"We don't normally play like this." Last night, during the course of a Karazhan raid, I received a half-dozen different tells to this end. "Don't judge us on this run!"
I know. I've been there. I've said that to other people. Don't sweat it.
Before I go too much further with this let me preface it a bit. The run wasn't bad. The biggest problems revolved around healers disconnecting, which is unfortunate, but it's not something to get upset about. It was also a bit slow moving past Maiden -- slower than I'm used to -- but this was good, as I was able to set up keybinds and more appropriately throughout the raid. I needed the time to L2P, so to speak.
Also, it gave me time to evaluate myself and where I'm having issues. It turns out, movement is still very much a strong point; after playing the ultra-restrictive Vanguard, being able to rapidly move in any direction instantly was like a chain being loosed from me. I was able to evaluate Thunderfury vs. King's Defender -- Thunderfury only exceeded single target Threat on Nightbane, which means my first Mongoose is headed straight to King's Defender.
My biggest weakness right now is my Threat. On Nightbane, I could not average above 700 TPS for the life of me, though I had more luck on other bosses, and on some heavier hitters I had no problem sustaining 750-950. I only broke 1k average when dealing with two or more mobs, thanks to my SSSS build (Sweeping Strikes Shield Slam). Also, since some of the zone had to be single-tanked by me, the SSSS combo made handling the dual automotans extremely easy. I was using KTM, not Omen Threat 1-0, to determine my TPS and I'm really not aware of what good numbers are right now given the limited buffs I had.
Battle Shout was also a hassle -- I kept it up most of the time, but even being self conscious, I feel I would benefit from a timer mod. Thunderclap and Demoralizing Shout were much easier this time around than they have been for me in the past -- I've just accepted that I'll be providing my own debuffs, and it worked great for damage reduction in the raid. Improved Thunderclap in Defensive is wonderful, and will lead to less carpal-tunnel than my past stance dancing every 4 seconds.
Bold Shoulders make me angry. Really. It's like wearing a turquoise suit to prom. It's embarassing. The problem I have with them is that I'm sporting very good stats right now -- 16k Armor, 14k+ Health unbuffed with raid spec and gear -- and my shoulders strongly suggest otherwise. I'm two pieces of gear away from the best possible pre-25 man gear. Worse, I've got crap gems in the shoulders because I was anticipating new shoulders from High King Maulgar when I left the game, and now my gems and money has to be directed to Wrynn Dynasty Greaves (just picked 'em up!) and a Khorium Destroyer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being elitist about the shoulders, and if I were working on Karazhan or Gruul's, etc., I wouldn't be uncomfortable. But standing next to one of the DPS Warriors wearing Destroyer shoulders gave me a bit of an inferiority complex.
I do have one advantage, though, to trump the "Look, he's wearing Bold shoulders!" trend. I originally thought about plopping my minimal Arena points into Merciless Gladiators like all of the other Warriors in Shattrath and Stormwind, and using that to pretend I've got uber gear (hey, everyone does it with shoulders, don't act like it doesn't happen). However, I rolled on an RP server, which means I get to add a bit of flare to my Itemrack riding gear -- it's probably the only excuse I have to wear full Dreadnaught and ride my original, unarmored Palomino epic mount. Can't fault me for not riding in style.
One of the other apps frustrated me throughout the night. I personally feel that applicants to a guild should go out of their way to do the best they can in any function they are asked to perform, even if it is a casual Karazhan raid on a Friday night. More often than not, this applicant found himself face-down on a pull due to not correctly assisting and not practicing aggro control. Later, he just vanished from the raid without warning, coming back after the raid to ask what bosses had been killed.
I could ignore this, except for an event on one of the many Nightbane wipes (due to a long string of healer disconnects). During the encounter, this ranged DPSer decided to run out of a patch of charred ground and physically next to Nightbane himself. This was followed by him getting crushed and one-shot. This was followed by, "KTM didn't show I was about to pull aggro!" This was wrong for all of the reasons in the world -- the player didn't understand that there is a difference between Melee range (where 110% Threat pulls aggro) and ranged (where 130% Threat pulls aggro). Even if he was fine at ranged, when he stepped into Melee range, he was virtually guaranteed to pull and die. We probably didn't need the ensuing discussion of how KTM is often inaccurate (though it is).
This was coupled with the player's reaction to being asked to unflag. Having recently transferred from a PVP server, he pretended not to know what a PVP flag was. We had to explain in plain language to type "/pvp," which was strange, since he clearly typed this before to remain perma-flagged on a PVE ruleset server. The thing that really bugs me is that players on PVP servers are usually more keenly aware of what flags are, as it's an essential part of the leveling process. Having leveled much of the early game on a PVP server, it's impossible to miss the references to flagging, zones, and all the lol-carebear threads associated with it.
He may very well be a fine raider. There are a lot of players who can be told what to do and perform well, and it may very well be that he is driven by a desire to do the very top damage, not by a desire to understand Threat mechanics. That can be good. It's also not my place as an applicant to bring this up with the guild I've applied with. I figure a little pissing and moaning is fine here.
Fortunately I didn't wipe the raid at any point. That was nice. I made a huge blunder on Aran that I would have yelled at myself over if I was raid leader -- when tanking elementals in Phase 2 Aran, I moved during Flame Wreath. Thank heavens I didn't have the debuff. I was worried about Nightbane fears, but was able to handle those without any issue.
Now, to the topic of Non-essential Raids. Look, I won't make a secret of this because you'll find it out eventually -- I hate non-essential raids. I hate alt raids. I hate alts. I despise them. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy Karazhan, or will stop going to it, because that's not the case. Since I fairly well enjoyed the raid last night, let me reference the history I have had with alt raids.
I wrote in an e-mail three months ago, "The progression of a guild directly correlates to how awful their raids on non-essential content are." This was because, on my prior server, any guild alt runs for us and several other guilds were terrible experiences. Constant wipes on farm content, constant laziness, and basic mistakes that were costing the raid both in terms of repairs and morale.
To illustrate the very worst, consider "Friday Night Drunk AQ20." Why I decided to tank this, and why we let an app in the raid is beyond me.
This raid had several low points, but the lowest of them was marked by one of our Paladins literally screaming into vent "I'm healing you! I'm healing you! I'm healing the tank!" He was sitting down on the other side of a large wall several hundred yards from us. We wiped.
The very last guild run of Molten Core laid the basis for a series of guild removals, with players violently arguing over loot on their alt characters.
Stupid mistakes led to virtually every raid producing a series of costly wipes. Stupid mistakes like not wearing Fire Resist gear on Ragnaros, or not moving out of the Baron Geddon's explosion. The alts, of course, didn't mind -- their repair bills were cheap. But the mains who were actually completing the content were paying enormous repair bills and often not showing up a second time for optional raids.
This was always amplified by alts. Players with great gear and little motivation beyond new gear can often fake it in old zones; players with awful gear and little motivation, on the other hand, will destroy a run. This is not to say all alts are bad, but that it's rare to have a group of alts with everyone playing at their potential.
Many times people would justify their poor performance by saying, "It's just a game." Sure. It's also a game we didn't enjoy with them, and when the choice was raiding with them or not raiding at all, most of our serious players very quickly chose the latter. When good, well-geared players stopped showing up, the alts became indignant -- "Why can't we ever get any tanks?" and "Why won't the healers come?" As if an obligation was owed to them. Nevermind that they could find people who would play better than them in the Trade channel; they wanted players with Naxxramas gear shuttling their alts through content.
These kinds of runs were the epitome of bad play for our guild. If Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Zul'Gurub, AQ20, or Karazhan could be messed up, you could count on our guild making it hell. It once got so bad that I swore at our raiders in front of an app in a Zul'Gurub run, "why the hell would you bring an app knowing how ----ty the raids always ----ing get?" I won't lie, alt raids drove me from being a clean spoken Mormon to having a pretty... broad... vocabulary.
Keep in mind, we were a Naxxramas-clearing guild. Keep in mind, we were one-shotting the Four Horsemen weeks in a row, a fight with over 400 individual transitions which is incredibly reliant on every single player.
Eventually I realized something I had already known for our progression raiding: motivation, not gear, is everything.
One thing I had always wanted was Thunderfury. Our guild had terrible luck with actual tanking weapons (we did great with high Threat weapons, though). My personal weapon progression went along the lines of Eskhandar's Right Claw (unfortunately Fist Weapons didn't get Parry bonuses originally), Blackguard, Silithid Claw, Crul'Shorukh. For two years I never saw a Quel'Serrar (despite helping to nerf instance zoning), never saw a Maladath, and never saw a Widow's Remorse. I had every reason in the world to go for Thunderfury. I had already passed the first to my off-tank, which gave me a chance to see just how good it was.
So I formed the Molten Crew, a pure PUG with open loot rules and high expectations. I couldn't handle how awful our guild raids were and most of our dedicated raiders were not willing to continue to go on them since they were so diluted with people playing poorly. Instead of pushing them, I went to the Realm Forums and formed it up.
This caused an uproar with some members. "How dare we give unguilded players an equal chance to roll on loot!" Coming from a player in near full Tier 3, "I am going to guildquit if I don't get my Tier 2 legs from Ragnaros!" While I did respect the time they put in for the guild on our main raids, that did not by extension mean I would support the disrespect they had shown the guild by performing so poorly when they could get away with it. The rules were set, and whether they hated me or not, if they wanted an invite they sure as hell better perform.
The Crew changed everything I expected about PUGs and raiding. I took people wearing blues or green/blues and dungeon gear and took some people who were unable to continue raiding with their current guilds for various reasons. It was not a guild raid nor a required raid; it was a raid for anyone who wanted to do the content without struggling against an avalanche.
The bar for expectations was set very high. By treating the unguilded with respect and expecting the same level of play for them, they felt they weren't just in it for loot, but were in it for themselves and for the team. Once the good players realized they were getting reinvited every week, the camaraderie grew between them and a mutual respect from the handful of our guild members on the run grew. These players performed miracles, and with how much energy they were putting in, I felt they would have made an incredible group for Naxxramas had they had the gear.
The second week of Molten Core -- with many people in genuinely sub-par gear who had never been in a raiding guild -- we were clearing faster than our guild had ever cleared. The fifth week produced a clear of 1 hour and 41 minutes. We easily had the record for the server.
The crew quickly expanded to Blackwing Lair, where we cleared in just under 2 hours. These were the same people who had never been in a raiding guild, but were now showing up every week and getting major upgrades in gear. We had a similar experience in Zul'Gurub and Ahn'Qiraj, though shorter-lived.
I did eventually get the Thunderfury immediately after our first Thaddius kill. If you check the Thaddius video posted here, it's one of my favorites, and the intro shows many of the Molten Crew members in the foreground. But the weapon -- while immensely helpful -- turned out to be a side benefit, not the end goal. Instead of permanently leaving Molten Core and Blackwing Lair behind, the PUG continued right up until Christmas day, where we had an incredible Christmas run (did you know Vaelastrasz can be tanked in full Frost Resist gear?).
All of the gear in the world won't make up for motivation in people.
If you aren't motivated for excellence you will not perform excellently.
If Karazhan is new to you, and that is your progression, and you love what you do, you will do wonders in Karazhan.
If Black Temple is new to you, and that is your progression, and you love what you do, you will do wonders in Black Temple.
It is what it is. Perhaps I will someday lead new raiders through Karazhan again, teach them to love the game, and enhance my own joy of endgame raiding.
In closing, the guild I've found is great. I'm very happy to have signed on with them, and expect great things down the road from this group. I hope I can recover enough skill quick enough to be a fine tank for this guild.