Headed on over to Zul'Aman. In an attempt to more seriously focus on the timed events and maybe even push further into some progression bosses, we formed up a raid of our best performing toons.
Only sticking issue was that only one of the tanks that were on is appropriately geared for ZA.
So 9 of us went looking for a tank. Fire out a general message in Shattrath City.
Get a response from The Man!
A well-known Paladin tank, revered as the Main Tank for the most progressed Alliance guild on the server. Fully geared in T6, progressing in Sunwell Plateau.
Apparently, since nearly every one of his friends already has a Bear Mount, he has trouble getting ZA raids together, and he's looking for a piece of gear from Hex Lord.
I let him know that we've never beaten Lynx boss, and never even seen Hex Lord, to give him the option of bailing out before we even start. He's good to go.
Our guild's Main Tank wisely says The Man should lead, so I let him know a little bit of what level of raider he is dealing with. He should feel free to set the pace and try to treat us the same as any raid he normally runs with. I was pretty excited to see what sort of pace and cadence for pulling he would work with.
The goal was to do Akil'zon and Nalorakk within the timed events, and then progression attempts at Halazzi.
Nice 'n Easy, two bosses down within the timer. Then on to Halazzi.
There's a short-cut where you leap through two huts to bypass a bunch of trash on the way to the boss. Both weeks that we've tried doing it, just miserable. Gonna have to get people to be more aware of their pets and their own toons during this little trek.
But we made it.
And we spanked Halazzi.
Not sure if we get to consider it a Guild First kill or not, because an overpowered visitor was Main Tanking the boss. Everyone else was from the guild though, so I'm gonna go with "Yes", just because I want to.
Went over to kill Jan'alai. A little sloppy, but we one-shot him, which is not unusual for us.
Then, on to some new territory, forging the way up to Hex Lord.
Based on The Man's suggestion, I had a Shadow Priest respec to Holy to make 3 healers, and our Protection Warrior respec to Fury to make 6 DPS.
Made lots of attempts at Hex Lord, came close, but in the end, only got him to about 20% or so.
So, here's some thoughts I had about working with someone who is among the top 3 progressed tanks on the server...
- I'll start with attitude. I was expecting impatience with us bunch of n00bs. Not at all, he was great. He consulted with us about our normal strategies, he provided suggestions but never mandates. He explained fights well. He didn't treat me as a n00b raid leader, but instead asked me what I wanted in most situations. At no point did he make the people in our Guild feel inferior or that he was holier than thou. Very grounded and relaxed about his approach, which made the rest of the raiders feel comfortable.
- Perspective. At one point, he said "these two guys are just like those guys in Black Temple". Um, er, yeah. We just killed Maggy on wednesday. Got another way to describe the mobs? We all got a chuckle out of that one.
- Pace. It was eye-opening to see that the pace between pulls was very similar to what our Main Tank normally pushes. The Man did go a little faster, specifically during transitions between a boss kill and getting ready for the next trash. Once the boss was down, loot, and he was mounted up and already stationed at the next trash pull location. I can definitely see this as an area we can learn from and improve.
- Kill order and pull-planning. The pulls were not very planned. Only when absolutely necessary was there anything besides his primary target marked. When CC was needed, he communicated clearly via voice and raid icons what was needed. As an overpowered pally tank, it really allowed lots of room for error. The only thing I'd like to change about how this went is to have the DPS use an assist macro. We've never used one before, and in a situation like this, all we'd need is for one player to choose targets and everyone else to assist that person. No need to communicate a kill order, just make sure that Main Assist player is smart about choosing targets.
- Buffing. Dead toons were given nearly zero time for re-buffing during trash. Rebuff before bosses, definitely. He did not allow downtime during trash, which I am a huge fan of. None of our toons absolutely NEEDS buffs during the trash, and we're going to move faster overall if we do not waste time rebuffing until the bosses. This left some of our raid feeling upset, but I think it is a really good habit for the raid.
- Relative difficulty of bosses. Leading up to Jan'alai, the Dragonhawk boss, The Man was actually pretty concerned about the difficulty level. Not sure if it was the "inspiring" performance we were putting in up to that point, or if it was a result of his previous experiences in ZA with his normal raid, but he was worried about how tough that fight is. I assured him that we've killed Jan'alai 6 times or so, including some one-shots, with our all-T4 team. He seemed satisfied, and we then went on to one-shot the boss.
- Changing raid composition. The tank felt pretty strongly about swapping players in and out of the raid to tailor the composition to each encounter. We've never done that before, plus, we had the best performing toons from our guild already in the raid, so not too many options there. I compromised with the Shadow/Holy and Prot/Fury respec before Hex Lord. But it was another eye-opener to discuss with him how frequently and often his very advanced guild does this. It is a normal, accepted way of life for their raids.
- Threat Management. I was happy to discover from my overall feel for threat and aggro management is that the tanks in my guild do a great job generating threat. Sure, The Man put out a little more threat than I'm used to, giving me a little more room to open the flood gates on the DPS, but not a whole lot more room. Amava's resisted FD's were still brutal to our progress through a trash pull.
It was a great night, filled with fun, new boss encounters, and even some tension at not wanting to seem like scrubs in front of The Man.
I felt bad at having to call the raid without killing the one and only boss that our visitor was here for, but it was late and we even threw in two more attempts after our normal end time.
The night left us with some good ideas for how we can improve our team's performance and speed. I'm thinking I'd like to try to have a quick de-brief with him to hear what the experience was like for him. We take pride in trying to do a good job, and I'd love to hear the first-hand reflections of a more veteran raider.