A Brief History of Me – Stumbling into Progression

As we approach my 10 year anniversary of playing World of Warcraft, I thought I’d take a step back and do some reminiscing. Many years ago I wrote about how I started playing this game, from The Burning Crusade to the middle of Wrath. Here’s where that post ended:

Power Word Awesome was the last guild I ever felt a strong social connection with. I’m still Facebook friends with some of them. I met quite a few members at Blizzcon ’09. We went out for spaghetti and I discussed if I would race change to a troll druid when Cataclysm dropped. It was wonderful.
But sadly, real life events forced me to transfer. But that’s for another time…

I didn’t want to elaborate then because I was super embarrassed, but time has removed me enough from those events and the actions of young me. I quit Power World Awesome suddenly and in a flurry of drama, in between heroic Twin Vrykul attempts. Why? Because my recently-ex-boyfriend was also a member of that guild. He was a retired raider, so we had so far managed to avoid each other, but they decided to pull him in for a few attempts and I threw a fit and logged out. It was not my finest moment.

I posted in the forums apologizing, then began my search for a new home.

Safri of Kel’thuzad / Sunari of Zuluhed (Nov 2009)

I quickly found another guild of suitable progression on a different server: OBSCURE REFERENCE of Kel’Thuzad-then-Zuluhed (caps for authenticity). They had killed heroic Twin Vrykul, but not heroic Anub’barak, so I figured they weren’t a big step up from my previous experience. Boy, was I wrong. They killed heroic Anub’barak 25 the week after I joined (though I was on the bench). That was a famously difficult encounter at the time, a huge step up from the previous boss.

In hindsight, I got into this guild because I could talk myself up. I had the confidence of youth, and now in my more mature age I can admit that I was not actually that great at the game. Not horrible, but not top of the line either. Luckily, tanking at a high level back then depended on just a handful of things: showing up every raid, gearing for stamina, and having a raid leader with good strategies.

Obscure Reference (de-capsing for readability) especially excelled at that later part. They’re a three day raiding guild that has consistently cleared content, often ranking above US 100 at the time I played with them, and still going strong today. And our raid leader carried my lazy bear butt all the way up to, but not including, heroic Lich King 25.

By the time Obscure Reference was pulling Lich King, we had four tanks, and the constant switching in and out for ICC farm we had been doing for months had worn me out. I was not one of the chosen two tanks against Lich King (they went with a warrior for sunder armor and a paladin, if I remember correctly). Each tank was assigned to a farm boss based on gear they needed, and who was in priority for certain high-demand pieces. I was tanking the same handful of bosses in hopes of getting that elusive agility piece that undoubtedly went to a ret paladin (armor penetration, yo).

There was a trinket on Sindragosa that all of us tanks wanted, and I was last in line for it. This meant that while heroic Sindragosa was on farm, I had not yet killed her. I posted on the forums that I wanted to be in the next Sindragosa kill just for the achievement. The officers agreed that that would be fine, but I still felt horrible about cutting in line for purely vain internet point reasons. I amended my post to say I was taking a break from the game instead.

And so began my single departure for the game, the one time I’ve ever let my subscription lapse.

For the longest time, not having killed heroic Sindragosa and Lich King when they were current had been one of my greatest shames. I waited years before going back to ICC to finish them off because I felt like that hole in my raid progress was a scar I needed to bear.

I’ve also never entered the mini-raid Blizzard released a few months later, the Ruby Sanctum. I don’t feel bad about that one though.

Sunnier of Arathor (Dec 2010)

I resubbed shortly before Cataclysm dropped. I had grand plans of a fresh start. I was going to re-roll Alliance, a worgen druid, the old fashioned way through new Cataclysm content. I planned on starting a small, elite raid / rated battleground team made up of IRL friends. I picked out a server that fit our exact requirements: PvE, one or two good guilds should my own guild plan fail, and medium/low population (and a few others, I still have the Google spreadsheet documenting our options).

This is when I first started building my “Sunnier” persona. I picked a name that was a real word (so it’s easy to remember), but uncommon enough that it would be sort of unique to me. I repurposed my blog, hullobear.blogspot.com, into a visual recreation of my leveling journey. Previously, I had used that blog to document my naive thoughts on bears and tanking in Wrath.

I created my new worgen druid on the eve of Cataclysm. My new boyfriend at the time (and my boyfriend to this day) created a new worgen warlock alongside me. We powered through those early morning hours and Gilneas leveling together, but he dropped out once we hit Darkshore at 3am. I kept going for days, on limited sleep, until I got to level 85. I insisted on doing the whole thing without heirlooms because I was loyal to the fresh start idea. Some of my real life friends transferred characters over and we spent the first few weeks of Cataclysm happily powering through heroic dungeons.

Eventually, it became clear that my friends didn’t have the same thirst for progression that I did, and that a handful of introverts weren’t the best recruitment officers. So that backup plan of a single progression guild on my chosen server came into play. Luckily, they were actually recruiting a druid tank. This guild was Halcyon.

I enjoyed Halcyon while I was there. It was my first and only progression guild that had more than the two token women (I think they had 6 or 7!). They were a pretty serious 25 man guild, clearing stuff at a good rate. But there was the one problem was the problem I always had: too many tanks. We had three full time tanks and some offspec tanks. That doesn’t sound too bad, especially coming off of an expansion that encouraged a large stable of tanks. But Cataclysm was pushing close to only needing two tanks, and sitting out on a third of all fights was not something I enjoyed. (There was also the case of being yelled at by the raid leader too much. I still joke with former Halcyon guildmates about being conditioned to fear the vent channel change noise, since that chime always preceded a passionate berating by the raid leader.)

Around this time, I started my fully-fleshed blog, “A Sunnier Bear”, which would eventually grow into this one. I used it to publish my boss strategies, which were more of a learning tool for myself than a tool for other people.

Because of the overabundance of tanks and the stressful raids, I started applying to guilds on the side. And then, in another flurry of immaturity and drama, I ninja quit the instant I got accepted somewhere else. I did post on the forums, blaming my sudden departure on job worries (turns out they were very valid worries, though not my reasoning at the time), but I otherwise gave no warning. The vengeful guild leader later tried to troll my blog by calling me a horrible person, which I deserved, but also blocked.

Sunnier of Whisperwind (Aug 2011)

The new guild was Rocket Surgery, another incredibly lucky and undeserved position. I was one of only two mainspec tanks, 10 man, ridiculously skilled. They already had a US first heroic Nefarian 10 under their belts, and they were in US top 15 in all other rankings. I joined them with only three bosses left in Firelands.

I like to call this my golden era. My progression was unreal (top US 15 throughout Firelands and Dragon Soul), my blog was growing, total strangers respected me. However, those job worries that I blamed my Halcyon departure on turned out to be much more valid than I thought — I was laid off two weeks after joining Rocket Surgery. Luckily, I had money saved up and could afford to take my time looking for my ideal job while spending time on being a damn good raider. The six months of job-searching and high end raiding is what I call my “fun-employment” era.

I feel like this period is pretty well covered already, since I was blogging at the time. My strong progression the primary reason why people started reading in the first place. I’m not a theorycrafter and that element was well covered by “The Inconspicuous Bear”, nor does self-promotion come easily to me, so all I had left was being one of the top bears in the country.

Rocket Surgery’s success was built upon excellent leadership and strategies. Pask, the raid leader, was famous for his rage, but he knew what he was doing. We also recruited three casters with legendaries, and the bear-cat playstyle (offtanking with a mostly-cat focused spec) was incredibly effective in 10 mans. We did well, especially on the end tier bosses that took hundreds of wipes.

This was when I learned the importance of skilled damage dealers. There are a few levels above “doing your rotation well” that are hard for me to articulate, since I am not a good damage dealer. Suffice to say that there’s a noticeable difference between good and very good damage dealers, whereas I never really felt that way about myself as a tank (though there are tanks like that).

At the end of Cataclysm, Rocket Surgery just floated away. They had thoughts of going to 25 man, but they never came to fruition. I transferred off the server to help friends kill Deathwing, intending to return but never getting the chance.

And then we enter the modern era, with another event that might still be too emotionally sore for me to elaborate on (though not my fault this time). I’ll leave that for another time.