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The Raiding Pinnacle: vodka

Article originally posted on Manaflask

Welcome to a new feature that will cover the world's top guilds and their opinions on WoW, raiding, and everything else you might want to know about them. We start off with the current top US guid vodka and look into this whole US vs. EU "thing" to find out what exactly the guilds themselves think of all the yelling going on around them. It's going to be a two-parter, so come back next week for the rest of it if you like it. But enough from me, let's let them introduce themselves.

Vodka is a long time raiding guild that resides on the US-Alterac Mountains server. While the server and members have changed over the life-span of the guild, the mentality and goals have remained a strong part of the guild‘s identity. Our primary focus is on being one of the best and most consistent raiding guilds in WoW. We pride ourselves on being a guild that offers a unique raiding experience for top players through our guild’s community. This allows our members to enjoy themselves through various outlets, build friendships with other players, and ultimately become better gamers. Involved in this interview are two of the current officers of the guild, Grafarion and Killars. Grafarion is a warrior that has been playing with vodka since late TBC and Killars is a rogue who joined during early WOTLK.



Let's just get the most contested questions out of the way so they don't bother us during the rest of the interview, shall we.

Why do you think there even is a US vs. EU rivalry in WoW?

Grafarion: The reason there is a rivalry is simple, competition. Everyone wants to be the best and the outstanding talent of the EU has many US guilds striving to set foot on equal ground or surpass them. It is like any other competitive sport.

Killars: As for the whole US vs. EU rivalry I don’t really see it to be honest. I mean we want to beat everyone and EU guilds want the same. I don’t feel we want to beat the EU guilds any more than we want to beat the US guilds. If anything, the only reason we want to beat EU guilds is they are regarded more highly as they are ranked higher. If another US guild were ranked #1 we’d be just as happy beating them to a boss as we would if they were an EU guild that was ranked #1.


What's your opinion on the 1 day difference for new patch releases between US and EU, do you think it impacts the World First race at all, or if it did in the past?

Unfortunately Blizzard has set in place the schedule for raid weeks and patch roll outs in WoW across regions so this is something that is out of every guild’s hands. Time, specifically a head start, can and has impacted the world first races; but it is something that everyone has accepted as “just the way it is.” The only solution would be to roll out all the content patches across all regions at the same time. This could be done a week or two in advance of unlocking the raid instances which would allow everyone to start at closer to the same time.


Is there an actual difference between playstyles, or raid leadership styles between US and EU, or is it just down to individual guilds?

Every guild, whether it be EU or US has a unique raid atmosphere that works for them. The structure of raids and the leadership is different in every guild. With regards to play style the EU players are much more group first oriented it seems. The unfortunate truth is that many US players are selfish and self-serving and don’t always think about the collective effort while raiding.


A gating system: would the 1 day advantage really be that impactful if this system were to be implemented again? (Sunwell-style gating specifically)

I think a gating system would pretty much negate any lead time or head start one guild or region had over another. I will mention that I think that a gating system is a great tool if used correctly and under the right circumstances. For example during Cataclysm launch a gating system would have been welcomed and effective. The lack of one made the current tier of content one of the most challenging and grindy over a period of time, simply because of the number of difficult bosses. Couple that with the leveling process and all other non-raid content and it was a bit overwhelming. I don’t think for the upcoming Firelands raid there should be a gating system if it is the only raid instance made available as there aren’t many bosses. The truth is the natural gate of clearing the entire instance on normal in the first week in order to unlock heroic modes is more than fair and sufficient.



Phew, now that we covered those pressing topics we can relax a bit and continue at a more relaxed pace.

Your guild has changed a lot from its beginnings, would you like to tell us a little about this latest incarnation of Vodka and how exactly it came to be?

Vodka is a guild that has been around a long time. While no one remains from its inception during the original release, the foundation that the guild was built on remains and I think all alumni of vodka would be proud of where we are at now and where we are headed. Vodka is a guild that has many interesting stories over its history but one that is most meaningful to many of its current members was the rebuilding period during mid-WOTLK. Problems with our guild during the Ulduar period left it close to disbanding. The content at the time was quite challenging and we actually were doing quite well till heroic Mimiron. It was there we almost scored a super early kill but fell short. It wasn’t till a few weeks after that we actually killed it. Around this time we lost many great players and healers to internal drama and burnout. I still remember the GM at the time telling me he was going to disband the guild and that we would stop raiding. It was then that myself and a few other officers committed to rebuilding the guild and making vodka everything that it used to be. With the help and dedication of all our officers and members we were able to work hard and re-establish ourselves over time. It wasn’t always easy and we made a lot of mistakes, but we worked hard, focused and set goals, and kept pushing to be better. I credit everything our guild is today to the members of the guild that have made it what it is.

I was a new addition to vodka during the Ulduar “rebuild” of the guild. Things were certainly unstable and in need of drastic change. I really can’t speak too clearly on how the guild got to that point, but I felt it had reshaped itself, although I know I’ve never been happier with the status of the guild currently. From my point of view the guild acknowledged change was needed and they went ahead with such changes. As an officer core we honestly just wanted to be part of something big and successful, and through just being logical and fair with each other we get things done. All the officers pitch in and we often are overly critical of each other’s bias and make sure it doesn’t get in the way. Everyone in vodka knows where they stand and everyone knows what they are responsible for. We don’t waste anyone’s time, we don’t recruit people for the bench, and we try to treat people like they are actual human beings and not just minions of a raiding guild.


Considering recent comments on the length of, not only the progress cycle in general, but also the daily amount of time invested that is necessary to be competitive, do you think certain guilds had the default advantage due to them being able to raid basically all day every day? Has this become a necessity of progress raiding, and where does your guild stand on this issue?

Without question if you COULD raid all day every day it would provide you with an advantage over others. However, the reality is that most of these comments are wildly over exaggerated and no guild can really do that. Not because of availability but because of mental capacity and focus that diminishes. I think it is also up to every guild to determine what they want to commit to with regards to time. During progression the requirements can be quite high, as much as 7 days a week for 5-7 hours a night, but most players who commit to that enjoy it and are willing to make accommodations to do so. Bare in mind it is only temporary insanity. Our guild will always do whatever we can within our power to be competitive and successful and that includes a large time investment. However, we are pretty grounded, in that our members have lives outside the game and responsibilities that can’t be avoided indefinitely.

Not everyone can take the time off and play for 30hrs straight, but we do ask for people to do it and most do. EU guilds have been able to sustain raiding more often and put in more time per raid than US guilds for the most part. It’s something we’re slowly working towards, but raiding on holidays (Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, etc.) just doesn’t seem likely from a US standpoint.



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


I think Blizzard has invested more time and resources into content outside of raiding then ever before. There is definitely something for players with various interest levels. Between alts, pvp(arena/rbg), 5-mans, dailies, questing, achievement, etc there is plenty of fun and high quality content should you choose to partake. I myself am active in almost all offerings of the game.

Hmm non-raiding, what is that? Haha, I honestly don’t find WoW all too exciting out side of raiding and competing. I played a great deal of arena and obtained several titles on my alt and main, but I totally despise leveling and questing alltogether. I do think they’ve done a better job this expansion with making the 5 mans more difficult and fun as well as making gear a bit harder to accumulate by comparison to early WotLK.


Favorites!

- Raid instances

All of them, I am crazy. I liked every dungeon and raid instance for a different reason and have done everything far too many times.

Bastion of Twilight, Sunwell, Naxx 40, and AQ40

- Boss encounters

C’thun, Yogg +0 Light, and Mimiron Heroic.

- Expansion

Classic, not so much because of the content quality but because of the fresh experience an MMO was for me and the unique experience I had raiding through the content.

The Burning Crusade. This was where I really started raiding hardcore and I guess it holds such a high value because back then I really enjoyed playing the game in all aspects.

- Tier set design

Tier 3 Dreadnaught

Rogue Tier 0.5, 2, 3, 5, and 6

- New Features (like the PvP system, or flying mounts, or 25 man raids, anything really)

Although I think the implementation was botched and the way things are earned and capped is just awful, I really do like the whole guild leveling, challenges, and achievements idea. Also I’ll quietly state I still think 10 and 25 man raiding should be distinctly different in terms of loot and tuning, but I won’t open that can of worms too much.



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

I think the diplomatic response would be yes as more content has been pushed out that touches more of the player base. But I think the reality here is Blizzard has moved their game towards the mass audience, and rightfully so. At the end of the day it is all about money. My personal opinion is that with every content patch the game becomes less “hardcore” in its game play and player/group requirements. The depth and differences of classes and how they perform at the highest level seems to be shifting into simplified and more similar classes, and thus taken less into consideration. The content is losing its subtle challenges in exchange for built-in emotes that indicate more and more boss abilities. Unfortunately top guilds have also been farming the content for far too long with really nothing enjoyable or interesting to do with regards to raiding. Loot is no longer a real factor as so much drops and top guilds gear out so quickly. I understand it is unreasonable for content to be delivered at a more rapid rate and avoid nerfs for top tier guilds. That being said I don’t believe Blizzard considers the impact this lull period between progression periods has on top guilds, their members, morale, interest level, and ultimately enjoyment.


Do you think Blizzard will do a good job with the upcoming Firelands raid? What are you hoping for and what are you expecting?

I think so. It has been in the works for some time now and from what we have seen in previews, looks promising. My hope is to see content that is challenging and tasteful, especially since there will be less than there was at launch. It may be wishful thinking but I would really like to see some new encounter mechanics, as often times the new bosses are old encounter mechanics with a twist (repackaged or combined).

I do think Blizzard will do a good job as they always do. This game is still buggy, but far less buggy and far more polished than any other game out there as far as I'm concerned. We don’t live in a world were things are going to be perfect and they do a very good job at doing the best anyone can really expect. As for what I’m expecting or hoping to see, we’ll I don’t think to deeply into that, but I’m sure we’ll see loads of fire and lava.

That's it for part 1 of the interview, it was a bit too long for a single-parter, so come back next Thursday for the rest, focusing on the raiding so far in Cataclysm and everything related to that.