I am a firm believer in 25-man raids. I love the group makeup, I love the smaller teams-within-the-team and I just outright adore healing in a 25-man with 5-6 other healers.

However, I was definitely starting to get twitchy and so I threw up a post on our guild forums basically saying that I was going to lead a 10-man exploratory, unofficial raid to Baradin Hold (if we had it) and then move on to Blackwing Descent and probably play with Magmaw.

I had a bunch of pre-requisites:

1) People had to have an average item level of 340, which would indicate mostly heroic dungeon gear and a few 333 items. (I am moderately confused as to why I’m sitting at 338 AFTER picking up an epic breastplate, but I was at 340 before the raid started, according to the armory and my in-game character sheet.)

2) People had to have their appropriate helm and shoulder rep enchants. Period. If you didn’t have those (and I’m talking Honored for Therazane, I wasn’t even requiring exalted!), you couldn’t come.

3) People had to be enchanted and gemmed. I wasn’t asking for blue-quality gems, just the greens and no Wrath-era gems. I wasn’t asking for people to enchant anything below 333, but 333+ had to be enchanted. The only Wrath-era enchant that was acceptable was Tuskarr’s. I also didn’t require a belt buckle.

4) Speaking of Tuskarr’s, I required a speed boost enchant or talent. If you didn’t have that, you couldn’t come. (Priests who used Inner Will were exempt.)

5) Had to be as close to hit-capped for special attacks as possible. Melee had it easy, but casters were a little more difficult, so as long as they made a significant, visible effort to get hit-capped, we were cool.

6) Had to be familiar with the fights. I did up a couple of posts combining a bunch of information and linked some videos, so hopefully that was helpful.

I locked the thread on Monday evening after I got home from a Christmas party and edited/adjusted the signups based on people’s new availability.

And then I set about armorying everyone who had signed up.

I think there were a total of two people who had no issues with enchants or gear or whatever. Two. I had both my tanks logged out in ret gear, a healer with a fishing pole equipped (although yay for fishing us towards the Seafood feast!) and then a laundry list of people without enchants, gems and the like.

So I wrote to them all and was like “here’s what’s wrong. Here’s what this means you need to do” and I let them know if I was going to probably have them on standby due to those issues.

In the end, I had 11 people who were raid-ready, who had said they’d be there and they were.

But then I had four others who whispered me or otherwise let me know that they were available. Two of them hadn’t posted on the forums, one of them had plans change after the forum thread was locked and another won’t be raiding with us in January, so I couldn’t prioritize them at all. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t examined three of them on the armory *at all*…

15 people. 10 raid spots.

I basically discounted bringing any of the four unless I had someone drop, thanking them for letting me know of their availability and that I would call upon them if needed. As it was, I was going to have to play swap-around with the healers, which I didn’t particularly want to do.

So I invited 9 people to the raid and left out a fourth healer, a paladin, with the intention of swapping him in midway through the raid or so. The question was, which healer would I swap out? The disc priest or the resto shaman? Well, there’d be time for that later.

Off we went to Tol Barad! And spent a good 10 minutes looking for the instance entrance. PRO TIP: It’s on the WEST side of Baradin Hold on the southern island! There’s a meeting stone and everything.

Our group at the time was two prot pallies, one holy paladin (myself), one disc priest, one resto shaman, one fire mage, one shadow priest, one frost death knight, one kitty druid and one assassination rogue.

I was quite pleased to see that, according to the RaidComp tool at MMO-Champion, we were only missing one major raid buff; a +% damage buff, since we had no BM hunter, no arcane mage and no ret paladin.

So we went in and I described the fight and made mention of the 5m hard enrage. And then we gave it a shot.

One-shot, yay! And he dropped two pieces of PVP loot.

On to Blackwing Descent!

There was very little trash. Three mobs, two pulls. We still managed to wipe on the double pull, though, but fixed up our strat and then we were staring at this great, giant worm.

I explained that we had to kill the Lava Parasite adds left by Pillar of Flame. And also, not to get hit by Pillar of Flame.

We had a hell of a time controlling the adds with our group makeup and we had some trouble seeing the Pillar of Flame animation.

Our frost DK respecced a bit to help out with the adds and our mage went frost to help control them. Later, he even redid his frost spec to gain better control of the adds.

Meanwhile, it was about 10:30 and we’d had 8 attempts plus the Argaloth fight, so I called for a break and I swapped in the fourth healer (paladin) for the disc priest. I really wanted to make sure that all 11 people who had confirmed before signups closed and who were raid-ready were able to swap in. I had a fifth healer available, but I was a little reluctant to swap out the resto shammy for the holy priest. Apart from anything else, the resto shammy’s mana regen in the burn phase was HUGE, thanks to Telluric Currents, and the shammy also brought Mana Tide Totem.

Truth be told, though, I was on the verge of bringing in the priest when, out of nowhere, we hit the enrage on Magmaw (which happens at about 10m30s, FYI) on attempt 11. So I decided to keep the group intact. Attempt 12 went south after about five minutes, but attempt 13 was our lucky one. No deaths, only one person hit by Pillar of Flame and Magmaw was down after 9m08s.

Guild first (obviously), realm fourth, for an overall Realm 5th ranking. (Granted, that’s currently out of five, but still.)

Our resto shaman got offspec mail pants due to being the only mail-wearer and the other pally and I rolled for the sweet plate breastplate, which I won.

So then we played for about 20 minutes (3 attempts) with Omnotron Defense System. Got that council-style fight down to about 50%, which made me question my initial decision to go after Magmaw first, to be honest, but I’m glad we got a fight that seems more difficult out of the way, first. And that we did it with a group without an ele shammy or a moonkin or a hunter means that we’ll just have a much easier time of it when we do have any of those classes included.

So it was a really good night. Three hours gave us plenty of time to kill Argaloth, work on and kill Magmaw and play with another encounter. We’ve dipped our toes into Cataclysm raiding and had a really good experience.

Here’s to doing some more fun, unofficial stuff next week before the real raids start on January 4th!

(PS: No Blessing of Frost this week due to the holidays and such. We’ll return on December 28th or January 4th!)

(PPS: Yes, I know I have something like 50 outstanding comments to respond to. Soon!)