The Raiding Pinnacle: Method, After Firelands

The Raiding Pinnacle: Method, After Firelands

Article originally posted on Manaflask

So here we are with the promised Part 2 of our Method feature, this time with the GM, Sco. We decided to wait a little and cover the Firelands aftermath along with the normal Pinnacle subjects. So, opinions on Firelands, the guild's performance, difficulty and a general overview of the game from Method's perspective await you inside. We'll start off with the more recent post-Firelands questions and then go into the older stuff. If you want to check out the first part of the feature just click here.


Hello, I'm Scott "Sco" from Scotland, the Guild Master of Method!

The Method guild was formed by me in the early summer of 2005 at the age of 17, a few months after the EU release of World of Warcraft. 6 years later, with me at the age of 23, Method is still in existence and under the same leadership which makes Method one of the oldest standing hardcore raiding guilds and a definition of stability.

Method quickly established itself as the number 1 guild on our server and soon after approached the world wide scene with the release of World of Warcraft's first expansion, "The Burning Crusade". From that point onwards Method has obtained several top world rank kills and finishes, making Method one of the better known guilds in the World of Warcraft PvE community of today. 

Outside of the game I am currently at university studying 'Management with Finance' and passing the time doing the usual 'nerd' stuff like watching TV series (Game of Thrones ftw!!!), movies, girlfriend, the occasional gym session etc etc etc.

You've cemented yourselves as the second best guild in WoW PvE, with two consecutive tiers at the  No.2 spot. That's a tremendous achievement, but is that good enough for you, do you feel good about  your spot or were you really hoping for more this time around?

Initially we were mega pumped for taking world 1st this time around - we felt very confident in our roster and players.  However, as you may have already read, just before the release of Firelands we had several players quit (bored of the game, needed to start a job, etc).  I actually could not believe this was happening. Don't get me wrong players come and go - but if there is a chance you might be quitting the game at least have the respect/decency to indicate the possibility in advance of the next progress tier.  Naturally this upset our plans and it really upset some of the raid setup compositions we would want to use in the upcoming Firelands progress.  With bosses 1-6 being easy we were able to quickly kill them regardless of 'optimal' setup, however, upon reaching Ragnaros and establishing that it really required an optimal DPS setup we realised we were in trouble (with a further 2-3 players having vacation commitments). Therefore being able to maintain our world 2nd rank while being faced with the aforementioned problems was a relief.  Method will certainly be taking steps to ensure this situation doesn't arise again and will be pushing to finally move up to world number 1 in the next tier of progress - no one is satisfied with being 2nd!

You really went full on in this tier of content and dominated most of the race, even after Majrodomo you were extremely close to Paragon still. Were you surprised at how fast they downed  Ragnaros, did you feel you were really going strong at that point and would get it first?

We recognised that Paragon would likely have a distinct advantage being able to run a more optimal class setup and hence probably a better P2 strategy - allowing more P3 raid DPS. Therefore it didn't come as a total surprise when they downed Ragnaros, but at the time we were of course hoping that their raid DPS wasn't high enough to make the 2 meteor P4 but unfortunately it was!

Fun on Ragnaros

Time for some Ragnaros specific questions.

How do you feel his difficulty was handled, in general and in relation to the other Firelands  bosses?

Ragnaros was difficult, vastly more difficult than the other 6 bosses.  The end boss should always be the hardest but the ramp up in difficulty was steep, probably too steep. The previous 6 bosses could have been a little harder.

How does he rate versus other bosses in WoW's history, end bosses in particular (by difficulty,  fun, design etc)?

The design was similar to what we have seen in several WoW end bosses:
P1 - long but easy
P2 - intense
P3 - easy, but tight DPS requirements
P4 - easy but dependant on P3

The design is ok, but the easy and long P1 plus the first transition gets very boring fast. The fight only starts getting fun at P2 onwards and by that time you have probably spent 4 minutes on the fight - simply a time waste to delay progress. The boss fight difficulty was good, assuming that with the optimal setup you could get 2 meteors in P3 after 1 additional reset of gear (although we didn't get to test that), if it required more than 1 reset then the difficulty wouldn't be as good, because again it would be another time waste waiting a week for gear just to continue progress. All of this is taking into account that guilds had reached Ragnaros within less than 2 days of Firelands heroic opening. I would put Ragnaros up there as definitely one of the more fun end bosses, if not the most fun if you ignore P1.

What was the key to finally downing him? Was it a crucial piece of strategy/positioning that you  found out at the end or was it just a matter of everything clicking, favorable rng and everyone  playing perfectly?

Having enough DPS to make the 2 meteor marker at P3 was the critical factor. We had reached P4 within a couple of days of being on Ragnaros, but without getting to P4 with only 2 meteors the fight is made significantly harder.  Ideally we would have adapted our setup and tactics further in order to reach this 2 meteor marker faster, but it simply wasn't possible with the roster we had available to us.  We were unfortunately 'forced' to use the P2 strategy that we did and run with a 5 healer and non optimal execute DPS setup.  Honestly, it was basically a case of: practice P1 -> 3 to perfection -> wait for our setup to obtain the gear/maximisation to finally push for the 2 meteors we needed for P4 to work. 

What's the most ridiculous strategy you tested?

Trying to AoE the P2 adds with 4 arcane mages in the raid.... :(

How do you feel about the much shorter length of the progression race this time around, specifically for the first 6 bosses?

Tier 11 was long both because there were more bosses, but mostly because the heroic bosses were likely tuned around the raid having full 359 ilvl, something that would have taken multiple resets to obtain (as guilds started with 346 blues - 15 ilvl behind). If you look at Firelands, the ilvl jump is smaller at 6 ilvl (372 -> 378 (normal)), therefore gear didn't play as big a factor as previously. I think Blizzard made a mistake with the Tier 11 progress in regards to the above and I gladly welcome the shorter length of the progression in Tier 12. It would have been better if the split was slightly more balanced in regards to 1-2 days for the first 6 bosses then ~2-3 weeks on Ragnaros.

Do you think you performed better in this tier than the prior ones, regardless of the rankings?

This tier probably brought Method as a team closer together, due to having such a small roster available we basically relied on 25 players for 25 spots. The actual performance was probably slightly better yes, had we been able to combine this with being able to run optimal setups (closer to the last tier) then great things may have happened! 

How would you rank the instance overall in comparison to the other ones so far?

The instance is enjoyable, the 'open' area that is Firelands is cool. The bosses feel varied and for the most part are fun. Firelands is definitely the best Cataclysm raid instance to date, looking back I would say it was among the best - add it to my favourites! Also with only 7 bosses the instance will be quick to farm which is always good.

What's the funniest whisper you got during progress?

Checked through my screenshots for some funny whispers because I definitely got a few but I can't remember any of them. :( Got a lot of whispers in regards to supporting Method though, so thanks to everyone who whispered me with that!

To what extent do you monitor what other guilds are doing and does it influence you?

We had people informing us of Paragon's setup for example and we could guess what tactics they were trying to achieve with such setups but we didn't have the possibility to change anything in regards to our own setup, so it didn't influence our approach.

Majorodomo Staghelm kill

And so we move on to the older part of the interview, this was done before Firelands but (literally) got lost in the mail and so wasn't part of the intitial Raiding Pinnacle article.

You're the 2nd best guild in the world at the moment, what is special or different about your guild that got you to this position?

The player roster we have is very strong and we enjoy a friendly and positive atmosphere in the guild - no one is afraid to speak up and we have plenty of input when it comes to strategy and ideas as to how to approach new boss fights. I think in general we have a sense of comfort and confidence in the guild which helps everyone play to the best of their ability. The guild is very stable and the environment that we play within is an alignment of personal goals to be the best we can possibly be. Basically the coming together of strong individual players that share positive relationships and respect for one another to create a united team.

Your guild is composed of players from many different countries. Does this ever become a problem, in regards to communication, or even cultural differences? Do you think the single-country guilds like Paragon or For the Horde have an advantage because of that?

I believe the reason that we see a large amount of single-country guilds being successful and attaining top ranks is because these guilds are able to establish the above mentioned 'comfort' atmosphere relatively easily. The players from these guilds have the same cultural background and consequently the relationship process these players partake in is quickened and enhanced through common understanding. They also have the feeling of belonging to a more 'select' group, which again is likely to further the 'comfort' factor. However I don't feel as though these guilds have an advantage playing at the top tier of guilds. The top international guilds have existed for multiple years and hence have had the time to accommodate the needed atmosphere. We cannot ignore that International guilds have a key advantage in a larger player pool.

Method is an international guild with players coming from literally all over Europe.

Real life meeting in Budapest

Method enjoyed a real-life guild meeting in Budapest, Hungary last year and we are looking forward to another guild meeting this summer. The real life meeting combined with many of Method's players having been in the guild for several years has helped us as a guild attain the required atmosphere to function at the fullest extent.

What else do you think Method does differently from other guilds?

Method is resilient but could also be described as "stubborn" at times. For example, the repeated wiping on Lady Vashj when all other guilds had practically given up and claimed the boss impossible (Method was the only guild to take a legit kill on Lady Vashj pre-nerf, gogo Nihilum fans! :D). Being stubborn has also led to some slower tactic switches in the past however, leading to the running joke of "smashing our head against the wall until it breaks" - effectively brute forcing down fights.

The Lady Vashj World First Legit kill

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?

During progress content, yes it is a necessity, if you don't then you can't realistically compete for the number one spot.  In regards to what I think about it I don't think it is a particularly healthy commitment, but what are the other options really? 

I didn't enjoy the length of the initial Cataclysm progress and nor did I enjoy the progress coinciding with the winter vacation, Christmas and New Years etc. Method took a few days break around this period from raiding but I would have wanted more to spend with family and friends - some IRL sacrifices that I probably would have found more fun had to be made. Relating back to your previous question about single-country guilds I think we saw a key difference during this period, where in an international guild differing countries put more/less importance on certain holiday days (for example not everyone was celebrating Christmas on the same day, for some New Year's day is all about visiting family and for others not etc.) but with only one culture I would assume these sort of events are more unified.

With Firelands the release is Summer which I guess for most in terms of vacation it isn't too bad - just means you don't get to enjoy the sun for a couple of weeks or make any holiday plans until you get a really late final release date from Blizzard (dislike, would appreciate more notice). Anyway we all partake in the race for world first by choice and seemingly have fun in doing so and that is the most important factor.

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

I don't think there is much to do in the game outside of raiding. This is because there simply isn't, (unless you are into achievement points) and on a personal level because I have played the game for 6 years now and in that time not much has changed other than PvP developments.

Cataclysm raiding

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

Yes, but a large part of the difficulty was due to gear levels not being on par with the fight requirements.

Overall opinion of this tier 11 raiding.

Progress time was too long. Too many bosses, should have released ~half at a later date. Bosses and their difficulty was enjoyable for the most part. Certain encounters caused frustration however, being over-tuned and later receiving significant changes/nerfs (Atramedes, Magmaw, Al'Akir only killable with 'creative' thinking), these changes were not implemented even close to fast enough.

PTR testing of new raid instances.

- Do you hate it as much as other guilds?

PTR testing isn't very enjoyable due to the usual PTR lag and obvious bugs that shouldn't exist at the public testing stage (invisible spells, login issues). However, the worst part is the late notification of actual testing (sometimes only a few hours before the raid) and with the testing literally very late time wise (~up to 0300CET...) adds stress and annoyance to the matter (cancel plans etc).

- Do you think that it really is neccessary, could Blizzard test the stuff internally well enough if they tried properly?
Blizzard could internally test yes, with the revenue generated by WoW I can't see how this wouldn't be feasible.  However there are obvious advantages of public testing so I doubt it will stop anytime soon.

- How much of an impact is it on the real progression race when it starts?
The impact will have been lessened with the addition of the Encounter Journal - however seeing the encounter on the PTR still gives you a better feel/understanding when you are trying to come up with strategies on the forums in preparation for the live releases. All top guilds will have been taking part in the PTR testing so they all share a similar head start - for guilds that don't take part in the PTR it is a loss.

The Encounter Journal. Thoughts?

Personally, I like the Encounter Journal and for the most part don't have many complaints towards it other than the fact that some entries were/are too descriptive (information more than the base ability). No longer have to waste time on wipes that simply established boss abilities and therefore have more time to do actual fun activities. 


- Raid instances

Naxxramas (vanilla), Karazhan, SSC, Sunwell

- Boss encounters
Ragnaros, C'Thun, The Lurker Below, Lady Vashj, Essence of Souls, Kil'Jaeden, Mimiron, Omnitron Defence System

- Expansion
Have to say the common answer of TBC but Cataclysm has also brought some positive changes.  WotLK didn't 'change' the game up enough and the raid instances weren't particularly enjoyable.

- Tier set design(s)
Wrath (tier 2), Dreadnaught (tier 3), tier1 + tier 4 + 5 also good, basically tier 1-5 but with a favourite of Wrath!

- New Features
Talent tree changes, dual specs (triple please).

- 5 man dungeons
Stratholme, UBRS (if it counts!), Zul'Aman, Utgarde Keep + Pinnacle, Stonecore

- Game(s) aside from WoW
Starcraft 2, DotA + COD a while ago.

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?

We have several players in Method playing rated arena and yes we have a Method rated BG team.  Alongside this we have several players casually PvPing. 

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

The Heroic modes look fairly easy.

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

Alysrazor is probably my favourite encounter thus far due to the numerous phases that encompass quite a lot of differing mechanics. Shannox feels much like an out-door boss, or a boss from Molten Core - being able to engage him almost anywhere in Firelands which is also pretty cool.

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

Hard to say, there will always be discrete 'bugs' that may be overlooked - but in the recent past some very obvious encounter design flaws have been noticed (Atramedes (repeated nerfs - not even close to the original fight, disk avoidance), Magmaw (kiting later 'disallowed' with redesign), Nefarian (overlooked a class debuff), and Sinestra to name a few). These obvious encounter flaws are inexcusable but for the most part Blizzard do an 'ok' job.  With Firelands I think we will witness less problems than prior Cataclysm progress - Blizzard will definitely have taken some key notes and have been alerted to previous flaws. 6 out of the 7 bosses are in very set locations (fire walls now lock the room!) which will eradicate some movement 'exploits' - only leaving the Shannox evades!

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

7 bosses for a summer release, absolutely.  In general terms also yes. However I do think that new raid content should be released more frequently (currently 6months+).

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

I don't think Blizzard have such a separation, simple goal of making content as accessible as possible to the majority of subscribers - 'casual' players. Starting with initially 'hard' heroic modes is the only 'catering' that Blizzard does towards "hardcore" raiding guilds - these heroic modes soon after get reduced in difficulty to further cater for the majority. The raiding community is the main caterer for hardcore raiding guilds, Blizzard don't really cater at all.

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?

I would probably say no, as I mentioned in the previous question it is the raiding community that really 'caters' for top raiding guilds. Blizzard, in an attempt to cater for the majority, reduce heroic content difficulty as time after initial release progresses. As a result more guilds are able to kill the heroic bosses and the prestige from the 'hardcore' raiding guilds is diminished. This results in a decline in community interest in regards to the 'hardcore' raiding guilds.

In reference to your question on time and alts, I have never considered spending all day everyday on the release of new content to be healthy but the alternatives that Blizzard have tried to 'test' in the past (limited attempts, timed) were not well received and hence abolished. I would welcome more development in this area. In regards to alts I don't think anything needs to be changed (as long as we assume no limited attempts).

To conclude the interview I would like to give a shout out to all the players in Method for making the guild what it is today. I would also like to thank everyone who has supported us in the past 6 years and hope you will continue to support us in the upcoming race for world first.

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