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The Raiding Pinnacle: Karfagen

Article originally posted on Manaflask

Welcome to the Raiding Pinnacle, where the top guilds share their opinions on raiding, WoW in general and everything else you might want to know about them. It's Russia's turn this time, with their top guild, Karfagen sitting down in the interview chair. They are currently No.4 in the world standings (if you calculate the US 1 day advantage, and you should) and have a good shot at even downing Ragnaros first. Let's see if we can get some insight into the Russian style of WoW, and if such a thing even exists.
(Obviously the interview was done before Firelands progress).

Introductions.

Karfagen is a Russian guild on Booty Bay EU realm. The roots of our guild are the Feed our Fame guild on Zenedar-EU. With the release of Russian servers the guild migrated to Booty Bay-EU and was named Zenedar. In mid-WOTLK the leaders of the guild changed and it was renamed to Karfagen, and the guild began gaining strength. Our goal is to be one of the best raiding guilds in World of Warcraft.

I'm Shraiko, an officer of Karfagen, and I've been playing a Protection Warrior since early Burning Crusade. I've tried lots of other classes and specs, but my heart belongs to my dear plate can. I joined Karfagen in late WoTLK. My name is Andrew, I'm a 20 y.o. Citizen of the Russian Federation, living in Moscow, if that makes any sense.


Are you a purely Russian (or ex USSR countries) guild, or do you have people from other countries as well?

Yeah, we are an ex-USSR-countries-guild. :P We have people from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, and even Cyprus and Spain. The primary language of Karfagen is Russian, of course.


Do you think there is a difference between players from your region and European/US players, and if so what is it?

Personally I don't think there's the slightest difference. After having played on both EU and RU realms, I can say that we are all the same ingame.


Do you have any server issues that make it more difficult for you to raid?

I don't remember server-side problems since Ulduar times, when everything was lagging damn hard. Actually, there is a problem making life harder – very long ticket response time.  Every other thing is perfect.


You ended up World 10th at the end of the first tier of Cataclysm progression. Did you expect to do so well, was this even an actual goal for you or did it just happen?

There is always one goal – top 1, haha. :P Yeah, we were aiming for Top 10 when Cata was launched. Then, after the Chimaeron kill, we were in 5th position and our goal was changed to hold it. Unfortunately, V&T and Cho'gall (:/) denied us. We'll try to get our revenge in Firelands.


Why do you think you managed to get such success, what's different about your guild that made it possible?

We couldn't have done it without a strong, big guild roster and a desire to win. And, of course, without the famous Russian spirit – we do our best when it's needed! We can play bad, wipe to the stupidest things in the world, but when it comes to progression – we concentrate and win. :D


What else do you think you guys do differently from other guilds? 

Test normals on PTR in blue premade gear. Aww. Blizzard, plspls, make charcopy from RU to PTR.




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?

If you want to be among the first, you have to spend lots of time raiding. Being a good guild doesn't mean you will end up high without “no-life” raids. That's just how it is. I think nothing can be done about it, and I doubt that anything should.

As far as we're concerned,  anyone applying to Karfagen knew that we were going to raid a lot. No one left because 'guys, that tempo is not for me, I'm tired, I'm leaving' but, of course, everyone had their own challenge because of long and time-consuming raiding. We were raiding 8+ hours a day in Cata, and we'll probably raid even more during Firelands progression. I hope clearing Firelands won't take long, because raiding the whole summer... meh.


What's your opinion on the non-raiding side of Cataclysm?

I really loved Cata 5-man heroics in my green 318 ilvl gear when we all leveled to 85. That reminded me of Shadow Lab/Shattered Halls heroics in TBC. Quests... I'm not a big fan of questing, but the reworked starting locations made me partly re-complete my Loremaster. :D Really good job by Blizzard. Guild achievements are also fun to complete.


Tier 11 Raiding

Was the progress length too much? How did it impact the guild and what would you change about it?

Yes, it was very long and exhausting. Because you not only had to raid, but also clear lots of 5-man heroics and complete a ton of dailies to level up your reputation for enchants/rep epics etc. Of course, as it was stated by many people, gating (or maybe some kind of attunement) would make Cataclysm content less exhausting and make people enjoy all the level 85 content present in game. These three months of progression obviously had an impact on the guild, almost everyone was whining at the end. When I was refreshing Blazing Bone Construct's energy on Nef HC's P3 thus wiping the raid, I felt everyone was blaming me hard off vent. :) But finally, when the progression was over, in two-three weeks we started to clear all 13 bosses in 1 day and got lots of free time. At this point I don't want Firelands to come out, haha. :P


Did you prefer the shorter leveling duration in this expansion?

Yeah, I don't like leveling at all, I enjoy end-game content much more. But players who do definitely should have enjoyed new locations and quests. Locations are designed well and quests are fun to do.


Encounter difficulty, did Cata really live up to the "harder" image it went for?

Without any doubt, yes. Anyone in the raid had to do his best to deal with the boss. Even a slightest mistake, even on the last couple of percent, could ruin the perfect try. That's a step forward. You had to show knowledge of encounter mechanics, deal good dps, show great survivability all at once, plus having to interrupt casts when needed, bang the gongs, etc. In my opinion, this was the hardest content ever created by Blizzard (yeah, there was Sunwell, but that had gating. ^^)


Bugs! With the extreme amount of bugged, unbalanced and straight-up untested bosses, how did this impact the way you played this progress tier and what are your opinions on it?

Bugs...
It's always annoying to see bugged bosses, even after all these sort of bugs were reported on beta forums (hello skeletons spawning on a tank when he's under Mangle on Magmaw!), but this is reality – there cannot be content fully clean of bugs. Something can always go wrong. And by hiring high-end raiders for the testing team Blizzard is heading the right way. Let's see what will be done in Firelands – that seems to be bug-free for now.



Exploits. Now, no one wants to talk about this (or Atramedes screenshots for that matter), but what are your thoughts on this matter? What exactly IS an exploit? Did you have any dilemmas during the race about whether to use a certain tactic becuase you were unsure of whether it's ok or not?

IMO, an exploit is something that prevents a boss from doing what he should do or a player getting debuff or any other thing he SHOULD have got without using an exploit. Now about the specifics.

First one we encountered was found right on starting pulls on Halfus HM – dragons, if kited properly, could end up standing doing nothing, not meleeing the tank. We had a hard time deciding whether to use this or not (also at this time we learned that Atonement was healing through MS – not an exploit – but 'feature') and decided not to use both 'features'. Then we saw everyone killing him via evade bug or Atonement and  when the other exploits/bugs were found (Atramedes), we didn't hesitate to use them, realizing no one's gonna play gentlemen with us... well, the boss was unkillable without using them. Of course, it's not good to have a dilemma – use it or not, but if you don't see any other way the encounter could be beaten... you know, “progress doesn't stink”. That was clearly Blizzard's problem to make people exploit this encounter, and I hope they won't make this mistake again.


Class balance and class stacking - one of the more controversial issues of this expansion so far, what are your thoughts on it? Did you use alts on certain encounters, or even all the time? Do you think it has become a must-have ingredient of the raiding culture now if you want to be in the top?

Cataclysm (now referred by everyone as Casterclysm ;/) brought to us the most melee-unfriendly encounters ever made. We didn't use alts on progress tho, because we simply didn't get them leveled and geared, otherwise we would use them, of course, because it has a huge impact on overall raid survivability and damage done, especially on encounters like Magmaw H pre-nerf, Ascendant Council, Maloriak (really, why such a small hitbox?). Benching a lot of good players just because 'we don't need melee on this boss, go away afk @ org lol' IMO is not a thing Blizzard is aiming to do. But now alts/alt raids are something you should have if you wanna be among the best, especially for the melee DPS, and for Firelands most of us have alts geared to take their place in the raid during progression if it is needed.

About class balance, I'm playing a tank and I'm happy to see all tanking classes are finally balanced pretty well. Melees are, of course, living a hard life now, we see Blizzard trying to change the situation, but it just doesn't work.


Best and worst encounters in tier 11.

I pretty much loved the idea of Conclave of Wind. Having three platforms play their own game constantly communicating — it was a great coordination-check for all raids. :) Also, I liked Omnotron DS and Dragon Siblings – V&T. Ascendant Council drives me mad even now when I start to remember these billions of 200-400k wipes.



How would you improve on the overall raid design that is currently in place?

It was disappointing to see that most bosses are just like we've seen before in our raiding career – tank the boss and adds, interrupt the cast, heal, win. New mechanics like Atramedes' sound, Cho'gall's 'sanity' were fun.  Blizzard made a step forward in Firelands in terms of mechanics, Rhyolith's one is damn enjoyable. Also, if Blizzard is ever going to make content as long as they made Casterclysm, they should really think of gating.


Overall opinion of tier 11 raids.

Despite the fact that the content clearing time was long, I liked it. I would even say that was the best tier in my raiding career (since TBC start) in terms of challenge and fun from killing these bosses. The one thing I hated in this tier is the Normal-mode progression week, when we had to wait until Tuesday to get Nefarian spawned and kill him in a rush. Otherwise it was very enjoyable.


Quick questions:

- Loot 
The amount of loot dropping now in 25-man is pleasing my loot-whorish nature. The raid is gearing up very quickly even if tanks get all the tokens. Epics have now lost their significance and prestige. I remember the good old times when you saw epic-geared player, you were just... wow! Now everyone has epix, everyone has tier, the whole server is looking similar, meh.

- Classes and balance
Bring the melees back into business. In terms of tanking classes balance, Blizzard should really try to equalize threat gain, burst and sustained. Other things work well, even if your class isn't best for tanking a certain boss, you can just ask your paladin for one more Sacrifice when it's needed and you're ok.

- Lore
Not a big fan of lore. But if I can address it here: stop calling us mortals on every possible encounter.

- New questing areas
I enjoyed reworked Azeroth questing during leveling my warlock. Blizzard did a good job doing quests so straight and fun. Also, board in Orgrimmar addressing you to level in a certain location is a very good idea too – I was always forgetting location level gaps.

- Old questing areas
I. Am. Tired. Of. Hellfire. Peninsula.

- The Encounter Journal
Well, personally I think EJ doesn't have THAT big of an impact on raiding as it's said. Everything that's written in EJ everyone was learning in a couple of pulls. Also, if you know what the boss is doing, you can't always say how it'll go when you actually try it, e.g. how is the tank dmg, how/when adds spawn. This game is all about adaptation to the boss, whether you know what he's doing or not. One thing I wouldn't do is put information about a couple of last bosses on Heroic in the EJ. You should open it for yourself. Otherwise I don't see any problem about EJ.


Favorites!

- Raid instances
Karazhan, Black Temple, Ulduar, Bastion of Twilight

- Boss encounters
Malchezaar and Gruul w/o knowing Shield Block prevents Crushing Blows :D Kael'thas, Lich King, Mimiron HC, Conclave.

- Expansion
Classic/TBC. Every person you ask will name the expansion when he started playing because when you see WoW for first time, you only remember it as good times, you are much more critical to it later.

- Tier set design(s)
Tier 6

- New Features
Putting together 10 and 25-man raids in terms of achievements is silly. I also loved achievement system and Dungeon Finder. I run Call to Arms heroics from time to time and I got my green proto-drake which I was desperate to get in WoTLK.5 man dungeons Shadow Lab, Shattered Halls, Arcatraz, Grim Batol, Lost City of the Tol'vir

- Game(s) aside from WoW
League of Legends, rFactor


Do many/any of your members PvP and is it a part of the guild itself? What about Rated BGs, do you fix guild groups and go own it up?

Yes, we have a PvP wing, also a majority of our raiders love PvP a lot too. They run Rated battlegrounds and a bunch of Karfagen's Heroes of the Horde are coming!



PTR testing of new raid instances.

Do you hate it as much as other guilds?

It's a necessity to run PTR raids, you wanna test some features to use on live and/or even try to down the boss, the more you wipe on PTR, the less you wipe on live and make a faster kill, that's simple. The quality of Firelands PTR is a thing that will come to me in nightmares, though. Servers were crashing down repeatedly, we were thrown out of the instance every minute. When that was fixed, we encountered invisible fight elements and even invisible adds/bosses and finally a teleport to graveyard bug. I hope someone got fired for this


Do you think that it really is neccessary, could Blizzard test the stuff internally well enough if they tried properly?

They could, but itnternal testing is not enough to reveal possible bugs and exploits players can use in their favor. Hiring high-end raiders in QA is a good step forward by Blizzard.



How much of an impact is it on the real progression race when it starts?

It helps a lot. You know how these bosses work, you don't need any adaptation. Only good execution is needed if you tested the encounter well on PTR.

You've had a good look at the new bosses coming in 4.2, what are your overall thoughts on them?

Firelands will be the refreshing breath for all raiders after five months of farming old content. The encounters are all fun and mechanics implemented on some of them are just... perfect I'd say! It will be a good, challenging tier without a doubt and everyone is guaranteed to get lots of fun from raiding in Firelands. Even in summer.


Which one was your favorite and which one do you think is best designed?

My pick is Majordomo Staghelm. He's pretty fun on normal with this group up-spread mechanics, and even better on heroic when Concentration comes to play. Best designed encounter is without any doubt Rhyolith with his P1 movement control (for those who don't know, the boss has no aggro and you have to assign DPS on his feet: if you hit the left foot, he moves left, if you hit right one – he moves right, you can't let him go into magma as he insta-wipes you).


Do you think Blizzard is doing a good job of fixing the issues you encountered, and do you think the raid will be bug-free when it releases?

Yes. First time since... ehm, Sunwell PTR we saw bosses being fixed immediately during the test. I hope there will be no bugged encounters as we tested everything more deeply and under devs' eyes than @ Cataclysm Beta. But we can't be 100% sure: it's Blizz style – fix one thing and break a hundred. :D


Do you think this will be the right amount of bosses for progress?

As I already mentioned, no one wants to raid that much in the summer, and devs in Blizzard understand it. Seven bosses is good enough for this time of year. Also, you want to see something new in every tier, and developers just can't make lots of new bosses with brand new mechanics, so it's the right move to release less bosses, but make them more original.


Casuals and Hard-corers (it's a word), do you think Blizzard are doing a good job of catering to both?

Blizzard is keeping their content interesting for top-end raiders. It stays hard for everyone, even with every boss killed players' skill rise. I can say people are now playing much better than in Classic/TBC, they improve, addons also improve to make our lives easier, but the challenge stays, and that's cool. On the other hand, casuals also have their fun clearing normals and trying to start hard-modes, but this process takes a lot of time. I can remember people quitting WoW just because they grew tired of farming BT/HS over and over again, and now it's pretty similar. That impacts the motivation of hard-corers very much, lots of good players I knew quit in the last year or two just because of this.


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?

Long-time raids is part of the competition. If you want a good result – you should work hard to achieve it. Every top-end guild strives to be the best and will raid as much as is needed, with as many characters as needed and only Blizzard can change that if they would see a reason why they should. What we have now is the spirit of progress race and personally I wouldn't change a thing – if the progression is artificially slowed down, it's much more annoying than appreciated by everyone.