You know that feeling sometimes, that those of us in our 20s or 30s get about our college days? We’ll look back and think, “Man, those were the best days of my life.” And that’s kind of a sad thought, that you’re already done with the best and most fun years you’ll ever have. WOW players get like that about certain tiers – I hear it about Kara, about Sunwell, about Ulduar. Myself, I’ve always felt that way about Tier 11. Tier 11 was wonderful, but it was wonderful to me in an increasingly bittersweet way. I felt that the game had slowly changed since then. I wasn’t sure whether to be sad, or angry… but I spent most of 2011 and 2012 fairly convinced that I would never again see a tier I liked quite as much.
I was wrong. Tier 14 was absolutely fantastic.
Now that I am 16/16H and Anafielle the Fearless, I’d like to look back on this tier’s content. What follows are some memories of each of our 16 encounters in the chronological order that Something Wicked progressed through them on 25 Heroic.
I might have loved T11, but not everyone felt the same way. Someone once told me that the lack of a ‘starter boss’ was a serious flaw in T11 – the first bosses (Halfus, Omnotron, and Magmaw) were all too complicated. They frustrated poor raiders who’d just entered the instance. The first boss needed to be a total pushover so that raids would get some free loot before they moved along. In particular, a council fight as the first boss was completely inappropriate; there are simply too many different abilities involved.
Seriously? But it was true: T12 and T13 brought us Shannox and Morchok! Ugh. Pull the boss, and a couple minutes later they would politely gift your raid with epics. I figured this was simply how the first boss would always work moving forward. Sad to just write off the first boss each tier…
How wrong I was to doubt. When we pulled Stone Guard, and I realized it was half Omnotron and half Halfus, plus some totally new stuff like tiles and some kind of taunt trade for positioning… you can imagine that I was very surprised and pleased.
I wouldn’t call Stone Guard difficult, but they were certainly tricky. This fight had a lot of moving parts. So it’s a good thing that our tanks Omegal (@MysticalOS on twitter) and Shiramune, as well as half our healing team, tested absolutely everything on the MOP Beta extensively and thoroughly both to help Omegal build working DBM timers as well as to learn the fights. That experience was invaluable.
See, I don’t actually know how Stone Guard works. I am fairly certain that no one in Something Wicked knew how that taunt trade worked except Shiramune, but he had it figured out, and called out everything so clearly that screwing anything up would have been much more impressive than actually doing it right. Thus Something Wicked was carried to our first heroic kill by our DK tank (as usual).
Stone Guard also cemented my love affair with Hand of Purity and with our entire, re-designed talent tree. Paladins really came out ahead in MOP; it’s blindingly obvious the designers like us best. They really should try to be more fair.
We actually took out SG so quickly that we also managed Feng in that first week of heroics, slipping into the US top 30. Getting two heroic kills in the first week of heroics in 463 gear remains a favorite raiding memory of mine. I know a lot of people complained about the click bug. I don’t know what kind of magic Omegal and Shira managed, but with a combination of addons, UI reloads and beta practice, we made it happen.
I liked Feng. I admired his design. I thought it was rather cool to pull each of the 4 phases and learn them one by one before putting them all together in order to push the kill – Moshne called him the “Choose your own adventure” boss. It made the encounter a lot easier, but that was perfectly acceptable for the 2nd heroic of 16. If this was how the designers were going to build a starter heroic boss, I felt that said promising things about the 14 fights we had left to go.
I don’t know if I should have, but I rather liked this fight. When we did this (kill dated October 26th), you still had to maintain 6 minutes of straight cooldown coverage on the tanks; sadly gear has made this now unnecessary. Our paladins took care of the whole thing with Clemency and careful organization. I find that kind of thing really fun – I love using my paladin utility. Being a DPS check that ret looked decent on also helped.
I wanted to like Elegon. This fight was almost cool. I’ll give it a C, but an A for effort and for looks. Elegon just wasn’t that impressive as a DPS check; honestly, Garajal was tighter. The problem was the sparks: any tighter and he would have required Spine type stacking. As it was, the DPS check was just too loose to really present a serious challenge. It was a very pretty fight, though; I’ll give it that.
Before I talk about this fight, let’s pause and discuss the reset problem first. I don’t care what order you wanted – everyone reset for their chosen order. It made pulling this massively unpleasant, which is a shame since actually doing it was fantastic. SK was arguably the best fight of the tier, and it’s really too bad that first couple dozen guilds that saw this had to put up with the resetting. The fact that Blizzard cemented the order for the BL / Vodka race and yet refused to do it for the rest of us, leaving the peons to reset over and over for a couple more weeks, was just insulting. At least the order was eventually fixed, long after we had it killed. In the meantime, we got an amusing video out of it.
Setting that aside, this fight was just fantastic. My first thought when I pulled this: “Oh my god… they get it. The designers really get it.” Raiders in general loved Spirit Kings. I don’t think I really need to explain why. If you liked Omnotron, you liked this fight.
Blade Lord Tayak
I thought this fight was a little boring, despite how amusing it was to fail on tornadoes (even with a bubble cheat) and to watch other people fail. It was the first fight of the tier that I hadn’t really been all that excited to pull. As a ret, his out-of-melee-range specials were pretty annoying to deal with. But he wasn’t a bad fight, I just didn’t love it. Bonus points for being a fight with a mechanic paladins could break.
Wind Lord Meljarak
Let’s get this out of the way: this fight was easy. It was laughably, hilariously easy. I think we killed it in 10 pulls, and 9 of them were Stampede breaking the CC. But that’s ok; there seems to always be one fight in a long tier that – oops! – is actually simpler on heroic than on normal. It happens. And I rather liked pulling Wind Lord in general, because I get to cleave on this fight and cleave is fun! Also the burn phase! Since doing this fight is actually a little enjoyable while farming through HOF, I forgive this one its ease.
Will of the Emperor
I really don’t mean to get into the 10m argument here, but it’s impossible to avoid while discussing this fight. 10 mans, you did some hard shit this tier, I have respect for the tuning on both difficulties. There were a lot of really difficult fights for you.
Will was not one of them. Pull counts were (briefly) public before Blizzard paniced and subsequently hid them once more, and so we knew: Will 10 was taking less than half the time Will 25 was, across the board. As a result, that MSV realm first Feat of Strength was well within reach of anyone who could put a relatively organized 10 man together. Meanwhile, we were facing one of the hardest organizational and logistical challenges we’d ever seen before. In retrospect, adjusting for gear at each time we pulled, I think this was the second hardest fight in T14.
As a 12 hour, 3 night place, Something Wicked has not been a realm first guild before; either a 5 night guild or a 10 man guild had always beaten us before. But this one, this was the first one reasonably within reach for us, and we knew there were several 10 mans that were going to give us a fight for it.
I can’t tell you how much we wanted it. How frustrating it was to watch 10s pull it on the evenings we don’t raid. How awful it was to wipe within 5% and then stop, one Sunday, because it was already 12 CST and we just can’t pull past our end time. And then that nerve wracking, desperate Monday and Tuesday watching streams and stalking logs. Fortunately, when we all decide to play right, we kick ass at minor challenges like organization and precise play. On December 5th, for the first time in my history as a hardcore raider, I knew what it was like to see server first spam with my name in it. We had managed Realm First MSV, we’d done it on 25 (of course), and we’d done it on our normal 12 hour raiding schedule.
The excitement… it was incredible. Probably my favorite raiding memory ever.
As for the fight itself, I respected that fight. It required very clean, very organized play from start to finish. It was a puzzle piece type of encounter where every part had to fit neatly together. The only part I didn’t like about that fight was my stupid job – I hate Strength tanking. I want to dance!
This fight was more than a bit frustrating as melee. Am I the only one who was completely driven nuts by the hitbox on the legs? I got into the habit of turning my back to the leg and DPSing into thin air, because I knew the game actually thought my target was in front of me even though the pixels on my screen would disagree.
Amber Shaper Unsok (I tanked)
Our warrior tank Omega really enjoys figuring out how boss fights work mechanically – a couple million of you benefit from this, if you use DBM. While the rest of the raid actually worked on this encounter, he and I spent our time on Unsok amusing ourselves trying to figure out how to control which tank was targeted by Unsok’s Reshape Life. The goal of this was to maneuver it such that our DK tank Shiramune was stuck in the 4th and permanent construct, since he is by far our raid’s best player. He makes a mistake roughly on the average of once every century; when he does make any kind of error, we all start nervously looking for other signs of the apocalypse. And so Omega and I sat down to try and get Shira into the construct as much as possible, with or without his permission. We tried threat games, positioning games, and even stood in fire because for a couple of pulls Omega was quite convinced it was health based. This plan backfired, of course, and somehow I personally ended up in the fucking thing on just about every pull.
I really liked this fight. I thought the vehicle worked pretty well, as crazy as it is to say that I enjoyed a vehicle fight. I liked the strategy we eventually came up with, in particular that it was a little bit different from the usual manner of doing this encounter. The construct is a little frustrating and tricky, and there is a hint of T11 AC – like “hope that X people don’t get the construct” when you pull it, but overall it never really harmed my enjoyment of the fight which was rather challenging and satisfying from start to finish. I actually didn’t mind being in the construct as much as I claimed, either.
Side note: This fight and SK are the two most frustrating fights to wipe on farm. Not that we ever wipe on farm.
A fairly nondescript execution check. We
24 manned 23 manned (Moshne corrected me upon reading this; we only had 23) our second kill of this fight, which really drove home how little DPS check there really is here. Pretty boring. This fight gets bonus points in my book though for requiring Paladin raid utility. I like that stuff.
Imperial Vizier Zorlok
I LOVED this fight. Am I the only one? I really, really enjoyed it. I think that Attenuation on this fight and the Will H Dance are my two absolute favorite mechanics of the whole tier. We had to strat around a convert in the third phase as well, which was perhaps frustrating, but also interesting. Although I have to say, the double Attenuations at the end suck.
The strategy for this fight was quite intricate, and there were several different ways in which guilds chose to meet the positioning requirements. This remains one of my favorite fights of the tier. Rather like Will, I respected this fight. This was also the sketchiest and yet most hilarious first-kill of the tier for us.
I’m really pretty bad, and I was challenged by the interrupt rotation that we had to maintain on Asani. I can’t be the only one. My raid leader wanted to reach through the computer and personally throttle each and every melee, particularly on those 2nd and 3rd kills when we sometimes failed miserably at hitting our interrupt keybinds despite two separate WeakAuras we all had telling us how to play. Sorry, Moshne. But this was still a good fight. Melee need a kick in the ass sometimes.
Empress Shekzeer (I tanked this too)
Phase 3 really should have been harder. It was actually a bit disappointing to kill this as soon as we had the adds down; I think our very first Phase 3 pull was a kill. However, the rest was pretty fun – from getting the Fields down in the first phase to pulling the adds together in the second phase. Even as the bitch tank (the reaver tank) I still chain cooldowns to keep myself alive on this. This fight was pretty good, but it could have been so much better.
You know, as a hybrid, I actually liked this fight on normal. The RNG on heroic, though, really drove me up a wall. I got so fucking tired of watching adds spawn on top of beams. We wiped so much in phase 1 with such short wipe recovery that the entire raid ended up with 2 minute rez timers, prompting Moshne to comment on our collective badness as a raid: “We’re dying so much, the game has us confused with a Sha pug.” We finally managed to blow up the right beams, but my enjoyment of this fight was permanently soured. Doing millions of healing as a ret paladin with ES and FOL is really cool, though.
Sha of Fear (I tanked this)
I am completely unapologetic about stalking the armories of players in competing guilds, particularly tanks to make sure I’m not playing my offspec like a bad. And so I remember seeing Kihra, main tank of Temerity, gemmed mastery long ago and scratched my head at the time trying to figure out why, since I was sure he was usually geared control. Once we hit Sha, I figured it out myself, and also realized I was going to thoroughly enjoy all 17 minutes of this crazy long fight we had to cap off the tier. I’ve Absalom and Kihra both to thank for releasing epic boss-crotch paladin POV videos for me, and for giving me excellent advice- occasionally different advice – which helped me a lot on a fight that make me possibly the most nervous in my offspec.
I’m not sure if there’s any moment in this whole tier quite as epic as watching Sha put up Dread Thrash, then submerge, then come back up across the room, then pause to cast yet another special, and then meander slowly across the expanse back at me… with the Dread Thrash buff still up … while I spam SOTR to try and get it up before the melee & also figure out if I’m putting his fat ass in the right place in the room…. Other memorable moments would include hitting AD and taunting off another tank with Dread Thrash still up, or tanking while Naked and Afraid, both of which happened more often than I’d expected. This was not a boring tank fight.
DPS is fun, but there’s really nothing quite as epic as being the tank sometimes.
Although it wasn’t perfect, I liked this fight a lot. Sure, I thought the Lei Shi haste buff was stupid design. And maybe it should have a couple minutes shorter. Also, Blizzard, really? Did you just forget to design the Dread Expanse, or what? But overall, I thought it was pretty compelling with a couple challenging pieces that were also enjoyable to actually do. It definitely felt like a good challenge to cap off a long and varied 16 boss raid tier.
The last time I wrote a tier retrospective, my opinion was not entirely positive. T13 hurt. It wasn’t a short hurt, like a knife wound. It was a long, slow acid burn which from December 2011 through August 2012 ate away at the joy and excitement of raiding. It’s really very difficult to describe how the entire second half of Cataclysm affected my feelings on the game, but the effect was not positive.
I felt guilty. I believed that other people in the game were having fun, and I felt bad begrudging them that. But I was convinced that WOW was moving in a direction which was better, maybe, for the majority of its subscribers … but which was simply less enjoyable for me. This is a really sad thought. I want everyone to have fun, but does it have to come at the expense of my own fun?
Thank you, T14, for convincing me that this doesn’t have to be true. I really feel like this was a strong tier for raiders. I have loved every bit of this tier from our first week in normals, through Sha Heroic progression. So many fights were like little nods to fights we had seen and loved before. It was far from perfect – I’m not in love with every single fight we saw, as you can tell! – but it was really, really fun, and a wild five month ride to 16/16H.
Watcher and the rest: loved it overall. Now, make sure T15 has more of the same, but even better!
Recruitment: Something Wicked is a 12 hour, 3 night guild raiding Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 8 to 12 CST. We ended Tier 14 at 16/16H ranked US 47 for 25 mans. We are recruiting mages, warlocks, and paladin healers!