Friday, February 19, 2010

Icecrown Raid Updates

Earlier in this year we restructured our raid teams to get more people involved in Icecrown. We had been running one team because it was simple enough to fill that team each week, and it wasn't a strain on the weekly schedule. And also because we only had one raid leader, me. But that left us with a number of able raiders who didn't get to raid as often as they liked because we could only take 10 at a time. We discussed doing a scheduled rotation, but I was against that plan. I worried that it would just compound the problem we were having, namely that people weren't getting to raid as often as they wanted to. Rotations wouldn't fix that, they would just distribute the "not raiding" equally across the members.

We had enough members, and so we eventually ended up with two separate and individual teams. Our rules were simple. To avoid one team being cannibalized by the other in the event of no shows or scheduling, neither team could take a main raider for the other's use. Alts were up for grabs as long as people were willing. We did our best to allocate people to each team based on class, role, and approximate skill levels, and I think we did a pretty good job of it. We still didn't have a permanent raid leader for the other team, but we were going to use sub leaders until someone stepped up.

So that's the context for the rest of this post. I lead one of the teams weekly on Tuesday and Friday nights now. We've been very lucky in that we haven't had any major scheduling problems with people to the extent we couldn't raid one of the weeks. Granted, this has only been going on for a month, so our time will come. Hopefully with enough advance notice, we can reschedule or sub people in to make it still happen. The other team raids Thursday/Sunday, and they've struggled a bit on getting people together on one or two nights due to scheduling problems. Just the other night, Lal and I were able to help with our alts to fill some holes though, so the system seems to be operating as expected, and doing well.

The heart of this, though, is our progress. Last week, my team got our first kills on Blood Prince Council and shortly thereafter, Blood-Queen Lana'thel which had us very excited. We'd spent the previous 3-4 weeks wiping to Rotface and his oozes. A victory over the Crimson Halls really encouraged our abilities as raiders and as a team. We're going back into Icecrown tonight with the Lower Spire and Festergut down, so we'll start with the Blood Princes and attempt to finish them and their Queen off with fewer wipes than last week.

Rotface has me stumped. We originally had our paladin tank kiting oozes and our bear tank on Rotface. Even when we got better at avoiding slime sprays and kiting the small oozes to the big ooze, we were still dying at around the magical 4 minute mark when the oozes became too much to handle. Rotface never got much lower than 25%. The next time, we changed it up, and I kited oozes while maintaining some DPS on Rotface and the paladin tank went DPS. We had a lot better success with this strategy, but we still couldn't get him down. I think our best attempt had him with less than 5% health. The causes of these wipes were mostly getting a second big ooze in the middle due to people not dragging them out in time. Avoiding slime sprays also seemed to be a bit tricky. Our DPS was a lot better though, and with just a little more we thought we could get him. We spent a whole night on Rotface, and 24 wipes later, we were defeated.

I'm expecting to beat the Crimson Hall again tonight. After which we will return to Rotface to claim our victory. I think with a few more tries, the hunter kiting strategy will work, but it takes everyone being on the ball about moving out with their little slimes and side stepping out of those slime sprays. The other hang up usually happens when the big ooze explodes, and the transition out of the center of the room and back is usually very rough. We tried to two heal the encounter to help get the DPS up, but then people were dying to much to little oozes and puddles, so we went back to three healers. I don't really know which is better, but what's important is that we find a way that works.

After that it's Putricide time. We haven't fought him yet, but I'm hopeful, so very hopeful, that he's not going to be as hard as Rotface. Compared to all of the other encounters, Rotface is an exponential increase in difficulty for our raid. I don't know if it's the same way for most other people, but Rotface seems to play to our weaknesses much like Yogg-Saron did in Ulduar. But Rotface isn't the final boss, so the difficulty level was a bit unexpected. Putricide has some fun mechanics as well, but much like we were able to get the Blood Council and the Blood-Queen, think a few hours on Putricide will spell his doom. But don't quote me on that.

We briefly tried the Dreamwalker fight in Icecrown where the Healers take center stage in healing Valithria. We were overwhelmed with adds and wiped twice before calling it for the night. We got a taste of it though, and we'll soon be working on the nuances. For now, I'm deciphering the best plan of attack to make the most of our raid nights. It's a fairly simple task to clear the lower spire and Festergut in about two hours on Tuesday. But depending on how we do tonight in the Crimson Halls, I may start trying to clear the lower spire and then through Blood-Queen all on Tuesday night to make way for doing the harder wings on Friday.

All three of my 80s are Icecrown geared now. Elionene the most, obviously, but Khristin is doing very well on gear. I just need an off hand and a nice trinket for her. Salthier is borderline, and I've discovered that there are very slim pickings when it comes to bear tanking upgrades that you can obtain outside of raiding. All of Lal's 80s are Icecrown ready too, which makes us prime candidates for filling in spots on teams when needed, and we like it that way.

We're going back in with the second team on Sunday. I love healing it on Khristin, my Shaman, and I've been tinkering with her glyphs and spec to be a little more productive. I expect us to do very well, hopefully getting Blood Princes down, though I'm not sure if that's what they'll be working at. In that role, I'm not the leader, so it takes a bit of effort from me to hold back and just follow orders. Something I definitely need to work on.

Between the two teams in Icecrown, a group of people doing hard mode Ulduar fights, and some random raids here and there, Veritas has been cementing itself as one of the best 10 person-strict guilds on our server. I'm proud of that, and I'm looking forward to continuing our progression and maintaining that status.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shared Topic: The Coming Cataclysm

In an effort to get back into the habit of blogging and writing, here's a shared topic from the Blog Azeroth forums. The question put forth is, "How will the Cataclysm change your game?"

A lot of us are looking forward to the new expansion. It's still a ways away, and I still have a lot I want to accomplish before it comes, but the new expansion will change a lot of things in the game. And I'm excited about most of it.

A Changed World
Many of the old world areas we know and love today will be forever changed. One of those areas is Ashenvale, which is rumored to be finally be decimated by the Orcs. In a role play sense, this is the home of Elionene, and it will be a very significant event to her. Where she may be at most distrustful of the Horde now, after they rampage over the forest she grew up in, she will become more openly hostile. This makes a difference in how I role play with people in game, what role play I do anyway. Since becoming a raid leader and officer in the guild, I've sort of let role play slide off to the side a bit. The Cataclysm might be what entices me to return to it a bit.

New Races
I'm excited about both of the new races. I don't typically play horde, but I think it would be a lot of fun to play a goblin. I'm at least going to run the new starting area for them. I've also got plans to make my goblin a hunter, which will be my first hunter since rolling my main, Elionene. Where Elionene is about skill, grace, and precision (I tend to use bows exclusively), my goblin hunter will be all about the explosions, the kill, and might be a tad on the insane side. I need to contemplate the perfect pet for him. Ideally, something much bigger than he is.

Worgen will be awesome. I'm hoping to roll this race with Lal and maybe a few other people to play through the starter area as a group. My plan is to make a worgen priest. A discipline priest if I ever get to a high enough level where it matters. My inclination is to think of worgen as a melee class, fighting claw and tooth at the front lines. So I'm purposefully going against that grain and creating a spell caster, and a healer to boot. Should be fun.

Speaking of a worgen priest, I've come to find out (after 3 years of having a dps main) that I actually really enjoy healing. I've experienced both restoration druid and shaman healing at level 80. I generally prefer the shaman healing, but healing in general is very satisfying for me. There's a possibility that I would consider switching my main to a healing class to raid with at level 85. Since we all start over with gear when an expansion hits, it's the perfect time to switch mains for raiding.

My hang up is that as a raid leader, it's hard to watch the fight and call out stuff to the raid when I'm glued to healing bars. That alone will probably prevent me from switching. As a dps, and especially as a ranged dps, I have a good view of every fight we do. And I do intend to raid in Cataclysm. Before I roll any new races, I'll be working my way to 85 on several toons.

One major thing that will be different for raiding is that Veritas as a 10 person raiding guild is light years beyond where we were when we started Karazhan. I expect to start raiding much earlier into the Cataclysm expansion than we did in the Wrath expansion, and competing with the other top 10-strict guilds on our server.

Guild Leveling
Something the other officers in Veritas and I are very excited about is the new guild leveling system. We don't have a lot of details, but from the sound of it, it will be fun and rewarding for everyone in the guild. Something to work on together besides just raiding. It may change how we run the guild, or how we do ranks and privileges for our members. I'm eager to hear more about this.

The more things change...
As I'm going over all of these changes in my head, I realize I'm probably not going to change much about how I play the game, but just looking forward to the new stuff that's coming. Above all else, I'm most excited about new lore, new quests, new dungeons and raids, and new alts to roll. All of which I'm doing now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Closer Look at Icecrown Citadel - Lower Spire

Lord Marrowgar
Lord Marrowgar is the first line of defense against those that would seek to enter Icecrown Citadel and attempt to assault the spire upon which sits the frozen throne. He is the only known Bone Wraith in existence and is an undead construct similar to abominations. What is he constructed from? I'm glad you asked.

The Lich King and the scourge have killed a lot of people in the last few years. Most of them were probably raised as ghouls or skeletons and thrown right back at us among the hordes of undead already attacking, but some of them, quite a few of them actually, were reserved, and the bones of those adventurers were used to create what we know as Lord Marrowgar.

That's really it. He's a collection of bones pieced and held together by the power of the Lich King, and when you make him angry, he yells BONESTORM! and spins around a lot. This leads me to believe he's made up of mostly warrior bones, and maybe a few frost mages in there too.

As far as bosses go, Marrowgar is pretty light weight. Seems the Lich King needs to make his guardians a little stronger, but the king does have other responsibilities. That's why he's got scourge like Professor Putricide on the payroll. But more about him later.

Lady Deathwhisper
Yes, you're eyes are not telling you wrong. It's a she-lich. The only one we've encountered so far, too. Lady Deathwhisper is the Supreme Overseer of the
Cult of the Damned which is somewhat surprising since the cult has been around for some time, but this is the first we've seen of Lady Deathwhisper. Within Icecrown, Deathwhisper stands in the Oratory of the Damned behind the spire, preaching the will of the Lich King to the cult members that gather there.

The Cult of the Damned, for those that may not know or recall, is a large group of living (not dead or undead) races that have devoted themselves to the service of the Lich King. It was through this cult that the Lich King first exerted his influence in the world many years ago. Kel'thuzad was on of the founding members before he was killed and raised as a lich, and it was through the cult that the plague was brought to Lordaeron. It appears that Lady Deathwhisper's role has been to oversee the operation and to preach the message of the cult to the uninitiated. We don't know anything about her prior life, who she was before she was a lich, or how she came to be the overseer.

When you happen upon her, you can hear her extol the virtues of death and service to the Lich King. She's somewhat of a zealot herself, proclaiming even upon her death that it is all in accordance with the Master's plan.

Gunship Battle

There's no actual boss to talk about here, but that's not to say there isn't a lot of lore to talk about. For one, you have two very strong lore figures in the captains of the horde and alliance gunships, as well as the entire storyline leading up to the Horde vs. Alliance standoff in Icecrown to begin with.

Muradin Bronzebeard is the captain of the Alliance ship, the Skybreaker. Muradin is brother to Brann and Magni Bronzebeard. You remember Brann as the explorer from Halls of Stone and Ulduar (Evasive Action! EVASIVE ACTION!), and Magni is the King of the dwarves over in Ironforge. Muradin is the middle child and was the liaison between the dwarves of Khaz Modan and Lordaeron. It was through this connection that he met a young Arthas Menethil and helped to train him as he was growing up. Later on, Arthas would betray Muradin's friendship when he took up Frostmourne and seemingly killed Muradin.

Muradin survived however, and found his way to the Frosthold in the Storm Peaks where, his memory lost to him, he joined and became king of the Frostborn Dwarves. Through a series of quests in the Storm Peaks, we the players reunite Muradin with his brothers and he gets his memories back, and first on his list of things to do is to take down Arthas who had since become the Lich King. Thus we see Muradin take a central role in Icecrown as he seeks to end the reign of Arthas that started when they had found Frostmourne.

On the Horde ship, Orgrim's hammer, High Overlord Varok Saurfang leads his forces. Saurfang has been a fixture in the Horde since early WoW, serving a s a quest turn in for Nefarion's head and backing the rule of Thrall over the new horde. He is a veteran of the first, second, and third wars on Azeroth, and a legend in his own right. He lead the Horde forces in Ahn'Qiraj, and served as an advisor to Garrosh Hellscream in the push into Northrend.

Saurfang's son, Dranosh, also fought in Northrend at the Wrathgate. It was there that the Lich King took the soul of Saurfang Jr. And it is for this reason that the assault on the citadel is very personal for Saurfang Sr. In fact, the battle directly after the gunship battle is against Deathbringer Saurfang, the broken spirit of Dranosh, now in service to the Lich King. As the Alliance, we get to see a scene play out after the fight where Saurfang comes to reclaim the body of his son. It's a touching moment (until Jaina mucks it up), but I imagine it's even more dramatic Horde side, as Saurfang has to issue orders to attack his own son, even if his spirit is no longer whole.

So two heroes of their respective factions, both with personal vendetta's against the Lich King, as well as a mandate from their superiors to attack the citadel. The question stands out, why aren't they working together?

The tension between the Horde and Alliance has always been tenuous, but with the events of the Wrathgate, the hostilities throughout Northrend, and the unwillingness to compromise shown by their respective leaders, both sides feel that they are more entitled to the defeat of Arthas, and rather than join forces, they fight each other on their way to defeat the Lich King. It's a matter of pride, and an unwillingness to trust the other side, but be what it may, this is how things have transpired. It's interesting to me that Tirion and the Knights of the Ebon Blade have managed to band together in the Ashen Verdict, yet while they spear head the attack on Icecrown, the Horde and Alliance trivialize that union with their squabbles.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as we reach the end of the Wrath of the Lich King and what it means for the hostilities between the factions.

Deathbringer Saurfang


Saurfang is the Lich King's most powerful Death Knight. He's also one of the more recent acquisitions of the Lich King, which leads me to believe he's not powerful because of his service to the Lich King, but because of the strength of the soul from which this death knight was made. So let's take a look at how Deathbringer Saurfang came to be.

Dranosh Saurfang is the son of Overlord Saurfang (who we talked about on the boat). His mother is unknown. Our first encounter with Saurfang the Younger is in Nagrand where he is one of the soul survivors of a war party made of young orcs on a mission of revenge against the Murkblood Broken. The broken had decimated Sunspring Post, and young Saurfang's band did not fare well when they confronted them. Through a few quests, you assist him in his revenge, and when you finish, Saurfang Jr. declares that he cannot return hom, and that he must walk the earth, for he feels he has a greater destiny.

Fast forward to Northrend. Saurfang the Elder and Grom Hellscream are leading the Warsong Offensive in the frozen wastes. Saurfang the younger is stationed at the Wrathgate. In a role similar to that of Bolvar Fordragon on the Alliance side, Saurfang Jr. leads the charge for the horde against the gate. The Lich King emerges and kills Saurfang the Younger, drawing his soul into the cursed blade Frostmourne. Before much else happens, Putrice busts out a plague on both the scourge and the alliance and horde forces, sending the Lich King packing back to Icecrown.

We don't see it, but it becomes apparent that the scourge were able to grab the body of Saurfang Jr. before they retreated as when we encounter him in Icecrown, he is alive as an undead orc Death Knight can be. But before Icecrown, there is one more glimpse of Saurfang. In the fight with Yogg-Saron, players encounter three visions. One of these visions incorporates the Lich King torturing the souls of those he has killed. One of them, the immolated champion, has not yet been broken, but the other, the turned champion, has been broken, and is in fact Saurfang Jr.

So a sad tale for one who once saw he had a great destiny. His soul captured and tortured, he was raised once more to fight both the Horde and Alliance as the breach the upper spire of Icecrown Citadel. Upon his death, the Alliance sees Saurfang the Elder approach for the body of his son. King Varian sees fit to allow this, over Muradin's objections. We're all so proud of him.

In the Horde version, Saurfang is there at the beginning of the fight, stating that he is there to claim the body of his son, who died at the wrathgate. He then reveals Saurfang the Younger's first name, Dranosh, which means Heart of Draenor.