Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diaries of a Ganker, Part XIII - The Battle for Twin Peaks

This will be my last WoW-related post for some time, as I have decided to hang up my WoW boots for the immediate future and return to TESO. I had already stopped playing WoW and am now just a subscriber in name only, albeit one financed by the piles of virtual gold I had amassed over a decade of playing the game. Prior to this my only form of regular activity was playing Rated BGs with my current PvP guild <Jim's Mowing> - I used to play Rated BGs regularly every Monday night with this guild, and it might be fair to say that I was one of their more regular members, with the rest of the roster being extremely volatile. The guild has become victim of the attrition that comes with long PvP seasons - generally speaking people usually stop playing once they hit a rating they are happy with, and they sit on their achievements until the next season begins. Week by week more and more people lapsed into inactivity, until in late May many of the weekly Rated BGs were cancelled. I am writing this post in mid-June, and nowadays there is only one event running per week where once there had been four to five back in March and April. This post is an account of a Rated BG in early May, just prior to the lapse into inactivity which characterises the guild at the moment.

In my last post I talked about a few of the characters in the guild - Pallypwnftw, Chubbydruid, and the GM himself, Jim - but on this night none of them were present. Jim the GM had ragequit one evening the week prior over some trivial crap, and he has basically taken a sabbatical from the game. I can't say that I miss him, as all he seems to contribute to the team is strife - his refusal to use a microphone, and his inability to stop meddling with the people he designates as raid leaders only serves to undermine and undercut the poor bastards saddled with the job. Pally finally stepped down as raid leader, and I can't say I blame the guy, especially after all the crap he was forced to endure with Jim lurking in the wings. Chubby, the 13 year old WoW prodigy and probably the best healer in the guild, was unable to play because his Mum had grounded him. Poor Chubby. He's a PvP monster in the virtual world, but just a kid in the real one. We had an interim raid leader step in for a couple of weeks (Pallyroll), but he was also stymied by real life shackles, and he was involved in an embarrassing episode which destroyed all his credibility as a raid leader. During the middle of the game in the midst of "chewing" out the team, his mother came into his room and went on a tirade to which the whole raid was unfortunately privy to on Skype. Gathering from her outburst Pallyroll is an university undergraduate living at home who neglects his chores, has a WoW addiction, and is in immediate danger of being evicted by an irate mother "who is sick of this obsession." There's no coming back after that, and the following week Pallyroll stepped down from the raid leading position. We then had an air force officer come in and claim that he was qualified to lead the team due to his real life background, only to have him degenerate into a whinging loser who blamed everyone but himself when we went on a losing run. He transferred from the Horde to the Alliance thinking it would be easier to get 2k on this side of the factional divide, went on a losing run, and has now since returned back Horde-side after complaining loudly and longly that the Alliance "suck".

I've finally cottoned onto Jim the GM's recruiting strategy. He spams Trade chat with recruitments advertisements, takes anyone with no questions asked, thrust responsibility on them, and hopes for the best. My inclusion into the core team now seems like a trivial achievement - it's hard to feel pride when the only criteria for inclusion is having a pulse. I'm also somewhat disenchanted by all these "elite" players around me - sure, they all have nice PvP achievements but there's no team here as far as I can see, just a gaggle of individuals who were once pretty good at WoW PvP. So once again I find myself questioning why the hell I am still playing this game, and why I bother playing with this group of misfits, and the answer I get back from myself is that I still like the core PvP game, and I want to continually push rating. I'm past my tipping point though, in which my like for the game and my desire to push rating is outweighed by the sheer inanity I have to put up with. The best era of WoW PvP for me was when my friends and family were heavily into WoW, and although we could be fractious at times, we were held together by deeper bonds than just a desire to climb the ladder, and thus losses became minor setbacks and wins were cherished shared experiences. I have to face up to the idea that that era is over, and it might be time to move on - not just from WoW, but from gaming in general.


So with the regular "leadership" out for the evening, it fell upon Asheboyswag and Mpsmash to lead the group. I like both players - Mpsmash has proven to be sensible and level headed, and there's no denying that Ash is a great player despite being very annoying on chat. The game I recorded took place in Twin Peaks, which is a classic capture the flag (CTF) map. For the benefit of non-WoW PvPers, the object of this game is to grab the flag in the enemy's base and bring it back to yours. Teams are unable to cap the flag unless their flag is also at their home base - in other words, you can only cap the flag and score if the enemy isn't in possession of yours. The battle takes place in a valley bisected by a river, with the opposing bases located at the top of the hills on either side. There is a nice summary located here for those interested learning more.


The strategy employed by Ash in this map was to send the rogue to sneak into the enemy base, grab the enemy flag, and then bring it back to middle and reunify with the rest of the team who would be attempting to wrest control of the field. I was given the duty of peeling out once the rogue had the flag, and escorting him back to the middle. Once our team was all together we would wipe the enemy team - the whole point of fighting together as a group in the middle is that we would have a numerical advantage if the enemy team had already split into offensive and defensive teams. Ideally the enemy team had already gone into a 7/3 split - 7 on offence, and 3 (the enemy flag carrier and two healers) heading back to their base. If this was indeed the case their 7 on offence would be facing our combined 10 in midfield. We would wipe them and then split, with the rogue FC, myself and one more healer dropping back to our base while the remainder of the team pushed forward to kill the enemy flag carrier. Our 7 would engage their remaining 3 (plus whatever rezzers straggled in), kill the FC, and allow our rogue to get the cap.

They say that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and the truth of this adage was about to be amply demonstrated. Usually it's because of something the enemy does that disrupts our plans. Tonight though, we decided to disrupt ourselves instead. Prior to the game starting the two warriors on our team - Mpsmash and Thisisagirl (who was not) - decided to get into an argument. Mpsmash called Thisisagirl out on his overall damage, which he felt was on the low side. Thisisagirl countered by saying that he hated that particular statistic because it detracted from his positional play and his team focus (and I agreed with him). Mpsmash kept at him and at him, and suitably provoked Thisisagirl challenged Mpsmash to a duel and won. This should have settled the matter, but Thisisagirl also vowed to "forget tactics if damage is all you guys want" and lapsed into a sullen silence which boded ill for future team play. When the game started someone other than our designated lock snatched the berserker buff as we all charged into midfield. The berserker buff is usually reserved for DoT classes to maximize their spread pressure, but tonight some idiot decided to grab it to pad their stats without having the gumption to own up to it on Skype. Because of their recent spat I suspected Thisisagirl, but video review completely exonerates him, as he rides ahead of me the whole way.

Still it was just a minor hiccup, and our plans proceeded apace. We had just made contact with the enemy and I was healing in the middle, still waiting for the signal from the rogue to peel out when disaster struck. The enemy had two shadow priests and a destruction lock, and they were about to give us an awesome demonstration of what was possible with disciplined focus fire and combined burst. In mid-heal I was globalled - full to zero health in one global cooldown (or approximately 1.5 seconds). I saw the chaos bolts coming, but I was confident that I had HoTs, shields and health enough to survive the incoming damage. Erm, nope. One second I was a happy panda, waiting for the call from the rogue to peel out and assist. One second later I was a sad DEAD panda, wondering what the hell just happened. Being globalled isn't so strange in Rated BGs - there is so much damage flying around that if a team gets in sync and bursts at the same time the combined damage can be devastating. What made this display by the enemy so awesome is that one of our other healers died at the same time. So they didn't just global me - they globalled two healers at once. The lone surviving healer, Ash, who is no slouch, could only splutter in disbelief. Three seconds after the both healers went down, a third, Thisisagirl also died.

Three men down in three seconds. We had been well and truly rocked. Check out 2:20 in the video if you don't believe me.

With two healers down and the enemy possessing incredible burst damage there was no way that we were going to be able to hold the middle. We wiped in short order. All was not lost - our rogue still had the flag, so an enemy cap was still preventable if we could rez in time and if we could rally around him. Unfortunately at this point in the game I turned into a wet noodle - that chaos bolt was so devastating that it must have reached through the monitor and rang my meatbag brain, too. That's the only excuse I can think of to explain how badly I was about to play for the next ten minutes or so. On the replay I can clearly see our rogue FC valiantly running past our graveyard - in real time, however, I must have failed to see him, and when I rezzed I started galloping towards the enemy FC thinking that he was our rogue. When I realized my mistake I turned back, just in time to see the whole enemy team descend on our lonely rogue and eat him alive.

1-0.

This wasn't the end by any means, but we were in disarray. Someone piped up that it was only 1-0 and we were still in it - in the event of a draw the team that caps last wins the game, so capping second would effectively put us out in front. He was right, but he was interrupted by one naysayer who started saying that we were outclassed and it was only a matter of time. Ignoring him we kept plugging away. The flag was picked up by Thisisagirl, and we started to form around him in an attempt to regroup into a semblance of a formation. We were in midfield on the enemy's side, but our route forward was blocked by the enemy, who held the bridge in the centre of the map. I think Thisisagirl was still seething at the criticism of his damage, because rather than staying at the back of the team fight he decided to plunge headlong into the massive melee swirling around the bridge rather than staying behind with the healers. He was immediately targeted and killed, and with our flag down the enemy was able to cap.

2-0.

At this point Ash lost his rag, and started tearing into the warrior for piling into the middle of the enemy team. I wanted to blame the warrior too, but on watching the replay I believe that the healers all could have done a better job at keeping him up. I saw the warrior go out of range on my heals but I foolishly assumed that the other two had him covered. This is a common mistake with healers who haven't healed together for a long time - back when Rykester and Lelle were still playing we would be yelling on Skype, saying "I don't have range on FC!", "Do you have him? Do you have him?" or "I got him, I got him." More importantly, we would have been communicating with our FC who was was usually Hazeraxe, and telling him "I don't have range! Come back to me!" and he would Heroic Leap back or charge backwards at a convenient enemy. There was no such communication between any of the three healers or the FC, and so we must all shoulder the blame for Thisisagirl's demise.

Courtesy of WoW-Battlegrounds. Shows the locations of buffs on the map which do not change in this particular BG. 1 and 6 are speed buffs, which are handy for FCs either going in or escaping; 2 and 5 restore health and mana, and are better for healers and take less time than having to sit down and drink; and 3 and 4 are damage buffs which are generally reserved for DoT classes like locks and boomkins in order to maximise their spread damage.

With the second cap Ash went into shutdown and stopped talking on Skype, leaving the raid leaderless and adrift. The same went for me - with our FC dead I went into "fuck you" mode, and started trying to live just to spite the enemy. All teamwork went out the window - I found myself alone and surrounded by enemies in midfield, and with my pride still stung after being globalled, resolved that I would not go down easy. I ran around the massive tree stump lining (using obstacles to block LoS) the lock and the shadow priests, using CCs to break up their damage, and then diving back around the stump to make them chase me. I ran around the stump a few times, then broke for the bridge to try to link up with the rezzers coming from our graveyard, all the while being pursued by the bulk of their team. On the bridge I started eating some major damage and so I put my portal on the bridge, then jumped off and swam underneath it. The enemy jumped into the water also, intent on the kill, and as soon as they were under the bridge with me, I ported back up, leaving them stuck in the water below. Take that, scum buckets.

Luckily for our team our rogue was still doing his job, grabbing the flag and running it, and his Quixotic dedication to his duty shook me out of my funk. Realising that the rogue was still chugging away I abandoned my self-serving antics in the middle, and peeled to him. The team had ceased talking, and all was quiet on Skype, but to their credit most of us were starting to come to our senses and were resolving to play this game out to the bitter end, even if team communication had broken down and a humiliating loss was on the cards. Ashe was still sulking, and Mpsmash had also ceased talking, but the rogue, bless his heart, was asking for back-up in a non-petulant way which galvanized most of our team to do the right thing and rally around him. I also started CCing much more, wary of the enemy's damage, as well as calling my CCs and talking to fill the void on Skype. I also began communicating with the rogue FC, telling him to line the lock and the shadow priests, and to keep moving at all costs.

The rogue's running had not been in vain - suddenly on Skype came the call "Cap cap cap!" Despite the deficit our offence was still gamely plugging away at the enemy FC, and had put themselves into a position to land a kill. Unfortunately at this point the rogue was miles away from the cap point. Individually we had a team filled with good players, and it was their individual skills in small group fighting that was keeping us in the game, despite the fact that as a unit we had broken down completely. Defence and offence were both trying to do their jobs without actually talking to each other at all, and so when the offence had gotten their act together to land a kill our FC team were busy running rings around the enemy trying to buy time and avoid being cornered and killed. A simple message such as "We're going in the enemy flag room now" would have sufficed for us to turn around, and get into a position to cap. Alas, such a step appeared to be beyond our team tonight, and so when offence was about to effect a return the defensive team was out of position. This was a fumbled chance, and it was compounded soon afterwards by our rogue being surrounded and killed at the top of the ramp.

Still, we had shown that we were more than capable of scoring, and despite a round of acrimony following the fumble we pushed again. Thisisagirl grabbed flag and our team rallied around him, moving together as a group through the middle. We managed to blast a path through the middle, and once clear our team split into offence and defence. Thisisagirl made it safely into the flag room, and there the FC, our resto druid and I waited. Once you're in the flag room you can't see a bloody thing, and you are dependent on your team outside to feed you information as to the enemy's movements. Given the state of comms that night no info was forthcoming, but the job was simple really - it was now a race to see which offence would kill the enemy FC first. It didn't take long for the enemy to appear at the gates, and soon we were fighting for our lives. My monk was whirling around like a furry pinball, stunning and paralysing every target he could see to break up the incoming damage, and blowing all his escapes to counter the fears and stuns being thrown out by the enemy. We held out long enough for our offence to kill the enemy FC - however, Thisisagirl was not standing on the cap point and we failed to score. He missed the cap by literally a second - he heard the call and began to Bladestorm towards the cap, but was beaten to the punch by the enemy DK who reacted just a smidgin faster. Two seconds later he ate another massive chaos bolt from the enemy lock which dropped him. Watch his health drop from 3/4 to zero at 12:44 of the video.

2-0 down and two flag returns fluffed -  things were looking grim for us. After Thisisagirl went down I peeled out of the flag room and ran for my life, all the while being pursued by the enemy. Once outside I hurled myself over the precipitous drop - Pandaren have the bouncy trait, which means we take less falling damage, and I exploit this in BGs to escape bad situations. In this case I fell right into a pitched battle occurring at the base of our base, and I started healing people around me. Once again it was Twinkytoes the rogue who kept the team together. After Thisisagirl fell he had gone back, grabbed the flag and had made it all the way back to midfield. In midfield a confused fight was taking place, as we were trying to clear a path for our FC while simultaneously trying to run down the enemy FC. By some miracle Twinkytoes made it into the base through the front door unmolested and unescorted - I'd peeled back to support, but I was too late to offer any meaningless assistance. It was all Twinkytoes, and by some amazing stroke of luck the enemy FC died just as he trundled into the inner room of the keep.

2-1.

I was incredibly chuffed, and stated on Skype, "Six minutes! We can do this!" In soccer as in Rated BGs the most dangerous score to lead by is 2-0, because it is a big enough lead to make the frontrunners relax, yet not such a high enough differential to put the game out of reach of the team behind. The enemy had relaxed and lost their cohesion, and by some miracle we were back in the game. As I said earlier, the team that caps last in the event of a draw wins the game, and so all we needed was one more cap to win. The flag cap was a shot in the arm - suddenly Skype was alive, and people were starting to communicate again. Ash was also back in the game - good old dependable Twinkytoes had grabbed the flag, and Ash was running escort and was talking to his FC this time, telling him to come back into healing range. Ash doesn't ask for help or organize ahead of time - instead he looks around, expects people to be there, and complains if no one is around. I heard him on chat say "Fuck it I'll take these two by myself" which I translated to as "Can I get another healer back here as soon as possible?" I belatedly peeled out to assist, but they were in good shape despite having a warrior and a DK in pursuit. Ash and Twinky were way out ahead of me out of my healing range, but I could still render assistance by peeling, and this is what I did, paralysing the warrior and trying to stun the DK. Unfortunately the DK had seen me closing in for the stun and had popped Icebound Fortitude to give himself stun immunity, and thus my stun was wasted. Still my presence at close range and my Chi wave bouncing around kept the trio of us in combat, which meant no mounting and more time for Ash and Twinkytoes to get clear. I shadowed the DK and the warrior all the way into the flag room, and was able to paralyse the DK inside once my Paralysis came off CD. Our efforts had not been in vain - offence had run down the enemy FC and landed the kill. Twinkytoes capped the equaliser, and we were effectively ahead.

2-2.

Jubilant exclamations filled Skype, but we weren't done yet. The opposition had fallen apart - at the start of the game they had been grouping together and blasting us in the team fights with their coordinated bursts, but now for whatever reason they were fighting in scattered groups with varying degrees of effect. The warlock was always dangerous wherever he was, but we were onto him now, and he ate CC after CC everywhere he went. I reckon I paralysed him at least 5-6 times during the whole game. We had them by the jugular, and we resolved to get the final cap to capstone the win for us. Thisisagirl grabbed the flag and made it out of the enemy base, but without healer support he was in dire jeopardy, so much so that people in the flag room were saying to let him die and let another grab it. I managed to get to him in time, and managed to top him up, ignoring the calls to let him die. We started moving back towards our base, trying to push past the scattered remnants of the enemy in our path. We ran into the bloody warlock again and I CCed him immediately, only to have Thisisagirl charge him and break it. The lock tried to cast a chaos bolt but I was in melee range and interrupted the cast. I told Thisisagirl to keep going, and he complied, breaking off and heading towards our base. The lock, once out of the interrupt silence, hurled a chaos bolt at Thisisagirl's back which smashed him for half his health. I immediately cast Cocoon on him, and watched as he ate another incoming chaos bolt. The cocoon held, but now we had a shadow priest putting damage on Thisisagirl and snaring him. It was no problem - these guys were amazingly dangerous when grouped together and coordinating their burst, but in singles and pairs I can maintain against their damage all day long. I cleared the snare on Thisisagirl with Tiger's Lust, and he was finally in the clear, Heroic Leaping into the base just as our hunter came out to provide cover. Offence dispatched the enemy FC once again, and Thisisagirl scored the final winning cap.

3-2.

We had won. What an incredibly glorious and downright frustrating comeback, in which our team once again shows how our amazing potential is hamstrung by our inability to work together. Many of the individuals are proven players, and the team can be so much more than this gaggle of individuals all hooting and hollering in different directions - but all of it is scuppered by their inability to set their egos aside to work towards a common goal. This team, if it had a tad more stability and stronger leadership would hit 2k easily - even in our current fractious state we have enough individual skills to hover between 1700-1800 without even really trying. As for me, I can see that I have quite a ways to improve (especially with battlefield situational awareness and strategic focus), but I know that I can hang with these guys as I am now, and I can get a lot better. I regularly top overall heals, overall dispels, and my CC count is consistently high and on par with the DPS. I'm also one of the more mentally stable members of the team - I complain excessively on my blog, but in game I usually shut my mouth, do my job, and work as a team player. That's the good thing about recording your games - you can objectively see your mistakes from third person, even if it makes you wince at some of your own ineptitude. I made quite a few clangers in this game which made me embarrassed about posting the video, but ah well, it's all a learning experience. If we can win with the vast majority of our team (myself included) playing as poorly as we did, then this team would absolute crush most opposition if we ever got our act together.

To spend a WoW token or not to spend - that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of terribad RBG teams / Or to unsub in the face of a sea of troubles / And by logging end them. To fly or to sleep / Perchance to dream of other virtual worlds.

As I've said, however, I'm past my tipping point - for now I'm going to say goodbye to WoW again, hoard the WoW tokens I have remaining, and return if and when WoW becomes interesting again. Tientzo has always been one of my more humble avatars - the persona he is based on is an old, peaceful and unassuming bear, happy to stay away from the limelight and quite content in his own skin. I can see him in my mind's eye shouldering his pack and grabbing his staff, and wandering away back to the mists of Pandaria, whistling an ancient tune and following the road to wherever it may take him. I'm sure Tientzo is quite happier sitting on the banks of a river somewhere, or dozing sleepily beneath the shade of a tree than going into battle with a bunch of angry strangers with no sense of camaraderie or team spirit. Thus I have no qualms about leaving him to his business wandering the wilds of Azeroth - he never really liked the stuffy confines of the garrison, and flying scares the crap out of him anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment