Spartans has experienced it's most successful expansion yet in Wrath of the Lich King. For the first time we have completed the final raid instance on an expansion and have maintained a high ranking on the realm amongst raiding guilds while doing it. At the same time we have brought in many new members to the Spartan family (including a few babies of our players) and continue to forge strong bonds and friendships that transcend just "people that I play video games with". With all that in mind, let's take a look back at Wrath of the Lich King.
Wrath of the Lich King released 13 Nov '08 and a goal was set to start 25man raiding in the first week of January. Brunswick and Naucratis (then Meletus) set the leveling pace, dinging 80 simultaneously on the 17th. Others soon followed and a 10man team quickly formed to check out Obsidian Sanctum and Naxxramas. Kel'Thuzad was already being killed by Spartans by mid-December.
The 25man team stuck to it's goal and kicked off with Sartharion kill on Jan 7th. At this time we used a "raiding season" strategy to filling raids having members commit to 4 weeks of raiding at a time in order to get a more steady roster while allowing for all the fun things that real life throws at people. Spartans saw initial success in Naxxramas killing most bosses easily, until Thaddius and his unforgiving positive/negative mechanics. Despite this and many wipes to void zones and mind controls in the final fight, Kel'Thuzad fell to a team of 25 Spartans within a month of stepping foot in Naxxramas. It was much much later before he dropped loot that many raiders were desperate for. The Aspect of Magic wasn't long for this world after we set our sights on him and Malygos was defeated 3 weeks later. We still had 2 months before Ulduar would be released and so busied ourselves with achievements and killing Sarth with drakes up (3 drakes proved elusive till we got bored in Trial of the Crusader). During our time in Naxxramas we had many raid leaders, with Ubasti, Delaria, Naucratis, Sabreclaw, Brunswick or Bryhn quarterbacking the raid on any given night.
Ulduar kicked off mid April '09 and Spartans entered it under a more consistent raid leadership with Brunswick at the helm. We immediately got Spartans' one and only server first by defeating Flame Leviathan with one tower up in our opening night. A week later the first 4 bosses were down and within 2 weeks of that the next 4. At the same time the concept of having a 10man team that could stay ahead of the 25man team's progression in order to scout out bosses and preplan strategies was implemented and greatly contributed to the initial success in Ulduar. This was also when Spartans moved up into the Top 20 ranks of 25man raiding guilds on the server, a position we were to maintain throughout the rest of the expansion. Then we hit a snag. Thorim proved to be a tough fight to implement with the splitting of the raid team in two. It proved a stumbling block for us for a month, so much so that we peeled off and killed Freya comparatively easily during that time. Finally we overloaded the arena team so it could survive till the enrage and slowly peeled players off for the tunnel team until we found the balance. This lead to one of the best raiding weeks with finally defeating Thorim and proceeding to 2-shot Mimiron within 30mins of ever pulling his trash. Bryhn then took on the task of raid leader just in time for another stumbling block: General Vezax and his Shadow Crashes. A month later he would be dead and the way was cleared for the tentacled wonder himself: Yogg-Saron. Within 2 weeks though, we had bigger fish to fry.
Trial of the Crusader opened up in early Aug '09 with only 5 bosses and gated content. Spartans sneered with disdain at these normal modes as we destroyed each boss the week it was released. What did we do with our free time? Why go back and kill Yogg-Saron of course, getting the achievement for no raider member going insane on our first kill. It's also around this time that the "raiding season" concept was proving to be more trouble then it was worth as we still had all the hiccups in attendance due to RL. We then moved to just a steady raid roster concept but keeping the idea of reviewing it on a monthly basis to identify recruiting goals and to keep Martha endlessly busy trying to fill the holes in projected attendance. Also at this time a second 10man team lead by Shakaraka started working on ToC late at night and saw success including a server 2nd Upper Back Pain achievement. At this time we found our stumbling block for this raid instance: hard modes. We just couldn't get pass the Northrend Beasts and rather then bash our heads off that wall for 9hrs a week, we spent some time in Ulduar going back and picking up achievements and hard mode kills of FL, XT, and Hodir. Late Sept '09 also had Onyxia rear her ugly head as a lvl 80 raid and Spartans promptly pimp-slapped her back in place with server 7th kill. Meanwhile the Sunday night 10man raid team was seeing success in ToC hard modes getting Anub'arak down with more then 45 attempts remaining and finally achieving Firefighter after countless wipes and hours of frustration.
That first year of the expansion also saw some dark times for Spartans with two seperate occasions of multiple people leaving the guild in the most disruptive way possible. Both times though we bounced back very quickly and drew closer because of it. It is a testament to the how great a guild Spartans is, that even members of those little groups have approached the officers about returning to the guild. On a monthly basis we have former members asking to return to Spartans, but unfortunately most must be turned away because of their previous attempts to damage the guild or potential disruptive influence. Spartans are fiercely protective of their territory.
The most anticipated raid of the expansion, Icecrown Citadel, opened up 8 Dec '09 with again the concept of gated content, but at least we got more then one boss to chew on at a time. The 25man team went to work with the strategies laid out by Bryhn, mostly consisting of her relating game mechanics to male genitalia. Lord Marrowgar was downed the first night, with Lady Deathwhisper and Lootship following a week later. The following week Spartans got their only other server 2nd, I'm on a Boat, through some weird glitch that saw a lot of people dead. Saurfang didn't survive long after we perfected the "let the pally aggro the adds and run like hell" strategy. With the opening of Plague wing we faced a fight for the first time that we could firmly say "it's the dps' fault". Festergut became the first time we made a big deal out of pre-potting for a fight and after some very, very close wipes he faceplanted. Two days later his brother joined him opening the way to our single biggest challenge of the instance: Professor Putricide.
It took us 10 weeks to get our first kill (we killed Blood Council in the meantime) and the fight represented the only time the "10man team kills it first" concept actually worked against us. The problem was that we tried to use the strategy that had the 10man team kill him the 2nd week they saw him, which didn't fit the 25man teams strengths and weaknesses. After a radical strategy overhaul which moved us from conducting the fight on the orange side over to the green side, we dispatched him. So how was that 10man doing in ICC up until that time? They had cleared up to Lich King with top 5 server kills and achievements on Festergut and Blood Council but were once again limited to only 3 hours a week due to player's schedules. The 25man team kept right on trucking after Putricide getting consistent kills of Dreamwalker, Blood Queen, and Sindragosa in 2 week intervals. It would take 2 months to defeat the Lich King including some creative strategies to minimize the danger of defiles, but finally Spartans had achieved something that had eluded them previously: a kill of the final boss of an expansion. During those 2 months of work on LK, Halion was released but by the 3rd pull of the 10man team it was quite evident he wouldn't pose much of a challenge. The 25man team later proved this by defeating him within an hour of first seeing the fight. No, Lich King was the true final boss of this expansion and from the top of ICC could be heard the cry of "THIS IS SPARTA!"
The following night found us chomping at the bit for some hard mode action, with Marrowgar, Lootship, and Festergut all dying. Rotface and Blood Queen hard modes were defeated the next week. Two weeks later we added Blood Council and Dreamwalker. We were progressing much faster then the leadership had anticipated. Two weeks after that Saurfang was defeated, and when Deathwhisper died a month later we were left with just 2 obstacles in our way to LK hard mode: Putricide and Sindragosa. The 10man team was having success with hard modes too; having killed all but Lich King in 3 months time and earning it's members undead dragon mounts for when they were too lazy to walk.
Throughout it all, Spartans has strived to be a successful raiding guild that maintains a friendly atmosphere. Whether it be the well-timed joke to break up the stress of a wipe night or the constant donations of feasts, gems, and enchants by members. The stoic determination of the raid mixed with the ever positive attitude of team members. The many long threads in the War Room as we work together outside raid hours to create a successful strat. The hard time Sabreclaw has in handing out loot because everyone is too nice to take that upgrade when a guildie could use it. The unified team against the single biggest danger to any Spartan raid: Arctanis. The sacrificial gnomes. Bryhn's balls and "adds". All these things and more make up a guild, give an identity to Spartans.
We move forward into the next expansion as strong as ever and with a lot more raid experience under our belt. We plan on being once again one of the better 25man raiding guilds on Dalaran, not just in terms of progression but also in terms of the community of our members. Deathwing is coming to tear the world apart, but Spartans are coming to tear him a new one.