SteelDragons was talking about encounter design, too. Most of the things you like to harp on me for happen during encounter design, too. E.g. the beholder ship: I decided on the beholder's motivations and internal structure (fractious, no hive mother) during the encounter design process, because I wanted a graduated difficulty where the players can opt in to fighting an ever-increasing number of beholders over the course of several encounters.
The difference is that if the players do opt to fight them, I am perfectly willing to kill the PCs (killed two PCs with the beholders), and you are not. That's okay, it doesn't make you a wimp, but it is a difference between our playstyles, as Tony says.
This is a very wrong statement. If my players chose to engage the beholders, I would ruthlessly try to annihilate them including pursuing them after they chose to run, providing the beholders with aircraft capable of matching a fly spell.
This is where you are getting confused. I do not pull punches once the encounter starts. Not even a little bit. I'm the guy that has humanoids kill fallen PCs at low level after they drop so the cleric can't heal them back up. I am ruthless once the encounter starts and do not allow PCs to run unless they have the means to outrun the enemy.
I did not note Steeldragons talking about encounter design. Even if he was, I do not pull punches during encounter design. Anyone that thinks so is ignorant. Creating an encounter that challenges a party of min-maxers would kill non-min/maxer groups. The only difference I can discern in our play-styles is that I view an encounter of 24 beholders against a party of less than level 10 to 12 adventurers as a nearly impossible encounter. I would play the beholders with ruthless efficiency intending to kill the players. You choose to play them as fractious and disorganized. I would not make that choice.
Why exactly do you think an encounter intended to challenge a group of min-maxers would be an encounter that was pulling punches? Explain that to me. The encounter is far above deadly per the book. It involves the design of NPC villains that can counter the commonly used tactics that allow a PC group to crush NPC villains. It involves designing these NPCs/Monsters in such a way that they can kill the group, but can't do so easily.
I'll ask the same question. Do you think an encounter is fun when you as a player have zero chance of victory and zero chance of avoiding the encounter? Once you understand that is the only thing I'm trying to avoid, you'll see clearly I'm not trying to "protect my players", "pull punches", or "am not willing to kill my PCs." What I don't want to do is kill them while giving them no chance of winning. That is what I consider challenging (death must be a possibility or goal failure) while not trying to kill them (0% chance of survival or victory).
That is not in anyway the same as what you're talking about.
One final thought before I put this matter to rest. Ask yourself why would a DM even concern himself with trying not to kill his players with encounters that are too strong? Because that DM had killed his players enough times that the players had voiced their displeasure with encounters that seem too difficult and intended to kill them. If that DM wants to keep players playing (which I do), I don't want to keep killing players. Maybe your players don't mind dying all the time. I don't know. My players would become extremely unhappy when I kill them with a seemingly impossible to defeat encounter. They got tired of that years back. So I've worked on toning it down over the years. Maybe you'll reach the point where you've killed your players enough times they'll get tired of playing with you and ask you stop throwing 24 beholders that pursue them to the death as encounters. I don't feel like testing that point any longer myself.