Calling this expansion tumultuous would be an understatement. We came into this expansion loaded for bear. In Siege of Orgrimmar we were one of the most talented guilds I had ever seen. People responded to calls better than we ever had. We were almost symbiotic. I didn't have to prepare long threads to make content die. The guild didn't get along incredibly, but we were carried by mutual respect for dominant players -- nearly across the board. We finished that tier the best we ever had. We stuck to our guns, didn't extend, and just outplayed content. The fall was not quick, but slow and painful. Players quitting at inopportune times. People becoming disenchanted with the game. People becoming disenchanted with the guild. Me believing that players could step in and be players that they weren't. Six bosses into the new expansion, I thought we would be the same guild. Watching Tectus and Ko'ragh die were magical. We were a really impressive guild. Then it began...
Imperator was painful in a way I had never thought a fight could be painful. Blizzard had taken mechanics an shifted them into something completely different. The mechanics that I was so used to giving to only the best mechanical players in the guild fell onto the entirety of the guild. Anyone could get them, and everyone would get them. It exposed weaknesses in our roster. It created resentment throughout the roster. It created resentment I had never felt before for the people on my roster. The fight was incredibly difficult, and it broke me. The tier was long and painful, and was only exacerbated by the fact that Blackrock Foundry felt like it was released at light speed.
Blackrock Foundry was a new machine as far as raids. Split raiding has never been so rampant, and the power creep from Highmaul to Blackrock Foundry was extreme. Tier bonuses were giving ridiculous amounts of DPS. The DPS gains from new weapon drops and new trinket drops bordered on ridiculous. I stuck to my guns, and maybe I shouldn't have. I am an incredibly stubborn player. I want my guild to be something very specific. I want this guild to be something that adults can enjoy without having to destroy their free time. I want to be able to kill content without extending, without split raiding, and without the painful pull numbers and extra hours that other guilds frequently see. The difficulties of doing a tier without split raiding and alts were apparent instantly. Gruul's DPS check required perfect play instead of the mistakes that could be made if your guild had organized split raids. Kromog's pillars required incredible amounts of DPS and organization, unless your guild had alt moonkins that could get the job done in 10 fewer item levels. The beginning of the tier was hard on the guild. We got to Blast Furnace and met face to face with one of my greatest fears: players who simply were not talented enough to play in the position they were playing. We hit a wall of communication, understanding, and talent at certain positions in our raid, and it was ridiculously painful. This was a low point for the guild. People were feeling the hurt from having to deal with a single player or group of players wiping us over and over to the same issues and not being able to recover. It was the first time in a long time where a kill of a really difficult boss just did not have any level of comfort. The kill shifted from a thrill of victory to a groan, thinking that we should have been able to accomplish this feat so much sooner.
Blackhand was fine. We were able to pull it with an awful composition. Running with no moonkin in the raid for a long while was absolutely brutal. We pulled the fight on incredibly hard mode. We did it in a reasonable amount of attempts, and there was some happiness when the boss died, but the end of the tier had already been marred by poor play and poor results due to not split raiding.
At this point, the main issue I had seen in myself is that I had become jaded. I knew that we couldn't compete ranking wise with guilds willing to extend, split raid, and go extra hours. Hellfire Citadel was the culmination of the split raid nightmare. We did incredibly well on our first night in Heroic progression, even without having spent PTR time on the bosses. We got to the last boss, and Archimonde Heroic became the wall. The fight wasn't difficult mechanically for us, but we would get to the last phase, Rain of Chaos would come out with a Shackled Torment and large sections of the raid would die. Killing the fight wasn't impossible, but people would have to play perfectly, and we would need some luck. For comparison sake, guilds who were killing it the first week were in better item level gear in their first kill than we were in during our first kill 2 weeks later. The frustration with the gains from split raid became incredible, and the frustration with the rankings in the guild became incredible. Early in the tier we continued to see the pains from those same item level differences. Fights that other guilds could make look incredibly simple due to the five (to even ten in some cases) item levels across their raid were incredibly difficult checks for us. Unsurprisingly, some players reached the end of their rope. Some with the guild, and some with the game. Our roster continued to degrade. I was at a low point as a raid leader.
Something changed once Velhari died. Vigil had only recently died on Mannoroth, and I threw my hat in the ring to recruit the players I could get my hands on. The players we brought in, not only from Vigil, changed how I felt about the game in a positive way. The guild felt like it had gotten immediately friendlier. Our pull counts started returning to normalcy. Xhul'horac and Mannoroth didn't feel like unkillable walls. We felt like we could do better, but nothing really felt like how Heroic Archimonde felt.
We reached Mythic Archimonde, and I rededicated myself to preparation. I created a thread. I wrote weak auras. I was finally excited to pull a boss again. I probably didn't give Archimonde the kind of credit it deserved as a fight as far as difficulty. I tend to have a bit of a disconnect from players' struggles mechanically, and I was admittedly a horribly jaded raid leader at this point. The fight was more difficult than any fight I had ever done. Every death you had in any phase that wasn't a tank sacrificing to a source essentially shortened the soft enrage of the fight. Every tiny mistake became a wipe. Roster consistency had been plaguing our guild for months and it was no different on Archimonde. Even with it dead, we had players in on the kill who were doing the fight on about a fourth of the pulls as the rest of the guild. I am incredibly proud of how players came together on Archimonde. We could not only see clear progression into each phase, but we could see the smoothing of attempts over phases that we had already completed progression on. We had the boss to 12% before the most recent nerfs via item level power creep, but I am 100% sure that we were close on a kill even without those changes. This is the hardest fight I have ever had to lead a guild through, and my guild did it in a way that made me very proud.
So here is where I thank some important people. Thank you so much to my officers, who have done more this tier than they ever have in the past. Germs was the first officer I ever asked to do anything above simply being on a council to help me make decisions. He has been nothing short of spectacular as a healing lead. Another very special thank you to Branston and Ancalion. You guys helped me rededicate myself to recruiting, and improving the roster in ways I haven't in the past. We were analytical, and we might have been harsh with some players, but I reached a low point where I had given up on recruiting because I didn't think I could reverse my apathy, and you guys were instrumental in doing so. A big thank you goes out to Elbob, who had to deal with one of the worst tanking situations I could ever dump on someone throughout this expansion. It was inconsistent, and I hope that in the end we created a tanking composition that can flourish in the future. Also a thank you to the players I recruited from Gorefiend through to Archimonde for helping me to enjoy raid leading and raiding in general again. Thank you to the long time raiders of OBSCURE REFERENCE. Your loyalty does not go unnoticed. I try to tell you guys time and again how much your loyalty means to me. Brutal, Sacer, Germs, Anc, Monkey, Branston, Collision, and Cytoma -- you have all raided here for years and have been a true pleasure to lead this entire time. I don't want to seem ungrateful for the rest of the roster. Everyone stepped up when they needed to and people came in and really worked hard to get us to where we are today. Everyone on the roster brings their own special flavor and personality to the roster. Thank you to the people who spent years playing for us, even if you are playing in another guild today. We wouldn't be what we are today without the things you did to help our guild.
I think that this post has become sufficiently long. Great job by everyone involved in this fight, and this tier in general. I have run the gamut of emotions this expansion, and I feel relieved that not only we finished the tier, but we did so on an upswing. It is time to relax, improve, and come back stronger than ever in Legion.
Love you guys,
Cytoma - Subtlety Rogue PoV - Archimonde
Germinate - Restoration Shaman PoV - Archimonde
Branston - Destruction Warlock PoV - Archimonde
I decided that since this post is taking up so much space on our front page that I would take a second and put all of the videos we have up on the front page. Enjoy!
Ancalion - Zakuun
Branston - Hellfire High Council