Beru’s post, The Anti-Gear Score Experience, was one of the most inspiring things that I have read since I started blogging.
I love the idea of sharing an experience that I love (raiding) with people who might have been left out. I value determination and a good attitude above pretty much everything else when I raid. So I was almost envious of Beru’s crappy-geared but tenacious, quiet, attentive and eager group of players.
About six months ago I brought up the idea of running a “goodwill” raid on behalf of the guild – mostly to see if any other guildies were interested in helping me help someone else. Nobody was interested. Someone kindly explained that the idea was “pathetic” but mostly I got the feeling that others felt it was unnecessary. I put the idea aside.
I was listing some auctions last Saturday when I noticed that a continuation 10 man ICC group in Trade Chat was looking for players to help them kill Sindragosa and the Lich King only. Perhaps here was a group desperate to kill The Lich King before the expansion ended. Perhaps here was a group that needed my help!
I whispered the raid leader to offer my time. I figured: 10 man Lich King and Sindragosa with a 30% buff should be a breeze. Get a tank out there and keep him alive long enough and I’ll do the killing. Simple.
The 10 man
I joined the 10 man – a mismash of four or five guilds – but linked, I think, by friendship. They swapped characters around until they had enough tanks and healers. It’s been so long since I pugged anything that this run was a bit of a shock to the system.
One of the tanks wasn’t quite ready so we waited about 20 minutes while Sindragosa flew around in circles. I mean, in a guild run, if someone isn’t present and ready, it’s because the player isn’t actually at their keyboard. So I assumed the tank that we were waiting on in our raid group, in Ironforge, was AFK. But it turns out, no, he was doing important things in Ironforge instead of flying to Icecrown Citadel.
I was patient and bit my tongue. I didn’t contribute to raid strats and didn’t offer advice. I figured this was their show and I was just there to help out. I also believe that it’s more of a challenge for me to adapt to someone else’s raid strategy than forcing 9 other people to follow mine. And, honestly, is there anything more annoying than some stranger coming into your raid and telling you “you’re doing it all wrong!”? Frankly, a lot of the time “wrong” equals “different to what I’ve done before”.
Our raid leader was in turns very encouraging and motivating, coming up to reasons to explain each and every wipe and reminding us “we’ll get it next time, I’m sure!”. He was also really, really, nasty when someone made a visible mistake, for example, not running to the designated spot when they were marked for Frost Beacon even though they were well away from everyone else. A couple of people were called some pretty horrible names.
Within a couple of attempts we had managed to push Sindragosa into the last phase.
I think the first time I attempted Sindragosa with my guild we wiped on her for an entire night before coming back and killing her the second evening. In comparison this group was doing very, very well and we were making sure and steady progress. I knew that we were well on our way to earning a kill – in fact I think we did it in 4 or 5 attempts.
It was encouraging to see everyone around me get their achievements. And I positively fed off the excitement from my teammates. This was why I had joined!
The Lich King
It took an incredibly long time to even start our first attempt on the Lich King. Several members of the raid had never seen the fight before and our tanks, while knowledgeable about the fight, had never tanked it.
I raised my hand and offered to cure the Necrotic Plague in the first phases. In Vitare we almost always assign cleanse duties to DPS (isn’t this why Ret Paladins exist?) so our healers aren’t distracted from, you know, healing. Less tank death equals faster progression in my opinion. Our Raid Leader asked the Discipline Priest to do it instead.
The first attempts were surprisingly messy. The first phase of the Lich King encounter is really very easy compared to the rest of the encounter. Tanks were dying and ghouls were all over the place. I started to have my first doubts about whether or not the group would be able to do it.
The Discipline Priest started to get on my nerves. He had already begged for gold in order to repair (I guess he was flat broke) during our wipes on Sindragosa. I also thought he was cleansing too early. Although, to be fair, the raiders were still a bit slow to react and run to the Shambling Horrors when they contracted the Plague.
But I was still enjoying myself. Raiding with this group had its own challenges: I was threat capped (and had been during Sindragosa) for most of the first phase and casting to maintain my threat at about 120-130% of my tank’s threat isn’t something that I have practiced much this expansion.
The time between attempts started to drag out longer and longer. At least two or three members of the raid were incredibly lazy about running back and almost always had to be resurrected. During the down time the Discipline Priest made a game of seeing how far he could run around the Frozen Throne using Levitate. Of course, he died at least three times experimenting (eventually he would fall off the edge), and we would wait while he ran back.
Yes, this was the player who couldn’t afford their repair bill.
The job of curing Necrotic Plague was transferred to me. I campaigned for it really. I couldn’t cast every cooldown anyway, so I figured it was more important to get heals on the tanks. Unfortunately I wouldn’t cure players until they were in range of the Shambling Horrors… and this lead to a death or two. Combine this with a few joking comments to the Discipline Priest made via whispers like this:
Cassandri: I’ll be fine with dispels… if I remember to do it at all LOL.
And I think this Discipline Priest started to have doubts about my ability to, you know, play.
We started to consistently get into the transition phase. The Shambling Horror tank died twice because I didn’t successfully cleanse them after their last add had died. I found this pretty distressing: I was failing at my assignment. And I was trying! It wasn’t until the second death that I identified the problem: the silence (magic) from the Raging Spirits was covering up the presence of Necrotic Plague (disease).
The Discipline Priest started getting more vocal about my (in)ability to handle the dispel assignment. Obviously he was well and truly convinced that he could do a better job than I.
Disc Priest: Fuck it. I’m taking over dispels again
I was perplexed: I’d never come across this problem (Magic covering up a Disease debuff) in all our guild attempts on the Lich King since the release of ICC. Even though dispelling isn’t normally my assignment, it’s something that I will keep an eye on in case I’m called in to take over after an unfortunate death.
I turned off all my settings that display Magic effects and we kept going. Soon enough we reached Phase 2. And then regressed and stumbled as DPS died to Raging Spirits (if you don’t let a tank pick them up they will kill you).
The times between attempts got longer and longer.
Another player in the raid asked the tanks to change their positioning during the transition phase. Until then I hadn’t really paid too much attention to their positioning: I was more focused on staying behind the Raging Spirits as they appeared and watching over the Shambling Horror tank. Once our Raging Spirits tank was facing a set direction (and well away from our Shambling Horror tank!) the magic and disease debuffs were also kept separate. I tell you it was a relief to solve that mystery!
We saw Phase 2 and Defile was handled very well. Our raid leader was very vocal about when to spread out (right before Defile) and when to stack just off center (right before Val’kyr). A couple goes at Phase 2 and unfortunately the transition into Phase 3 caught most of the group off guard and we wiped it since so few of us had reached the safe zone in time.
Then we waited about 30 minutes so that our tank could go and eat dinner. Our Disc Priest ran out of gold (again) and eventually disconnected when nobody would give him any. Our Mage left. There was talk of giving up and calling it.
Calling it?! No way!
I’ve been with groups that aren’t progressing. I’ve been in raids when you know that you’re not going to get it that night (try… say… every single H LK attempt I’ve ever been part of) and your only aim is to play just a little bit better than you did the night before.
And this group certainly wasn’t stuck. They had everything that they needed to earn the kill and we were seeing excellent progress in a short amount of time. Yes, there were some regressions but overall we were doing well.
Yet they were sluggish. Demotivated. Why? I can’t figure it out.
I was prepared to beg every single DPS on my friends list or in my guild in order to get that kill. Perhaps my tenacity was infectious (or more likely they were able to fill the Mage’s spot with ease) and they found replacements for the lost Disc Priest as well. They had to swap to different characters but we ended up with two tanks and three healers and five DPS.
We killed him!
The very first time we got into Phase 3 we killed him. I was quietly confident: we were at 25%, 10/10 alive, and the Lich King’s health was slowly going down. And the healers were able to keep up with the damage from exploding Vile Spirits and Harvest Soul. Whoever was sucked into Frostmourne improvised really well, too. Our raid leader was yelling instructions out over Vent as it happened.
I’m glad I did that PuG. I helped 8 people earn the title Kingslayer (although a few might have been on alts) and I think the other players in the group were really thrilled at what we’d achieved.
I’m constantly surprised at how raiders underestimate what they can do. It was really surprising to see how discouraged the group was after only a few wipes.
Is this why your typical ICC PuG doesn’t really try to get beyond Saurfang? Of course there’s a learning curve when you’re doing a new boss. That’s to be expected. But often there’s a small chance that you might just kill it the very next pull. Or the one right after that!
I’ve also got a new appreciation for the time I spend raiding with my guild. We’re not perfect – far from it. But we don’t give up. And we’ll 21, 24 man it if we have to. Everybody tries to fit in as many attempts as we can into our raid time even if real life wants to get in the way.
I think I ought to develop a slightly thicker skin. I really let that Disc Priest get to me. And, really, he wasn’t as offensive or obnoxious as I see other players treated. Mind you, I’ve tried to respond better to criticism for the last 10 years of my life. Probably not going to happen now simply because I’d like my PuGs to be more enjoyable!
Did I really do a good deed?
I think I was actually wrong about this one. On Barthilas, where ICC PuGs are happening 24/7, I’m fairly confident that any player who wants to see Icecrown Citadel has the opportunity. Yes, you might need a reasonable Gear Score from 5 man heroics, but that’s about it. When I wanted to start raiding years ago I felt that it was closed off to me. I was projecting that feeling on to players now. But this is a different expansion, a different game. Raiding is so accessible now, if you want to raid, you will.
If I really wanted to find 9 people who had never been inside ICC, but wanted to, I’m not even sure I could!
I also think that I envisioned myself in some kind of tour guide role: showing players who may have only seen a couple bosses all the fun stuff there is to see at the end of the raid zone.
This is, in hindsight, ridiculous! People don’t want a guide. Actually most of the players in the 10 man seemed almost cynical or ambivalent about the bosses. Players soaked up the tactics as though they’d seen it all before. If Beru’s group was eager or carefully polite (so careful so as not to wreck their ICC experience) my group was certainly… not. Nobody danced on The Lich King as he sat on his Frozen Throne. Nobody made fun of his speech or Sindragosa’s smoker’s voice (as I certainly did when we were first wiping – er, still do for that matter).