Method, the most famous World of Warcraft raiding guild on Azeroth, made history in September when they became the first team in the world to defeat Battle for Azeroth’s opening raid, Uldir. It was their 10th world first victory, but more significantly, it was the first time that any guild had streamed the entire raid.
Now, five months after Method defeated G’huun, the guild are attempting a repeat performance for the newest raid to be released, Battle of Dazar’Alor. The team has gathered at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London to stream their progress, allowing WoW fans from around the world to see the culmination of thousands of hours of preparation and hard work, all with the goal of securing their 11th world first.
But the competition is heating up as guilds across the globe – including Limit in North America and Exorsus in Russia – are all vying for a slice of the glory, while events outside of Method’s control will stack up the difficulty. So, will the guild still manage to pull through and grasp victory once again?
If they manage it, it will be another huge achievement for Method founder and co-owner Scott ‘Sco’ McMillan. Sco started raiding around 15 years ago after falling in love with World Of Warcraft. He created Method with the goal of becoming the best guild on the server, and now, with 10 world firsts behind him, he's certainly achieved that and more. We spoke to Sco ahead of the Battle of Dazar’Alor to discover how Method have been preparing for the challenges they'll face over the next week, and also what they learned from Uldir.
You changed the game when you streamed Uldir – what was the reaction like?
Uldir was actually our 10th world first on an end boss of a raid. But what was special about that event was that it was the first time that a world first guild has streamed their entire raid progression, and that sent ripples across the entire Twitch-space.
It's shaken up the whole scene
The amount of engagement, the number of people tuning in, was absolutely insane. We had over six million unique devices tuning in over the eight days. When we killed the last boss we had over 263,000 simultaneous viewers. We were absolutely blown away by the interest and the support. The world first race has always been a point of interest in the community, but it had never been something that they could follow live before.
I think the fact that we streamed it and that it was so well received with so many people tuning in has definitely brought a lot of attention back onto the raiding scene, which is absolutely great.
Over the last couple of years some people might say that it's gotten a bit stale, that it's always a two-horse race between Method versus Paragon, or Method versus Exorsus etc. This time around it was great. You had Method in Europe, you had Limit in North America, and you had Exorsus in Russia, these three guilds from around the world fighting for that first spot. And I think because the raid race was so big, it's really encouraged the competition to go even further. Its shaken up the whole scene.
How do you prepare for a Mythic difficulty raid like Battle of Dazar’Alor? Is it all about gearing up? Running lower difficulties? Spend time theorycrafting?
There's so much stuff you can do to prepare that you could write a book on it. As soon as the last raid is cleared, preparation begins for the next. You start by trying to clear the most recent tier – in this case Uldir – as many different times as possible, with many different raid groups. You're already thinking about doing four or five raids ASAP and trying to funnel gear to certain characters.
Outside of that, we do some public test realm (PTR) testing. Blizzard lets guilds test the bosses for about an hour or so each to make sure they don't have too many bugs when they go live, so we have to develop a strategy in advance of that. We have to think about which raid composition we want to bring onto the PTR and try to progress the fight as much as possible to gather as much information as we can. That can involve bringing really stupid compositions, like bringing way too many healers just so we can survive the first phase, to see what happens in the second.
But the week before Mythic opens is when it gets extremely hectic. Generally, that's the week that Blizzard increases the item level you can get from Mythic+ dungeons. Then there's the new normal raid, the new Heroic raid, and the new items you can buy. There's so much stuff you can do tweak your characters. We spend millions and millions in gold, and not just on consumables. People can get Titanforged bind-on-equip items, which sell for a couple million gold, which we have to get hold of if we want to be at the top.
How many hours a day do you spend playing to prepare for the raid?
We sent seven of our raiders to the Red Bull Gaming Sphere this time around, so we had to come down here on Sunday to prepare for the raid start on Wednesday – that alone, just the travelling down here, setting up the equipment, etc. was valuable time that we could've spent preparing.
The amount of preparation you can do in heroic week is just obscene
It's worth it for the end result of being able to put on a great show, but honestly, right now people are playing all day every day for the entire reset. I do think it’s something Blizzard needs to take a look at and maybe scale back. The amount of preparation you can do in heroic week is just obscene. There's no limit to how much you can play the game in heroic week to try and get upgrades on your characters.
For example, the chests for completing Mythic+5 dungeons right now drop the highest item level of gear that you can get, and that gear has a chance of Titanforging. There's no limit to the amount of Mythic+5s you can run, so you're doing them on repeat, hoping that you pull that lottery lever and get an item that gives you a significant new upgrade. It's intense. Technically during this interview, I could've run another Mythic+5 and tried to pull that lever one more time.
How long can you expect to play in a day after the raid starts? I hear you guys are quite sensible with it.
Yeah, definitely. When you're playing for such a long period of time, you need to make sure you're maintaining a healthy diet, and that you're getting enough sleep. It’s really important to keep the focus up. These bosses that we're facing have quite difficult mechanics. You need to be on your A-game, you need to be sharp. We have sleep breaks to make sure our raiders can rest for at least eight hours a night. It varies how long we can raid on a typical day, but I'd say the average is around 14 hours.
Does the pressure ramp up towards the end?
Definitely. Especially if it feels as though other guilds are slightly ahead of us. The first couple of days when you're killing the easier bosses, you're really hyped. But by the time you get to the last boss, it stops being such a sprint and is much more of a marathon.
Managing stress is part of the joy of the experience
At that point, the stress can definitely kick in if you feel like you're not making enough progress and other guilds are edging ahead. Having to stay focused for 14 hours, not including rest stops, can break you down if you're not careful. But it really adds to the relief when you finally get that last kill and that world first. Managing that stress is part of the joy of the experience.
Going back to Uldir, were there any moments where you thought it was all over?
We actually fell a little behind near the end. Limit, the North American guild, actually killed Mythrax – the second-to-last boss – ahead of us, so got on to the last boss G'huun first. Towards the end, I was almost certain that we'd lost the race. I actually went to bed that night thinking I'd wake up to see the news that Limit had killed it.
Uldir took eight days – how long are you expecting Battle for Dazar'Alor to take?
Uldir had eight bosses, but Battle for Dazar'Alor has nine. In the past, the first raid of an expansion is typically the easiest, but Uldir did go on a lot longer than we were expecting. Typically a good raiding tier goes on for about one and a half resets, so I would expect seven to 10 days would be standard, but we really don't know how difficult Blizzard is going to make some of the fights – especially the last boss, where guilds will spend the majority of their time.
Is it difficult to learn from your mistakes and bounce back from them? Wiping on G'huun at 4 percent must've been tough?
To be honest, a lot of the issues we had on the last tier were due to lack of preparation. We didn't enter the raid with the optimum composition. This time around the guild officers have really made sure we're not going to enter Dazar'Alor with the same lack of preparation.
We underestimated our competition last time around – we didn't expect Limit to be such a serious threat
We also underestimated our competition last time around. We didn't expect Limit to be such a serious threat. Now we want to take all that into account and put in maximum effort, so we'll be ready.
Speaking of Limit, did you consider the faction change approach they took to gearing up?
That was a strange one actually. There was the faction change that gave them an item advantage – and I'm still a little confused as to why Blizzard allowed that to be in the game personally – but there was also the fact that with the different timings between the North American and European servers they got an extra piece of loot from Warfronts. We could've actually faction changed ourselves, but only the US team had the ability to get two items, so regardless we would've always been one item behind.
These things are really frustrating – last time I checked, Limit were actually ahead of us in terms of overall item level, which is critical when it comes to taking on these raid encounters. Every piece of DPS matters.
You could say the disadvantages are somewhat stacked against us this year, with the US getting to start a day ahead of us, and the fact that we're streaming and giving out all our strategies. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm sure we can still pull through.
How will you celebrate if you make it over the finish line and get the world first?
Last time, when we won the race, we went out afterwards and had some good steaks, so hopefully the same! We were just really really happy. Not only did we manage world first, but we also did it while streaming, and the scale of the event was bigger and better than anything we've ever hoped or expected it to be.
Method's World Of Warcraft Battle of Dazar'alor Race to World First starts from the Red Bull Gaming Sphere at around 8am on Wednesday, January 30. You can watch the action live on Method's Twitch channel and we'll keep you up to date with all the highlights on RedBull.com. Following the Raid, Method will be joining us for a special stream on Red Bull's Twitch in which they tell us how they beat those bosses.