Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Azeroth, Burning

The cinematic for Cataclysm is really very good. It leaves no doubt in your mind that the Earthwarder is extremely angry and that all of Azeroth will feel his wrath. It's also easy to tell that he's probably insane. He not only allows, but requires that goblins force huge plates of Adamantite deep into his skin - they are practically molten when the anchoring spikes are driven in.

Deathwing screams his agony and all of the earth screams with him.

It shudders and quakes - sinking here and rising there - throwing waves as high as mountains about like toys. The great constructs of the mortal races - dams, docks, statues, cities are casually tossed aside.

It made for another day when I wasn't quite sure I wanted to log in. The story, of course, is as deep and intriguing as ever. And of course I want to be a part of it. But I wasn't quite done with the last part of it. I didn't get a chance to finish the quests in the elemental invasion. Frankly, I don't have time to play wow at the moment (expect sporadic updates between here and the new year). So, of course, it is this moment that carries all the change and transition, fascination and wonder, of the new world.

I hate feeling like I am missing something.

I am probably more connected to Azeroth than my characters are.

Azeroth has been my home for several years now. And while I would have cringed at the thought of questing through Darkshore for a third time, I'm not sure I wanted it to change. Azeroth is my escape. If reading is your escape, I would liken it to arriving home one evening to find a new book of your favourite series sitting next to your armchair, but the one you were currently in the middle of is nowhere to be found. You're quite sure that the new will be just as good as - if not better - than the last, but it doesn't change the fact that you weren't done with the last one.

Of course, if I apply that analogy to Icecrown Citadel then I cheerfully skipped ahead and read chapter 12 - the last chapter - while neglecting chapters 9, 10, and 11 simply because I didn't have time.

The epilogue was worth it.

The cinematic that plays after you defeat Arthas is everything I dreamed it could be and more. You see, I had never watched it before. I didn't seek it out online and I avoided that fountain in the center of Dalaran like the plague. It was the center of all evil and my life would surely be shattered if I accidentally clicked on it.

But I wanted to see it.

So, two weeks ago there were a whopping four raiders online for our regularly slotted raid night. Raider attendance has been slipping for awhile now. With the imminent approach of Deathwing (now arrived) people are... less interested in ICC than ever.

When Mord pointed out that there was group in Dalaran pugging for LK only raid, I told him hop on that. Of the four of us: Takk, Mord, Ann, and myself none of us were Kingslayers. Only one of us had experienced the fight before. My sum experience with the Lich King fight was Kae's Strategy comic: here.

The organizing guild, Crucible, had no problems with that. They have three dedicated raiders in their guild and they'd been pugging the LK fight for weeks. I am in awe of their tenacity. Pugging is frequently an agonizing, soul-sucking adventure. I can't imagine doing it against the LK with any group other than the one we put together.

I don't know how they did it, but Crucible found other dedicated non-kingslayers who were patient enough to wipe to the Lich King for hours and intelligent enough to regroup and improve over almost every attempt.

I was explicit in telling the Raid Leader that I had never experienced this fight before and he didn't care. I tell you, my awe knows no bounds. He explained it patiently before we got started. I took notes, dammit. (I might even still have them, though they pretty much amount to: 'Stack for Val'kyrs, spread for defiles' and 'Val'kyrs > Raging Spirits > Vile Spirits > LK'.)

I started this adventure in my destruction spec and kept it the entire time. I picked up Aftermath, Glyph of Demonic Circle, and three stacks of Frostweave Nets for the Val'kyrs. I was going to do the best damn job my little warlock could do.

On many of the attempts I was top damage. *squee*

It's no secret that raid awareness is key for this fight. Awareness and a healthy dollop of luck. We picked up phase one fairly easily. The tanks didn't seem to have any trouble and we moved Necrotic Plague like pros. The raid leader was a priest who also took over plague duty and called out names every time someone needed to move to the adds. It was... new, different, and singularly awesome. I'm accustomed, as I think most are now, to the raid leader also being the tank. I think it's a good thing when that doesn't always have to be the case.

It's not the phases that are the interesting parts of this fight, in my opinion. It's the transitions. I learned so much about my class and my spec during the transitions that I don't think I can even put into words. Certainly, you can go and read about warlock abilities, tricks, and tips. That doesn't - can't - give you the intuition for: Well, we're running into the center now and there is one Raging Spirit still alive. I got all the orbs down, so we're clear on that front. I should Shadowflame this Raging Spirit while we're moving. Definitely some Soulburn+Soulfire if it's still alive. If we're still moving, I can Death Coil, refresh DoTs(Corruption first, then Bane of Doom), or Life Tap. Cool, it's dead, lets play with the Lich King now. Alright stay together for the Val'kyr. Defile is coming; spread, spread, spread! Silly paladin, stop running the same direction as me! We're supposed to be spreading!

And this is intuition that I was certainly not in possession of the first few hours of wiping to the Lich King. It was painstakingly developed over a sum of ten hours of straight wiping to the Lich King. According to Ann's Fish Feast supply, we made a total of 40 attempts.

I'm a little flummoxed here. Having lived through it, I can tell you that 40 attempts in ten hours is a long, miserable adventure and its easy to get discouraged. On the other hand, Crucible had been trying for weeks with upwards of 200 attempts for this seemingly impossible kill. Guilds who downed the Lich King while the content was fresh made more attempts than we did as well.

We did it over three nights in one week. Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. We changed out some tanks and dps along the way. Militia joined us. Mord skipped a night. Takk tanked the Lick King. I tanked the Lick King - accidentally. Crucible was simply awesome and I think those of us at Memento are practically salivating at the chance to build a cooperative raid team out of our two guilds.

I would like to say that I remember each attempt with perfect clarity, but it would be a lie. I remember that in the first few attempts I was petrified of being the One Who Screwed Up and wiped the attempt for everyone else. I eventually took over Orbs duty during transitions 1.5 and 2.5. In the midst of all the chaos and adds and nonsense I found it... soothing.

Of course, the attempts in which Orbs blew half the raid off the side of the platform it really was my fault and I was the One Who Screwed Up and wiped the attempt for everyone else. But no one seemed to mind too much. I made my (very embarrassed) apologies and we went on with the next attempt.

I do remember the last attempt with perfect clarity. Or rather, as much clarity as a confusing mess of not being able to tell who is still alive and how much health does the LK have left and OMG SOOOOOOO CLOSE affords. I remember everything seemed to flow perfectly. DPS was blistering high. We didn't carry any Raging Spirits through the transitions. Cooldowns were blown at appropriate times. Val'kyrs went down like nobody's business. Defiles were well placed. Vile Spirits - the hardest part of the fight for us to learn, as we spent the least amount of time with them - were not permitted to explode on anyone. And no healers were summoned into Frostmourne.

HOWEVER, a tank bit the dust at about 13%. I know that Ann and I had the same reaction: SPAM EVERYTHING. It doesn't matter what spell it is as long as it does damage and lots of it. As if we could single-handedly push the Lich King through his last 3%.

And I remember thinking, when I finally died, 'Damn that was a close attempt! We were ALMOST there.' And then the cheers started up on vent. We weren't almost there, we were there.

Terenas Menethil would like to Resurrect you.

Hell yeah, Terenas can resurrect me.

The last fight with the Lich King was leisurely after that. I took my time casting my spells. I think I might have been in shock. And I waited for the King to fall.

As I said, the final cinematic is beautiful... I knew who the Burning Man was. That much had been leaked to me, despite my desire to not know. I knew of the Immolated Champion. I knew his sacrifices.

I didn't know his sacrifices weren't quite over.

And so, it seems, all new eras are begun in fire and flame.

1 comment:

  1. Grats.

    Yes, that fight was amazing, difficult, frustrating, fun, simple and complex all rolled up into one.

    Two weeks until Cata, I shudder to think what Blizz will think up next for the end raid bosses and then Deathwing, but I'm sure it will be awe-some.