I’ve not yet posted anything about Mists raiding, because quite honestly our guild’s raid team got off to a shaky start this expansion. It’s only since Christmas really that we’ve begun to get back on our feet and carry on from where we were in Cataclysm. Setbacks hit us, one after the other. Core people were  unable to attend, a few found trouble with getting their heads round certain fights, there were recurrent last minute cancellations for bona fide real life reasons, as well as rather unpleasant in-guild drama concerning some new members we picked up and who have now gone… we had it all. Added to the fact we can only raid two evenings a week, because our team comprises grown-ups who have jobs, families and so on, real life emergencies and commitments sometimes meant runs were cancelled again and again. All of this led to us becoming rather glum about our raiding.  And for this reason I didn’t really want to talk about it. All I could have done was grumble.

However, happily, we’ve got over the bumpy bit and are progressing again. I wish we were a little bit further down the line of getting into Heart of Fear – we’re working on the second boss there now – but this couldn’t be helped. It was late before we got into our stride so now we’re a bit behind where we’d like to be. A new patch and a new raid is just around the corner, but we’ll be continuing with the current raids for a while until we’re geared up a little more. One of our core healers has given up the game for the time being – he really can’t stand dailies and well… to any WoW player I don’t need to say more than that in relation to the current state of the game – so we’re having to help gear up a new one. We’ve lost a pally and have gained a monk. Things are going well and our druid Boomkin is happy to step in, swap spec, and be a third healer when needed while our new healer learns the ropes and gets some epics on his back.

One thing that many of us in the guild have said, in those wistful ‘round the fire’ moments, is that we miss the grand scale of raids such as Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel that were the pinnacles of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Cataclysm brought us shorter raids, and more of them, but somehow they felt lacking in character in comparison to the raids of Wrath. Ulduar and ICC were so immersive; you felt you were part of a story and it was truly epic. None of the Cata raids really grabbed us in the same way. It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy conquering them, but just that there was a certain something missing. Story. Ambience. Lore characters that we found fascinating. For all his foam and bluster, Deathwing never really came off as an A List expansion baddie, certainly not in comparison to Illidan from Burning Crusade or Arthas the Lich King from Wrath. Just wasn’t sexy, I suppose. There were moments we truly enjoyed in Cata, but the overall problems with that expansion meant we didn’t really enjoy it as much as previous ones.

The raids so far in Mists have been fairly short, and I personally can’t say I’ve found them to be as immersive as the Wrath and TBC raids in terms of ambience. The fights are good, but… I’ve only completed Terrace of Endless Spring in the LFR version, but to me it might as well just be a heroic dungeon only with more people along. Actually, it’s not even as big as a heroic dungeon. Fun fights, no complaints about that (although I might complain more when we’re ready to tackle it on Normal mode), but it’s just so… small. We’ve been told by Blizzard that the new Throne of the Thunder King in the next patch will be a return to the large raid format. I prefer this. Although this type of raid might take far longer for guilds to conquer, you cannot emulate the feeling of venturing deeper and deeper into dangerous territory, working towards the Big Bad at the end of it.  Ulduar has us penetrating into the shadowy bowels of a Titan city to confront the Lovecraft-inspired elder gold who dwelled there, while ICC saw us climbing to the peak of the Lich King’s frozen citadel to face Arthas in all his twisted glory. Both raids involved a symbolic journey, and much could be written about the effect on the psyche of such journeys. It wasn’t just a case of, ho hum, raid time, let’s go kill some bosses, as it is now (and was in Cata). There was some sort of emotional kick to the whole thing in Wrath. If the Thunder King brings us anywhere near back to that, it will be great.

The fights themselves in the Mists raids I find fairly enjoyable. The only one so far I’m not keen on is Garalon in Heart of Fear, but then I’ve not attempted that fight on Normal mode, only LFR. Perhaps it will be more fun when I do it with the guild.

Our raid leader isn’t too happy about one thing, though. (He comments on here as ‘Fat Hulk’.) Basically our Hulk cannot stand LFR (Looking for Raid for any uninitiated happening upon these pages). He deplores it. He thinks it’s bad for guilds and bad for the game as a whole. He thinks it encourages laziness and bad habits in raiders, and he’s seen the effects of this in our own raids. Hulk knows he can’t stop any of the guild running LFR. Some do it to help cap those essential Valor Points every week. Some do it to help gear up for our Normal mode raids. Some do it so they can play their alts in raids. Some do it to help learn the fights for when we do them ‘properly’. Whatever their reason, that’s their choice. I do it fairly often to practice fights where deft movement (or dancing) is required, and to get to know the mechanics of certain encounters, even if they are watered down somewhat for the hoi polloi.  It also enables me to do something more than heroics with my alts. I don’t like doing heroics outside of a guild group, because of the swine I’ve met in PUGs. For some reason, although peppered with their fair share of swine, LFR groups don’t tend to be as abusive or cruel as a heroic PUG. But anyway, none of this washes with Fat Hulk. He really cannot abide swine and nothing would induce him to enter LFR, nothing. Not even the opportunity to play an alt for a while with the guarantee that every bonus roll on loot would shower him with epics. One thing that’s really got to him, and I totally empathise with his feelings on this, is that the new legendary quest line can be completed easily by doing LFR, but can be more difficult for those who only take part in proper raids. Hulk hasn’t been able to gather all the Sigils of Power and Wisdom from Mogushan Vaults and Heart of Fear in our Normal mode raids, (which are required for the first stage of the quest), simply because of the difficulties with our raiding in late 2012. But everyone in the guild who does LFR has zoomed ahead. Hulk feels he’s at a disadvantage because he won’t run LFR, and fails to understand why a legendary quest line, (and legendaries before this were always rare and hard to acquire), is more easily accomplished by the most casual of players than it is for a player who’s dedicated to the game and has been for years. In his words, it feels like a kick in the teeth. It’s not that he’s a special snowflake type – he doesn’t care who gets the legendary items – but just feels it’s unfair he’s penalised because he prefers, and will only do, bona fide raiding, not the dumbed down LFR version. When he told me all this, I must admit I saw his point. An item can’t really be legendary if it’s as easy to get as any old piece of loot, can it? And the message from Blizzard, however unintentional, is that people will be rewarded for running LFR rather than tackling the harder content with their guilds.

I’ve always had distaste for the idea that raiders should be given things that other players cannot get, be that titles, mounts or whatever. And for a long time the game was skewed far too heavily in favour of the most hardcore of players being given lavish rewards. But this particular situation does seem to highlight that things might be heading too far the other way. Yes, I think LFR players should get something that’s cool and worth working towards, but for those of us who do take the time, effort and determination to tackle more difficult encounters there should be something more. I don’t think mounts should come into this, because for the serious collector – and many players are far more serious about this than they are about raiding or other group activities – it’s simply infuriating that all the best mounts can only be acquired in raids, where you need the co-operation of at least 9 other people in order to have a chance at them. Then the drop rate will be tiny. So the chances are incredibly slim until the content is trivialised by later additions to the game. I waited years to get an Azure Drake – got one last week. There was no way our guild had enough people to run 25 man Malygos back in Wrath. I never thought I’d get that mount, but now two people can do the 10 man version of the encounter easily and the mount now drops in that too. Quite honestly, I think it would be fair if there was the usual small chance of a mount dropping off a boss even in LFR. I’m not a special snowflake either. It doesn’t bother me who has the same mounts as me. But I digress…  Let the Normal and Heroic mode legendary quest be for something really legendary. Let the LFR version be cool but not quite as cool as what the proper raiders work towards.

Going on from this, we’re still tackling Firelands for our Boomkin’s legendary staff in there. I’ve said before on this blog that we’ve had difficulty getting a full team to go back to complete the meta in there, never mind finish off what’s required for the staff. I’ve now determinedly posted a regular run for Sunday night on the guild calendar, and have been badgering people relentlessly. I hope to get this off the ground this coming Sunday. It would have been great to have finished this back when the content was current and relevant, but finishing it at all will be fine by me and no doubt by our Boomkin who’s waited so patiently without complaint. (I think I’d have been complaining very loudly!)