Sic transit gloria mundi
The title of this post is a Latin phrase that means “thus passes the glory of the world.” (Sadly, I had to use Wikipedia to get that instead of my five years of high school Latin. Five years of memorization and translation and I can’t get past “Britannia est insula” anymore. Durp.) It’s generally used to mean “the things of this world are fleeting.”
It’s a phrase that immediately popped into my head, for whatever strange reason, when I read the announcement yesterday that The Anvil, the 25-man raid on Feathermoon that I’ve been a member of for the better part of five years, is shutting its doors permanently. The end of The Anvil came out of left field as a real shock to all of us; we already knew that the raid was having issues getting spun up for Cataclysm raiding, and that we’d probably have to drop back to two 10-mans from a 25 at least for now, and that we really didn’t quite have the people even to do two 10s at least in the immediate future. But to get the word that the officers had decided to pull the plug entirely was a stunner…and yet, looking in retrospect at the signs, it’s completely understandable.
The Anvil, you see, is something of an unusual raid. It originally started as a cooperative effort between three smallish Feathermoon RP guilds–the Thundering Hammer Clan, Noxilite, and the Prophecy of Shadow–to form a Molten Core 40-man raid in late 2005/early 2006. It was then, and always has been, a non-guild raid. It’s never been a requirement to be in a particular guild to be a part of The Anvil. The raid leadership team, originally under the baritone command of THC’s Malkavet, is a separate entity from the leadership of any of the guilds that may be involved (although most of the raid officers are also officers in their respective guilds).
From the start, The Anvil’s principles were pretty simple. We knew we weren’t going to be a server-leading progression raid, but we were going to come prepared and do our best. Raiding usually went two days a week, three to four hours a day. Roleplay was not required, but was allowed and would be respected. Real life came before raid life, since most of the raid’s members were young professionals, many with families. Using those simple rules, The Anvil went into Molten Core again…and again…and again, and eventually downed Ragnaros many times. (There are Anvillains that still won’t go to Molten Core even today because they’re so sick of it.) Then there was Blackwing Lair, with Nefarian eventually falling.
In Burning Crusade, The Anvil broke into a couple of 10-mans for Karazhan, then reformed and plowed through much of the 25-man content. Serpentshrine Cavern was eventually conquered, but not without Vashj holding us up for a month and a half. Kael’thas, sadly, didn’t get punked until after patch 3.0 dropped and mega-nerfed the fight. The raid also went 3/5 in Hyjal, and (after patch 3.0) 7/9 in one trip to the Black Temple. Sunwell? Nope.
But it was in Wrath of the Lich King where I think The Anvil really came into our own. Yes, we needed the 30% buff to kill Arthas, and we didn’t do it until mid-September of last year. Yes, it took us four months of hard work to get even that single LK kill. But what was great, as a grunt in the raid, was to watch us, as a raid, improve as we moved through Wrath’s 25-man content, from Naxxramas to Ulduar to Trial of the Trashless to Icecrown Citadel. As the fights got more difficult and technical through the years, we got better. We became less of a brute-force group (The Anvil’s early Molten Core nickname was “The DPS Raid,” because of how much we brought in comparison to healers and tanks) and more of a “kill the boss despite a log parse that’d make other raids laugh” raid.
So how did we go from the high of an Arthas kill to disbanding the raid in less than four months? A few reasons, I guess, plus some I’m sure I’m not privy to since I’m not an officer. The changes in Cataclysm raiding greatly favor 10-man raids. They’re simpler, easier to put together, much less strain on leaders, and now drop the same loot, just less of it. We lost several people who wanted to stick with 10-mans instead of the more chaotic 25. Another reason, one that has rankled me since it was announced, is guild achievements and perks. The cross-guild raid is apparently quite rare in the wider world of WoW, but there’ve been many of them on Feathermoon for some reason–we don’t find them unusual. However, with members scattered from several different guilds (or even no guild), our 25-man can’t provide any one guild the guild rep, guild XP, or guild acheesements that a straight one-guild raid can. Combine that with the fact that several of the component guilds in the greater Anvil circle of friends are now, or soon will be, capable of putting together 8 people to form the core of a balanced guild-focused 10-man, and that’s another strike against a cross-guild 25-man. Blizzard could have solved this with some sort of support for guild alliances, much as corporations in EVE Online can form alliances to gain benefits, but they said early on in the Cataclysm development cycle that guild alliance support was right out.
In the end, though, I guess the biggest reason is probably burnout. Some of our officer group have been in place for three or four years. That’s a long time to have to herd cats. There’s always some drama with a raid, even a laid-back one like ours, and it wears after a while. When you’ve been fighting through various 25-man dramas for a couple of years, and then you’re looking at a raid composition for Cataclysm that simply will not allow a 25-man, and then have to deal with shortages in various classes and splitting people into 10-mans and longtime raiders hanging it up due to burnout of their own and getting people geared up and ready…I don’t blame them for pulling the plug, honestly. It took a near-superhuman effort by our officers to get us through WotLK and get us that Arthas kill. They’re volunteers. They just want to play the game again. Who can begrudge them that?
Now, my personal views on the Anvil are well-documented on the post celebrating that Lich King-25 kill. It’s not just “a raid” to me, it’s a large extended group of friends that have given me the opportunity to transform from the terrible warrior who stumbled into Molten Core in mid-2006 to the reasonably competent tank who was on point the night that Arthas Menethil finally fell. Despite all the hard times, despite almost losing my raid spot a couple of times and having to improve to stay, despite all the wipes and struggles and late nights and mistakes, The Anvil has been a wonderful and awesome ride for me over four and a half years. Every Thursday and Friday night for a couple of years now, I’ve known where I’d be and what I’d be doing…sitting on Ventrilo with 24 or so other people, several of them drunk, listening to a cavalcade of “your mom’s face” jokes, our Chief Cat Herder‘s shouts of “Defile, MOVE!”, arguments about whether Batman or Superman was the better superhero, and all the rest. And now that’s gone.
It’s not all bad. At least two 10-mans, maybe more, are going to be forming out of the dispersion of the main 25-man. We still have our in-game chat channel and Vent, and we’re still friends and acquaintances who will heroic or raid with each other from time to time. The people are still there. But the big 25-man, the central focus of The Anvil, is gone, and that’s going to take some getting used to. It felt like something permanent, something that would never go away. But one thing that all of us need to remind ourselves about in a game like WoW…everything is transitory. Change is the only constant. And the things of this world (of Warcraft) are fleeting indeed.
The Anvil Raid. January 6, 2006 – January 11, 2011. Just write on its tombstone “never has a finer group of friends had so much fun kicking a moderate amount of ass.”