Cata So far

I know I had promised to talk a lot more about Cataclysm since it was released, but truthfully I have spent more of my free time actually playing. I think this expansion is a mixed bag for all types of players. Many are going to hate the changes, but blizzard really tried to please almost everyone… which is a very hard thing to do.

As a guild master I think they did an excellent job with the guild leveling system. Never before since the inception of the guild have we bee more motivated than every day when we hit the experience cap. Its a common goal that has been growing in popularity as we become one of the top two guilds in the server to always reach the next level. Top on the alliance side and neck and neck with a horde guild.

As a raid leader, the content is fresh and does not feel rehashed. Every fight has its own unique twist, and the ones that are somewhat complicated because of multiple abilities seem to have a mechanic to make it possible. The enrage timers have not been too constrictive and everything that we have learned we have been able to down. The stuff that we have struggled with have been things we don’t get to practice or things that we just attempt after a full night of raiding. We are getting quicker and quicker with the initial bosses which will help speed things up a great deal in the coming weeks.

I have leveled almost all my toons to the cap now, the experience buffs from the guild make things very easy which is convenient, but also sometimes makes it feel too quick. Being able to level just using the dungeon system makes it that you don’t get to quest unless you really want to.

I have a couple of alts ready to level as soon soon as we reach our guild cap and we can take the time to enjoy the quest lines a little more. Everything seems fresh and new and I seem to never have enough time to do all the things that I want to do in game!

Ready, Set, RAID!

Finally, after a couple of weeks of people not feeling ready to tackle Cata content and just going there and checking stuff out, we have actually started raiding. Our first week so far has brought us two kills. Halfus and Magmaw have now fallen to the SAINTS!

Halfus is a fight that changes from week to week, some combinations are a lot tougher than others and this weeks combo is probably one of the easier ones. Magmaw is all about the adds… those little worms can really make a mess. Once our healers got geared and our tank got less squishy we were able to get them both in about 4 attempts. We are also making our way through trash a lot quicker than before, so a couple of hours of raiding should get us a couple of bosses next week. Not lightning fast progression (OMG Paragon is already done with this tier!), but for casual guild, progression nonetheless.

We took a peek for the first time at Conclave last night and the fight looks like a lot of fun. I think we have the strategy that will work for us.

TH to Blacksen for making me aware of the goodness that it is BossBluePrin.

On PvP news, we got our first guild win as a rated battleground group last week and did some 10s this week, but some people are still getting their gear up. Our 2s team are doing well, with a couple of them hitting 1550 and even the 3s team I am on getting 1550!

Overall we have having a lot of fun leveling the guild and right now we are concentrating on fishing from pools so we can get the awesome feast!

We are patiently waiting for 4.0.6 so that a couple of our healers don’t have to sweat as much when we are raiding and hopefully everyone but me gets nerfed on PvP! Bring on the PATCH!

Loyalty & Respect

“The greater the loyalty of a group toward the group, the greater is the motivation among the members to achieve the goals of the group, and the greater the probability that the group will achieve its goals.”
Rensis Likert

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
Lao Tzu

While the patch is being downloaded and people are going on about the builds they are going to use for the remainder of Wrath I am in the mood to look back. As a guild we have accomplished quite a bit. We managed to raid 25 month content with various degree of success. We managed to kill Arthras before 4.0.1 in our small little server. We also managed to stay together and I blame lots of loyalty and a bit of respect.

One of the side effects of having a guild that is able to actually do current content is that other people think you are trying to compete with them. Furthermore you get people that want to come into your group and make it about competing with others. We managed to not buy into it, and I made my ignore list that much longer. I was amazed when people were interested in discussing with me the policies of our guild even though they were never in it (nor plan to be in it.)

Overall the drama has been very little over the last couple of months and besides the people that left to hardcore raid (and in reality most of them were never truly Saints to begin with) we have kept our membership pretty intact. Even some of the people that tried horde for a bit came back. Our only problem now is that we have too many people that want to raid and get stuff out of 25 while there is a difference between it and 10 mans. Ah, but today a big percentable of that goes away with the flexible raid lockout and the capability of farming for gear not by going to get frost emblems but simply doing heroics! Badge farmers rejoice!

The reality of the sucess of our guild is that as a group we sacrificed many personal aspirations for the good of the group. Sure some people might have felt left behind here and there, but overall anyone that put in the time and the effort got to raid current content and kill bosses. Now new content promises to give us a lot more to do and having everyone be on the same level to start getting new lootz will make for interesting adventures to come.

Our guild is positioned right where we want it. We are big enough to not be ganked and camped, and we still know each other by first name. We will be leveling professions and helping each other wonder the world of warcraft after the Cataclysm. It feels good to have such a great group of people together with a high sense of respect and loyalty for each other. While some might argue that its just a game, we have created a very strong community :) with even our own BoondockSaints baby on the way. (Gratz Evan and Daniel).

We have a couple of months of doing lots of finishing up titles and getting used to our new talents and rotation, but most of all becoming a even better team of players that are always willing to help each other achieve goals. From finishing a tough quest, to killing bosses, the Saints are here to enjoy this game to the fullest!

Second Group of Kingslayers


The epic battle between Arthas and the BoondockSaints continues. Yesterday, after our amazing Cubby kitty DPS called for just one more try before we called it for the night, we downed him. It had taken us a lot of wipes, more than I would like to remember or pay for, but it was all worth it. We got something a lot more important out of the process than the Kingslayer title, teamwork.

Before I recount the downing of The Lich King I want to share something with you. Recently, a couple of our younger players decided to give hardcore raiding a try. One of them was up front about his desire which I fully supported. While it sucks to have any player leave your raiding group for greener pastures, I think it is great experience for people to see how hardcore really feels. After killing The King last night I got a whisper. The pastures were not greener, the hardcore raiding is too much, and he was wondering if he could come back to raid with us. I said “of course, you were honest with me about leaving and the door is always open for people that communicate their intentions.”

He stated that we do just the right amount of raiding, and even though we don’t raid as much as hardcore people do, nobody feels forced to raid like he is feeling right now. He also said that our family atmosphere is just where he feels at “home.” I replied “well, let me know when you are ready to come home.” I added the following: “The Lick King kill tonight felt awesome because I as able to hear my wife scream out loud in excitement and kiss her while congratulating her as a new Kingslayer.” What feels more amazing as a raid leader is that we accomplished it without having to “OMGNERDRAGE” on anyone and stuck to positive criticism through building the skills of this new 10 man group.

Also, before we continue to talk about the kill, I wanted to thank all the people that helped this group through Sindragosa and many LK attempts. Star, Moon, Froto, Berim, Mel, Juanca, Isa, Jess, Leon (on I think everyone of his toons) and many others made it possible for this second group to get there, and I think they are ahead of the curve on being part of the third group since they have clocked some “flight time” hours already.

Here was our raid composition:

Rextor – Prot Paladin
Theydrin – Blood DK

Hollogos – Disc Priest
Killerkain – Holy Paladin
Stanker – Resto Shaman

Cubby – Kitty
Mime – BM Hunter
Partygirl – Ret Paladin
Stompx – Elem Shaman
Trizilla – Destro Warlock

For the first LK kill I was a part of, we worked on the fight for about a month. We worked on that fight sometimes 4 days a week and the group was pretty consistent. Our healers for that fight were the same classes except that we had a resto druid instead of a paladin. This composition felt a lot easier for the initial phases and a lot more hectic for the later ones.

DK tanks rule this fight because of their “remote” AOE add gathering ability so necessary for many of the phases. If your group has not felt the pain of adds turning around one shooting people or silencing your healers, you have to give tons of props to your tanks.

DPS was actually too high for some of the phases, and as crazy as that sounds the 30% buff now makes this fight a little harder to time properly. You DPS too fast in the initial phase and you might end up with too many adds. You DPS too quickly and you will pull aggro from the tank not so much when he is tanking the LK but when tanking the adds. Our DPS quickly learned to actually stop DPS altogether during some periods of the fight. Its nice to say “guys slow down the DPS” instead of “we cannot do this we just don’t have enough DPS.” You guys do amazing damage.

Most of our wipes came in the toilet bowl frustration filled ability called Defile. The only way to get past this is to practice and get everyone to do their job. There is really no other way to do it. Even if you have a 12K DPS in the fight, when your lose one person you pretty much call it a wipe unless you are in the final phase.

Thinking back on it, we only had one true wipe in the final phase. We had arrived at it before with one player down, even during some of the earlier attempts but the second time we all got there alive we downed him. The timing of the Valks and positioning of where you drop the defile is what makes second phase a roadblock for most raids.

As a team we pushed through many obstacles and adjusted the strategy to serve the group. We started to back each other up and take responsibilities during the fight. In the end the execution felt almost “easy” because we had been preparing so well for it. While there is certainly a little luck as to who gets picked up by the Valks and also who goes into the sword, we managed to work our cooldowns to maximize not DPS but survivability.

I still don’t find this fight “easy mode”, even with a 30% buff. It still requires a lot of teamwork and plenty of skill in every single position of the raid. Again, this accomplishment feels amazing, not just because the end result of getting more people in the guild with the title, but because we did it as a group of casual raiders that don’t have world fame aspiration, nor even fame in our own server. We just want to have fun killing bosses and accomplishing things to share with our guildies that will ultimately strengthen our guild. Today, I am extremely proud to be BoondockSaint.

Guild Management

When I started playing WoW I never imagined that the social interactions of a multiplayer game would translate so closely to real life situations. I have played multiplayer games online for years, but the communities that are formed in WoW are above and beyond even the groups of players that I used to have LANparties with. When it comes to guilds, the similarities between running one and running a company are hard to ignore. Everything that I have learned in management courses applies directly to guild management, and vice-versa. The things that I have learned in the game have also given me insight into managing people and even hiring.

Today’s topic will revolve around the creature we see running around Dalaran with a gear score that puts them “above” us mere mortals, the “hardcore raider.” For this discussion I want to define a couple of things. I consider myself and most of our guild casual raiders, and I put us in that category for the following reason. While we do like to raid and get the phat lootz, to us it is more important to have a peaceful and drama free community than to put up with rude and elitist attitudes. (see Friends > Loot.) I also define a hardcore raider as someone who’s goals in the game revolve mostly around raiding and progression.

WotLK has made the game more accessible. Ask a player that has been to MC when it was current content and he will tell you that the game is now easy. I personally find this a wonderful change because I think that as a consumer we should all get to see all of the content. Games have had a way to enable hard modes for a while and WoW in the past seemed to only allow some people to reach that level. Now raiding seems more accessible to the masses with hard modes and special mounts available to the more dedicated and skilled players. I think that is a good method of offering content, instead of not letting 90% of the players see the end game.

One amazing phenomenon I have observed is that when for whatever their reason (lack of time, weird schedule, family obligations, burnout) hardcore raiders end up in casual raiding guilds. We provide them with the flexibility of not having to show up to every single raid, and still be somewhat competitive. I can only assume than when Cata comes out this will be less appealing to them because what we provide for them for the most part is numbers. Filling up a 25, where the phat lootz are at right now is not easy for a hardcore raider that cannot make the time commitment most progression guilds expect. The interesting thing is how similar these group of people are to consultants in the real world.

Consultants for the most part are people that have a very specialized skill that is needed in a company but not necessarily a full time position. Because of their knowledge they are well paid, but the company wants to get their services and cut the cost as soon as possible. That is also the main reason casual guilds will ultimately take a chance on letting hardcore raiders in. They want the knowledge and the experience they have to help them enter the raids they also want to accomplish. Many consultants will train people in the companies they visit to perform some of the tasks they do, and in guilds it is the same. DPS goes up, strategies are laid out, healing teams seem to work better because of the expertise they bring to the table.

Like in the real world, there are good and bad consultants. I have seen that consultants fall into 3 groups.

Experienced Consultant – They have been there, done that and priced themselves out of a permanent position.
Temp Consultant – They have the knowledge and can consult but would like to be hired on.
Bad Consultant – They like the money consulting offers, but don’t have the experience or expertise to do it.

It was very eye opening to see that hardcore raiders also fall into these same categories when they come into a guild.

Most hardcore raiders that end up in a casual guild have done the content and come ahead of where the progression curve the guild overall has. They are very helpful because they have put in the “wipes” to learn what needs to be done. They offer valuable tips and their contribution to the raid in general is amazing. They will be top DPS, amazing tanks or can single heal fights if you lose people. I consider them all experienced consultants and they will be with your guild until their situation changes and they can get back to the hardcore raiding they really enjoy. They might be wonderful people, but for them the game is about raiding and getting titles, gear, achievements and making friends is secondary to them.

The raiders that I compare to temp consultants are people that for one reason or another got a taste of hardcore raiding (spouse, friend, a guild) and became good at it. They eventually end up at a casual guild for the same reason as those above and like the social aspect of a casual guild. They bring a lot of positive things into the table and might sacrifice that shinny carrot of progression for being part of a guild. They are the most likely to want to become a full participating member of a casual guild and make a home there. I think cata will be the prime time for these folks since you can make a hardcore 10 man inside of a casual guild and be successful. In the current content cycle a 25 hardcore inside of a casual guild is a very difficult thing to accomplish specially in a low population server like ours.

The bad consultant is also the bad hardcore raider. They are either extremely good and elitist thinking they are better than anyone else in the casual guild, or have had a taste of raiding without any real accomplishment but come in with “stories” to back them up. They are the most dangerous to your casual guild and even raid because they will turn casuals off raiding completely if they are not managed properly. The really good ones at the game tend to constantly talk down to others and chastise them for not doing their job. They are the ones constantly pointing the finger at someone so that they are not discovered as really non raiders because they don’t know basic game mechanics like focus targeting or staying out of the fire. They end up in a casual guild either to become a big fish on a small pond or dragged into it by a friend from the groups above. They will be unhappy and want you to change the guild to fit their speed.

Raiders can be part of a casual guild for a period of time as long as they understand that the core of the guild is casual and they are willing to compromise. Like a consultant they need to understand that they are there to bring expertise and become part of the team, but if they want it to be permanent they have to buy into the company’s culture or not become permanent. You can get a lot of them if your guild wants to see content, but you have to be ready to do damage control because they will rock the boat directly or indirectly. Any manager will tell you that bringing consultants in means that their job becomes more difficult because if they don’t keep a close eye the project will not advance.

As a guild leader always keep your goals clear and your team working together. Make sure that your officers buy into the idea of having a group of people come into your guild with raiding aspiration or you will end up alienating some of them. Also remember that its impossible to make everyone happy and any time you add people to your guild either by recruitment or merger personalities will clash. Just make sure that as a leader you have clear vision for your guild and don’t be afraid to change it if most people want a different direction. In the end everyone pays for their own game and they are part of your guild out of their own free will. Just don’t forget to have fun.

Back to Killing the LK

The summer is finally letting us have our raiders back! and with that comes 25s again, which seem to make the most people happy. The thing that is making me happy though is our second 10 man. Our first is picking back up and doing hardmodes on 10, but the second one now has pretty much all of ICC minus LK on farm status.

We are now working on the second group of Kingslayers. The fight is the same, but with every little change in raid makeup there needs to be adjustments and I love it. Progression raiding is a lot about being able to take wipes gracefully and get people motivated to try again. The awesome thing is that I am the one that has to stop people or they will keep on trying all night! We have an awesome group of motivated people.

We are now past the transition phase with this group and read to start working on defile!… oh darn defile.

It might take a little bit of time to get everyone to learn the fights and their roles, but I am looking forward to getting more BDS Kingslayers walking around. I am also looking forward to getting a new boss down on 25. Blood Queen is pretty close to hitting the floor permanently!

Ruby Sanctum 10 Man – Down

We actually completed RS the same day it came out. I tanked the clearing of the trash and then healed the initial attempts at Hallion but wanted to go to bed. The group stayed and picked up a couple of pugs and cleared it that night.

We have been pretty busy with ICC but decided to do another guild only attempt this week and even did some hard mode attempts when I forgot to switch it back from doing hard modes in ICC. We cleared the trash in one night and last night came back and actually killed Hallion.

We now have about 4 tanks that know the fight well and while it might not be completely farm status because the trash can be challenging for some groups, the content is now under our belt.

We now have 3 solid 10 man groups going every week and have taken 25 to kill the ugly brothers and blood council. Summer is a hard time to put raid together but we are going strong and this week will concentrate on more LK kills on 10. Darn it, I totally forgot to take a picture!

The End of Guild Hopping

One of the most annoying aspects of running a guild is the hopping. People that come in with the idea that you will get gear, or knowledge and move on to greener pastures when the opportunity is there. While the changes coming in the next expansion will not end this issue, its nice to know that Blizzard is at least trying to discourage it.

Even though we will not know until the expansion is actually released, it seems that they have axed a lot of what would make the guild leveling system a dividing thing (Raiders vs PvPers comes to mind.) As our progression has slowed down and summer is in full force, a lot of us are PvPing a lot more, and having an expansion that would make us pick between being a PvP guild and a Raiding guild would have been a sucky choice to have to make. While our strict PvPers are not many right now, as we all get better at it, we all see lots of fun in it. Heck even my wife now has a spec for PvP and has doing BGs.

I do think that leaving some of the rewards you get from being in a guild behind if you chose to leave its fair. It has been frustrating trying to explain to people that reaching 5K DPS single target does not mean they are raid ready, but I have seen people do it and go get a better “raid” spot. While it has been very few and far between, I rather keep the same group together. The success of a progression raid is directly related to how well the team works together to help each other out. Once you have out-geared content some of those things can be made up with specific players, but when you are trying to get stuff done for the first time you do need that cohesiveness between your team members.

I am sure we will still see guild hoppers come and go in the future, but I think the rewards of being in a guild that works together are finally going to be very tangible in the coming expansion. I am curious if there will be changes to the guild bank, some flexibility there would help tons… also more rank options. The guild leader and officers right now have little tools for managing things or even mass communication, which is ok when you have 20 people in a guild, but when you have over 50 active players it turns into a huge mess.

We will have to wait what those changes mean, and as we get more reports from the people in the beta this expansion seems to really have some meat beyond just new classes and flying all over. I hope that most of it does not end in the cutting floor, specially everything that will regard people for being loyal and hard workers in their guild.

The Fall of the Lich King

Moon and Star used to rock the tag Gutbusters Brigade, from the moment I saw it and chuckled we became fast friends leveling our toons from 40s to 70 running group quests and dungeons when we were on at the same time. Those days I would have never imagined that we would become close friends and now spend even holidays together!

Back then I was very stuck on a guild called The Old School that was run by a former coworker that never truly became a friend (I wish he would just “let it go”, I had never had a dude be as stalker like as some of the crazy chicks I have dated). Eventually drama over at the Gutbusters made it so most of their members were left looking for a home and I totally wanted to play with them because they were a great bunch. That was my first taste of WoW Drama, and the beginning of my distaste for it.

Drama seems to always be the demise of guilds. I got sick of the drama where I was and started to think about going to a raiding guild but my friends did not want me to leave them behind. They believed that we could have a “casual raiding” guild that actually moved forward; at a slow pace, but actually move. I went back and forth and eventually gave into their idea that I could be a great guild leader, so we created the BoondockSaints. The guild grew in days to have more members than I had imagined, I did not know many people had other friends that they just did not want to subject to the past guild. We multiplied to a healthy size and kept the motto of no drama.

We started getting content under our belt and slowly got out of just being able to clear one wing in Naxx to actually stepping into Ulduar and getting past the initial bosses. Suddenly we were not stuck anymore but actually inching forward and catching up with content. It was still challenging and the gear made it simpler but we were actually acquiring skills which are worth a lot more. I still laugh at people that think that WoW is easy now but have never even seen how Putricide or a Val’Kyr can wipe a raid on 270 gear. We had enough to create 2 solid 10 mans and found other like minded people along the way. Uncontrolled Aggro and Eat More Tauren made our guild stronger and more capable. We ended up with several adult couples that play together and wanted to raid but not be nasty to each other when someone did not move out of the fire. (I actually still have to remind people to move out of fires… lol what is it with fires and people wanting to stand in them)

A hunter by the name of Frotobaggins who is one of the coolest cats in the server had once again joined our ranks and since he pugs like no other he started getting some of our raiders into a 25 with one of the progression guild in the server. I knew a couple of the Nightstalkers from previous pugs and because they were willing to help me see more of ICC than the first couple of bosses so I could take our guild further. Things happened over there, they lost members to other guild and to real life situations. Family comes first and those things made it hard for them to keep a guild together. Their leadership thought that I was better at running a guild and they liked the way I ran my raids. I had no clue that a bad ass Lock from another guild and I had a similar speed for running raids so people would be willing to follow two raid leaders when at times is tough to just follow one. He taught me that is possible to run a 25 raid without wanting to quit the game after (I still prefer it when he runs them, I like 10s better).

I had the first big decision of the guild’s life in my hands, the two CO-GMs told me they trusted me with the final decision I would make and support it. I knew in one hand I had a very good problem, actual progression raiders wanting to join our casual guild, in the other I knew some people would be put off by the decision and felt like they were left behind or will be slowed down by us. In the end I decided that you cannot make everyone happy and people will always find a reason to complain, but in the horizon I saw that there would be a reason to celebrate. There was the chance that we, the group of 50s that had no clue about what “LFM Kara Run” in trade chat meant were now healing, DPSing and raid leading current content We could actually be in a guild that killed The Lich King, before the next expansion came out.

The first couple of weeks were not as rocky as I anticipated and even though there will always be a level of weirdness when there is any type of perceived clique, people ran randoms together and 10 mans take less time than a random without a tank to put together. We started going back through content and cleared Ulduar up to the last boss and ToC 10 and 25, and have even attempted and almost cleared TogC. We have struggled with the progression part of things because it is hard to get 25 people in the same page, but even with the issues we are 7/12 on 25 and tonight we could probably go even further.

We have been working on LK since the 15% buff made it possible for us to single tank zerg Sindragosa. When the 20% buff came out I knew it was only a matter of having the correct balance of classes and buffs, but we never seemed to be able to get them on at the same time. Then last Tuesday after a week of running with mixed groups (but getting some people the experience in the later phases of the encounter which is what we needed) we got the combination that we knew will make it happen.

DK – Phaetel (Tank)
Pally – Arthren (Tank)
Pally – Kiree (DPS)
Kitty – Lyrics (DPS)
Mage -UnknownMage (DPS)
Lock – Bootylicous (DPS)
Hunter – Frotobaggins (DPS)
Tree – Sylei (Heals)
Sham – Restoftw (Heals)
Priest – Hollogos (Heals)

This post already went too long, so I will recount how we did it sometime later. Lets just say that I did not even know we were that close to being done when I saw the OT get aggro and tried to bubble him and pennance him… I knew everyone dies in the end of the encounter but was totally surprised when we started to hear the screams over vent. Better yet, my wife was now a WoW player as well and could understand what we had just accomplished. I think she screamed more than I did and even woke me up the next morning to, THE LICH KING IS DEAD! Congratulations Kingslayers!

ICC 10 Sindragosa – 25 Blood Council DOWN

Yesterday was a very productive progression day. We started with 25 man ICC and after one shotting Cpn Crunch we moved onto work on Blood Council. We had Festergut and Rottface already down path but knew putricide would still be tough even with the 15% buff. We are still gearing a lot of people for 25. However we wanted to start trying 25 Blood Council since we had the group composition to do it. We tried it the first time and it was a rough fight. We had many people that had not even seen the fight on 10 man yet. The second try we did a lot better. We were prepared to just get some attempts in so we could get more people used to the fight. We did not expect to get as good as we did so quickly… all of a sudden it started to see very possible to actually get it done and after a clean attempt we got all of the prices down! BAM.

I had to heal the warlock tank for this fight. Its not an easy thing to do because there are so many AOEs going on in the room and he has to constantly move to pick up orbs, but with the help from other amazing heals we were able to get it done!

Blood Council Kill

Then we took a little break and did Ony25 for some alts and new people and got some awesome loot out there. I ended up tanking it and getting the 25man version of the resistance helmet. On the progression raid I always go in as a healer, but since none of our other progression tanks were on and I had just semicompleted a nice frost resistance set we decided to work on Sindragosa. Little did we know that we were going to get her under 1 mil on the first attempt. We had to adjust a couple of things in our strategy since we decided to single tank the fight. After everyone got to know the fight better (the fight is all about position and knowing when to run like crazy) we beat the crap out of the dragon and got to take couple of just (lets see how the fight is) with Arthras.

Sindragosa Kill

So in a night that we thought we were just going to get some new people to see the fights we actually progressed in content! I am still pretty excited to have both tanked and healed the fights. Its kind of cool to say that I actually single tanked Sindragosa! and we are only the second guild in the alliance side to have hit her over the head.