Back before Wrath of the Lich King was released, the officers of The Anvil, the 25-man Horde raid on Feathermoon that I tank for, sat down and set one simple goal: The Anvil 25-man would kill Arthas before the next expansion came out. That was it. Everything, all the other raid instances, all our activity as a raid, was pointed toward that goal. Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Big Round Room…they were steppingstones toward Icecrown Citadel and our ultimate goal of doing something we’d never done before: beating “the” boss of an expansion while that expansion was still current content, and making the Lich King our Bitch King.
Now this was a stretch for us. Since the days of 40-man raiding, we’ve never been a cutting-edge progression raid…call us “hardcore casual” if you will. In vanilla, we never cleared Blackwing Lair, much less Naxxramas 1.0; Nefarian only died after The Burning Crusade came out. When we hit Outland, we stalled at the end of both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep. Vashj eventually went down after six or seven weeks, but we never really even got close to killing Kael’thas until patch 3.0 dropped, at which point the fight instantly turned from a near-impossible exercise to a stupidly easy no-death one-shot. We managed to get 3/5 in Hyjal before 3.0 hit, but never visited Black Temple except for one visit post-patch, where we one-shotted the first seven bosses and couldn’t get past the Illidari Council. Linedan’s still never seen or killed Illidan, Archimonde, or anything in Sunwell Plateau.
Four months ago we dropped Sindragosa for the first time and took the teleporter up to stand before our final goal. That night, we began working on the fight. And through the summer, we kept at it. Again. And again. And again. I started likening progress on the Lich King fight to the Battle of the Somme…immense casualties for just a few yards, or in this case percent, gained. We extended lockouts and threw ourselves at him for three straight hours some nights. I counted fifteen wipes one night, that’s a 200 gold repair bill for me. We tried several different strategies regarding Defiles and val’kyr handling, with varying degrees of success. Time and again normal summer schedule issues ravaged our lists and left us frantically pulling in subs, or dropping back to clear lower ICC again, or even calling the raid entirely.
Last night, we faced down Arthas again. We started off with two excellent attempts that moved efficiently through phase 2 and got into phase 3 with most of the raid still standing. Our DPS was the highest I’d ever seen it, across the board. Unfortunately, both times things fell apart fast and we died quickly in phase 3, not getting Arthas below about 35%. Then we started backsliding into the pattern that’s dogged us the whole time…mistakes in phase 2, bad placement of Defiles, unlucky timing on the different cooldowns for valks vs. Defile, stuff like that. After a few more of those, we took a break, came back, and went at it again.
It was the sixth, or seventh, or eighth attempt, I’d lost track at that point. We started off same as the others–me on Arthas, our paladin tank Keltyr on the ghouls and horrors in phase 1. Phase 1 was dispatched quickly and smoothly, likewise the 1-2 transition. We hit phase 2, and the real fight began.
You know that feeling you get when you just know that everything is starting to fall into place? We had that. Defile placement wasn’t perfect, but it was workable. Everyone adjusted, standing behind Arthas, all facing the same direction to keep the valks clustered together. For once, the timers worked properly so that we weren’t all clustered up for valks and getting hit with Defile instead. We shifted, we adjusted, we moved in and moved out, and we got to 45% with everybody still up.
Then at 43%, here came the valks. And the shout went out from our Chief Cat Herder: “Forget them, burn Arthas down!” It was a crapshoot. If we couldn’t get him to 40% while dodging the upcoming Defile, we’d lose two DPS and a healer. Everybody ran for Defile, ran back in and laid into the Lich King while I drug him toward one edge…
..at the last possible second, he dropped to 40%, ran back to the center, and started the phase 2-3 transition. The ledge reappeared, and all three of our raidmates landed on solid ice with just mere feet to spare.
The spirits came up and we laid into them like we never had before. At the end of the transition, two were dead, one was at 30%, and the fourth was full up. I had the weaker spirit on me, so I headed back in and said hi to Arthas again, and phase 3 began.
The next few minutes are still a blur in my sleep-deprived mind. Phase 2 is barely-controlled chaos. Phase 3 felt like it removed the “barely-controlled” part. People were scattering everywhere to avoid Vile Spirits and Defile. We were handling tanking differently in the 25 than we did when I got Arthas in my 10, and I had only the vaguest of ideas when to taunt Arthas and move him. More than once I taunted Arthas and immediately got a Soul Reaper countdown, and only Keltyr’s fast action saved me.
Things were getting nuts. We had a death or two. The fight devolved into a screaming mass of taunting, moving, and keyspamming. Calls of “I can’t reach the tanks!” followed by another healer saying “I’ve got ’em.” Vile Spirits exploding everywhere. “Defile, move!” “Spirits coming down!” “Gore’s harvested!” And all the while, I saw that big Threat Plate over Arthas’ head slowly count down numbers. Twenty-three percent. Twenty percent. Eighteen percent. Fifteen percent. Holy shit, are we actually going to do this?
I taunted him back at about 13%. I was getting ready to hit Vent and say “a million to go, guys, WE’VE GOT THIS”…and I died. I got too damn far away from my healers trying to get Arthas clear of the Vile Spirits, and there I was, in the Sprawl of Shame, with the Lich King at 12% health.
“Shit, Lin’s down!”
“Want me to pick him up?”
About four of us (me included) said “No!” at the same time. He was at 7.1 million health, under 12%, one tank up, don’t shift out to battle rez just burn his ass down. One million more health to go, dear God please don’t let me dying fuck this up now go go GO GO GO DAMMIT GO…
His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.
I won’t spoil the fight for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but let’s just say, if you get him to 10%, you’ve won, despite appearances. There’s a pause for some in-game exposition that you get to watch. When that started, there was a second of stunned silence, as if all 25 of us couldn’t believe we were seeing what we saw, and then Vent erupted with screams. And just as quickly, was shushed…after all, many people there hadn’t had a chance to see the show before.
I didn’t say a word. I was too busy sitting there, staring at the screen in slack-jawed shock, my hands shaking and tears forming in my eyes. We had done it. We killed the Lich King.
Two minutes later, the hoedown was over, and the fight entered the last 10%, aka Pinata Mode. And then, it was truly over, cue the acheesement spam. At 11:33 pm Eastern time, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, whatever you want to call him, lay dead at The Anvil’s feet, and we sat in silent shock and relief while Cutscene Happened.
We were Kingslayers.
We had won the game.
I spent the rest of the evening in an advanced state of shock. It took my hands half an hour to stop shaking and I didn’t get to bed until well past 1:00. The happy crew gradually dropped off Vent and out of WoW, off to bed.
While that happened, I sat and reflected, and got hit by an incredible wave of emotion that almost started me crying. The realization of what we’d just done, and my small part in it, hit me.
A bit over four years ago, I first started running with The Anvil as a scrubstitute, a few months after the raid initially formed. I had no business being in Molten Core given that my gear was mostly greens and I was a pretty shitty warrior, but in 40-mans, you could carry scrubs, and after weeks of not being selected to go, my wife Rashona and I finally wormed our way in. Back then, our daughter Nublet was only an infant so Rashona and I basically had to alternate weeks to go on those Sunday afternoon MC runs…one of us raided while the other tended the baby. We switched weeks, sometimes we even switched mid-run if the officers were OK with it.
I hung in there and kept getting invites despite the fact I really did suck. My DPS was lousy, I couldn’t offtank rock elementals on Garr to save my ass (or anyone else’s), I wiped the raid running the wrong way on Geddon more than once. Slowly, on the long grind through Molten Core to Ragnaros and then into Blackwing Lair, I got better. Not good, but better.
The Burning Crusade came out. By the time I made it to 70, I was behind most of the other Anvillains. The Anvil had formed two 10-man Karazhan raids and didn’t have enough people for a third, leaving me and Rashonakitty screwed. Fortunately a friend of ours was starting up her own Kara (called “Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders”) and the wife and I came on as the two tanks. I went Prot, and never looked back. We helped take that raid from wiping all night on Attumen all the way to one-night full clears and lots of Prince kills. It was a fantastic experience.
When The Anvil went back to running 25-mans in Gruul’s Lair, I got in again despite the raid being overloaded on tanks. And somehow, I guess through just sheer attrition and my own stubbornness, by the time our TBC raiding career ended, I was the permanent second offtank.
Wrath of the Lich King brought us death nuggets, and one of our warriors switched to DK (realm first 80 DK, in fact) and became astoundingly good at DK tanking–so good that he pushed me down to the #3 offtank, in an instance (Naxx 2.0) where few fights needed four tanks and dual specs hadn’t come in yet. The raid officers kept me on, thank God, and we’ve carried four tanks all through Wrath (the original DK left and has been replaced by an even better DK), eventually going to a rotation system where we all take turns tanking and DPSing.
The Anvil took me in when I had no business raiding. They let me back in after I took time to head to greener pastures in Karazhan. They kept me on and rewarded my persistence with a permanent slot. They kept me on again when better-geared, better-skilled tanks “took my jerb.” They kicked my ass when I needed it and reassured me when I needed it. They had faith in me when I had lost my own faith in my ability to play this game. They gave me the room and opportunity to develop the confidence to turn, eventually, into a pretty decent warrior tank. They are my friends, and I’ll do anything for them.
And last night, the scrubby hybrid-spec warrior in the mismatched level 55 greens…now transformed into the fully-sanctified-T10-wearing badass tank he never thought he could become…tanked the bloody Lich King. And won.
All of the problems that were spinning around me yesterday are still there this morning. Our one working vehicle is still laid up at the mechanic and we don’t know how we’re going to pay to fix it. One of our cats is still a bit sick in his tummy and stinking up the place. We’re still broke. The house is a mess. I still have four projects at work in various stages of “oh shit.” None of that has changed.
But for a few magical minutes last night, none of it existed. There was nothing but a group of friends, accomplishing a task set in front of them, and culminating a journey that started four and a half years ago. Winning the game.
For now, the world can bite my shiny metal ass. I’m a Kingslayer, biatch.
It’s been a strange weekend here at the Bunker of Love, no doubt about that.
See, North Carolina has been getting hammered by a nasty heat wave. Now yes, it’s the South, and yes, of course it gets hot in the summer. I know this. I’m Virginia-born and -bred, with the added resume entries of surviving three summers near Washington, DC (why did we build our nation’s capital in a bloody swamp?) and seven years in Columbia, South Carolina, a place that you could use for testing manned expeditions to Venus. I know from hot, people.
But you see, the Bunker of Love, nice as it is, does not have central air conditioning. This is a small, old house with “character” (translation: a disturbing number of corners that aren’t 90 degrees) in an older neighborhood. It was built before the word “insulation” entered the national consciousness. Hot and cold just seeps in, despite our best efforts. And what’s worse, our computers are in the only available space for them–a converted sunporch that was added on sometime after the house was built. There are several large windows in this room. They’re old and single-pane. Do the math. We have two small window units (one in our bedroom, and one in the living room behind us) and one box fan trying to push the output of the living room A/C in here. It works reasonably well, as long as the temperature is a more normal, say, 90 degrees. 100 degrees with a heat index over 110, not so much.
And thus it was that on Thursday night, The Anvil spent three hours on Arthas with me as main tank, keeping one eye on the Lich King and one eye on the display of my Logitech G15 keyboard watching my video card temperature skyrocket, while sweating like a pig and trying to hydrate in between wipes. Yes, I know how stupid it sounds talking about sweating my ass off while playing a video game. Remember–I’m a fat white pasty guy, it was pushing 85F in here, and it’s the motherhumpin’ Lich King, people. Things get a little intense even for keyboard warriors. We did make some good progress, with some strategy adjustment on phase 2 of the fight, but we’re still getting our asses kicked by badly-placed Defiles or losing people to val’kyr. We’re consistently getting late into phase 2, and we got to see the 40% transition a couple times.
Friday hit 101 degrees. My wife and I ended up doing something I’m still sad about–we bailed on the raid due to the heat. I take my raiding commitments seriously. When I sign up, I show up, even if I don’t really want to. But with the temperature in the room pushing the mid- to high 80s, and my video card reporting 83 degrees Celsius just while sitting looking out over the porch at Ulduar, we both knew that a couple hours of this, and we’d be not only miserable, but making serious mistakes when we tried Arthas again. I can’t rationalize and say we did it for “the good of the raid” though. Fact was, it was just too damn hot in here.
Now, come Saturday afternoon for the 10-man that I MT on Linedan, the temperature had not abated outside–heading for 100 again. But since it doesn’t get really intolerable in here until about 5 or 6 pm, and the raid runs from 2 to 5, I figured I’d be able to hang in OK on our all-Arthas-all-the-time attempts. (Side note: I love extended lockouts. Awesome invention, Blizz.) So we got to work.
As you can guess from the picture up top, we got the bastard. Linedan is now, at least for a day, Linedan the Kingslayer. (Then I’ll switch it back to Loremaster.)
We got him, in fact, despite most of us never really having gotten good looks at phase 3, the Vile Spirits phase, before. I know that phase 2 is the hard part, and that phase 3 is easier, but still, we wiped a good 10 times in that phase before we worked out a strategy for saving me from getting my face eaten by Soul Reaper. Once we did that? I’m not going to say it was easy, because it wasn’t. But our killshot wasn’t one of those nail-biting super-close shaves. We just…got him. Fairly smooth, no big issues.
That fight is so much easier on 10-man than on 25-man. As are, in fact, most fights that require a lot of maneuvering. To me it seems pretty obvious why. You’ve got the same area of platform to drop Bad(tm) in, but 40% of the people taking up the room. You’re less likely to get a Defile in a bad place, and if you do, you’re less likely to get somebody moving through it or standing in it and expanding it. And yes, I’ll admit, a good chunk of us in this raid are wearing 25-man gear, and yes, having a nice big rack of ilevel 264 stuff does help compared to doing it in 251s or lower.
So now that Arthas has fallen in 10-man, I have one goal left in Wrath of the Lich King for Linedan…Kingslayer 25-man. That’s it. As soon as we get that, I will have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish for him in this expansion. I called it the Four Big Titles–World Explorer, Seeker, Loremaster, Kingslayer. Well, right now, he’s three-and-a-half out of four. We’ll keep raiding after The Anvil drops Arthas, I’m sure of it, and our 10-man is going to start on hard modes in at least a few fights next week. But after I get that 25-man Kingslayer title attached to Linedan’s name, everything else is just sprinkles on the cupcake, and the Cataclysm countdown begins.
The sweet: Friday night, The Anvil, on the sixth try of the night, dropped Yogg-Saron to complete our run through normal 25-man Ulduar. We had to extend our lockout two weeks to do it, so we’d have enough time on Friday to get some good attempts in on the Old God, and finally, everything came together.
The bitter: While the rest of The Anvil was beating the Yoggy out of, uh, Yoggy…my lovely wife, my charming daughter Nublet, and I were in a motel room in Perry, Georgia, asleep. We would be getting up the next day to sell my wife’s handmade shinies at a very cold but very fun craft festival. (Aside: 54 degrees, 15 mph north wind, wind chill in the low 40s. 30 miles south of Macon. In fucking October. Global warming, my big fat hairy ass.)
Finding out on Saturday evening that the raid killed Yoggy gave me some mixed emotions. Of course, I’m happy that “we” finally got the chance, by extending the raid lockout another week and creatively scheduling, to get enough attempts in to work through the chaos of the fight and bring it to a successful conclusion. Even though I missed part of the week before as well due to catching a cold or hamthrax or plague or cooties or something that I’m still not quite over yet, I was still a part of clearing at least the front of Ulduar in that lockout, and had been there for our earlier attempts on Yogg as well. We’re a pretty tight group, and like most good raids (cutting-edge progression or not), we live or die as a team, and team accomplishments are more important than individual glory.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tiny pang of “well, shit.”
I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there for our first Yoggy kill. I had a legitimate reason for not being there, of course…we do this craft show every year on the third weekend in October, it’s basically a (hard-)working vacation for us because my wife grew up going to it–her mom sold her handmade cornhusk dolls at every show for twenty-seven straight years until she got too sick to go. In fact, we even now have her mom’s old booth spot…booth A1, right by the entrance gate. It’s vastly more important that we be there–to make some money, to see old friends, to watch Nublet have the time of her life charming people and playing in dirt and riding hayrides and petting cows–than to attend our raid. My raid friends understand that. It was all planned out ahead of time, and honestly, my attendance has been so good in the past, even missing two weeks (one sick, one traveling) isn’t an issue.
But I wasn’t there for the first kill. I wasn’t there to see my chat window vomit forth 25 peoples’ achievement spam. I wasn’t there for the obligatory celebratory screenshot. We’ll kill Yoggy again, I have no doubt, but when we do, it won’t be the first time. It’ll be smoother and less painful, but it won’t be the first time. (Draw your own analogies. They’re glaringly obvious.)
And then there’s The Voice In The Back Of My Head. I hate that bastard. He’s the one that says things like, “see, they killed Yogg-Saron without you and we’re running a four-tank rotation as it is, they don’t need you.” I don’t listen to him as much as I used to when he’d make me doubt myself and have me half-convinced every week that the raid was about to dump me for poor performance, but he’s still there, and there’s still a little part of the ol’ brain that buys into his bullshit. Yes, I have a bit of a gear gap to the other three tanks because they’re all in 10-mans in addition to our 25, and none of the 10-mans I know have any tank slots available. Yes, I am still the Minister of Silly Mistakes. Yes, when I’m assigned DPS, my DPS is laughably bad, and when tanking my DPS is below our warrior tank and far below our paladin and DK. But I’ve also successfully MT’d everything in Ulduar 25 up through Vezax and everything but Anub in ToC 25. I’m not uber, but dammit, I don’t suck.
So here’s today’s topic for discussion. How have you felt when you haven’t been there for a big important raid first–a first kill, a first clear, a first achievement or hardmode? I think it’s natural to have a little undertone of bitter along with the sweet when knowing that your team pulled it off, but they did it without you. Deep down, I think we all want to feel a little indispensable. But the most important thing is that the team, the raid, pulled it off. And even if you weren’t there for the actual kill, you did your part to help them get there.
Well, actually, four and a half seconds if you’re being really precise.
That’s how much time The Anvil had left on the enrage timer last night when we finally downed Anub’arak in 25-man normal Coliseum, after three weeks of trying.
To say that Anub’arak was a notch higher on the difficulty scale than the rest of the fights in the Coliseum (Faction Champions excluded, but more on that later) would be an understatement. After all, Northrend Beasts is basically three gimmick fights in a row. Lord Jaraxxus makes the healers cry, but as long as people know to run toward the wall and not stand in Bad(tm), it’s not too rough. Twin Val’kyrs? The ultimate gimmick fight, but if you can tell light from dark and can interrupt Twin’s Pact, it’s no big thing.
The Nub is a little rougher. We’d gotten several good shots at him last week but the healers were having real trouble keeping the offtanks up. Our plan was to have the offtanks grab and hold both pairs of Burrowers so DPS could focus on the big guy; otherwise we had no shot at dropping him inside his short enrage timer. But despite having excellent healers in the raid, our DK offtank (who’s got more health than any of the other three of us) kept falling over.
It was then that our raid officers, looking through the logs, discovered what Spinks posted about over at Welcome to Spinksville yesterday: The Anub’arak fight is one of the only encounters in WoW where Shield Block rules.
The Nerubian Burrowers stack a debuff called Expose Weakness. Each stack causes you to take 25% more damage, up to a maximum of 225% (9 stacks, down from 10 pre-3.2.2). But the catch is, apparently if you block one of their attacks, your shield block value is subtracted from their damage before the Expose Weakness debuff multiplier is added. Burrowers only hit for about 2500 to 3000. See where this is going? Our 46,000-health DK, with no shield, had no way to mitigate the 12,000 to 15,000 he was taking per hit from two burrowers except his jealousy-inducing 33%+ dodge. Our warrior, the other offtank, did. The DK died. The warrior didn’t.
So last night I was the #3 tank, and I was on burrower duty. I dutifully loaded up my “trash” set instead of my normal boss-tanking set. My trash set is a real hash of things, built for block value over even block rating. I still rock the T7 helm with it, plus some of my four T8 pieces, other bits and pieces from Ulduar and maybe one other from Naxx still. It isn’t so much designed for block tanking as it is designed for DPS…I even normally run two crit trinkets instead of tank trinkets (although for this fight, I strapped my tank trinkets back on) because it’s a set designed for light-hitting trash and any situation where I need to rip an 11k Shield Slam out of my ass. I ended up losing about 10 points of Defense, a crapton of dodge%, and maybe 1500 health from my boss set, but my buffed shield block value was a tasty 2593, and I was still at 543 Defense and 42,200 fully buffed health. My block rating was a bit low at 22.78%, but as a warrior, I’ve got two other tricks up my sleeve for that–Shield Block, for almost complete immunity to damage for 10 seconds out of 40, and 3/3 in the recently-buffed Critical Block talent, meaning 60% of those blocks wouldn’t be for 2593, they’d be for almost 5200. I couldn’t block everything, but when I did block, I made it count.
The strategy, I’m pleased to say, works like a charm, and you don’t have to build a super-block set that gimps everything else to do it…well, on normal, at least. (On heroic, yeah, you probably do.) We did run into trouble on the first time we got Anub’arak to phase 3 when we had four burrowers up. As good as our healers are, keeping up a tank with two burrowers, with 50% haste, and 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, and Swarming Leech, just wasn’t happening.
The last two attempts we got him to phase 3 with only one set of burrowers up, and as long as we kept the burrowers separated so they didn’t buff each other, the healers could keep myself and the other OT (paladin) up without much trouble. Tanking one burrower, even with 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, isn’t too bad. The first attempt, we just ran out of time and he enraged at 4%, finishing the last of us at 2%. On the killshot, I thought we weren’t going to make it because he was still at 18% health with one minute left. A couple of the healers shifted over to DPS, we lowered everybody else’s health in the raid even more to slow down the Leeching Swarm, and all of us blew everydamnthing we had (I was tanking a burrower while beating up on Anub). And he fell over with precisely 4.5 seconds left on the enrage timer.
Now is Blizzard going to “fix” this little trick? I don’t know. Shield Block has evolved into a mechanic that doesn’t really fit with anything…it’s overpowered against trash and underpowered against bosses. It’s good to see a fight where it actually matters, and fortunately Anub’arak is quite easy for a druid or DK to tank so there’s still great use for them there. It seems mighty cheesy to be able to build a set that allows one warrior to tank four burrowers–on heroic, no less, as Spinks documented–with impunity, but that’s a very extreme example. I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to break our little Shield Block trick, but if they don’t, and until they do, we’re going to take full advantage of one of the few bones they throw us on a fairly challenging fight.
Oh, and as you may remember from the rant immediately below this one, I kinda hate Faction Champions. And by “kinda,” I mean I’d like to find the guy at Blizzard who thought this was a good idea and beat him silly with a wiffleball bat. Well, there was a little patch note in the 3.2.2 release that mentioned some changes had been made to this fight. We didn’t know what to expect going in last night. But here’s what you need to know.
First week, seven wipes. Second week, five wipes. Third week, three deaths.
Faction Champions got nerfed TO THE GROUND, BABY.
The biggest change? Taunts no longer have diminishing returns on them. Think about that for a second. That one change alone, not even including the damage reduction they put in, turns the fight into cheesymode. Seriously. They assigned me to harass the death nugget. I could just spam Taunt every 8 seconds, with total impunity, to pull him off of a squishy for a few…enough time for me to drop a Charge or Intercept on him, or Shield Bash him to slow him down, or Concussion Blow or Shockwave to stun…oh, and they didn’t go immune to my stuns, either.
Sure, there were times where the DK got away from me. But not many. And when he did, I got him right back.
As much as I hate that fight–and I still do, with every flabby fiber of my being–I almost felt dirty at the end of it, that’s how easy it was. It reminded me of an AB match when a premade runs up against a PUG, except the Faction Champions didn’t /afk out halfway through. Yep, after whooping it up at our expense for a couple of weeks, ol’ Wrynn the Chin saw his boys and girls get a straight-outta-Compton gangsta beatdown, Hordesiyyyyyde style. Word up, yo.
Finally…so what reward does ol’ Tirion Fordring give us for completing the Trial of the Crusader? The chance to do it all over again on heroic! Well fuckin’ yay there big guy, excuse me if I’m somewhat less than enthused about going Groundhog Day on your little spectacle. Catch me next week and we’ll talk about it.
The Anvil has been working on Thorim 25-man, off and on, for something like eight weeks now. Now granted, in that eight weeks, we’ve been unable to even take a shot at him three times due to roster issues. But still, that’s five weeks of hearing “…in the moooounntaaaiiiinnsss…” several times a night, followed by the most painful wipes this side of a bad case of hemorrhoids. “Cockblock” may be a vulgar term, but in Thorim’s case, it was appropriate. Only Kael’thas in Tempest Keep ever held us up this long…we even got Vashj in less calendar time, although IMO, Vashj was a hell of a lot harder.
We went back in to Ulduar on Thursday night with a full raid (for once) and a determination that we were going to beat the Yoggy out of(tm) Thorim. Once again, I was your friendly neighborhood gauntlet tank, preparing to lead an eight-man group to deal with happy fun trash and big fire-spewing minibosses while the other 17 folks chilled out in Thorim’s Mosh Pit and rocked out to Slayer under a big pile of about five hundred squillion iron dwarves. With lightning. And mullets.
By the end of the evening I was pretty much ready to give up and go find another line of work. Something less stressful and more tolerant of failure, like, say, brain surgery or nuclear weapon handling. The arena group, originally our Achilles’ heel, was on a roll, keeping great control of the dwarves and holding up under the heavy punishment. No, Gentle Reader, our problems on Thursday night were primarily with the gauntlet group.
And that means, with me.
Holy Saurfang, was I a failtank Thursday night. I broke sheep. I lost agro on Iron Ring Guards and let them eat squishy fase. I didn’t grab stuff fast enough when it followed us down the tunnel from the arena (that’s a new post-3.2 “feature” of Thorim–healers can agro stuff in the stands above the hallway in certain spots, through the ceiling, and when it starts moving, it’ll jump down and run into the hallway and hit the group from behind). I got tripped up and dropped on my butt right in front of flame pulses. I would’ve probably run across the center of the circles getting to Thorim and gotten paralyzed…had we even gotten that far. I had the leader on the gauntlet side ready to kill me, I’m pretty sure.
And after all that, we still got him to phase 2 for the first time ever…and wiped when we hit the hard enrage with him at 3%. Had we still had a warlock and mage alive that got killed in the hallway–because I lost agro on a guard–we would’ve gotten him.
That dwelled in my headspace all day Friday. I couldn’t shake it off at work, or after I got home, or at prep time for the raid. And as we were waiting for invites, I finally managed to focus and convert the “you suck”–which is not an easy task for me because I always think I suck–into “this will not happen again tonight, dammit.” We had our strategy worked out–adding one more DPS, my wife Rashona, to the hallway group for a total of nine people–and this time, I was determined, if we failed, it was not going to be because of me.
We went in with 24 people, including several subs and first-timers, making jokes about “the Anvil man-down rule” that we usually do better with 24 than we do with 25. We blew through Ignis and Freya, and soon we stood before Thorim again. We charged in and massacred his little gladiatorial party. He launched into his “…in the moooounntaaaiiiinnsss…” bad voice-acting again, and off we went through the opening gate.
First group. Sheep left, let the hunter misdirect the acolyte toward me, don’t worry about him, grab the ring guard, tank him. DPS burns down the acolyte (he hits like he’s got pillows on his hands), then my guard. Bust the sheep, grab it, oh fuck get away from the fire. OK, it’s dead, lather rinse and repeat on the second group.
Boss tiems. Grab him, turn him, tank him, easymode. Oh snap, Runic Barrier, call across the room for Rashonakitty to get out. Sweet, he’s at 80k. “First boss going down” over Vent, and I’m already turning and opening the door to bitchslap a guard across the face with my shield before the big guy even eats floor. Two steps up, grab the second group, back up, Shockwave, booyah. Not tonight.
“Get the boss, Lin.” Right. Drag the two up the stairs while a hunter and my pocket priest go with me. Here comes the boss. Shield Block and settle in for the tank, tab target, spread the love, oh fuck a guard is getting loose, Challenging Shout, GET BACK HERE BITCH. Thunder Clap, Shockwave, DPS is burning down the guards first, not exactly the way you’re “supposed” to do it but it makes things easier on the healers, and besides, they’re shredding like paper. Quick glance at Grid, nobody’s dead, way to kick ass arena group.
Second boss keels over…holy crap, we’re gonna hit phase 2 on our first attempt. Run to Thorim, the shouts of “NOT THE MIDDLE, LIN!” still echoing in my head from two weeks ago. One of the hunters agros him as they jump down, I pat him on the back as I go too. He lands. PHASE 2, BABY!
Settle in again. Watch DBM for Unbalancing Strike messages and the telltale “doooong,” hit Taunt when it comes up. Sometimes I get him, sometimes one of the other tanks do, no worries. People on Vent yelling about the adds, “no, we killed them all.” Constant calls of “lines!”, “move move move!”, “taunt!” Eighty percent. Sixty percent. Forty percent.
I try and do the math in my head of the delta on his health versus the enrage timer, and the equation’s coming out in our favor…barely. Thirty percent. “Ten stacks.” He’s hitting hard as hell now, 14k or more. Get on those taunts, dude, remember, if we fail tonight, it won’t be because of me. Twenty percent. A couple of people are dead, our DPS slows.
Dooong. Taunt. “Twelve stacks.” Fifteen percent. Reach for Shield Wall on general principle–I’m not really even at low health but it’ll help stretch the healers’ mana–and FUCK I’M DEAD WHAT KILLED ME. I’m face-down in the Sprawl of Shame and he’s still at twelve percent. Two tanks left…”Gore, Kel, it’s on you guys, go go go.” Ten percent. Eight. Five. “Fourteen stacks!”, a note of panic creeping in. Less than one minute to enrage.
Three. Our other offtank drops dead. Two. Shit, our MT just died, no, dammit, no no no! One…
“Stay your arms! I yield!”
I slump back in my chair, put my face in my hands, and realize that they’re shaking. I don’t cry tears of joy and relief…but it’s a close thing.
Epilogue: We got Mimiron to 22% in phase 3 the very first time we saw him. I’m not getting cocky yet, as phase 4 of that fight is supposed to be total chaos, but I think we’re in pretty good shape on him. Make out your will, you shrimpy little twerp, you’re next.
We got it on the fourth try.
That is easily the most insane fight I have ever seen in WoW. It makes all the stuff I thought was crazy–Majordomo Executus, Vashj, even Kael’thas–look like it’s moving in slow motion. Trying to gather little fire elementals and drag them out of the way before they get hit by lava walls and become big pissy fire elementals while also grabbing drakes and trying to stay alive while doing all of it…daaaaaaaamn. And there’s still one more drake left to go.
I have got to get better at add-gathering. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I sucked out loud doing it tonight, even on our successful attempt. Fortunately we had a kick-ass paladin and a hunter who was fast on the icerink traps. Gotta work on it for next week.
After seeing heroic Sarth +2, heroic Sarth +3 has got to be…ugh. I’m simultaneously amped about it and dreading it.
I think it may have been that great orcish bard, Muktuk Snakespearer, who once said, “The best-laid plans of meese and moocows, sooner or later, are gonna get an arrow through the eye. Guaranteed.”
Friday night, when the Anvil prepared to hit Naxxramas, we only had 22 people in the raid at go time, and Gothik, Four Horsemen, Sapphiron, and Kel’Thuzad left to clear, with a first attempt at Sartharion +1 afterward if we had time. Real Life did what Real Life does and threw a wrench into the works. Well, even though we are very strict about putting Real Life before Raid Life, we weren’t going to let Real Life dork up our Friday night fun. So the twenty-two of us bravely headed through the Green Skulls of Three Times The Mob Health, and buffed up…
…and blew the place apart with 22 people. Gothik, dead. Four Horsemen, dead. Sartharion, dead. Neidermeyer…
For KT, we knew we would need a little more firepower, so we managed to get two of our Thursday night regulars who don’t generally come with us on Fridays to join up. That brought us up to 24, and 24 is what we went with as we charged into Kel’Thuzad’s lair.
After two wipes, we were sailing along pretty good on our third attempt until the MT died with Big Nasty at around 56%. My spinal tanky reflexes kicked in–I was technically #3 on the tank list behind the MT and a prot paladin, but I mashed Taunt and grabbed agro on Kel’Thuzad, then moved to where our MT had died. I figured I’d hold him until they battle-rezzed and rebuffed Gorebash (our MT) and he could take back over, and I’d move back to my melee spot and get ready to grab Guardians of Icecrown when they came out (my designated job).
Instead, over Vent I heard: “OK, leave Lin on KT, Gore and I will pick up the Guardians.”
Two thoughts flashed through my head, in this order: Holy shit, I’m tanking Kel’thuzad!, followed by, oh God, PLEASE DO NOT LET ME FUCK THIS UP.
We got him. I didn’t die. I didn’t get hit by a single frostbolt because our melee and Wind Shocking shaman were on top of their game. The healing was perfect. All I had to do was stand there and mash my normal buttons, nothing different. We were hanging on by our thumbnails at the end with a few deaths, but dammit, we got him, and that’s what counted.
What did we do after that for an encore? Headed a little south to the Obsidian Sanctum and one-shot our first 25-man attempt at Sarth +1, that’s what. With me tanking Sartharion. Sartharion is a ridiculously easy fight to maintank (at least with zero or one drake up) as long as you position him right on the pull. Put him in the right spot on the east end of his island, and it’s no more than six steps to either side for safety when the lava walls roll through.
So I accidentally got to maintank Kel’thuzad, and intentionally got to maintank Sartharion. And, oh yeah, I got my Tier 7.5 breastplate. And all I really wanted to do last night, besides downing the bosses, was test out if a slight tweak to my actionbars would improve my threat and my deeps. (It did. I’ll post more on that later.)
Clean one-shot for The Anvil Raid’s first 25-man Kel’Thuzad kill. Then we celebrated by going out and doing our first Sartharion 25-man (no drakes), also on a clean one-shot. The dargon gave me a nice pair of pants, too.
Next week, we’ll hopefully get KT again with enough spare time to start on Sarth +1.