Stopping to Smell the Roses

I was browsing MMO Champion this morning and they had a link to Method’s Dragon Soul movie. It is a little bit more narrative based look at the fights and an approach I heartily approve of. Here it is, if you haven’t seen it:-

Now as much as I don’t particularly like Dragon Soul, watching this movie made me realise something. I’ve paid absolutely zero attention to the dialogue of bosses and NPC past the Morchok trash. A huge part of this is due to the fact that Immortalis mowed through the Normal Modes and that I was Raid Leading all that time so my focus was elsewhere but it’s also down to the fact that because Dragon Soul doesn’t resonate with me, I pretty much don’t care about the dialogue or story.  Yeah, I watched the RP at the top of Wyrmrest on night 1 and rolled my eyes at Kalecgos’ hilarious technobabble justification for Blizzard re-cycling the Eye of Eternity zone and tuned out after that – ‘The focusing iris within the Eye of Eternity may allow us to converge the magical matrix contained within the Dragon Soul!’

Riiiight. :D

All joking aside, it was quite illuminating to listen to some of the dialogue as presented in the movie but my favorite part is the Ultraxion segment. When we’re doing the fight on Normal or Heroic (downed last night \o/), I’m paying far more attention to timers and calling things out than watching Ultraxion. I’ve never noticed how epic it actually looks, nor how Ultraxion’s Hour of Twilight is actually a Kamehameha attack! :D

I also realised that I’ve never watched the ingame cinematics for Dragon Soul at all – I’ve always hit Escape because they happen at such inconvenient times – the first happens while I’m sorting Ultraxion loot. The second while we’re engaging a boss. Okay, fine I have no excuse for the last cinematic other than I didn’t really care by the time we killed Deathwing. I must admit, watching the final cinematic makes me cringe at the dialogue – anytime a character has to solemnly tell you that ‘Everything is okay, the <insert story name here> is over’ is just a narrative fail.

Excuse the last bits of negativity, I did really enjoy watching the movie and you should too! For those that have never seen it, you should check out Ulduar: The Movie too – a far superior effort than this one for a far superior raid:-

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My Thoughts on Tier 13 Tuning and What Led Us Here

In my last post, I explained my lack of motivation, partly due to raiding woes, and a couple of people took issue with a throwaway comment I made about Dragon Soul Normal Mode being undertuned.

 

It was pointed out to me that while my raid team steamrolled through Dragon Soul Normal Mode and complained about how easy it was, I should bear in mind that not everyone had the benefit of full Firelands Heroic gear to speed them along.

 

It’s actually a fair point and one that I’d like to respond to and expand upon. Yes, the majority of our raid team being in full 391 gear meant that we overgeared the early bosses and thus managed to outheal and nuke through fights that would otherwise have given us trouble. Doing these fights in 378 gear would have definitely made this harder for us.

 

The thing is… that’s not my point really. Having done the fights with my alts, with people in a mix of 378 and 397 gear, I know for a fact that past Morchok, it’s well tuned in terms of boss damage output and DPS / Healing requirements. However, what I feel is missing is anything new or complicated. All the bosses have nothing new to show us and are all extremely straightforward. I don’t believe that any of those bosses take much learning or have anything difficult to overcome.

 

Even if you’re new to raiding and haven’t done much up until Dragon Soul, there simply isn’t much new to learn about the fights, there isn’t much to keep you wiping until you get to Ultraxion, which is just a gear check – can your raid put out 27k per person and outheal the damage in a tank and spank fight? If not, farm the first four bosses until it can.

 

Can you kill Ultraxion? If so, then proceed to the next bosses. Dragon Soul is undertuned in terms of mechanics. Most of those bosses would benefit from having a few more mechanics thrown in or having existing mechanics made more difficult (I’m looking at you, Hagara Ice Phase).

 

It very much feels to me that Dragon Soul is an afterthought of a raid instance, something Blizzard put together very fast because they wanted to commit their resources elsewhere, namely Mists of Pandaria.

 

I guess what it seems like to me is that Blizzard have decided that Cataclysm has been a failure and just want to move on.

 

At the end of WotLK, Blizzard listened to a very vocal minority – people who contended that content should be challenging, difficult and grindy, like it was in Vanilla and TBC. So, that’s how Cataclysm was built. Heroics were released that were far tougher than WotLK, required CC, smart pulling and people generally knowing how to play their class.

 

Raids were harder and completely unPuGgable, killing the thriving community of players that had arisen during WotLK who were either unguilded, ‘casual’ or just unable to cut it in raiding guilds.

 

Blizzard were happy with this model and continued with it, through the troll heroics of Patch 4.1 and Firelands. Additionally, as part of this model, Blizzard nerfed the Tier 11 Normal Modes, opening them up to people who had so far not been able to access them, allowing them to be PuG’d. There was a plan in place and it was a good one – content is released, guilds have a few months to clear the content on Normal Mode before it’s nerfed for everyone to experience, while Hard Modes are left untouched – after all, chances are your guild’s still progressing on them and if you’re doing Hard Modes, it’s for the challenge factor.

 

Now, sure, Firelands difficulty was tuned to be somewhat less difficult than Tier 11 as Blizzard realised that the difficulty tuning of Tier 11 wasn’t great but nonetheless, it was still challenging enough once you got to the Heroic level.

The vast majority of competent guilds could get to 6/7 in Firelands with time and effort though they’d hit a wall at Heroic Ragnaros, which is, by all accounts, the hardest encounter Blizzard have ever implemented in the game – originally, Phase 4 required pixel perfect movement from all raid members and this can become soul-crushing and guild breaking.

 

However, But by around the halfway mark of Patch 4.2, something was brutally clear: Blizzard were haemorrhaging subscribers. My guess is that Blizzard decided at that point that listening to the vocal minority, while delivering a tougher game, had not been good for business. The vast majority of players were cancelling their subscriptions because they had nothing to do in the game or that raiding was inaccessible to them.  At that point, I believe that Blizzard decided that Cataclysm was a failure and that it was best to try and return the game to how it was in WotLK – content accessible to everyone with heroics designed to be cleared with 20 – 30 minutes and not 1 – 2 hours.

 

I believe that originally Blizzard intended to Nerf Firelands Normal Modes but leave Heroic Modes untouched, like they did with Tier 11. However, with the loss of subscribers and the struggle that most guilds were having with fielding lineups for Firelands, Blizzard nerfed Firelands across the board, their opening salvo in having the game become more accessible.

 

Cataclysm is a failure and Blizzard decided it’s best not to sink too much in the way of resources into creating Dragon Soul, the last raid of a failed expansion.

 

And while I’m not particularly enthused about the fact that Mists of Pandaria will return to the model of WotLK, in terms of 5 Man Heroics (fast, easier heroics, meant to finished within 20 – 30 minutes and no, I don’t believe that ‘challenge’ modes are the answer – I want difficult 5 man content just because it’s hard, not because you have to stress yourself by nuking through it as fast as possible) and the raiding model (experience all the fights in LFR on day 1 and continue to burn yourself out by raiding the content twice a week, just to stay competitive), I am hoping that Tier 14 will be solid, imaginative and epic. After all, following through on my theory outlined above, if Blizzard are committing so many resources to MoP, surely it’s going to be great? ;)

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Updates

Hi guys,

it’s been a while since I posted anything but frankly, I’ve been equal parts busy and unmotivated recently. Raiding’s not been all that fulfilling for various reasons as Patch 4.3 hasn’t really resonated with me – the fights in Dragon Soul normal mode have become sleep inducing of late. On top of that, having lost our mage and warlock due to burnout and boredom with the game, as well as being melee heavy means that we have some severe raid comp issues and slow progression on Hard Modes. As Hard Modes are the only content that any of us are interested in (and credit where credit is due to Blizz, while we’ve found the Normal Modes to be undertuned and boring, the Hard Modes so far have been quite fun and challenging), I’ve been unmotivated to raid or blog about raiding.

I’ll be attempting to continue my Positioning series over the next few days or weeks, while also posting a bunch of other articles I’ve had percolating in various stages of completion.

On top of that, I think I’m going to try and make this blog a little more focused on the three areas that I’m actually interested in writing about:-

1) Tanking

2) Speculation about past and future Blizzard content and design decisions

3) Being positive!

Hopefully I’ll have a proper article up in a couple of days!

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Positioning, Part 1: Communication and the KHiS Principle

A Misunderstanding

Happy new year everyone, though that sentimony is a probably a little late. Ah well, on to the point.

One criticism I’ve received about my blog is the lack of actual tanking content. After all, this is a tanking blog, right?

So, I started writing up a post about tanking in Dragon Soul but a huge chunk of it ended up going off on a tangent. The more I tried to excise this tangent for the sake of coherency, the more that missing contented started to gnaw at me, like a teething ostrich. Because, dammit, that missing content was stuff that’s actually important to me. So, here it is, my first post about tanking and it’s not what I expected.

Any experienced tank will tell you about attaining CTC or about ideal attack priorities. I could too but frankly, it’s all information that can be found elsewhere and explained better. Like here. The science of tanking is well documented but what about the art?

GRUMPETYNESS

When I’m not raiding, I’ll usually sign up for the Dungeon Finder for some heroics to cap my VP, either as Arms DPS or on my mage or my holy paladin. On the days that I don’t get a tank from my own guild, I find myself stuck with whatever the Dungeon Finder sticks me with.

And more often than not, I get grumpety.

It all comes down to positioning. I dislike tanks that just charge off into a pack of mobs, completely disregarding their abilities or how best to position them or whether some CC would actually make it that much easier. The number of times that I’ve entered Halls of Origination only to wipe on the first trash pack. All because the tank makes a beeline to the big mob standing at the back with no regard to the fact that two of the other mobs will not move unless interrupted and the fourth will just stand around AoE’ing the hapless party members who just stand there, blissfully unaware that moving out of fire is a good thing.

The number of times I’ve entered Well of Eternity on my paladin and grumpily healed up the entire party simply because the tank won’t turn the Dreadlord mobs away from the party. Gah, it annoys me so.

Now, I know, I know, all heroics are faceroll now, stop being an old man and fussing about inconsequential stuff. These are details, this is minutiae. Are you really getting all stressed out about positioning in 5 mans? This isn’t Hardmode Ragnaros, buddy, you need to get yourself a girlfriend!

And to an extent, you’d have a point but I think it comes down to something a real life lesson that I learned a long time ago.

The attitudes and habits that you learn in one workplace will carry over to your next.

As such, the habits and attitudes you bring with you to 5 man tanking will carry over to raid tanking. So, let’s talk about the 5 tenets of good tank positioning.

KHiS

Okay, so just why is positioning important? Sure, some fights it’s obvious – you want to tank the Drone over here because no Spiderlings spawn there, you want to tank Riblimb away from Shannox so that he’s got further to run when Shannox casts Hurl Spear. This is just game mechanics we’re dealing with but beyond that there’s a whole other world of subtlety and it starts with your healers.

The first principle is what I call KHiS – Keep Healer in Sight. Okay, fine, I don’t call it that at all, I made it up for the purposes of this article, I’m really not that pretentious, honest.

KHiS isn’t just about knowing you’re in healing range but it’s very important for those heavy movement fights such as Nefarian (Phase 3 especially if you’re the add tank and doing HM – moving out of LoS of the healer can happen so easily), Beth’tilac and Alysrazor.

If you have a consistent raid team, then odds are it’s going to be the same healer or healers assigned to keep you alive. I keep an eye on them all the time, I get to know their toon’s profile, what gear they’re wearing (so much easier in the age of transmog, ha!), how they move so that I can always see if they’re in sight. This is generally very easy in 5 mans and 10 mans but can be near impossible in 25 mans. Then again, in 25 mans it’s not quite as important to KHiS simply because odds are that more than one healer has their eye on you.

I’ve already gone over Nefarian briefly above and I won’t talk more about it as it’s no longer current content but I’ll be talking about Beth’tilac and Alysrazor as those are two very interesting encounters, in terms of positioning. While Firelands is also redundant content, I’d like to save talking about Dragon Soul encounters for separate and more focused posts in future.

I’m going to assume that you all know how the Beth’tilac fight works, on both Normal and Heroic for the sake of brevity. With Beth’tilac, you got two tanking arenas. While it’s true that the Web Tank can just go up and pretty much stand still, that’s a little lazy. The Web Tank should always drag Beth’tilac away from the central hole – not too much, just enough to encourage your Web DPS and healer to get away from your exit route. There’s nothing worse than having your DPS and healers think they’re being clever by standing next to the hole for fast return below, only to end up creating a bunch of meteor holes near your escape hatch. ;)

On the ground, your tank can keep the Cinderweb Drone positioned either to the south, near where the Drone spawns or in the center area. However, in Heroic, the Drone fixates on people and runs off chasing them. In addition to that, depending on how effective your Spiderling DPS team is, the tank needs to be on the ball and move the Drone away from any approaching Spiderlings. This is where KHiS is really important but also, where the flipside of KHiS is important too – KTiS – Keep Tank in Sight! :P

It’s very easy for your raid to get spread out and move out of healing range, especially the tank if he has to move the Drone from one end of the encounter area to another. Going back to the point of positioning, this is where strafe tanking is very important (and more on that in the next part). If you’re doing this fight every week, consistency of movement becomes so important. Healers will know how you move, DPS will know how you move and so the fight becomes less random and chaotic. Strafing the Drone around in a consistent, clean arc around the center will help with keeping healers in sight and keeping up high DPS uptime – if the DPS know how you’re going to move, they can focus on nuking and not stressing about you zigging and zagging all over the place. More importantly, you’ll avoid getting people hit by the Drone’s frontal conal attack. High DPS uptime, less overall raid damage going out.

In addition to that, another complication comes from the Spinners that drop down after every Smouldering Devastation. Warrior tanks are hilariously overpowered here – simply slap a Vigilance on the off-tank and bam! Infinitaunt the Spinners down. Again, you’ll have to move the Drone around a lot in order to get within range of Spinners but circling around the center helps tremendously for the above reasons. Once the Spinners are down, they’ll die fast enough to not be anything to worry about.

Finally, the most important thing: Vent.

Don’t be embarassed to shout out and just tell your healer if you’re going to be moving heavily or in a way that they aren’t expecting or accustomed to!

This all leads quite nicely into the next part, where I’ll go more indepth about consistency of positioning.

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Deathwing is Dead. For Sure.

Time for something a little different. It’s been a hard time for me in RL so I thought I’d do something a bit goofy to cheer myself up. Inspired by an offhand comment by my guildie Vuuk of the Mana Cake Musings blog, I give you my first webcomic:-

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Of Old Republics and What I Think of Them

Zelcandor, Jedi Knight, ready to kick ass and take names. Not necessarily in that order.

Immersive. Meaningful choices. Subtlety.

That’s the 3 things I took away from my beta experience with Star Wars: The Old Republic beta weekends. I’m going to talk broadly about my experiences with the game and I’m also going to talk about it from the POV of a WoW veteran, so forgive me for not calling the factions ‘Alliance’ and ‘Horde’ as I cba to think any other way just yet. :P

Game installation was smooth and there was a lot to like – the production values are insanely high. Graphics are amazing, a really good balance between realistic and cartoony, kind of like what I think WoW2 would like if Blizzard wanted to make the game look more ‘modern.’ The art design does an excellent job of making the world have that Star Wars feel but it’s really the audio that’s the star of the show.

Every single NPC in the game has a voice. You pick up a quest, the NPC narrates it to you. You go talk to vendor, they have a voice. You talk to a random NPC, they have a voice. And this is what’s amazing, the voice acting is just beyond anything I’ve ever seen in a game. I never met a single NPC with bad voice acting – and I can’t emphasise this enough, it’s not just the actors, the dialogue is just amazing, informative and subtly nuanced with emotion and inflection. Every single NPC feels like a real and distinct character.

What I really loved about the voice acting though was that if you play Alliance, all the voices are American and if you play Horde, all the voice actors are British – because we all know the British make the best villains! :D Seriously though, I think it’s a genius move. Years of Hollywood conditioning pays off dividends. Alliance characters feel like all-American heroes and Horde characters feel suitably sinister and evil.

And again, the subtlety is great – the Sith have a broad spectrum of British accents, from the plummy clarity of the Sith ruling classes to the thuggish East London glottal quality of the rank and file Sith.

Combat feels fast and smooth – I played a warrior on both Alliance and Horde side and the classes are identical, except that all the attacks have different names, depending on faction (e.g. Alliance warriors have Charge, while Horde warriors have um, Slammy Run or whatever (yeah, I just called it ‘charge’ in my head and paid no attention the silly non-WoW naming of SWTOR). Bioware have rather sensibly just done a straight rip off of the WoW controls – hitting ‘B’ opens your bags, ‘C’ brings up your character window, ‘X’ makes you sit, ‘Z’ makes you sheathe and unsheathe weapons etc. The transition from WoW to SWTOR is seamless, you can just pick up the game and treat it like WoW with a different coat of paint.

This was something that annoyed me with Rift – I’m all for another company making a WoW clone with better graphics and new innovations but dammit, couldn’t Trion have just given us the same damn controls as WoW, rather than change everything around and make it unintuitive?! I don’t want to spend half an hour re-mapping all the key bindings to how they are in WoW simply because the keybindings for the same damn controls are unintuitive -e.g. to open your bags, you had to hit ‘I’ instead of ‘B.’ Why? ‘I’ is for ‘Inventory.’ Seriously, I just found it annoying as hell.

By the by, enemy nameplates are off by default – there’s no keyboard shortcut for enabling them, you have to do this manually via hitting ESC and going to the Interface options. I highly recommend you do this before you start playing – It’s very hard to spot enemy mobs sometimes as they just seem to blend into the environment. Many a time I just blindly walked into a whole pack of Flesh Raiders simply because I didn’t spot the extra three sleeping in a corner. Having nameplates enabled fixes this problem.

Questing is fun but it’s just the same as WoW. Kill stuff, collect stuff, escort stuff. The collect stuff is annoying as many objects are near invisible in the environment but once you get used to it, it’s fine. If you enjoyed the questing grind in WoW, you’ll enjoy it in SWTOR. Additionally, each class has a story that you play through with phased zones and class specific quests. This is actually pretty involving and immersive. You’ll want to keep playing to see where your character ends up by the end of his journey.

And questing is full of those meaningful choices I mentioned earlier. Every time you’re given a quest, the quest giver actually interacts with you – he tells you the quest details and you can ask them more questions about what you’re doing or give your opinion on the quest – you know, actually have a conversation with the NPC. This is where the game truly shined for me – whenever you talk with NPCs, you get a choice of what to respond. It truly makes your toon feel like a real character because no matter your faction, you can choose to be a good guy or a bad guy based solely on your responses.

I’ll bring up an example from WoW that I kept thinking of. Back in WotLK, while leveling through Borean Tundra, you get a quest where you have to torture a prisoner. You have no choice on the matter, you just click through the dialogue and you must carry out the torture in order to complete the quest. I found this to be very disturbing when I was first faced with it – Zelcandor just wouldn’t do that. He’d refuse to take part in torturing a prisoner because it’s simply unethical. It broke my immersion in the game and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

In SWTOR, if there were a similar quest, you’d get a choice – torture the prisoner or refuse. Heck, you’d probably get the following choices:-

  • I’ll do what I need to. Hand me the hot irons.
  • If we need information, there’s another way we can get it.
  • I refuse to do this, it’s unethical and unnecessary.

And the choices would all have excellent, passionate voice acting to go with it – if you chose Option 3 (like I would), your character would passionately proclaim:-

“No. I will not torture this prisoner, it’s unethical and wrong. You call yourselves soldiers of the Alliance? You should be ashamed of yourselves. We’re better than this, dammit!”

You’ll also be rewarded for choosing certain options over others. If you choose option 1, you’d accrue some Dark Side points. If you choose Option 3, you’ll accrue Light Side points. These points affect your story and, over time, open access to special items and other perks. It’s really great!

I had a blast with the beta but something one of my guildies said about it struck me as very true: it feels like an amazing single player experience with multiplayer stuff bolted on. You’ll spend a lot of time playing through your class, get it to max level and you can do so without interacting with anyone around you. Player interaction feels a little clumsy so far and I’d like to see how that pans out on live. I think that one of the other things that we’ll see a lot of in the game is people maxing out a toon of every class, on both factions, just to experience the stories of all the classes. The game could really use a RealID style feature to let friends talk cross-faction.

Another complaint is that the interface is very clunky. I really hope that Bioware will either patch in more UI customisation or allow the use of AddOns. I have an heavily customised UI for WoW and I changed things around to match that UI when I played Rift.

Finally, the best thing about it… the attitude towards WoW from the SWTOR community. I’ve tried out a few other MMOs – Conan, LOTRO, Aion, Rift, DCUO – and one thing that’s driven me away from those games is just the relentless and utterly venomous slamming of WoW in general/trade channels 24/7. It’s like people have got nothing better to do than fill those channels with ‘wow sux’ chat and people asking for help just don’t get any replies. It really brings me down, y’know?

When I started playing WoW, the general chat was a great place to get help and advice on quests and game mechanics, though it was still full of trolls and idiots. These days, the advice to troll ratio is heavily on the troll side.

SWTOR is refreshingly free of that.

Now, granted, I’ve only played the beta so far but I found very little talk about WoW or well, if there was, it wasn’t negative. Sure, people said they no longer enjoyed WoW for whatever reason but it was reasonable chat and nothing that brought me down. People were helpful and informative when help was asked for, no-one called anyone a retard or noob and there was a real feeling of friendliness and openness. That’s what really sold the game for me.

I’m very tempted to get this game after my beta experience. I know the game will be successful based upon the brand and developer. However, as with all MMOs, it’s all about the endgame for me. I hope that SWTOR can provide a compelling, challenging and fun raiding experience. I hope that content comes regularly and is well developed and fun.

But most of all, I hope it is full of fun innovations that push Blizzard to do better, and make WoW even better than it currently is!

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Dragon Soul: Night One

Morchok, the first boss of Dragon Soul, playfully explains his feelings about how raids will find him

ZELCANDOR: Really?!

MAGE: Really?!

HUNTER: Really?!

PALADIN: Really?!

A collective expression of surprise from half our raid team after killing Morchok, the first boss of Dragon Soul. Little did we know, this wasn’t going to be first time this happened all night.

While we weren’t really burned out on Firelands, we were ready for a change of scenery after farming Tier 12 for so long. We’d all prepared for the bosses. Some of us had been on the PTR and killed the bosses via the LFR. Some of us had read up on various sites and blogs about tips and tricks. All of us had watched the videos. We. Were. Ready.

However, as had happened in the last few weeks, we had some issues. Not all of our players were available and due to some connection issues, one of our healers couldn’t log on at all.

So there, we were, 9 manning it with 1 healer short while one of our Holy Paladins rushed home to step in. No worries, not the first time we’d done it. The Morchok trash went down fast enough and soon enough, we were there in front of the boss. Morchok had seemed so easy in all the raid videos we’d seen and some of us had even killed him using the LFR tool. But I had figured, there was something different about the fight on Normal Mode. This is the last raid of this expansion, there’s got to be something raid wipey here – the boss must hit insanely hard, or raid damage must be so high that we’ll probably wipe a few times before we get it down.

3 minutes later:

ZELCANDOR: Really?!

MAGE: Really?!

HUNTER: Really?!

PALADIN: Really?!

And so began the first night of raiding in Dragon Soul. Morchok and Yor’sahj were one-shotted. The mechanics were ridiculously straightforward and something any experienced raider wouldn’t have any trouble with.

We wiped a few times on Zon’ozz but not because the boss was hard, just through regular learning of the fight as we figured out how many stacks we could push and what the best positioning was. There was also one nubwipe because our dumbass tank * because he’s too used to turning the boss away from the raid on the pull – the Void spawned far away from the raid and hit the wall, bam, raid wipe.

By the time we got to Hagara, we had started to relax and lose our ‘edge’ – that frame of mind you need for progression raiding as we had stopped taking the instance seriously. We had one wipe due to learning the speed we needed to move in the ice phase and me forgetting to run out of Hagara’s Focused Assault while healers were Ice Tombed. After that, we brought her down, somewhat messily but clean enough for a first kill.

And by that point, I kinda lost heart.

2 of the 3 hours we’d allotted to raiding had passed and we’d pretty much face-rolled 4 bosses. We still had time for Ultraxion and beyond (though I’ll cover that later). I look back at the fights and apart from Hagara, I can’t say that they were messy kills or that people didn’t quite know what they were doing, which is par for the course while you learn a fight.

We smoothly killed Morchok because it’s a simple fight, with very little raid damage, predictable damage on tanks and a second phase where damage is completely and easily avoidable. The fight does not feel like it belongs in a raid, it feels like something that should be found in a 5 man.

Yor’sahj has an interesting and fun mechanic but it’s a little undertuned. The slime adds could do with more HP, raid damage could be a little higher than it was. Having said that, a lot of this is about what combination of slimes you get and we never really had a ‘nasty’ combination.

Warlord Zon’ozz has a good central gimmick and it does take a little bit of getting used to but again, there’s not much more to the fight than figuring out how many stacks you can take and working out how best to position yourselves.

And Hagara… man, what a waste. It’s a good fight! But so completely undertuned! I really figured we’d spend time wiping on this due to the high damage of Phase 1, learning the dance of Phase 2, having tank deaths due to Focused Assault but… none of that. Damage was trivial. The Focused Assault thing… all I had to do was watch the DBM timer and run out a couple of seconds before she cast it. I don’t know if  it’s a bug or intended but I figured out that if you run out a couple of seconds early, she’ll cast Focused Assault and then immediately cancel the cast. A major attack and source of tank damage just never went off just because I can watch a timer.

After we killed Morchok I felt something I hadn’t felt for a long time. I don’t know how to describe the feeling but back in WotLK, after we killed Lord Marrowgar for the first time, I had this feeling, like I knew I was going to utterly hate every fight in that place.

The feeling disturbed me and it disturbs me still. The thing is, I really hated Icecrown Citadel. Even to this day, when we go back there to do achievements or finish up, feelings of hatred, rage and frustration well up within me.

I hate that shithole.

Having said all that, that feeling of dread dissipated as we got to Ultraxion and we started learning the fight. Ultraxion’s a great fight, high DPS requirements, full focus and attention needed with some fun mechanics. Really enjoyed the fight and I look forward to doing it again next reset.

But that feeling… I’m afraid of spending another chunk of my life raiding an instance I despise. Two days later and I can take a step back and I realize that while I did find these fights easy, I didn’t actually hate them… they just didn’t do anything for me. And flying around Wyrmrest Temple, being on a gunship… all these things just remind me of WotLK, an expansion I’m totally done with. Dragon Soul feels like a Wrath raid. It lacks the depth of design and difficulty that I enjoyed in Tier 11 and 12 in normal mode. There was no sense of challenge or accomplishment with those first few kills. I felt nothing. I can only hope that the Heroic Modes are tuned better and are even more fun.

We didn’t down Ultraxion that night, mainly due to UI issues from one of our healers but we did get our kill the next night, as well as Blackhorn. I’ll cover them in another post.

* That tank was me, in case there’s any doubt :P

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