Michael Bay

Time for some silliness.

We have this thing in guild that we like to call the “Michael Bay” strategy. Yes, after the film director. It references his subtle interplay of interlocking dialogue, careful blocking and delicate camerawork that mesmerises the player into …

Let’s start again. The Michael Bay technique. Blow it up, kill it with fire, no subtlety, no finesse, just BIGGER EXPLOSIONS. That’s the MB technique. Hmmm, MB? Michael Bay? Mysterious Buttons? Co-incidence…?

Anyway, we’ve been adapting and “refining” (har-har) the Michael Bay technique for some time.

Our first Michael Bay encounter was Deathbringer Saurfang in ICC. Wee typically run with a melee-heavy group — three or sometimes four melee in 10man– and the blood beasts could be a bit of a pain. Why didn’t we just tank them? That way instead of faffing about with crowd control (stop laughing at the back) and having the ranged kiting the marauding beasts, we could hold them in melee and blow them up.

It worked beautifully.

Next up, the Michael Bay heroic 5 man. After a raid, there’d invariably be a couple of heroic dungeon runs for people to get their daily frost badgers. We’d often still be raid buffed. Why not abandon tanking? So we took four melee DPS and a druid healer, and set all the controls to “mince”. Simple strategy — k,ill everything before it has a chance to hurt you. Enormous fun.

We’ve gradually added to our Michael Bay repetoire.

Sindragosa, MB-style: one tank, two healers, seven dps. Zoom zoom1

Festergut, MB-style: Innoculations? Bah, why bother. BIGGER EXPLOSIONS PLX. Actually, the true FesterBay hasn’t happened yet — that’s the one tank, two heals, seven DPS no spores version. We did try it on our last run, but didn’t quite make it — we were short handed and so had nine people total, and were running with three healers as we have a shiny new druid member who was experiencing (and hopefully enjoying) her first raid.

Valithria Baywalker: Does two healing it with 8 or nine people in the raid count? I think it does.

I’m also tempted to include BQL (who needs a third bite target?) and possibly even the time we accidentally pulled Deathwhisper while we were clearing trash, but tonight we added a new one:

The Lich King, MB-style: One tank. Three heals (although if we’d had a disc priest, I think we might even have tried for two-healing). Heroism on the pull (more or less), push Arthas into the transition before a second Shambler spawns. Lose our warlock to a Valkyr (wtb more burst-on-demand for fire spec). Press on. Kill the raging spirits, boom. *This time*, have your fire mage remember to take care of the frost orbs during transitions. Silly Arthas picks an arcane mage to slurp into Frostmourne. Whoopsie. Shadow priest drops form to cover healing at the end and…

Centrella the Kingslayer
Centrella the Kingslayer

For some time now, I’ve really wanted to take Cent on an all-guild run. Sure, she’s done a fair bit in random pugs. She even did raid tactics for a very nice group and shared first kills of Valithria, Blood Princes and BQL with them. But pugs are nothing compared to running with your guild. Last Thursday we cleared as far as the blood wing, leaving Valithria, Sindy and LK himself alive. Tonight we wandered in, cleared Val and Sindy straightforwardly, then marched on to Arthas, where the Michael Bay strategy for the Lich King encounter was revealed.

There was a pause.

Then there was much whooping and cheering. Why not give it a go?

And it worked! Ok, our first attempt failed when  a certain mage *cough* whose responsibility during the transitions was to use a mana-free scorch to take care of the frost orbs got distracted and, well, didn’t. Attempt number two, though… Brilliant!

Frostmourne's nearly the right size now!
Frostmourne's nearly the right size now!2

In celebration we opted to do the weekly. In the Michael Bay spirit of the evening, we decided to see what happens if you just go straight for Sarth (answer: the trash murdalises you). Then we did it again, but cleared trash first, and Cent picked up her second title of the evening. And the goody bag of cash and JPs. And the dragonhide bag, before she remembered she already had it. She did generously allow someone else to pick up the drake though — in deference to the all-guild run, I guess.

So. Probably our last raiding night before the Shattering, and Cent grabs her KS title in a guild group.


Centrella the Kingslayer

  1. although it’s pretty terrifying when the tank spots an opportunity to clear his stacks of mystic buffet while you’re clearing an iceblock, and you raise your eyes to look straight up the nostrils of an angry dragon []
  2. The character in the background is Kingslayer #4 for that particular guildie. All gained in guild groups. Yeah, she's pretty handy to have around! []

For Alas: Why, how and who

It was Alastriona’s birthday blogaversary the other week and in celebration she offered post topics to any who wanted one. As one of her dedicated internet stalkers sidlers, I gleefully requested and received one. Here’s what she said:

Alrighty then. Hearkening back to when I first introduced myself, you hadn’t really raided anything at all. Now you’re a Kingslayer. (And I am jealous, yo) You’ve shared a bit here and there about what the experience of raiding was like, but if you look back over the past several months and really take in the scope of how far you’ve come, how does that make you feel? What were the best parts along the way and which people were the most instrumental in your journey?

“Ohshit.” I thought. “This could be tricky.” Then I had three concurrent project deadlines. *Then* I went for a quick holiday to Venice (because if you’re going to procrastinate, you might as well do it surrounded by art, history and dirt-cheap prosecco). Now it’s time.

Alas first introduced herself here in a comment on a whinging post about my failure to organise any kind of raid with my then-guild. At the time, the closest I’d come to raiding was clearing pre-Marrowgar trash for rep in ICC and being told to “l2p” in a visit to see Sarth for the weekly. I ended the post with the sad realisation that, if I *did* want to raid current content, I’d need to find a new guild.

Amazingly, I received a couple of responses from people in raiding guilds inviting me to come and introduce myself. A message via email was hugely exciting, and described a guild which seemed barely plausible — raiding everything from Naxx to ICC with occasional visits to older content, “no QQ, no loot drama, and lots of joking around”, and a willingness to do a bit of extra explaining to the raid-clueless. And when I looked at the forums … they could write. Beautifully. Sealed the deal, naturally. Of course, these events neatly coincided with a conference I was about to go to, leaving me with pretty much no free time for the next few weeks. I wrote a “OMG this sounds amazing but I can’t do anything for three weeks, please can I come back then?” reply, was reassured, and buggered off to Lisbon for the conference.

On my return, Tremble was born and I had a fun, if rather nerve wracking1 conversation with the GM, the RL and the officer who’d contacted me by email. They seemed to think I would fit… *woohoo* so I said my goodbyes to my old guild and server-transferred my two level 80s to Darkmoon Faire. Four days later on 24 May, I was in the raid team for Ulduar 10. *eek*

Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to make two of our three raid nights pretty much every week (being the *only* mainspec source of replenishment can be handy).

I’ve been designated the sacrificial paladin and sent to facepull angry kitties and creepy spider robots. I’ve been designated the idiot paladin after getting my buttons mixed up and accidentally DIing the tank mid-raid (I was looking for Divine Protection). I’ve had my user interface critiqued based on the SWAAAAD-style whispers I accidentally sent to the GL during a Mimiron encounter (my first appearance in our guild quotes thread *sigh*). I’ve been the guy who somehow manages to unequip his jetpack just before the Gunship encounter starts2. I’ve watched, helpless with laughter, as a tank charged straight off the edge of Kologarn’s platform on the pull. I’ve watched, helpless with laughter, as our curious gnome mage discovered that around the corner there is often an angry mob. I’ve watched, helpless with laughter, as a guildie got his Willy out in the middle of the raid.

When we first killed Putricide it was my first full night of attempts on him. It felt great, but from the screams of joy and relief on vent, it was better for the people who’d spent more than just one night being slimed, oozed and killed. When we first killed Sindy, I’d been there for all of our nights of wiping and frustration. Now I knew, really knew why those screams sounded the way they did. This time I too was making the noises.

Of course it’s not all sunshine and free epics. The availability boss has kicked our collective arses far harder than any dungeon denizen. Lady RNG has withheld her favours from time to time, be they in game (I *still* don’t have the damnable Whispering Fanged Skull) or distressingly and more seriously, out there in the real world3. We’ve had drama, some of it near guildbreaking. Tears have been shed, whisky bottles emptied. Sad goodbyes said. Angry goodbyes said.

Overwhelmingly, though, the experience has been positive. I’ve met, played with and learned from an amazing bunch of people. Hung out in guild chat or voice chat for hours. Gone rafting. Killed internet dragons just for the fun of killing internet dragons with friends (there’s a reason this post is in the “Raiding for fun (profit be damned)” category). Hell, this expansion was called “Wrath of the Lich King” and you see that Lich King? We killed him. Us. We ‘won’ the expansion4.

And I’ve learned, from guildies, from experience, from the fantastic resources written by the WoW-playing community. Improved my play enough to have a raid slot based on more than just replenishment. Learned to heal better than bandage-spec rogues5. Built up enough confidence to take part in pug raids. Figured out how and when to use (some of) those utility abilities that had me so confused — some of those mysterious buttons aren’t so mysterious any more. Ultimately I’ve learned that there’s a million amazing things still to learn and a goodly supply of wonderful people to share them with.

To share, there’s got to be some people around. I’ve been pretty lucky with the people around me, and it feels almost … unfair, or disloyal, to single out individuals and say “these are the most important people”. Do I talk about my cake-obsessed GL and the lengthy conversations we’ve had about music (dark), clothes (black) and 1001 other subjects, 997 of which degenerated into smut-filled guttertalk6? Our expert Prot/Arms warrior, who can switch between indestructible tank and #1 dps7 on a fight-to-fight basis? Our drunken rogue, whose progress from wide-eyed fresh 80 to meter-topping DPS machine was accompanied by constant fun and silliness? Should I pay tribute to our vent-singing, draenei-impersonating, warrior-tanking RL with his incredible knowledge, distinctive catchphrases8 and endless optimism that *this time* we won’t pull all of the trash by Precious and Stinky, despite all evidence to the contrary? To the irrepressible altoholic with an 80 of every class and every profession and a *bouncehug* always ready?

I could go on and on. I could give you anecdotes for every active member of the guild, happy memories, silly stories. I could do the same for the people who have left the guild since I joined — no matter the circumstances of their leaving, every one features in formative events and learning experiences. Above all, I’ve learned that it’s the sharing that makes the game. Pretty obvious I suppose, but it’s taken me an amazingly long time to truly realise it.

So, Cataclysm. It’s the end of the world as we know it. I’m looking forward to sharing what comes next.

  1. I was really keen by this point []
  2. stupid equipment manager: why would I bother excluding the shirt slot?? []
  3. where some bosses are distinctly overtuned and all healing classes have been nerfed []
  4. Yes I know there are hard modes and we ain’t done ‘em. Don’t mess with my flow, yo. []
  5. probably []
  6. the other ones were probably cut off by DCs but almost certainly would have gone the same way []
  7. And they say Arms was the weak spec in Wrath. Pfft. Not from what I’ve seen from a strict-10 perspective. And if he *could* have done better as fury, I’m bloody glad he prefers arms. It would have been dispiriting, I think []
  8. “Let’s have fun and poke stuff”, or variations thereupon which have become our lucky charm, and the oft-repeated “Gormok the Impaler … impales” []

Dear healers, dear tanks

A slightly tongue-in-cheek response to Syl’s post over at Raging Monkeys. Sorry Syl, I just couldn’t help myself!

Dear Healers, Dear Tanks

I appreciate you’re busy people and I thank you for your attention. It’s not often a lowly DPS receives this sort of personal focus from the raiding deities without a “FFS” prepended, so I’ll proceed as quickly as I can.

Many of us in the pew-pew ranks have also been reading about and/or experimenting with the forthcoming changes in the Cataclysm expansion. Some of us have completely new resources to manage, some of us have significantly changed mechanics and all of us are busily relearning. However as DPS we love to spread our attention — a sort of AoE approach to information gathering, if you will, although I understand it is considered OP and will be nerfed in in a hotfix. A large number of us have, in addition to keeping up with the changes to our ability to ‘pwn’ the ‘meters’, also kept close track of the changes to our lovable meatshields and blessed healthbots. We do this because we care. Mostly we care about ‘pwning’ the ‘meters’ but we have long since learned that when dead, our opportunities to ‘pwn’ are significantly fewer. So we too have observed with interest the tales of the new tanking order and the new regime within the glorious people’s republic of healing.

Indeed, and this may seem nigh-on impossible to contemplate, many of us play more than one character1 . Even those of us accustomed to simply rolling our faces across the keyboard, pausing periodically to wipe off the worst of the drool2 often have other avatars with which we play. Not all of these “alt”ernative characters are more damage-dealers – many of us have a healing or tanking character, or perhaps even both, and have therefore been working with the new abilities and new mechanics from a first-person perspective.

If I might speak candidly for a moment, I am very much looking forward to the increased use of some mostly-neglected buttons on my bars, and to a wide variety of challenging content. Doubtless there will be some lessons to learn for us all in the new old world, and I keenly anticipate learning them together and look forward to working as a team being more critical to our shared success. I am though, I confess, rather less enthused at the prospect of being treated like a cross between a simpleton and a disobedient puppy by those in the tanking and healing roles. I implore the colossi who hold our precious aggro and the beneficent ones who ensure our continued life in the face of raidwide damage to remember that DPS are people too. We are human, we sometimes make mistakes but if you cut us, do we not bleed3?

Whilst it may seem prudent, it’s rather disrespectful to assume that your assigned DPS are barely functional automatons. We appreciate literature, visual art and the beauty of the theatre. We have hopes4, aspirations5 and dreams6 just the same as you, and whilst we do not enjoy quite the same symbiotic7 relationship that tanks and healers do, we are part of the team and beg you to treat us if not as equals then at least not as obstacles. Besides, without us this dungeon’s going to last all week!

With apologies for disturbing you,

A member of the great unwashed
A damage dealer


  1. amazing that we’d have the spare intellectual capacity, isn’t it []
  2. The changes to retribution will save me a fortune on hardware []
  3. and shout “FFS, healz?” []
  4. to top the meters for this fight []
  5. to top the meters for this raid []
  6. to top the lists on World of Logs []
  7. some might say ‘unnatural’ or ‘forbidden’ []

On “fit”: part one

We had a guildie quit recently because we thought we were casual but really we were hardcore1 which left me foaming a little, mostly because I particularly hate the terms “casual” and “hardcore”. But it did get  me thinking about the notion of fit and guild culture, particularly as we also recently asked a trial member to move on. Not because they weren’t capable, but because in some way they didn’t “fit”.

So now I’m going to vent *all over* this blog on and around the subject. It’s going to be messy2 but I’ll feel better afterward. Much like vomiting I suppose.

Casual? Hardcore? I don’t know what those words mean.
Hell, take them out of the game and into the real world; they’re pretty vague there, never mind within WoW.

Casual clothes. What are casual clothes? I’ve no idea. Sweatpants and a vest? Slacks and a polo shirt? Jeans and tshirt? And don’t get me started on the dreaded “business casual” — ye gods do I hate seeing that on itineraries. Being the creative mind that I am, I’ve solved the problem by wearing pretty much the same clothes all the time whether I’m at work, in the pub, travelling, whatever. Are the clothes I wear “casual”? Hell if I know. I’m pretty casual3 about ironing them, I can tell you that

Hardcore? Well, it’s a construction substrate. Or it’s generically used to describe someone who is keen. About… anything. I’m pretty hardcore about mustard, personally. I like it. I’m pretty hardcore4 about Bryn, my ‘levelling partner’. I like her too. I don’t like mustard in the same way I like Bryn though. It’s quite a different feeling. And I don’t recommend snogging a mustard jar at all5.

The problem with the words “casual” and “hardcore” is that they are arbitrary. There’s no standardised definition. There’s no benchmark, no agreed “if you do *this* you are *that*”. What does one have to do to be hardcore? Who knows?6

What about fit?
Hardcore and casual seem to be starting point for many guild mission statements, in one way or another. Some guilds shy away from the labels, or actively declaim them. Some embrace them wholeheartedly. I wonder how many choose to define them (not a research project I’m keen to take on). Once you get past the hardcore/casual divide though, what next?

I suspect a lot of guilds start with “don’t be an arse” as a maxim. Which is fine as far as it goes, but there’s a lot more to being comfortable in a guild than not being an arse — although it is an important first step, for our guild at least (YMMV). Particularly for smaller guilds, you’ve got find people who “fit”, and that’s a bit more subtle.

Fit is hard to get right. It’s why you have “triallist” or “recruit” ranks in your guild roster. It’s why you go to job interviews, rather than just submitting your resume. Fit is why good teams will often beat a collection of better individuals. Fit is why companies spend huge sums of money on specialist recruiters. Fit isn’t about being a hive mind, it’s about being compatible, and having shared values as well as shared goals.

Getting it wrong is, I suspect, a handy shortcut to guild drama, and can have a significant effect on the people in your guild. More specifics in part two…

  1. not a quote, but a reasonable paraphrase IMO []
  2. and possibly a bit dull []
  3. in this instance, “casual” means “I do not ever” []
  4. Drag your mind from the gutter please. []
  5. I don’t recommend you snogging Bryn either []
  6. And does spending 250 words discussing the definitions of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ make me hardcore? Argh! []