Farewell, 4.2

Sunday night, Apotheosis had what was likely our final Firelands raid instance as a group. I’m sure a few folks will go back in on alt runs or to finish up legendary staves, but our 25-man raiding group is done with the instance unless Blizzard pushes back a week. With that wrapping up, I’ve been thinking about 4.2, and everything that happened during our time in there.

From a kill perspective, we were fairly successful. There were certain bosses where our group weaknesses were magnified (HM Baleroc, I’m looking at you), but I think we kept a reasonable pace up through the patch, going 1/7 HM pre-nerf, and based on our progress on Rhyolith (to phase 2, with reasonable regularity), I think we would have been 2/7 the next week regardless. Post-nerf, we downed each new progression boss in one to two weeks, hitting 6/7 HM in early November. We took a look at Heroic Ragnaros, but based on horror stories out there and the time left before 4.3, we decided to push instead for Glory of the Firelands Raider. We had time to make two mount runs, securing Corrupted Fire Hawks for the majority of our raiding team. I think we could have gone through content a little more quickly, but I leave 4.2 feeling satisfied with what we completed.

From a personal perspective, this was a bit of a coming of age patch. Near the end of 4.1, I felt comfortable enough with the group to be more vocal during raid. That prepared me well for 4.2, and it was a good thing, because by the end, I was calling a number of things out for the raid. On Rhyolith, since our melee officer wasn’t able to attend our first progression attempt, our GM, Kurn, asked me to steer, calling the DPS targets. I was both excited and nervous. Excited because I like responsibility. I like to know the raid depends on me to do well, and I’m not being carried. Nervous, because of the flip side of that – my faults would be glaringly obvious, and my efforts would be subject to continuous critique. While we eventually worked out a good strategy for doing this, it was not a smooth road there. A number of wipes were directly my fault as I learned to compensate for the dynamic nature of the fight. I oversteered us, understeered us, didn’t make calls clearly enough… but I learned. One thing I tried to do from the beginning was listen. Our melee channel is usually vocal, but after a great number of attempts, I’d ask directly how the steering felt, how the calls were, and so on to get an idea of how I could improve my approach. The feedback there and on the forums was key to getting that kill.

Around the same time, Kurn approached me about the possibility of taking an officer position in the guild, and she asked what role I felt I could play if that did happen. Again, excitement and nervousness. I was absolutely excited about the thought. First, even being considered meant a great deal to me. Second, I liked the idea of having more of a voice in guild decisions (and getting to read the officer forums – I hate knowing there’s information I’m not privy to, even if it’s just pages of Kurn and Majik berating each other). The third reason ties in with my nervousness. I wanted to give back to the guild, but I had no clue how. I didn’t feel qualified to perform most of the typical jobs. Me write a performance review for non-rogue melee DPS? Oof. Two empty bag slots don’t make for a good lootmaster. So how could I help most? I pondered for a while, and then I remembered a Matticast episode where Kat explained her role as a morale officer in her guild. As I thought more, I realized that other guildies likely felt the same way I did – that sometimes their voice wasn’t heard. So I proposed the idea of a guild liaison, where I would be responsible for representing the opinions of the raiding non-officers in officer discussions. Kurn liked the idea, and after some discussions with the other officers, I was promoted.

Shortly after that, another of our officers privately announced his intentions to step down at the end of normal modes. It was disappointing to see him go (he’s a hell of a tank), and his absence left a noticeable void in the raid. But it was also an opportunity for me. Over the next few weeks, I started making more calls, and by the time we got to Heroic Baleroc where communication is even more important than usual, I was taking point on shard spawn calls and melee positioning. Looking back, I grew a lot as a player during this time.

One other major impact on my raiding experience this tier came from the social connections I made. Blizzcon happened during Firelands, and I met a bunch of wonderful people. It was great to meet other guildies and hang with them for the weekend. As a result, I started tweeting more often and blogging, and made friendships (or at least acquaintances) with many people around the globe.

Unfortunately, though, some of my better in-game relationships also came to an end. In addition to the tank officer I mentioned earlier, we lost a few other raiders whom I consider friends and good players. One of our officers, who has been tireless in helping the guild with thankless jobs, is stepping down as 4.2 comes to a close, and my 2’s arena partner has taken his main to greener raiding pastures. So it’s not all happy, but such is the nature of this game.

Overall, this tier was good to me, and I’ll look back on it fondly. I leave it feeling positive about things to come. For now, Darkmoon Faire, legendary daggers, and a faceoff against Deathwing loom. See you tomorrow, 4.3.


Your turn: What happened in-game or out-of-game that made a difference during 4.2? Did you enjoy your time in Firelands, or are you happy to be done with the place? I’d love to hear your take!

(or How to Steer Lord Rhyolith, a Primer)

In my guild, I am the pilot for Lord Rhyolith, taking responsibility for steering him away from lava and over active volcanoes. Since my guild is now relatively successful at this fight, I thought I’d put together a quick guide to how I approach that part of the job. This post assumes you know the basics of the fight; time permitting, I will be writing a post covering the fight from a rogue perspective.

Steering: The Basics

So you’ve been nominated to steer Rhyolith – congratulations! This can be a stressful task, as all eyes (and hopefully ears) will be on you as you wipe the raid a few times (or are luckier than most!), but if you succeed it’ll be in no small part because of your work. So what does “steering” Rhyolith entail? Let’s get to it.

Rhyolith Meter

Rhyolith Meter

Rhyolith starts out walking down the middle of his island. By doing damage to his feet, you can steer him. The higher the relative damage is on one foot, the tighter he turns in that direction. His feet are individually targetable and cleverly named “Right Foot” and “Left Foot.” Make sure you are quite clear in your instructions that right means Right Foot as labelled, not as looking at him. Once you pull Rhyolith, a meter will appear, allowing you to tell the tightness of his turn radius. You will want to keep your eye on this throughout the fight.

Because you will need to stomp out active volcanoes, you need to know that every time he stomps, he creates two volcanoes and shortly thereafter lights one (it doesn’t have to be one of the ones he just created). Rhyolith is supposed to favor lighting one ahead of him (and therefore more likely to be in his path) than ones behind him, but he is a fickle and mysterious boss.

Normal Mode Tactics:

DPS assignments: For normal, our guild uses six melee DPS on feet. We assign three DPS to each foot by default, attempting to balance DPS output across those feet. Keep in mind while balacing DPS that you may need to move off the boss to scout out active volcanoes, angles, etc., so your output is likely to be lower than it would otherwise. We also designate two backups for emergency calls (more on that in a second); try to pick ranged DPS who can ramp up quickly. If, after a few attempts, DPS seems to be out of balance, don’t be afraid to shift assignments around, as long you’re very clear about who is where. Something you may want to do between attempts where steering is off is go look at your logs and see if people’s ratios of damage to feet makes sense for their assignment. If you have someone assigned to the right foot and most of the calls were to the right, then it would be odd to see 90% of the damage to the left foot.

Basic Calls: As with all calls, keep your directions clear and decisive. “Right!” is more likely to be successful than “lef… er, right?” Don’t yell, but don’t be meek either. Try to avoid qualifiers. Your DPS will be confused if you give directions such as “a little right.” What we do is use a system where calls are defined ahead of time.

Call Meaning
Straight DPS the assigned foot
Right DPS the right foot
Hard Right DPS the right foot and pop cooldowns
Emergency Right DPS, including backups, unload on the right foot with everything they’ve got

Those calls (and their analogs on the left side) are all you really need to say to get through the encounter.

Emergency Calls: Obviously, you want to use emergency calls sparingly, but there are two instances where you’ll want to call emergency. First, when you’re going to go in lava otherwise. That’s to be avoided at all costs, so calling for help is warranted. Second, if you miss an active volcano, or one spawns behind you, and it makes more sense to do a 180 than go around again, then call for an emergency turn. Again, not ideal, but how often are boss fights ideal? Make sure after emergency calls to tell your emergency folks to go back to what they were doing after the danger is over.

Walking Him Forward: The ideal approach is to avoid all tight turns. Steer him in a gentle curve (probably to the right, since if you get lucky, you’ll get an achievement), sweeping over active volcanoes. Don’t go out of your way to avoid dormant volcanoes, despite the fact that the he gets a damage buff as a result. The time you’ll lose and the risk that he’ll get steered off course isn’t worth it. You *will* want to prioritize volcanoes that have been up longer, so if you have to choose, aim for the oldest volcano (you are keeping track of them as they come out, aren’t you?).

Oversteering: Keep your eye on the meter at all times, especially as you’re making turns. One of the easiest mistakes to make as a pilot is to oversteer. Remember that for your DPS to react to a call, switch feet, and ramp up will take some time, while Rhyolith himself has some inertia working against you. Don’t be shy in calling straight early, or even calling the opposite foot to get things back to straight more quickly. Learning when to call left and then straight to come out of a right turn at the angle you need is key to the fight. Get that part down, and you’ll be well on your way to a kill!

Heroic Mode Tactics:

Steering doesn’t change a ton for heroic, but there are enough small differences that they’re worth addressing here.

DPS assignments: For heroic, we assign eight DPS to legs. When we don’t have eight melee in, we usually fill with hunters and elemental shamans. We keep the two additional emergency DPS ready for a call, as in normal. On early attempts on heroic, we found that oversteering was a big problem, with the extra DPS. In order to combat this, we assign two DPS (one right, one left) to stay on their legs fulltime except during emergency calls. This helps keep turns smoother, and because we also ask them to pop cooldowns when we need to straighten out from a hard turn in the opposite direction, it brings us back into line more quickly. Finally, because the soft enrage is brutal, we have all DPS assigned a default leg to switch to when no adds are up. This will affect steering, so be mindful of this.

Liquid Obsidian Adds: Things to note here are: Rhyolith walks faster if he’s going straight, so try to keep him going that way as much as possible. It’ll put some distance between you and the liquid obsidian adds that spawn, and more will die from cleaves and the like as a result. Since you’ll have the clearest idea in your head of the path you’re going to take, you’ll be in a great position to make out blowback calls. The most effective use for the blowbacks are on tight turns, since you won’t be covering as much ground, and near the end of the fight, when you’re looking to push Rhyolith into phase 2.

Phase 2 Preparation: So you’re getting close to phase 2 – what kind of calls are there to make near the very end? Well, apart from the blowback call mentioned above, there are potentially some strategy-related calls you can make here. Our strategy goes something like this: at 4:20 into the fight, we pop hero. Once the following adds are down, we have all ranged DPS switch to the feet on my call. Why do we not just have them switch immediately? We learned the hard way that having ranged on the feet dramatically changes steering, and it becomes extremely hard to control. So when our guild leader tells me the ranged DPS are ready, I will wait on that call if we are going to get another volcano down in the next few seconds. Any longer than that, and it’s probably not worth holding DPS, but one extra volcano near the end of the phase can pay dividends in your ability to burn him. So get a volcano if one’s nearby, call for ranged DPS to jump on the legs, and get ready for phase 2! Don’t forget to dodge those lasers….

Your turn! Are you a pro Rhyolith pilot? Did I leave anything out? How do you call directions out in your raiding team?

Thanks to @Morynne at Marks-365 for the use of her image of the Rhyolith steering meter above!