After a period of extreme inactivity (read: doing absolutely nothing as a group until we banded together for tournament dailies O.o) we're back to scheduled calendar raids with one major exception:
I am the raid leader.
The very same real life issues that prevented Wilder from scheduling any raids are now keeping him from leading them. (He's a teacher, so days are out and a swim coach, so nights are out too.) So after much debate and decision, he's temporarily passed his mantle to me. It made sense.
Lemme tell you, it's harder than it looks. Maybe it's his experience with the game or coaching, or maybe he's just naturally skilled at leading... but Wilder has some big shoes to fill.
My first attempt at leading a raid came with our guilds first group attempt at the new and improved Onyxia instance. (I picked this one for several reasons. First, I needed to establish myself as a leader without Wilder's shadow hanging over me. I'll never do it like he does, but being that we are so close to one another, I know people will be looking for similarities. He's never led us through this one so it was all on me. Second, I knew all of my guildies were chomping at the bit to head on in there and slay some broodmother. *hard nod*)
The run started a little rocky, but it was to be expected. Two things were drastically different. Everyone was hella-excited™ to finally be doing something together again and ...Wilder wasn't there. He's always been the task master, keeping us focused and moving us forward. I'm... not *sheepish*
I am the goofy fun one, who occasionally giggles on vent and suffers from "Oooo, Shiny!" disorder. So, it took some real focus for me to not let my run immediately disintegrate into a goof off session.
However, after we got into our groove, it went great. It was my first time into Ony's lair to boot, so let me lay it out for you noob-style.
Out in the middle of nowhere ...at the bottom corner of a swamp so eerie it would make Stephen King and the entire state of Mississippi jealous... stands a cave draped with Spanish moss and littered with the corpses of people who obvious shared your ambitions. Like some twisted version of the children's song .."over the river and through the woods"... into the mouth of a dragon shaped rock and down a tunnel that feels eerily like a throat, into the belly of Onyxia's lair until you see the Broodmother herself, looking deceptively calm while she sleeps curled up between two clutches of dragon eggs.
(Along the way, you encounter a few random guardians but they are single patrols and not really much of an issue. Just trash that's slightly reminiscent of the Obsidian Sanctum.)
Not to be outdone by her male counterparts, Onyxia comes with three phases. In the first, she's grounded and grumpy, having been awoken from her sleep to deal with these pesky, bite sized intruders. Because she is a mature and skilled dragon, she can use all of her abilities with deadly precision. A tail swipe, a bite, a claw with cleave a breath weapon and a wing buffet. However, those are easily avoided by your raid group if you have them clump up on her flanks. The poor tank is hung out to dry *sad nod* but he's the only one who signed the contract to get hit in the head for a living and gets his own healer. :)
Once she's gotten sufficiently aggravated to wake up fully (about 60% percent of her health), phase two starts and Ony takes off into the air and calls for help. Now, you have elite dragonspawn emerging from the tunnel you entered from and hungry dragon whelps hatching out of the clutches to either side of the group. In addition to this, Onyxia herself joins the fray with a breath weapon that has to be avoided at all costs. There's so much going on in this phase, that it becomes a DPS war to burn through it before your healers start running out of mana and you're losing players left and right.
After you bring her down to about 30% over all health, phase three starts. Ony gets desperate and lands, breaking out the breath weapon in close range, calling on her immense presence as a dragon with a mass fear and shaking the ground hard enough to cause lava explosions from the cracks in the ground. (In all fairness, this is my favorite representation of a dragon that the boys at Blizzard have done. It reminds me of the old school D&D encounters, where simply being in the presence of an ancient wyrm required a constitution roll or you'd be terrified. They are supposed to be FRIGGIN SCARY, yanno?) The guardians are still running in to aid their beloved Queen and your raid has to learn to dance while fleeing for their lives to avoid the lava. It gets crazy.
Sadly, we joined the myriad of bodies that paid the price for awaking the Broodmother and our corpses littered her den. But, on Wednesday night we go in again... and we'll see if we can change our ending. :)