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The Tier 14 King: Method Triumphant

Article originally posted on Manaflask

Well there we have it, the throne and crown and belt and whichever metaphor for the Number One spot you prefer is Method's. They've come out on top in the tier as a whole and confirmed themselves as the top guild in 25 man raiding. It's been a long road to here, and it's had some recent bumps with Blood Legion grabbing the World First in Heart of Fear, so let's find out what the players think about this crazy ride that was Tier 14.

At the top again, how do you feel about the entire thing, both this tier in particular and throughout the history of the guild?

Pacteh: We're all happy to be at the number 1 spot now, losing Heart of Fear was a kick in the teeth at the time but only made us realize that the competition was better than we thought. After Mogu'Shan Vaults it's safe to say we were feeling pretty cocky and maybe loosing Heart of Fear was the kick we needed to make sure we outshone everyone when it really mattered on Sha. The gating helped so I could keep real life in order whilst still progress raiding, but it denied any guild moving out of reach of others, each new heroic release was like fresh starting line again.

Treckie: Well its been a very different tier in many aspects.
Its been a very gated tier with 3 releases, 3 separate smaller races that have been able to catch 100% of our focus rather than trying to progress in multiple directions at the same time, and I gotta say that I actually sorta like it. The difference in time zones, however, is still a big deal and I think blizzard can improve on that, It is very demoralizing to wake up seeing US guilds being 3/4 before EU servers even come up from maintenance, I can't even imagine how Asia feels. And for once we managed to take the top spot in the end of the Tier on a really tough and long fight you really need to keep your focus up for quite a while.


The now legendary "they're coming" nerdscreams video, what was it really like in that moment, you've been there before in Mogu'shan but this was the end of the line, finally a little rest from progress, just how excited/relieved were you?

Pacteh: Relief more than anything, we put some extra hours in to make sure we got the kill before going to sleep and it paid off. Once we had the strategy working we knew any try could be a kill but with a fight so long and when so much can go wrong, the kill still took quite a while.

Treckie: I am extremely relieved to be done with progress, even though it hasn't been 24/7 for 2 months, it's still been progress for 2 months, a lot more raiding than we are used to between the actual races and there has always been the next thing to prepare for. And all of that is over and we can just go back to very little raiding again.
At the moment of the kill, we knew we had the fight and were very capable of killing it we just needed that one try. We had "reports" that most guilds weren't really that close to killing it, although they are rarely very reliable or accurate, we just had to hope they were not ahead, so we just felt we should push it instead of going to bed cause we knew it was killable.
In Mogu'shan we were a lot further behind with the last boss (comparing by the difficulty of the bosses), but managed to quickly get a tactic going that worked and just execute it properly.

Which was the hardest and which the best/most fun of the three endbosses?

Pacteh: Probably Will of the Emperor, I was pretty mad that other guilds just abused this fight into a joke with mages. Doing this fight legitimately first week was so tight on DPS and healing with so many soaking/CC rotations made it quite enjoyable.

Treckie: I personally really enjoy Will of the Emperor, it's a lot of tank damage, and the whole dancing thing is pretty fun.
As for Empress in HoF it's a pretty boring fight for a tank outside of P2, where it's a pretty fun fight, but the rest of it is boring.
Sha is definitely the most enjoyable fight especially from a tank perspective, you have to be on your toes for the whole fight, the only real boring part is the shrines I guess but P2 is a fight where you have to really play properly, although I still wouldn't go as far as saying the encounter is very "fun" :P

Sha of Fear - take us through the timeline of your attempts on it, how did the early tries go, what were your opinions at the time, then the hotfixes etc etc, up until the very end

Pacteh: It didn't take us long at all to get into phase 2, but once we did we soon realized that the fight wasn't possible in its current form so we started getting experimental with the add mechanics. We developed a working strategy that involved ignoring all adds and were getting some close tries using it on Friday night. However, as top guilds know, Game Masters are always watching our attempts and after a good few hours they hotfixed our tactic mid attempt leaving us back at square 1. We took a short break at around 10pm and went to clear off Heart of Fear whilst trying to figure out our next move on Sha. However, just before pulling Empress we were informed that Sha had been nerfed in P2 and was apparently now killable, so we rushed back to Terrace to find that add damage had been more than halved as well as adds now coming half as frequently. Saturday we started getting comfortable with a tactic and then we tweaked it before pushing for the kill early Sunday morning

Treckie: Due to the nature of the haste buff you get once you actually reach P2, the main goal of the first day was to simply reach P2 however we could, since once you have the buff the fight changes a lot. Once P2 is reached, you have the haste buff in every P1 done after that, so we would get more dps, could bring a tank less (due to adds dying faster) and the whole phase just becomes a lot shorter. There was a lot of dancing on the outer shrines that were not practiced enough, a lot of healing/tanking coordination to pick up the globes had to be sorted out, and some of the dodging on the main platform that was improved, people dying and using up our combat resses was a big issue. We also kept a person on each platform to help the next group with dpsing the add down faster that negated some of the "bad" rng if the wrong dpsers got ported to the shrines and didn't have enough dps to get back in time with the tank.

Once we got the buff, P1 became a lot easier and we could actually use a proper p2 setup that we could use for a kill even though we had no idea how to handle P2 yet. It didn't take us that long to figure out that there were major issues with the adds in p2, and when you see some aspect of the fight that makes it ridiculous, you start coming up with tactics that negate those effects completely. And we noticed that Feign Death made the adds not go for their main target and could be aoe kited instead, but mainly they didn't actually gain speed if they didn't charge the person with the Champion buff.
We had decently low tries with this tactic before it was fixed, but I'm really happy they fixed it cause it would have been a pretty boring way to get a kill if they didn't fix those obvious problems. Luckily for us, they fixed it, since we did not have as much success with the strat as the Russians did ^^

Shortly after they fixed the Feign death issue, but before they fixed anything else, the boss really looked un-killable, so we went back to the old raids to get some gear and wait for the eventual other fixes they were doing to the encounter. Once that was fixed and we went back to Sha, we had to start developing a P2 strat that worked since our old tactic wasn't working and we had very little practice with the "proper" way to do p2. We felt a bit behind at this point since, if other guilds were at least trying it the proper way, then they would have a head start when the adds were changed.
Once we found the tactic we could survive the longest with, we stuck to it and just improved it, changed some classes around and more practice, even though we "only" reached 20% or something early on with this tactic, that's when it really started to look killable and if we didn't shape up and cut the p1 deaths (so we had more CR's for P2) we could lose the WF. But even at that stage, we had a LOT to improve on before it actually died.


Was there any point during tries where you felt certain it was un-killable and you'd just have to wait for a fix?

Pacteh: Almost straight away we realized that P2 wasn't possible in its first form without ignoring all the adds, so we just focused on finding a strategy that would achieve that

Treckie: The first few times we reached P2 and the adds just kept spawning more and more, with so much health and the HP you have to cut away from the boss, he really looked un-killable, and if it wasn't for Feign death bugging them out, it likely was un-killable.
Once Feign death was fixed, but the adds wern't, there was no real point in doing the boss because it wasn't getting killed unless they fixed the adds, and at that point we went back to the other instances to get gear waiting for the fix to come.


There were some..."fishy" strategies there in the start before the first hotfix, do you know anything about them and do you think it was killable then?

Pacteh: Feign Deathing with the light was clearly not intended, but the GM's watched us using it for so long before hotfixing, it sort of made us believe maybe they were ok with it, but thankfully they fixed it before we or any other guild killed it using that method.

How exactly does your process work when coming up against a complex boss like this that might even seem impossible at certain points? How long do you spend on a strategy before trying out something new?

Pacteh: We have a lot of people inputting and discussing tactics and so sometimes the discussion can last longer than the testing.

Treckie: "Everything is impossible until somebody does it." really sums it up in my opinion.
Many times a boss seems impossible when you try it out the way you thought it was supposed to be done, and maybe it is impossible with that strategy, but it doesn't mean that there is not a better strategy out there to find. Once we reached enrage in p1 when the boss was at 65%, meaning that we had spent 15 minutes on not even reaching P2, and while we knew we weren't doing it the optimal way, it seemed like his HP was just way way too high.
The amount of time spent on a strategy always depends, are we wiping cause of people making mistakes? Then it doesn't have to be due to the strategy, but just player mistakes, so we can go again and practice.

If people still play perfectly, and it's still not working, then maybe there is a better strategy that has to be found. We are,however, usually pretty stubborn and stick with a strategy a bit too much maybe, but if that is indeed the correct strategy or at least a working one there might still be more ways to improve on before completely disregarding the strategy. And once we are faced with the truly "impossible" bossfight, we obviously know they are going to "nerf" or "fix" the encounter, so by then it's just about either pulling the boss to improve on the other parts of the fight, even if you know the latter phase is impossible, or to take the time to gear up more if possible, so that you are even more ready once the "fix" is pushed in.


What are some of the craziest things you tried on Sha (regardless of what version of the boss)?

Pacteh: Having a monk tank on the back of a mammoth kiting the adds throwing barrels out the back like a GTA drive by? HELLO

Treckie: Craziest thing we did on Sha was likely to just ignore the adds in P1. It turned into a crazy minefield and you had to sidestep to avoid damage, but since the adds shoot at you like bad guys in Hollywood movies, 9/10 times you don't even have to move and they still miss you, it just looks funny, but it still works. Just throwing the Champion buff to whoever was stunned was also interesting cause that's the point we realized adds actually AoE'd every time you threw it, that meant that all the 5-7 adds or however many were up at the same time threw 10x5bolts within 2 sec to the whole raid, resulting in a pretty fast and hilarious wipe :P


What is your favorite phase/spell/ability of the fight and least favorite?

Pacteh: My favorite part of the fight is the DPS maximizing in phase 2, getting the perfect balance of add dps and boss DPS. Least favorite is phase 1, ain't nobody got time for that.

Treckie: I wouldn't really say Phase 2 is very fun, but it felt pretty special reaching it the first time, Phase one is just boring long and tedious. As a tank, Thrash and Dread Thrash are really interesting abilities, it's 3 and 6 attacks at the same time you have to negate, and with the combination of the "Naked and afraid debuff" (that gives you 100% less chance to dodge/parry and 100% less armor) you had to have quite some tank coordination, however there were still issues that resulted in unavoidable tank deaths with the boss applying Naked debuff during Thrash (between the 3 or 6 attacks) or applying it right before so that 2x tanks had to use CDs to survive, thus not having them ready next time. But It was usually pretty accurate and it made the tanks really have to use their active mitigation properly to survive it.


Would you consider this a worthy end of tier boss?

Pacteh: Yes, seems like a trend that all end bosses have a boring phase 1, and Sha fits that perfectly!!

Treckie: Yes definitely. Sadly it wasn't in it's final version when it came out, but I assume it's due to limited testing since it was only P2 that had problems, would have made a better race without hotfixes. It by itself took about the same time to progress as the other instances with all their bosses, and we really had to hope the boss was hard enough so that we could catch up with the US guilds having a head start.

The 3 final bosses of the raids in this tier were all done in 1 reset, what are your thoughts on the difficulty of the encounters, specifically in comparison to older bosses?

Pacteh: In my opinion the difficulty of these encounters are harder than ever, people are judging the content on the speed in which top guilds are beating these encounters when they shouldn't be. The quality of the guilds in the Top 10 now are so high it's impossible for an encounter to stay alive more than 1 reset unless its either bugged or impossible. Guilds outside the top20 wont be clearing Sha for a good while after the first few kills.

Treckie: I think I have to say that I actually liked this way of racing, short successive bursts of raiding, the annoying thing with the bosses is that they don't really escalate in difficulty that much, some bosses are way to easy and others are well tuned making the step up between them too steep, it's more fun to progress in an instance with bosses being harder and harder the further in you get. Older instances had this as well, of course, and having a boss or two that are loot pinatas is fine, but having 4 is a bit too much.


Rank all of Tier 14 as a whole compared to other tiers and also the 3 instances within tier 3 against each other.

Pacteh: I've only progression raided at a high level tier 11,12,13 and now 14 and would say 14 has been the best. As content it was better than Firelands but the final boss was not as good.

Treckie: I gotta say Tier 14 was a pretty solid tier as a whole, I'd definitely rank it above T11, but it would fall behind Firelands, and Dragon Soul is somewhere far down the pit :P In terms of instances, Terrace was still pretty solid, 3 decently hard fights before Sha still make it the most enjoyable instance in this tier, it looks good, not much trash and overall a pretty good feel to it.
I'm not really sure how to place HoF and Mogu'shan Vaults, but MSV was pretty enjoyable during progress, now sadly it's so out geared already it feels like going back to an old tier :P but HoF is still pretty decent although I'm not that much of a fan of the bosses.


What are your thoughts on the recent debate with the number of pulls or time it took to kill a boss from server start being used as a measure for who's really the best?

Pacteh: Looking at pull counters is interesting but doesn't tell you too much, what you maybe see is which guilds developed a working strategy faster. You can gather a lot of quick wipes trying the wrong tactic. Obviously any guilds killing bosses after movies are released should have a lot less wipes than those who did it 'blind'

Treckie: Personally I don't like the number of pull count that much, I mean sure its fun to see who invested the most pulls, but that comes back to limited tries system, you don't wanna be ranked behind someone else just cause they used their pulls more carefully.
The time before kill however, THAT'S the important part, that shows how fast you learn, adapt and how fast you can come up and produce a kill, you can't come 2 days later and say you deserve the WF cause you used fewer tries (and I don't think anyone is arguing that point either) but it just comes down to how much time it takes you.


This also plays a lot into the US and EU 1-day head-start wars, so any new thoughts on that?

Pacteh: The 1 day head start is of course an issue but shouldn't factor in too much as long as the content is hard enough, when I wake up and see US are already 3/4 all that goes through my head is that those bosses don't even matter. If the US guilds can down it in the few hours head start they have then its not a noteworthy boss.

Treckie: I think Blizzard needs to improve on this some way, cause it's getting increasingly annoying on short races like this to wake up with guilds being far through the instance, and if the bosses are easy enough, you just can't catch up. I'd like Blizzard to make some sort of opt in option for those guilds who wanna compete for WF's to actually get the content at the same time, I'm not sure how much work that would be for Blizzard, considering a very very small portion of the players would care, but It would make the race more fair and potentially make it bigger as a "sport" to compete in. But I don't really see that happening, so we just have to hope for hard bosses we can catch up.

Now that it's over, what are your thoughts on the release schedule Blizzard used in this first tier, were there any negative parts about it?

Pacteh: It made it possible for me to not fall behind at all at university whilst still progress raiding, in total all I had to miss was 3x Wednesday and Thursday and have Fridays off anyway so I'm happy about that.

Treckie: The negative parts were obviously that US gets a head start on all 3 raids, instead of only once like it usually is. 16 bosses are a lot, and I am pretty happy they didn't release it all at once, so I guess this was one of the better ways to do it, although it was very bad timing being released so close to Dreamhack :P


Was the raiding schedule any tighter/more intense in this last instance? Considering you got the kill at 8 am after raiding through the night it sounds like it was something special in terms of dedication.

Pacteh: We raided our usual of 8/9 hours sleep downtime but we were so close to the kill on Sha we had to push it into the early hours.

Treckie: To be honest we didn't really seem to push it that much in HoF, we went to bed early, we woke up late, but we also lost the WF on Empress, so we stepped up a bit for Terrace to really push it to the max. We still had 8h sleep between the days but a bit shorter food breaks, there was a lot of tactic talk as well. When they started hotfixing things we knew we had to push late nights to get the most out of it after the hotfixes, and the last day when we knew we could kill it, we raided till 8 in the morning making it a 20hour raiding day, but It paid off.


Have addons simplified the game significantly since, let's say WotLK? In what way?

Pacteh: If anything its made the game harder, mechanics now are so much more complex and harder than they have ever been.

Treckie: Since WotLK? I wouldnt really say so, back then we had addons that did the most important tasks we still use them for today, there are obviously a lot more addons now, and some are doing their job better than in Wrath, but I wouldn't say they have a significantly bigger impact than they did back then.


You've consistently built up your roster over the years, how do you manage to find these talented individuals and get them to stay and endure the crazy intense hours and commitment, especially considering the 25 man guild pool is narrowing?

Pacteh: I'm a pretty new member to the guild but believe the roster we have now is probably the strongest its ever been. We gathered some strong players from other guilds during Dragon Soul as well as keeping our core players.

Treckie: A well established guild able to recruit pretty much anyone who speaks English will attract people. People still come and go obviously, but at least our field of recruits isn't all that narrow. Not to mention as other guilds fall, the other guilds in the same league get a player or two of a good caliber that makes you able to continue for a while.