Another Guild Chapter Closed

I don’t know where to start. It’s 30 degrees in my room and I have no air conditioning. It feels like I’m encased in a cocoon of hotness. Not sure which of you out there still actively reads blogs. It seems the Warcraft community has since migrated to streams, YouTube videos, and Discord communities. People like me are a relic from a past era. For now, I’m going to write this post for me in the hopes of getting some kind of closure that I never received for all five of you that’re still following me.

It has been 40+ days since the guild decided to call it quits for raiding in the Castle Nathria tier. There is no intention of reforming the organization for patch 9.1 or beyond. Aside from the GM, I was the longest remaining tenured raider in the roster as I had joined at the tail end of Tomb of Sargeras but began actively raiding in Antorus (Listen, I wanted no part of progression Kil’jaeden at the time so I was content with letting their existing roster finish it all out).

After two expansions, my time has ended. I haven’t decided what to do and 9.1 release is imminent.

What happened?

We were doing well enough on Stone Legion Generals. The Sunday night we had been getting some good early looks at phase 3. Monday rolls around and a message goes out in Discordl from our raid leader to everybody saying that leadership has decided to cease raiding for the rest of the tier. Every raider would be receiving a cut of the guild bank and that we would re-evaluate for 9.1. It was rather abrupt and caught me off guard. I can only surmise what happened but if I were to hazard a guess, I would say that more players were either burning out and planning to leave or our officers themselves were directly burning out. I will never know the exact cause of our demise.

If I had to be honest, I saw this coming a long ways away at the start of the expansion. During Battle for Azeroth, we had achieved a level of stability and accomplished our Mythic raiding goals from Uldir, to Dazar’alor, to Eternal Palace, and Nyalotha (We do not talk about Mythic Uu’naut. We cleared every end boss at the Mythic level. To get from that level to not even lasting a full introductory raid tier in Shadowlands is just tragic.

I can point to one incident that started our downward descent. During the early days of the expansion as we were reinforcing our roster, our aim was to carry a team of 27 players. It was a solid number that allowed for flexibility and accounted for any holes in the roster or encounter specific strategies.

Where did it go wrong?

Nepotism ruins everything. We had a player come in who was a family member of an officer. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I figured that the officer would not be involved in the recruiting process at all whatsoever and abstain (as they should because it’s a conflict of interest). If the recruit passed their trial, it would be by their own merit. In fact, that’s the way it should be otherwise you get accusations of bias and nepotism which leads to a loss of trust. This idea of trust is a fragile thing. It can take ages to build up and develop but it can be lost in a flash.

Every trial has a private channel (where they are excluded) that’s set up where raiders can put in their observations of how they interacted or played during the two weeks they’re with us. I don’t know anything about DPS, so I won’t weigh in on that stuff. I’ll usually pipe up if I notice the trial is dying more often than usual or getting hit by mechanics more than normal. I don’t believe in making excuses for them, that’s up to the trial to do during their midtrial review. All I add is a data point from a healer’s perspective. It’s up to our officer team to decide what to do and how to interpret that data. Sometimes they’ll follow up and review the log and the answer is self explanatory (For example, trial took an unavoidable hit but didn’t receive a heal because it looked like they were out of range and didn’t make it back to the group in time before they died). We’re also permitted and encouraged to make observations about their attitude in areas outside of raid (For example, this player makes some pretty questionable jokes that’s enough to give me pause).

In any case, one of our veteran raiders made an observation about the trial’s performance midway through a raid. I can’t remember the specifics but I didn’t believe it was a direct attack on the player, but more a comment on their play. It was a simple mistake and could’ve been shrugged off. However, the officer took it personally and just went off on the raider. We happened to be in-between pulls, but I snapped off a few quick messages saying that the officer’s remarks were offside and unnecessary. I sided with our raider on this one. The night was almost over anyway and most of our players were too busy focused on raiding but after the night was over, more of our veterans stepped up and said the same thing. I tried to defuse and disarm the situation by asking everyone to take a breath, go to bed, and come back tomorrow and it could be discussed further at length.

What I failed to account for was that our officer had a bit of a rocky relationship (possibly a vendetta) against the initial raider.

It didn’t matter. Within two raid lockouts, we had lost four players. Was it a direct result of what had occurred? I don’t know. I never spoke to those players after so I can’t say it with absolute certainty, but I would not be surprised if it was a factor. I knew there were another few more that were going to wait and see but already had one foot out the door.

The trust had been irrevocably lost.

Our raid atmosphere was never the same.

The friendly and welcoming culture was gone.

I could tell our raid had become much more guarded than usual. It felt like the relationship between leadership and the rest of the raid had been shattered. For my part, I just simply shook it off, tried to forge ahead, and do what I had been brought on to do: Play to the best of my ability.

For the next several months, I watched as new raiders came in and veterans left. During that period, it felt like were constantly trying to recover and stabilize. We were so busy trying to catch our breath. Not only that, it doesn’t help that we’re also on Alliance and it’s already difficult to recruit on this side of the compared to our Horde… colleagues? Nemesis? It was a constant cycle of losing veterans and trying to fill gaps with recruits.

What happens now?

I had another fellow raider reach out to me directly to apply to one of their guild’s raid crews. I’m still mulling over what I want to do. From what I’ve been able to see on forums and recruiting sits, Holy Priests aren’t exactly high in demand (much less one who only plays a Holy Priest at a Mythic raid level). I could play Shadow but I would not be able to come close to the skill level required there.

I’ve been asked by followers and friends to switch to Horde. The recruiting pool is much larger and there are way more raiding guilds to choose from. I can’t do it though. I even play a Pandaren which fits in either faction! My main has always been Alliance. I played Warcraft 1 and Warcraft 2 when I was literally a kid and my disdain for the Horde runs way too deep (although I have made Horde alts to check out their story in various expansions). Besides, simply faction changing to Horde seems like I’m giving in and exacerbating the issue even further.

For the past month and change, I had stepped into Final Fantasy 14. It’s a nice change of pace. I never picked it up before because I didn’t think I had the time to balance two MMOs so I’m playing this and enjoying the single player experience. My thoughts on the game will come at a separate time, but at the moment, I don’t foresee myself getting involved at the high end game level.

I don’t know what I want to do. My options are:

  • Raid Mythic at a high level (and chase Cutting Edge)
  • Raid Mythic at a moderate pace (Risk not getting CE)
  • Raid Heroic (chase AotC)
  • Not raid at all (and basically play out the expansion storylines)

Until I figure out what I’m looking for, it’s hard to find a guild that fits. Really my goal is to look for a disciplined raiding to join. I’ve played WoW for so long because I’ve been extremely fortunate in the guilds I joined which is what’s helped keep my subscription going. The content and expansion features to me were whatever, but it was the people I played with that made everything all the more worthwhile. My only major dealbreaker is that I can’t commit to Wednesday nights due to orchestra resuming soon.

If you’re an Alliance guild that’s looking for a mechanically sound healer who probably can’t torch healing meters that high that doesn’t have raids on Wednesdays, let me know.

Alas, I’ve disabled comments just because the amount of incoming spam from bots is just too overwhelming and I have yet to find a solution so far that doesn’t take up my time.

Halfway through Mythic Castle Nathria

Thought I’d drop in and post a quick update as it’s been a while. January’s been a busy month (both professionally and personally). From a progression standpoint, we are now 6/10 M. I managed to stream a few of those kills so I’ll be sure to clip and those videos onto here for those looking for a Holy Priest perspective there.

Guildwise, we’ve seen the departure of a few players. Our current recruiting needs are a Mage and a Holy Paladin. If you’re interested in learning more, drop us a line and apply here.

Thoughts so far

The limited raid drops continue to be punishing. I understand the dialing back of loot, but it really does feel bad to only get 3 items in a 20 player raid. Though that’ll change with the increased raid drops along with the new Valor system.

Shriekwing is a good entry level Mythic boss. Once you understand the patterns, it’s easy to plan around them even if you can’t actually see the Echoing Screech.

Huntsman is one of those inconsistent bosses. Either you have some dumb wipes to it, or it gets cleared in short order. There is a large amount of healing that has to go out here because of the extra ghosts. For Holy Priests, it is just like healing fish in a barrel between Holy Word: Sanctuary, Circle of Healing, and such.

Hungering Destroyer was the first real test. This one’s hard to heal through as Holy and I can see why a Discipline Priest is almost mandated here. You have to be precise with timings and prioritizing players (and groups). Coordination is key to managing the leech and the health drain.

Sun King was amazing and I haven’t had that much fun healing a boss since Valithria (Icecrown Citadel). Lots of planning that goes into this one especially on a week-to-week basis as player gear improves and cooldown timings continue to be fluid.

Haven’t healed Lady Darkvein yet and I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance to. I’ll explain later but from what I see, advance knowledge of trig is essential.

Artificer Xymox saw a change of minus one healer, and plus a DPS. I was the healer would get cut but I did managed to make through many attempts into phase 3. Actually, this entire encounter can be summarized by making it through two key moments in phase 3 and if your group is able to do that, then Xymox falls.

Now what?

We’ve now cleared to Council. Our leadership has decided that the clock has started and that we’re going to look at extensions from hereon out until this tier is complete. That’ll mean no shots for me on Lady Darkvein or Artificer Xymox. I’m okay with this. I felt that putting me in the group against Darkvein would be detrimental as I haven’t seen the encounter at all and that the time spent for me to experience it would be outweighed by time spent on the remaining bosses in the instance. There would be a lot of wasted time in that sense. Xymox I can probably step in for as I’ve seen enough of what has to happen and how to respond appropriately.

That’s all for now! Trying to find written Council guides for healing is tough as there doesn’t seem to be any at all. Most of it is all on video and I don’t have the patience to sit through different ones. I miss the age of the written word!

Flash Concentration and How to Use It

Going into Shadowlands, it seemed universally agreed upon that the Harmonius Apparatus was going to be the top throughput legendary for Holy Priests. Who doesn’t want Holy Word spells getting further cooldown reduction and indirectly feeding Holy Word: Salvation, right?

It wasn’t when I started trying to heal in mythic dungeons that I felt I was struggling more than most compared to Shamans and Druids (as usual). I considered Flash Concentration (or FC), though I was skeptical about it at first until I received a few recommendations about it. After a few dungeons and select raid bosses, I am now a believer.

Flash Concentration is a great pick among Holy Priest legendaries. It slots in either your wrist or neck slot. I selected the wrist slot for mine so I could apply a +15 Intellect enchant to it.

Each time you cast Flash Heal, Has its casting time reduced by 0.2 sec and healing increased by 3%, stacking up to 5 times.

For some reason, when I read that, I interpreted that it would apply only to your next Heal. That’s not what happens though. The FC buff lasts for 15 seconds. For that window, your Heal cast time is 1 second less which puts it as the same cast time as a Flash Heal and increases the healing throughput of it. You can squeeze off about 9 consecutive casts of Heal before having to hit Flash Heal to refresh it. Last week’s Fortified affixes included Grievous which was a struggle to heal through but having FC completely trivialized it.

Usage in dungeons

My talent setup

There is wiggle room. Shining Force gets the nod over Censure during a week like Necrotic where the slow and knockback can help your tanks shake off their stacks. I personally like Censure in most cases (largely because I’m not great in my Shining Force usage).

Depending on your dungeon layouts, Benediction is often the better move because you don’t need to fret about accidentally pulling an unintentional mob pack with Divine Star or Halo.

With the last row, you can make a case for Light of the Naaru or Apotheosis. I prefer Apotheosis just because of the on-demand reset for Holy Words in case something accidentally happens. This is my pug dungeon insurance. If I’m running with my guild or other players that I know consistently, I’ll convert over to Light of the Naaru instead.

Tip: Keep Mind Soothe handy. I’ve found it to be great when trying to get around certain packs.

Usage in raids

My talent setup

This is a slightly different setup for FC in raids. Enlightenment is now a necessity due to the increased time spent on the encounter. Cosmic Ripple gets you some increased passive healing. Censure or Shining Force is dependent on the encounter. Surge of Light continues to be valuable here to help maintain your FC stacks (otherwise I would just have Prayer Circle active). Halo is the main selection but there is merit to Benediction for certain encounters (like Huntsman and not breaking crowd control).

By default, I’ll keep Harmonius Apparatus equipped. For progression, I’ve got my awesome X’anshi, Return of Archbishop Benedictus pants! We’ll talk about that later though.

There are a few bosses in Castle Nathria where FC shines. If you’re working on progressing through Huntsman Altimor, I recommend using it. During Bargast, if your tank isn’t at full, a fully empowered Heal can help restore the Rip Soul spirits to full health quite quickly. It can top up your 3 players that have been hit with a Sinseeker.

On Mythic, it becomes even more crucial as there are more Rip Soul spirits that spawn off the Sinseeker targets. Whatever Holy Word: Sanctuary doesn’t catch, Flash Heal and Heal will finish off.

If you really want to have some fun, put this on when you’re about to start Sun King’s Salvation. Grab a healing orb, hit Kael with a Guardian Spirit, and start bombing away with Flash Heal and Heal. You will phase him into the Shade in no time.

WeakAuras

I recommend using this Weak Aura to track FC. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and it comes with audio cues for time remaining on FC before it needs a Flash Heal refresh. Mine is positioned above my frames. You can see a Surge of Light weak aura right next to it (Thanks, Kyu!).

If you’re Holy, I can’t recommend using Flash Concentration enough for dungeons and pushing keys. I doubt it’ll make us crazy competitive at the high level but it’ll be more than enough to help get us through some of the affixes coming out. The cast sequencing does take a bit of time to get used to. I admit, I’ve let my fair share of FC stacks drop and really unfortunate times.

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?