The other day, I spent a long car ride with a couple of colleagues, and we talked about this and that. Among other things, about singing and about unusual motivational techniques. That reminded me of a story from my WoW raiding days, and with the help of some friends from back then (oh Facebook, glorified White Pages of the late naughties), I was able to reconstruct most of the story from memory.
Raid leading is a lot like herding cats. Every guild seems to have a few people who are constantly late, unprepared, didn’t bring consumables, or are simply incapable of following even the easiest instructions. Nevertheless, everything can go exceedingly well some nights. Other nights… not so. In addition, every guild seems to have bosses it nails with just minimal efforts, while it struggles with others every week. And while some bosses are more notorious than others, it seems every guild picks its personal bogeymen without much rhyme or reason.
ICC was the last raid instance our guild did before it folded in the autumn of 2010. We were quite successful as a close-knit 10-man group, but suffered from the all-too-common problem that our 25-man’s progress was always lagging behind. 10 dedicated raiders, and 25 people with time constraints or no interest in harder raiding rotating in and out of the remaining 15 slots. In ICC-25, we struggled the most with Saurfang and Sindragosa (ok, and with Arthas, but final bosses don’t qualify for the bogeyman list). This story happened on one of our 25-man raid nights in ICC. We had already spent half the previous night struggling with Saurfang, mostly due to Blood Beasts eating the raid, before we finally killed him. Bashing your head against a wall is never fun, especially when the wall comes with an unskippable cutscene long enough to become its own meme. (“We named him Dranosh. It means ‘waste 90 seconds’ in Orcish.”) In the end, our raid leader got people to focus, we killed him and moved on.
The next night, our main raid leader was unavailable, so I had to lead the raid, something I hate to do. At least the night started well, but soon enough, we faced Sindragosa. Spreading out for Frost Beacon so that the ability couldn’t chain to unaffected people turned out to be as problematic as ever. On more than one attempt, instead of the targeted 5 people, we ended up with half the raid frozen into ice blocks and dying. It was a massacre, and the mood tanked almost as badly as I did (I’m not good at tanking when I have to raid lead at the same time). After half a dozen attempts and telling people off, I decided it was time for special measures. The stick hadn’t worked, so maybe the carrot was in order?
“Alright people. Focus. I want y’all to focus. No lollygagging, no clusterfucking, no 15 ice blocks after each Frost Breath. I’m tired of this shit. You know what? Here’s a reward. If you focus, and we kill her now, I’ll sing ‘Amazing Horse’ to you over Vent, both male and female voice.” (In case you don’t know it, here’s the song. Not safe for work, children, or mentally stable people, you know the drill.) Weebl’s songs had been a staple of jokes in the guild for some time, so everybody knew which song I meant.
The mood changed. People chuckled. The sheer weirdness of that “reward” seemed to be incentive enough.
We killed Sindragosa the next pull. And yes, I gladly sang. It ended up being a moment all of us still remember to this day. It’s the stuff nostalgia is made of.