Talk to Me

So, we’re trying a little experiment in our guild. We’ve shaken up the raid schedule a little bit on order to get more of a focus on clearing 25 man content and to keep that good old raid momentum moving from week to week. A suggestion was made by some guildies that maybe we could structure our raid weeks different, and the officership decided to give it a try – despite the reservations of some guildies and some officers. (And me.)

Our old raid system was a “two on, one off” sort of thing. We’d raid two weeks, usually 6 days a week, then have one week off where there would be no scheduled raids. You could PuG any content you liked, do your PvP, your farming, chill with your fam – do whatever you needed to do on those off weeks. We raided pretty hard during our on weeks, but never had a set schedule – just some 25 mans and some random 10 mans, whatever we were feeling like doing whenever that week.

I liked this system because the time off was nice. I disliked this system because of the lack of focus and structure. The opinions in our guild varied, but most people really seem to like that week off – it’s really helpful in managing raider burnout. It’s why we have that system in the first place.

We are in the second week of a trial run of a new system. (We’re expecting to go with this new system until mid-December.) Under this new system, we raid three 25 mans a week, and two 10 mans a week. (We raid slighly different days every other week, so as to make sure that if people have one set day a week they absolutely cannot raid, they can still make at least some raids.) The 10 mans are completely optional and arranged so that if you decide to not go to the 10 mans, you can have four consecutive days off in a week. The idea here was not only to have set raid days, but to really focus on 25 mans, as well as to give people some time off during the week, now that we don’t have off weeks.

Results have been mixed.

We have some people who like the structure and focus of the new system, but we have some (vocal) people who really want their off weeks back and who are feeling even more burnt out after two weeks of this new system than they are under the old system.

I understand that just because a raid is (repeatedly emphasised) as completely, totally, guilt-free and optional doesn’t mean that people will not feel any pressure to attend them. And I understand that even with four days off in a week (two of those days being weekends – which may or may not need to be Family Time) that there may not be enough time to get the gold and mats you need to keep raiding. (Though I think Gevlon might have a thing or two to say abbout that.) And I also know that I myself am not raiding because I’m out here on the Bald Prairie, working, so I’m disconnected from being able to judge my own level of burnout or monitor others in person.

I’m witholding my final judgement on the effectiveness of the new raid schedule. I’m going to keep observing and listening to people and collecting data and viewpoints. I think that this experiment should at least run another two weeks to really judge it.

So, in the spirit of gathering data – how do you schedule your raids, O Great WoW Blogspherizens? Do you have off weeks? How do you manage raid burnout? What do you think of our raid scheduling, both the new and the old? Talk to me, it’s lonely out here.

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This … is … ULDUAR!!!

So, even though this is our off week from raiding, we managed to get over 30 signups for last night’s completely on-the-fly raid.It was just posted as “25 man raid”, no mention of exactly what we would be doing, but the interest was very high.

As expected, a few faces I hadn’t seen in a while came crawling out from the woodwork. I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed in these people. As happy as I am to see them back, and as absolutely thrilled as I am to have full raids and sky-high enthusiasm for them, I can’t help but look at a few of these raiders and say to myself, “but where were you for the last six weeks? Where were you when we were learning Maly? Where were you when we desperately wanted to try Sarth with a drake or two up? Where were you when we were just hanging out in vent, being the friends we are? Did it really take something new and shiny to bring you back to this guild?” I confess it makes me a bad person and a very bad leader on some levels, but I’m saddened by what I percieve to be a lack of work ethic and loyalty in some of these folks.

But, my inner goblin spoke up and said that I was being a little egotistical and perhaps these raiders didn’t actually ‘owe’ the guild anything. And besides, they were here, spirits were running high and everyone was in a party mood. So, we grabbed our dual specs, our glyphs and our buggy, buggy mods and headed into Ulduar.

Our raid leader: “First fight is a vehicle fight, how hard could it be?”

Me (To myself): “Yeah well, so was Malygos.”

The vehicle-based fight against Flame Leviathan is immensely fun. Indescribably so. By the time we got him down, my face ached from smiling so broadly. I am so desperately in love with that first fight I think I may have to quit my job and move across the country just so I can camp on it’s doorstep and serenade it’s bedroom window every night. I loved every blessed minute of it!

The Basics:
There is a Flame Leviathan. He is a big steam tonk sort of mechanical thing. He has four drakes towers. You can destroy one, two, three or all four of his drakes towers to unlock “hard” mode and better loots. With all four drakes towers (!) down, he’s really quite easy once you get your groove down.

There are three types of vehicles – motorbikes, battering rams and catapults (I forget what they’re actually called. That’s what WoW Wiki is for.) The motorbikes are equivalent to melee dps, the battering rams to tanks and the catapults to ranged and healers.

Motorbikes: Have a jackal-style fight tactic. They zip in around the boss/trash and drop an oil slick which slows them. They can also light the oil slick on fire which does an asstonne of damage.

Catapults: These take two riders, one to drive and one to act as a projectile (huge fun!) The driver is of course responsible for manouevering the thing, aiming its gun turret and chosing which attack to use. You have an ammo-less attack that basically chucks a giant rock at your target and an attack that tosses a flaming barrel of pyrite* at your target, but that takes ammo. While you are clearing trash and drakes towers (dammit!) the projectile person should be ranging down these little flying cylindrical blue jars. They can then chain grapple them back to the catapult to replenish the ammo. The ammo shows up as a blue bar on the right of the stock vehicle UI.

Battering Rams: These guys have a huge amount of healt and a charge and batter sort of attack. Pretty basic tanky type stuff. (Yes, that’s a lame explaination. Guess which vehicle I was using last night?)

Trash:
Roam around and take down all four coloured drakes towers (sorry, I’m done). There is one to the right and to the left, up (or down) a ramp, one in the centre area, and one off to the left down a small alley (omg I love you dungeon maps!) There are also smaller towers that continually spawn little iron dwarves. Take these out too. Helicopters will come zooming in part way through, catapults need to range these out of the air. The biggest problem are the spider-like mechanical flame walkers. They do an incredible amount of fire damage and need to be taken down quickly. There are teal glowy discs on the floor, usually around the outside, these heal the vehicle if you drive onto them and wait. They heal pretty quickly, and the vehicles have a pretty large amount of health to start with. Once all the trash is clear, everyone needs to heal up, the projectile passengers on the catapults need to chain grapple in any free pyrite laying around and then head down to the far end of the hall. There is a gate. Behind that gate is the mighty Flame Leviathan!! (duhn, duhn DUHHHHN!)

The Boss:
He has basically no aggro table, he just picks someone and chases them around, while they kite him all over the place. Every 20 seconds (or so) he will randomly decide to chase someone new. Supposedly, he should only be chasing the people in the (tank) battering rams, but occasionally he targetted one of the catapults for us. Catapults should always stay at max range from him, just in case. There should be a warning 5 seconds before he switches targets, so all battering rams should back up and get ready to run. Motorbikes should be tossing and lighting oil slicks everywhere they can. The best strat is to keep the slicks near to the person the boss is aggrod on, and for that person to make sure they are kiting him through as many burning slicks as possible.

Catapults need to have really good comminication during the boss. Periodically, the projectile player needs to laod themslves into the catapult bucket and get fired up onto the boss. This takes some aiming by the driving player. There are 5 catapults, and we had it set up so that three of the projectiles were healers and two were dps. That way we could send a healer and a dps up at the same time, with one healer in reserve. Once a healer and a dps are flung up onto the boss, there are four small turrets up there that need to be dpsd down. He will get a damage taken increase debuff for every turret taken down, and once all four are down, he will be stunned. This is when the catapults should spam their pyrite barrel toss. They also need to save the pyrite barrel toss to interrupt his flame charge attack, which he periodically does.

After the stun is over, the motorbikes need to pick up the people who were on his back and take them back to their catapults. We had each catapult marked with a raid icon, and it was (mostly!) easy enough for the motorbikes to return their passengers. Give the catapults a few moments to recharge their pyrite, then toss the next pair of dps/heals up onto his back. We managed to unload enough dps on him during the first stun phase that we didn’t actually have to take him to another one.

Dead boss. Phat lewts!

Pro Tips:
Communication is key! (As always.) Vent chatter needs to be kept way, way down so that the raid leader can call out who the boss is targeting and so that the catapult drivers and projectiles can talk to each other, and so that the projectiles can talk to the motorbike drivers. We had one issue where there was too much chatter and the motorbike driver just roamed around aimlessly which took his dps and the dps of his projectile passenger out of the equation.

There is no healing during the fight. Catapults and motorbikes need to stay out of the boss’ way and catapults need to make sure they are interrupting. Because the interrupts use up some of the pyrite you need for the stun phase, set up an interrupt order so that not everyone is spending all of their pyrite ammo at once.

If you wipe, you do not need to re-clear trash. All the vehicles will spawn right in front of him and there will be stacks of pyrite there. Once you enter the instance, there is a green portal pad that will take you to the boss. Chose the second option on the portal menu.

There is a repair guy in the instance! Hooray! As soon as you enter, there is a ogre on the right who is a reagent vendor and repair dood!

Catapults move uphill verrrrrryyyy sloooooooooowwwwwwwly.

*Pyrite is a sulphide mineral. It is not generally flammable. You can melt it, but that would take crazy high temperatures and I doubt you could contain it in a wooden barrel. Lrn2geology, Blizz.

Lich me!

So, I have some unhappy warlocks. One of them is wearing sackcloth, moaning and pouring ashes on his head and one I’m pretty sure has gone mafioso on me. He told me that with the new expansion, he would be “looking after his boys” and “making sure they get what they want” and if not he “would be cracking some heads and capping some knees.” Now, I’m used to a little strangeness from our Shadowflame Coven. Last time I went over there to visit, they wouldn’t let me past the front door. I don’t know what they had in there but it smelled like brimstone and roses. And it was giggling …

Regardless, I dedcided it was time to figure out what exactly was causing all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I eventually got them to stop chanting in demontongue and finally worked it out that they were upset about this:

All items and effects which grant bonuses to spell damage and spell healing are being consolidated into a single stat, Spellpower. This stat will appear with the same values found on items which grant “increased spell damage and healing” such as on typical Mage and Warlock itemization.

Source

Now I’ve been around the block a few times and I know full well that warlocks are not truly happy unless they’re watching things runing around, screaming and preferrably on fire. But they do get a lot of delight from complaining, and I’m pretty good at just nodding and smiling and pointing them in the direction of some helpless critter they can torment for a while.

But I think they have a point here.

I know that the changes to caster gear aren’t exactly “news” at this point, but with the announcement of a firm release date, it’s time to really start being prepared for the changes that are inevitably coming. And while I think our warlocks are overreacting a bit (typical, but what can you do?), for myself I need to be prepared as a guild leader and a raid leader for the dreaded ‘loot dramaz.’

We typically run with the EPGP loot system and while that was initially an incredible pain in the butt to implement, it works really well for us. I’m not going to brag that we don’t ever have any issues over loot, we certainly have our fair share, but EPGP seems to be the fairest system out there. Like with the dreaded dkp or even open rolls, the biggest issue we have is that folks will roll or attempt to spend their earned points on items they don’t need. We usually get around that by giving the officers the power to veto any roll. Which works …. mostly.

What I’m concerned about is how we’re going to keep loot distribution from descending into fistfights. I know for myself that at least when I tell someone I’m not going to count their roll, I can point to the stats and make a pretty good case for why. When an item is a ‘spellpower’ upgrade for everyone from shadow priests to arcane mages, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to impose that extra little bit of subjective ‘fairness’ that our vetoing lets us do. I’m wary of just slavishly applying the EPGP system and telling folks to just deal with it. Myself and my officers pride ourselves on caring very much about each guildie as an individual and showing that we were looking at more than just a number spit out from a mod was one way we showed that.

So am I being a chicken little here? Is anyone else concerned about how they’re going to deal with the new gear stats? If you’re a raid leader or a guild leader or even just a raid member, leave me a note and let me know your thoughts. I’ll be back in a bit, I can hear some odd thumping noises and I smell burning furniture, so I think our warlocks are at it again. I hope they got their summon spell right this time. Last time it took me three days and a very large bag of gold to hire a druid able to get our guild office properly exorcised, and the place smelled like burnt mistletoe for a week …