Monday, August 17, 2015

A Day in the Past: The WotLK Story

If you read The TBC Story, this story starts off right where that one ended. It's less self indulgence about me and my own personal history (but don't worry, I still managed to squeeze it in there) and more about the history of my long passed, best guild I'd ever been in.

To catch you up, after TBC release I screwed around as a non-raider until my guild exploded and asked me to go resto during T4. Fast forward through that guild dissolving shortly after, during T5, and over a year of me healing TBC progression in a new and better guild, and slow down around the end of TBC when I went back to balance.

flashback fade out, queue dream sequence music

TBC was the pinnacle of my raiding career. As I said at the end of my TBC story, at the homestretch of Sunwell, I was ranking as 4th best balance druid in the US and 12th best in the world.

I understand if you don't believe me - back then I somehow managed to not realize that those rankings would not be forever etched into the archives of the internet and I'd never have proof of this claim, but you not believing me doesn't mean it didn't happen.

even if I screenshot it, I'm sure you'd think it was photoshopped

Thing is, it's really not that hard to believe if you consider two pretty important factors - I was a balance druid. 12th in the world, so what? There were, like, 50 total. I was also in a seriously progressed guild that cleared all of the current raiding content while it was still relevant, and we had maybe another druid, sometimes. All the intellect leather? Mine. No loot competition. Of course I was decked out in the absolute best gear available. Even slots that didn't go directly to me, I had great luck in acquiring.

To be fair, though, it's even less about me and more about my guild. It wouldn't have been possible without them. We were a 3 day a week raiding guild that still cleared content, back before "heroic" raids, before the 10/25 split, when all the available raiding content was what it was, no easier (or harder) options. We weren't the best in the world, but you can't ask for much else when you're clearing every raid within a reasonable time frame with only three days a week.

But, you know, it all went downhill from there.

forsooth! we hath spilled the phat loots

When WotLK came out, we had a huge number of people bust through Northrend and clear Naxxramas maybe two weeks into the expansion. We were still pumped up from being 3rd on our server (Arygos, at the time - pretty much every progressed horde raiding guild on Durotan swapped when free server transfers opened up), and Naxx was also a joke of a raid instance.

We entered WotLK and approached Ulduar's hard mode fight options with overflowing optimism. We would clear all this content while it was relevant, like we always had. Except, not. Surprise.

I mean, I'm being pretty straightforward about the whole thing

We were still doing well, but we're talking about new raiding content being released before we had cleared all of the hardmode fights. And, us saying forget it, and moving on. We never beat hardmode General Vezax, even though we got really close, we barely did Three Lights in the Darkness, I have the achievement dated 12/06/10, so two days before ICC's release (therefore, after it was no longer 'current content') and then, somewhere around Trial of the Crusader, we lost our fearless leader.

He was the best raid leader I ever had. He was crass and blunt, but he knew the game. He knew the fights, he knew how to lead, he knew who to watch, what to watch, what mattered and what didn't. He never harped on someone about something irrelevant - you know, like the raid leader who complains about something that was not even the reason you wiped. He knew when you knew what you did wrong, but if it was something obvious and stupid, you were getting your ass fried over vent regardless. If it was an understandable mistake because we were still progressing and the fight was hard and you tried your best, he knew. He'd still tell you what you did wrong, but he was surprisingly good at knowing when you deserved to be lectured and when you needed supportive guidance. He knew what kind of criticism to give when, where, and to whom.

except we didn't use DKP and he wasn't a cat

He was bored of the game, though. He was done raid leading, especially with the raiding changes into WotLK and the loss of some of our better raiders - and introduction of some newer, worse ones. The spirit of progression competition didn't interest him anymore, and we got a new guild and raid leader. He was also good, but he would never stack up against our old leader. But I think he knew that.

It was still not a terrible situation, the guild wouldn't break up until Cataclysm (spoiler alert! oh wait, I've written about this before), but we were never the same.

Our ToC progression was not anymore impressive than our Ulduar progression - we went into ICC with maybe a few hardmode ToC achievements, definitely no Tribute to Immortality, and our inability to clear all of the current relevant content was consistently burning out more and more of our oldest, veteran raiders.

you're making your guild members who are left with scrub rejects cry

We constantly had to refill our ranks, and new applicants were hit or miss. We wouldn't have trouble finding people until Cataclysm, but finding good people was the biggest hindrance.

Personally, I got burnt out for the first time during WotLK, myself. I called it quits during heroic ICC progression. I was not a fan of the idea of redoing an entire raid instance, but harder - and frankly, I'm still not.

My memory is a bit fuzzy, but my achievements are telling me that I got Heroic: The Crimson Hall (25 Player) on 4/25/10 - with ICC's initial release date being 12/8/09, this seems about right. I'm also fairly sure I was there for the original H Blood Queen Lana-thel kill, as I was the first bite target and remember Blood Queen being such a great fight for me. I was able to partially relive my glory of being ranked super high on World of Logs, as most people did not have a balance druid as their number one DPS for that fight. Hint: The constant AoE aura that Blood Queen did activated Owlkin Frenzy, probably not working as intended, but that meant balance druids basically did 10% more damage plus no spell pushback for that entire fight.

Super fun, super broken. So anyway, I think some time after that is around when I took my break.

I had just gotten a real life job for the first time, and back when I started I was actually very pleased with it. Earning money was mind blowing - you mean, I make sandwiches for a few hours and you give me actual money for it? With having to wake up at 6:00am some mornings, or closing on raid nights, or just being too tired from working all day to want to raid, I decided to "focus on my job" and I quit raiding.

canceled one sub for a different kind of sub

I came back to the game when the pre-expansion patch was released, and inquired about getting my raiding position back come Cataclysm. The guild was actually more than happy to bring me into ICC hardmode raids, as before I had left I was still one of the best DPS in the guild. I was behind a bit on the gear front, what with coming back to a large number of people in hardmode equipment, but the guild was still attempting some progression on hardmode ICC bosses. Unfortunately, mostly in 10 player.

our old realm rivals gave us these shirts

We had lost so many people, either permanently or "until Cataclysm comes out", that we couldn't support 25 player raiding anymore. If you recall, this was back when 10 player was purposefully easier than 25 player. It was not a proud time for us - and I didn't feel any better being part of the problem. It was more obvious than ever that we were in an inescapable downward spiral. In an attempt to revitalize the guild and find new blood, we transferred to Zul'jin during the WotLK to Cataclysm transition - a server with a super high horde population. The transfer was purposefully kept under wraps in order to leave out the worse guild members and we permanently downgraded to a 10 player guild. Spoiler alert: it didn't help.

We still never did clear all of ICC's hardmode content. I believe that the guild downed 10 man Heroic Lich King without me one night, but we entered into the next expansion broken and battered - and, ironically, it was the catalyst that finally killed us off for good.


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