Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Surviving HLK: Beyond the Pixels

While these tips are directly from my experience working for 3-4 months with my guild to down 10-strict HLK, these also apply to any long-term, multi-aspect team encounter that is pushing the envelope and comfort zone of your raid.

There is more to killing hardmode Lich King (HLK) than what the game presents to you. The fight's difficulty tests your cohesion and teamwork as a guild: your ability to adapt, learn together, and not fall apart as your guild pushes the envelope in what it can do. HLK is a fight with many moving parts, and every player present is important and could easily wipe the raid with their own small mistake.

We lost one raider specifically over the stress induced by the fight in the five months we were working on it; other guilds lost far more, sadly. It is the unfortunate circumstance of a high-stress boss fight, and the most difficult part of overcoming a pinnacle encounter like HLK.

You must be able to own up to your own mistakes. If you and your fellow raiders are incapable or unwilling to recognize they made a mistake, your guild will not get very far on fights like this. I suggest this mentality:
  • You will, inevitably, make a mistake. Don't be ashamed of it: just learn from your mistake, and figure out ways to prevent it next time.
  • Admit to your mistake. It will keep others from grumbling behind your back or thinking that you don't know you messed up. Whether it's an apology, a curse, a simple admittance, a groan, or just a /facepalm, some recognition that you know you messed up will keep others off your back.
  • Even if someone else admits "blame," if you were a part of it or could have helped prevent it, speak up. Were you lax on casting a cooldown? Or a heal? Were the cooldowns not up, from casting them too soon? Were you out of range due to bad positioning? Did you zig when you should have zagged around that defile? Turn your back to the mob you were tanking? Misunderstand a vocal call? These things help prevent the mistake from happening again. Progress in teamwork development.
  • Someone else will also, inevitably, make a mistake. Don't corner them too often about it, if they know of the problem and are attempting to resolve it already. If it must be brought up in order to help them fix a repetitive mistake, avoid getting frustrated about it: defensiveness and frustration is stress your raid doesn't need. Focus on getting the problem resolved, and be sure to applaud when it's finally fixed.
  • Apologize when necessary. Recognize when it's needed, and make use of it to keep the group working as a cohesive unit. Your raid MUST be a team.


The strategy will change. Group makeups and individual player strengths will force your guild to approach the fight in, likely, different ways than others have, especially if few other strategy guides have been posted for the fight you are attempting.

Vortex's primary HLK discussion thread reached 11 forum pages. There were a few multi-page side discussions, as well, nevermind all of the vocal planning done in ventrilo or over whispers. Our tanks switched around, our healers switched around, our offspecs were tried and tested, melee were given an unfortunate shaft in favor of ranged dps, and we all had to smile and nod and try not to take things personally. I was shocked we ended up needing a resto druid: I was originally arguing that I should be sat out, feeling incapable of keeping the tanks alive by myself. We made it work, though.
  • Your strats will change, sometimes drastically. Be ready to try new things.
  • Trail and error. Don't just ram the brick wall hoping you'll eventually break through: there is more than one way to get to the other side, you just have to find the one that works best for your guild.
  • Keep up your spacial awareness. HLK has a lot of moving parts to it, so you will be shifting location from moment to moment and attempt to attempt.
  • Keep an open mind about others' ideas.

Along with flexibility, I firmly believe that all raiders need to have input on your guild's strategy development. One single person coming up with all of the ideas will make your progress move more slowly. Every raider should be responsible for looking at the strategy and finding ways to adapt it to your group's skills and makeup, both for the part that they themselves play as well as the parts they could potentially aid with, or have class knowledge of. That many more eyes with different perspectives of the fight provides that much more insight into how things work.
  • Think out of the box. Know your class' spells in and out, know your abilities, and find ways to make them work to the raid's advantage: this includes tank-saving cooldowns, stuns, knock-backs, and other CC.
  • Speak up if you have an idea.
  • Don't take it personally when your idea is found to be flawed, or if your idea just doesn't seem to work with the guild's composition. Focus on what's important for the raid to succeed, and not just your own personal bubble.
  • Don't read against the grain.
  • Judge your strategies not by how far you got with them, but how effective they were at solving the problem they were supposed to remedy. Can it be improved upon? Was it the fault of the wipe? Can it be incorporated into other ideas? Don't throw out a strategy or idea unless you really find a better method.
  • Mock up a quick sketch in MSPaint or a similar program if you need to show a diagram. "Picture is worth a thousand words," etc. Don't spend hours on it, though: spend less time explaining your idea and more time finding holes in it before you waste time wiping to it. For example, one from Halion is here. Our LK ones ended up not being used for the final strat ;)

If you refuse to believe the fight is possible for your guild, then your heart will not be in it, and you will make more mistakes and not even bother trying to fix them. You and the rest of your raid team need to be dedicated to overcoming a difficult boss in order to make it happen.
  • Don't panic.
  • Take breaks as a group periodically through the raid night for a breather, to keep your mind sharp and remove distractions like the need to bio or just stretch. Just don't waste others' time with unannounced AFKs or very extended ones, of course.
  • Remember that there is always something you and your raid can improve upon for the next attempt.
  • If you have a rough night, leave it at that: a rough night. Come to the next raid ready to rip the boss apart. That extra out-of-raid time is spent resting and reviewing what can be fixed.
  • Encourage each other. Even if it's jokes of ritualistic head-shaving and application of warpaint prior to attending the raid. At least, I think he was joking about that........
  • Find ways to make each other laugh: wall feasts, mini pets, fear ward on the tree to keep her from fleeing in terror. This is supposed to be fun. As long as these jokes do not get in the way of the raid itself (throw them when waiting for the RP to finish) or actual discussion of strategy adjustments, they're great for loosening you up.
  • Believe in your fellow raiders' ability to improve. Stay positive.


Ultimately, maintaining respect for each other in the face of mistakes and months of wipes will keep your raid going. Avoid belittling each other, and avoid reading against the grain as much as possible. More bluntly, just stick to the mechanics facts and try not to sound like an ass to others. If you're at each others' throats, your guild is more likely to fall apart or quit raiding than it is to overcome the boss. Don't let the Lich King win... and don't let Yogg's whispers come true.

...your friends will abandon you...


Gaia said...

Also a great read. I just started a draft along similar lines about the same 5 months we just spent working on HLK, I think I will just link people to this one instead... Roksi and I were wondering the other day what it would have been like if we had decided differently when we opted to ignore the "strict" limitations and allowed all of the friends and family and alts we have in guild to PuG 25mans. We didn't want to go through the hassle of forcing everyone into a side guild just for the rankings, but it would have been kind of exciting to get to see our name up there. Congrats again on the accomplishment, the whole experience for us was awesome now that we get to look back at it. I worry about how lame it would have felt if the expansion had dropped before we killed him after working for 6 months, I'd like to think/hope that we would have still been able to recognize how much fun we had trying but the disappointment would have definitely still been there I think.

Kae said...

Ah, post anyway :) It's good to have multiple viewpoints on such an important topic, even if they overlap somewhat!

It can be tough maintaining the strict ranking, certainly. Our friends' lists are quite long and full of alts, with several different guilds hosting many of them (Raids Before Grades is one of the largest compilations of Vortex alts, though certainly isn't the only one). I've gotten used to guildies sending me tells from random lowbie druid alts with jokes about healing rotations. Some of the guilds will live on as bank-guilds and for sheer fun, but I do look forward to no longer having to watch strict rankings in Cataclysm so we can allow the plethora of alts to tag to us.

I do need to edit the post, though, it only was 3-4 months of work, I was counting from our H-Sindy kill and not our H-Put kill and drakes work... /edits

Anonymous said...

I think you touched on the most important part at the end. Respect.