Ding dong, Kil’jaeden is dead!

IMG_0278Yup, we finally did it last night — downed Kil’jaeden on heroic. It was by the skin of our teeth, but we did it, and that Ahead of the Curve achievement was sweet. We had pretty much sailed through all the other bosses — our first H kill of Fallen Avatar was over a month ago — but KJ gave us trouble. I didn’t check the exact number of wipes, but it was somewhere between 90 and 100. It was no 600+ like Method’s Mythic kill, but it still was a pretty long slog for us. I suspect some of you out there killed him long ago on heroic, but trust me, for us there was definitely some hooting and hollering when he died.

I don’t play on a “raiding-heavy” server — it is technically an RP one — so we don’t have a lot of raiding heavy hitters to compete with, but I was still surprised to see we are only the 7th guild on the server to go 9/9 (H). We are not actually that far away from the next raid tier, maybe a couple of months. I honestly expected Blizz to nerf KJ on both normal and heroic by now, but they have not. Even for a final boss, he remains very challenging. We run normal Tomb once a week for alts and to help gear up non-raiders, and even on normal, KJ is tough for us unless some of us switch to our mains for that fight.

It is a difficult fight for a lot of reasons. For one, he has a hard enrage that serves as a dps check. For another, there are a lot of mechanics and at least in heroic they often come at you all at once. There is also a heavy RNG factor — you can wipe just because of how the mechanics randomly hit. And last but not least, it is what I think of as a “personal perfection” fight. That is, one small mistake on the part of an individual — healer, tank or damage dealer — can easily wipe the raid. There is no forgiveness for missteps, and generally speaking if you have 20-25 people, it is a virtual certainty that at least one of them will make a small error on any given attempt.

That last factor is probably the most challenging. Our raid team does not have a formal roster as such, we have a core group that almost always shows up, plus some others who are geared and proficient enough to raid with us regularly but who miss raids now and again. It is enough that we almost never have exactly the same team on any given night. KJ, certainly on heroic, does not really tolerate this kind of setup. To finally kill him, our RL had to formally limit the team to a smaller number (fewer people to make boo-boos) and to a more central core (more familiarity with how your teammates react). I don’t know if this was the key or not, but it was the setup we had when we finally killed him.

We have a fairly decent gear level as a team — somewhere around 930 or a bit under — but to kill KJ we also of course required flasks and pots, and we supplied feasts and Defiled Augment Runes for every attempt, and also handed out ToS vantus runes to everyone to attune them to KJ. We definitely pulled out all the stops.

In the end the kill included some pretty selfless sacrifices from some team members — for example our mage who kited the second flame ball by blinking into the rift, knowing he was already at low health and would die. Or people who selflessly racked up a couple or more debuffs from soaking meteors — because they knew letting one go spelled disaster for the team — even if it meant they would go into the dark phase at seriously low health. And our healers — well, they were magnificent. Tanks as usual were at the top of their game, something I have come to take for granted, but they really are continuously excellent.

For me, KJ remains one of the toughest final bosses. I did not raid in BC, so I can’t speak to those raids, but until this fight the hardest two bosses for raid teams I was on at the time were Ragnaros and Archimonde. I am pretty sure Kil’jaeden tops those, claiming the number one spot as my all time toughest challenge.

Anyway, short post today, going to give myself a little time to savor the euphoria!

If you are not in the path of Hurricane Irma, maybe send some positive thoughts in the direction of those who are. If you are in the path, please please please stay safe. See you all on the other side of the weekend.

What a difference a week makes

Last week at about this time, I was stressing over the impending attack of Snowzilla on our area. In the game, I was convinced my raiding days were over, that I would forever more be consigned to dreary LFR or chancy pugs. True, I had just joined a new guild, but it seemed big and intimidating, filled with players far beyond my skills. The Legion news — what scraps there were of it — seemed once again to indicate it would soon be time for me to find a new game.

Like I said in the title, what a difference a week makes. Today all our snow is under control and we are looking at several days of warm melting weather, such that nearly all of it looks like it will be gone by this time next week. It’s too early, but I find myself thinking of spring and planning my garden. (The ultimate triumph of optimism over experience!)

Last night, in another triumph of optimism, I joined a guild alt/fun run of HFC(N). I am happy to report that, while I may not have distinguished myself, neither did I embarrass myself. (If the raid had been a Broadway production, I would have been an unremarkable member of the chorus line. I’ll take that.)

Remember, for all practical purposes I have not raided since early April of 2015. Before that team fell apart, we got through a few (but not all) bosses in Blackrock Foundry, and did the first 4 in HFC once only by the skin of our teeth. That’s it. So last night I was an LFR hero trying to run a normal HFC for the first time, with a group whose alts are much better geared than my main, and a team that is 13/13H and has been running together for years.

No pressure.

I had studied my butt off before the raid, made 6 pages of notes on the differences between LFR and normal for every boss, watched FatBoss and other videos on all of them, spent an hour in front of a target dummy brushing up on some MM skills, replenished my supplies of food, flasks, pots, got myself connected to and tested on Mumble, etc. I went through my DBM settings and made sure all possible raid-wiping debuffs were going to really get my attention, double checked my talents and glyphs, and even ran a practice LFR Iskar just to check out the Iskar Assist addon. (We skipped Iskar last night luckily.)

It was a fun night. We had close to 15 running, almost everyone on alts, we downed 9 bosses with zero wipes. I died once because of stupidity on Kilrogg, once to trash, and once on Mannoroth but I don’t count that one because I literally died at the exact same second the boss did. And the RNG gods were smiling upon me, because I got two tier pieces — my first two! — on bonus rolls.

It felt good to be raiding again with people who hit the sweet spot between casual and hardcore. After three hours with them, the guild seems less monolithic and intimidating. And even though I could see that some of my skills were pretty rusty after  a 9 month layoff, I got a measure of my self-confidence back.

So, snow problems — under control, check.

Guild and raid angst — greatly diminished, check.

Legion news — well, 2 out of 3 is not bad I guess.

Yes, I remain very pessimistic about Legion. I am not ready to write about all the reasons why yet, but I cannot shake the impression that we players are a baby whose Blizz mother is really pushing the strained beets. “Mmmmmmm, yummy! Don’t they look good? Mommy wishes she could have some! Open the hangar, heeeeerre comes the airplane! Zoom, zoom!”

So I will amend my previous statement: For everything except Legion, what a difference a week makes.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burnout?

Last week as my raiding guild was organizing itself for our Thursday night raid, I noticed that for maybe the third raid night in a row I was the only hunter. When I asked the Raid Leader where our other hunter was, he said the hunter was taking a break from raiding, that he was feeling kind of burned out. This hunter was a DPS machine, someone who could handle all the utility jobs and still top the meters. And a fantastically generous, nice guy, who frequently gave his time to help me get better at the game. He was all the things I would like to be as a hunter. In a way, I was kind of glad he had stepped down, because it showed me that he was also self-aware, that he was smart enough to know when a game was becoming too much. Good for him.

I joked with the RL that now that I was the only hunter, I didn’t know if I could handle the pressure, aaaarrrrgggghhhh the stress, the responsibility! And he replied good-naturedly that yup they were going to work the hell out of me so I better get used to it.

The thing is, I was only half joking. When I found out that our main hunter was gone, I suddenly realized what a cushy spot I had had as the second hunter. The RL’s only expectation of me was that I continue to improve and carry out my assigned duties. It was easy. I put some effort into gearing up, practiced raid awareness in LFRs and a few pugs, read up on the fights, spent time polishing my shot priorities at the target dummies, all very relaxed and laid back. Over the months, I learned how to select the right mix of talents and glyphs for each fight, and I learned when and how to pull back on my damage and certain shots so as not to make things tougher for the raid, how to keep my eyes peeled for a healer getting beaten up by adds, etc. In short, I became a better hunter, but I did so with the luxury of knowing that, if I had troubles with some fights, there was always our main hunter to take up the slack. Now, of course, I don’t have that luxury. It’s ok, I’ll be fine with it, but sheesh I really didn’t appreciate how good I had it!

When I logged on yesterday, I saw that our RL had canceled raids for the week, and that when we get back to it next week we’ll be finishing up some guild achieves for Throne of Thunder rather than doing BRF progression. Not sure why he is doing this, but I suspect he knows we are all due for a break. We’ve been going at it steadily twice a week for three months. This is not a hard-core raiding guild, it is what I would call casually serious, in that everyone has limited time to play, but we take pains to do our best when we raid. The RL does not scream at people, but he lays out his expectations, and if he should whisper you that “You can do better,” or “You might check out Icyveins class guides,” you are mortified and try your ever-loving best to never ever let that happen again.

But he knows when the team is not performing at peak efficiency, and if the reason is team burnout, he schedules some fun and some break time. If we plug away at a boss for a couple of nights and seem not be making sufficient progress, he will give us a change of pace with a different new boss, the heroic version of one we have already done, or even just a “taste” tour of several bosses we will eventually be attempting.

In contrast, the raid team in my social guild — which has yet to clear normal Highmaul– rarely takes a break. This team is also composed of people with limited play time, and it also attempts progression. The RL is competent and also a non-screamer, but his response to the symptoms of team burnout (absenteeism, mediocre damage numbers, frequent wipes from the same mechanic over and over again, etc.) is to push harder and to lecture people on what “progression” entails and on the necessity of showing up. (The floggings will continue until morale improves.)

The result of these two approaches for me is that I enjoy my raid nights with my raiding guild. I look forward to them, even though they are in a different time zone than I am and consequently don’t even start until around midnight my time. And I invariably have fun. It is a good team, a happy team, a competent team.

But I am feeling extreme burnout on my social guild team, and I think the team as an entity is feeling it too.  I don’t enjoy raid nights with this team, I do them out of a sense of responsibility more than fun. Team absenteeism is such that we rarely raid with the same set of people twice in a row. I am pretty sure I am not doing my best because I am always eyeing the clock, trying to estimate how many more wipes before we can call it quits for the night. Likely much of the team is doing that, too, because we have spent about 3 weeks now on normal Imperator, and 44% is the best we can do. I am burned out. The team is burned out. We need a break. Yet we keep hammering away.

Burnout is easy to fix. You just step away for as long as you need to. Away from the certain activity, away from the whole game, away from the social group, whatever it takes. If you loved it in the first place, you owe it to yourself to take a break before burnout gets so bad that it makes you hate what you loved.

If you step away in time, you’ll love it again when you come back.