At the Midnight Launch Party in Irvine, California on Monday, September 24, a team of five leading members from Blood Legion -- a handsomely established World of Warcraft raiding guild -- will be taking part in a duel against Blizzard programmers for the fastest Challenge Mode dungeon time. They’ll look on as our team takes the stage to set the pace in Mogu’shan Palace, a new five-player dungeon in Mists of Pandaria. When it’s Blood Legion’s turn, it’ll be up to them to beat our time and claim victory. And you’ll be able to watch it all streaming live on Machinima.com beginning at 9 p.m. PDT! Blizzard eSports’ Rob Simpson will be giving play-by-play commentary on the lightning-fast (if not completely frantic) dungeon pulls we’re sure to see, while World of Warcraft lead encounter designer Ion Hazzikostas will be providing dungeon and encounter design insight.
I recently snagged some members from Blood Legion and asked them to talk about just how scared they are to be facing off against us as we count down the final hours of the North American Mists of Pandaria launch. Here’s what they had to say.
Zarhym: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!
Absalom: It’s our pleasure. Congratulations to the Community Team, by the way, on your recent Dragon*Con honor! Well-deserved.
Zarhym: Well that's mighty kind of you. This community of movers and shakers drives us to do what we do, and we appreciate that you folks are a part of it.
Now, to get things started, why don't you give everyone a brief background on Blood Legion and how the guild got started?
Zonker: The guild has been around since back in the Diablo II days, and was carried over to WoW during alpha testing. Initially we were just a group of players that merely wanted to raid, but as each successive raid came out, a lot of us wanted to become more competitive on the server. We grew from there with a lot of other guilds dying and cannibalizing them for members with a similar mindset.
Zarhym: What guild accomplishments in World of Warcraft are you most proud of?
Ararat: There have been many major milestones for Blood Legion. However, there are three specific achievements that come to mind that sum up a lot of what the guild has gone through to get where it is today.
The first is when we achieved the US Horde second Kel'Thuzad kill during Vanilla. This was when we took over as the number-one guild on Illidan -- a feat that goes unchallenged to this very day.
The second is when we were invited to compete against Vodka during BlizzCon 2011. The fact that we won the competition is not what stands out in my mind. It's the fact that we were considered the cream of the crop of hardcore raiding in the eyes of the game’s creators. Blood Legion has been around since Diablo II and at that moment, millions of players discovered who we were.
The final milestone proves that what we do is not a race, but a marathon. During the Dragon Soul progression cycle, we finished third in the world, ahead of all American and European guilds. This was the first time since the reign of Death and Taxes that an American guild managed to rank above the Europeans.
These three milestones define Blood Legion: we never give up, always strive for excellence, and you can never count us out. Words cannot describe how proud I am of this guild and all its members over the last eight years.
Zarhym: What led to your decision to accept our invitation to compete in a live Challenge Mode dungeon race against Blizzard employees?
Riggnaros: As soon as we were approached about the possibility, we knew it was something we could not turn down. Our guild loves being involved with any PvE competition, especially ones with Blizzard’s direct involvement. A huge part of our decision to participate was due to the fact that raids were bumped back by a week. This gave us a lot more flexibility with what we can do during the first reset.
Also, we are excited to see what Blizzard employees will bring to the table ;)
Zarhym: Oh, I'm sure you are, Riggs! What kind of class/spec comp have you all put together for this race through Mogu’shan Palace, and how did you decide the lineup of guild members, classes, and roles?
Ararat: We chose a team consisting of some of our most seasoned veterans. The five of us consist of a Protection paladin, Arms warrior, Frost mage, Survival hunter and a Holy paladin. This composition provides us with many advantages and a few disadvantages. Time Warp and Aspect of the Pack definitely help speed things up. We lack a battle rez spell, but we figure we can’t afford that type of mistake anyway. We are very happy with the tools all five specs bring to the table. They proved to be invaluable during our practice runs.
Zarhym: Speaking of which, how much time has your team spent practicing for the live event thus far? Mogu’shan Palace Challenge Mode difficulty has only been open for testing in the beta for about a month, after all, and I’m sure you’ve been busy with other guild matters.
Zonker: After the first few hours of trying to learn the instance, we’ve been trying to run it at least a couple times a night barring scheduling conflicts. Our times have ended up being pretty consistent as we get more and more comfortable in there, but it still provides a sufficient challenge to throw us a curveball occasionally that makes us trip and fall flat on our faces.
Zarhym: What do you know about the team of Blizzard employees we’ve put together? Have you heard any rumors about the comp we’ll be running or the clear times we’ve been hitting in practice runs?
Absalom: Despite our best efforts, we haven’t heard much. We’ve been told that you are sending us the best from your internal raid-testing team. Otherwise, we’re in the dark with regard to comp. A few people have mentioned times, but we’re sure given all your experience that you guys are pretty adept at the art of trolling.
Zarhym: You completely lost me. Moving on. How serious are you about winning this race? Or, to put it another way, how would you feel if we beat you? Remember, our team has virtually no advantages over Blood Legion beyond, you know, helping to program the game we're all playing.
Riggnaros: We’re always serious about winning (haha). I don’t think there is any other way to really approach a competition of any sort. However, this event is different than most in regards to our competition and the layout. We usually go up against other top guilds in a 25-man setting, but now are facing off against Blizzard employees in a 5-man. I think that is definitely an advantage for Blizzard seeing as how you wouldn’t stand a chance in a 25-man setting. The 5-man layout is much more dependent on comp and much less dependent on the ability to separate yourselves from the competition. Yes, you can tweak out those extra few seconds here and there, but it’s just a completely different ballgame than 25-man raiding. Anyone can win.
Absalom: We’re mentally preparing for any eventuality . . . which pretty much means, we’re ready for you to cheat.
Zarhym: Alright, let's settle down now. I feel like I may have upset you both -- I'm just going to shift gears. Ararat, what do you think about the new Challenge Mode dungeon feature in Mists of Pandaria?
Ararat: I think it’s fantastic! 5-man dungeons have not been this interesting since the introduction of Heroic 5-man dungeons in The Burning Crusade. After just one trash pull we realized this was not a joke. You have to acknowledge every mechanic and spell in the dungeon. Coordinating crowd control, interrupts, and cooldown usage is vital to succeeding in the pursuit of gold. Even then, gold is not achievable without some creative strategies.
Zarhym: Creative strategies? I get the impression you're teasing something.
Ararat: Let’s just say, I really like the combination of Nitro Boots and Goblin Glider. =) Also, we found the hunter Flare ability to be more useful than we imagined. You’ll just have to wait and see what I mean.
Zarhym: Fair enough. ;) In addition to the focus on Mists raid progression, do you expect that your guild will put a lot of effort into topping the leaderboards for fastest Challenge dungeon clears?
Zonker: With how much we’ve been enjoying Challenge Modes so far, we will definitely have a lot of people working hard on them once MoP launches. As a guild we’re made up of a lot of people that are really competitive and love optimizing absolutely everything as much as possible. It really opens up a lot of possibilities from instance to instance trying out different group compositions and strategies, where each one will gain you a few seconds here or there, but lose some time in other spots. Having competition amongst the people in the guild should be pretty fun as well.
Zarhym: So how's the rest of the guild feeling? Are you all ready for Mists of Pandaria?
Riggnaros: We’re as ready as we will ever be. There have been months and months of preparation put into the MoP release and those weeks immediately following. We have high expectations of the MoP raids based off of beta testing and all the cool new encounters. Let’s just hope the devs get the number balancing right and allow the top guilds to do their thing without much (any) nerf-batting going on (Looking at you, GC!).
All in all, I am pretty confident that we will be able to produce good results this tier and expansion. Hopefully the race is solid, fair, and dramatic this time around and each guild involved has a lot of fun.
Zarhym: I know I'm excited to see how things shake out in Mists! But, I'll let you get back to practicing. (You might need it?) I do have one final question. Who in Blood Legion is responsible for picking up the Yard House tab?
Absalom: Isn’t the etiquette that the home team always foots the bill?
Zarhym: Hah! I'd hardly say we're the home team. We're traveling to the event too, all the way down this one street. A couple of the stoplights are just the worst. . . .
Thanks again for talking to me. We all look forward to seeing what you guys can pull off next Monday!
Absalom: In all seriousness, we couldn’t be more honored and excited to be a part of launching this next chapter of Warcraft history.
We say this every BlizzCon only because it is so true: your tireless work to create an immersive world in Azeroth and a community beyond has become a huge part of our lives. We are here today because of you.
Zarhym: It's all cyclical, baby. We're here today because of you, and every other member of our community. Cheers!
Blood Legion Guests:
Ararat (Eric Abramian) -- DPS Warrior
Member since: Patch 1.11.0 (Vanilla - Naxxramas)
Absalom (Philip Shaw) -- Protection Paladin
Member since: Patch 3.0.8 (Wrath of the Lich King - Naxxramas)
Riggnaros (Charles Carrington) -- Blood Death Knight
Member since: Patch 3.3.5 (Wrath of the Lich King - Icecrown Citadel)
Guild Twitter: @BloodLegion