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Midwinter Interview and Announcement!

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We are extremely happy to share that for Tier 16 and beyond, we will be working with Midwinter, one of the best guilds in the world, to provide you with epic boss guides! Read the announcement and the interview of Midwinter's officers.

Tonight, we are extremely happy to share a special announcement with you! For Tier 16 and beyond, we will be working with one of the best raiding guilds around: Midwinter from US-Sargeras (currently ranked #4 on wowprogress.com for 25-man progress).

Our goal is to bring you our guides and previews much earlier than before. So, here is how we will proceed.

  • During PTR testing, we will raid with Midwinter. This will enable us to make video previews and initial versions of our written guides.
  • During the first week of Normal-mode raiding, we will also raid with Midwinter. This will enable us to update our written guides (fights often change between PTR and live) and get the footage we need for our video guides.
  • During Heroic-mode progression, Midwinter will provide us with their strategies and video footage, so that we can update our written guides and produce Heroic-mode video guides.

For Tier 14 and Tier 15, we have been partnering with Inner Sanctum from EU-Silvermoon, and we will continue working with them, but to a much lesser extent. We will link their 10-man video kills in our guides and they will ensure that the strategies we give are also valid for 10-man raids.

To conclude this announcement, we have an interview with Midwinter for you to read! We asked a number of questions to a few of their important players:

1. You are not a new guild by any means, but you are new to the top 10 of the world's best guilds. Your guild has been improving with every passing tier all the way back since Ulduar. What do you attribute this success to?

Dpsonroids: It's hard to pinpoint any specific thing but obviously an enormous contributing part is the players: we are extremely picky with who we recruit and the entire guild decides if they want to raid with that player or not when their trial is over. This generally leads to your guild improving over time and also a healthier raid environment that allows people to cope better when things get stressful. On rare occasions people change for the worse after they pass their trial, this needs to be actively dealt with and managed by the leadership before it festers. I realize it's hard for some guilds to be selective in their recruiting policies due to burnout and the state of the game causing a dry spell on apps (people bailing from 25 -> 10 mainly). Try to keep things fun and try to be loyal to your players' interests and they will return that loyalty. There are many different successful ways to run a guild but this approach has worked for us.

Gondlem: It's hard to pin that success to one particular thing, there's a lot of elements to it, and also some luck. The only way to get better is to consistently recruit strong players and keep the good players that you already have, and you can't always control that. That said, if I had to point to one thing I think has helped us a lot it's keeping a positive and enjoyable raid environment. We have fun as a guild even while we take progression pretty seriously, and the social environment is really important to everyone in Midwinter. If people have fun raiding and like being part of the guild they'll stick around and do right by the team, and that's helped us a lot over the years. That, and just always keeping an eye out for good players and making room for them when you can. If you think someone is good, you make it work and give them a shot, even if they are undergeared or play a spec you don't really need.

Euphonious: The leadership in Midwinter is some of the best that I've ever seen and I think that many in the guild could agree on this. The amount of time and work that our officers put into every decision for the guild has had a tremendous effect on the success of our guild. Excellent leadership along with the extra work that our members put into each fight in between the pulls has definitely had a significant impact on our ranking.

Slootbag: There are many factors that contribute to our continuous improvement and success. The larger portion in my eyes are attributed to excellent leadership and strategy development from all members of the guild, solid attendance and dedication from raiders. The last point is especially important because if the entire team is highly motivated to excel and succeed, we begin to see results similar to the ones we've produced so far. Countless hours have been poured into fight knowledge, class knowledge, role perfection, and strengthening alts, not to mention the much needed farming and grinding to be as prepared for a raid as possible. Coming prepared to raid and kill bosses has been a driving force for us, allowing us to be as efficient as we are.

2. Now that you've finally entered the top flight of raiding guilds (you finished world #16 in Tier 14, and world #7 in Tier 15), has anything changed for you? Do people treat you differently?

Gondlem: More people know the guild name than when we were US 250th in Sunwell, that's for sure. I guess the main difference is just that people pay attention to our rank during the progression race, and I'll get level 1s whispering me asking how close we are on a certain boss if we're not streaming it, that sort of thing. Overall we're still a bit behind the world first competitors so I don't think we get anything like the attention those guilds do.

Euphonious: There definitely has been a change for our guild as we've climbed through the ranks. People come more and more often to our server to ask our players questions about their class, and when we que for LFR's or 5 mans people know who we are, congratulate us, etc. It's definitely become apparent that people know who we are and have respect for what we do in the WoW community.

Slootbag: I suppose there has been a larger spotlight cast on us now, but that just comes with the territory of higher rank. There is indeed a new found pressure now to perform better and improve or maintain our rank. Since the public eye is more focused on us, we have to be more careful with how we handle ourselves, and how we perform in raids as well, while still maintaining the laid back but intense attitude we have always had. While this doesn't essentially change us in any way, it's something that is in the back of our mind at times. We, much like anyone else in this game, don't get any special treatment. Perhaps people are bit nicer to us here and there, but nothing is served to us on a silver platter, at least yet (maybe one day).

3. Despite your impressive climb, you're still below other guilds like Method and Blood Legion. What does the future hold for you in this regard? Will you be pushing on to challenge the top spots?

Dpsonroids: We're doing all that we can during the downtime to give us any sort of competitive edge for the next tier, i.e heavier emphasis on alt play, while also doing our best to stagnate any potential burnout from our raiders. Method and Blood Legion look to be especially strong as always, the nasty speed of Method's Lei Shen kill was extremely impressive to say the least. I gotta give respect to both of these guilds, I've always rooted for BL as "The Great White Hope" of the US raiding scene haha and people in Method seem to be really chill. We will try to compete with them in whatever way we can, but obviously they are really good and have a much more hardcore progression raiding schedule than us and that's not likely to change any time soon.

Gondlem: Not really, no. Those guilds are on another level in terms of their commitment, and they kill stuff well before we do. We'll definitely try our best, and you never know what can happen, but we're not aiming for world first or anything. We'll just keep doing what we do on our own schedule and aim to improve our rank if the opportunity arises, like it did this tier with Lei Shen which was a tough boss that took its toll on a lot of guilds.

Slootbag: Midwinter has never been (and for now will not be) competing for World Firsts. The extra time commitment (among other things) is something we just aren't prepared to move forward with. We've always been a guild that prides itself on raiding less hours than competitors in our range, but providing equal if not better results, and that is a large reason as to why we have some of the raiders we do, as that is what they look for. It's going to be difficult sticking with our motto of always improving when we start to hit a plateau, much like we have now. Our philosophy will certainly be one for maintaining our rank and anything beyond that potentially will just be icing on the cake. But keeping our current rank will be no easy matter, especially with the growing need of new factors to compete at top levels, like excellent alt potential and play, and the growing presence of other guilds.

4. Which fight was the hardest one for your guild in Tier 15, and why?

Dpsonroids: Gotta be Lei Shen, it's the hardest boss since Ragnaros in Firelands and Lich King before that. I don't consider the fight a DPS/HPS check like Ragnaros or even some of the other fights of the tier. It's just pure strategy and mechanically very challenging.

Gondlem: Lei Shen was easily the hardest boss. There were a lot of difficult aspects to it, but more than anything else it was that there was no room at all for dead weight in your raid group. In the intermission phases for example, or in the final phase, all 25 people had a job they had to do, and anyone could easily wipe the raid by making a simple mistake. It was also a really strategically complex boss with a lot of decisions to make along the way. Personally I consider it among the hardest bosses I've seen in this game, along with Yogg-0 and Heroic Lich King, and it was great to get the chance to learn it before it was "nerfed" by meta gems, gear upgrades and so on. Other than Lei Shen I'd say Dark Animus, Durumu and Council of Elders were all really challenging fights at the time we learned them, making this one of the hardest ever tiers, with four difficult bosses in once instance.

Euphonious: From a healer PoV I think that Council of Elders gave us the most trouble in Tier 15. We were all undergeared, the fight had a debuff that basically took 50% of someone's health every tick without a cd, there was a ton of damage going out, and as the fight went on there was a stacking debuff on the raid that just made everyone take more damage. It was the first hard boss that we had to face and we were transitioning from our healing officer retiring from the tier before so it definitely stressed each healer but in the end we were able to kill it and it felt amazing.

Slootbag: Lei Shen by default was the (and therefore our) hardest boss of the tier, for the obvious reason of how well and tight its difficulty was tuned. If the obvious doesn't count, then the second obvious choice is Animus. Again, very tightly tuned DPS check and absolutely ruthless if even 1 person in the raid moved or played incorrectly at the start. The struggles on that fight were much like any other top progressing guild at the time, nothing out of the ordinary, but they were still nothing to laugh about, brings me back to my BC days *tear*. We also wasted a bit too much time on Tortos progression, but let's just pretend that never happened...

5. Individually, which fight did you find to be the most fun in this tier?

Dpsonroids: Durumu, one of the best designed fights I've ever done. The fights that are most fun are the ones with a lot of personal responsibility. The ones where the raid hinges on your ability to handle the mechanics, in this case it would be getting picked for the red beam control and the maze is something everyone had to deal with which at the time of our kill, a single DPS dead that couldn't be B rezzed was a wipe due to the insane DPS check so everyone had to play well. These are the type of fights THAT GET THE ADRENALINE PUMPIN!!!

Gondlem: Still Lei Shen for me. Never a boring moment while we were learning it. A lot of the time hard bosses end up feeling monotonous by the time you kill them because you've done the first phase 200+ times or whatever and it's just going through the motions, but Lei Shen was always fun, aided I think by the fact that each phase is quite short and has a lot going on in it so you're never just standing there mindlessly DPSing. The only thing I didn't like about it was Static Shock RNG in the final phase. It was frustrating to have it go on death knights or whatever and wipe because of it. Still a really fun boss aside from that, and a huge thrill to kill it as fast as we did.

Euphonious: I found Durumu the Forgotten to be the most fun because of how much was actually happening in the fight. Literally you're entire raid had to know what to do with each beam, not to mention the Life Drain mechanic that everyone had to soak along with Dark Parasite that required a strict cd rotation just to be survivable. As a healer though what made this fight truly memorable was the dps check that we had to beat because when you're doing a boss for the first time and no one has gear, especially healers, it tests everyone to be able to do a significant amount of healing while maintaining as much dps as possible so that you can avoid the 1% wipes. Any fight that requires you to go above and beyond is always enjoyable and Durumu tested everything from debuffs to be healed and dispelled, to moving while healing an entire raid inside a maze that would one shot you, to dpsing as a healer as much as possible while keeping the raid alive.

Slootbag: I personally loved Lei Shen, again for the reasons stated before (how it was tuned overall, and the diversity and epic feel of the fight). Aside that, especially as a tank, I particularly enjoyed Durumu, another well-tuned fight for its time. While it didn't particularly test all of your abilities as a tank/player, it certainly was fairly unforgiving when you 1-tanked it and missed even a few moments of your damage reduction uptime. To be honest, the tier overall was a lot of fun. Many new fight mechanics and fun encounters, I can't speak too badly of any fight, well, almost any...

6. And the least fun?

Gondlem: I hated Primordius. It was just a boss with a lot of annoying elements, frustrating mechanics and weird bugs. Things like the buff pools despawning randomly if you had too many of them down, black add spawn positioning being random and having a big impact on the difficulty of the attempt, a few random bugs that made the fight harder or easier than intended if you took advantage of them, and most of all accidentally getting a negative debuff because the boss got dragged over a pool and you didn't spot it in time as melee. Luckily it was one of the easier bosses of the tier so we didn't spend too long on it.

Euphonious: Tortos was definitely the worst fight of the tier in my opinioin because of how little there was to do as a healer aside from calling for a CD on the quakes. Spamming the tanks to keep their shields up and just mindlessly healing the raid to top up their crystal shells was not my idea of a fun fight, but on the bright side at least there were turtles to kick!

Slootbag: Primordius, period. This boss belonged in Cata.

7. At a high level of progression, success and failure are often determined by meeting DPS or HPS requirements. What's the last fight you remember where the biggest obstacle were the actual fight mechanics?

Gondlem: Going to have to go with Lei Shen again. There were DPS checks but they weren't the hard part of the boss really. Mostly it was execution with positioning for ball lightning, soaking bouncings, tanks moving the boss at precisely the right time, coordinating grips, stuns, roars... that sort of thing. Really though I think all the most challenging fights are a combination of both DPS/HPS throughput checks and mechanics. Durumu is a great example of this, and the second best boss of the tier in my opinion. You had a lot of mechanics checks in week one with handling light beams and adds, managing life drain correctly and doing the maze, but it also had a tight enrage timer and our first kill was exactly 10:00 in length. Any fight that is just mechanics or just throughput will be pretty easy for a good guild.

Euphonious: I think Lei Shen would be the best example of a fight where the mechanics were actually the hard part of the fight. There were definitely dps checks in each phase, and the damage that needed to be healed in the last phase was nothing to joke about, but the mechanics of the fight were definitely what made Lei Shen one of the best fights since Rag. Each phase required every single person to know what they were doing because if they didn't it was essentially a wipe.

The fight was designed in a way where you could do a whole bunch of different things and it required us to sit down and look at every mechanic and decide what would make the most sense. It definitely felt like an epic fight and it was awesome to progress on it because as you mastered each mechanic and got farther into the fight you were met with new mechanics that required a level of coordination that had not been required for a long time.

Slootbag: The nice thing about this tier is that there were several fights that had a great combination of meeting throughput checks along with not messing up your mechanics. Horridon add interrupts, Megaera add control, Ji-Kun platform assignments/teams, Durumu prism phase, Animus small add kill coordination/placement and Raid CD usage for Jolt, Lei Shen everything almost (conduits/phase transitions/bouncing ball locations/etc etc etc!!!), and of course Ra-Den's 1 mechanic to rotate a fatal debuff. So chronologically speaking, Ra-Den was the most recent so I remember it last, but really all of the above apply, what a great tier!

8. We've heard an unusual amount of complaints about how prominent class stacking has been in this raiding tier, and how having the right class composition was basically a pre-requisite for success in heroic encounters. Have you experienced this first hand?

Dpsonroids: The stackable classes this tier were warlocks and rogues for the most part with guilds often using 4-5 of each on any fight where they were strong. The most we used on any fight of these classes was two rogues and three warlocks since this is all we viably had at the time which can hardly be considered class stacking. This is something we are looking to improve on going into next tier with a heavier emphasis on alt play during the downtime.

Gondlem: I don't think class stacking was that bad, but some fights did have a compositional requirement for early kills. You needed good AoE that was effecitve on walls for Durumu for example, which basically meant elemental shamans and demo warlocks. We used 2 and 3 respectively for our kill. You needed multidot for Animus, you needed death knights, warlocks and immunities for Lei Shen, and so on. But I wouldn't say there's any fight where we felt the need to "stack" anything. I think the most we ever used of any single spec on any fight is three, like with warlocks on Lei Shen, and that's pretty reasonable in my view. A bigger problem than "raid stacking" was just that rogues and warlocks were really overpowered for the whole tier, and some fights certainly would have been easier if we'd been able to bring a bunch of them. Why have other classes when you can just have five rogues and five locks? But that's a different issue from raid stacking to overcome a mechanic, like mages on Spine for instance.

Euphonious: From a healer's perspective there were definitely fights where having the right comp definitely made the fight easier and Midwinter definitely utilized the alts of some of our healers [quite frequently] throughout progression. Most of the time you never truly "stack" one class for healing but there are obviously fights where having 3 or 4 of something can happen. A good fight that comes to mind this tier would be Horridon because we used 3 disc priests due to how outrageous atonement was along with Spirit Shell/Barrier and it definitely had a huge impact on our kill. The rest of the fights were pretty well rounded for healing comp but there were fights like Megaera / Iron Qon where Paladins and Shamans were definitely more useful.

The one fight where comp 100% mattered was Lei Shen because you wanted healers that had immunities, high mobility, and were capable of keeping hots up on the raid during the last phase. We used 2 resto druids that put symbiosis on our hunters for deterrence, as well as a monk and we were able to solo soak static shock, live through helm of command, as well as keep hots up on the majority of the raid in the last phase. The fight in the first few weeks was definitely well tuned and I think that our healing comp was amazing for the boss and definitely played a role in our World 6th Lei Shen kill.

Slootbag: I think the claim is slightly exaggerated. There are certainly fights where certain classes are favorable to bring, and having more of them at your disposal will certainly be very helpful such as Elemental Shaman and Warlocks on Durumu, but it is by no means necessary. That being said, I would be lying if some encounters didn't almost demand certain classes to have any ease of success, what comes to mind is DK/Warlock for Lei Shen, I'm sure you can fill in the blanks as to why.

9. Not since Ruby Sanctum in Wrath of the Lich King has a US guild finished a raiding tier in first place. To what do you attribute the repeated victories of European (and sometimes Korean) guilds?

Gondlem: The short answer is just that the best guild in the world happens to be European. Blood Legion are second, so it's not as though there's total domination by EU guilds. Actually I think of the top five 25 man Ra-den kills, three of them were from US guilds, which would be the best result for US guilds in general for some time. A dark period for US guilds would be something like Heroic Lich King, where the US first kill was world 9th or something. Historically I guess it's just that European players tend to be more hardcore for whatever reason, so the top flight of EU guilds have an easier time recruiting skilled and dedicated players. Maybe hardcore gaming is a more socially accepted lifestyle there? I couldn't say.

Slootbag: That's tough to say. I wish the answer was a simple genetics problem, but that's not the case. The top-end raiding scene in the US has questionably diminished more in recent time than that in Europe, this may (or may not) be a factor in EU success, as they have a larger pool of veteran players still going at it. Other factors could be time commitment, but to my knowledge BL and Method raid almost identical hours during progression. Perhaps it is the group coordination and chemistry that sets EU guilds apart along with the larger amount of top-end raiding guilds. There's no single right answer, the race is always fun to see regardless, and maybe we can bring one home for the US in T16.

10. You have graciously agreed to help us with our written and video raid guides. This is a fairly big undertaking for a guild in your position, since it involves giving us access to your strategizing, taking one of us along on your PTR and live server raids, and providing video footage where necessary. What made you decide you wanted to do this?

Dpsonroids: We try to take any opportunity that gives the guild more exposure as this correlates to more apps which helps sustain the guild. We also want to do whatever we can to help keep the hardcore raiding scene relevant and we want to make the leap up as accessible as possible.

Gondlem: I guess the main reason is just that we were asked and it seemed like a fun thing to do with minimal downsides. It's always nice to get involved with the raiding community a bit and help people out, and it creates positive exposure for the guild which is always a good thing. Since we're not really pushing for world first we're always pretty open with our strats - we streamed progression on the first 11 bosses of this tier, we stream all our PTR testing and get videos out when we can, that sort of thing. So it's not a big change for us, it's just a different way to publicise what we do.

11. How do you feel about the prospect of working with Icy Veins, considering that there are other websites around who provide similar content?

Gondlem: A lot of people in the guild knew a bit about the site, and it's a good resource that focuses on detail, which is really important if you want to be successful in raiding challenging content. A lot of other sites that have class guides for example try and keep things simple and overlook the things that really set a good player apart from an average one. When it comes to boss strats it's often the same, you can understand all the abilities but its the finer points of how to deal with them that will land you a kill. It seems like you guys want to give really detailed information, and if we're going to associate our guild name with guides it should be something fairly complete.

12. Do you think that the strategies executed by a top guild such as yours will be applicable to any guilds outside of the very best?

Dpsonroids: Strategies generally get easier to execute as DPS checks get less and less relevant through the gearing process or nerfs or whatever. Some strategies also require a specific comp to pull off. Oftentimes the strategies used by the top guilds can be emulated successfully, but you shouldn't be scared to innovate if you think your guild will have an easier time doing something differently.

I look forward to our collaboration and want to thank Vlad for having us. Also checkout our streams on twitch and guild at mwguild.net!

Gondlem: Sure. There are some things that don't matter as much once you have a bit more gear, like say life drain on Durumu which isn't a big deal any more but was really important for early kills, and different strats obviously work for different guilds, but most things will be relevant for any guild that wants to kill the same boss. Success in raiding is always just about understanding each mechanic and how they fit together to form a complete strat. Even if the specific way your guild takes on a boss or which parts of it are hardest at your gear level changes, the big picture of a fight usually stays the same. So I think strategies translate quite well to all levels of play.

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