Welcome to Castle Nathria!

After two weeks of grinding, we’re here with the newest raid opening! Once I reached 60 on my Priest, I realized I had nothing else to do after clearing out Maw dailies, Callings, and progressing on my Covenant Renown. Mythic 0s can only be done so many times before there is no longer any reason to do it. Torghast gets a little old once you’ve reached the max layer allowable (layer 3) and are limited in which wings you can enter. I leveled up my Ret Paladin and my Frost Mage all within the first week and completed Mythic 0s and everything else on the weekly checklist there.

My alts are now officially more geared than my main.

In another bout of idiocy, I absentmindedly levelled my Elemental Shaman to 60 as well. Unlike my Ret Paladin and Frost Mage which levelled via Threads of Fate, I opted to take the scenic story route this time because I rushed through all of the cutscenes and dialogue. I watched the majority of it on beta during as those scenes were all a work in progress, but it’s nice to watch the whole thing as it was intended.

So here I am with 4 level 60s. The more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to agree with everyone that this may well be the most alt friendliest expansion in an extremely long time. There’s no pressure to keep limitlessly grinding for some kind of currency like Artifact Power or Azerite Power on your main. Renown comes the closest but even that is capped. Same thing with Anima which can be farmed and used to purchase several upgrades, but those Covenant Upgrades are limited by the number of Lost Souls you can acquire per week. Venari’s Torghast upgrades are also account-wide meaning I can simply do The Maw on just my Priest and the rest of the Torghast perks will filter out to the rest of my characters.

The Gearing Process

I decided to hold off on pursuing the auction house to augment my Priest. I’m sitting at a nice, comfortable 181 item level right and it’s more than ample to get through Mythic Plus and Heroic Raid. We ran with our pre-arranged Mythic 0 groups last week and unfortunately, the Mage I was with needed the same slots and pieces as I did! We weren’t able to trade gear to the other. In hindsight, an audible should’ve been called on the day before Mythic 0 reset to see if it was possible for a class-for-class substitution amongst the groups to see if maximizing gear trading would be beneficial. But it was too late and I’m not too worried about it.

A few players in guild opted to drop hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of gold on BoEs from the auction house to equip their character. I don’t necessarily agree with that method especially during the opening week when upgrades from Mythic Plus and raid (on both Normal AND Heroic) can offer immediate performance boosts. Even BoEs that I’ve found I would list on the Auction House right away. I figured I could sell them while they’re valued highly. If I wanted use the item later, I’d buy it closer to raid week when the prices have lowered substantially and still obtain a net profit.

My alts are a different story. I didn’t hesitate to buy a 2H weapon for my Ret Paladin because I know they’re not as likely to see a ton of play once raid opens but I still want to make sure that they’re able to contribute to alt runs or Mythic Dungeons.

The Trial Process

Speaking of raid week, our trials that have been on the sidelines waiting are now formally going to be evaluated! They’ve come to our N’zoth runs on Mythic and participated with us on farm content. Their trials wouldn’t officially start until Castle Nathria opened. They haven’t left the guild yet or been kicked out, so it’s safe to assume from a “fit” standpoint that the two’ll be okay. But the real test starts now as we see how they handled raid progression because not many players have the mental fortitude to wipe endlessly with minimal progression. We will have good days and we will have bad days. I remain skeptical but am cautiously optimistic that they will pass from what I’ve seen. 600 wipes to an end boss can easily crush people (Kil’jaeden back in Legion springs to mind).

Now I sit anxiously at the login screen waiting for servers to come back up.

How is your guild planning for Shadowlands?

I love this pre-expansion rush especially at the guild planning level. It’s full of spreadsheets and spreadsheets of names, professions, legendaries, and so forth. This is my second expansion rush with this guild as I joined them at the end of Legion. I’ve gone through the leveling with my guild during Battle for Azeroth and now I’ll be undergoing another expansion with them. One of the big differences I’m appreciating in this go-round is the level of preparation our guild is taking as a whole.

Dungeons

The first week of the expansion is to give everyone the time they need to level up, finish out Covenants, and start gearing out their character from heroic dungeons or even mythic 0s if they’re able to do it. However, the next week there will be much more structured. We’ve been assigned into groups. There are 6 pre-made dungeon groups that have been created to maximize armor trading. In my group, I have a Warrior tank, a Ret Paladin, a Mage, and a Warlock (2 plate and 3 cloth wearers). We took the last few weeks of the pre-patch off from raid so it’ll be a good way to get reacclimated to our raiding schedule as we’ve plugged in mythic runs into that week instead.

Legendaries

More spreadsheets here with our roster listing what their initial legendaries are going to be along with which armor slot it will take. This also doubles as our professions listing. Since legendaries will involve various crafting and gathering professions, it helps to have this all in a sheet that’s accessible at a glance.

Raid Defensives

With the departure of our former raid leader due to real-life obligations, our present healing lead will be taking over planning and strategy. I have been voluntold to take over defensive management and healing planning. My guild found my blog and have discovered that I appear to have a knack for it.

There’s this HealCD spreadsheet out there where you can plug in classes and cooldowns for each boss. It’ll generate and export a string that will plug right into Exorsus Raid Tools (ERT) for raid notes. Work has begun to start planning for bosses based on our initial experiences in the raid from beta. We’ll probably throw those out after the first week though.

Guild Housekeeping

Out of everything else, what I appreciated the most was the schedule and expectations that raiders were expected to hit. We had a certain item level that we needed to reach. Important dates were posted ahead of time and what activities we were looking to do (such as Mythic Castle Nathria on the first day) along with alternatives in case certain conditions weren’t met. There are a lot more resources out there and players are arranging Torghast groups as they progress to higher, difficult levels. It feels like an unspoken energy in the air as we’ve just woken up and our looking forward to getting underway with progression and all that.

We’re just under a couple of days now! How has your guild’s preparations gone? Was there any at all or is it more relaxed compared to previous expansions?

How to Not Completely Fail Your CE Guild Trial

“Matticus! Help! I’m in a 5/12 Mythic guild and they broke apart and I applied for a Cutting Edge guild! What can I do to not sh** the bed?”

Congratulations! Your application process went through. You successfully passed your interview. Now the real work starts as you have to actually go in and play! Can you keep up with the other raiders in there without looking like a moron?

Yes you can, and here’s how you do it.

Don’t die

Above all else, this. If you’re dead, you’re useless. Do everything you can to stay alive even if it means sacrificing part of your DPS. At the CE level, things like enrages or DPS checks are actually relevant because if not met, then the raid can’t advance to the next phase (or eliminate the raid boss). You can always optimize your DPS rotation or whatever on subsequent pulls but you can’t do that if you’re dead. As a healer, I gauge new players on their ability to survive. If they die early and often, you can absolutely bet that I will bring that to the attention of our leadership and for trial feedback. Avoidable deaths will almost always force a reset especially on a progression boss. Pulls have the highest chance of succeeding when players are alive.

I call that the healer eye test — Someone who does a good job avoiding damage and surviving. That being said, a player could still pass the eye test and do terrible damage but that’s not up to me to evaluate.

Anyway, the best outcome is to not standout and to be invisible to a healer. Use those health stones, use your defensives, and trust your healers can do what they can to sustain you. But don’t expect them to bail out anyone that stands in a cleave or doesn’t get out of the way of any incoming abilities.

If you are going to die, better ensure your healthstone/health potions are used!

Do your job

Need to CC something? Set up a macro. Assigned to an interrupt? Don’t miss it, but if you do, speak up and ask for coverage. Ball duty? Go early to your position and don’t miss unless you want a 3 hour groan-fest on Xanesh. Prove that you are dependable. That means click the extra action button at the right time or doing a variety of other thankless tasks. The players who can consistently do that will be the ones that will get more active raid time in the group instead of on the bench outside looking in.

The DPS will come later if you stay alive and do your job. It might be demoralizing to see yourself closer to the bottom of the rankings, but don’t worry about that because you’re competing against others who’ve farmed these bosses for a while and have a gear advantage over you (or a Corruption advantage).

Ask questions

I will always respect someone who takes up an extra 30 seconds pre-pull to ask a question about an assignment as opposed to wiping 6 minutes later because they were unclear as what their position was. Things like interrupt orders, CC assignments, when Heroism is used, and so forth are all excellent questions and a new player to the raid might’ve been used to their old guild’s method of doing things so it shouldn’t be assumed that they know what the new guild’s playbook is. DPS players might want to check with others to find out when their cooldowns are lined up and used. Same thing with healing assignments. Some encounters have them planned out in advance and others are more reactive.

However, if you happen to ask my guild when Revival should be used, the answer will always be, “Whenever Matticus casts Divine Hymn.”

Sigh.

Accountability

Did you screw up somehow? Own it. With the transparency of Warcraft Logs and how there’s always someone in raid streaming these days, chances are your mistake will get caught and dissected. No point in lying about it if you knew you were the root cause. It’s a different story though if you’re unsure, and this is one of those things where you go back up to the previous point about asking questions. Chances are, applying to a CE guild means you’re trying to advance upwards which means you’ll be exposed to some encounters and abilities that you might not necessarily have seen before. If you’re asked what got you and you’re able to identify both what it was and what you can do about it, then you’ll impress.

Don’t go too far though. Don’t need to regale the raid with a life story of how time seem to have slowed and you were unable to run away from your Thing From Beyond. Keep it short and succinct.

Don’t Argue

Seriously, c’mon. You’re a guest in the guild until you’re really accepted. Even if you’re right and they’re wrong a billion times over, arguing about something during raid is almost never a good idea. If it’s worth bringing up, delay it until after raid is over in private. I’ve seen too many people try to pull, “Back in my old guild, we used to do X.” First of all, that’s nice, but the method being used is the current approach that’s been decided. Overhauling a strategy is one of those things that can wait until later. Proving that someone else killed you instead of you failing a mechanic can wait until later. Respect the raid’s time.

Be Sociable

You don’t need to hang out with your guild all the time. For real, my guild’s sick of me but I try to keep them alive more than myself (and have succeeded). If you get an opportunity to get to know other players in the guild, jump in on it. Hang out on Discord if you see people online. Jump in and help out with a dungeon key. This is as much a way to gauge whether or not this guild is right for you as you are for them. Maybe you find out one of their tanks has a cat. Or perhaps all the Warlocks really love pineapple pizza and that might just be a dealbreaker for you.

At the end of the day, try to leave a positive impression. You might discover that even though the guild decided that you weren’t a fit right now, a roster player might leave later opening up a position for you. In my guilds, we have failed trials only to accept them later (and some because they wanted to try again in a different class or role). Sometimes the answer isn’t necessarily a no.

It’s a not yet.

Disclaimer: There is a possibility that you could have followed all of the previous steps listed above and still fail your trial. That is okay. Captain Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” There will always be another guild you can try again with until you find a new home.

My Disdain for Mythic+ Dungeons

I hate healing dungeons. It didn’t always used to be that way. Cataclysm dungeons (pre-nerf) used to be a great experience. Players had to employ crowd control to su-CC-essfully get through trash pulls. Even Pandaria and the challenge mode system that spawned from it were aspects of the game that I looked forward to.

Something happened over the course of Warlords, to Legion, and then to Battle for Azeroth. The shine began to wear off. The anticipation I used to feel going into fun, 5-man dungeon content morphed into a sense of anxiety and dread. When my guild asked if I wanted to do keys, I began to sidestep and volunteer one of the other healers such as a Druid or a Shaman.

Take one of them! The run would go overall much smoother!

I’d end up doing one key for the week on a Monday night last call just for the weekly chest. Over the course of 3 expansions, I had completely lost my confidence to heal a simple dungeon.

It wasn’t until recently that I finally figured out why. You see, I had been repeatedly exposed to information that being a Holy Priest is a liability in dungeons. Even now, you can discover YouTube videos and Twitch streams of players discussing the states of healers and ranking their perceived performance in various aspects of the game. Holy Priest just isn’t looking that great right now. It’s not because the spec is bad or anything, but the other classes happen to do something better. I would be hard-pressed to name even one thing that a Holy Priest can excel at.

That mindset is going to wear people down just like it did me. Even doing keys now (which I stopped running halfway through July once we began to consistently defeat N’Zoth) where if a tank went down or a wipe occurred, I wouldn’t even bother trying to track down the root cause. Why? It was probably my fault. Except it’s not my fault, it’s because he’s a Holy Priest.

“Group wipe? Not his fault he plays Holy.”

“Tank died? Not his fault he plays Holy.”

“Didn’t 3 chest a key? Not his fault he plays Holy.”

The expectation is that as Holy we’re just going to be good enough and that’s it.

During the end of expansion review, our guild likes to expansion exit interviews individually with the raid (What they liked about the expansion, approach to raiding, things that felt disappointing, things they appreciated, etc). It also gives options for players to switch classes or specs (or roles) going into Shadowlands. It’s a great practice and if your guild doesn’t do this already, I highly recommend it. I’d get asked if I was considering moving to a Monk or a Paladin to heal entering the next tier. I’m sure the question was asked in jest, and the idea was even floated during raids. The subtlety wasn’t lost on me — Holy wasn’t looking too hot and it might be time to go run flavour of the month, people were implying. This, to me, the guy who cleared all of Burning Crusade, Wrath, Cataclysm, and so forth as but a lowly Holy Priest.

It’s enough to make me second guess everything. Why bother even trying hard when the effort to try when everyone already has a pre-conceived notion of performance to begin with, right?

Objectively, it’s going to be difficult for a Holy Priest to competitively heal high keys. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t bother trying to do anything more than a 17. I think my highest was a 19 (timed) during this expansion. The weekly chest change in terms of required activities is a huge relief. I can still get the weekly reward and all I need to do is raid and do the bare minimum when it comes to keys (or skip it entirely, if I so choose later on when I feel I’ve reached a comfortable power level).

I’ve mentally reached the point now where I’ve associated an inability to heal high keys to an inability to heal any key. Maybe we’ll get some help in the legendaries and soulbinds department but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m still glad I’ll have my cloak back and can pseudo-cheese raids (and be useful for another form of wipe protection, whoo).

That’s an internal mindset problem, though. If I don’t think I can do it and the world is saying that I can’t do it, then there is no point in trying. Here we are with another expansion and what looks to be another two years of mediocrity.

Again.

To Catch a Cheater

The other week, we held our longest Valorant tournament ever! Over 60 teams competed. We had $2,000 up for grabs. All over the course of two days.

It was also free to boot.

I even got some time in as an observer and manning one of the in-game cameras to try to catch all the action.

However, that weekend we did something I never would have imagined. We caught a cheater live, red-handed on stream.

You can see the clip here

Right around the 14 second mark of the clip, you can see the crosshair immediately lock on to the player behind the door instead of the other player that was in front!

After one of our observers caught the footage, it was immediately flagged by our staff as suspicious. Our replay crew saved it (though Twitch chat clipped it just as fast as we did even though they were on a delay).

One of the questions that came up during chat is why didn’t we pause the game for review. The game was already in overtime and we simply let the teams play out to the game’s conclusion. The win ended up going to the team that didn’t cheat anyway. I can only imagine the uproar that would’ve happened if it went the other way.

I can’t go into details about our anti-cheat procedures or policy too much, but I wanted to offer a bit of insight as to why we don’t simply stop the game right there and then to review a play. As much as we’d like to be the NHL, we can’t pause a game after every suspected action or accusation. It would just drag games on for too long and add an unnecessary backlog. Two day events are long enough as is and there are legitimate reasons enough for matches to go on for extended amounts of time (like last year when a match went to five overtimes and the teams ended up splitting).

If the team didn’t cheat

Let’s say a team was accused of cheating and it turns out it was a legitimate play. Maybe the received valid, in-game information from one of their team members as to where a victim was. Had we paused the game, we trigger a delay, and it throws off the momentum of both teams which could unfairly impact subsequent rounds.

If the team did cheat

Then the score and the match results would get overturned at the end no matter what. We can always change the score and issue a disqualification if we determine that there is a confirmed cheating violation.

That’s why we’re better off just letting things finish while we investigate in between games. There is no real drawback to waiting.

In the end, another cheater gets eliminated from the game. But this is the reality with competition is that as prize pools get larger, more measures need to be taken to maintain competitive integrity. Anti-cheat is always going to be playing defense because it responds to new programs and new methods by cheat developers. It’s easier (and tempting) to cheat in an online event as opposed to a live one where are much more eyes on players.

All in all, it was definitely an exciting weekend but I hate having to deal with cheaters.