/dbm pull 15. Pre-pots at the ready.
Hundreds rush through the dark corridors of Ny'alotha. All have the same ambition, of reaching the same distant finish line at the end of a course marked out with twelve pitfalls.
There are no lions, wild boars, or cerberuses today, although this test of speed, endurance, and resistance in the face of various traps is very much akin to the Labors of Hercules. For all competitors, the objective is simple — conquer Ny'alotha, the lair of N'Zoth, as quickly as possible.
At the beginning of the race, the different guilds set off with a delay. The American servers kick off with a full night's lead over their rivals across the Atlantic. This oft-discussed delay will quickly become anecdotal.
While European, Asian, and Oceanic servers are still waiting to hit the track, it's not a waste of time. Where the US teams are advancing blindly, their pursuers are observing, calmly. The streams, the chat, and the Discord servers — notes are being taken on the initial tactics, failures, and successes, in the hope of avoiding early mistakes.
Access to the Public Test Realm (PTR) has allowed everyone to roughly discover the first bosses in advance. However, even with this access, the pressure and level of difficulty today makes the actual exercise quite different.
Weapons and armor levels have been carefully prepared, and each competitor has their best-in-slot (BiS) and an item level (iLvL) on steroids in comparison to other, more regular players.
However, these people are getting ready to face (the Old) Gods.
While some guilds, such as Method, Limit, or Exorsus, are sponsored by gaming organizations or energy drink brands, they remain few in number.
Blizzard, unlike with their Mythic Dungeon Invitational or Arena World Championship, doesn't promise rewards to the big winners. For players who want to undertake the Race to its fullest, they often have go unemployed or take vacation time off for these periods.
Players compete almost exclusively for glory. This marathon is a score of music played by die-hard enthusiasts who must have total mastery of their subject.
The placement, the rotations, the spells, the order in which the targets have to be focused, the positioning of the boss, heals and mana management, cooldowns, the tanking, the fatigue, the hunger, the nervousness, the pressure — here lies a dozen reasons already that would push mere mortals to fail against what others are undertaking today.
Each contestant must recite their part without a single dropped note, at the risk of leading the whole orchestra to wipe.
For the hubbub to turn into a recital, one needs rigor, an ability to learn on the fly, perfect mastery of one's character and the environment, and above all self-control.
This requirement is a must for all members of the roster.
With 20 players and sometimes as many replacements, all must play with heart — sometimes for more than two weeks — and for the love of competition and World of Warcraft.
That's the beauty of progress.
In the previous Race to World First, victors Method contested the final battle a colossal 355 times before tasting success in the winning pull.
A long run can sometimes number more than a thousand attempts across the entire raid.
Faced with sleep deprivation, frustration, anger, tension, and doubt, each roster must remain calm, make the right decisions, and move methodically along their campaign. Victory can be achieved in about ten minutes of pure concentration. If no player makes a wrong note, then the concerto becomes a masterpiece.
It is in the final notes, after several hundred attempts, after each roster recites the same score for hours or even days, that the pressure reaches its peak. At any moment the ordeal could end for any one of the squads, cruelly propelling the other competitors away from the podium's top step.
In that moment, for about twenty warriors, the pressure morphs into howls of joy, tears of relief and fraternal hugs.
All that is needed is for the stars to align... and for the best to win.