From Limit to Liquid: The FULL Timeline
From Limit to Liquid: The FULL Timeline
In a name, there’s everything and nothing. For Limit Guild at least, that was the case. It was the case on January 22nd, when they became Liquid Guild - their first (serious) name change in Guild History. It was the case back in 2015 when the guild was still forming and its raiders were arguing over what they should be called.
Tagzz has been with the Guild since the very beginning and he remembers the spreadsheet of potential names that everyone in the guild voted on. And how, in the end, that spreadsheet didn’t matter all that much.
“There was a spreadsheet of names and [Limit] was on there, it was one of the choices,” Tagzz recounts, “I think it had one vote.”
“Elephant Herd was the winning vote,” but Truefire, the Guild Master at the time, vetoed it for being “a very memey name.” Tagzz goes on. “The 2nd place name was a bit more serious and he also jumped over that to go to Limit. So our joke was because nobody could decide on a name, he went with the one that nobody wanted to not make anyone too upset.”
To understand why Truefire chose “Limit” over any other one-vote option, you need to understand the dynamic of raiding and of the guilds that do it competitively.
(Follow along with the visual timeline here!)
In the MMO, raiding is every bit the effort that the name implies. Competitive guilds have to gather a band of players who will pour their time into gathering the best loot, creating the best characters, developing the best strategies, and becoming one cohesive unit - all in order to clear a gauntlet of bosses and enemies (a raid/tier) as fast as they possibly can.
This can all be immensely draining and Truefire knew the effects of that drain better than most. He had just come from a legendary guild called Blood Legion - perhaps one of the most tryhard names imaginable for a guild that did try very hard. Blood Legion was a big name in WoW raiding, regularly being in the first 5 guilds worldwide to clear raids at the highest difficulty level (Mythic) and sometimes reaching the vaunted World First.
A Mythic raid is a huge task to clear regularly. Clearing it on a timeline, faster than literally any other guild in the world, is herculean. There’s another layer of difficulty in that this is all a kind of “Running of the Guilds.” Every competitive guild worldwide all simultaneously trying to outrun the other in a Race to World First (RWF). Blood Legion was historic in the RWF - but not without cost.
By 2015, that heavy level of “try” had burnt Blood Legion to ash. This guild, once legendary enough to have a documentary centered around them, would stop raiding competitively that year. The old-school raiders had all become adults, used up their PTO and their sick days, and struggled to put in the hours needed to stay at the top. Truefire did not want the smoke and friction that came with all that grind. Arguments broke out between leadership and guild members on what to do.
“I think the name probably interested [Truefire] because he was the one coming from Blood Legion that wanted to cut back, wanted to pull back.” Even for Tagzz, there is some speculation here. “He was raiding all day and he wanted to be more finesse-y. That was our goal, to raid efficiently on a smaller schedule, and I think that has to tie into the original name - Limit.”
[Summer 2014 - August 2015] Limited by design
It’s worth noting, especially for Limit’s history, that Blood Legion was not the only Guild that got burned by the raw hours it takes to raid competitively. MMOs rely on the grind - it is a cornerstone for gameplay and monetization within the genre - so being the best at any aspect of the MMO means spending heavy hours repeating all kinds of tasks to get all kinds of different resources.
For raiders, it’s more of a seasonal thing. Blizzard announces the new raid and the guilds take time off and pour whatever they can into beating the raid as quickly as possible. If you are aiming to be the first in the world to clear the raid, then It is a 12-16 hour-a-day affair, that can last for weeks.
Naturally, this process is a turnover generator - both individual players and guilds at large will step down from hardcore or raiding leave the game entirely. Sometimes to return, sometimes not. In 2015, the turnover had partially generated Limit. In the physical sense, at least 13 of the Guild’s raiders came over from two prominent guilds that stepped back - Blood Legion and Nightmare Asylum. In the ideological sense, Limit’s identity was built around the issues (and hours) that fueled the generator in the first place.
“It’s been part of our core identity from the start,” Tagzz says of Limit’s focus on managing burnout and schedules, “which I think has helped us into now.”
“We would have players that didn’t have time. They just couldn’t keep up with the expectation.” It’s something that a ton of guilds face - especially as they approach that hardcore level.
“If we said every player needs to have 3 characters, there were some players that were like, ‘Well, if it’s 3 characters then I have to quit. I cannot physically keep up with this.’ I think in most guilds that has been the door to potential issues. If you have a requirement for 3 [characters], then you have 2, 3, 4 people not doing that, then others are like, ‘What’s the deal here?’ ”
“I think we’ve always done that balance pretty well in that most of those exceptions are given with clarity.” Limit’s officer-corps - AKA the guild members that take on heavier leadership and admin roles - prioritized weighing commitment by effort, not necessarily time.
“It’s important to know that everyone is putting in the same effort - as much as they can.” When you’re looking at a guild with over 30 raiders and a competitive event that takes some 20 raiders minimum, these exceptions were fundamental to stopping that turnover generator and having any kind of consistent core.
“Part of it was that Blood Legion perspective,” Tagzz points to the origin. “We had a large group of players that were like, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna do that again.’ But also those perspectives being with reason. ‘I don’t think it’s effective, you’re just wasting time at that point.’ Those sort of conversations.”
“Yes I’m sure you would kill bosses faster if you raided all day,” Tagzz admits, “but would you kill them twice as fast if you raided twice the hours? Probably not, probably not. If the guild is going to add hours here or there, it should actually be proven to be meaningful.”
This limited by design process was WoW-inspired but Truefire would test it in another MMO entirely: WildStar.
The irony here is that WildStar lived and died by the most tryhard of principles in the MMO world. The game had a halcyon era between 2014 and 2015 and steadily declined after that. WildStar’s true end-game content came in form of 40-man raids that not only demanded too many people but too much time and energy.
"They listened too much to the player base," Preheat, one of the Limit raiders who spent a while in WildStar, notes. "You think you want month-long, 40 man bosses, but actually you REALLY don't."
Truefire scouted out many of the core Limit Guild members through a WildStar guild he ran: NO LIFE LOSERS. (It’s another name that helps explain why the GM pivoted to Limit.)
“That’s where a lot of the connections that made the initial guild came from.” Tagzz remembers it as a truly eclectic bunch - weirdly eclectic. “Including even someone in Method [Justw8]. It was just a big mish-mash of people.” (Method was a leading EU guild that Limit would later come to rival.)
Even though its name implies otherwise, NO LIFE LOSERS (NLL) operated on similar principles as Limit, raiding on less hardcore hours and with no lofty goals. They started as a 20-man guild and then, as WildStar introduced 40-man raids, they fused with Engima - a very successful WildStar guild that would go on to claim a World First.
However, Tagzz is quick to add an asterisk to their involvement in that. “Almost all of the NLL people before [the raid] was finished.” Tagzz chuckles. “Yes, NLL was the initial supplement to Engima’s 20-man but maybe 1 or 2 people actually saw it through because it was an immensely long ordeal to do that 40-man the first time.”
“I don’t even think it was one of the initial people [who joined Limit], it was like, Adois.” (This is a name that will resurface in a way that you will not expect.)*
It was fitting that NLL didn’t really stick with Enigma in that great 40-man push. At that point, it was opposite to what they were - and to what they were building towards: Limit. Even if Truefire hadn’t planned it that way, NLL would scout out the talented raiders who were interested in that defining Limit ethos of “less is more, even in the grindfest that is the MMO.” At least, to an extent.
*03/11/2022 - Correction: Preheat and Zealot were also in the Enigma raid. Preheat left the raid after seeing how long it took to take down System Daemons.
[August 2015 - August 2016] Best of the rest
“Less is more” did apply to Limit. Tagzz regularly uses words like “efficient” or “finesse” to describe the guild’s approach. But “less” can only do so much in a genre like the MMO, where the grind is integral and more time played doesn’t only equate to more skill but to better raw stat blocks. Given the nature of the MMO, Limit had to be realistic.
“Our initial goal with Limit was absolutely not to compete for the World First,” Tagzz says in no uncertain terms. “Our initial goal was to get top 20 World.”
That is still a laudable achievement that takes a good deal of skill and grind, but one that could be reached with 25 hours in the week. To get a Worlds First - or even to make a guild like Method sweat a little - it takes 2-3 100 hour weeks.
“A lot of times it’s almost like a tier-based thing where you cannot beat a guild that is raiding twice as much as you. [...] We wanted to be the best of the rest.”
Though Limit wanted to be the Best of the Rest, they didn’t expect they actually would be. At least, not in their very first raid.
On August 1st, 2015, Limit would clear Archimonde, the final boss of the Hellfire Citadel. They finished 1st NA and 7th World. It was a stunner for literally everyone, even the guild themselves.
“We weren’t in that 7th position the whole time, absolutely not. From some of our early success we thought, ‘Hey we’re keeping up with some people we didn’t think we would.’ Then we ended up faltering a bit and thought we’re probably not gonna regain it. [...] We would’ve been totally happy if we had choked and ended up way less than 7th.”
As surprising as it was, the context around those times made some sense of it. In retrospect, Blackhand, the prior raid, might’ve been the end of an era. Heading into Hellfire and Archimonde, a lot of older guilds were falling to turnover, mergers, and the simple social friction that comes in trying to get a 20-man raid team on one page.
“It was like the old guard fading away, but that had been something that was happening for a while. Vodka and Exodus [2 all-time great guilds], they were dwindling already. A couple tiers before Blood Legion wrapped up shop, Exodus had as well, and Exodus and Vodka merged at one point.”
“It was definitely a turning over of the old guard,” Tagzz says, though the amount of turning was still surprising, especially since Midwinter still seemed capable. “[World 7th] was something we absolutely did not think was going to happen. The closer and closer we actually got, we were like, ‘Holy shit, we’re actually gonna get NA 1st!’ It didn’t even make sense because Midwinter, the tier [raid] prior, was World 3rd.”
Blood Legion had been NA’s best guild for a while but Midwinter often trailed closely behind. In Blackhand, the tier before Archimonde, Midwinter had even overtaken Blood Legion and got World 3rd. Around that time, World 2nd-10th was usually where the top NA guild placed - close to the top EU guilds but not quite there. When Blood Legion fell out of the competition, most people thought Midwinter would become NA’s new guild to beat.
No one even knew who Limit was - to a point where it was a detriment.
Who Limit was
Normally when a guild gets a notable, World top 10 kill, they put up a kill video showing how they did it, with a mix of comms and epic music in the background. Like Limit’s Archimonde kill video above. However, Limit put up two kill videos - the one below becoming much more renowned.
Once again, the guild was torn on whether to play it straight or to meme a little in victory. With a split vote on the matter, they opted to do both, slapping up a serious video and a goofy video scored by the most ridiculously American songs possible. This did not go well.
With no one knowing who Limit was, many assumed they were the spawn of Blood Legion - and a number of Midwinter fans and general RWF watchers thought the video was the hardcore remnants of Blood Legion rubbing Midwinter’s nose in yet another loss.
“To fans it felt like an insult when it was just an internal joke not even meant to admonish anyone else,” Tagzz says. “We couldn’t defend it because it wasn’t intended. [...] We really couldn’t respond much to it, so it also let the community go wild with it.”
Not to mention, the guild’s culture at the time wasn’t just to limit the hours but also the chatter. “We said, ‘put your heads down and silently own.’ We didn’t even want people posting things on Twitter or forums at the time. Just silently own, don’t post memes, and that was it.”
“It was a very different vibe [compared] to now,” Tagzz admits. Newer fans to Limit are probably used to Thdlock and Xyronic memeing or to Maximum leading and addressing the community. Back then, it was harder for Limit’s raiders to have the same levity or confidence.
“We basically came into the world already hating us,” Tagzz says of the Guild’s early reputation. “People thought we were something we weren’t.”
The culture of Limit was different back then too. “We were a very interesting bunch in that probably the biggest shared interest was sports. It’s weird cause we’ve lost almost all of those people since then but we used to talk about whatever basketball game was happening, whatever football game was happening.”
Much as Limit’s culture would change from these early days, there were some foundational elements that have stuck with the guild 7 years later.
“We were very anti-meme, it’s still sort of a trait we have in some regard.” In this case, “anti-meme” is literal. Limit doesn’t resist jokes but the guild does resist the memetic, the kind of stuff that winds up as ubiquitous twitch spam or reaction imagery. AKA, the frogs. “For example, we banned frogs. You couldn’t send any frog memes. I think this was even before that Pepe stuff even took off - this was 2015. Whatever the current popular meme was, we did not allow it in our Skype.”
“Don’t worry,” Thdlock break in, more than a little proud “I broke that.” Thdlock is one of Limit Guild’s biggest memers, the “resident Twitch aficionado” and also a potent Warlock that does a lot to manage recruitment and help with the raid. He joins the Guild later, in 2017 during Antorus, Burning Throne.
“Yeah, the people that paved the way for the memes was Thd and Xyro,” Tagzz confirms.
"For example, we banned frogs. You couldn’t send any frog memes." Tagzz, on Limit's unique meme policies.
Aside from pepes and memes of the day, Limit has also long had a culture of chaotic comms. “Everyone talked at the same time. We still do that, we’ll have 2 conversations at once and people watching a stream can’t understand anything but we’re just used to talking through a crowd of voices. [...] Back then it was like 5 conversations happening at the same time. It was a complete cacophony.”
“Famously, a new player said at one point, ‘Shut up, I can’t hear the raid leader speak!’ ” Tagzz chuckles remembering it. “He got memed for actual years for saying that.”
All in all, the early atmosphere of the Guild was lighthearted but also strange and tenuous in some ways that were unavoidable. Limit was, after all, not the offspring of Blood Legion. Not the offspring of any singular WoW guild. It was a mish-mash of members where, luckily, every raider had at least one officer from a prior-established guild that they felt they could trust. Something incidentally akin to a successful tribal council of the MMORPG.
“We brought together a lot of different minds and different perspectives. I think 25% was the biggest chunk [any guild had] but also our officer corps initially was one person from each representative guild. The biggest chunks.”
“That’s, I think, part of the success, we brought a lot of good things together and we were pretty smart about sifting the good ideas from the bad. But also that it was relatively conflict free. [...] Everyone had some level of mutual respect for someone.”
“I wouldn’t say the initial time was rough. It was definitely a lot of fun. It definitely went super well.” Tagzz pauses, before describing the darker timeline Limit avoided. “I could just see how it could have gone poorly.”
Another thing that helped Limit avoid this darkest timeline was a surprising out-of-game addition: Their social media manager, Azorea.
Azorea has since grown into the Guild’s overall manager, someone regularly credited for handling the intense logistics behind a 20+ person guild roster as well as being Limit’s community leader and (at times) diplomat to the wider WoW and esports world. In 2015, she approached Limit and asked to build the mostly-silent guild’s voice from the ground up.
“I think Azorea is the 3rd or 4th longest-tenured member of Limit,” Tagzz speculates.
“She just ran with it. A lot of those [community and social] things were completely her own creation and she’s done great, great, great things for us. But she was basically in the same boat we were. We were playing WoW all day for fun, we weren’t doing it for money or exposure. She wanted to do a guild social media from the ground up and build a community.”
Given Limit’s intentionally low profile, having a social media manager naturally sparked a lot of internal conversation. “I think relatively early on, we recognized the benefit of exposure being a good thing overall. But it was definitely not immediate. We definitely had some weighing conversations about things being ‘worth it’ or not to do. [...] We kind of had to learn the benefit.”
Some of the benefit was having a more coordinated, more professional voice. A voice that was more trustworthy than a gaggle of raiders. “From the leadership perspective, we trusted someone like Azorea a lot more than we trust our own raiders to not say something stupid.” Tagzz has to talk past his own laughter, “even when we started the Guild Twitter we still had the same policy of don’t post anything publically.”
Given what was to come, Limit would benefit a lot from having some level of public-facing voice and PR help. As they grew in all kinds of notoriety, “silently own” simply wouldn’t cut it.
[August - November 2016] Growing pains
In 2016, Blizzard would release WoW’s next expansion - one of the most lauded in MMO history. A lot of WoW players will remember it as some of the best days in the game - but that might not be so for Limit. From the very first day of the expansion, Limit would face growing pains. Namely, Truefire stepping down.
“That would’ve been August 30th, 2016,” Tagzz marks the day when Truefire turned in the Guild Master title. “I know the exact date cause it was the day the expansion released.” In an interview with the Titanforge podcast, Preheat, another core Limit member, marked it down as 30 minutes before the expansion’s release.
“It was very surprising,” Tagzz continues. “In retrospect, I understand the reasons but at the time it was a complete shock to everyone. We were still pretty fledgling, we didn’t have a lot of things set up - roles and processes and things. So when he left he was leaving a massive void of all the things he was handling.”
“He was definitely a glue piece. He was the reason the guild didn’t die right away. So massive credit to him.”
Though Truefire was only in the guild for a year and a half, he had been a part of the Race for longer and his veteran experience in WoW was what brought Limit to life. In a sense, Truefire’s leaving was the first major organizational stress test. Could Limit live without its creator, its adhesive? Many guilds couldn’t.
“When he left, we had survived the initial birth of the guild but it definitely left a lot of holes - and it caused a lot of issues down the line. We lost that mutual respect piece.”
With Truefire leaving, Maximum would step up to be raid leader, calling within the game, and Jetjaguar would GM, the figure keeping the social ties together. It was a pain - but a growing pain.
“Since then, Max has definitely gotten that [respect] from all players but he definitely did not have that the moment he started raid leading for the guild. He was thrust into that role and Jet was thrust into the GM role. It exposed a lot of things that we had to grow.”
The internal struggles manifested on the next raid, Emerald Nightmare, where the Guild got World 11th. It was a backward slide by 4 spots but given the circumstances, staying in the top 20 was a success. They had not only survived but figured out more of their identity.
“The main tenet that we figured out is that the officer corps needs to be able to disagree with one another - and especially Max - in constructive ways. That’s the bare minimum requirement of a good officer in our group. You need to be able to basically argue. That’s really, really important. You cannot surround yourself with yes-men.”
At this point, Limit also earned one of its earliest sponsors - Northern Gaming (which would later become NRG) - and form a gaming house. But it’d be a mistake to paint Limit as a capital “E” esports institution by the end of 2016.
Tagzz calls the Limit gaming house a “backwards definition” of the term. Not so much a house made to help a group of pro gamers push their performance, just a house that happened to have high-level gamers living in it. (Before I can finish my question about the gaming house, Tagzz breaks into laughter and Thdlock says, “Oh god…”)
Northern Gaming, while invested, also didn’t have a super direct impact on Limit’s success. By the time it turned into NRG, Limit could clearly see they weren’t a priority. “We quickly realized our place” tagzz wheezes, “which was: ‘not really important.’ ”
(“I did say that we were sponsored by Shaq, though, many times. I was able to say that in good faith even though he definitely didn’t know we existed, for absolute sure.”)
At this time especially this was the sort of spirit Limit carried. It was a unique mix of hyper-competitive and for-fun.
“We all were doing this for fun and competition. We’re all here because we’re competitive but at the same time, we’re playing a game. It’s the drive for competition but also, drive for having fun. That’s pretty much it.”
Even as Limit now becomes “Esports” a lot still remains of the Guild’s core spirit. The chaotic comms, the language of interwoven inside jokes, the understanding that it’s all a game. Limit maintained that spirit not only as things got serious - but as things got strange. And frankly, ugly.
[November 2016 - August 2018] Strange times
Heading into the latter half of 2016, Limit was positioned to unequivocally be “the best of the rest” and potentially pretty popular. They would still become both of those things but there would be a lot of weird, gnarled twists on that path. All this began with the following tier, Trial of Valor, in November 2016.
Limit was performing pretty well in Trail of Valor, getting World 1st on Guarm, the penultimate boss of the raid. In the RWF the final boss is the true finish line and the main thing that matters to the audience and the raiders. (This is all the more the case given that EU and NA start the raid at different times - creating a cumbersome and controversial time gap). Still, the World 1st on Guarm was a sign of good pace - especially given Limit’s goals.
Then, on Helya, Limit discovered an exploit. They found a way to skip a part of the phase of the boss by manipulating the AI in an unintended way. Most big RWF fans already know that this is verboten, but for new fans it might come as a surprise.
Being a PvE event where the goal is to clear a challenge as fast as possible, the RWF is essentially a speedrun - and many speedruns let the bugs ride. For the RWF, the culture is different. More than disallowing bugs, using these bugs are against the rules and tied in deeply to the sense of fairness around the race. Both for the casual player and the competitive guilds.
For the casual player, there are rewards attached to clearing the raid by certain points and at certain levels - which become signs of status. And the competitive guild, there’s not only glory but a lot of precedent as well. Guilds have been banned for exploits for a long time - Tagzz points all the way back to Ensidia getting banned on Lich King in 2010.
But up to Trial of Valor, Blizzard hadn’t always punished guilds equally or squashed bugs properly - leaving a great deal of room for interpretation around exploits. “What was an exploit was very grey up to that point,” Tagzz says.
To the point where bug catching is another part of the competitive RWF experience for top guilds. “I don’t think people realize how many times we do something on a boss and we’re like, ‘Oh shit that might be allowed, might not be allowed. It happens a dozen times a tier.”
In the case of Helya, Trial of Valor’s end boss, Limit tried to catch the bug and give it to Blizzard. The Guild reported it to Blizzard and refrained from using it in the Mythic run all the way up until they were beaten by two different guilds that used the exploit with no immediate punishment. At that point, unsure of what Blizzard’s response was (or if there even would be a response), they pulled the trigger on the exploit and cleared Helya at World 5th.
Then they got banned for the exploit, had to re-clear, and ended at World 18th on the official records.
“At the time it was like, ‘Yeah we get why we’re banned. We think it’s kind of stupid, the way it happened.’ I’m not gonna argue we shouldn’t have been banned but, come on. That kind of sucks that we reported it, didn’t do it, didn’t do it, then did it after finding out another guild did it.”
As an end boss, Helya had a surprisingly large effect not only on Limit but WoW as a whole. As Tagzz tells it, Blizzard’s delayed response prompted them to draw clearer, more consistent lines in the future. Even at the time, the ban was a PR loss for Blizzard and Limit.
A lot of the community - especially viewers - decried Limit but some community voices sympathized with the raiders waiting on word from Blizzard. Public opinion further swayed against Blizzard when Exorsus (a more established guild that used the exploit) went into a lot of depth about how the bug was a grey area, how the past precedent wasn’t all that consistent, and some wider issues with the raid content.
On top of that, Helya also became a harbinger of how future RWF metas would work when guilds would begin streaming the RWF. Before 2018, guilds operated in secrecy and only released progress in form of kill videos. When streaming came about, copying and honing other guilds’ strategies became much easier and more important. By pure coincidence, this happened years early, on Helya.
“When Method got World First on that boss, there was some drama where one of their members showed their kill video to the second place guild. Then the third, fourth, and fifth place guilds all got banned. So then the video did go public. That was the first-ever fight where every guild essentially had the same exact strategy because of the circumstance. That’s now how every fight works.”
For Limit, Helya was another learning experience. “Fast-forwarding a bit, it’s definitely been very formative for us,” Tagzz notes. “We’re so, so averse to getting banned again that we probably do borderline grey stuff less than a lot of our competition. That’s come back a little bit because now we understand more of where that grey line is. But it’s still a grey line.”
When Limit returned for the next raid, Nighthold, they did so with a chip on their shoulder. They placed 5th World, pretty solidly fulfilling the “best of the rest” promise. In an interview with Azorea, Jet explained that the raiders felt they had a lot to prove after Helya and they put in more advanced prep work that tier than they ever had.
The chip on Limit’s shoulder makes sense from their perspective. They reported and owned up to the exploit and took heavier flak than anyone. Exorsus responded a day after Limit with a hugely popular post that mixed the Helya talk with general criticisms on high-level raiding. Limit’s small and blunt announcement stuck to their style of “silently own” - but it did them no PR favors.
To top it all off, Helya wouldn’t even be the team’s worst press.
Before the following raid began, Blizzard would ban so many Limit Guild raiders for ToS violations (boosting, account sharing) that Limit had to bow out of the tier entirely.
“It was very common among top guilds that they would do boosts for money. [...] Blizzard did a ban wave targeting real money trading and it missed us. We looked at the first ban wave and to us, it was people who were doing it very blatantly. ”
“The major point of contention was real money trading. It was around the time where Blizzard introduced the WoW token where you could essentially buy gold from Blizzard. All the way to the point, it was a black market. So that [token] was [probably] why they were cracking down.”
“When that [first wave] happened, we thought we were good - we must be doing it a bit more stealthy. That’s why we continued doing real money trading. The thing that essentially caught us was doing pilots [account sharing]. [...] A second wave went out and it banned all the people in our guild that were playing other people’s characters - and this was one week before the raid came out.”
Tagzz recounts all of this in a very even, relaxed way. It all sounds very normal, as he tells it, because at the top level it truly was. In many ways, it still is. Boosting, real money trading, it’s all hard to totally eliminate in literally any competitive title but in WoW it’s particularly tough - and accepted at the top level. To the point where there are records of Blizzard president Mike Ybarra doing sales runs and boosts for his guild.
Endemic or not, Limit quickly moved on. “In that moment, it was relatively easy for us to say ‘Alright, no more real money sales.’ It was a secondary thing for almost everyone. If this is gonna jeopardize the race, then we just won’t do it.”
The problem, as Tagzz explains it, was that Limit needed to grind new characters on a very quick timetable to make the raid. To do this they, ironically, used account sharing.
“Because it was a week before the tier, we ended up basically splitting up accounts. [...] Three people could play this one person’s characters. So that’s what we did, we account shared to recover from a ban of account sharing.” Tagzz and Thd both chuckle.
“You can probably see where this is going. Blizzard, a week later banned all of those characters. That’s when we had to take a step down. The second wave [of bans], completely understandable! We were breaking the rules that we had just been banned for. But in our mind, this was the only possible thing we can do to compete.”
“We didn’t want anything to do with [sales]. We became one of the most anti-real money trading guilds out there overnight after being a pariah for it.” For Limit, the combination of Helya and Sargeras made the Guild clean up but also gave them a very ugly reputation.
“I think people have had (and some people definitely still have) a very wrong impression of us because of these bans - that they look at us as prone to cheating. In reality, over the past couple of years we have been more averse to that than pretty much any guild. We probably find more bugs than any other guild because we are often first to see bosses, and a ton of them we just report and keep under wraps.”
As 2017 came to a close, Limit would - somehow - endure one more drama. This one stranger than any of them. (Though, less damaging).
A healer named Adois was acting strangely. He kept pushing for other raiders - particularly other healers - to click seedy links somehow connected to CryptoKitties (a recent blockchain game). These links would phish out the other healers’ IP addresses and Adois would DDOS them in order to keep his spot in the guild.
“It definitely made the news because it was such an absurd scenario. Obviously, there was a lot of fallout publicly but internally, it was like, ‘Wow, fuck that guy. Anyways…’ ” Tagzz and Thdlock agree on this even despite the fact that, on further research, they think the DDOS went back into past tiers and to another healer as well.*
Regardless, it was a saga that fundamentally didn’t matter but bears mentioning for how neatly it caps off the strangest and messiest stretch of Limit’s history.
*Update 03/11/2022: Adois contests that he was DDOSing for multiple tiers. Tagzz says Limit had very clear proof of DDOS on one tier, but any DDOS on tiers prior is more speculative. In the interview, the main evidence Tagzz points to is that during a few prior tiers, other healers had suspicious internet troubles which disappeared quickly once Adois was removed from Limit.
[August 2018 - January 2019] Going for the gold
After some 2 years of ironing out the kinks, Limit were looking good heading into 2018. They got another World 5th on Antorus (the tier after Sargeras) as well as World 1st on 9 non-final bosses. (Again, non-final bosses are not a huge deal but not a bad barometer of pace). What’s more, they had survived 3 years of raiding at their desired competitive level and more than their fair share of calamity.
As Limit survived, they also changed. By the time Blizzard’s next raid - Uldir, Halls of Control - was primed to drop, Limit was a younger, hungrier guild. A number of burnt-out veterans had left and in their place was a real, growing desire to push for more. To reach for the gold.
It might not sound like much, but going from “Limit hours” to “Method hours” would not only be a huge jump in time commitment but in Guild culture. 3 years prior, Maximum was on a WoW podcast saying “We’re not ever, ever in any amalgamation of this guild - we’ll never be raiding Midwinter or Method or Blood Legion or Paragon hours.” That sentiment was supposed to be the heart of Limit Guild, but even heart changes with time.
“It was like the day before the raid came out, we said, ‘let’s just go for a week [straight].’ ” Thd lays it out flat.
Tagzz fleshes out the details. “We were discussing the whole time, ramping up. We had a whole kind of runway to do it over multiple tiers, but when we talked about it more it was literally this question: Who can’t do a whole week straight? Then it was like, alright I guess we’re doing it.”
What happened next, a lot of Race watchers will remember as a choke. Limit was in position to clear the final boss and chose to extend, going all-in on a frenetic push to kill the boss before Method could. They did this because Blizzard had announced a slate of hotfixes that would emerge the next day. Some of these hotfixes would nerf the Vantas Rune, which was a vital part of Limit’s strategy in clearing a particularly hard boss (Fetid Devourer). There would be nerfs to Fetid Devourer as well, but Limit didn’t know that these nerfs could make up for the loss of Vantas damage.
Thd puts it down to miscalculations and a pinch of under-preparation. “We knew we had the damage even without extending. There was a couple of problems, right? One of our priests was playing holy instead of disc [two types of class specialization]. There was a number of people that weren’t using an Azerite trait that was much better at executing. If we took like 30 minutes a day to sit there and think about how to increase damage,” Thdlock pauses, “woulda killed it.”
They ultimately fell barely short and raised the question of if they could’ve gotten it playing a safer strategy. It ended up a controversial call in the community - some fans hailing it as one of the worst moves in RWF history, but others feeling that the fundamental strategy was fine and the guild had a few execution errors that were very common to the RWF.
For Limit, it was no choke and not necessarily a failure. If anything it was all weirdly full-circle, looping back around to their breakout on Archimonde. “We were within a fingernail’s scratching distance of getting that World First. When we decided to go full bore that tier, we didn’t think we were gonna win. We actually were thinking, ‘We need this to practice.’ ”
Much as the hours and culture had changed, the moment was familiar. Limit outperformed their own expectations. And while a lot of onlookers became enthralled with the way they lost, the fact that they’d gotten World 2nd was a big achievement - the biggest in Limit’s history.
“I don’t think anyone was too disappointed in missing it. I mean we learned a ton. Even [about] things that didn’t directly influence our loss - like sleep schedules. We were randomly freestyling our schedule. To be that close and to have so much room for improvement, I think, if anything just made people more excited for the next time.”
Bizarrely enough, Limit might’ve influenced World of Warcraft more by losing than they would’ve by winning. This was all because, for the first year ever, Method was streaming their RWF run.
In a game like WoW, top guilds would never stream because the competition could easily watch and copy their strats. However, streaming always had an argument in form of pure revenue. An argument that got a lot stronger when Red Bull and Method reached a streaming deal - and then even stronger given the fact that Method had won 3 of the last 4 tiers and felt unchallenged.
“I would say in a sort of alternate reality, we could have killed Race to World First streaming completely, right there. Because we were not streaming and Method was doing their first-ever stream and they apparently had some contention internally. If they had lost the first time streaming, they absolutely would’ve been like, ‘No way.’ ”
“The only reason they streamed the first time is because they thought they had no competition. Now they did have competition in us but they won anyway.”
[January - March 2019] New levels, new devils
It wouldn’t be until January 2019 that Method and Limit would get their rematch - this time in the Battle of Dazar’alor. Limit entered the Race much, much less the underdog than in 2018. Once again upsetting expectations, they’d get beaten considerably worse than they had before.
Tagzz believes that was because Method themselves had a great deal of growing to do too, but they needed a challenger to show them that. Once Method realized how much they had to improve, they “came back more motivated and better than ever for the Battle of Dazar’alor.” This would become quintessential to the relationship between Method (soon to be Echo) and Limit - each guild pushing the other to take the Race the fastest speeds, deepest optimizations, and widest audiences that it has ever seen.
In Tagzz words, it quickly became “a two-horse race.” It was also a time when, once again, Limit was gaining a lot of experience and finding their new identity as a gold-medalist guild.
“[Method] had competition in us” Thdlock says, “but, uh, they didn’t know who we were and we didn’t know who we were. So, interesting one there.”
Thdlock’s partly joking but it was true that, heading into Dazar’alor Limit truly did not understand who they would need to be if they wanted to go for the gold medal.
On the Titanforge podcast, Preheat details just how many new devils come when you reach for the highest possible level. “Even if you’re a top 3 guild, here’s a big learning curve to go for that top slot and unless you’ve done it multiple times you’re gonna make every single mistake you can make.”
At this level, you could also point to different mistakes being the core issue. There are just that many of them to be made.
Preheat points to the math on final boss Jaina Proudmoore as the main issue - “a misstep of mathematics.” Thdlock calls the mistake of the tier, “overcommitting” - tunneling into Frost Mages because they could cheese a mechanic on Jaina, only for Blizzard to patch that cheese out. Tagzz calls it a lack of proper setup. Even with watching Method, Limit lacked the gear to copy them properly.
In a fitting moment, Tagzz and Thdlock bicker a little on the endboss. They talk about the two strategies they could’ve taken - a controlled and a burn strat. The former being a gradual, careful playing out of all the cycles. The latter being a more brute force strat that involved going as quick as possible to skip the hardest parts.
“We thought we couldn’t do the burn [strategy] so we tried for like 2 days -” Thdlock beings on a story but Tagzz interrupts.
“We couldn’t do the burn, it’s true.” There’s a bit of awkwardness.
“Yeah, well, okay but the controlled strategy was absolutely cursed!”
There’s a brief silence.
Then, Tagzz breaks it. “Yeah, we couldn’t do that one either.”
The two immediate break into laughter.
So it goes in high-level raiding. By the end, Tagzz says that it was less Limit failing and more that “Method fucking gapped us in many ways.” Tagzz didn’t even feel they’d done a terrible job on Jaina as much as Method had done insanely well.
“We did fix and identify a lot of issues from last time,” he finds a silver lining. Limit is still not too disillusioned. “We could see that growth even though the gap increased.”
[April - December 2019] Limit goes live
Another lesson that Limit took from all of this was that streaming might just be the way forward. Obviously, streaming had an immediate financial and social incentive but Limit’s officers weren’t convinced that it was worth what you had to reveal until they lost Dazar’alor.
“The fact that we couldn’t just copy Method and beat them with their own strat was one of the main reasons why we ended being fine with streaming. That exact thought: We didn’t think you could copy a guild’s strat and be ahead of them. Just implicitly. [...] Even if we’re streaming a strat of a boss and we’re ahead of everyone and everyone behind us has to copy, that’s fine. They’re not gonna pass us up doing our own strat.”
It also helped that Limit wasn’t planning to compete in Crucible of Storms - itself was something of a smaller raid. That way, Limit could use the off-tier to test out their stream with low stakes.
“We decided to not go for [Crucible] because there was an MDI tournament at the same time. Whereas other guilds just played without their MDI players, we had 2 MDI teams.” MDI is short for Mythic Dungeon Invitational, which is the main event for dungeons - a smaller PvE mode with a different design.
“So we streamed us doing that raid for the first time. However, it was a bit weird because we started the raid on day 1 and did the first boss knowing that we were going to then stop for 2 weeks and not come back. We did stream our first progression, I wouldn’t even say it really went well, then we bowed out.”
More than just a test run, the Crucible stream was a small charity event that raised money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. That might’ve been the case in part because Limit needed to discuss some deeper elements of streaming - like a revenue split.
“One of the core tenets is that we do a revenue share of all streaming revenue, almost entirely equally split,” Tagzz tells me. “My understanding is that is not true across the board for some of these big orgs [or guilds] that stream. Maybe some parts are split but not that much. We split almost everything across the board, it’s very egalitarian.”
Tagzz says all this with what feels like a hint of pride. Not without reason, either. The egalitarian split does a clever job of upholding the core culture of the Guild. A culture where money was never supposed to be the main objective, respect is a must, and turnover is minimized.
“So the growth of the Race essentially benefits everyone equally. So people that don’t even stream have the motivation to retweet the thing about the Race. It basically gets everyone involved in the same playing field. People that were in the boat of ‘I don’t care about that stuff’ in any other model they would just continue to not care.”
It’s also a point of ideology. “It’s like working for a company that you part-own. [...] To me, it’s a fairness thing. If we’re going to disadvantage our strategy, we should all be getting something for it.”
Thdlock points out that the revenue also puts emphasis on effort over output - an approach that the guild has had since nearly the beginning. “If someone has a thousand viewers on Twitch or 50 viewers on Twitch, they’re probably putting the same amount of effort, so it makes sense.”
Limit needed to get this serious about revenue sharing after Crucible because when they would return to competing in July 2019 for Eternal Place, they’d be doing so on a streaming deal with Red Bull. This was where they set their revenue-share in stone.
The revenue share was also partially political. For the guild members or officers that didn’t want to stream, the revenue share is some level of compromise. It’s not a winner-take-all factional battle within Limit, which mattered because even with Red Bull and after Crucible, the officers were split on streaming. What would finally sway them was the chance to play together, everyone in one location: The Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London.
“That was one of the big reasons why we even wanted to stream, right?” Thdlock says. “We were still on the fence. We could, we could not. But Red Bull was like, ‘We’re gonna fly out like 20 of your players to London and you have to stream.’ Hmm, okay that’s a pretty good deal. We should stream and we should get to hang out with everybody.” For Thdlock, it was the first time he’d physically met anyone in Limit.
The Red Bull event went well, though, as with many things WoW and RWF, it wasn’t without some drama. Initially, it was Red Bull and Method who were partnered. “Red Bull wanted to expand the event, bring in more guilds than just Method, make it more of a competition-based thing.” Tagzz prefaces all this with a note that some details may be wrong but the gist is right.
“We had been asked this before when we were still committed to being in secret. Everyone could see: Method versus Limit, it would be awesome to have them both at an event, right? Red Bull asked us to be involved [but] at the same time Method was trying to do their own thing versus sticking with Red Bull. So then Method was asking us, ‘Hey, come to our event.’ And we were like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”
“The idea of the Red Bull event was to be a collective one but what ended up happening was Method tried to do their own event (also trying to be collective). Then there was all this big drama that was… just the worst.” Tagzz laughs.
If the scenario wasn’t odd enough, Limit’s flying out to London added another layer of weird. Being an NA guild - NA’s best guild, at that - it was important for Limit to compete on NA servers, making a trip to London wildly counterintuitive.
“We’re going to bed, [they’re] serving breakfast in the hotel.” Thdlock says. In the Titanforge podcast, Preheat calls it vampire schedule; Xyronic revels in it.
The way that near every Limit members talk about the event, you wouldn’t know they came in 2nd on Eternal Palace. That “20 friends having fun” part of the Limit identity shines through in a lot of interviews about the London experience - and with Tagzz and Thdlock too. As far as that competitive other half of the identity went, they were upset to lose but for Thdlock, this time it felt like a bit of a fluke due to how hard the final boss (Azshara) was.
“After Azshara, we definitely felt like we pretty much could have won by a number of things. One of the primary reasons was that we were ahead for a really long time but then there was a point where the boss became pretty much impossible for 3 days. Which basically equalized the playing field and at that point it was who can play the last boss more efficiently.”
Thdlock carries that point to the next raid, Ny’alotha, where he concludes. “We felt that in Ny’alotha, if there was none of that funny business, we could crush them.”
[January 2020 - January 2021] First
“Ny’alotha, we dominated. And we did a lot of things for the first time, for ourselves or for anyone,” Tagzz says.
Limit finished Nya’lotha nearly 2 full days before Method. There is a (much debated) 16-hour gap between when NA and EU start, but this gap does not translate 1:1 into an advantage for NA guilds (many arguing that it makes NA the guinea pigs for EU guilds), nor a 16-hour difference in the result. Even if it did translate into a direct, 16-hour lead, Limit won by a margin well past that.
It was a first, not only for Limit but for the RWF as a whole. To pass Method, Limit needed to innovate - both on their own structure and the Race. Essentially reaching several “firsts” out of the game to get that inaugural gold medal.
One such first was a deal with Complexity. In some ways, it’s hard to tell how much of a milestone it was for WoW (esports orgs had gotten involved in PvP and some PvE elements before) but it was certainly huge for the Guild. Yes, they had been a part of NRG - who helped them with their Twitch partnerships. But Complexity’s involvement went much, much deeper.
And rightly so. Northern Gaming (and then NRG) were working with a top 10 guild that didn’t have aspirations for World First. Complexity was pairing with the 2nd best guild in the world that was hungry for more. This meant Complexity took over where Red Bull stood, lending their Texas facilities out to Limit so that they could once again raid as a unit - and stream the whole thing.
Limit’s capabilities increased across the board with Complexity and this was probably where Limit first truly had the feel of an esports organization. To some degree, that was true for WoW PvE as a whole. Streaming had changed the game for the top guilds and thus for the RWF. Now there was commentary, guides, personalities, and fan-made, memey highlight reels.
The way Tagzz describes it, these resources weren’t big changes to the heart of Limit. The guild remained, in many ways, the same intermingling of jovial and competitive. It also remained one of the most talented guilds in the world. Moreso, the resources were what finally quieted that turnover generator.
“It’s not so much enticing people to play. We don’t have people joining our guild because they know that our streamers make money. That’s never a primary motivation. [...] What it really did change the game on was retention. In the past we were losing players at a much, much higher rate.”
“We want people to be here that don’t care about money, however, if we’re going to pay them to play they can stick around much longer. What always would happen in the past is that you quite literally need to devote at least parts of your life to this. You need to take off time at the very least.”
“That was a fleeting thing. I myself was in that exact scenario where I’ve only done - as a raider - 4 of the past 8 tiers. This new arrangement allowed me to come back despite working full-time. I still take time off for work but I was at times taking it unpaid.”
Tagzz says all this as a veteran raider who really had to be sold on this new world of streaming. He’s publicly talked about missing the days where strategies were more diverse because there was no stream to copy from. In a brief moment where we talk about the secretive, emergent metas of early esports, it’s clear he lovws the creative new tactics they brought. (He’s fully nostalgic when talking about Midwinter’s approach to Siegecrafter all the way back in the 2013 Siege of Orgrimmar.) As someone who saw the changing of the guard, it was ultimately that retention that convinced him.
Although, there were notable perks beyond just retention. Entering Ny’alotha, the resources helped the guild to build out their support and coaching staff in a way they had never done before.
“Method and Echo had always had a dedicated boss mod developer. We never had it. When we got one we were like, ‘Oh shit this is really good.’ So Ny’alotha was when we brought on a full-time, dedicated boss mod developer, a WeakAuras person and an analyst.”
Boss mods and WeakAuras are both add-ons for WoW. WoW is generally loaded with add-ons that can do all sorts of things, but most often help to sort information and user interface. The boss mod gets more involved, providing health bars, key timers, warnings, ability call-outs, directions, etc. all during a boss fight. WeakAuras is a hugely popular and flexible add-on that lets players customize their UI to great detail and complexity. Because a raid contains so much information on screen at once, these optimizations are much bigger than they might seem. On a Mythric raid especially, they’re crucial for executing everything properly.
There’s not much to explain in the analyst role, thought it was important. “We brought in Bubba as well, whose role now is technically head coach or head analyst. He’s kind of the number 2, Max and he essentially lead the strategy development of the guild. Their strengths play off each other extremely well and he became an extremely important part of our guild.”
There’s a fun bit of circuity here too. Around the same time Limit was forming, Bubba, short for Bubbadub, was a professional League of Legends player for an ill-fated but charismatic Complexity team. Few would have guessed he’d find his way back onto Complexity and win it all in another esport.
Adding an analyst in part came from a mentality shift the Guild had at that time, a deeper focus on planning. “We thought both of our guilds are as good as each other,” Tagzz says. “We’re gonna play the same. The only difference we can make here is just plan, plan, plan better. So that’s what we did.”
All that planning would culminate in one of the biggest strategic innovations in modern raiding: the 21st man. “That was the biggest, biggest change in our play and also the meta was the introduction of the full-time, out of the raid, raid leader. ”
This is the innovation that many people will think of when they remember Ny’alotha and Complexity Limit’s victory. It’s a pretty notable change in the normal style of shot-calling for high-level raiding, essentially introducing a “21st man” that can watch from outside of the raid, unhindered by having to balance their micro-game with the guild’s wider macro-game.
But it’s also a change with its own history that takes some diverging. You can read that divergence below or move on without it.
Side quest: Raid Leading
Right next to the Guild Master in importance, there is the Raid Leader. To the point that the raid leader is often at least an officer of the guild if not also the GM - as it was with Truefire and as it would be in 2017, when Jetjaguar would step back and Maximum would step in.
The raid leader is essentially a shot caller but in a game like WoW, there is literally more to it. There is so much more happening on the screen - and over a longer period of time - than in many esports. Because this is all PvE, man vs. machine, it is a more static act of solving a particularly tough problem as large group than it is reading another person’s intentions or picking directly at another team’s weaknesses.
In that environment, the Raid Leader takes on a different calling style than in something like League of Legends or a tactical FPS. They have to micromanage 20 raiders, check cooldowns and resources, call out new boss phases, and make the occasional audible. Long before Maximum got his start, raid leading has been one of the more talked-about, content-rich positions in WoW. Because of that, few things in raid leading are completely new - but plenty of things are newly popularized or optimized.
That’s exactly the case of Limit’s 21st man. Pulling the raid leader out of the raid had been done in 2017 with the guilds Encore, BDG, and even occasionally within Limit. Ny’alotha was the moment that Complexity Limit refined that idea and made the 21st man a fixture for most of the raid.
“Actually, I wanna say, I don’t get enough credit for this! By the way! I did this on Jaina. I was outside of the raid, helping lead on Jaina just with a discord stream.” Tagzz is very clearly joking about the credit but he gets more serious as he walks back through Limit’s raid leading history. “We did it on Azshara too, we did it on Za’qul. We had done 3 bosses now where it was more effective to call things out of the raid than be playing it as well.”
Before Discord streams - and the rise of streaming overall - not many guilds did this simply because it wasn’t technologically feasible to get a low-latency stream up. “There was not just a program you could install and run for it. [...] In Encore’s case they literally did it in person because the GM was roommates with [a raider who is] one of our players now. BDG’s case was because their GM was a very talented developer so he bootstrapped his own low-latency streaming.”
Even with those guilds, the way Tagzz describes it, the decisions were more practical than strategic. “Both [Encore and BDG] were in cases where the GM of each guild was not in the raid for some reason. [...] It was just a tool in their arsenal that their guild leader could step out of the raid and then make calls.”
Limit saw the 21st man as strategically worthwhile because the raids simply got too complex and the margins too thin at the Mythic level. “Way too much was going on for your character to also have that responsibility. In some fights, it’s totally fine. There’s really not much benefit for being outside of the raid and raid leading. In Ny’alotha one of the bosses, Max did do in the raid.
“But that’s the idea: If there’re too many things going on for a player, [raid leading] is just way too much to add on top of that.”
In Castle Nathria, the subsequent tier, they innovated further on the idea by bringing Tagzz out of the raid as a dedicated heal caller. It’s a big amount of support that most guilds lack the manpower and systems to implement, but by Sanctum of Domination (the last raid of 2021) both Limit and Echo positioned a raid leader and a heal caller out of the server, as eyes in the sky.
For some RWF watches, it does raise the question: Is this how the game is supposed to be played? Is the difficulty of raid leading and managing your micro something that’s vital to the RWF, that should be there?
Counter-Strike faced a similar question when, for a brief moment, coaches were allowed to lead from outside of the game. CS ultimately removed the ability to call from outside of the game - but CS is also a massively different esport than WoW. The RWF is in many ways a battle to be as perfect as possible against the unblinking machine. Where CS is a fast-paced duel between two shifting and changing squads.
Regardless of whether raid leading is supposed to be played this way, Limit made it very clear in Ny’alotha that if you want the fastest time - raid leading should be played this way.
Overall, Ny’alotha had reversed the pole positions on Method for the first time in years. Limit now had the advantage and it was up to Method to catch up. Only, from this point it wouldn’t be Method that would rival Limit anymore - and for good reason.
In June 2020, Method would collapse under the weight of grooming allegations against MethodJosh and sexual assault allegations against Co-CEO Sasha Steffens. Method leadership later admitted to knowing about the allegations against MethodJosh’s but believing they were false and not investigating further. As very credible evidence came in against MethodJosh, sponsors and guild members left the Method in droves and many former raiders went on to create Echo.
Method responded with disciplinary actions against Steffens, removing MethodJosh, apologizing, and attempting to rebuild. However, Echo functionally took their spot as the top 2 guild. Obviously, this was a major event in the WoW and RWF communities and one that can’t be done full justice here. If you want more information on what happened, see the video below and read the articles embedded.
Limit and Echo would be the two leaders heading into Catle Nathria and Limit knew that even with the seismic shifts from Method’s collapse, there was fundamentally not much a change in the level of RWF competition. Pressing the lead, Tagzz says that Limit continued to up their planning, preparation, and dedicated calling.
“You gotta have constant improvement, right? Take everything that worked well in Ny’alotha, bring it forward, and then also what else can we do to get better? One of those things was to bring in a dedicated healing caller. We also prepped more. We did damage tests and we just had longer meetings, more strat discussions.”
Tagzz would become the heal and defensives caller for the guild in Castle Nathria, giving Complexity Limit two eyes in the sky as well as the established support staff. The additional effort and heal calling got Complexity Limit another World First on the tier and marked 2020 as their year - a little golden age that NA had not seen in a long stretch of time.
[July - March 2022] Optimization arms race
Sustaining the golden age is where things get difficult with the RWF. Method, during their own dominance, would drop tiers every so often - including Crucible of Storms, where Pieces won. Even before the steaming era, the time after the Race gave the 2nd-5th place guilds plenty of opportunity to pour over their errors and to scout out a lot of things the number 1 did right.
Not to mention, Mythic runs are wildly uncertain affairs where any number of things can go poorly on their own - and even more so with the intervention of hotfixes, patches, bugs, and so on. Complexity Limit was the favorite heading into Sanctum of Domination in July 2021 but Echo was not far behind. The two were racing fairly evenly for the majority of the raid, trading position back and forth.
“They definitely outplayed [us] on Painsmith whilst there were some other bosses where we out-planned them, like Fatescribe” Thdlock says of the bosses down the final stretch. “On Fatescribe they were trying out all these crazy things - it was like the Jaina situation."
“[They were like,] ‘We’re gonna move it around! Spin it around!’ We’re like, so how long does this take to go around in a circle? [...] Just stand on it from the start and go around in a circle.” After Fatescribe, the tables would turn.
“We played pretty even on the rest of things but then I think the biggest jump was probably when we wasted an entire day beating our brains against KT [Kel’Thazud, the penultimate boss]. They out-planned us on that one pretty heavily.”
“That one was a misfire in the prep stage,” Tagzz chimes in. “On Kel’Thazud we actually had the right strategy at some point - we had found it in our PTR testing. [...] We had the correct strat, but right before the raid we thought, ‘Ah, nevermind it doesn’t work anymore.’ But we never actually tested that new assertion.” The gap generated by Kel’Thazud proved fatal and Echo decisively won Sanctum of Domination.
“Echo did a lot. They brought a lot of new things - innovations - overhauled a lot of their processes, the way they prepped. They came back from last raid to this one a completely different beast. They really thoroughly beat us on certain aspects - specifically on prep and some execution things.”
Given how much Echo improved on Sanctum of Domination, it feels like the streaming era is culminating in an arms race of optimizations. Just as Complexity Limit takes two tiers with radical changes to raid leading and much increased planning, Echo takes the next tier by overhauling their processes and preparing more efficiently. Immediately, Tagzz sees room for Limit to counter-optimize.
“We ended up being really close to being able to grab it but up to that point they thoroughly beat us. So there was a lot of things for us to learn from and bring our own versions of for next time. [...] The idea of constant of improvement, because you know that your opponent is doing the same, that’s always present.”
It’s likely more present than ever now that more eyes are falling onto the MMO space. The onset of streaming looks like it might launch the RWF straight into the world of the major esports orgs. Before 2022, Complexity and Red Bull were the biggest esport figures in RWF. Big figures, no doubt, but somewhat isolated ones. On January, that would change - first with Limit.
In a landmark deal, Limit Guild wouldn’t only partner with Liquid but take on the Liquid mantle, becoming Liquid Guild. Fitting to the old Limit style, Guild Master and Raid Leader Maximum would take a share in the company as well. It’s all planned to be a long-term deal, something to be interwoven into the identities of both Liquid and the Guild.
Not long after, SK Gaming announced a similar partnership with Pieces - also renaming that guild. If there was already an arms race of optimization before, one can only imagine what things will look like in the coming years. As this tier (Sepulcher of the First Ones) has progressed Tagzz and Limit are getting even deeper into the weeds with their improvements, scrounging to free up every minute in the hour.
“Something that we’ve done this tier, we spent a lot of time building out repeatable systems for things. Scripts to automatically pull things, parsers, some pretty crazy stuff. Automating as much as possible for the race, so that we can basically free up analysts during the race. One of the problems that’s addressing is that their bandwidth to do things is fully saturated by whatever x and y thing needs to happen ASAP, when they’re also working on a spreadsheet for next boss. [...] You run out of minutes in the hour.”
These are the kinds of innovations that all the top guilds need to search for. In a marathon esports event with 100-hour weeks, any moment saved, any process streamlined, could make the difference. It’s also a part of a look to the future that Liquid Guild sees as especially relevant. The multi-year deal is essentially a confirmation that the Guild wants to go for gold in every tier for the foreseeable future.
“For next raid [those improvements are] going to still be there and we can innovate greatly upon these things. It’s not just for this tier in front of us. We’re confident going into this raid; we think we should win. But, you know, if we don’t win I think we’re gonna show even more crazy new things the tier after because now we’re focused on the future too.”
With Mythic week rapidly approaching, that future will soon be now. As Liquid Guild moves onward, it’s worth taking one last moment to reflect on the distance they’ve travelled - and the name they’re changing.
[Onward] Limit to Liquid
In a name, there’s everything and nothing. For Liquid Guild that is still the case.
It struck me as epochal that Limit Guild had fully taken on a new name after nearly 7 years of raiding under Truefire’s original pick. It seemed like it must have been a huge decision to move away fro, “Limit Guild.” But then, much like the spreadsheet of names in 2015, this too wasn’t all that grand of a debate.
“There’s always been that sentiment where there’s been people in the Guild that never liked our name.” Tagzz chuckles, “There was definitely some of that. Some people were happy to ditch the name.”
More than that, though, they had outgrown the old “Limit.”
“I think the biggest thing for us in why we went that direction versus doing a partnership thing again was the time commitment. It seemed like the right move to do in our Guild’s maturity.”
“Limit” was for a guild that raided 25 hours a week. It was for a guild that was aiming for top 20 World - not top 1. This guild, in the here and now, is no longer limited by design. They’re no longer being ignored by Blizzard when they stumble on a bug. Instead, they’re causing a shutdown of the entire NA server. They’re not much silent either, turning their fun-loving attitude and cluttered comms into a very popular streaming and content presence.
So, in reality, “Liquid Guild” was no earth-shaking, controversial change for the raiders. If anything, it was just another step in the Race.
“Across the board it was pretty much just excitement,” Tagzz says. “That’s a pretty sweet name.”
Writer // Austin "Plyff" Ryan
Graphics // Zack "Zack Arts" Kiesewetter