On Switching Chakras

Overall I feel Holy is in a pretty good place right now although I still can’t honestly say I’ve got the hang of Chakra. I mean, yes, we can easily specialize into AOE or single target healing (or smites!), and that’s great. But to me it feels we’re missing a lot of neat utility through mid-fight Chakra switches because the mechanics are so clunky.

I guess the biggest culprit is the 30 second cooldown on casting Chakra itself. I frequently find myself wanting to change states while it’s on cooldown, watching the numbers tick down out of the corner of my eye and cursing at my monitor.

It also means that it’s pretty unforgiving if you make a mistake with your state switching spell — particularly when we first started raiding I was always hitting Prayer of Mending when I wanted to single target heal. A full 30 seconds of suboptimal play is a pretty harsh penalty for hitting the wrong key.

And lately I’ve managed to repeatedly hit Chakra and then somehow not end up with any state and yet still have a 30 second cooldown. I think I’m probably hitting something stupid without realizing it. Panicked button mashing for the lose!

Basically I would love to see a more nimble Chakra. Having a big toolbox is one of the things I love about being a holy priest, and it would be nice to apply a little more finesse to what I do now.

That being said, here’s a list of the bosses I’ve healed to death thus far and the states I use. Please feel free to contribute your own Chakra plans!

Omnitron: Sanctuary on Magmatron, Serenity on the other bosses.
Magmaw: Hahahahahahahahaha! Sanctuary and ceaseless PoH spam.
Maloriak: 30 seconds of Smite Chakra at the start. Yeah, you read that right! Healing is light at the start, and we’re still a little tight for DPS. Sanctuary for red and green phases, Serenity for blue.
Halfus: Just Serenity. (Hot tip: Put a Lightwell right next to the tanks in the post-50% phase as they can click it while stunned!)
V&T, or as we call them, The Glimmer Twins: Sanctuary during Valiona to help with blackouts. We spread out during Theralion, so that’s Serenity time.

I’ve had a ton of fun getting the rythym of each boss and what I feel are the most useful Chakras, and perhaps in the future Blizzard will change the spell to allow for greater flexibility while in combat.

Split 10/25 Achievements!

Last night was our first 25s raid since October, and we ended up killing the first two bosses in Blackwing Descent. I was pretty excited to be getting back to “serious” raiding, although within minutes of our raid starting I was reminded why I was looking forward to the break in the first place.

My guild is full of lovely responsible adults, but there is still a lot of Cat herding that comes with big raids. New folks have procedural questions, reserves want status updates, I’m trying to track down that 25th person who is nowhere to be found, and so on. Sometimes it’s not a problem, but occasionally (particularly yesterday when I too am facing new content and new spells and omg omg) it’s a smidge overwhelming.

We did very well and had a great time, though! I’m looking forward to seeing more of the fights.

Now that I have seen both 10s and 25s in action to some degree, I must again express my displeasure with both raid tracks sharing achievements. This has nothing to do with the difficulty of the fights themselves (25 Omnomnomnitron seemed easier than 10s, for what that’s worth), but more with the organizational aspects. It is much quicker for 10 people to get ready for raiding than 25.

It is also easier, I think, in the majority of cases for 10s to take on raid achievements, such as those usually required for tier mounts. It’s just the nature of organization — coordinating complicated actions will generally be easier with 10 people.

I’m fully prepared to admit that it’s just sour grapes, but I’m kind of put off by the fact that although there are only three guilds on my server currently raiding with a 25s team (as far as I can tell), we are 20th or something in overall progression according to the new unified system. For raid size to truly be an issue of whatever you prefer to do, as Blizzard said, then 10s should compete with 10s, and 25s should compete with 25s. This is almost impossible to track right now, hence the need for seperate team size achievements.

I suspect that even the most casual of casualcore raiding guilds like to know how much they’re keeping up with the Joneses, and a strong server ranking definitely helps with recruitment. I really am not saying that one size is better than the other, or deserves more treats. I just want an even playing field.

Okay, enough whining. One helpful Magmaw tip: Misdirect worms to felguard(s). They can’t get infected and hold great aggro. (Props to guildie Liseth for figuring this out.)

Raid Leading, Project Runway Style: Make It Work!

So, I’m addicted to Project Runway. I love that show to pieces, to the point where when I was sick this weekend I sat under a blanket on the couch and watched the entire eleven hours of Season Two of Project Runway Australia. (I also will watch Project Runway Canada, and Project Catwalk (UK). I am not limited by nationality!) I could go on at length about why I enjoy the show so much, but the short version is that I am utterly mystified by a contestant’s ability to take a seemingly impossible task and create fashion art in a few hours. I don’t understand how their creative processes work, and nothing entrances me quite like a process I don’t understand.

While watching hours of fashion-based TV has not made me any more chic, it has actually taught me a few things about life. It is with that in mind that I give to you:

Raid Leading, Project Runway Style

Make it work!
Okay, okay, you probably saw that one coming a mile away, but it’s true. Sometimes despite everyone’s best intentions you end up with 24 people online, one raid tank, and 9 healers. Or maybe you’re just having one of those nights where everyone has a case of The Dumb. What do you do? Pull up your bootstraps, and just make it work. Kill what you can and try to not get too bogged down in negative vibes. Do the weekly raid quest, or Sarth-3D for mounts, or break into 10s groups. Take a 5m break and give people an opportunity to shake out the sillies. Just.. make it work!

Use your mentors
The contestants on Project Runway are usually very focused designers who are confident in their vision. However, the best of them will still stand back and really consider the feedback from their Mentor. Accepting the wisdom and experience of someone else doesn’t lessen their strong approach or skills. When you feel your raid strategy is getting stuck in a rut, solicit feedback from your “mentors” in the guild. Ask your fellow officers, ask any class/role leads, ask your tanks.. sometimes when I am just not sure what is blocking us I’ll ask the whole raid on Vent for their feedback. A fresh perspective often helps, and asking for feedback doesn’t diminish your confidence as raid leader.

Don’t be afraid to be unique
If there is one single piece of advice that I think the Mentors give more than anything else, it’s that a design is too safe. Contestants are encouraged to be unique, be creative, and be true to themselves. The same can be said for your raid team! Don’t get hung up on what The Joneses are doing. Unless you are in a guild with a mandate of being Top 100 or whatever (in which case good on ya!), your world ranking doesn’t really matter. Let your raid be true to itself — how is it doing in comparison to how it did last week? Or last month? Or last expansion? It’s okay — actually, no, it’s GREAT — to expect improvement and progression, but it should be within the scope of your guild and its stregnths and weaknesses, not what Premonition is doing this week. I have a tough time with this one myself, for what it’s worth.

Look at your strategy with an editing eye
The second most frequent critique I hear on Project Runway is that an outfit is too overworked. It has sequins and flowers and lace and cutouts and shoulder pads and a giant bustle and and and and… resulting in a big ol’ mess. The same can be said for picking a raid strategy. I admit this one could be chalked up to personal preference, but I am huge on simplifying boss strategies as much as possible. Don’t assign everyone their own unique spot to run to after BQL fears — just emphasize spatial awareness and spreading out. A more simple strategy will be easier to translate to different raid groups and different raiders. Of course, adopting strategies like this one require more practice, which is the other half of this concept. Don’t be fussy and change things on every pull. Sometimes you just have to decide on a strategy and give it a good number of tries for people to master the bare bones.

Use the accessories wall thoughtfully and strategically
No, wait — scratch this one.

In short, Tim Gunn can lead my raid anyday. Call me!

The ICC Buff Can Bite Me

So the ICC raid buff was released in today’s patch. Ugh. Too fast, too fast, too fast.

I HATE the new raid paradigm of making raids easier and pushing them out faster. It lessens the sense of accomplishment when you kill a new boss. I have written rants on this before, but WotLK has been all about messin’ with the middle-of-the-road guilds like mine. I can’t enjoy killing normal mode bosses, because it’s not “real”. And I can’t enjoy killing hard mode bosses, because we’ve already done 70% of the fight on normal mode, so it’s not “real” either. I bolded that because it really deserves emphasis. What exactly motivates me to keep raiding?

This system is just stressing out dedicated raiders, and most guild leaders I know are tearing out their hair. I feel under pressure to make us progress faster than ever before so we can “keep up”, and yet people are burning out and quitting faster than ever before because farming four versions of Jaraxxus each week (back when ToC was the top raid) is boring as hell.

Not to mention Blizz has completely screwed over guilds in so many ways in LK. I see so many posts that say, “Why should I bother getting a guild? I can pug raids and groups.” Even more so with this buff and the subsequent versions! (True, we can turn this buff off, but will most guildies approve? A quick straw poll this morning showed that most of my officers want to keep it, seeing as we’re “behind” and there’s no tangible benefit to removing the buff aside from some pride. Argh.)

Sorry, I know I’m ranting, but MAN this expansion has just made me really angry at WoW. Guilds are, I would argue, the number one source of player retention. How many people keep logging on for the people they play with, instead of logging on for the sheer joy of the game? I see folks say all the time that they would quit except for their friends online. And yet Blizzard seems pretty insistent on making running a moderate raiding guild as difficult and unpleasant as possible.

Stop rushing us, stop nerfing our team’s sense of accomplishment. Take your pity buff, Blizzard, and shove it up your collective bottoms.

Thank you for the Plague Works

Look, let’s just put this in big bold letters up front so everyone knows where I stand: DO NOT NERF PLAGUE WORKS FOR A LONG TIME. Thank you.

I should hasten to add that we haven’t killed any of the three new bosses yet, so I am hardly speaking from a position of uber superiority. In fact, we wiped to Festergut 11 times on Tuesday, getting him as low as 3% once. And when we kill him tonight, as I suspect we will if everyone is on the ball, it will feel really good.

Everyone who has ever raided knows how good a first boss kill can feel. That rush is proportionate to how much work you put in to killing him. I remember after five weeks of slogging away on Kael, I literally teared up when he finally died. That feeling when the boss you’ve been banging your head against falls down and Vent erupts in cheers — that’s the rush of raiding. I like to improve my character and hang with my friends, but that boss kill is the real kernel of raid satisfaction.

That satisfaction has been sorely missed by “average” raid guilds such as mine.

Oh sure, there are Heroic modes, and we do a fair number of them. Some are unique fights in their own right, like Sarth-3D, and very challenging. But most are just the same old boss you have already fought three different ways, only with everything scaled up. I killed Gormok in normal 10s, heroic 10s, normal 25s, and now I can kill him while he hits the tank for 40k? Awesome. I mean, I’ll do it, but it’s not very interesting.

Meanwhile, normal modes in ToC-25 were so easy that we were clearing the place in an hour by our third run. I remember when we would be all excited to get a screenie of us standing around the corpse of a new boss, but with ToC it was hard to feel like we’d actually done something until we just finished the place. Even the first wing of ICC was a little underwhelming, at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, the boss mechanics are interesting, the setting is neat, and I get to shackle things, but none of the kills gave that sense of accomplishment.

Then along came the Plague Works. It was incredibly fun: fresh new content, and a boss that at our level requires solid concentration, effort, and teamwork from everyone involved. Our team has been buzzing since Tuesday, too. People are analyzing the raid logs, posting on the strategy threads, and shoring up any holes in their gear. There are places to go and things to kill.

Back in TBC we were very happy to have a new boss down every two weeks. Fourteen days! And we liked it! I understand that Blizzard wants to get away from elaborate fights like our five week effort to kill Kael’Thas, and I’m not entirely opposed to that. But give us some challenge. Give us a reason to be good (and get better) at what we do. Give us the occasional morsel of fresh content that we can’t just brute force into the ground, and I suspect that you, my dear Blizz, will find many satisfied customers. For the moment, I am one of them.

Achieving in 3.3

Achieving in 3.3

So yesterday I wrote a little mini-manifesto to the guild, although I don’t think it was very shocking. It was just basically reminding people that 3.3 is here, and it was time to buckle down and knock this last raid instance out of the park.

The raiding in 3.2 was so terrible that I felt bad marching people through achievements and hard modes. I stood in that room three nights a week at least (25s and 10s), and even my infamously unlimited resources of guild cheerleadering were being taxed. It was pretty easy to just wipe out ToC, Ony, and VoA in 90 minutes and then tell everyone to go do something fun. Plus, some people don’t really dig achievements, and get a little shirty when they wipe for an hour to get some flashing lights and a noise that they don’t care about anyway. (Side note, but to those people I say, “Suck it up, buttercup.” You don’t like it, go talk to Blizz and tell them their new raiding paradigm is stupid.  Bosses don’t matter any more, per se. It’s all about achievements and hard modes. Personally, I like it.)

Anyway, previously the time requirement was a huge block to our competitive progress as a guild. As it stands now though the time demands of raiding are greatly diminished. After the holidays we will be raiding 9 hours a week (three nights at three hours) which should handily cover farming, progressing, and achievements. And no, server ranking isn’t everything, but it’s somewhat satisfying to see your guild name in lights, and it DOES help a lot with recruiting.

Without that time limitation, competitive progression relies upon player skill, teamwork, gear, and proper motivation from the gal upstairs… oh crap! That’s me! Hence the manifesto. So we started off our new achivement-happy stance by picking off “On A Boat” and “I’ve Gone and Made a Mess” on our second clear of ICC. The latter took a little strategy and a few wipes, and the former was chaos and madness and chanting “shootit shootit shootit shootit” at the cannoneers. The result of our little adventures?

 Achieving in 3.3

Which, you know, doesn’t actually MEAN that much, except that we are a guild of determined spazzes with a rocket pack fixation. As a pally said, “WTF are other guilds doing right now? Underwater basketweaving?” All it took was a little motivation and 45 minutes of patience from the team, and we saw results unlike those we’ve ever seen before.

So to all you other ‘casualcore’ guilds out there: You don’t need time to be recognized as badass! This is kind of the dawn of our era. Knock that 3.2 lethargy out of your head, go forth, and achieve. As Newton — or was it Ghostcrawler? — said, a guild in motion tends to stay in motion.

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