There are any number of ways to look at how much you might enjoy any given raid encounter. How much fun is it to tank? How much fun is it to raid lead? How challenging was progression, and how repeatable is it to farm? How epic did it feel? I haven’t been raiding for nearly as long as some, but there have been some standout raid encounters that I’ve truly enjoyed over and over again, no matter how many times we killed them, and others that I’ve hated from the first pull. It’s an interesting subject to me, because I can’t always identify commonalities. Some fights should have all the elements to be amazing, but just don’t hold up. Others seems like they should be very forgettable, and yet live on.
It’s an interesting subject, further, because there are fights that I hate as a tank, but love as a raid leader. A great example of this is Twilight Ascendant Council. It’s boring as hell to tank, one very rarely feels at risk, and is never challenged in any real way (aside from BoP on time and raidwall on time in P3). But as a raid leader, it’s one of my favorite fights in T11. You get a nice warmup phase with just a little bit of reacting to debuffs to get people psyched up for P2. You get a personal accountability phase, where any given raid member has the opportunity to wipe you horribly – a phase where DPS is of minimal import, but handling mechanics is critical. And then you get P3, where you just find a way to squeeze out every last ounce of DPS and HPS and hope you win before it gets too crazy. The raid leader in me loves the changes of pace, and loves the way that P1 and P2 impact and set up P3. The raid leader in me, quite frankly, loves the phase that puts people on the spot. No other fight in the tier has been quite so successful at highlighting weaknesses in our raid – and no other fight has been quite so successful at forcing us to improve. Conversely, Cho’gall is an interesting and challenging fight to tank (as a paladin, warriors are hax), given movement requirements and the timing required to place pools in a good position. As a raid leader, though – meh. It’s very brute-forcey, there isn’t any kind of finesse involved.
Sticking with the T11 theme, I quite enjoy Omnitron and Maloriak, and earlier incarnations of Magmaw. I think Halfus is a really interesting fight, simply because it’s the most front-loaded fight I’ve ever seen Blizzard create. Nefarian, Chimaeron, and Atramedes I find to be somewhat lacking. Perhaps because P3 Nefarian is just so mechanical for everyone that isn’t the kiter, an otherwise good fight feels strangely lackluster at the end. V+T was an RNG mess before the nerfs, and now it’s a joke. Despite T11 being perhaps the most difficult tier of content that Blizzard has ever released, I wonder if any of the fights will live on for me in the same way that my all time favorites do.
So what are the fights that I consider truly epic – brilliant in a long lasting and memorable kind of way? Firefighter, Freya3, and M’uru, certainly, are fights that I found to be amazing fun both as a tank and a raid leader. They both challenged every aspect of the raid at once, including the tanks. Getting them down for the first time felt like a real rush and accomplishment. Aside from being challenging in a raid-wide way, these fights have very little in common with each other. Each was new and interesting for it’s time, though. Each put together mechanics in an interesting and fresh kind of way, and presented various different challenges to think through and then execute. I’m not sure I could describe any of those fights in one line by referencing bosses that came before them, as was so very common in ICC.
Surely, though, an epic fight is more than simply not rehashing mechanics, and more than challenge. There have been difficult fights with new and interesting mechanics that never captured that certain something that made them amazing: Many people will disagree, but Arthas and Halion both fall in this category. Neither boss was trivial, and neither felt rehashed, but neither really captured that certain something that will make them stand out forever. Nefarian, Cho’gall, Sinestra – time will tell how we look back on them, but right now I just can’t see it. What common thread binds together the games most epic and amazing encounters? The truth is, I don’t know myself. Perhaps one day I’ll figure it out.
What are some of your favorite fights, and why? What’s going to live on forever in your memories?