GW2: The Constructive Criticism Postscript to Raids

Ok, I lied. In the spirit of being positive, let’s not end on a downer note.

What are some viable things that Anet can do in the future to improve the GW2 raiding experience?

Personal DPS meters (with serious enforcement of bad behaviour/harassment of others)

Since we seem to be past the point where masking the numbers make sense, let’s have them shown to ourselves only, possibly only in specific places like raids, Heart of the Mists and/or a separate PvE testing area (perhaps in our guild halls.)

If that’s too much work, then a copychat command to save the combat log in text form will let third-parties construct parsers for it.

If a certain amount of exclusion is unavoidable, then let’s at least have them be based on objective fact, especially the actual practical dps you’re outputting in a raid environment, which can be very different from theoretical dps.

Any resultant swings in player favor of one class over another is then impetus for better overall class balance.

To stave off the bludgeoning of weaker players with a DPS meter and waving of e-peen around, Anet should commit to seriously enforcing reported verbal harassment, in a similar way that FF14 comes down on DPS meter reports in-game (it’s don’t ask, don’t tell there, apparently.)

You shouldn’t get punished for saying “Hey, Player X, your dps is insufficient for our group to finish this boss. Could you swap in skill/trait Y?” “Or sorry, until you get Z stats, we have to remove you from our raid group for now.”

But “lolfuking n00b, he only got 1k dps, boot his sorry ass” consistently over time ought to build up to a couple days’ suspension / time out for toxicity.

Dial Back Enrage Timers or Remove Them Entirely

Enrage timers reduce the pool of viable choices, reducing variety and options for players who might like to play certain classes or stats. Why punish group creativity if that particular guild is willing to accommodate certain players with a more novel group composition?

As mentioned to Ravious, a group of ten people in Nomad’s would still have trouble on certain boss mechanics of the Vale Guardian (lacking condition damage, controlling tank aggro would be hilarious) and already be imposing a time penalty on themselves by taking way way longer to clear a boss than other groups.

Players will naturally try to speed up over time. Dungeons have no enrage timer and competitive speed clearing was still very much a thing, with PUGs still insisting on zerker gear to clear at a “normal” acceptable speed.

Failing which, keep the over-tuning enthusiasm for the final bosses of each raid wing, and dial back on the first / earlier bosses so that players can at least have their learning and progress scaffolded a little more, rather than get immediately shut down on entry.

Being a little more lax on timing gives some leeway for latency, so that players around the world aren’t as disadvantaged or immediately excluded, instead of only limiting the raiding subset with the fortune to live near wherever the servers are hosted.

Institute a Wider Spread of Stepped Partial Consolation Prizes

Getting a few magnetite shards for getting the first boss past 50%, and other health milestones is a good first step, but the concept could still use more iteration.

I’ve mentioned the bronze/silver/gold suggestion from Reddit user Mireles before, and this would be nice in conjunction with dialed down enrage timers. Gold would be the current enrage limit (or silver, and make gold even more insane) and bronze would at least help to encourage all those groups who are hitting the current 5-10% health before wiping.

More Flexible Ways to Swap Gear without Clogging Inventory/Bags and Taking Too Much Time

I think this goes without saying, build saving / loading has been a constant wishlist item.

Ideals would be something akin to the current PvP design – once you have a piece of Ascended armor of a certain weight, rarity tier and stat spread, it’s unlocked for your account and you can swap into it at will.

A stopgap measure that at least solves The Rune/Sigil Switching Problem is to have a way to make upgrade extractors in-game and/or lower the gem price so that they aren’t insanely costly. Perhaps say, 10 silver a rune/sigil extraction?

Hell, make the upgrade extractor a permanent tool like the salvage-o-matics and charge 10 silver a pop for it.

Improved LFR tools

Stopgap measures would be swapping the text on dungeon tabs like another Reddit user suggested (whose link I don’t seem able to currently locate) so that the categories more accurately reflect current player interest.

Later improvements could be things like:

  • Making it easier for raid leaders to see and invite to squad (rather than their current workarounds of leaving squad, joining party, chatting, asking the person to squadjoin or come to the same map instance for a squad invite, whatever…)
  • Tools that let someone post an advertisement for a certain class and leave it up while logged on, while being able to log onto a second character to get other things done like map exploration or leveling. (Currently, it looks very awkward if you advertise as one class and people see you on another class altogether.)

Yes, the intent was for people to do raids as a set, organized group, but as we can already see, there’s always going to be floaters / mercenaries and groups that need one or two people to fill spots from time to time. (Especially with a ten-man hard limit.)

One may as well help the two parties to meet up a little better.

An Alternate Option for Legendary Insights

The best way to avoid accusations of “feeling forced” to do content is to provide an alternative. At least then the player has a choice of the lesser of two evils, even if he does not like either.

Several alternatives would, of course, be preferable.

Thoughts along this line would be things like:

  • Solo challenges on a Liadri and higher (8 orb Liadri, and even worse than Liadri) scale
  • Guild group WvW challenges on a similar scale (perhaps Yakslapper-like WvW league achievements that can be contributed to by guild members over time playing WvW, or hold X territory for however many hours, or whatever – and each player would have to meet a certain level of participation to qualify for the seasonal reward)
  • and/or making the Legendary Insights sellable/tradeable (depending on if it’s desirable to have Legendary armor be like old weapon legendaries or the new ones)

I think instituting some or all of the above would go quite a long ways to making the GW2 raid experience more palatable to more player types in the population.

Ok, now I’m done.

GW2: The Final Word on Raids, As Far As I’m Concerned

I spent my vacation week doing my best to sample as broad a range of raid groups as possible, exhausting my entire three-guild network (and taking steps to broaden out to a fourth, after cleaning up a guild bank and leaving it in the hands of my second account), not to mention clogging up the LFG tool in the hopes of being used as filler for other guilds’ raid attempts.

As you might expect in a random sample, there were good groups and well, not-so-great or seriously struggling ones.

I do think a majority of the small guild raid attempts I joined will get it over time, especially the ones with a static core group with the odd guildie or PUG filler, given sufficient practice on members’ parts and/or time to adjust builds and buy the necessary gear.

Quite a long time for some though. I had to bite my tongue to remain a polite PUG filler while eavesdropping on certain TS conversations.

“Is 200 condi damage a tick ok? That’s enough, right?”

Long pause, before another person answered, “Errr…probably not. Just as a standard of comparison, my engineer does 6-9k/tick condi burns.”

And that’s before we even look at the poison and bleed the engi is also reputedly able to output.

In another raid attempt, a warrior did his best to persuade me that I should be using a sword for extra bleeds, instead of a greatsword, even after I told him I’m in full zerker and have zero condition damage.

I dunno, I’m already dying here trying to maintain 25 might stacks with Sigil of Strength and still eke out 36-40k hundred blades damage while remembering and often failing to use Whirlwind Attack – preferably as an evade rather than use up a dodge – Bladetrail and Rush in perfect flow sequence to get another 8-11k per hit in.

Oh, and keep dodge rolling to keep endurance bar half-drained so that Stick and Move’s 10% damage can come into play, but leave enough endurance so that you can actually dodge a teleport AoE in case Whirlwind Attack is on cooldown.

Plus I respec’ed to the Berserker elite a day ago because another person in another raid group pointed out that PS Berserkers are capable of doing more damage than PS warriors – which on looking at the traits, seemed very much more objectively true.

(Note: When you’re -trying- to rush out the last few hero points for an elite spec ASAP, the Heart of Thorns zones are an infuriating place of can’t-solo-this-point-or-that and nope, not letting you run past these mobs without getting pwned.)

There are quite a few more skills Berserkers need to use, including the F2 going berserk that ups attack speed, their burst skills – that trigger the Berserker’s Power trait for even more percent damage, the elite Headbutt to recharge adrenaline for yet another burst and so on. All with cooldowns that I’m still not used to and don’t have the timing quite right.

It all ends up as a garbled mess of button pressing and leaves me still feeling very much inadequate compared to the successful kill videos, where some of those hundred blades go up to 56k. Not sure how they’re hitting those numbers really, maybe they’re getting more buffs from their group composition.

Yep, I’m sure you’re right and that putting on my exotic sword for a couple extra 50-200/tick bleeds on the Vale Guardian, instead of my Ascended Axe with the Sigil of Strength on it would really help your group right now!

P.S. I have a condi burn guardian if you really need condi for red. Pls love him. He can go up to 9-11k burning (I saw a 14k once that I’m still working on trying to achieve again. Not sure how the stars aligned for that though.) Reality check: I’m still getting the hang of him and only hit 5.5k averages, and he’s squishy as fuck and really hard to play in comparison.

P.P.S. Yes, I’m sure a properly specced berserker elite spec warrior with viper/sin gear can do very -nice- condi damage with sword bleeds and whatever else gives burning. Probably torch and longbow. I haven’t looked at those traits in detail yet, and that warrior certainly wasn’t telling me to do this. It was more like, “Yo, use a sword with your mace. It’ll give extra bleed damage! It’s better than axe! I’m telling you, it’ll be the meta any day now!”


I did get into other raid groups which I was pretty envious of, they looked organized, competent, fairly coordinated but still working on mechanics, and were pushing past to phase 3 or 4, before the break bar AoE shower coupled with green circles would cause a group wipe. (I wish I’d taken note of some of their names, but I was PUGing in irregular hours that I can’t manage consistently, so it seemed like a moot point.)

So it’s not all tragic, I just tell the out there stories because well, they’re way out there.

Tomorrow, I go back to work.

With the impending onset of reality, I find myself doing some serious personal soul-searching.

I am forced to admit that my last week’s gameplay style was unsustainable. (For me, personally. YMMV.)

I can’t sit around in LFG for hours on end, hoping to get picked up, and hang out in Teamspeak channels waiting for some group organizer to come in and say they need one more X, and pray that X is a character you can bring and that they want you.

I’ve signed up for progression raids in at least two places, but it’s obvious to me that a) you’re at the raid organizer’s mercy, they can pick you or not, depending on their preferences, and b) even if you do get the spot, there’s nine other people that may or may not play well, and -their- progress is not exactly something you can control reliably. (Same goes for yourself, -they- may be impeded by your lack of progress.)

In other words, it’s like a lottery. Maybe you’re lucky, maybe you’re not.

Feels almost like flushing stuff down the Mystic Toilet for precursors. (You have to put in no small amount of effort in the beginning to get enough things to flush. The flushing is completely out of your control. And the more times you flush, your chances of getting a precursor back is higher.)

It doesn’t mean you don’t try, of course, but I keep having to remind myself not to obsess over things that are out of my hands. I’m trying to learn patience for these longer term endeavors, and it seems I have as much of a way to go on the Serenity Prayer as I do on getting better game-wise.

Trying to raid 7 days a week in the hopes of getting lucky and managing to PUG a boss kill is not something I should be, or would enjoy doing.

Sustainable would be something more like once or twice a week. In a static group, assuming one has the fortune to get into one. (Remember: out of my hands, out of my control. *twitch* If not, the alternative would be to designate those one or two days I was going to give to a static raid as an advertise as PUG filler time too.)

Thing is, I’m more of a generalist than a specialist. I can’t go all hardcore WvWer, PvPer, fractaler, raider, whatever and only spend time in one game mode playing it repeatedly to death. So I have to come to terms with not being able to progress as far or as fast – somehow I accept the first three a lot easier than the last, not sure why.

In exchange, I get to play a greater variety of things every night. I’ll have time to do some map meta events, I can run around solo and harvest all the things or work on my collections and stuff.

Not to mention, I want a life that not only includes other GW2 activities, but other games, and *shock, horror* other non-computer-related real life activities, in the tiny spaces that are not working salaried hours.

This is not an easy decision, from an emotional point of view. There is just something in me that says, “Well, -they- did it, why can’t I, if I put in the same amount of herculean effort?” Maybe I’m just too conditioned to chase carrots-on-sticks and I’m bulldog persistent to the point of self-detriment. I find it a lot harder to make myself let go and accept openness and up-in-the-airness, rather than keep banging my head against the wall until it finally cracks and I get a sense of relief and closure.

There’s a treadmill there. I don’t have to stand on it. Or I can run on it a little and get off whenever I want to. It’s like “Wat. I don’t even… does not compute.” The concept is harder to master than a DPS skill rotation.

Especially when it’s a treadmill that doesn’t quite fit or work right, and may not be comfortable to run on.

Part of what helped me approach this decision was a conversation I had with a seasoned guildie. This guy knows his stuff (I think he’s in Attuned), when he tells me that Lupicus goes after least toughness in phase 2 and highest toughness in phase 3 or something similar, I’ll take his word for it – I presume he’s tested it or has heard from -his- contacts about such things.

He’s at the second boss, Gorseval, and -he- says it’s crazy.

And over-tuned. Way too tightly tuned.

I told him, no shit, this is what happens when you use DnT as your benchmark.

I think what puzzles both of us, in our own separate ways, is “Where is the room for progression, if the first and second bosses are like this?”

He wonders what the later bosses and subsequent raid wings are going to be like. Are they going to be even more insane?

What room does Anet have to maneuver, beyond increasing stats on gear, if they start from such a high baseline and have to keep ramping up?

I wonder about the encouragement for beginning raiders if they bog down right on the first boss from the get go. It’s not exactly the sort of thing that helps permeability into a raiding culture, I should think. More the divisive “can, can-not” divide right from the start.

Who loses in the end? The isolated subgroups. I think the hardcore WvWers can tell you how that feels like, when the whole place is empty save for them.

In our conversation, I mention the potential effect over-tuned encounters can have on latency-ridden Oceanic players. Not so obvious an effect in combat, but more noticeable in things like gliding or picking up item bundles.

Plenty of gliding at Gorseval, he says. Effed.

I’m like, I know. (And not terribly looking forward to it, to be honest.)

Then he tells me that class balance is way outta whack. The revenant autoattacks for super-high damage as compared to every other class, apparently.

Suddenly it makes a great deal of sense to me why plenty of successful group comps on Reddit use 2-3 zerker revenants/heralds.

If it’s less easy to screw up on a revenant and still do great damage, then duh, why not take the rev? Screw the other classes for now, until the impending revenant nerf. Which will no doubt arrive eventually.

There are cheese strategies making their rounds among the higher-level groups, supposedly.

(Not an accusation, it’s quite typical for certain Bartle explorer / spade types to poke holes in systems till they bleed. It’s what they do.)

I think some hints of that have spread onto the GW2 Reddit, with plenty of controversial disagreement over whether the Vale Guardian’s break bar should be broken or left alone, or whether certain races’ racial skills are a little OP for the Gorseval fight especially in conjunction with elite specs.

Most of all this I find rather inevitable, but what is more concerning are the implications.

Are we going to end up not just pigeonholing by gear and class and spec, but RACE now? LF Sylvari Chronomancer only.

The whole thing reeks of extremely schizophrenic design decisions. GW2 was meant to be inclusive and cooperative, and we’re fast swinging in the other direction of exclusive and competitive. As Bhagpuss likes to say, swerving headlong into WoW, while WoW seems to be doing its best to rip off (*ahem* copy and polish till it glitters) GW2’s cooperative aspects.

If you’re going to implement enrage timers, then you’re going to end up with players calling for ways they can analyze DPS.

And the only thing many players know are DPS meters.

With which some (or many) people are against being used as bludgeons to make other players feel bad, except that can already happen in other ways, proponents say, so give us our ways to objectively measure the criteria you’re punishing us for not reaching.

Except that many of the original design decisions of GW2 was to make those bludgeons unavailable so that it’s less easy for players to attack others as a matter of course.

Hell, I’d personally like a way to just copy the combat log and run it through a parser.

But if you can count it, people will start asking their raids to make public their “personal” DPS measured, I’m sure. But why shouldn’t they? There’s an enrage timer, so of course you need to have an idea that the overall raid has what it takes to succeed.


And just generally lacking useful tools for people who might actually -want- to raid seriously.

LFG tool is a mess. Reddit bitches about it every so often.

I’d mention build saving and swapping, since roles are now important in raids, but that’s like kicking a dead horse. So I won’t.

So beyond the glass half-full perspective that introducing raids successfully encourage more players to learn and improve and up their level of play (though you’d think a learning -curve- might be more approachable than a learning -cliff- then), what has raids in GW2 successfully achieved?

If somewhere, someone, perhaps in management, put their foot down and said, “We want to increase our Twitch viewership” or folks watching GW2 videos on Youtube or something along those lines, then yeah, creating something that few people can do would encourage them to watch other people play.

If they wanted to give small groups of people (ie. ten, no more, nor less, it is the new number of counting) a reason to meet up, socialize and bond through adversity, maybe for social stickiness purposes so that more people stay hooked to the game, then… yeah, I’ll say that raids may help.

(Though schizophrenically again, guild hall upgrades assume much more than ten people in your guild; bugged guild missions that still haven’t been fixed end up excluding people to the tune of 15; PvP teams means dividing by 5 and compete among yourselves or stagger yourselves out; the only thing that feels inclusive and lets a guild play together as a community is WvW guild missions. Lord help you if you are a megaserver guild, I guess.)

Oh, and the gold to gem exchange has taken quite a bit of a dip.

It’s been hovering fairly constant at 80 gold => 400 gems for a while, beyond a short spike during anniversary sales and Halloween, but I raised my eyebrows a little today when I saw it has now dropped to 72 gold => 400 gems.

Between nipping gold sources (*cough dungeons cough*) in the bud, raising Ascended crafting costs and then creating social pressure to be in Ascended gear for raids, it seems like ArenaNet might be raking in a whole lot of moola from the someones willing to pay to have it now.

It’s a bit of a concern, if only because you’d expect a company to listen more to its paying customers, so we might end up heading in the WoWward direction after all.

Anyhow, I think it boils down to me just working towards finding a sustainable way to play and enjoy all the game activities as an “everything” generalist that likes an inclusive cooperative in-game community.

Should that fail to be possible in the next year or so, for whatever reasons, that may or may not be in my control, well, that might confirm my four-year MMO burnout cycle theory, and there’s always the Steam backlog as a backup plan.

GW2: Things I’ve Been Learning, Even As I Steadily Go Broke

Time for some positive reflections, since I’ve been busy grumpy hermit grumbling since raids hit GW2:

One of the things I’ve noticed is that some people find the concept of raids aspirational.

Even though they may never set foot in one or successfully down a raid boss, the fact that they exist gives them something to strive for, some heroes (raiders in famous guilds) to look up to and cheer on, and motivation to continually improve and get better.

(I don’t know that I’ll personally go that far, you’d have to be a -very- glass half full kind of person to be that sunnily optimistic. I’m naturally a bit more glass half-empty skewed, and tend to worry about those who meet an unclimbable wall and meet frustration and learned helplessness instead.

I like the idea of scaffolding learning – this Reddit suggestion to have bronze, silver and gold rewards for each boss rather than a binary you-got-it-or-you-didn’t enrage timer appeals a lot to me.)

Even if “aspiration” is something that doesn’t work for me personally (maybe it’s more of a social motivation), what I’ve been finding enjoyable is increased opportunity / motivation to learn and apply all sorts of game things that I didn’t know before, to continue to build up a database of knowledge about how the game world works.

I guess this is a very Bartle Explorer thing.

After my fun little rant about pigeonholing, I sat around brooding like an angry pigeon for the space of one night, thinking, thinking, thinking, plotting almost, about my next steps forward.

I was very stressed out over two things:

1) My condi guardian would probably not be accepted in the more closeminded raid groups, and possibly for good reason.

I was quite well aware that I had a habit of dropping like a rock when the vault guardian sneezed or looked at me funny. You know closeminded groups, it’s probably not going to bode well if you look like the weakest link over and over. I was still completely puzzled as to the -source- of the bloody damage that was eating like acid into my super-low health reservoir and how I could avoid it.

And I definitely haven’t mastered the skill rotation to keep burning uptime consistent yet. I’ve seen burning stacks as high as 9-14k a tick, depending if things go well and I catch a lot of might stacks, I tended to run around the 4-5k mark, and dropped to as low as 2-3k burning a tick when things went badly and I end up having to focus on not-dying rather than attacking. You know closeminded groups again, right? If they see that they’re killing slower with a condi guardian as opposed to say… a condi engi? It’ll be kthxbai, LF condi engi for raid!

2) My warrior was essentially 95% PS warrior, but in my usual perfectionistic way, I was afraid to advertise as a PS warrior because the common player perception of a PS warrior is something that can generate 25 might stacks on their own. Somehow, try as I might, I was usually only consistently reaching 15 stacks in PUG fractals.

What was going on exactly?

I took on question 2 first, as the solution to some players wanting cookie-cutter, is, of course, to give them a cookie-cutter option that they would be happy with.

I have been resisting switching the Superior Runes of the Pack on my armor for a very long time, because I knew I would dearly miss the essentially perma-swiftness that comes from just honking the warhorn once. (13 seconds of swiftness with Pack runes, warhorn cooldown with Quick Breathing trait is 12 seconds, only lag or animation delay will make it not quite perma, so just use Balanced Stance or a Banner 3 for more swiftness and voila. Quick, happy feet. An unswiftnessed charr is a very slow-seeming charr.)

Were Strength runes really going to make THAT much of a damn difference? (They are so freaking expensive…)

Some time earlier I had just done a very informal test in the Heart of the Mists beating on some golems with both Pack and Strength, and had to admit that, yes, the increased might boon duration made for might stacks that stuck around longer and so maybe it might be the crucial factor for 25 might stacks output by solo PS warrior.

So I bit the bullet, yanked 70 gold out of an even more dwindling bank, and bought 6 Strength runes, wincing as I overwrote the Pack runes (nevermind, I consoled myself, they don’t cost that much, you can get another set of armor to put them on or maybe some day Anet will solve The Rune-Switching Problem), but hey, go me, no one can accuse me of not being cookie-cutter now that I can ping gear with Strength runes and look all meta-compliant, right?

Then I decided the best place to test my awesome meta-ness out would be a quick fractals, now that it’s so bite-sized convenient, and lookie, someone advertising for 2! Bloomhunger! Super-quick and a really big target to build might on!

The PUG team did the wisps in a single go, swam down the tunnel and charged straight at Bloomhunger! I flung down my banners and proudly launched myself at the silly old Oakheart determined to might stack like the Energizer Bunny!

Words cannot describe the utter chagrin I felt when I looked at my buff bar and saw only oh… 15-18 stacks of might max.




Regardless of my fail might-stacking, Bloomhunger died, I grabbed the fractal chest, then slunk away beaten with my tail between my legs to reconsider the problem.

After reading and reading the Metabattle page over and over, comparing and contrasting the by now fairly minute differences in build: Same gear, same runes, nearly the same traits (I just take warhorn because I cannot trust PUGs to condi clear for me, I don’t have sexy dungeon group mates to rely on, and look, it’s even stated as a permissible variant in the Metabattle Bible, okay? It can blast might and everything.)

I don’t have Night Sigils because I’m not that crazy a night time dungeon runner, I tend to use Air, Fire or Bloodlust instead…

Yes, I’m not using expensive food in most casual PUGs, I’ll save it for raids and really important occasions…

What exactly was generating might besides swinging my greatsword over and over? Oh, and this Fried Golden Dumpling food that gives might on crit, for slacker PUGs (ie. 85% of the ones I get into) that don’t pre-stack might, but surely the PS warrior sans dumplings isn’t just a might boon maintainer for a might-stacking ele….

…and oh. Oh. OH. What is this tooltip I see? On the mace that I usually don’t use…


Well, fuck. THERE’s your problem.

The bloody thing runs a mere two gold and can be crafted to boot.

The good news was that I wasn’t going to have to overwite an expensive sigil to incorporate this.

The bad news was that I was going to have to chop a lot of soft wood, and then spend a fortune in hoarded crafting supplies to make my warrior an Ascended weapon that I’d forgotten he didn’t have yet, a Zojja’s Axe.

So I did that, crafted that, tested it, and what do you know, 25 stacks of might. Obviously, it’s better and faster when you can hit multiple enemies at once, and if your group mates deign to give you some might, as I observed while testing in the Urban Battlegrounds fractals, so that locked in another piece of the puzzle.

Some day I’m going to have to test out a Sigil of Strength with mere Pack runes in the Heart of the Mists and possibly cry myself to sleep that night.

But now, I can safely say that I have a total fully absolutely meta-compliant cookie-cutter PS warrior for those picky picky raids, inspect away if you wish, and more importantly, I actually -understand- how the whole damn build links together and synergizes.

The other thing I was brooding about that night was just how far down the rabbit hole I was willing to go for raids.

You know me, I have this crazy cognitive dissonance thing going on.

I want to be effective. I want to be optimal (or at least, viable.) I want to achieve actual successful kills in a reasonable period of time, not be banging my head against the first boss a year from now with a group that keeps screwing up. I want the -rewards- at the end. I want the shiny prestige.

In return, I’m open to getting brutal direct feedback and told what I’m screwing up and what I should do more of instead. To spend all the monies and switch build and traits to what works. To dress all cookie-cutter and do my best to perform for a drill sergeant if need be.

On the other hand, I have to admit that a lot of this is work. As in, not intrinsically enjoyable to my nature. As in, I have a tendency to obsess and stress out over stuff that probably no one else notices but I think that they do and that they are judging me harshly and coldly and will probably boot my ass. Oh, the awful rejection! (And worse if it’s going to be based on erroneous player perception, rather than objective evidence.)

If I am honest, the most fun times that I have while raiding is when it is explicitly a raid designated for training and learning, when I know that no one has the expectation that everyone must be performing to 110% of their ability 100% of the time.

I can relax my obsessional tendencies a lot more when I know I am not the weakest link in that raid group, and focus on my personal learning – what else can I be doing better, what can I practice and get better, what can I tweak and get better – while someone else is making the raid-wiping mistakes and working on learning those things.

Furthermore, I can be experimental and test little theories knowing that the raid outcome isn’t going to be affected one way or another, because the group as a whole still has some ways to go before they master the mechanics.

Better yet if it is a raid group made up of guilded, friendly faces because I’m more assured that they won’t judge, and then I can get in my quota of social hanging out with people that way too.

Except one itty bitty lil problem. I kinda want to win and get my shinies. Not next year. More like sometime this month.

Except I don’t want to do crazy stupid hardcore things like try to raid at all odd hours of the day and for 8-17 hours a stretch. (Alas, college days over.)

*wry grin*

I haven’t quite come to one satisfactory solution, but I think I will be exploring a number of options and keeping them open in the days ahead.

I want to get into at least one weekly scheduled raid group with relatively consistent people so that I have kind of a long term insurance plan for raids.

Timezone matching is going to be an issue, I don’t have the luxury of a vast spread of NA guilds to choose from, and they have to be the kind of people that won’t make me want to report them all for verbal harassment after an hour in their company, aka preferably the more mature or mellow type, which can be somewhat short in supply on this side of the world.

Furthermore, a consistent group may very well mean consistent failure. Not that I would actually mind in the moment, especially if the company’s good and everyone’s learning (and I usually can always find -something- to learn) but my skritt brain still wants its shinies.

So the other thing that I have been thinking is to look for opportunities to basically mercenary myself out to fill in gaps in other peoples’ raids. They’re maybe short one healer, or one tank, or need some condi or dps or might-stackers or whatever.

The super-duper long term plan would be to get comfortable with alts that can fill any of those on demand, but for now, I can either offer a cookie-cutter PS warrior or still somewhat new to people’s expectations condi guardian to let ’em pick and choose.

This ties back into the idea of training raids and learning from those because I’m not going to be a very popular mercenary if I’m not any -good- at raiding.

Fourth raid attempt was essentially a sort of friends-and-family style guild affair. I had expectations set somewhat accordingly, and was in fact, pleasantly surprised by a number of things.

One, the bulk of the group was a lot more serious than I would have guessed. Some (well, ok, one) had spent more gold than I’ve personally ever seen in one place on an Ascended set. There was less teleporting around than I’ve seen in other raids because practically everyone could dodge the aoe relatively consistently. (Either that or they’re NA people and the other raids I’ve been with are OCE folks!)

The overall group experience level was lower, and as expected, only brought down the boss to 66% health and into the split guardians a few times, mostly because folks were still getting the hang of the mechanics, I feel. (But hey, give ’em a couple weeks or month more and who knows?)

Two, I got the chance to test out both my alts on the Vale Guardian and work out more of the kinks.

The PS warrior, as expected, was pretty darned good. I’m definitely going to start offering this one up more while mercenary-ing. The higher health pool means less catastrophic failures from a slipup, and I even survived the Distributed Magic group wipe mechanic a couple of times when the circle team missed standing in a circle – albeit at 1000 hp left, and liable to wipe in the next blast cos everyone else is already downed or dead. Everybody likes 25 stacks of might and banners, it does seriously respectable dps (I suspect I contributed quite heavily to shoving it into the next phase, because I was busy practising the “find the back of the boss and stick to it like glue” tactic while others had to contend with the circle mechanics.)

The group however found themselves somewhat light on condi once they were in phase 2 and the split guardians, so I grabbed the chance to volunteer the still-rather-unexpected option of condi guardian.

A little selfishly, I suppose, since my ulterior motive was to get better at playing it, but eh, the whole group was definitely still in the learning phase and not exactly likely to reach even 50% of the boss’ health yet.

The rotation for condi guardian is definitely a little more complex than a PS warrior (duh) and I’m quite certain I was mangling it a good half of the time. So dps output likely lower than PS warrior, especially since we were now sans 25 might stacks, but on the bright side, I can actually do things to the red guardian instead of stand around looking stupid and be a might buffbot.

The issue I kept running into, while the others were still mastering the circle mechanic and getting into trouble with the Seekers, was that the condi guardian’s health is still alarmingly low, plus, now that I had time to study the combat log and think while trying to execute my rotation, the damn guardian periodically pulses a damaging Magic Aura for 1000 hp or so.

High hp monstrosities that come with a healing signet tend not to notice this and shrug it right off. Maybe I’m not a great guardian but this rapidly diminishing health bar tends to distract me from actually executing dps rotations.

Worse if a Seeker got into my personal space (I was doing a semi-decent job of avoiding them… except an occasional wild knockback out of the green circle had a tendency to soccer ball the Seeker right into me, leading to an insta-down before I even knew what hit me.)

This did not bode well for viability of condi guardian if they had no -survivability-, it’s not as if demanding a healer to babysit my health would make it terribly popular…

…and then it hit me. Duh. If the healer can’t come to me, exactly why can’t dps go to the healer?

(I hear all the holy trinity MMO players slapping their foreheads right now. Mea culpa, look, I’ve only been playing a no-healer personal-heals-only MMO for 3 years now, you get set into certain patterns.)

Granted, I haven’t even looked at what skills druids have, but I’m almost sure they can pulse heals to 5 people near them somehow.

So I started paying a little more attention to positioning myself near the druid when I needed to catch some heals, which worked out about 75% of the time, but still would not solve the overall dps problem of needing to be in melee or close range to do more damage, rather than plinking away from afar while moving to hug the healer.

In between one raid wipe and another, I started looking at my self-heal skills and wondering if one would work better than the others.

I’d tried Shelter, which is optimal for applying more burning while blocking, and you’d think it’ll be great because apparently the blue aoe teleports can be blocked… and then you can go right on dps’ing in melee… but I risked that once and I think my ping was such that by the time I saw the aoe and hit Shelter, I got zapped by the teleport before the block could set in. (Either that or I was a little late on the block, but I didn’t feel like risking it again when I could just dodge the AoE.)

Anyway, I didn’t seem to be healing up sufficiently with Shelter, so I’d gone with my usual fallback of Signet of Resolve, which is an awfully strong heal that can pretty much push me back to full health from near dying. Except that I now had to deal with a 40 second cooldown because a condi guard can’t take the Perfect Inscriptions trait to reduce the recharge time when you want Amplified Wrath for the 15% more burning damage.

40 seconds is a long long time when you only have 11.5k hp.

Especially when there are sources of damage flying in from everywhere. It’s as if they took that suggestion of pulsing small amounts of damage to stress zerker builds out and encourage at least one healer or more…. except they also slap on an enrage timer, so… I dunno. Catch-22, much?

Then my eye fell on Litany of Wrath.

I’d pretty much never used it. Exactly how much healing was it capable of? No idea. The only way to find out was to try it.

The next time my health bar fell to 5k hp, I hit that, and in under 3 seconds, I was at full health again. (Granted, I was busy smiting and orb of wrathing the hell out of the Vale Guardian, while burning it with condition damage at the same time.) 

It has a 30 second cooldown.

It is, in fact, -just- enough to keep my health relatively stable (ping-ponging between 5k and 11k) as long as silly things don’t happen (like a taking a frontal cleave 5k punch from the guardian, basking in a Seeker’s aura that can crit for 4-5k, getting zapped by Distributed Magic for 9k) , in which case, seek out your neighborhood healer or just wait for the rez from downed.

It’s not exactly sleepwalk easy, but it was quite an interesting challenge to both keep an eye on one’s health like that, evade Seekers, and still keep up as much dps as possible on the Vale Guardian.

And hallelujah, you no longer need to be babysat by a healer and can more or less take care of yourself, barring emergencies. Add one more notch toward potential viability.

Some time later, it also occurred to me that the popularity of the condi engineer might also be because the meta build comes with healing turret as a matter of course. Folks doing the distributed magic circle tend to need group healing once the lightning strike is over, and some ability to knockback Seekers never goes awry.

The /ranger/ has a healing spring that can heal allies, and they should have the ability to knockback Seekers too, don’t they?

The /guardian/ has a shield that can knockback Seekers, if they deigned to use it, and hrm… what’s this other healing skill that I almost never look at? It used to be called Healing Breeze, but apparently it got updated with very few people noticing (me neither) as “Receive the Light!”



Looks like I have something new up my sleeve to try if I ever get assigned as a condi guard to circle duty.

So despite overall group progress of fourth raid attempt being not as forward as some others, there was a considerable amount of personal learning progress and some potential revelations to boot.

Would it have happened without raids?

Not terribly likely, barring a Liadri-style challenge.

So -that’s- something positive I can say about raids.