Reflecting on Dragonflight Season 1 – The Content, The Chase, and The Process

Last week, my guild closed in on Ahead of the Curve: Raszageth and rounded out our first raid tier together as a new guild. There’s more still to do – a second kill for our missing mage, achievement runs, and alt runs – but AOTC marks a great moment to reflect on the process of getting started in Dragonflight and how it went – especially since it wasn’t just the process of progressing the raid, but of building a new guild and getting a new team up and running. I didn’t start from scratch, thankfully, but I had an interesting tier including coaching a brand-new raider and shaking my own rust off, given that it has been a full decade since I was last a full-time raid leader. On top of all of that was the acclimation of new systems in Dragonflight and shaking off play rust from a year-long WoW break, returning to the game and grappling with all of that at the same time.

And in truth, I really enjoyed it.

Vault of the Incarnates Normal

The normal raid was…eh. It was fine enough, but I think it was a weaker starting tier compared to Castle Nathria in Shadowlands or even Uldir in BfA. The fight variety was okay to a point, but the number of bosses was a little bit low and the mechanical density was a little low too. I get it to a point – the first tier of raiding in a new expansion is always meant to be an ease-in for people returning to the game, starting fresh, and those just grappling with new toolkits, and Dragonflight’s talent system represents a fundamental departure from the past decade of WoW in that there were a lot of build options and, to Blizzard’s credit, a few fights where talent choices were foundationally important to clearing content – albeit not quite as much on Normal. Short of AoE, cleave, or single target builds, there just weren’t that many talent choice mixups in Normal and the fight mechanics were pretty forgiving right up to Raszageth, and even she was fairly simple on Normal – we cleared the fight in 12 pulls.

My favorite normal fight is probably doing the achievement on Primal Council – we accidentally ended up doing it because our healing priest noticed that she could fish in the room and we got the Lunker up, so we just went with it and won. Fun times given how that fundamentally shifts the fight, adding more area denial! My least favorite fight? It’s tough. I think Eranog is just boring, even on Heroic – there’s not enough stuff he does, nothing is really that lethal, and he’s a straightforward snoozer we have to do even when using the Blizzard-provided skip. I dislike Terros because our first couple of weeks in Vault, I was getting used to Monk gameplay again and I found my Roll button too often, landing in the Terros-hole more than I would like. Sennarth is mechanically fun to a point – the traveling up a staircase mechanic is genuinely kind of neat – but then it’s also actually not that mechanically deep and it’s just a slow crawl upstairs. Dathea is fine to a point, more to say on that fight for Heroic for sure, and the rest are pretty okay to good. Broodkeeper Diurna is genuinely pretty neat as a fight on both difficulties – the kiting mechanic and egg breaking is a lot of fun and it adds something to what could have otherwise been a generic add wave fight. Raszageth is…well, I think she’s interesting. The fight has a lot of fun and interesting mechanics on Normal like positioning knockbacks and managing buffs that add some depth – the knockback mechanics alone remind me a lot of some fights in FFXIV Savage raids – and there’s a good feeling of overall progression there.

In terms of loot, Normal remains a problem spot in WoW under current loot philosophies. Mythic Plus loot overtakes it at a very low level of play and short of the very-rare items like the two Diurna-named rings, the Whispering Incarnate Icon, Neltharax, Kharnalex, and a fair number of trinkets like Manic Grieftorch, nothing else in the raid is exceptionally worth farming except maybe for transmog, although I do like the visual appearance and color-coding of loot this tier. For those of us running Mythic Plus even semi-seriously, Normal loot was dead before we got to Raz on Normal, and this expansion exacerbated that even outside of dungeons through the new Super Rare drops in open-world content and upgradeable Primal Storms gear for those running them and getting Sigils to upgrade. I set a goal of 360 equipped item level for my raiders on week 1 and pretty much everyone met it and then sprinted up quickly, save for maybe a couple of folks who don’t run keys that often and had a longer upgrade process as a result. The overall trend remains however, and it seems likely to continue into Season 2 of Dragonflight – Normal raid is just not a good way to farm up gear, and that will be worse in Season 2 when people have existing M+ drops that are already in that spot based on how the item level tiering of WoW works. Myself and two other raiders are around 417 item level, which is already a progression point past the base level of current Mythic raid and thus will match a progression point past the start of Normal Aberrus in Season 2, and that is likely to rocket up anyways given that Mythic Plus Season 2 will provide easily farmable and higher item level drops.

Overall, Normal raid is as it always is – an easy-enough starting point to learn basic encounter mechanics and get a baseline of gear to carry forward into the Heroic raid and other content you might be doing. It’s skippable for a fair number of organized teams but some need that kickstart of extra gear and learning time of mechanics, and I find value in it for those reasons.

Vault of the Incarnates Heroic

Heroic this tier was an interesting experience that I found a lot of fun in. That being said, I think some of the same issues I had with Normal crop up here.

Firstly, it’s worth saying that Heroic, while it puts more emphasis on unique talent builds or choices per boss, still kind of defaults to choices by generic fight type, with most choices being number of targets needing damage. Heroic Raszageth is an outlier in that she needs a unique build to manage the sparks, but otherwise, talent choices remain similar or identical to Normal. Boss difficulty progression changes a bit from Normal in a way that is really weird – Dathea on Heroic ends up being far more of a gatekeeper than Kurog Grimtotem and is a harder fight than him in spite of Dathea being the fight that is supposed to keep Grimtotem locked. Dathea Heroic also marks a trend I’d like to see far less of in WoW – where one specific class or talent option is almost an auto-win. Dathea’s add mechanic on Heroic is far less forgiving than Normal, with new small adds that cast and are thus not easily rounded up – unless you have a Death Knight, who can take the Abomination Limb talent from the class tree and sweep them all up. Otherwise, you need to use a mix of single-target and AoE displacements that can require some atrociously precise play and positioning, and it makes the fight noticeably more difficult for not having those things. In our case, we have one DK as a tank, and the forced alternating add groups meant that his group had easy mode for the small adds while my add team struggled, using a weird mix of ground-target and frontal cone displacements to just try and get some room.

The rest of the fights feel pretty standard and nearly identical to Normal. In fact, short of Raz, eggs on Diurna, Terros leavings being permanent from his circle AoEs, and Dathea, nothing really feels that different at all and the execution and strategies we used were nearly identical. Some fights were a lot harder because they demanded more precision (Primal Council, Terros early on, Dathea, Diurna) and some were easy facerolls that felt no different to us than normal (Eranog, Grimtotem, Sennarth especially). The changes to harm levels from some mechanics led to a point where progression route was different – we walled for a week on Council only to then literally one-shot Sennarth, and had a struggle with Dathea only to then see that we could just go to Grimtotem for gear upgrades and then move back to Dathea for the clear – so the changes in terms of mechanical precision and danger level were noted, even if they didn’t drastically shape our core strategies.

Loot in Heroic suffers again from the same problem I mentioned on Normal. It’s higher item level, but it still exists in a bubble where Mythic Plus offers equal and better loot faster. My raid took around 7 weeks to go full time into Heroic, and by that point, Keystones had already given me everything at better item level. At the point of AOTC, about a quarter of the raid had a higher average item level than we could get from the raid itself and 3 of us were so completely over the gear curve that it kind of was a ceremonial achievement to cap off the raid tier and get AOTC more than a thing we needed to do to progress gear. The changes with upgrades in Season 2 should help this and the Normal issue I mentioned above, but it still feels like the loot lockout system in WoW raids needs a substantial changeup.

Mythic Keystones and The Hard Pushing

I really, really enjoy running dungeons in WoW. Bar none, that is the thing I missed the most about the game in time away.

I’ve written at length about DF Season 1 in M+ already, as I hit most of my goals about a month ago, and since then I’ve added two new KSM characters to my personal roster and learned a lot more to keep me comfortable in dungeon runs and having fun. I think something I can continue to say is this – I never expected to push as hard as I have on keys and I am actually planning to discuss that more in a separate post, because I am planning on trying to parallel push multiple toons towards high rating next season, including trying for a second KSH and to make sure I close Season 2 with the full assortment of dungeon portals.

M+ remains rewarding even if some parts of the mode are showing wear and tear – affixes in particular. Again, though, that becomes fertile ground for a post of its own. Keys remain my happy place, and pugging keys are where I am able to just zone in on my gameplay and work through it, but I’ve also made an effort to bring more people in and to make sure I am a team player that focuses on helping people learn keys and bringing up guildies to KSM and beyond when I can help with it. Speaking of leadership…

Becoming A Raid Leader – Again

I first raid-led back in 2011, and did so through the entirety of Cataclysm raiding and the first tier and a half of Mists of Pandaria for my guild. I liked it a fair bit, we had some successes (we pushed Heroic then, which is equal to Mythic now) with me at the helm, and it felt good. Since then, I’ve largely been an officer, helping to guide things in that capacity but not having direct leadership responsibilities, and after my exile from our old guild, that had been taken away from me too, so I was just a raider. It has been a long time since I raid led.

This tier was nerve-wracking for me because I had a lot of concerns over if I would meet my goals – if I could manage to keep it together and keep things on track in a way that met the ideals and goals I set for myself. I wanted to lead a raid that was respectful, that honored the time people put into raiding and playing the game together while respecting individual choice – no pushing people to do keys if they didn’t want to, but also to provide an environment where people could learn. I knew, going in, that it would take longer on average to progress the tier, but I wanted to do my absolute best to mitigate that curve by being an effective leader – having good notes on each encounter, having pre-planned ideas about who to place where and how to manage certain mechanics, and ensuring I was available as needed outside of raid to help talk through logs, discuss gameplay at a lower level than I could during raid, and to help run keys and teach where I could.

Admittedly, I felt like I failed at that for a while at the start of the tier.

Something I said in a comment on my post about my decision to return to World of Warcraft and start this new guild was that I knew raid leading was a bit of a shit sandwich – that there would be people who had issues with aspects of leadership no matter what and that the job of a raid lead was to minimize the number of bites you had to take of that shit sandwich. And I think that is still true – ultimately I knew that I was making a decision that was going to, at times, make me uncomfortable and push me in ways I wouldn’t always like. Coming back to the game after a long absence also added to that – I needed time to relearn, to rebuild muscle memory and to also just grapple with understanding the core of Dragonflight, different as it is from the structure of WoW that I had grown accustomed to. And I didn’t always balance the priorities of myself as a player with those of my guild responsibilities as well as I would have liked. I targeted what I felt was a good starting item level for the slow climb I felt we faced in the raid, but I wasn’t always good about communicating how to get there or organizing the ways I could help with that. I came underprepared for some raid nights, with bad notes or just no good research at all on a fight we’d end up facing and I was stuck reading text guides and leaning on our old raid leader, who has been PUGging outside of guild for a minute during the tier. I wasn’t always a good coach up front and I can recognize that there was a point where I felt like I was treading water, especially because the start of the tier also came with a lot of personal responsibility outside of the game – moving apartments, classwork for my degree, and the like.

I had a good fusion of people who had never seen me raid lead and those for whom that was a distant memory, but they all trusted in me – at least on the surface level and enough for me to find my footing, and that is something I carry a lot of appreciation for. They didn’t have to do that – for reasons we’ll get into later in this post, there were even reasons to be distrustful of me and of this idea I had – but they didn’t visibly waver, and I think we were able to stick the landing in a really good way. I have a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of my guildies, who stuck with me and stuck with the idea of our own space and guild when they didn’t have to.

My goals as a raid leader are simple – I want to build the teamplay environment I think WoW often misses, where we are collectively in the fight as a unit and no one person is carrying or a burden, I want to raid lead from a place of respect and dignity where I don’t assume what people know and exhibit patience to help teach and learn from others myself, and I want raiding to be fun – I want in-jokes, I want people cracking up in voice chat and excited to raid, I want things to be goofy and energetic and maybe a little weird in a way that hardcore progression teams would find bizarre. I also want us to be successful – to get to our AOTC, to see people through to KSM and even KSH if they want to try for it, to help people get gear upgrades, try new content and modes of play, and to feel comfortable and confident in their play and guild choice. I want people to be excited to log on and hang out, and I want the atmosphere of a hang-out during raid. I think we have landed at that balance well, and it certainly isn’t just my work that got us there but that of the whole team.

I spent this tier working on making good calls, on being communicative and straightforward, asking for feedback and taking it to heart, and trying my damnedest to make the raid environment one that is bright, cheerful, and positive – but also focused on a goal and unifying people together towards that goal. I didn’t always do the best job to start things off, and I still have a lot to learn, but I feel really, really good about where we landed for the tier. I feel like I’ve gotten better at being proactive, communicative, coming prepared for fights with notes and more optimized strategies and assignments tailored to my group, and like I have built a good balance between goofy fun times and serious progression. Hell, our AOTC kill pull was peppered with jokes, laughing at a funny accidental death, and the mood was still generally light (albeit getting more serious and sharp as the kill came into focus as a possibility!).

I have room to grow for sure on coaching, development, and understanding our team and individual player needs better, and I think there’s room for me to try to get more people to want to do more stuff like guild M+ runs and the like, but I also feel like we have a good balance with people who want those things and seek them out versus those who try to be self-sufficient or are in their own mode of play and maybe don’t want to push hard on dungeons or grind a lot. I think it’s a tough balance and it’s one I strive to make sure I make correctly – and it’s not up to me to say that I am or am not succeeding. For that, I feel like I do a reasonably good job of looking to my team for that feedback and trying to ensure I am delivering the environment that best meets everyone on the team where they are – and I’ve had a lot of very complimentary things said about how I have done, which is intensely gratifying for me.

But I also know that it is a project that will never truly stop, and so when I start to talk about Season 2 more specifically, I am turning focus here to things I can do better to help my team feel great about the choice they’ve made and to keep spirits up.

The Process of Starting The Guild

Starting a new guild is, in general, hard.

I think even when you know the people you’re bringing in and you have a degree of gameplay and personal familiarity with folks, it is still a big, big challenge to meet expectations. It is also, admittedly, a big challenge specifically in how we wrangled things – pulling off a group from an existing guild was something I knew was going to be challenging and that I expected would meet with some resistance, and early on, it definitely did.

I’ve documented the various issues I ran into in the prior structure, and I want to take a moment to say something a little bit more neutral – a separation was inevitable and served the interests of both groups better. For those we left behind, they pushed harder this tier with more raid nights, more raid hours, and a first look-in on Mythic raids, and I’m genuinely happy they are able to do that. I like a lot of the players that remain and I want them to have a good, fun raid experience that suits their needs, and I think that with all the players smushed into one guild, that was just not going to have room to happen in the same way. For some of the folks I peeled off, I think they wanted and needed a better raid environment that gave them room to learn and get comfortable, to have patience for them to learn and grow and more direct, gentle coaching and feedback. Ultimately, I can only speak for myself, and I’ve never claimed nor wanted to claim what anyone else might feel or think about the guild situation or changeover. I know I brought someone back to the game by setting up the new guild and that person has done quite well to grow and improve in their performance, coupled with a class/spec switch, and I am so happy to be able to help with that process in whatever minor role I have played.

The biggest point of contention in the split was the very existence of this blog, in that a lot of people (including folks I brought over) didn’t know I wrote about WoW, that I had written about my issues with the old guild, but there were also some on the old side that knew and were seething privately over it. No matter what efforts I had taken to obfuscate or remove identifying details from posts about guild dramas and issues, no matter what steps I had taken privately to try and resolve some of the issues I wrote about, the mere existence of an accounting that was unflattering of the behaviors I had observed was a problem for some who remained. It became a fairly large blow-up on my last day in that old Discord, at a point where the switch was already public and the move had started, and it hit me pretty hard. I can admit that some of my writing, the stuff about individual issues, was not a good move and is something I regret, a place where I did not take direct action with the people involved and it’s not the approach I would take in the same scenario today. Regardless of how the topic was approached in those moments, I can admit that on the level of meeting the criticism in good faith, I would have taken a different approach now and I have regrets over writing posts about issues I had with individual raiders, especially as an officer at the time of both issues.

Having said that, I think that at the overall guild level, I had attempted to take action and was met with indifference if not outright resistance, and that ultimately, there were two competing philosophies over how things should be handled and I think there were some outright awful ideas about how things should be handled that were winning. I never wrote intending it to be a secret, but I also didn’t want to advertise or be self-promoting in an unflattering way, so my blog was just my thing I did – and it still is. With what happened, I made sure people knew I had this site, and that those who had trusted me as their new guild leader had a chance to see what the fuss was about and come to their own judgments about how they wanted to proceed. I was willing to endure whatever the people I had recruited thought was right, and I was prepared for people to leave, if it came to that. No one did, and I actually felt a lot of encouragement from that early on. It helped me feel like I was on the right track and had touched on something genuinely worth pursuing. I thought over the idea of moving on to a new guild for a LONG time, and it was something I even said publicly over a year prior and noted that I didn’t like the idea initially, that I thought I could work to salvage things, and I did try. I even went in-person to apologize to some people, discussed things at length, and came back at that time with zero stink about my demotion, working to fit in with everyone and meet them where they were.

And honestly, the firestorm about it in the old guild hurt me more than I wanted to let on, because I didn’t and don’t hate the people. I like a lot of them, and would have happily continued to play with them if there was demonstrated effort to improve the overall atmosphere and environment. It would have been easier if I hated them, much easier to deal with, process, and move on from, and the only reason that the memory of that day sticks with me is because it hurt, because I don’t hate them. And I’m sure it hurt some of them too, and that’s not an outcome I would ever want, but at the same time, I think there’s a line I learned to draw to better process and understand how things went. Writing that the guild environment got very toxic and wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of publicly would be awful if it wasn’t backed up by a trend, but at the same time, there was a trend. People were being pushed out of raid multiple times per tier, it wasn’t just the people who came with me that this happened to, and it was all over correctable actions that could be apologized for but people were allowed to not only not apologize, but to claim no apology was deserved and double-down instead. A few weeks before I left, a contingent of them had dog-piled a neurodivergent player in chat until he left and then posted celebration GIFs like they had just won some epic fucking victory, and it was a moment that absolutely crystallized my decision to make the moves I did. At the point you’re doing endzone dances and renaming yourself a bully with pride because you pushed someone out, like, it’s pretty fucking obvious that nothing is going to meaningfully change for the better.

Yet still, when they came for me, I tried to evaluate it in good faith. I know that I have written about individual issues when I should have acted more directly and privately, and I won’t claim that I’ve been easy to deal with, for sure. But at the same time, it was also very obviously bad faith criticism designed just to stab at me more than anything, coming from people who participated in the idiotic dog pile I mentioned above, accusing me of writing about the guild all the time (less than 1% of my posts) for clicks (less than 3% of my traffic), and calling it “gross” and “garbage.” And like, you know what? If it makes me gross and garbage to call out the behavior I’ve noted, the consistent trend of dogpiling and shouting people out over minor mistakes or coachable performance issues, then I’ll gladly accept that title every day of the fucking week. Hell, that behavior hasn’t even stopped – someone in the roster who streams their raid gameplay makes party and stream chatter about how bad the tanks are (that he doesn’t say out loud or where the players being criticized can see it unless they tune in to his stream), talks shit with other raiders and players in his stream chat, and uses lovely practices like renaming players in Details damage meter to things like “Dead Weight,” and puts that out into public view, which, according to him, should be bad practice because it’s publicly bringing up issues, and then people being targeted like this leave over it. But no, shurely I was wrong about the culture and that’s just indicative of someone hitting their breakpoint and being maddenuf on to do something drastic and dickish like that and it’s definitely not a thing that is going to keep happening until something serious is done about it (I’m not even going to pretend this is anything other than bad wordplay and sarcasm that points at a source of the problems I observed).

This here is certainly indicative of very normal, chill vibes, and not at all toxic af bullshit!

It is about what I expected, but in the end, all of that is distant and past, or no longer has any bearing on my gameplay and enjoyment of World of Warcraft. I was given a chance by a group of players (and again, I will not speak for them or make any claims to how they feel about any of this) to lead them as a new group, and they’ve been very helpful to me in setting things up and making sure that we have a path forward that we’re all bought in to, and I appreciate that immensely. For me, the decision I made was grounded in a couple of core ideals – that we could build a fundamentally different raid team, built on mutual respect and teamplay, and that the game could just be, you know, fun. Like, none of us are going to be eSports pros, there’s no point in being mad at people over simple mistakes when we can just gently correct and move on, and Heroic is, as it stands, still the replacement of old, pre-WoD Normal raiding, intended to be the baseline difficulty for an organized and put-together group.

And we’ve done that, and I know that the people I have, including one who was told they weren’t cut out for Heroic in the old days, are capable of it if they are given an environment that is positive and patient as they learn, willing to step in proactively and gently to coach them in a different direction as needed instead of leaving them twisting in the wind, and willing to celebrate the wins, however small, as they improve. WoW is a game, and I’ve never played with anyone for whom it is actually a career path or meaningful competition, and I think that the environment of a raid group in that situation should reflect it, with the only competition being to be better than we were the week before and on a trend of constant, consistent improvement against our own metrics. Being a top 50 guild on the server feels nice, but ultimately the measure that makes me the happiest is seeing people thriving, doing 200-250% more damage than they did to start the tier, being more mechanically sound, seeing us push hard and get the tier done with plenty of time to spare, and to share in the excitement of a tier well played as a team – everyone contributing something to the group to bring us where we are and where we’ll go in the future.

Is it slower progress than we might have otherwise had? Sure, absolutely. There was a lot of formative struggle and looking for identity, trying to find the right approach to things, but in the end, we beat my expectations, and I have a lot of optimism for the next tier and beyond. Performance can be improved, mechanical execution can be fixed, and everyone can be made to have a place at the table I believe, and I think we have a great group that’s put a lot of work into helping build the new guild together, and I have really been delighted with that process. We’ve had people come in and join us on raids from outside too, and I’ve always been happy to bring in people that fit with the atmosphere we’re going for, especially when they’re old friends.

Everything else about the guild has been easy by comparison to the raid team, the initial exodus, and the overarching philosophy. Guild bank money came together thanks the the BoE system of Dragonflight raids to the point that I was able to drop a substantial investment in consumable supplies for people, roster and social events came together almost on their own, and we have new and fun traditions like using AI to generate fanfic about raid bosses and our raiders, as well as new in-jokes and friendly taunts. The guild is a lively thing where people are having fun, and I’m delighted that I made a lot of good roster picks who’ve helped bring light and life to things in a way that is a lot of fun for me personally. A big part of why I have been so consumed by WoW in Dragonflight has less to do with the game itself and more to do with the social environment and the way things have gone since early November when we all gathered together under the new umbrella and even the moments where raid leading and guild leadership has felt a bit stressful haven’t been that bad because everyone just wants what is best for the group as a whole.

That was the environment I wanted, needed, was willing to fight for and be ostracized for, and you know what? It was worth it.

The Lessons I Learned From Final Fantasy XIV

My time away in Final Fantasy XIV last year taught me a lot of good lessons about MMORPG gameplay, social dynamics, and group leadership. I would be remiss if I did not mention how it helped me to get to this point.

FFXIV raid tiers are…short. Very short, at just 4 bosses. Even in Savage, a hardcore group will clear the tier first or second week and then farm for 8-10 weeks so everyone has BiS before they stop or focus on other activities. FFXIV fights have a measure of challenge to them, and Savage in particular is a sharp jump in terms of needing to know the dance and do things properly based on sometimes flimsy tells like animation of the boss model or the name of a cast indicating the number of targets and how it should be handled as a result. The teamplay requirement is a lot higher, and that might seem bad, but I think that team jump rope is actually something I wish WoW did more of. The raid groups I run in on that side of the fence are, well…they’re slow, because the goal isn’t to go crazy progging early on, but instead to get together socially two nights a week for around 4-5 hours total each group and play a game together. You learn the dance at the pace of your slowest learner, but that is something that every FFXIV group I’ve been in, from static runs to even randoms in Party Finder, is pretty okay with.

I found that very fascinating as a WoW player, and especially as a contrast to the raid environment I left behind at the time.

A lot of my writing experience here on this blog has been meeting interesting counterpoints to my experience in WoW, where people have openly challenged my enjoyment of WoW’s raid environment, and I always found that interesting in that I didn’t have a counterpoint or anything to say other than that it seemed like a difference of opinion.

My time in FFXIV has been the first time I’ve made serious progression effort in a non-WoW MMO, where I’ve played the near-pinnacle of the endgame in a similar fashion to how I enjoyed WoW, and it was eye-opening to see the levels of patience, tolerance, and kindness people had. Even some of the best raid teams I was on in WoW had moments of nerd rage, people yelling and screaming at each other, being dismissive, and the like, but FFXIV wasn’t really like that. And that’s not to say that such stuff does not exist there, because it absolutely does. If anything, the community drama around the TOP Ultimate race and how certain streamers handled roster issues and performance problems highlighted how often some of the same traps present in raiding scenarios across the genre. But, overall, it was enlightening for me – people went out of their way to keep things comfortable while still keeping progression through the raid tier a focus, and even as both static teams I’m on have met tough challenges, that hasn’t really changed – everyone shows up, is generally positive, laughing, and enjoying their time together, bosses get killed and looted, and things march on. It feels pretty great, and I sort of see the contrast of other games with how WoW raiding is, and I sort of get it now in a way I didn’t for years, hell, decades.

I think in many ways that my time in FFXIV was a primary catalyst that led to me wanting that kind of raid environment in WoW and set the wheels in motion for me to plan for how things went. If I never had that contrast in environments, if I was never introduced to raiding from the perspective outside of WoW, I don’t think that bug would have bit me in the same way. It was just seeing that raiding could be more, could be less owned by people who aren’t concerned about tact or respect in that way, and at a time where that thought was taking root in my brain, the sequence of events in WoW were unfolding in a way that made it seem far more possible and even likely that I could have that environment in WoW if I was willing to take the steps to build it with a team I trusted. At the point of 36 pulls to AOTC on Raszageth, that’s nothing – I’ve done over 240 pulls in 5 months on Hephaistos Savage and we’re still agonizingly close to finishing the door boss with no clear to date, but everyone still feels good and shows up to plow ahead. In a WoW guild not pushing Cutting Edge on Mythic, 240+ pulls on a boss would be the point where everyone would be fucking shouting full volume in Discord or tuning out and finding excuses to not be present on raid nights, but in FFXIV, we laugh, we joke, we get a little bit closer every time, and it’s enough.

And the lesson isn’t fully applicable, of course – had we spent 240 pulls without a kill on Heroic Raszageth, I’d likely be picking up some pieces and doing a fair bit of damage control, and it would be hard to fault people for feeling bad about it – but I wanted that same kind of mindset, the idea of the journey as the enjoyable part and the destination just being a milestone along the way. But I’d never seen that kind of approach and mentality in WoW, and it has been something I’ve tried to embody as I’ve returned to raid leadership – we’ll get there when we get there, let’s focus on what we can control now and put in the work to make the steps we need to make without letting that forward progress feel like an all-consuming issue.

Looking Ahead to Season 2

Season 2 should be an easier season for a lot of reasons – gear curve is less aggressive, the feeling-out process of building the raid team is done and things are pretty smooth at the moment. For me personally, I have a goal I am going to expand upon more in future posts, and it’s simple – one month to Keystone Hero Season 2. I pushed really hard to a two-week and change KSM this time out, but I think I can jump in hard and do two weeks a piece – two to KSM, two more past that to KSH. It’s all new dungeons to learn and figure out, and the process might be daunting, but I have a lot of confidence in myself now as a player and key runner to give it a try. I’m also planning to get at least two KSH characters, and to more aggressively chase keys on my alts I enjoy in dungeons, including doing runs in-parallel with my main so as to keep my account-wide progress sharp and gearing going smoothly. A part of this is going to include tanking dungeons for strangers, a skill I’ve been building up by pushing my DH to KSM in the past two weeks almost entirely through Vengeance spec gameplay.

Raid-wise, I’m aiming to have us maybe shave a week off per difficulty in progression time needed, although I’m also not trying to set hard speed goals or anything like that – I still want us to enjoy the process and have things go well, and I want there to be gearing time for the mains that don’t enjoy dungeons so we’re not pushing too fast past viable gear upgrades, but there’s a balance to achieve for sure. I already have all my classes at 70, including a second Monk, and so for the rest of the expansion I can now tune in on alts at the start of a season and get things moving smoothly, and now my alt play focus can be on maintenance – especially getting crafting recipes squared away and crafting knowledge as high as possible.

That also opens up new goals I can chase after, like reprising my love of the Mage Tower for the armor appearances added with Legion Timewalking, since they’ll match perfectly with the full assortment of 36 Mage Tower weapons I got the first time around. Transmog in general is something I want to expand, especially for armor types I’ve not gotten a chance to play with on my raiding mains, like mail and plate.

In general, I’ve been having a good amount of fun playing WoW in the Dragonflight era and I am curious (mostly eager, some dread too) to see how the expansion unfolds as it moves on to future seasons and new content.


One thought on “Reflecting on Dragonflight Season 1 – The Content, The Chase, and The Process

  1. As an ex-WoW, current-XIVer the comments about raiding very much reflect my own experience. My husband’s also an ex-WoWer and we’ve raided together a lot over the years. We’ve done everything from normal to mythic but our preference has typically been an AOTC group. He’s watched me raiding savage for the first time and (brag incoming) we just got our P8S phase 2 clear last night! According to FFLogs we got our first Proto-Carbuncle kill in September, so it’s take us SEVEN months to clear the tier. The logs also have *650* recorded pulls (combining phases 1 and 2), and I know that’s not the full story because we often missed logging due to raiding too close to maintenance times (and thus before ACT was updated).

    But we had fun the whole time?? The atmosphere was so great and there was always a sense of progress as we learned fights. My husband has often commented “there’s no way you would have raided this persistently in WoW, no way you wouldn’t have just written the group off as not able”, and that’s true. In WoW it wouldn’t have been worth putting in this much time and effort.

    So if you can beat the odds, import a bit of XIV attitude, and manage to have a great time in WoW despite that shitbag community, then more power to you. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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