We went into Warlords of Draenor with a “job well done” feeling. We weren’t patting each other in the back just yet but since it wasn’t broken, we didn’t fix it. The fact was, we had worked very hard to change things and with the end of Siege of Orgrimmar we had accomplished exactly what we had aimed for. We were confident but we weren’t experienced with this new model and like anything, you have to run it for a while to identify its weak points. It didn’t take long until the first one appeared, in the form of a complete underestimation of our roster and of a misplacement of resources by focusing on the wrong things.
We had gone into a new expansion with a lot of players that didn’t exactly integrate with our roster and our principles. We also had a large number of players with low motivation that we had hoped would bounce back once progress started. These two things were very incompatible with our new priority of focusing in having a good atmosphere and also with our new, harder requirements. Add that to the many (many!) technical problems we had in that first part of the tier (we had to run bosses with less healers due to being unable to keep all of ours online) and what you get is a rank in the high 40s when we really should have been trying to keep our new page one status.
We had around one month before the second part of the first tier arrived and our goals were still the same: keep the status obtained back in Siege. We had to replace players, reform our officer core (especially since we still had an ongoing problem of not having a real raid leader) and gear up all our characters for multiple clears. Solution: we recruited some players that despite being undergeared and having no alts, would give us a short term boost for the new tier. We moved our healing officer to raid leader and we moved one of our healers to healing officer. and finally and once more, we increased preparation. We weren’t terribly prepared on the tier before but, because we had spent way too much time on the early bosses, we figured we’d work towards minimizing wipes on the easy ones in order to get more time later in the instance.
…and you know the players we recruited as short term solutions? Well, one of them got the first mount to drop from Archimonde. We’re still trying to get rid of him but he insists on sticking around!
The results were minimal at the start, we still took longer than we wanted to on the first two bosses but this time due to our own error and bad calls than exactly our model and overall planning so we didn’t have much to fix. The rest of the changes though, worked perfectly: Our raid leading got much better and more organized, our healing preparation went up and you know the players we recruited as short term solutions? Well, one of them got the first mount to drop from Archimonde. We’re still trying to get rid of him but he insists on sticking around!
Oregorger came and we realized that preparation was not only to be done before the tier but also during without any slowing down. The third boss was the perfect opportunity to fix this due to its predictable nature and we ended up killing him in a handful of attempts, quickly followed by the next 3 in the instance. This small boost, in addition to some more recruitment done right got us right back on track. We had once again fixed the new challenges and even managed to get a really nice kill on Iron Maidens despite being the boss where we probably performed the worst individually and collectively.
With two bosses to go, we encountered a new problem. This one, a problem I wish we had every tier. Let me explain: most of our preparation was (and still is), done through information we find and gather. We’ve gotten good at it and use it to our advantage. After sorting our initial problems, we managed to catch up in the instance and with Blast Furnace being a big problem for most guilds, we found ourselves in a position where there was no videos, no tactics, and very little information available. The information we did get, from guilds that were better and more structured than us, was just as bad as the one we had gotten for ourselves and they were having no success with it either. We literally felt there was nothing to do and even called some raids short to avoid losing motivation banging our heads on the first phase one of the hardest encounters in the expansion. Once we managed to do some progress, we worked on our setup, improved on our phase two and spent almost no time with phase three. We had gone through a big learning experience that still resonates in today’s daily routines and we had gotten to Blackhand with a rank 30.It wasn’t ideal but we had finally gained around 20 ranks and we were about to go into the last boss which has always been our comfort zone.
We literally felt there was nothing to do and even called some raids short to avoid losing motivation banging our heads on the first phase one of the hardest encounters in the expansion.
And we did well in Blackhand, definitely. We had the same problems as everyone else (lack of information, lack of damage in some phases), but as soon as information became available we adapted and we did it fast and efficiently. Shortly after we started with our “real” push, we got the boss to 16% and started threatening some guilds we didn’t exactly think we could beat. Unfortunately, Blizzard patched the fight and our tactic was no longer possible. What happened next was the reason we ended up gaining rank that tier. In approximately 5 hours of progress, we had dropped the tactic we had spent hundreds of attempts with, learned a new one and were back to wiping under 20%. We killed the boss shortly after and our momentum was back to Hellfire Citadel.
Going into Hellfire Citadel we felt a lot better than we had at the start of the expansion. We now knew that our model worked, we had experienced its flaws and beat the challenges it threw at us and we finally had a committed group of people that allowed us to really take our time with recruitment and to use it for its real purpose: Replace pieces in the “machine” when needed, and look for exceptional players that could strengthen our roster.
We had also learnt a lot more about preparation and we knew how to avoid more Beastlords and Blast Furnaces. We had kept our page one status, had gained pulling power and in micromanaging a roster and dealing with the pressure of ranks. The first tier had been a success.
We also improved the way we deal with information which by the way, since you all probably thinking it anyway, consequently improved the way we deal with WeakAuras
Between then and now not a lot has changed. Our recruitment proved to be right and not only did we kill Archimonde with a lot of the people we recruited since Blackrock Foundry, but, since Archie died, barely anyone from the original roster left. We optimized our recruitment tactics and our log analysis by getting someone specifically for it. We also improved the way we deal with information which by the way, since you all probably thinking it anyway, consequently improved the way we deal with WeakAuras. The final result is out there for anyone to see. We got World 5th in the last boss, after breaking into the top 10 for the first time ever in the two bosses before (and finally taking back server first). We spent most of the time during this last tier focusing on man management, keeping people happy and trying to give our members the best conditions possible which is, without a doubt, what we do best.
Despite all of that, we’re still not patting each other in the back. If there’s anything we learned over all these tiers since Throne of Thunder is that at any point during this long and drawn out process is that things can go wrong. If you think your organization is on point, expect it to crumble and start gaining negative momentum. If you think you and your officers are working well together, expect a fight the next day. The main lesson to take out of this is that if you want to build something the same way we did, look around you, absorb as much information as possible and never stop working. If you think, for a second, that you “made it”, expect something to poke a hole in your plans the next minute. Legion is coming and with it, our biggest challenge yet, keep our new and improved status, once again. We have a lot in store and hope you’re with us to see if it worked. We’ll see you soon!
Shacabau is Dragon’s Guild Master and founder. Currently playing Blood Death Knight. To know more, feel free to visit his profile right here on Dragon’s website.