It's been a while since we've been over the pond to our US friends, but it's a big occasion this time, as we have the current No.3 guild in the world and US champions, Blood Legion. They've been around for quite a while and always among the top guilds, but with this raiding tier they claimed their spot on the podium and cemented their status as one of the very top guilds around. It's a big one, so get some popcorn or something cos you'll be here a while! Let's find out more about them from three of their members.
Mage, Guild Master
Joined before Blackwing Lair progression back in Vanilla
Blood Death Knight, Raid Leader
Playing since Vanilla, hardcore raiding since TBC
Joined BL in Fall 2010 (Icecrown Citadel)
Played a feral druid named Riggins up until WotLK
8 year United States Marine Corps Veteran
Mage, Recruitment Officer
Playing since Vanilla, always in a hardcore guild
Joined BL in Summer 2009 (Ulduar)
Blood Legion started as a Diablo guild back in the day and has carried over through several games, eventually onto WoW. Although we raided back in vanilla, we didn't really get collectively serious about it until Naxxramas, and have been highly competitive ever since.
Let's get right to it then, shall we. You claimed the World third in the Dragon Soul race and came out as the top US guild. How does it feel reaching the podium world-wide and securing yourselves as your country's very best?
It always feels good to finish in a strong position. At the same time we know there is still a lot of work to be done and still have a strong desire to keep
At the start of the progress race you were going very strong, with 5 World firsts under your belt. Did you think this was it, that you were going straight to the top? How did this initial lead impact the rest of your progress, the motivation and hype of the players?
It's always just a race among the US guilds during day 1 since EU has to wait, but we still pushed for each of them as fast as possible. It's always good for morale and such to get region first kills, but we didn't put more stock into them than was needed. Everyone knew that the early bosses were just going to come down to who had better managed PTR testing along with a race to who got a viable comp in there the fastest. We felt really strong about our PTR strategies for the first four bosses and ended up translating to live really well.
Considering the initial lead did it feel like a bit of a let down to "only" get the 3rd or were you happy with the result?
We are definitely happy with how things turned out. Our immediate goal going into this tier was to finish US 1st and improve on our previous World ranking from Firelands. We hit a rough spot on Spine because of both comp issues and learning the fight using Solar Beam and stuns (which was later hotfixed to not work). This set us back pretty hard, but we kept pressing and made some changes that allowed us to finish that boss. Huge congrats to KIN Raiders, Stars, Paragon, and Method for getting a Spine kill before us.
Was this tier you operating at your peak or did you have some issues during it that maybe slowed you down a little? Do you feel this placement reflects the skill level that the guild was at?
This is the highest Blood Legion has ever finished a tier on both the World and US scale. We've usually been floating around the 10th place World and US 2nd or 3rd level. We had some recent leadership and structure changes along with some solid roster additions that have helped the guild improve to its current level.
Obviously the elephant in the interview is the LFR ban wave and how it impacted the race in this tier. What are your thoughts on that?
It had little impact on the US raid scene, but a huge impact for the EU guilds. We actually spent the entire first week of the tier clearing through 6 NORMAL Dragon Soul raids (Not LFR). That kept us busy up through that Friday and by then all the LFR drama had hit the fan and was in full swing. It was an unfortunate chain of events and everyone involved (both guilty and innocent) ended up being caught up in the entire issue. No one wanted to see any of the guilds banned and win through a technicality. Hopefully it does not happen again and everyone can enjoy a nice fair and healthy race.
Is the guild composed of mostly US players, or even all? What's your opinion on single-country guilds like Paragon and For the Horde, do they have an advantage over international ones?
Most of Blood Legion is from the US. We have a handful of people in our guild from Canada as well. As far as the EU guilds go, I don't think there is an 'advantage' per se in only recruiting from a single country. If anything it is impressive that they restrict their recruitment pool and are still able to maintain a quality roster.
What is it your guild does differently from others that makes it special?
The main thing that separates Blood Legion from the majority of US guilds is its commitment level. Everyone involved understands the goal and what needs to happen to assist in meeting it. We have a fairly small raid roster compared to some other guilds, but we have players maintain multiple characters to help with raid stacking and raid comp issues. We definitely try and promote flexibility here since that is a lot of what raiding comes down to when you are full of good players. An example of our commitment level is our large-scale farming of Heroic Ragnaros mounts and legendary staves.
To what extent do you monitor what other guilds are doing and does it influence you?
Everyone here keeps up with the raiding scene for the most part. Guilds like Paragon, Stars, Method, and many others are respected as far as what they do within the game and the results they are able to produce. Seeing guilds consistently finish near the top is a very solid influence for anyone involved with progression raiding. It takes an insane amount of hard work, solid leadership, and community effort to maintain such a demanding pace.
How would you rate the difficulty of the instance overall, whether it's compared to Firelands or previous tiers?
It is somewhat similar to that of Firelands; If anything a bit harder minus Rag. You had the majority of the instance cleared within the first week and then people were hitting the wall with Spine. If anything, all Dragon Soul was missing was an added phase for Heroic Madness. The "Epic" factor that Phase 4 added to Ragnaros on Heroic was amazing and I was really hoping Madness would have followed suit. Dragon Soul had some fun bosses though. Yor'sahj was really well designed and was much more fun prior to the nerf. Fighting Ultraxion on top of Wyrmrest Temple felt really epic as well. I think the whole thing just lost appeal because of how fast Madness died.
Class balance and class stacking - one of the more controversial issues of this expansion, considering alts are now a must-have to be competitive in the top raiding scene, what are your thoughts on that? Was it a particularly relevant issue in Dragon Soul, even just compared to the previous tiers?
Alts have been a huge part of Blood Legion this expansion and will probably continue to be. Not only do they help in our ability to ensure we have the right classes for each fight, but also helped us spread gear over our mains to ensure maximum gear was obtained prior to progression. Alts also add quite a bit of depth to the game as well.
How would you improve on the overall raid design that is currently in place? (can be anything from gating, to boss designs, to bugs, to raid sizes and restrictions etc)
In the end it doesn't really matter how Blizzard tries to cut down on raiding commitments, hardcore guilds will find a way to circumvent the system. Limited Attempts / Gating / etc. Different people have different opinions on all of the suggestions. Overall I think the current raid design is pretty solid and as long as bosses are tested properly and designed just as well, this is the best option. As far as raid size goes, having both 10 and 25man options is also very optimal. It gives both raid sizes their own strengths and weaknesses along with giving the player a distinct option on what they would rather be a part of.
How do you feel about the first 6 bosses' difficulty, whether it's compared to the last 2 or compared to the first 6 in Firelands?
I think the first 6 in Dragon Soul were fairly equal to those in Firelands. Morchok and Shannox were very easy entry bosses, Baelroc and Ultraxion were the DPS checks, etc. Majordomo wasn't nearly the roadblock that Spine was, but then Madness wasn't near the roadblock that Ragnaros was. Overall it just keeps going back to how much better Dragon Soul would have been with a Heroic-only phase added to Madness.
What was your favorite boss in the instance, which was the most fun and which do you think was the best designed one?
Yor'sahj pre-nerf was really awesome. It felt really well tuned and had a constant decision making process involved (by picking which slime you had to kill). Ultraxion seemed really epic and had great pacing and visuals. Madness of Deathwing was conceptually a favorite, but fell short with its poor tuning and lack of a Heroic-only phase.
I don't think we experienced any 'bugs' going through Dragon Soul. Spine was the only fight I would say could have fallen into that category for us. We spent the first week learning the fight using Solar Beam and Stuns to avoid the Bloods blowing up, but that was hotfixed and left us back on square one.
What's your overall opinion of DS?
It may sound like a broken record, but without the proper final encounter, it really hurt the instance in an overall sense. Prior to Deathwing I think the instance was really well done in most regards. Having Spine tuned the way that it was and having the raid comp demand that it had wasn't super awesome, but I would rather have it that way than the opposite and it falling over very quickly. As far as Madness goes, the final tier/expansion bosses need to feel the most epic and rewarding when they die. Hopefully they learn and ensure those mistakes do not happen again.
What do you think of the progress the game has made since it came out, what were some of the crucial moments in WoW history for you and how did they change the game?
The switch from 40 to 25man raiding was a key turning point. Having 10man and 25man versions of the same instance was also a pretty key point as well. The game is constantly being refined and hopefully continues to improve. The technical side of the game is growing and growing. It's not enough for someone to just know how to press buttons, but now you need to know the ins and outs of why and how everything works.
What's the funniest whisper you ever got during progress?
"Have you ever considered tanking with a shield?" - In regards to being a Death Knight tank after this happened:
Time investment in raiding. Do you think it's basically a necessity to be able to raid almost all day every day now, in order to be competitive in the World First race? What are your thoughts on that (how did it affect your guild, what was it like in Firelands and what will it be like in Dragon Soul, etc etc)?
Without a doubt you have to be able to raid lots of hours during progression to keep up. That was a huge obstacle for us prior to this tier and we finally decided to put in more hours and could definitely see how it helped us. You can have the best raiders in the world, but if you're unable to commit the time needed during progression, you won't be able to produce the results. There are so many factors that go into being a 'solid raider' that many people either overlook or just do not understand. Being able to raid lots of hours is only a portion of what is required to raid here.
- Raid instances
Riggnaros: Ulduar, Serpentshrine Cavern
Ataxus: Black Temple, Sunwell Plateau
Zonker: Original Naxxramas, Sunwell Plateau
- Boss encounters
Riggnaros: Kael'thas Sunstrider, Illidan Stormrage
Ataxus: Kel’Thuzad, Kil’jaeden
Zonker: Four Horsemen, Kel'Thuzad, Kil'jaeden
The Burning Crusade
- Tier set design(s)
Riggnaros: Tier 10
Ataxus, Zonker: Tier 3
- New Features (like the PvP system, or flying mounts, or 25 man raids, anything really)
Rigg: Anything to do with raiding really, which is hands down my favorite part of the game.
Ataxus: Achievements are a great addition for veteran players.
Zonker: Voice Chat!!
- 5 man dungeons
Riggnaros: The new 5 mans that came out with Dragon Soul were really well done, and many of us wished they were used for the raid instead. All-time favorite has to go to BRD.
Ataxus, Zonker: The original Shattered Halls, we miss when 5mans were a lot more challenging.
Riggnaros: Death Knight
Ataxus, Zonker: Mage
- Game(s) aside from WoW
Riggnaros: Halo, League of Legends, Starcraft
Ataxus: No time for other games, gotta do achievements!
How do you feel about PTR testing?
It is just part of what is required to be in an end game guild. Progression starts on PTR. If you don't put the time in there, do not expect to be able to compete during the patch going live. Developing strategies, having players see encounters, getting repetitions in, etc. It is a huge part to being successful in today's raiding scene. The only concern with anything PTR related would be to have more of a fixed schedule for testing. It sucks having to adjust your plans at a moment’s notice.
After all the commotion that accompanied the Dungeon Journal's release, did it really impact the way you prepared for bosses and learned about the fights or was it just a small bonus to the process already in place?
It definitely was something that took away from learning the bosses. It makes learning about the bosses much more simple, but takes away from being able to have a very high attention to detail and you lose the feeling of a boss fight feeling like you're trying to put together a puzzle.
Casuals and Hard-corers (it's a word), do you think Blizzard are doing a good job of catering to both?
Hopefully with the implementation of LFR they can allow the Heroic versions of the bosses to stay harder and stray away from the early nerfs. I think they do a fairly good job of tuning things well on Heroic, but do have occasional slips.
In closing, do you think we're headed in the right direction in top-end raiding, on Blizzard's side and on the guild's side?
Right now I feel like raiding is at a very refined state. You hear a lot of people complain and such recently. It seems like people do not enjoy things because they are not 'new', but to each their own. The game still has tons of life left in it and Blood Legion as a whole still enjoys the game quite a lot. Hopefully it continues to grow and we can all continue to be a part of it!