So today folks, I'm joined by Drakon – a lovely night elf warrior who runs something called the Blackrock Candy Club.
This brave chap runs blackwing lair and molten core PUGs in his spare time!! You might wonder to yourself… why would someone want to do this? How do the PUGs work? Is he crazy?!
I went to investigate…. I joined Draks mumble server on Sunday to listen in on the raid and sent along one of my secret horde spies on an undercover mission to discover how all these alliance are getting delicious tier 2!
Clodagh: Thanks for taking the time to chat to me Drakon. First off all, I'd like to know – what made you start playing on Feenix? Why Vanilla WoW?
Drakon: Hey, thank you too for offering me the opportunity! I originally dived into the private server scene for education purposes. Since I know the application domain (Classic/TBC) quite well, I could learn a lot about client-server architecture, authentication and protocol design.
At that time I was also trying some private servers, ending up on Feenix. I leveled an Orc warrior to 60, but was turned off by Horde world chat and quit. By accident some friends got me started again a few months later on Alliance side. Friends quit, I casually did 5mans and grinded Argent Dawn reputation.
Having played both Classic and TBC in hardcore mode, I felt incredibly bored at the end of TBC. In contrast I never felt that way in Classic WoW. It is less steam lined and feels more like an actual RPG (authentic world, fun items, etc.)
Clodagh: So tell me about this Blackrock Candy Club – for the people who maybe haven't seen your post.
Drakon: The BCC is a weekly Alliance BWL PUG that is happening every Sunday at 13:30 server time. The loot is distributed using gold DKP, meaning every item is sold to the highest bidder. The collected gold gets evenly distributed among everyone that made it to the end of the raid. A certain fee is kept to pay for expensive tank consumables and incentives for people fulfilling special roles.
While “PUG” may sound unprofessional, the expectations regarding buffs and preparation do not differ from BWL raids that would happen in guild environments. We regularly clear the whole instance, a few times we even managed it in one flask phase.
I highly recommend interested persons to check out the forum propaganda: Blackrock Candy Club. The thread serves as an universal information resource including rules, requirements, boss tactics, past raid results and news.
Clodagh: What made you come up with the idea in the first place?
Drakon: It was an evolutionary step from my Molten Core PUGs. All the “when you gonna make a BWL PUG?”-tells just got really annoying!
There were some spontaneous BWL PUGs on Alliance side before. Those were organized by Papadog and all loot got /rolled. The one time Chromaggus was downed, I was semi-leading, main-tanking and blowing around 1600 gold on the raid. Asking him how he can rely on over-geared/-buffed people carrying the raid without offering anything in return, he did not know an answer. I suggested using gold DKP, he rejected it as being too much overhead being confident in his /roll luck.
Nevertheless I was somehow expected to make a move and come up with something better. Eventually I had the time to do all the write up on the forum by end of February 2012, so BCC could boot in March 2012.
Clodagh: So you lead PUGs to molten core and blackwing lair? I know a lot of guilds that still wipe on these raids – what makes your PUGs so successful?
Drakon: If by “wiping”, you mean “progressing”, then my PUGs are closer to guilds farming MC/BWL including occasional post-Firemaw trash wipes. MC has been wipe-free for the last 24 runs (not counting a wipe due to a bug spawning Majordomo and his adds again mid-fight). But now I probably jinxed it. Guilds hitting a wall in MC/BWL usually have serious leadership problems and wrong expectations.
Compared to other PUGs and PUG leaders I approach the issue with a different mindset.
Most PUGs are motivated by some kind of greed or despair:
“I want item x badly, so I gonna make a PUG and reserve it!” or “We don't have enough people to do a guild run, let's stack up on randoms and cherry-pick items!” or “The instance ID resets tomorrow, got nothing to lose anyway!”. My primary goal is that everyone is having a nice time that evening/afternoon and gets rewarded for his/her time investment in some form. Epics come with time anyway and if you don't have fun playing the game, why do it at all?
Having a carrot on a stick to make people stay is really important. If you constantly need to look for replacements, you spend less time pushing the raid/playing your character which makes the raid feel slow and dull. Also I don't like the whole concept of reserving items.
Considering the above I design a loot system tailored for a specific instance. I obey the same rules that I force on others, I don't take things for granted, I'm still prepared to the teeth for every raid. Although there is a certain pressure to deliver full and fast instance clears, I got no problems calling a raid after Domo/Flamegor if a group just can't do it.
Clodagh: How long have you been doing this for Drakon?
Drakon: As of now I have hosted 52 MC and 14 BWL PUGs. I didn't count ZG/Onyxia groups, which I have done in earlier days. In addition to that I've been pugging AQ20 2-3 times a week since the development team implemented a proper Ossirian encounter (even during the bugged times where crystals did not spawn). I guess that must have been like 60-70 AQ20 PUGs. However I'm doing a break on those right now since most of my peers plus me have everything we need from there. Also summer is here. The instance is still fun to me (if I find a decent offtank). Maybe I'm going to join a group that is just looking for a tank every now and then.
Clodagh: A lot of people have probably asked you this before – but why PUGs? Surely the next step after getting the gear you want would be to make your own guild?
Drakon: In short: It's more flexible, cheaper and less to equally time consuming.
After hitting 60 on Alliance side and friends quitting the game, I casually did some instances and eventually was invited to a guild after impressing in ZG. Guild leadership was non-existent, raid schedule was made up and I was a way better player than every other melee in the guild (including the main tank). I was denied tanking loot due to being fury spec, I was denied DPS loot because I was tanking all the time.
After 6 weeks I finally quit and thought: “F*** those arrogant, greedy bricks and soulless guilds. I just gonna MULTIBOX Molten Core!”. I did some research on software tools and calculations on leveling, hardware and energy costs. As a result, I tried pugging it first. So here I am, keeping my electricity bill within bounds. PUG raids may take longer due to the lengthy recruitment phase and slower raid progression, but in the end that “overhead” is similar to officer/GM duties in normal guilds: lure&screen applicants, prepare tactics, keep the morale up, manage guild property, manage raid schedule and setups, attend officer meetings and so on.
My only other guild adventure after the first failure happened in “Definition”, a guild trying to combine a 2 days raid schedule with progression. I had much fun with those folks and got most of my T2 items there. It went really well until a big chunk of the officer/raider core burned out, quit the game or went for some TBC server. In general there are quite some (good) people on this server that can't commit to 3-4 raid days but still want to see more than MC.
It may not look like it, but I'm a PvP head. I'm doing instances to have fun, meet nice people but also to get the best available PvP gear. Also I would like to see and participate in more RP/fun events on Feenix. Sadly I barely have the time/motivation to organize something myself.
Poke for inspect!
Clodagh: I sat in on your voicechat server during your recent raid to BWL on Sunday. One thing i noticed first was how you seemed to know a lot of the people in the raid. Do you get people regularly coming back?
Drakon: In the raid you are mentioning were 7 guys that haven't been with me yet and another 2 guys that just haven't been in BWL with me yet. So let's assume I raid with 75% people I already know, 20% new guys and 5% that I'm going ban (usually it's less, around 0-1 guy per raid). My banlist got approx. 120 entries, my watchlist counts 30. How many people of the other categories does that make?
I've been pugging for about a year now and getting a lot of positive feedback, esp. from new guys. Some people started in my PUGs, joined endgame guilds and got ahead of me gear-wise. Others are even gearing their 3rd to 5th character in my raids…
For BWL I rely on people assisting me with things like healing assignments, stun/tranq rotations, hourglass sand looting, announces etc. While I'm able and prepared to do all of those additional duties myself, it would just slow down the raid with my ability to multitask becoming the bottleneck. Those people get some bonus gold and are acknowledged in the thread on the Feenix forums. In the end it's a 40man raid and no one man show.
Clodagh: Another thing I noticed about your raid was how you kept your cool throughout – you didn't once rage or get angry – or if you did, you hid it very well. Guilds would use -DKP or threaten gkick or raid kick when people start to slack.., a lot of that you probably wouldn't have control over – so what do you use to control the raid… i notice the threat of “no gold at the end” or “not getting an invite in future” was thrown around a bit. Does this tactic usually work and get people to pay more attention?
Drakon: Yelling at people just states your own incompetence, distress and a lack of discipline. Things go wrong for a reason. If you got a problem, analyse and solve. If you can't do it alone, ask others for input. What I really dislike is if certain mistakes are done more than once. But then again, it's probably leadership fault, meaning I need to get active and micro-manage things.
I love the gold DKP system offering me another level for praising/blaming although I barely (have to) use it. My default “punishment” tool is my watch-/banlist. Only in really extreme cases (e.g. not fulfilling the requirements/lying, ninjaing, sabotaging) I remove/replace people before the raid ends. So even if you severely suck at the game, you get your piece of the cake, but you probably won't get another invite. So you kind of noticed an extreme situation last sunday, where I had to remove and banlist one player before the 3rd boss and cut the gold reward of two other players.
Clodagh: Of course I have to ask this: have you ever tried to do anything similar on hordeside? I know you're hiding an orc warrior on me.
Drakon: Actually – as noted in the beginning – that Orc warrior was my first character on Feenix. At the time it hit level 60 the quality of world chat scared me away from Horde. In contrast the Alliance world chat actually had discussions and conversations going. In proper English! Now it is just trashier in general on both sides. Except Horde got Groshar's trivia challenges.
In addition to that there are a couple of minor annoyances that keep me from playing Horde: Tauren being the superior tanking race, Tauren/Orc model sizes requiring to use Noggenfogger/Deviat supreme in many situations, Undeads fitting less into the Horde than Nightelfs fit into the Alliance (from a high fantasy point of view), etc.
In regards to PvP balance Alliance is more melee friendly while Horde is more caster friendly. Also Undeads are more satisfying to kill than Gnomes…
On the practical side I'm already pugging during the best times on Alliance side and my Horde banlist merely contains 3 entries, so I would have to walk through all the sediments and build up a reputation all over again. Time-wise it's either-or decision since I don't have enough spare time to be equally active on both sides.
Clodagh: I have to say man, to do something like this – you have to have a a lot of patience, (huge balls) and a lot of dedication. I'd like to commend you for this. I half-wish someone would come up with a similar system on hordeside!! All I can say is that the Alliance are very, very lucky to have you.
Drakon: Yep, (all those Nightelf single moms speak for themselves) and yep.
Thank you for the compliments and thanks again for this interview.
Clodagh: Thanks for your time. Any last words?