of such adversity.

Behold… the Countdown to Heroism/Wipes? video. It’s comprised of 11 attempts where we called for a wipe just after Heroism was called for.

Thank you to the Apotheosis raiders for making this fight doable with laughter all the way through as we defeated a boss that seemed to be designed to expose our collective flaws!

Apotheosis (A-25m-2/8HM, seeking casters and a resto shaman! </shamelessplug>) got Heroic Hagara down as a server-first and our next target is Heroic Yor’sahj the Unsleeping.

Assuming holy paladins are in the mix, a popular healing strategy is to beacon the tanks and heal the pets in the raid, because heals from Beacon of Light do not stack Deep Corruption and pets don’t receive stacks of Deep Corruption.

The question came up, the other day, about whether or not a hunter should use a Tenacity pet, who has the Blood of the Rhino talent. Would the lower DPS be worth 40% extra healing to a pet and then, ostensibly, 20% extra healing to the tank through Beacon of Light?

This was a popular strategy back on Valithria Dreamwalker. You would park a turtle or some other Tenacity pet with the same +healing talent basically on top of Dreamwalker or right next to her and you’d heal the pet for extra healing done. Unfortunately, this stopped being viable eventually when they fixed Blood of the Rhino to only affect the pet and no copied heals from that (ie: Beacon of Light).

But that was back in 3.3. Did 4.3 mean this was somehow working again?

I bothered Daey to get on his holy paladin, Saerani, while I was on Kurn and we experimented with him beaconing me and healing my pet. The first pet he healed was my cat, Whisper, who has no +healing talents at all, being a Ferocity pet.

So you can see here that Daey hits Whisper for 55355 (crit). This bounces to me for 27677, which is just half of that heal. (Yeah, I miss 100% Beacon transfers, too!) The same with the 27672 hit, that gets me for half — 13836. That is totally expected. This is the control for the experiment. Now let’s look at Daey healing my bear, Fozzie.

First, note that the non-crit heal hits for 40,102. Based on the heals Whisper got, it’s clear that Fozzie has the Blood of the Rhino talent if it hit him for a 40k non-crit.

But then you see that the heal to me was only 14322.

MATH TIME.

14322 x2 = 28644 x 1.4 = 40,101.6 = 40,102.

So the original heal size, without the Blood of the Rhino bonus was 28644. With the 40% extra healing, we get 40,101.6 (rounded up to 40,102). If this +healing did transfer through Beacon of Light, we wouldn’t see me being healed for half of the original heal’s size. We would see it be half of the final heal’s size. The final heal was 40,102, so we would be looking for 20,051 as the heal that I got. But alas, I was only healed for 14,322.

Let’s see how this holds up with the next heal.

Fozzie is healed for 71865. I get healed for 25666.

25666 x2 = 51,332 x 1.4 = 71,864.8 = 71,865

Yup, same deal.

So it’s quite clear — Blood of the Rhino does not transfer any extra +healing from the pet to the Beacon of Light target. As such, on the Heroic Yor’sahj the Unsleeping encounter, I do encourage you to beacon the tanks and heal the pets, but don’t gimp your hunters’ DPS by forcing them to bring a Tenacity pet to the raid. Their regular pet will do exactly the same thing a Tenacity pet will.

Something New

It’s rare, in this game, that I get to achieve something new that I have never before experienced. Getting a new boss down is “new”, but I’ve killed dozens of raid bosses for the first time.

Until Thursday, January 19th, I had never, ever had a server-first kill.

I’ve had a couple of server-first achievements, but I had never had a server-first kill.

I knew we had a good chance of downing Heroic Hagara on 25-man on Thursday. We’d gotten her to 7%ish (9% when the wipe was called) on Tuesday. It was really just a matter of time and I knew that we didn’t have Echelon (a 10-man Horde guild that has been at the top of Eldre’Thalas progression for years) to compete with any longer, as they packed it in after getting Heroic Morchok down. Similarly, Epic Again, another long-time ET guild that led progression, transferred to Stormrage, so we wouldn’t have them as a measuring stick on Eldre’Thalas any longer. I knew the other guilds on the server who had downed Heroic Morchok were 10-man guilds and I knew that 10-man guilds typically go for Zon’ozz or Yor’sahj first, while 25-man guilds have had more success with Hagara second. So I knew we had a good chance.

Knowing we had a good chance at a genuine server-first boss kill is different than actually achieving it.

I may not like what’s coming up for the game. I may not like what the current state of the game is. But on Thursday night, I finally got a server-first boss kill. Not an Alliance-first. Not a 25-man first. Not an achievement first. A real, honest-to-God, genuine, true server-first kill of a raid boss.

If nothing else, I’m glad to have gotten it before packing it in, whenever that might be, and I’m especially pleased and proud to have done it before any damn nerfs.

Thank you, Apotheosis, for kicking some ass tonight. I am extremely proud and humbled by your perseverence, tenacity, skill and your senses of humour.

A Sigh of Resignation

When the expansion was announced at BlizzCon, I wasn’t thrilled. My reaction was something along the lines of: Mists of Pandaria? We’re going to have PANDAS running around? SERIOUSLY?

I decided I could probably deal with that, despite not being thrilled with pandas, to the point where I now no longer say “sad panda”, but rather “sad moose”. However, that, combined with the changing talent trees and abilities and such left me doubtful that I would really enjoy very much at all in Mists of Pandaria.

Still, I said, I would wait to see if things were as bad as I thought they would be, by checking out the Beta. I signed up for the annual pass so I’d get guaranteed Mists of Pandaria Beta access and a free digital copy of Diablo III. People who have noted my overall unhappiness with the announced details of the expansion have asked me if I plan to continue playing.

To them, I have said “right now, the plan is to keep playing and keep raiding, unless something significant changes or Beta is terrible.”

So I have basically told people that my viewpoint was that everything would continue barring huge changes/proof that said changes are terrible in Beta.

And then, on Wednesday evening, Blizzard announced incoming nerfs to Dragon Soul, both normal and heroic.

I sighed. And then I resigned myself to the fact that, unless the Mists of Pandaria Beta absolutely blows my mind in terms of PVE play (especially raiding), this is my last expansion of World of Warcraft where I will be anything more than a casual player.

Let me be very clear — I am dedicated to my guild and our raid group. I will continue to raid, continue to lead the guild, up to when Mists of Pandaria is released. But after that? I’m really not so sure what’s going to happen. Until release, I’ll stick around and continue to be a source of holy paladin knowledge, will still do a podcast with Majik, will still lead Apotheosis and will still raid with Choice on my off-nights. Beyond that, well, I’m not thinking I want to be a part of the upcoming expansion, which is a shift from just twelve hours ago. Earlier today, my thinking was optimistic: “Hey, unless things in Beta really suck, I’ll probably keep playing.” Now, it’s more pessimistic: “Hey, unless things in Beta are really AWESOME, I’m probably going to quit.”

The reason is the ongoing nerfing of current content.

For those of you who are brave, the complete rant is below, but that’s the short answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

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