Hello Monday morning. Time for some delicious QQ to start the week off right!
I really liked Cataclysm a great deal, and I cared deeply about having some compelling raid encounters to finish off what has become my favorite WOW expansion so far. I especially wanted to kill Deathwing dead considering he’s been making a big nuisance of himself for the last 18 months or so. I was ready for an epic finish! So I’m going to give you my thoughts, one by one, on each of the bosses of Dragon Soul and T13. We’ll all be staring at these encounters until Mists of Pandaria, after all, so let’s chat.
You know, I realize that the devs know a lot more than I do about the psychology of gaming and what gamers find fun, what makes us start playing and keep playing once we’re hooked on this crack of a game. I have to imagine that encounters along the line of Morchok (and Shannox in Firelands, and half of ICC H) are part of this decision making process. They’re easy for a reason. The devs probably think, “The first encounter in the zone needs to be easy. That way once a guild starts in on heroic modes, they get that gratifying boss-dead feeling right away. Even if that guild proceeds to get stuck on the next one, at least they’ll get one dead, and feel good.”
That’s not my fun. I think it’s kind of insulting when the first heroic boss is much easier than the final normal encounter. But I’m not the target audience for Morchok. It kind of sucks to write off a boss every tier though.
H Yorsahj & Zonozz
To be honest, they were two of my favorite fights that I’ve ever worked on. They had all the things that I like in a fight. They had moving parts. They had strategies that could differ from guild to guild depending on how you chose to do them. They both had add phases that required off-boss time combined with an enrage timer that guilds were likely to see while they worked on the fight. They each had positioning checks and failure checks that would wipe you when you fucked them up. The only thing I didn’t like about these fights is that Moshne always marks me for Zonozz and sometimes stealth marks me after the fight has begun, which makes it really embarrassing when I lose count of how many black phases we’ve been through and go off and kill adds like a retard.
Some of my fondest memories of this tier involved our work on both these bosses. The early work on Yorsahj, talking through as a raid which ooze to kill on every combination, and then changing our minds as the fight got cleaner and we decided to focus more DPS on the boss. Sitting in melee chat on Zonozz talking through interrupts on the eye stalks or discussing how many adds to kill that week. Knowing that I had to move efficiently, DPS efficiently, use cooldowns smartly and use personal survivability cooldowns too. I know these were early fights, which was a shame, but I thought they were both pretty cool.
I actually got a sneak peak at Hagara before it went into Dragon Soul, and I was very impressed at all the moving parts that had been put into this fight. I thought it looked so very cool, and so promising on heroic! Different phases, positioning requirements that changed based on phase and a great deal of organization required before going in… it looked like a lot of fun. I thought of it as the flagship encounter for the tier, and of all the fights we would see I was most looking forward to seeing it. But it ended up being, surprise, the second easiest fight on 25. It was the Staghelm of DS. Why? Tuning. All the interesting mechanics in the world won’t save a fight when they don’t matter.
Those Hagara mechanics were a joke. They could be fucked up, healed through, cheated, and otherwise ignored even in last tier’s gear. What if the whole raid actually had to DO ice phase? What if tombs or Ice Lance really had to be handled perfectly? What if she had come with a harsh enrage timer so you had to be damn precise about how quickly each phase went? None of these things were true. She took messy and imprecise play and rewarded it after about 50% effort with a kill. She was my least favorite encounter in DS, and that’s a shame, because I thought she looked so very impressive. Instead, the best that can be said about Hagara is that she has annoying mechanics. Not hard. Annoying. And what irks me so much about Hagara is that that didn’t have to be true.
I loved this encounter. I’m not going to lie. I thought it was amazing. Sometimes there is something really compelling about a rock bottom simple encounter with one serious performance check: the enrage timer. Ultraxion was just super fun. Maybe it’s because I was DPS for the first time this tier and I loved the challenge of just being a DPS. Maybe it’s because there were little things that were not difficult, Fading Light, but that rewarded you more and more for being as precise as you could be. Maybe it’s because ret paladins were just OP here. Well, I thought it was awesome. I don’t want all my encounters to be simple but it’s really nice to always have one. And there were some moving parts on Ultrax; fading light meant you had to pay attention, and it rewarded you more and more for being more precise (and immediately punished you with death and embarrassment if you cut it too close). I even got to be in a cooldown rotation, too. I just liked it from start to finish. But I’m a DPS, and more than that, a ret paladin; Ultrax was our fight. It was our house, and we weren’t sharing with anyone but the fire mages. Blizz hadn’t nerfed Gurth yet, either. Geez, no wonder I liked it.
I remember doing this fight and immediately thinking of it as The Redemption of Gunship. I liked this fight. Which is funny, because this fight was the least melee friendly fight we did. It was very annoying to get in melee range of everything I needed to deeps, especially those drakes, and also to soak puddles. If I wasn’t extremely careful I might find myself spending half of the time in phase 1 just running around like an idiot from add to add, or standing out of range. But I respected it for that same reason. Ret had a couple really friendly fights; it’s totally ok to have a couple that aren’t so good for us. Any idiot ret can faceroll out 75% of Simcrafted dps on Ultraxion and feel like a superstar because they’re still on the top of their meter. But you actually need to have some care and precision to do well on Blackhorn as melee, precision in movement and in really paying attention to where you are. In some ways that’s almost more fun. I didn’t always succeed, but I always felt challenged. Anyways, I liked it a ton, I thought it was a pretty fun fight to do.
The bad part about Blackhorn was that it was the first of three buggy encounters. Fake fire all over the place. Invisible boss romping around killing your raid if you wiped and someone feign-deathed. Ugh.
You can’t talk about H Spine without talking about The Nerf, so let’s discuss it. I don’t know how I feel about it. On one hand, I HATE seeing fights nerfed before we see them. I bitched and moaned so much when it was nerfed, and nerfed so hard. On the other hand, this fight was broken. The 18 second tendon burn mechanic is one of the stupidest mechanics that Blizzard has ever seen fit to place into an encounter. Blizzard doesn’t balance DPS classes around 18 second burns, they just don’t, and then they toss a fight in there that requires six burns for success? So incredibly dumb.
For the record, our kill was February 10th, the second week post nerf. We had to work hard for it, very hard but it’s almost pathetic how little work we had to put into it compared to the guilds that had slaved for hundreds of wipes before us.
We fall into a strange category because of the fact that we are hardcore in attitude yet in some ways aggressively casual about limiting the time that we pump into the game. That’s the point of raiding three nights a week– and there are other guilds like us. If you sort 3 night guilds on WOW Progress, you’ll find that not a single 3 night guild killed Spine pre-nerf. Several were close. Three of those guilds killed it immediately, on their first raid night post nerf. But no one had it before. We put three weeks of work into it, and we were the sixth US 3 night guild to take it down.
I have to wonder… Could we have done it pre nerf, without altering our roster, without alts? We raid with 4 mages, 2 rets, 3 rogues, 2 shadow priests. I think we’re all strong players who would have been precise, who would have come to put out 95%-100% of what was effectively possible. Maybe we could have done it. Maybe not.
We will never know, because Blizzard gutted the fight when they nerfed tendons by 15% and the whole thing 5% at the same time. It became doable without alt stacking at all. Basically Blizzard turned a 400 pull fight into a two-to-three week fight for a normal, reasonably serious raiding guild.
“Fixed?” “Gutted?” I’ve heard both adjectives applied to it. I’ve fought the argument on both sides. I think both are true.
Regardless of what you thought of The Nerf, I think we can all agree that Spine was a shitty fucking encounter. It was a glorified trash gauntlet with a brief, stupid, broken burn mechanic. That does not an interesting fight make. I don’t think it’s the worst encounter in DS, but it’s certainly not very compelling.
I’ll admit that I, personally, enjoy doing that fight. I get a job to do, and I generally love fights where I have a special task, and I get to kill bloods and count them and pay attention to where they are, and adjust my cleave carefully – and I can wipe the raid if I cleave retardedly, and I get to bitch and moan at anyone doing any more cleave than me. So I like it. But that doesn’t make the fight not suck.
Frankly I don’t remember a whole lot about this encounter. Some might say that’s not a surprise because there was nothing really all that memorable about it (they’d be right, it was pretty boring). Others might remind me that our Madness kill video features yours truly running into an explosion in true Retardadin form, and then Lay On Handsing herself back to full in panic mode. I don’t know what those people are talking about. That totally never happened. I have blocked it out of my memory.
I remember one thing about Madness: Thrall dropping people. Over and over and over. That was, by far, the hardest mechanic.
We spent more time theorycrafting how precisely to jump from platform to platform to avoid losing someone on the jump than we did working on any other mechanic in this boring encounter.
Opinions varied. My raid leader was adamant that stopping (to reset your position), and then strafing was the way to go, but he admitted to us that that was just his guess. We also experimented with jumping in the middle of the platform, or jumping in specific places. We made sure we didn’t use any abilities that gave us speed boosts, supposedly those contributed to the problem. In the end, we never really came up with a system that effectively put everyone on their desired platform without inexplicably falling to their deaths. Geez, it’s too bad Blizzard didn’t put a backup plan in there, like “if the game can’t figure out where you are, default to your old platform,” eh?
As for the rest, it was pretty boring. Platforms 1, 2, and 3 were yawn. I hate encounters that are boring for 10 minutes. Why does Blizz do this? So an encounter that starts off boring is compelling design? Is that supposed to make the fight feel epic? Whatever. Platform 4 at least had a couple different failure points where you could fairly effectively wipe the raid with a mistake, and then a DPS check on the end that was there to ensure that everyone was alive. That was about it. The joke is that once you’ve killed Spine, grats on your Madness kill.
It wasn’t really the way I wanted to remember the end of my raiding experience in Cataclysm.
Conclusion: A big dragon does not an epic encounter make.
Looking back on the last 18 months of World of Warcraft, I suppose I really was looking forward to the end. The big bad boss. The final encounter. Deathwing had killed us all over Azeroth and I was ready to kill his ass dead. I was definitely, definitely ready to cap off an expansion with my favorite group of people. And to have that epic encounter consist of Spine and Madness was simply disappointing in the extreme.
Even if I liked some of the encounters in DS – even if I enjoyed doing about half of it – those last two fights were just… depressing. Even if you count them together as one long encounter in two parts, they suck. There are no redeeming features about them. They were designed as boring fights – on paper, they’re just not that interesting. I can’t understand how Madness in particular made it past the design phase. They’re just long and repetitive. The execution was incredibly poor, too – the broken nature of Spine, the bugs that continue to plague Madness. To have these fights represent what we were working towards since Deathwing split the world wide open was just plain sad.
Recently I was reading a Wow-Insider DS Retrospective and couldn’t believe how heavily I disagreed with it. I honestly didn’t think we were raiding the same instance.
I challenge you to find one heroic mode raider who can tell you with a straight face that they thought Spine and Madness were epic. Go ahead on down to the comments and disagree if you are one of these people – I’d love to hear that someone else was less disappointed than I was. In the end, they sucked.
So the grade I’d give DS as a whole is: Mediocre.
Just mediocre. Not very memorable, with an extremely disappointing finish.
Now tell me what you thought.Did you like any of the fights in DS? Did you find that the whole thing was a disappointment like I did? What did you think?