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Are server firsts worth pushing for – really pushing for, as in four hours a night, five times a week, for a month and a half? For Havoc-A of Cairne, time had no bearing as they raced from Karazhan to Illidan a mere six weeks after forming their guild. They pushed through the content so quickly that some members were still sporting blues when they first met Illidan. The team racked up a list of server firsts during its ascent: first Illidan kill, first off-hand Warglaive (maybe a server first Legendary), first Zul'Aman bear mount, and Alliance firsts for Azgalor, Archimonde and last half of Black Temple bosses.
Now that the guild has had time to come down from the high, we wondered, do they think it was all worth it? Signs point to yes: the guild's GM, Meliadoul, is still waxing rhapsodic over the team's accomplishments, the bonds formed and the pride that carried them forward as a group. 15 Minutes of Fame visited with Meliadoul to find out the root of Havoc's need for speed.
15 Minutes of Fame: From Kara to Illidan in six weeks ... Sure you couldn't have done this with rank beginners. What proportion of your players were new to raiding and these encounters?
Meliadoul: That's what's truly phenomenal about our progress. Ninety-five percent of this guild, myself included, had never seen any T6 content before rolling these characters. That's a grand total of three of our raiders, out of 35 or so active members. In fact, I initially told the guild that I had killed Illidan multiple times, so that they would have confidence in me and my strategies as a leader. But the truth is, most of my strategies were developed through assimilating information on boss fights I read from multiple sources, such as Boss Killers, Elitist Jerks and wowwiki. I had never seen anything past Tidewalker in SSC. I simply took what seemed to be the best techniques for every aspect of a boss fight from each of these websites and combined them to form my own strategies.
What's the back story to Havoc's creation?
I rolled on this server after taking a break from WoW due to frustrations with bad guild leaders and flaky members. It seemed my commitment to raiding was unmatched by those around me, and at the time I didn't have five-plus hours a day to invest in WoW (busy college schedule).
I found the perfect opportunity to create my vision of a WoW raiding guild when, after college with plans to serve as a Marine officer, I severely injured my arm and was forced to give up my officer position and recuperate for several months. Rather than get down about the situation, I took advantage of a golden opportunity. I had already leveled my paladin, Meliadoul, to 70 and had been in the current top Alliance raiding guild, Rage, when I was called away to duty.
When I returned home, I found out that Rage had died due to officers transferring off or losing interest. But a decent amount of the core remained behind and were looking for someone to take over as raid leader. I volunteered to lead and to reform the guild – thus, the birth of Havoc.
What expectations did you lay out for the newly formed Havoc?
My expectations were made very clear from the beginning: this would be the best guild Cairne had ever seen. At the time, the Horde guilds were far more advanced, with the leading guild already relatively deep into T6. I knew it would take work to surpass them in a short amount of time and claim the server first Illidan kill.
Therefore, I decided we would raid five days a week, four hours a day and have very strict policies on attendance and performance. The guild officers were responsible for making sure their classes showed up flasked and buffed and performed as well as they could. In addition, I made everyone read numerous strategies on each boss fight ahead of time, as well as watch videos on YouTube.
I think this strictness is what attracted people to us. We had an aura of professionalism that most guilds on the server at the time lacked. We recruited many members from other guilds, several of whom were far undergeared for the content we expected them to participate in but nonetheless performed very well. We owe our success as a guild to these diamonds in the rough who were out there, waiting for their chance to excel.
And this was all with existing players on a brand new server (Cairne opened on Feb. 27; transfers first opened on Aug. 27)?
None of our members were transfers. We killed Illidan six weeks after the guild was formed and a full month before transfers to the server opened.
Tell us about the learning process.
On raid nights, I believed there was no such thing as a wasted wipe. What I mean is that every time we didn't kill a boss, there was something to be learned about the encounter -- something that was done wrong or could have been done better, either by an individual or as a group. This process of finding the problems and weeding them out, in combination with a determined raid group and a fairly heavy schedule, is what led to rapid progression. Everything was not perfect, and several of the members we recruited early on were eventually weeded out due to poor performance. However, due to the number of applications we received, we were eventually able to form our core group that would remain together and push to Illidan.
How quickly did progression flow?
The push was thrilling. We moved so fast that before we killed Illidan, there were only three boss encounters that took us more than a day to master: Kael, Archimonde and Illidan. Several times, we killed more than one new boss per day -- Kaz'rogal and Azgalor, and Mother Shahraz and Illidari Council. There was absolutely no beating the rush and the thrill of knowing we were on the verge of passing the Horde competition and taking the server first Illidan. Again, though I'd like to take credit for this personally, in truth it was a team effort. I'll say again that this is the most talented group of players I've had the privilege of raiding with.
All this pressure to perform ... What's the guild atmosphere? Do you keep things pretty tight on voice channels and chat?
Many people have perceptions of top guilds as being elitist or pricks. Like any guild, we have a few of those types, but I think this guild's personality is what really makes it special. Since most of our raiders came from Karazhan guilds (at best!) before being asked to push T5/T6 content, they didn't have egos. They are just intelligent, down-to-earth people who had no problem helping their friends with heroics or talking about the Olympics in guild chat during a raid.
That doesn't mean there is not 100% focus during boss fights and explanations. All I'm saying is, we try to keep balance as best we can. The result is a spontaneously intense and fun, relaxing raid atmosphere. There's nothing else like it.
I have a screenshot that sums us up perfectly. In going along with the theme of having fun and still kicking ass, here is a picture of one of our moonkin, Ditto, main tanking Karazhan. He tanked every boss fight in there up to Prince. There's also a video of him main tanking The Lurker Below on our website.
Where does Havoc go from here?
Well, in a sense we've been victims of our own success. We've tried several times to down Kalecgos, getting as close as an excruciating 1%, but ultimately we've not been able to move forward yet. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious being that SWP is not linear progression-wise like the other dungeons are. It was designed for players who'd been farming BT/Hyjal for months. Even now, probably at most half the raid group has four-piece T6, and probably only 2/3 have their two-piece.
In addition, we lost members due to school, and some people lost interest after Illidan died. This is no surprise, since it's hard to replace that adrenaline rush once you come out on top and things start to slow down. We received several excellent transfer applications once the server became open to transfers in late August.
However, we have decided for the moment Havoc will become a casual guild, farming ZA bear mounts while we still can and continuing to gear up members, but not placing a hardcore focus on SWP. We decided as a whole that our goals were met, and we did not want to burn ourselves out on raiding before WotLK.
Speaking of WotLK, though, we fully intend to pick up the hardcore schedule again once WotLK comes out and continue to pick up server firsts and pioneer new content. It will be interesting to see how our raid group holds up when there are no definitive strategies to read about or videos to watch! I'm sure we'll be superb.