When Cataclysm came out in December of last year, I jumped head first back into World of Warcraft. I’d been an on again/off again player for a long time, mostly because of my work schedule. I just couldn’t commit to something else that was vying for my time. During December, I leveled my Priest, geared him as well as I could in the month before I went back to work, and said that I would occasionally log on to raid as time allowed.
Time did not allow.
I made 2 raids between January and May. But then my semester ended, summer began, and my guild moved to a 2-day raiding schedule.
I can do that!
Unfortunately, there’s a problem: the last time I was actually a “raider” instead of a casual who sometimes hopped into a raid group was way back at Level 60 with 40-man content. My guild killed Nefarian when we were 60, got Skeram in AQ40, and then lollygagged around instead of pushing any further into AQ or Naxxramas. The Burning Crusade wasn’t much better for me—I focused mostly on PvP with the exception of my weekly Karazhan runs or Zul’Aman PuGs. And Wrath of the Lich King was, well…Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?
So now, for the first time in a long time, I have both the desire and capacity to raid. My RL friends have set up a relatively successful 10-man guild, so I’ve stepped into my Priest’s mooncloth slippers again. The first run was Bastion of Twilight, and despite the two runs earlier this spring, I generally have no freaking idea what’s going on.
I’ve forgotten how to raid.
For a long time, my raid leader’s biggest criticism of me as a WoW player is that my situational awareness is—to put it bluntly—nonexistent. I focus so intently on the life-bars I’m supposed to keep full until I forget that there’s a little polygonal dwarf standing smack-dab in what he’s not supposed to be standing in.
The night wears on, we kill some bosses, I get some explanations, and we move into what is supposed to be a progression night of wipes on Cho’gall. Third or fourth attempt, though, and we kill him. This was a Monday night. “Great,” we say, and excited chatter spills across Vent. Then we collect our loot, chat for a little while, say “See you Wednesday,” and log out.
Wednesday comes around with a new reset of the raids, and we one-shot Cho’gall. And I loot my Tier11 shoulders. Again, “awesome,” we say and move into BWD and get ready for Al’Akir on Monday (who we got into Phase 3 on our first night of even seeing the fight, which was pretty good. We were able to get him this week, making us 11/12 bosses in T11.).
Wait a second. Hold up there, partner.
Despite the amazing success we’ve had this past week, I can’t help but think the whole time, “This is my first time raiding in years. I’m gonna screw it up.”
And a couple of times, I do. I have sausage fingers, and I bumble my way through a couple of fights (Ascendant Council, I’m looking at you). But I had fun. And since most of my guild are my RL friends (or people whom I’ve been lucky enough to hang out with IRL), it’s not like I have to worry about underperforming and being booted.
The raid game has changed significantly since Level 60. I have a lot of preconceived notions about what a Priest should be doing to heal based on what I used to do (and I used to be damn good at what I did, eventually becoming my old guild’s Priest Class Leader as we moved through progression content), but those don’t work anymore. What made me so good back then, limits me today.
I can’t just stand and spam “Heal” on the tank, but not just because I’m assigned to be the raid healer (I’m Holy, rather than Disc). Other classes are better at tank healing than I am, and because I never raided much outside of PuGs or on my Priest between Karazhan and Cataclysm, I have keep an eye on debuffs, and not just the ones on me—not to dispel, but because they can kill me just as much as their target. I have to watch for blue fire, purple fire, chartreuse fire, and even red fire (though that last one is surprisingly rare in T11 content) on top of dodging this add and that add, running in on Blackout, and out on Cho’gall’s adherent phases.
That’s a whole lot going on when the most complicated fight I had really ever done involved stepping in and out of line-of-sight to cleanse some debuffs or have one of the other healers step in to heal the tank when “Heal, Rank 2” eventually ran me low on mana.
But, the self-aware (that sounds so much nicer than self-centered, doesn’t it?) creature that I am, I knew that if I wanted to continue my 2-night-a-week hobby, I had to up my game. So I made a list of what I needed to fix, and set to work on doing it. So far, it’s worked great.
In future posts, I’ll take you all step-by-step through the specific (albeit minor, in some cases) playstyle revisions that taught this old dog a few new tricks for the Cataclysm raid game.