A Farewell to Midwinter
Back in the first half of May, the World of Warcraft community received some unfortunate news: Midwinter, one of the longest-running raiding guilds in the game, called it quits and officially stopped raiding. A regular contender in the top echelons of the PVE raiding scene, Midwinter has long been a household name — especially for those of us who have been around this game for many years!
Upon discovering that the guild would no longer be raiding, we decided that their storied past deserved a proper farewell. We reached out to some of the original members of Midwinter to learn more about their origins, their best moments, and the secrets to their many years of success. Join us as we take a trip down memory lane with Brom, Gondlem, Kaowa, Kennyloggins, and Turkey.
Cheers to Midwinter — truly the end of an era!
Table of Contents
The Origin Story
Midwinter was first created on October 29th, 2006, just two and a half months prior to The Burning Crusade’s launch in January 2007. The guild’s first raid together was Karazhan. Yes that’s right, as we’re reliving the glory days of the Outlands in TBC Classic, we’re right back at the same content that marked Midwinter’s beginnings.
The group of players that made up the initial core of the guild came from another guild named Mystic Bond on the Doomhammer server. They were a group of IRL roommates and friends who moved to the Ysera server at the end of Vanilla to form Midwinter. This group included players such as the first GM of the guild — Jerrycakes — and other notable leadership such as Molark and Dwarf. They were all soon joined by Cactipete and Gwystyl, both GMs of the guild at later times.
After Karazhan, Midwinter moved on to the 25 man content, such as Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep. Still a new guild, they were mostly just getting their bearings during these first few raids. However, by the time Black Temple came out at the end of May 2007, Midwinter was on its way to start making a name for itself. They showed the likes of Illidan, Archimonde, and everyone else that they were, in fact, prepared!
“With Illidan, we were no longer behind the curve of content. We were waiting just like the other best guilds in the world.” — Jerrycakes
Sunwell was a turning point for Midwinter, where they evolved from a “good group of raiders” to an exceptional team. They managed to clear the entire raid before the big nerfs, which was definitely an achievement! They were joined at this time, while working on M’uru, by Gondlem, who was eventually made an officer at the start of Wrath of the Lich King. He became the Raid Leader in Ulduar after Jerrycakes retired and stayed in that role all the way through Midwinter’s US 1st Blackhand kill in Warlords of Draenor.
As the threat in Northrend arose and the heroes of Azeroth had to band together to defeat The Lich King, Midwinter was officially carving their path through World of Warcraft history.
Early Days: Wrath of the Lich King, Server Rivalries, and More!
Midwinter’s impressive ranks and achievements started to accrue in Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK). After clearing Sunwell at approximately the US 250 rank, they stormed out of the gates in WotLK with a solid showing in Naxxramas, US 13th Alone in the Darkness (aka Yogg-Saron “0”), US 39th Algalon, US 17th Heroic Fall of the Lich King, and many more.
We asked the Midwinter crew what sparked this rise in the ranks…was it a change in philosophy? Well, kind of. Was it new leadership? Somewhat, but not entirely. Was it an influx of better skilled players? A little bit. One identifiable cause behind Midwinter’s jump to the top was, believe it or not, drama!
It was a cold, dark night. The moon was nowhere to be seen, making it… dark. Storm clouds were brewing as two bitter rivals faced off, ready to battle for server dominance. One would be crowned the best guild of Ysera, while the other would perish. Midwinter versus Alpha…
Now that we’ve appropriately set the stage with zero melodrama whatsoever… yes, there was actually a server rivalry between Midwinter and the other top guild on Ysera, Alpha, that can be credited – in part, not in whole – for Midwinter’s meteoric rise. Back in Sunwell, Midwinter raided 20 hours per week, maximum. There was no overtime, no day raiding or big progression pushes. They certainly had performance standards that needed to be met and were not above replacing underperforming players, but nothing crazy happened in terms of pushing for rank.
This started to change near the end of TBC when Midwinter picked up a new raider: Kras. The Shadow Priest had previously been a member of Alpha, who were a “hardcore” guild at the time, and he was looking for a more laid-back environment, so he joined Midwinter during Black Temple. Midwinter at this time was known more as a “serious casual” type guild with defined raiding hours, a strict prohibition against negative conduct towards fellow raiders, etc. A couple weeks later, another Alpha member quit and joined Midwinter — the Warrior Maldor. Kras ended up as a long-term member of the guild through to Mists of Pandaria, and Maldor stopped raiding in late WotLK. The remaining members of Alpha apparently took strong objection to their players joining the likes of Midwinter!
For those of us with long memories, think back to these days of WoW — when anything that mattered took place on the server forums. Ysera’s server forums had a fair bit of trash talk from Alpha directed towards Midwinter. However, Midwinter’s leadership forbade its members from responding to the drama and stirring the pot. So how did Midwinter “get back” at Alpha? On the rankings, of course! Alpha’s actions essentially created a Midwinter that didn’t just want to clear content — they wanted to clear it before Alpha. Steadily throughout WotLK, there was an incremental increase in expectations for time commitment, preparation, and performance from the Midwinter raiders. They collectively became more and more “hardcore” in an effort to put Alpha in their place…and it actually worked! While Alpha did beat Midwinter to killing Anub’arak in Trial of the Crusader, Midwinter earned the top spot on Algalon and the pinnacle of WotLK raiding: Icecrown Citadel Heroic (25 man).
More importantly, the Midwinter raiding environment didn’t change as a result of this rivalry. Almost out of a desire to counter and oppose Alpha’s reputation and image of being the super ruthless, hardcore guild, Midwinter stayed true to their philosophy of making a guild that was welcoming and an enjoyable place to raid. Guild leadership is proud to say that they never had screaming in their raids and players were never belittled for making mistakes. These elements of their raid environment stayed with Midwinter until their very last raid together.
“The whole ‘treat people like human beings’ thing was there from the start.”
Alpha ended up leaving Ysera not too long after Ulduar and the rivalry ended up dying out over the next expansion or so, aside from a few flare-ups here and there. Alpha is actually still raiding over on the Whisperwind server, where they just recently got their Cutting Edge kill of The Jailer on Mythic!
Philosophy of Success
No guild would be able to last as long and as successfully as Midwinter without a strong and cohesive philosophy behind it. We asked the Midwinter crew what this philosophy was, and how it evolved over time.
One of the original members and early GMs of the guild, Pete, once summarized the secret behind so much of Midwinter’s success in a post 10 years ago, and it has held true to this day:
“It literally was just a bunch of friends who loved raiding with each other. What made the guild so successful was amazing leadership, and amazing commitment from the raiders. The philosophy was to make raiders love showing up to raid regardless of how quick you kill bosses. We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. No yelling, no humiliation tactics to make people play better. We believe that sort of approach did the opposite for the raiders we had. We just made raiding enjoyable.”
While Midwinter’s philosophy of creating an environment based on mutual respect and enjoyment didn’t change over the years, the expectations for commitment levels and performance did. From TBC to the first parts of WotLK, lesser-skilled players started to get phased out for slightly better ones. As the skill level of the guild increased as a result, so did the general expectations of everyone else. Around Ulduar, Midwinter started adding an extra day or so of raiding each tier. By the time Cataclysm launched, the guild was raiding every day for the first week or two of each new raid tier in order to push rankings.
“There was clearly a desire to commit more to raiding. With the release of MoP Beta, raid testing, and the advent of streaming, there was overall a ton of energy and excitement for the game. This energy was channeled not only into longer raid hours, but also into spending more time talking about the game offline, like staying up until 3am discussing how to handle pillars in phase 1 of Lei Shen. People wanted to game, so we gamed.” —Kennyloggins
After having achieved US 10th Heroic Ragnaros, US 5th Heroic Spine of Deathwing, and US 6th Heroic Madness of Deathwing, Midwinter had firmly established themselves as one of the top guilds in the US by the time Mists of Pandaria came around in September 2012. The momentum the guild had gained only continued to build, which they capitalized on by making the decision to start live-streaming progression, starting with Mogu’shan Vaults. This marked the first time a top guild showed their progression to the masses on stream, and it was a pretty controversial decision within the guild itself. On the plus side, this resulted in more exposure, and stronger recruitment and sales, but at the cost of in-game harassment, memes, chat distractions, and even potential DDOS attacks. However, it did lead to Kripparian, who raided with Midwinter on a Hunter for this tier, becoming the #1 stream on Twitch at the time with 3000 viewers (this was actually a massive number 10 years ago!)
As Kripparian’s Twitch viewership rose, so did Midwinter’s rankings! They earned US 4th in the first three raids of the expansion, and then improved upon that in Throne of Thunder to get US 2nd/World 5th Heroic Lei Shen and US 2nd/World 4th Heroic Ra-Den. They finished off Mists of Pandaria with a most impressive US 2nd/World 5th kill of Heroic Garrosh Hellscream. These high rankings persisted throughout Warlords of Draenor, with Midwinter earning US 1st/World 3rd Mythic Blackhand and US 4th Mythic Archimonde. Come Legion, however, things started to slow down… but not for long.
“As WoW required heavier time investments such as artifact power, our desire to continue playing the game waned. This led to the guild calling it quits near the end of Nighthold, only to revive a week later with a more casual schedule and no character power requirements.” —Turkey
This “casual” schedule didn’t stay casual for very long though, as the guild quickly ramped back into raiding 4-5 days a week, including day raiding for the launch of each new Mythic tier. It would appear you can’t hold back a guild like Midwinter from the top, as they finished off Legion with a US 9th kill of Mythic Argus.
Underlying this monumental success was the Midwinter philosophy that held true over all these many years since the guild was first created in 2006: “Treat people like human beings”. By fostering an environment built on respect while still maintaining expectations of performance, we’ve come to understand that raiding in Midwinter was both a privilege, and a heck of a lot of fun! Many of the guild’s members stayed on the roster for years, which is actually pretty notable considering how often we see turnaround in the rosters of top raiding guilds these days. Midwinter found a recipe for success early on, and stuck with it.
Let’s take a closer look at Midwinter’s leadership over the years. Who were the key figures involved in the guild’s longevity, and how did they contribute to their success? How did the leadership evolve over time?
Interestingly enough, throughout all periods of the guild and all transitions of leadership, there was always some continuity, even if it meant someone came back after 2+ years hiatus.
|2006-2008||TBC / WotLK||Jerry - Guild Founder, left after Naxx in WotLK|
|2008-2010||WotLK||Gwystyl - until end of WotLK|
|2010-2012||Cataclsym / MoP||Pete - all of Cata until end of T14 in MoP|
|2012-2014||MoP||Roids - until end of MoP|
|2014-2016||WoD / Legion||Kaowa - until end of Legion|
|2016-2018||Legion||Roids - from Tomb of Sargeras until end of Legion|
|2018-2021||BFA / Islands||Turkey - all of BFA, Islands until after Castle Nathria|
|2021-2022||Slands||Brom - Sanctum and Sepulcher|
Other key figures apparently worth mentioning — aptly titled “other geeks” — are Gondlem, who was the Raid Leader for many tiers, and Fusoya, who was the core figure in keeping the guild bank stocked during the hardcore years. It is said he is still asking for Blizzard to create an “Alchemy Hat” to boost potion and flask creation speeds after all this time.
The leadership evolved in natural sync with the increasing expectations and performance of the guild. The GMs of Midwinter and their officers maintained the core philosophies while continuing to push their raiders to improve each tier. The only significant change in leadership was after the above-mentioned moment in Nighthold where the guild made the decision to quit raiding hardcore, and instead adopt a casual schedule. This was when Roids came back and retook the mantle of Midwinter GM. After the guild’s massive success under his leadership in MoP, it made perfect sense for him to return to the post. Roids was the catalyst for reforming under a more casual umbrella, as he could not see a world where Midwinter ceased raiding. However, despite Roids being against raiding more, the hardcore blood of the Midwinter core could not be held back and the guild was quickly reinvested in pushing ranks. Midwinter essentially repeated its original evolution from casual to hardcore, except at a much faster pace!
We asked the Midwinter crew what the secret was behind so many years of success. Clearly, the strong philosophy and raid environment played a significant part, but we asked them to boil it down. They attribute much of their success to focusing on being a community over just a guild — such as spending downtime with each other, playing other games like League of Legends and Path of Exile. Strong leadership was another factor, as can be evidenced by the fairly long tenures each GM has had over the years. Lastly, a key to Midwinter’s success is something they call “Ludology”, which according to the crew is both the ‘study of games’ and a funny sounding word — so basically, multiple benefits.
Highlights and Memories
We’ve talked about Midwinter’s history in terms of rankings, performance, and leadership — but a guild is like an onion and has many layers. Yes, this is a Shrek reference - deal with it. We wanted to know more about Midwinter beyond just what world rank they killed a boss at and who the GMs were over time. What made Midwinter so much fun…what made players stick around for so many years, and what made them keep coming back? Let’s take a look at some of Midwinter’s best moments, achievements, and memories from the last 16 years!
Turkey’s favourite Midwinter memories from in-game content are Siegecrafter Blackfuse, Blackhand, and Iron Maidens. According to Turkey, Siegecrafter Blackfuse was the first fight where it really felt like the guild got to experience an early kill without videos.
“Seeing other guilds pick up our strategy and use it going forward was awesome.”
Blackhand and Iron Maidens were monumental because they were World 3rd and World 1st kills, respectively.
Being a part of Midwinter was also the source of amazing memories for Turkey in real-life, such as participating in RWF events and community charity streams, and meeting all of the new and existing faces at BlizzCon each year. He also got the opportunity to play twice at BlizzCon during the Live Raid events versus Method!
Kennyloggins’s favourite Midwinter memories include getting DDOS’d after being awarded Kripp’s loot off the Stone Dog boss in Mogu’shan Vaults, and some BlizzCon shenanigans that may have been fuelled by some various amounts of corn whiskey!
“I could tell this guild was different when I had an in-depth conversation in guild chat with Gondlem about The Wire during my trial.” —Kenny
Several milestones for the guild stand out for Gondlem. These include Algalon (US 39th), which was Midwinter’s first “server first” kill on a significant boss, and a sign of progress for the guild. Sinestra (US 10th) was the end of the first tier where they went a bit more hardcore and did some weekend raiding, and managed to land US 10th after a long grind. Heroic Lei Shen (US 2nd / World 5th) was the guild’s first kill in the top 5 in the World on a significant boss, and Gondlem’s favourite raid boss of all time!
Siegecrafter Blackfuse was the first significant boss where the guild developed their own strat, learned it and killed the boss without a video to assist them, which was a very different raiding experience. Gondlem was very proud of this strat — it ended up being the best way to approach the encounter, and was used by many guilds afterwards!
The first tier of WoD was the most hardcore the guild ever went. They raided long hours trying to compete with the best guilds in the world, but the first half of the tier up to Imperator Mar’gok did not go as well as hoped. However, Midwinter learned from the experience, cut some hours for some more rest and strat development time and turned it around in Blackrock Foundry. The peak of this was landing a World 1st kill on Iron Maidens, which was a moderately difficult boss in the later part of the raid.
Lastly, Gondlem fondly remembers the guild’s US 1st / World 3rd kill of Blackhand. They finished the tier strongly, landing a region-first kill on an end boss where, once again, they developed their own strat and killed it without a video to guide them. For Gondlem, this was the peak of raiding.
Midwinter was long known as being behind some of the best and most memorable BlizzCon parties over the years. What was the secret behind this? Apparently, the recipe for BlizzCon party success is:
- Swag (lapel pins)
- Multi-month preparation
- Knowing Alliance is the best (author’s note: debatable)
- Knowing how AirBnB works and how to ignore their rules
- Turkey and Euph
- Following the Midwinter philosophy of being respectful and kind-natured. Midwinter encouraged anyone and everyone to come over to their BlizzCon house, providing an open environment for people to hang out!
We asked the Midwinter group as a whole to tell us the things they are the most proud of when they look back on the many years of the guild. Their response is uniquely Midwinter.
“Finishing Mythic Jailer without quitting, filling the metaphorical tank of future generations of WoW raiders, and most importantly: fighting through adversity and providing a one-of-a-kind experience for the past 16 years.” —Midwinter
Now that Midwinter has officially hung up their proverbial skates, and with no reprisal a la post-Legion on the horizon, we asked the Midwinter crew what was in store for them moving forward. With such a big part of their lives coming to an end, what’s next?
Apparently, it’s nothing too major… just simple and straight-forward things like going to the moon, discussing moral dilemmas and philosophy over Discord, and living their lives.
The members of Midwinter definitely plan to stay in touch on their KILLER DISCORD
Regardless of where life or WoW takes them, we as a community want to give everyone that has been a part of Midwinter over the years a hearty congratulations for the many years of success. You certainly have made your mark and have left behind a legacy to be proud of. Glasses up, hats off, and cheers to Midwinter!
- Follow Brom on Twitter
- Follow Gondlem on Twitter
- Follow Kaowa on Twitter
- Follow Kenny on Twitter
- Follow Turkey on Twitter