Der-ner-na na na

… another one bites the dust.

Thursday night marked our first new boss kill since we took our initial and (until this week) only trip to the Bastion of Twilight. Having dealt with Halfus and the dragon twins on Tuesday, on Thursday we extended the lock and went to play with the Twilight Ascendant Council.

Reading the ability list/fight guide on wowpedia was more than a little intimidating. Handily, another guildie who also raids hordeside had already done the fight and was happy to talk us through it. As it turned out, it was a lot more complicated to explain and read about than it was to actually do the fight, so we were able to make the kill on our fourth attempt. We then spent a little time playing with Chogall, who has a couple of requirements we weren’t really prepared for, and ended the raid having learned a bunch about what we needed to do.

What makes this kill particularly pleasing is that it’s the product of only our second joint raid with another guild.

It’s a fairly common situation, I understand: between people amazingly choosing to go on holiday or to be busy at work rather than raiding, and a little bit of burnout in the ranks, we’ve been struggling to (read: failing to) assemble enough people to raid. Thankfully, in a “we need to recruit” thread I’d posted on our forums, the many-alts-person I previously mentioned suggested that I speak to the GM of the other alliance raiding guild she’s a member of (!) as they were experiencing similar difficulties and perhaps we could help each other out. So our past two raids have been made possible by borrowing a couple of people from this other guild to fill empty spots, and hopefully we can do the same for them in their times of need.

Perhaps the seemingly imminent patch 4.1 will be a shot in the arm, and encourage people to log in again. In any case, if you’re looking for a relaxed raiding guild on Darkmoon Faire EU, are happy with a certain degree of fumbling about and don’t mind the cake, send me a mail or /w Theanorak in game.

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! []

Virtuous pugging

Everyone (including me) has a million and one tales of horrible pug experiences, whether they’re via the dungeon finder (aptly nicknamed Sanity Tap a lifetime or two ago) or the via the joys of pug raiding and everyone’s favourite “Link GS and achivs” tradechat ads. Bad players, mad players, afk-ers, stoners, the clinically depressed and the clinically insane. Groups that fall apart after the first wipe. Groups that fall apart before the first pull. Groups which feel like a persistent low-grade infection — you can get through the day (raid) but the shine falls off everything.

How much of that is down to the way the raid is organised?

The most significant problem my guild faced when chasing that elusive first LK kill was the difficulty in getting ten of us online at the same time. We’re a little understaffed anyway, and once you factor in RL aggro it becomes very difficult to put a team together. In an effort to find opportunities to raid with a full group we took to throwing up signup threads in our forum which said “when are you available this week?”, and then trying to put together a raid on the night with the most people.

A couple of Fridays ago, we were all set to spend the night wiping on killing Arthas but last-minute problems meant we were missing people in key roles. I didn’t see the “sorry, raid cancelled” update in our forums and so logged on to find four or five others in the same boat. It seemed a shame to just do nothing…why not grab some alts, grab some random folks from trade and run ICC anyway? And, as it’s Friday night, commence drinking!

As a guild, we’re generally pretty allergic to PuGs. We have people with a single 80. We have people with multiple 80s who don’t want to run with randoms. We have a shared lack of tolerance for the more horrible people you can encounter in LFG etc., and amused disdain for the “LFM ICC10, need 5.8GS/Link Bane of the fallen King. Aiming for first 4+ bosses.” spam you see in amongst the goldsellers and stupidity in trade.

ASIDE: I keep pimping this to my guildies but since installing the dubiously-named BadBoy Antispam I don’t think I’ve seen a single goldseller in my chatbox. YMMV, naturally.

Anyway, we jumped on alts and I *gasp* crafted my first “LFM” for trade. It was something along the lines of “LFM ICC10. It’s a mostly-guild alt fun run, and we’re drinking! Need [roles]. Don’t bother telling me your gearscore, we don’t care. C’mon, it’ll be great!”

At the suggestion of one of our guildies, I asked each person who replied “Do you have much (or any) experience of ICC?”, and got a variety of answers ranging from achievement spam to simple “yeah, done X/12 on my [class]”. Anyone who sounded plausible got an invite, and was quickly submerged in the silliness that was our already-merry raidchat. One respondent asked how far we were planning to go. “Not sure”, I said, and explained that while we all knew what we were doing, we were a) on alts, and b) getting plastered and having fun, so if he needed to get to Arthas tonight we might not be the right group for us. He joined anyway, and soon we were off.

We had an a lot of fun. The banter in our vent channel between guildies made me wish I knew how/whether you can set multiple passwords for different access levels in vent, to make it easy to invite randoms without changing the main password. There was a fair amount of silly chatter in /ra too.

Our tanking guildy did very brief tactic reminders before each encounter, with a “shout if anything’s not clear or this is new for you”- addendum and we cleared the first six bosses before a number of people realised the time and had to go. We had a few deaths here and there, but I don’t remember any wipes and best of all, everyone was tolerant, funny, friendly and easygoing.

I’m not an experienced pugger but I have been on a few pug raids now – mostly on Centrella. One of the common features seems to be a general intolerance of other people’s mistakes, or of anything which impedes progress (the classic “FFS this should be easy” response). Generally speaking, I’ve also found a correlation between the “choosiness”  of the raid organiser (i.e. how many “achivs” and GS required) and the amount of arseholery in the resulting group – the “better” the group, the more likely it is to be full of whiners and the terminally angry.

Contrast this with our little group: stated fun aim, no “must have X” requirements, result: a group of friendly, fun, competent players. Is there a relationship here, or is it just the weight of numbers effect of 5 guildmembers in one raid forcing people to conform?

It’s hard to know for sure. It does rather make me wish I a) had a little more confidence, and b) could be bothered to spend time learning the fights from perspectives other than my own. It would be an interesting experiment to try running some partly- or even fully-pugged groups where the entry requirements are based around being friendly and fun, and taking people at their word when asking “do you know how to do this?”. Obviously you’d also have to be reasonably firm when intervening in bad behaviour, but that should be relatively straightforward if handled directly and openly.

Does anyone else put together runs like this? Runs with little in the way of entrance requirements, focused more on the fun of being with people and maybe killing a few bosses rather than desperately pushing through for badges and loot? I guess if you’re a really experienced raider accustomed to only failing on hardmodes, the idea might not grab you, but a bit of no-pressure-let’s-have-fun-the-gold-is-virtual-y’know raiding on an alt might appeal even if your main is pushing for 12/12 heroic.

What to do?

Or rather, what to do next?

Now that we’ve finally toppled the Lich King ourselves, it’s a question we need to ask. For many guilds, the answer to that is a straightforward “heroic modes, of course” but it’s not quite so cut-and-dried for us.

Don’t get me wrong: the next time we go into ICC, I’m sure we’ll have a go at a few. If we’re fielding a full-strength team, there are a number of encounters which (based on little more than what I remember from reading on the wowwiki strategy pages and a couple of recent “heroic bosses in order of difficulty” posts) I think we’ll be able to manage relatively straightorwardly. But at this late stage in the expansion there’s not quite the imperative to go do hardmodes that there might once have been — given the impending Cataclysm, even 264 loot is likely to be replaced fairly quickly. It’s certainly not something I think we need a laserlike focus on (although there are a couple of guildies deserving their own Kingslayer titles who weren’t present for our first kill)

There is, of course, also the siren call of “things which aren’t ICC”. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been raiding ICC for long enough to be burned out on it by any means. There are other raid instances worth a visit though: I’ve not fought General Vezax or Yogg in Ulduar. I’d also like to be part of a Mimiron kill where I *didn’t* get over-excited at the prospect of hanging out with the button and kill myself within the first 30 seconds. I even harbour a secret hope of seeing Algalon.

Then there’s the Ruby Sanctum. It’s not big, and we didn’t spend all that much time on it, but we’ve never downed Halion — we’ve barely made it to phase 3. It’d be nice to poke that particularly dragon too.

Selfishly, I’m a single Kel’Thuzad kill away from the Champion of the Frozen Wastes achievement, which would be nice to pick up, and only a couple of random bosses away from a bunch of Naxx achievements (I seem to have cleared 3/4 of the bosses in each wing, somehow).

About the only thing I *don’t* have any interest in is downloading the PTR client and fiddlng about with what will soon be live. The laundry list of Stuff To Do above is in no way comprehensive. There are still a few heroic achievements I need for a protodrake. There are still a few (well, two) Outland dungeons I’ve *never* seen. I’d like to pay a visit to the Ahn’Qiraj Temple, to complete the Classic Raider achievement. Having finally reached exalted with the Dwarves, there’s a little voice at the back of my head saying “go on, get the Ambassador title, think of all those funky mounts” which is sounding less like the rantings of a madman as time goes by.

And then there’s Cent. Overgeared and underused Cent. Cent, who was almost able to break out on her own and be an independent woman, but whose good fortune failed her at the last hurdle. Cent, currently fending off the advances of a priest (note for the Brits: topical!) and wondering where all the rumours about her underwear have come from. Cent, whose furthest foray into ICC is Rotface, despite clearly being geared for a shot at the title (even if her assitant’s skills might be subpar). It’d be nice to take her out for a guild run, rather than leaving her at the not-so-tender mercies of tradepugging, and a recent Friday night drunkrun in ICC which was half-guild, half random bodes well for her capabilities when sober and surrounded on all sides by friends.

So many choices. So little time. Whatever to do?

I suspect I might be the only person who’d be *happy* if Blizzard announced a delay to Cataclysm. *ducks*

The blessed character

Update: Not worth a separate post by any means, but today, Cent finally found a space in  a good ICC group with a very friendly guild who needed a couple of people for what I  think might have been an alt run. Not only did she pick up a haul of frosty badgers for the weekly raid quest and the weekly ICC raid quest, but she won the Frost Needle, Muradin’s Spyglass, and the Sister’s Handshrouds (which no-one wanted but Cent may use if she gets the T10 hat). Even Abracadaver dropped, but by this time I was feeling so guilty I passed on it so it could go to a healer who was going to use it for both dps AND healing. The only thing she didn’t win was the Soulcleave Pendant. Cent rolled 2. The winner rolled 3.

Does one of your characters have unnatural loot-luck, good or bad?

Centrella does. It’s very strange. With Ano-the-paladin in good shape, the pressure is off slightly when it comes to badge gear for him. Of course, there are still upgrades available from Frost emblems (oh how I wish I’d done more reading before buying the strength cloak, for example) and little items like BRACERS that continue to elude me, but for the most part they’re relatively minor. I could, of course, try to get tier gear for my holy spec, but the unwanted spellpower plate I scrape up from ICC runs, plus the occasional bit of mail or cloth (Ano is happy if his extremities are covered — squabbling over the material seems petty) has left him pretty capable. Seemingly capable enough of dealing with the ICC 5mans, anyway, which is enough for me I think. Of course, I’m still running daily HCs and doing the weekly when I can, but I’ve been a little more focused on gearing up Cent.

Cent, as I say, has phenomenal loot-luck. I mentioned in a previous post how (in her first ever VoA run) she snagged the T10 mage gloves and was quickly able to buy the chest, then picked up an offhand and some nice boots in her first-ever ICC run. Initially I had planned to continue with the staff she was using, but having re-examined the stats in the light of simple calculator-based evidence, Cent is happily using Seethe and the baton as her MH/OH combo. I hate it when he’s right ;).

Anyway, after that she got me very drunk. At least, I think she got me drunk. It’s the only explanation I can think of for waking up with a hangover one morning and discovering that Ano had inexplicably bought the exceedingly nice i245 crafted cloth bracers for 2,000 gold. Ano who is *still* wearing the i232 Malykriss Vambraces *grumble* and waiting for Valithria to cough up a tiger. He passed them on to Cent, naturally — what a gent.

Last week, in her third-ever VoA run, the T10 legs dropped and she was once again the only mage in the group. Then she did the weekly (Sartharion) and won both the Dragon Hide Bag and the old i200 mage gloves. A complicated series of events which involved joining a raid-in-progress and a just-after-the-daily-reset HC run and she was able to pick up the T10 shoulders too, completing her tier 10 set. If I could send her out for lottery tickets, I would.

Oh, and as wonderful as the set bonuses are, and the increased stats, the finest thing about Cent’s tier 10 set? It means she’s not wearing the $%&@-ing tier 9 shoulders anymore.

She’s got a neck again.