Interview with world #1 strict 10 guild: Vox Immortalis

Today I am absolutely delighted to have an interview with the GM of the world #1 (by achievement) strict 10 guild, Vox Immortalis. He’s also a Tauren warrior tank. Whilst he’s not a DK, at least he’s a Tauren, bonus points for that.

Vox Immortalis also produce a lot of video content, and I’ve embedded two here and there are links to some others (such as when discussing their DK tank).

In the interview we cover a lot of ground, including:

  • the specific complications of Strict 10 guilds in recruitment and content design,
  • some thoughtful ideas on how Cataclysm could cater better to this this kind of raid guild,
  • boss fight strategy development
  • they use Mumble
  • their loot system and more.

Regarding strict 10 rankings, there are a few #1 ranked guilds, depending on what you measure. That doesn’t diminish the awesome accomplishments of Vox Immortalis, nor the other top guilds From Chaos, Requiem of the Ebon Rose or Phoenicis.

Guild history

Gravity: According to guildox you’re the world #1 ranked strict 10 guild (based on achievement). I see you’ve done hard-modes for all but the Lich King now: 11 of 12. What also impresses me is your raid schedule of three nights, with a 100% attendance required, so you’ve got some free evenings to have real life or alts. Unlike other guilds your alts can’t be in the guild if they’re doing PUG 25s, to keep your strict rating.

Could you introduce yourself and the guild in this context?

Kulldam: My name is [armory loc="us,Hyjal"]Kulldam[/armory] and I’m the Guild Leader of <Vox Immortalis>.  The journey of <Vox Immortalis> really began well before WoW was released, around mid-1999, when Everquest was launched.  A number of friends and coworkers began playing vigorously together, trying to learn how not to fall off the walkways in Kelethin the Wood Elf city or get lost in the dark forest, never to find our corpse again.  Personally, I began as Xiae, a High Elf Wizard, and slowly began the grind to level up to 50 (the maximum level at the time).

As more and more of our friends and coworkers began playing, we formed an unofficial clan of sorts.  Not by any guild tag, but by name.  We were the Iae clan, and all of our closest buddies would name their characters a form of Iae (Xiae, Jiae, Diae, Riae, Giae, Qiae, etc.).  Soon, enough friends were playing that Iae wasn’t enough, so with the use of surnames in Everquest, we expanded to become the Soulmender clan.  Xiae Soulmender of course was my name, and we soon were quite well known on Veeshan, our home server.

Fast forward to late 1999, a large portion of our group of friends wanted to get into the high-end game, and we happened to be on the server with arguably the best guild in the game at the time, <Fires of Heaven>, which was lead by Alex Afrasiabi, aka Furor, who most WoW players know now as a lead quest/world developer in WoW today.  We spent what I recall to be a good month or two as applicants/trials, trying to get into <Fires of Heaven>, and I still remember the moment I was officially invited on Xiae Soulmender the Wizard — we were killing Fire Giants in Solusek B, which lead to Nagafen’s Lair at the time.  A couple good friends had already been invited (Jiae and Riae) and soon a half dozen of us were in FoH and at the bleeding edge of content.

[slider title="More history on the guild"]

It was a great time to be playing MMOs and Everquest, as we were among the first to experience the original incarnations of “raiding” as we know it today.  We took down Nagafen and Vox, the Planes of Fear and Hate, and were, as I recall, the first Guild with access to the Plane of Sky.  All these raid zones were so brutal that permanent loss of your corpse and thus all your gear was a real possibility, and we even assisted the resident Japanese Guilds in a corpse recovery mission a time or two in Plane of Fear.  I was lucky enough to be a part of a great many world firsts with FoH and it taught me a lot about what raiding could be like in an MMO environment.

Fast forward to late 2000, around the time of Veeshan’s Peak, the Iae Soulmender clan parted ways with Fires of Heaven, and it was around this time that the beginnings of <Vox Immortalis> were formed.  I decided I would try my hand at running a Guild and soon formed up <Dark Fury> on Veeshan.  As a start-up Guild, it was inevitable we’d have to start from scratch in terms of meeting new members and conquering the available content, but that was great and we soon began to grow quite rapidly, meeting a great many people along the way, and we even had a mention in a TIME Magazine, when a couple of our Guild Members (Lorelahna and Tytanyum) were asked to do an interview about Everquest in mid-2002.

Perhaps the best personal benefit of forming <Dark Fury>, aside from all the friendships, was that it taught me a number of valuable lessons in leadership, and the big one early on was that, at least in EverQuest, leading a raid from the back of the room as a Wizard was near impossible.  I needed to be in the action to truly affect what was going on, so I became Bashiae Soulmender, an Ogre Warrior, and thus began my long career as a tank.

Looking back, tanking in EverQuest was no where near as exciting or difficult as it is today in WoW, but it had to be done and it forced me to really pay attention to and learn all the mechanics of what was going on around me, which is a huge benefit to raid leadership as a whole.
<Dark Fury> continued to progress through six EverQuest expansions, until about mid-2004, when the guild was disbanded around the time of the WoW Beta.  <Dark Fury> was never a cutting edge guild, but that was fine with us, because there were always challenges to face in early EverQuest and that really gave me and those in the Guild our first taste of a more communal, tighter-knit raid that we’d find ourselves in 5 years later in 10-man Strict WoW.

Of course in late 2004, World of Warcraft was released and having been a big fan of the Warcraft RTS series prior and many friends moving over to the game, I too got into WoW right away, though this time I stuck with my Warrior roots.  I think I still named my beta Warrior Bashiae, but upon release came up with a new name of Kulldam of Hyjal-US.

Around mid-2005, as most of our buddies who had come over from EverQuest were level-capped or close to it, my good friend Baelock and I decided it was time to put our plan into motion and form up a guild once again.  While I considered sticking with the Dark Fury name of EverQuest, in the end it seemed appropriate to distinguish ourselves now that we were in a new game, thus <Vox Immortalis> was born.

We started out small and got all our old buddies from EverQuest that had transfered over into the Guild and started expanding from there.  In truth, I don’t really remember how we recruited back then, it just seemed to happen, and soon we were taking on the raid content of the time, clearing through UBRS, learning to cleanly pull the trash from the General’s room without wiping.  Soon we graduated to Molten Core and around that time Zul’Gurub was released, which gave us our first taste of smaller raid group content and the common consensus at the time was, for our Guild and skill level at the time, Zul’Gurub was the best raiding we’d experienced to date.  We continued to grow and progress, downing Blackwing Lair and once again with Ahn’Qiraj’s release, we got to try AQ20, which was another great sub-maximum raid.

Late 2006, The Burning Crusade was released, and the Guild began the process of leveling up to 70 and once we had a decent force maxed out, we tried our hands at some of the first raid content (Gruul, Magtheridon’s Lair, etc.).  We managed to do decently well, but the personal weight of trying to motivate 30-40 people to keep playing now that everything was “reset”, to level up quickly, get back into raiding, and all the rest became a pretty huge burden.  It was my own fault, but around that time I decided it was best for me to stop leading for the time being as the massive number of people and management was too draining.  The Officers and I kept <Vox Immortalis> active as a Guild for those that wanted to remain, but for all intents and purposes it was dissolved and most members left to join new Guilds.  Meanwhile, most of my real-life friends who had been in Vox with me decided we were going to try to get into a high-end Guild to still have access to the fun of raiding, but without the pressure of leadership.  After a great deal of research and a couple months passed, we decided on a fairly high-end Guild (who shall remain nameless) and transfered to join them, only to get our first real bitter lesson in how strong the “word” of some people in WoW can be.  In spite of their promises, in reality I was the only one of the five or six friends to actually be invited into the raids as a regular raiding member, thus it was the exact opposite of what we envisioned — we were hoping for a fun raiding experience together with friends we could hang out with, and instead most of us were ignored by our new “guild.”  We knew what optimizing raids and all that was like — heck, we’d been in <Fires of Heaven>, which arguably coined the practice, but the trust and fun just wasn’t there being unable to play together, so after only a short time (whenever our transfer was allowed again, I think three months at the time), we came back to Hyjal.[/slider]

Now, we were into early-to-mid-2007, back on our home server of Hyjal as <Vox Immortalis>, and looking for something to do.  As the Guild Leader, I knew I couldn’t find it in me to get back into managing 40 (or even 25, as was the case at the time) people in raids, but with the release of TBC we now had Karazhan, which gave us our first taste of 10-man raiding, and we were hooked.  Here we were, a group of maybe 15 people, most real life friends or long-time MMO friends from EverQuest, and we were able to play together in these fun, challenging raid environments without the requirement of finding another 10, 20, or 30 people that we were generally friendly with, but didn’t necessarily connect with all that much.

To this day, Karazhan remains probably my most favorite raid instance due to that wonderful introduction into 10-man raiding, and of course in late 2007, the release of Zul’Aman extended our path even further and between the two, gave us plenty to keep us fairly busy until the release of Wrath of the Lich King in late 2008.

The release of Wrath of the Lich King really gave us a platform with which to jump into the current form of <Vox Immortalis> as we are today, a more focused, progressive and achievement oriented Strict 10-man Raiding Guild, and throughout all of WotLK, we have remained among the top worldwide Strict Guilds in both progression and achievements.

At what point did you decide to go seriously into strict 10 progression; and do you have any leadership comments on the change in terms of guild morale, attitude, willingness, change management or retention?

It was definitely around the time of the Blizzcon that introduced the raiding plans for Wrath of the Lich King, that would allow a simultaneous progression path for 10-man only.  We had been enjoying Karazhan and ZA so much that it seemed the obvious choice.

As for the change in the Guild dynamics and politics, since our introduction to 10-man raiding was really based on a “reboot” of the Guild after leading the 40-man and 25-man stuff became too overwhelming, those that remained in <Vox Immortalis> were already inclined toward the smaller, core-focused medium of 10-man raiding, thus attitudes and willingness could not have been better.  There were a couple stragglers who were still in the guild that wanted the bigger environment of 25-man raiding, and of course they parted in their own time with no ill feelings either way.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to honesty of intentions.  Even when we announced the dissolving of the Guild shortly after Burning Crusade’s release, I made it clear to everyone why it was happening and what our plans were at the time, and that went a long way I think.

When we came back to Hyjal shortly after, we remained close friends with many of our ex-guildmates because of that honesty and some even returned as members just to hang out or even to join our Strict raid environment.

Recruitment, loot system and motivation

How do you handle recruitment, interviewing and trials? Given you can’t have anyone in the guild with 25-man achivements, does this make it much harder to recruit in the first place (ie. smaller base of candidates)? What other peculiarities are there in strict 10 personnel or recruitment management when compared to 25s?

Frankly, recruitment for a Strict guild is basically identical to that of a 25-man (or 40-man of yore).  We advertise as best we can on a variety of sites (ElitistJerks, MMO-Champion, WorldOfRaids, WoW Official Forums, etc.) and try to be as clear and concise as possible about who we are and what we are looking for.  From there, interested applicants fill out our application, which we review internally over a few days, and if they meet our initial requirements, we generally have a short follow-up series of questions via e-mail or Mumble interview before accepting or rejecting the overall application.

Once invited, we really don’t deal with Trial memberships anymore as the beauty of a 10-man is the small numbers — everyone will know very quickly whether they like and get along with a new recruit and since loot distribution is so simplified, we don’t have the need for a Trial status that forces new recruits to pass on potential upgrades.

That said, while the process of recruiting and inviting is the same, the smaller pool of candidates, as you elude to, is really where the difficulties lie.  While there are certainly times we are inundated with applications when there’s only one open slot, there have also been moments of severe applicant-drought, where applications are sparse and those we receive are too terrible to even consider.  In these cases, it can be difficult to continue progressing at the same rate we’re used to, but in these cases we try to utilize our network of non-Raider Guildmates and outside Friends to fill in as needed until we find the right applicant to fill that open slot.

I like your two-tier system as a way to ensure a raid goes ahead on every scheduled night (described here); but am curious how you manage the dedicated substitutes, who aspire to be full-time raiders. I guess they can’t get themselves saved to ICC-10, so do they play on alts in another guild unless called for, or some other arrangement?

This system was devised by our Officership after some lengthy discussions when we had situations where one absent full-time raider would require the entire raid to be cancelled.  Since we utilize a static raid-force of 10 players, it’s obviously an issue when one player has to miss a raid night, so this proposed system allows us to recruit players who are interested in getting one of those 10 full-time slots but are willing to wait around for a little while to have the opportunity to be first in line.

Now, it’s not a full proof system of course, since as you mention, it’s difficult to find people who are willing to not “do much” in the off chance they will, down the road be able to “do everything”, but some of our strongest current full-time raiders were part of this system in one way or another, usually as a friend who joins as a Substitute and later is promoted to a Full-Time Raider.  Our most recent recruit, our Rogue [armory loc="us,Hyjal"]Katheon[/armory] (Katheon), was just such a case.  He joined as a friend & Substitute and after one of our primary healers retired, we were left with an opening as we began progression on Heroic ICC.  As the weeks went past without an acceptable applicant, we eventually morphed our raid force and as Katheon continued to improve and raid with us, we decided to forget about replacing the healer and instead accept Katheon as a Full-Time Raider, which has worked out great.

Ultimately, our two-tier system was a product of how we chose to handle recruitment and management within our Strict environment, and is therefore probably unique to our Guild.  As <Vox Immortalis> transfered into that Strict setting, I really didn’t want to get back into the days of over-recruiting just so we would have a buffer of players in-guild that may or may not be online when it’s time to raid, and thus are each less likely to get into a given raid.  Managing such things as a leader or officer are incredibly taxing and yet are considered basic requirements of a raiding guild these days.

Instead, with the Strict focus, I wanted a system that allowed players to feel like they were an integral and important aspect of every raid and every fight, which ultimately meant keeping the roster exactly the size of our raids, therefore ten people.  No longer do these players have to wonder if they will be able to raid on any given night, but more importantly, it gives everyone involved the knowledge that they play a vital role in the success or failure of the Guild, which is a very strong motivator in my experience.

Essentially, the only thing worse than sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called off the bench, is to get into the game and realize you’re just a warm body, there to allow the super-stars to perform for the crowd.  In a Strict environment, everyone has the power to push us into failure or defeat.

Recruitment needs

I do see you are recruiting at the moment, any comments on how that works with Ruby Sanctum and Cataclysm coming up; do you expect many people to retire from WoW?

Well, one of the Officer-proposed solutions when we came up with our two-tier roster system, was to keep recruitment constantly open, such that those interested in becoming Substitutes would always be welcome.  To that end, technically our recruitment is always open for strong applicants.

More to your point, it’s always impossible to predict what will happen in the future in terms of player retirement and turnover, but a related and very reliable rule I have found over my 8 to 9 years of Guild Leadership, is that keeping people busy and engaged is the best motivator around.

When a Guild gets bogged down and can’t raid for whatever reason, people get bored and anxious and will find other outlets away from the game, which means less desire when the opportunity arises to return to said game or Guild.  Conversely, there are times of extreme progression and challenge that will really drive people to keep logging in, playing, and interacting with each other.  Right now is a great time for that for us, as we’ve been pushing hard to get through Heroic ICC and are now in the process of learning Heroic Lich King.  Everyone involved is in good spirits and we all have that same goal and drive to finish him off for good.

Once Heroic Lich King falls, we will have officially accomplished every possible 10-man Achievement in WotLK, which will be a great feeling for everyone involved to be sure, but in terms of keeping our roster intact for Ruby Sanctum and of course Cataclysm to follow, I would estimate that primarily depends on the timing of said releases from Blizzard.  That is perhaps the biggest drawback to being even remotely close to the cutting-edge of progression — the faster you reach the finish line, the longer you must wait for the next race to begin.

Hopefully we can find ways to keep ourselves interested (I can foresee Speed Runs of Heroic ICC to be a lot of fun for example), but if we lose some people, we’ll just do our best to keep recruiting and maybe getting friends to return for Cataclysm.  Expansion releases have the tendency to bring people back from the woodwork, which of course is great for recruitment. ><

Mumble

I notice you use Mumble too. I’ve set up a server on pwnwear as a sponsorship benefit for members. Could you comment on it compared to Ventrilo or Teamspeak, and any particular benefits that drew you to it?

Personally I’m a big fan of the Open Source movement in technology, and that was the first thing about Mumble that caught my attention.

From there, after trying it out, it only took a few minutes to realize the sheer leap it made over the performance of Ventrilo.  Back in the early days, our Guild used Teamspeak and made due, but when we tried out Ventrilo, it was night and day how much better the quality of Ventrilo was along with the better features.  That same sort of comparison was later made between Mumble and Ventrilo; the quality of Mumble is just miles ahead of Ventrilo, and the features are identical or often superior, for an Open Source, and in my experience, less expensive product.

(If you sponsor pwnwear, you can optionally get a Murmur server.)

Boss strategy

Youtube videos

You’ve got a really active youtube channel, with guides to Heroic Putricide, Dances with Oozes, Neck Deep in Vile and more. What drives that; is that perhaps because someone is a sensible promoter, a video enthusiast or wanting to give back to the community, or such?

Originally I started doing the occasional kill video just for fun and to play around with video editing software.  We even have a few old school videos done by myself and Alidar (an old Rogue Guildmate) from back in the Molten Core days, though the quality is so terrible I’ve yet to make them public.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL-3ieMYkdM

At any rate, it was just something fun to do for a while, but once we entered Ulduar and were really starting to make progress and become one of the top Strict guilds, I soon realized our learning, mistakes, and eventual success could probably help other Guilds in our shoes, and since I’ve always been a strong proponent of Strict Guilds, it seemed only appropriate that with a slew of 25-man videos and information out there, that there may be an audience, albeit minor, that could find something really useful in our videos and guides.

In fact, most of the 10-man videos released are still by 25-man Guilds; I think we’re one of a very few guilds that even produces videos or guides for 10-man only raiding by 10-man only raiders, so hopefully these movies have helped others out in some way.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlejpTO1F38

Strategy development

On strategy, I expect you have quite vigorous discussion on your forums about strategies before you even zone in. But given you need to kill content before the other strict 10s do it, what else do you do to get an edge. Obviously non-heroic kills help with context for the fight, but any other tricks you are willing to share?

That’s exactly right, our forums are really where our strategies are born and mature.  We like to create a single “Notepad” thread where all discussion about raid encounters from a various zone can go, and they can get quite lengthy and detailed (our Icecrown Strategy Notepad was recently made public and is nearly 120 posts in length as a whole).  These threads give us a centralized location to discuss the very minutiae of a given encounter and write up tactic ideas, display graphs, charts, or diagrams, and check each others’ math or assumptions on a given idea.

That thread is really interesting. I’ll make some time to read over that myself, there is formulas and analysis on many bosses.

These threads are an invaluable tool as they let us formulate an idea or plan based on whatever information we can gather from the community, at least a few days before we’re likely to even first engage a given boss.  We discuss these ideas back & forth and perfect them as best we can in a theoretical sense, then when the time comes to first try out said boss and idea, we modify it as needed in-game during the raid, which is a process made much simpler by already having the groundwork laid out for all the raid members via the forum ahead of time.

On the more challenging content (the Ulduar Strategy Notepad discussions of Algalon and Alone in the Darkness are among these), we’ll come back to the thread after the raid and discuss what worked, what didn’t and once again modify the strategy in that on-paper, theoretical environment in preparation for the next raid.

So if discussion in the forums is our first trick for that edge, the second would be research.  Preparing for an upcoming raid or boss by doing personal research will provide a huge advantage when game day comes, and with WoW’s popularity, you can bet there will almost always be someone better than you.  Instead of feeling down about it, I try to take advantage of this fact and utilize what information is available from their experience.  To that end, we strongly encourage our raiders to spend 30 minutes or what not looking at videos and discussing their findings on upcoming bosses.  Obviously watching someone else do a fight isn’t the same as experiencing it for yourself, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve been able to recognize from a short video clip or fight description where the difficulties of a fight will be for our own raid and thus prepare accordingly.

Now, some people may argue that experiencing things as they come at you for the first time without prior knowledge is the most fun, and in an idealistic world I certainly agree, but in the real world that only applies if your goals are to beat your head against something until it falls over by sheer force.  In today’s raiding environment and community, you absolutely cannot make decent progress without using all the tools at your disposal.  Even the cutting-edge guilds use addons to help manage and analyze new encounters when there aren’t videos already available before they try it out.  Imagine trying to defeat The Lich King without any DBM or BigWigs telling all your members what to do and when, or without knowing anything about the fight going into it.  Phase 1 Plague would destroy you while adds overwhelmed you, Defile would wipe the raid over and over as no one would be able to recognize they were the target until it was too late, etc.

Finally, after discussion and preparation comes speed.

This is something that has been a focus of our Guild since the Molten Core days — if something is worth doing, it is worth doing quickly and efficiently.  I can still remember the cries from our healers in Molten Core for mana as I ignored their pleas and pulled the next trash pack.  Of course, one or two people may have died the first few times but after a while, the players get used to the idea and play much more efficiently themselves, which of course increases the speed of the raid as a whole.  It’s very common for guest raiders or friends that join a Vox raid to comment on just how fast we push through a particular zone.  It’s not because we are the best players around nor the highest DPS, but simply because we strive to push ourselves and not waste time or be inefficient.

Consequently, this will train your raid members to perform better as a whole and will provide more time to spend on the hard stuff.  When raid members know their roles and preemptively prepare for upcoming changes, it allows for faster trash clearing, faster boss engagement, and thus faster zone clears.  Why spend 6 hours clearing the first 11 bosses of ICC when you can do it in 5 and give yourself an extra hour to learn Lich King, for example?

This speed and efficiency practice also includes repetition, which may sound obvious, but really goes a long way.  For years, my style of raid leadership has been simple: 1. Teach it.  2. Show it.  3. Repeat it.  When we first come up to a trash pack we’ve never seen, I estimate the best way to handle it (“I’ll tank the big guy, you get the adds, DPS on the casters first”, etc.), perform it, and if it works, we keep it locked in that way.  Next time, or maybe even the time after that, players may need to be reminded what they are tanking or where to stand or what to focus on, but very soon, it will be second nature and no discussion will be required — the raid will remember what to agro, where to stand, what to focus, who to heal, what abilities are being used, etc.  I liken it to a play book of sorts, where we’ve all run the plays enough that we never have to call an audible because everyone on the team knows their position and role for every situation.

As a GM of a Strict 10, but with so much prior raid experience, how do you contrast Strict 10s with your previous raid sizes, and how do you feel about it as a format?

Socially, I couldn’t be happier with the Strict 10 environment.  The relationships with the people around you are much closer than they ever could’ve been in 40-man or even 25-man and that shows through in people’s performance (as mentioned, when players feel important and involved, they play better).  I imagine all players who have raided in an MMO for even a short length of time have come across a person or two they don’t get along with for whatever reason, but are virtually forced to be around due to the raiding size requirements.  WoW is bad enough, but it was even worse in the past in games like EverQuest, where 72-man raids were the norm for a while.

As for the raiding itself, no doubt there were epic moments in 40-man and 25-man raids, and some of my fondest memories are of those times (Nefarian, Ragnaros, Twin Emps, etc.), but I think nostalgia is a powerful force and many people will look back longingly at those times with rose-colored glasses, not because of the enjoyment of doing it with 39 other people (arguably, 20 of which you barely knew), but because the fights and zones in and of themselves were cool, fun, and unique.

Such nostalgia junkies will often cite the “epic feeling” from the larger raid environments, but personally I think the concept is overblown.  Not to get political, but look at the post-duty interviews with soldiers coming back from Iraq, who often want to return.  When asked why they would possibly want to return, what do the vast majority respond with?  Not to be one lone soldier among thousands fighting an unknown enemy, but to go back and “help their buddies” — the select people they know and interacted with in that “epic” environment.
I think most people looking back on 40-man WoW raids are actually remembering those sorts of relationships combined with the aforementioned nostalgia of a cool zone or boss fight, not being one of countless warm bodies required to throw against the boss until it took a dirt nap.

Death knight tank?

I’m wondering if you have any comments on DK tanks suitability to certain fights in ICC heroic-mode, or how you use them? Could you outline the kinds of MT/OT roles your DK tank plays?

Well, I can’t speak on this too much as we almost never use our Death Knight as a primary main tank — a Protection Paladin and Protection Warrior do most of our tanking.

Fights where I think a DK MT would be very strong for Heroic would be Lady Deathwhisper (strong Frostbolt mitigation during final phase and add control prior), Saurfang (strong Blood Beast control via snare/taunt), Putricide (self-healing would help a great deal while healers are managing Plague and may be moving a lot), Valithria (Grip and interrupt are very strong here), and Sindragosa (very solid Frost Breath mitigation cooldowns).

[armory loc="us,Hyjal"]Rofldat[/armory], our resident Death Knight, spends most of his time as Unholy DPS for strong personal damage and 13% Magic Buff for our casters.  He also performs a number of psuedo-offtank duties, such as forming one of the Bone Storm target locations in our Heroic Lord Marrowgar Strategy, kiting Big Ooze for Heroic Rotface, kiting the Deformed Fanatic for our Full House Achievement Strategy or when fighting Darnavan, or offtanking in a DPS spec and mostly DPS gear for Heroic Blood Queen.

From our standpoint, we’ve found our Death Knight to excel at mob management while also providing very strong DPS, especially relative to what our Warrior or Paladin tank would provide in the same role.  Even in Ulduar, Rofldat was often used to perform abnormal tanking duties (like tanking the Thorim hallway in full DPS spec/gear so we could reach him in time to activate the Hard Mode).

Cataclysm

Any thoughts on the new guild management systems coming in Cataclysm, such as guild recipes?

Can’t come soon enough in my opinion.  Guild-bound items, recipes, and the like seem like a great way to benefit stable Guilds and further promote the differences between fly-by-night, one-off Guilds compared to the type of environment a player might be able to find a comfortable home and settle down in.

Likewise the Guild Talents/experience will offer a great sense of Guild Community in my opinion, and encourage Guild Members to work together outside of a raid environment.  Sadly these days most of our Guild has no reason to login on days we don’t raid, but these sorts of Guild systems in Cataclysm might offer a great incentive to do so, which I’m looking forward to.

Presuming you’ll retain a Strict-10 regime into Cataclysm, are you already planning your roster and any class/main/alt changes?

Our Guild is quite adamant that people play a class/role they enjoy above all else, and we form our roster around those decisions.  It’s still far too early to speculate who will be playing, let alone whether they’ll be inclined to change classes or roles in Cataclysm, but we’ll be open to it if so and make adjustments as the time comes.

Do you think Blizzard should incorporate any changes to highlight Strict 10s as a format in itself, other than the few achievements for iLevel gear maximum in Ulduar?

I think that would be a great step for Blizzard and hope they’ll blur the lines between 10- and 25-man even more in Cataclysm.  A few suggestions I would have for Blizzard to this end might be:

1. Equalize the Risk vs. Reward

I’ve long made the implication that if Blizzard offered the same rewards from a 10-man environment as a 25-man, the 25-man stuff would become a ghost town.  Sure, there are bound to be players that enjoy raiding with more people just for the sake of more people (perhaps to feel less pressure on their own performance even), but I would bet good money the focus on 25-man as the only viable raid route is primarily due to Blizzard’s insistence that the reward should be greater for 25-man content.

Many 25-man raiders will also argue that, by comparison, 25-man raiding is more difficult than 10-man raiding.  However, the vast, vast majority of these players never experience 10-man raiding in a Strict environment, thus their already skewed perspective is further illustrated by their experience when facerolling 10-man content with at least a tier’s worth of extra gear and usually double the experience for any given encounter (due to doing it in both 10- and 25-man incarnations).

In reality, I argue that Strict 10-man content is often more difficult than 25-man content (assuming all things are equal and the 25-man version doesn’t have an extra ability or what not).  I won’t get into all the details of why here, but I’ve written a number of posts discussing such reasons in the past for anyone interested.

Suffice to say, if Blizzard were to embrace and acknowledge that 10-man content can be as difficult as 25-man and adjust the rewards accordingly, that would be a huge boon to Strict raiding and I think a lot of 25-man raids would die off nearly overnight.

2. Unique Lockouts

A simple solution to many of the complaints from both sides of the aisle would be addressed by having a 10-man and 25-man version of a raid zone share the same raid lockout/raid ID.  Therefore, players must choose which version they will raid in a given week.  This would allow 25-man raiders who are tired of feeling the need to run 10-mans to ignore 10-man entirely, while also allowing Strict 10-man Guilds to have a truly unique and exclusive raiding path.

Obviously not everyone would be a fan, as many 25-man raiders do enjoy doing the occasional 10-man or vice versa, but it’s one possible solution.  This issue can also be addressed in the idea below…

3. Preferred Raid Type Flags

Perhaps upon creation of a Guild, or for a nominal fee with a 1 month lockout between changes, Guild Leaders are able to set a flag for their Guild that specifies the default “Preferred Raid Type” that the Guild will focus on (10-man or 25-man).  Upon joining a Guild, or again with a 1 month lockout between changes for a fee, individual players can elect to change their own Preferred Raid Type.  Having a Preferred Raid Type flag for the matching zone type you are raiding gives that player access to all normal loot, achievements, etc., but having a mismatching Preferred Raid Type (e.g. Your flag is for 25-man Preference, but you’re raiding a 10-man zone), restricts the rewards and achievements you are eligible for from that zone.  Perhaps you gain only emblems but can’t equip any loot drops, nor can you earn any achievements from this raid.

Of course this would encourage players to find raids and Guilds that match their preference while not completely limiting them from trying other raid types — they’d still be able to get experience by raiding each zone twice and allow them to judge which Preferred Raid Type they would like to utilize for the near future.

4. Gear Requirements are Everything

Another idea is one I got from [armory loc="us,hyjal"]Khrashdin[/armory] one of our Officers.  The basic idea is simple: Take the Herald of the Titans-esque achievements that specify a maximum level of gear appropriate to the zone, and apply it to all 10-man achievements.  Provide a proper UI functionality that allows checking whether players meet or exceed these requirements a single-step process, and this would go a long way to legitimizing Strict raiders on their own servers, as they would have something unique to work toward.

Of course this doesn’t prevent 25-man Guilds from doing it, but chances are most 25-man raiders won’t go out of their way to keep old gear around just to do these, which would in turn sustain the rarity of achievement-specific rewards (such as Meta mounts and such).

5. Remove Unique Rewards

Legendaries are fine as a principle, but clearly Blizzard wants to focus the acquiring of a Legendary on a long-term process (ala Shadowmourne) rather than a short-term chance-drop (ala Thunderfury).  To that end, 10-mans should be offered similar rewards, scaled down appropriately if needed, and again tied to quests/achievements that use a maximum gear ilevel filter so 25-man Guilds aren’t as inclined to go for both versions.

The same should apply to mounts and other non-equipment Unique rewards; similar if not identical versions should be acquirable from the 10-man versions in addition to 25-man.

In both cases, they should be Unique-equipped, so there’s no benefit for a player that has access to the 25-man version to try to get the 10-man version (unless of course they just want to get the 10-man version only and call it good enough).

Latency

What kind of latency do you have to your WoW server and mumble server? Do you think that’s significantly important for hard-modes; Oceanic players like me have a minimum of 200ms to WoW.

My personal latency to WoW is around 90-110 ms most raids and Mumble hovers around 70 ms.  I can certainly imagine scenarios where high latency to WoW would cause issues, but having never really experienced it on a daily basis, I don’t want to stick my foot in my mouth too much or speak out of turn.

To that end, I will say that I don’t imagine any given Heroic encounter wouldn’t have enough leeway in strategy to allow a raid to plan around said latency issues.  On the other hand, Paragon has discussed their strategy for Defile management during Phase 3 of Heroic Lich King, which involves stacking the entire raid and forcing the Defile target player to run one direction alone while the rest of the raid runs the opposite to avoid spreading Defile.  This is of course a very difficult strategy to execute but by the sound of it, required to maintain the DPS necessary to beat the Berserk timer.  Now, while an extra 1/10th of a second delay from server latency before a Defile target can see the cast and react may sound like a negligible amount, I can certainly imagine a scenario where the latency may not be the cause of a wipe-inducing mistake, but would certainly contribute to it.

That said, unless a raid is in the position to go for world first-caliber kills, I can’t imagine a fraction of a second making the difference.  My anecdotal experience reading others’ complaints about the subject, combined with my raiding experience and seeing the timing of most abilities, leads me to believe most complaints about raid-destroying latency (say, 200-250ms), are really just complaints about the skill of the players involved and the latency excuse is a crutch for poor performance. We all make mistakes, but it’s a far stretch to insist your own reaction time is so incredible that if it wasn’t for that extra 1/10 of a second delay, you’d have done it perfectly.

Thank you!

Thank you for your time. Really you’ve been more generous with your answers than I’d ever expected.
Thanks for having me and asking some very though-provoking questions!
-Kulldam-Guild Leader, Vox Immortalis

Discuss

You can comment here on in this forum thread.

Related Posts:

18 comments to Interview with world #1 strict 10 guild: Vox Immortalis

  • pat

    I thought it was a good read. I actually didn’t know there was a ranking system for strict 10 man guilds until today and it’s interesting that no strict 10 guild has killed Lich King HM yet. Maybe I’ll start keeping up on it!

  • Great interview, glad to see another 10m strict guild doing well!

  • Gloom

    Great interview, while my guild isn’t strict 10 man (we lost it just after we downed Putricide – the lure of 25 man was too great for some people), our primary raid group and focus is.
     
    It really hits home on how important individual performance is in the 10 man environ.

  • Rakhman

    Great interview. Spookily the recent announcement by Blizzard about raiding in Cataclysm features exactly some of the suggestions here, ie same lockouts, same loot. See http://forums.wow-europe.com/thread.html?topicId=13200223842&sid=1

  • JM

    I’m confused, how is GuildOx showing they’re top 10 strict, when they (as a guild) have 25m achievements?

  • Shuntaec

    I’m glad the “hardcore” people in the same position as my guild came to the same conclusions as we have.  We’ve been pushing for a combination of points 1,2,4, and 5 for a while now, and they actually listened!  It’s far beyond what I thought Blizzard was capable of committing to.
    I’m also glad that the “best of the best” in our 10 man strict environment agrees that 10 man strict can be just as hard and sometimes harder than 25 man hard modes.  If they keep the balance such that this is true, both 25 and 10 mans can survive healthily in Cata.
    I’m glad to see someone serious using Mumble too!  It’s a great program but for our part with all of our pugging we still use Vent (and I use Mangler).
    I look forward to re-aquiring the 10 man strict journey in Cata and thank you for the great read!

  • Betty

    How hardcore are they? The top 25 man guilds ran alt raids to learn strategies without wasting attempts.  Do they employ a similar tactic?  If not perhaps this is one of the reasons that H LK hasn’t been downed on 10 strict yet.

    The fact that they struggle to fill their roster and don’t raid anywhere close to the number of hours that top guilds do makes me feel they are fairly casual, the fact that a potentially casual guild ‘leads’ 10 man strict progression feels wrong.

    Also what are their views on the recently announced raiding change to cata where both raids will drop the same gear and have the same achievements, thus destroying the 10 man strict guilds (unless statistics are still separate). Do they think they will be competitive with the top end guilds?

    • @Betty
      Kulldam from <Vox Immortalis> here.
      I would never state that we are “hardcore” or have ever strived for such a label.  Ignoring that whole semantics debate on what hardcore vs. casual actually means, choosing to do 10-man Strict was about the experience and the journey, not the result.  When we started doing 10-man only, we had no idea it would ever turn into a (slightly) recognized form of raiding, let alone that we’d be among the top of the (relatively small) pile, but that’s just how it turned out.
      As for your questions, we were never the type of Guild to utilize alt raids and the like, and I’d wager most 25-man Guilds are the same way.  Only when you get to the very upper echelon do you see that sort of “required” behavior I suspect, and since our focus was on the accomplishments within a fairly relaxed environment, that was never a concern.
      Our “struggles” to fill our roster sound exaggerated in your comment, but as mentioned in the interview, there have certainly been times where finding someone was difficult.  However, as I tried to indicate, that was a result of the stigma of 10-man raiding and thus the very limited pool of candidates, not anything to do with our Guild that I’m aware of.
      That said, I fail to see why our own progress and standing requires a label of any kind (‘casual’ in this case).  Even with our short raiding schedule, we progress just fine in our portion of the raid community and one might even argue, at 11/12 Heroic ICC, are even “keeping up with the Joneses” that are 25-man raiders, the vast majority of which are no where near 11/12 (only about 1.5% of 25-mans have access to Heroic LK per Wowprogress).
      As for the upcoming changes, obviously I’m all for the announced alterations.  Again, the “destruction” of Strict raiding is not a concern as the enjoyment is the experience of raiding in that smaller environment for the challenges and socializing.  The equivalence of the loot and shared lockout is the icing on the cake (and from my biased perspective, a long time coming).  Having said that, do I think we will be “competitive” with the top end guilds?  I have no doubt we’ll remain among the top end in terms of relative progression (see the Heroic progression percentages above), but I’m not naive enough to believe we will be the best — there are a ton of players in this game, many of which are better than me.  Paragon-esque Guilds that want to remain on the bleeding edge will take all precautions to do so, including running alt raids and focusing on 25-man to increase loot income rates.
      There’s also been a lot of concern from the community from (primarily) 25-man raiders about the (seemingly) impossible task of balancing raid difficulty between 10 and 25-man come Cataclysm, and I happened to write up a bit of a rant on our website if you’re interested in my thoughts any further.
      At any rate, come Cataclysm I’ll be quite satisfied to hopefully remain on the top end of the spectrum with my buddies, and finally able to reap the best-of-the-best rewards for doing so!

  • Braydan

    Betty,
    As a member of Saoirse (currently 4th in strict 10 mans worldwide), in my experience the strict guilds are necessarily less-hardcore because how long can you really spend in one instance?  The burn-out that would cause has already been shown with the splintering of Ensidia to the apparently superior skills of Paragon.
    However by no means does this mean it’s any less competitive at the top end to max out your achievements and progress as quickly as possible.  Strict is led by achieving what other guilds can’t do, don’t have the ability to do, or simply feel they are above in their 264 epeens.  10 man content is easier to people who walk in overgearing it, that’s simple maths.  High-end 25 man guilds who entered ICC in Grand Crusader loots were going to skip through it.  Doing ICC in a purely 10 man itemization (as we do) IS hard, and the fights are complicated because of this.

  • Betty

    @kulldum + @Braydan  Please note that I don’t actually have any major problem with the cata changes, except for that I don’t believe blizzard will be able to balance both 25 and 10 to be the same difficulty.  Both sizes can be hard, but certain fights will always be easier on one or the other.  I’m guessing heroic mode will still be hard enough on both sizes that there will still be very few people actually completing them (meaning that basically the same 25H raiders + the small(?) group that is the 10 man strict will wear the top gear, which isn’t a huge change at all).

    What I was more interested in was in how much more relaxed 10 man strict guilds are compared to the top 25 man guilds (is relaxed a better term than casual?). The fierce competition just isn’t there currently, it may come in cata, but from what I currently see the top 10 man strict guild will sit somewhere in the 600-800th world wide range (judging from currently 25H putricide kills) which isn’t bad but again not where I thought they would have been.  I would have to go through dates for old achievements for a better comparison, as LK is a fairly major step up from everything else so naturally there is actually quite a range in guilds who are 11/12 currently.

    I’m guessing there’s going to be a boom in the number of 10 man guilds, and the quality of 10 man progression raiders (‘progression’ since ‘strict’ will basically be the norm/non matter) which will be a pretty good thing for your type of guilds.

    “Strict is led by achieving what other guilds can’t do, don’t have the ability to do” – that does sound like you have a bit of a epeen regarding your 10 man strict status.  Judging from the number of guilds that completed Tribute to Dedicated Insantiy (1078) i’m guessing it’s more along the lines of “simply feel they are above in their 264 epeens”, although that number is actually fairly close to the number of 25 insanity kills (1113) and way lower than the 10 man insanity (13410).

    TBH i always did think that 10H should give better gear than 25N, but then if the encounters are balanced around certain level gear it probably doesn’t really matter (except for epeen of course).

    When i mentioned the recruiting issues, it was more to point out that you obviously don’t appear to be able to have the perfect raid balance. Most 25 man guilds with your progression do tend to stack the raid to some degree for progression. That kinda suggests that either you guys are very good and don’t need to stack as much, or 10 man might not require it. It does make me wonder if there are other fairly standard 25 man behaviours that aren’t needed for 10 man strict.

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a fairly [...]

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a reasonably [...]

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a reasonably [...]

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a reasonably [...]

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a reasonably [...]

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a reasonably [...]

  • [...] previous MMOs with a guild raiding history to back it up (you may read more on our About Us page or this Pwnwear interview). We are also fairly active in the WoW community and have created & maintained a reasonably [...]

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>