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The Crucible Overcome: An Interview with New Raid Champions Pieces

Here we are a week and change after the World First on Uu'nat, Harbinger of the Void was claimed by EU guild Pieces, marking the first newcomer to the throne in 2 and a half years, since Exorsus back in Emerald Nightmare. Crucible of Storms was expected to be a 2 day race but it turned out to outdo both Battle of Dazar'alor and Uldir in terms of difficulty, and brought us several new faces at the top of the race. Aside from the very top spots, Asian guilds dominated the standings, we had a new US champion in Club Camel and, most importantly and what we're here to talk about today, Pieces took down both bosses World First, after 68 and 732 pulls.

Today we have several Pieces players talking to us about their big win and their experience progressing through Crucible of Storms overall.

To start off, congratulations on the big win in Crucible! This was both your first World First AND your first raid endboss WF. How did each of them feel individually?

Champs: I’m really proud of our Cabal kill. After watching US guild struggle the first day we were worried this tier would be really hard (and it was), but when we finally got to enter the raid ourselves we managed to hit Berserk on our first pull. The boss still had a lot of health left but we proved that we knew how to deal with the mechanics and we just had to fine-tune a few things, like the Promises of Power uptime, for a kill. As a cherry on top we were the only guild in the world that managed to kill Cabal on the first day (unless a Chinese guild did it, I don’t know). Killing Uu’nat felt really, really good and it stuck with me longer than our Jaina or G’huun kill. I still wake up in the morning and think “we got world first” which always puts a smile on my face.

Rinoa: Cabal was the first World First kill we had as a guild, so it felt quite special. I don’t think any of us truly expected it to be a hard boss. I was very pleasantly surprised with the difficulty level of it, and am quite satisfied with our performance. We were able to execute the things we practiced in heroic mode, and although some strategy modifications had to be made along the way, most of what we strategized ended up being quite good. When we finally got Uu’nat I think we all felt immensely satisfied. Uu’nat was a different beast. Definitely one of the hardest bosses I’ve progressed alongside Kil’jaeden. When it finally died the rush of emotions that came was quite powerful - relief over having killed it after so many tries, happiness over being the first to do so, and a sense of being a part of a team who can accomplish something when we work together. In that moment the guild felt more like family than a team, silly as it sounds.

How long have you been gunning for that World First aka competitively playing in the progress race? What are some of your favorite achievements/the boss kills you’re most proud of?

Champs: We haven’t seen ourselves as competitors in the World First race in any previous raid simply because we haven’t had enough time, this is the first raid where we tried to get a World First on an end boss. My favorite boss kill is hands down our World 6th Argus kill. We had a really bad tier in Tomb of Sargeras, mainly because of roster issues, and during the recruiting process for Antorus we had several members get poached by rival guilds. It felt incredibly good to prove to everyone that regardless of all setbacks we were still able to perform well. It was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Rinoa: This was the first raid where we raided enough to consider ourselves competitors for the World First kill. Previously we’ve raided a bit less than half of what the very top guilds do, but this time around we were able to somewhat match the raiding time invested. I have to agree with Champs on this one. As amazing as the WF on Cabal and Uu’nat felt, our world 6th kill of Argus in Antorus is a feeling which I don’t think anything can top. Tomb of Sargeras felt more like Tomb of Pieces for significant amounts of our progress. The guild was in dire straits and things were looking very grim, but through many hours of hard work - particularly by our GM Luml - we were able to rise up and not only get back to the level the guild was on before Tomb of Sargeras, but significantly surpass it. The main lesson we learned was that at the end of the day, playing for the team and ensuring a good and positive raid atmosphere is what truly matters. It’s not that the players we had in Antorus were vastly more skilled than what we had in Tomb of Sargeras, but the motivation of each player was much higher. Our atmosphere has been amazing since then, something which I think we should be quite proud of. It’s very rare that we have anything negative happen now a days.

How much did you prepare for Crucible, both in general and compared to BoD and Uldir?

Leo: Definitely a lot more prepared for Crucible compared to BoD and Uldir. Usually we don’t have time to test raids before going in to mythic, but this time because splits didn’t mean much, we had quite a bit of time left to test different things on each of those fights that gave us significant amount of insight.

How difficult is it to maintain a guild roster that has all the needed specs and raid compositions available for these fights?

Luml: The most difficult part about maintaining a versatile and competitive roster is finding motivated players that are willing to constantly play the most meta class/spec at any given time. And at times, doing so requires the same effort as a full time job.

Is your bench deep or do you have a smaller number of players that just have a whole lot of viable alts?

Rinoa: Our bench is in fact quite small right now, to the point where we had to ask “retired” raiders to help us fill the 20th slot on Uu’nat at a couple of points. In regards to having viable alts, we liberally reroll and re-gear to the classes and specs which we believe will be strong in the next raid.

The Cabal was a tougher boss than was predicted, to what would you attribute your significant advantage on it?

Champs: The fact that we right off the bat focused on dealing with the mechanics rather than minmaxing Promises of Power uptime. This gave us more consistency in each pull because we’d cut out a lot of random deaths where people forgot or messed up dispelling.

What did you think of the Cabal as a boss in general? Especially compared to BoD and Uldir bosses.

Leo: The difficulty of the boss is higher than that of Mythrax and Blockade by quite a bit, the entire raid was just basically a pre-end boss + a very difficult end boss. The fact that it required maximum concentration when it came down to interrupts and debuff management made it very difficult for guilds that weren’t prepared for this.

Rinoa: I think it’s a fantastic boss. There’s not much RNG, it requires coordinated teamplay and clever planning to pull off well. All in all it’s one of my favourite fights this expansion.

The discussion over vacation days, player availability etc. has been in focus lately, what is your policy on it in general and for Crucible specifically, as you seemed to go pretty hard at it for those 10 days?

Champs: Our progress raid times are listed on our Wowprogress page (from raid opening to midnight first day, 19.00 to midnight during the week and 16.00 to midnight during weekends) but these times are not strict at all. All of us want to raid as much as possible during progress which is why we often try to start earlier. However, if someone is unable to attend outside of the previously mentioned raid times that is totally fine. For Crucible specifically we had played with the idea of going full daytime the first 5 days of progress (Wed-Sun) for a chance at World First. Everyone thought it was a good idea and we went for it.

Did you have any roster issues during Crucible progress, like having to swap players to to unavailability etc?

Leo: Not in the first few days of progression, but as the progress went on, we had players that just couldn’t attend daytime because of their work, and if we wanted to start earlier than when people could make it home, we had to swap in players that didn’t have as much experience in the fight.

Will you commit to progressing through Azshara’s Eternal Palace “hardcore”, aka full-time, like you did in Crucible?

Champs: When we decided to do 5 daytime raids for Crucible, we specifically mentioned that it wouldn’t affect our approach to Azshara’s Eternal Palace. As of right now we don’t have any plans for going as hardcore as we did this time but nothing is decided yet. ;)

Rinoa: Undecided as of yet. This raid was something of an experiment, mainly based on our initial thought that this would be a rather short tier - only being 2 bosses. At first we imagined it’d be over during the first weekend which is why we were okay with dayraiding. We’ll see what happens in the future, but generally speaking we’re not a dayraiding guild.

You earned yourself a 6ish hour head start over Method with your early Cabal kill, how important do you think that was? Was it relevant to you throughout Uu’nat progress?

Champs: Mentally it was really good to be the only guild at Uu’nat. It gave us valuable information regarding boss health, timers, etc. Even though the boss had a major bug (whenever the Undying Guardians got 10+ stacks of Hunger for the End they healed to full health with each auto attack which forced us to use the Storm during P1 to kill them off) I don’t think it mattered much in the big picture. In my opinion what should have given the biggest lead was the time spent on the boss after the Tuesday nerfs.

What are your thoughts on the US 16 hour advantage (and the US and EU advantage over Asian guilds)?

Champs: So far it hasn’t mattered. It’s definitely an advantage for EU guilds to watch US streams Tuesday evening and I’m assuming Chinese guilds do the same. For a pure World First race a global release is necessary, especially now when the Chinese guilds are starting to look scary.

Rinoa: I think it compromises the competitive integrity of the race. It’s hard to imagine things being fair when each of the three major regions have different starting times, but we all fight to reach the finish line first. Asia gets it worst of all, starting two days after North America.

We don’t really know much/anything about your Uu’nat progress. What was it actually like? How early did you get to some lower % milestones (50, 30, 10 etc), compared to Method?

Champs: The first 100 pulls were spent on figuring out how to deal with Unstable Resonance, where to place the Relics, where to position for Eyes, dealing with the random timings, etc. We had our first sub 50% pull during our 3rd day of progress and we were ahead of Method until Sunday afternoon, if I remember correctly.

Method had a 2% try 2 days before your kill, where were you at that point?

Champs: I don’t remember the exact % but around 10% I think. However, the last phase can’t really be measured in % because we still hadn’t managed to kill off the 2nd add wave in P3 at that point and we all knew that if we could get over that hurdle we would get the boss to 0%.

Rinoa: To elaborate a bit on what Champls wrote, progress-wise the last phase can be looked upon as “waves” of mechanics. If you get past one wave, you buy yourself a lot of time where there’s not much going on and you get to push damage for a while. We were stuck on the last “wave” where we had to live through the beams, marks and kill off the last set of adds. The boss health was probably around 10% at that point, but we knew that if we could make it past that point the boss would simply flop over as there were no more dangerous timings left which would be difficult to survive - the fight was simply over.

What are your thoughts on the Mythic additions to both Cabal and Uu’nat?

Champs: Personally I thought the Mythic mechanics on Cabal could’ve been done better. Especially the lightning orbs, which are really hard to see when the room is filled with ocean orbs and with the raid getting dragged all over the place. Regardless it’s still a good fight. Unstable Resonance on the other hand is basically what defines the Mythic version of the fight. A really enjoyable mechanic. Going back to Heroic Uu’nat after progressing Mythic makes it feel like there are no mechanics at all.

Was Uu’nat a more strategy/comp intensive fight or more down to gear or pure player skill?

Champs: A mix of everything but mainly player skill. In my opinion the most important factor was consistency. A player that never messes up Unstable Resonance and never misses an interrupt will get you to the last phase 100% of the pulls which allows the raid to practice more of the fight over less pulls.

Your raid composition was drastically different to Method’s, with both going for a lot of potential revives, but you opted for Ele Shamans as opposed to Method’s Warlocks. What made you choose this particular comp?

Champs: We don’t value the Warlocks ability to gateway over the Eye Beams as high. To us it was healable and bringing Ele Shamans gave us extra Ankhs, an easier interrupt rotation and more boss dmg in P3. We also didn’t want to move people onto alts that they were not as comfortable playing because this boss is about consistency and in general we value consistency highly.

Was he a polished experience, bug-wise?

Champs: We encountered a few bugs - Guardians healing to full HP with every auto attack, Blinking/Teleporting over players with a different Unstable Resonance triggers it (I don’t know if this has been fixed yet) and being able to stack all Unstable Resonances to instantly clear them, for example. I don’t think any of these bugs mattered a lot except the Guardians healing, but as soon as that was fixed the fight was completely playable as long as your Mage behaved.

What did you think of the tuning on Uu’nat, both before and after the individual hotfixes?

Champs: Disregarding the 10min Berserk timer of the first iteration I think it was killable without any hotfixes, but the planets had to align and everyone had to play perfectly to pull it off. It was silly that Oblivion Tear could target melee players and in my opinion it’s silly that Insatiable Torment can target Healers. However, I think the way the boss is tuned right now (before next week's nerfs) is really good for high end guilds. When you die to a mechanic it’s not because the mechanic is dumb (Jaina casting Icefall right over Wall of Ice???) but instead it’s because you messed up.

How did you feel about gambling on the Paladin healer considering the Torment mechanic?

Champs: Insatiable Torment is basically Argus Chains all over. It didn’t happen too often and when it did we just played the phase the best we could. Even though it made that specific pull a bit harder it didn’t affect our overall progress.

What was the most crazy/funny/stupid tactic you tried, on either Uu’nat or Cabal?

Champs: We didn’t try any funny business on Cabal but my favorite stupid tactic on Uu’nat was the “pixel stack” (or whatever people called it) where we stacked everyone in the same hitbox before Unstable Resonance went out to instantly clear it. We didn’t try to build a real strategy around this because we knew it wasn’t intended but it was fun regardless.

What do you think gave you that edge to down the boss before everyone else?

Champs: I don’t think there was a single thing that made it but rather it was the teamwork. Basically our entire roster came with valuable input before and throughout progress. We constantly made small adjustments between pulls to perfect our strategy and that’s not possible if only a few people contribute.

Rinoa: In addition to the points Champls brought up, I’d also like to mention that our raid atmosphere is amazing. Keeping the mood light and the motivation of each player up is helpful when staring down the abyss of a 700+ pull boss. It’s easy for things to go sour, and if negative thoughts get a hold of people their performance tends to suffer as a result. We place great importance on ensuring the mood of the raid is as good as it reasonably can be, and I think that ultimately greatly increases our performance as a team.

How stressful was it when both you and Method got to the stage where every pull was a potential kill? This time around that particular stage lasted for a couple of days - how did you manage that?

Leo: I actually wore my trusty lucky T-shirt and just hoped that they would choke forever on 2% - seems it paid off. Otherwise just trying to not think about it in general and focus on our own goal, it is important to not lose sight of what we are working towards even in the darkest hours.

What are your thoughts on Uu’nat - his difficulty, the two rounds of hotfixes, the required raid composition, anything really?

Leo: Uu’nat’s mechanics themselves aren’t too complicated nor too difficult, however all of them combined with his absolute massive health pool makes you have to play those mechanics over and over, and sometimes you just can’t help but make some mistakes. Everybody makes a mistake at some point, and often that mistake is enough to cause a wipe. The two nerfs definitely made the boss easier, the Storm of Annihilation nerf wasn’t really meaningful because we just sacrificed the person that activates the storm after the adds have been killed off by the storm. But the change made to Oblivion Tear so it can’t be cast right after marks is absolutely insane, not to mention 33% less Insatiable Torment in last phase. Another nerf that could have been made to Insatiable Torment that doesn’t change how often it occurs would be if it could only target ranged dps players. If one healer gets Insatiable Torment early in p3 you can just call it a wipe.

Where would you rank Uu’nat in the WoW endboss pantheon?

Champs: The current iteration of no bullshit mechanical difficult is really fun. I’m not able to give it a definitive placing but it’s one of my favorite bosses.

Rinoa: It’s one of the most mechanically interesting fights I’ve ever progressed on, so for me it’s up there with Blackhand as one of the best.

What was the funniest moment during progress?

Champs: Whenever Ulf spoke or trolling Josh with the Jad -4.5k meme.

Rinoa: Ulf being… well, Ulf. Golden nuggets as “The relic moved!” when a player failed to turn in his mark to a relic which was stationary on the ground, and many other funny things. Due to how many pulls it took to kill Uu’nat, every single player in the raid had at least one moment where they make a mistake so dumb and so obvious that we can’t help but laugh. Many good times were had off the back of such moments.

Your meme war with Method’s Josh has been pretty entertaining, are there any specific ones you’d like to pick out? And in general, is it all just friendly banter or is there a more competitive edge to that sort of interaction?

Champs: Josh has been part of Pieces on and off since Highmaul. We all love him and we all love to bully him. It’s all just friendly banter but if we manage to tilt him that’s just a positive side effect for us. ;)

Rinoa: It’s friendly banter, nothing we do towards each other is meant maliciously. I thought it was particularly funny when Lyaira uploaded a >10 minute video right after we killed Uu’nat and “leaked” this false kill video to Josh. Turns out it was just a pull timer followed by 10 minutes of the $4.5k meme (referring to when he lost $4.5k on a Runescape bet).

Any interesting fan interactions? Either yours or of opponent’s guilds?

Champs: I didn’t have any personal interactions but it was great to see all the memes people posted in all of the chats on Twitch. Seeing the chat explode when we killed Cabal was amazing too.

Rinoa: It’s heartwarming to receive messages of congratulations from old friends, people I have never spoken to cheering for us and showing their support for Pieces. We’re not the most public or famous guild out there, but it’s lovely to see there are people who think well of us.

Any specific mechanics on the bosses that you either hated or loved, or were particularly troublesome?

Champs: The Unstable Resonance mechanic was really enjoyable to learn because it wasn’t possible to make up rules that everyone had to follow - it simply didn’t work. The only way to deal with the mechanic was to pull enough until everyone learnt their own special way of dealing with it which created different playstyles. Some people cleared it as fast as they could while others prioritized giving room to others over clearing their own mark.

What is it like racing against a guilds that streams their progress? You could see exactly how far along they were at all times, their strategies and raid comps - how much did that influence your own progression?

Champs: Watching US streams helps a lot to prep for the first day and it influenced what Relic order we chose on the first boss. When Method made it to Uu’nat we kept an eye on what they were doing and adapted some of our tactics to what they did. It also makes you comfortable when you see that you’re ahead of your competition, and it makes you anxious to see you’re behind.

Did you ever consider streaming the Crucible race? Would you consider streaming future ones?

Champs: Streaming has several downsides: it takes attention away from the fight, if someone performs poorly they run the risk of getting memed by chat and it promotes catering to viewers (by padding, for example). For both progress and farm raiding it’s a disturbance. Pieces as a guild tries to build a roster of friends that enjoy playing games with each other and we believe streaming takes away from this experience which is why we didn’t consider streaming Crucible and most likely won’t stream future tiers.

What are your thoughts on class balance at the moment? Obviously Crucible favored ranged classes, but is that more due to the nature of the fights or is the balance also skewed? Any OP classes out there at the moment?

Leo: Class balance right now is questionable, but both BoD and CoS are heavily ranged favored due to the nature of the fights yes, and you can see this because in M+ there is a lot more melee representation. With this being said, specs like frost and unholy Death Knights, retribution Paladin, enhancement Shaman and both warrior specs do laughable single target dps. Of course any spec is viable after a boss has been nerfed numerous times after the WF kill, but I don’t think we should settle for that.

Do you have any shoutouts?

Champs: My parents for always being supportive of me, the guild for doing an amazing job, all Twitch memers in chat and Steffe.

Luml: My parents for always being there for me. A shoutout to all our former raiders that have always been there for us in spirit and cheered for us.

Leo: Being of Asian descent it’s rare for parents to be supportive of a child playing videogames (except if you’re Korean), so shoutout to my mother for being awesome and my friend Pelagìus-DraenorEU - a childhood friend of mine that’s always been there for me.

Rinoa: Irene for being the most patient, thoughtful and supporting woman I’ve ever met. Every single member of Pieces for providing such a fantastic place to spend my time. All the people supporting us with your warm words. Altered Time and Concerned Server for all the good times.

And that about wraps it up for this look into Pieces' Crucible of Storms adventure, congratulations on the win once again and we really, REALLY hope to see them competing full time once more in Azshara's Eternal Palace!

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