Pondering the Glory

So how are people out there dealing with the possibility of getting the Glory of the Firelands Raider achievement?

Back in Wrath, the guild I was in hit 11/12 25-man HM and then immediately did a full reset of achievement stuff. We did Neck-Deep in Vile that week and then the next week, did Been Waiting a Long Time for This, which resulted in getting Glory of the Icecrown Raider.

In Tier 11, we got to 7/13 HM before Firelands came out (Halfus, V&T, Magmaw, Maloriak, Chimaeron, Atramedes, Conclave), so Glory of the Cataclysm Raider wasn’t even a possibility for us, as we were missing, you know, 5 heroic kills.

Due to the nerfs, we will likely hit 5/7 HM tonight or Sunday (Majordomo) and after a break for BlizzCon, we’ll tackle heroic Baleroc. (I think we would have hit 6/7 HM without the nerfs, but it would have taken longer.)

Since six of the achievements required for the meta will be already done (the six heroic bosses) and since we regularly do Share the Pain and Only the Penitent… is really easy to do and isn’t even part of the boss encounter… that leaves four achievements:

Bucket List – Shannox
Not an Ambi-Turner – Rhyolith
Death from Above – Beth’tilac
Do a Barrel Roll – Alysrazor

To me, it’s a no-brainer to take a reset or two (to get everyone covered) and get these guys down on normal to get the achievements. However, the fact remains that Shannox and Alysrazor drop heroic tier tokens and the other bosses drop valuable heroic loot (oh god, I want a heroic Ward of the Red Widow!).

Given that we don’t know when 4.3 will drop (although I’d be surprised if it’s before American Thanksgiving, in late November), we don’t know how many resets we have before the new raid opens up. It’s safe to say that we’ll move on to the new raid once it opens.

Obviously, there is a finite amount of resets left between now and 4.3. Will using two (because, with a roster of ~34, we’ll NEED two) resets to get the meta achievement be worth two resets of heroic loot off those bosses? Better question: do we need to do all of them on normal? Shannox isn’t so hard on heroic, maybe we could get away with kiting him forever, but I know we could do it on normal.

I’m not even going to talk about time spent on that versus heroic Ragnaros. That’s a whole other question in and of itself.

So how are you fine people handling this in your guilds? Are you? Do you even care? I’ve got a poll up on the Apotheosis forums, asking the raiders what they think of the meta, but I’m curious to know how others are dealing with it.

Post-Nerf Heroic Alysrazor: A Huge Disappointment

24 pulls is all it took us and Alysrazor collapsed.

It took us 46 pulls to get her down on normal.

Something ain’t right here.

(Yes, I’m still talking about nerfs.)

Do I want to wipe more on a boss like Alysrazor? No, not particularly. But I don’t feel as though we earned the kill. Granted, our kill was near-perfect execution, except for Majik’s Mumble client dying on him and Kaleri dropping her Power Word: Barrier on the other side of town at the pull. ;) And I could have done without some of the deaths we had, to be sure… but it went very smoothly. If we can do that every time, we’ll have no problems killing her every single week on heroic.

However, it just feels as though Alysrazor has been de-clawed, had her wings clipped, whatever.

Tornadoes move just as slowly in heroic as they do on normal.

Firestorm won’t automatically kill you if you don’t line of sight it, not if you’re healed up and use a defensive CD. (Our pally tank app ate a Firestorm while still working on a hatchling. He put up Ardent Defender and blew Lay on Hands and lived with plenty of health to spare.)

The biggest challenge, it seemed, was re-allocating DPS.

I’m sorry, but is that all there is to heroic Firelands bosses?

Let’s examine them, shall we?

Normal Shannox: Some people on dogs, some people on Shannox.
Heroic Shannox: Just about every single person on Shannox, a few people on various dogs for slows and breaking Face Rage.

So that’s a simple reallocation of DPS.

Normal Rhyolith: Some people on Fragments and Sparks, some people on legs.
Heroic Rhyolith: Same as above — stun/slow/blowback Liquid Obsidium.

Another reallocation of DPS, but I’ll admit, this one was effing tricky — at least pre-nerf.

Normal Beth’tilac: Some people on caves, some people on spinners and drones, some people on top of the web.
Heroic Beth’tilac: Same as above — and then blow up the Engorged Broodlings.

Same damn thing, more reallocation of DPS and some healing, but the worst part about this fight was making sure caves were covered. Once we had that down, the boss died.

And now…

Normal Alysrazor: Some people up top, some people on Initiates, some people on hatchlings. Dodge Brushfire, Tornadoes, Lava Spew and Incendiary Clouds.
Heroic Alysrazor: Same as above — plus dodge Firestorm and Meteors and Boulders.

Really? I mean… it’s just not that difficult. I’d say it’s actually easier than normal because the hatchlings die so quickly. The worst part here isn’t even the Firestorm, it’s making sure Initiates die quickly enough that interrupters can interrupt them.

At least Majordomo Staghelm has a “real” new mechanic in Concentration. I’m looking forward to that fight, but am prepared to be “meh” about it.

It makes me sad. It feels very much as though these “heroic modes” are like “normal” modes now that the nerfs have gone through, at least to an experienced raid group. I’m sure Ragnaros will be different, of course, and it’s not like the challenge has completely vanished from heroic Firelands… but I didn’t enjoy heroic Alysrazor. At all. And, prior to our work on heroic Alysrazor, that was my favourite fight. I really didn’t feel as though I was healing with finesse last night — I felt as though all I was doing was praying that my tank wouldn’t get two-shotted or that people wouldn’t fall out of the sky or die to tornadoes.

I spent the vast majority of our time on Heroic Alysrazor just hoping we could execute it, but there wasn’t anything to figure out after the first 10ish pulls. We tried a couple new variations last night and eventually just said screw it and went back to what we’d been doing, essentially, with very minor tweaking to get Initiates down.

And then, on one glorious attempt when most people didn’t die or disconnect or anything… she died.

Totally anticlimactic.

Am I proud? Of course. Am I pleased that we’re 4/7? Absolutely.

But ultimately, I got more of a sense of accomplishment at knowing that we budgeted our raid time this week extremely well (repeat of H Rhyolith and H Shannox, plus first kills of H Beth and H Alysrazor and a full clear and we even did Volcanus!) than I did when we downed Alysrazor.

Sad.

Please, don’t let raiding be this ridiculous in 4.3.

Comfortable with my Class

On Tuesday night, Apotheosis got Heroic Beth’tilac 25 down.

Dar, one of our resto shaman, had posted to say she wasn’t going to be there, which left me with a difficult decision: who was going to heal Dar’s people in the northwest? For 28 attempts, Dar had dutifully healed that particular corner.

In order for it to go as smoothly as possible, I wanted to make as few major changes as I could.

What did that mean? That meant that I was going to take her spot.

I got to heal our moonkin, Hitoku and, lucky me, Majik, my caster officer and my co-host over at Blessing of Frost.

(The “lucky me” was sarcasm. If you couldn’t tell. ;))

So, for 28 attempts prior to Tuesday, I was essentially healing the ground tank, keeping an eye on Dar and other healers, taunting spinners down and generally watching everything, as a raid leader is prone to doing. I had never assigned myself to a cave and, to be honest, I would be happy if I never had to do so again… But I digress.

It took us 10 pulls to kill Beth’tilac Tuesday, bringing us to 3/7 25-man heroics. For each of those 10 pulls, I was healing my cave group, although my cave group migrated from northwest to southeast at one point. Jasyla said she liked that little northwest corner better and I could totally see why. The southeast corner is cramped and crowded!

Anyhow, during the first attempt, I lost Majik. Then, several other people died. So it wasn’t totally my bad, but I vowed to do better.

In the span of 10 pulls, ladies and gentlemen, I became a cave-healer pro. I kicked some ass. Not only did I keep my targets alive, but on try 10, our kill, approximately 97% of the Engorged Broodlings that spawned wanted to blow me up. I am not joking. Better still, I have it all frapsed and it’s embedded below. (Bear in mind that in P2, my computer suddenly decided to violently revolt and I experienced some tremendous lag and loss of framerate. It’s not the best video ever, but it is our first kill.)

 

Kurn, you may be wondering, what on earth does any of this have to do with being comfortable with your class?

Good question!

On the kill attempt, I was constantly the target of the broodlings, as I mentioned. Walks was healing up in the northeast and one thing he had been saying earlier in the night was that if a broodling was heading for someone at southeast, there was no way he could stop them, since they’re up on some damn ledge. So he took to calling out “ledge”.

Of course, on the kill attempt, his broodlings came at me frequently. So I was always calling out “got it”, while running to the ledge where the spiders come down from, while ALSO trying to heal Majik and Hitoku and, you know, trying not to kill myself while doing so.

I think it was only after the whole raid was over for the night that I realized that there was no way in hell I would have been able to manage all that crap (seriously, FOURTEEN broodlings hit me!) AND keep Maj and Hitoku alive if I weren’t extremely comfortable with how my class works.

It’s almost instinctual after a certain point. Granted, my instincts aren’t always spot-on or great or whatever, as you can tell since I do let Judgements of the Pure drop off and don’t use my Guardian and the like on the kill (which I’ll blame on the fact that my computer was about to throw up on me) but they really served me well over the whole raid night. At various points during the entire night, I popped cooldowns appropriately, even using Lay on Hands on Hitoku at one point. I figured out where my Beacon of Light was best put to use (sadly, on Majik) and basically, that was all the real thinking I had to do about how to heal my group.

Venom Rain? Aura Mastery. I’m low on health? Pop my bubble to buy myself some extra time to heal up my group members before turning to myself. Need to regen mana? Use my shiny Fiery Quintessence and pop Divine Plea. See 3 bright orange beams on me from Engorged Broodlings? Don’t panic, use instant heals like Holy Shock and Word of Glory until I’m in position to interrupt one and can start casting again.

Paladins have changed substantially since the original World of Warcraft game came out. Holy paladins have changed and evolved right along with the other specs. While we still need to stand still and cast to be most effective, Holy Radiance (well, the current iteration, not the 4.3 version!), Holy Shock, Word of Glory and a Flash of Light with Infusion of Light proc are all things we can do on the run. Even a 1-2 point Word of Glory can be useful (you can see in the video I made some use of that) if you’re on the move and someone needs a heal ASAP.

Giving Divine Protection a shorter cooldown for Holy (due to Paragon of Virtue) is great and it came in handy all through the night when magical damage (which includes nature damage, which is what those nasty little Engorged Broodlings emit) was troubling me. No problem — Shift-A (my keybind for Divine Protection) to the rescue!

During the night, apart from maybe the first pull or two, despite having absolutely no experience healing where I was healing and healing the people I was healing, I felt calm and in control of myself.  I really do attribute my ability to adapt to cave healing to knowing what all my buttons do. The only thing I didn’t use duing the night was Hand of Freedom and I could have used it when I was stuck in the Volatile Poison on the ground at one point on our kill.

I encourage everyone to take a second look at all your abilities. Not just the ones in the holy tree, look at prot and ret as well. Read through your spellbook and be sure you understand what your abilities do. Armed with that knowledge, you can walk into a fight and adapt much more quickly than you would otherwise. Don’t forget about your Hand spells, your procs, your set-it-and-forget-its (like Holy Radiance and Guardian of Ancient Kings).

Paladins are very strong healers and not restricted to tank healing. Not only that, but we have a ton of utility, so don’t forget to use those utility spells! Once you know exactly what you’re capable of doing, you’ll react with your instincts, leaving your brain to sit there and worry about where you should be standing, rather than what spell to use.

(And you can always read through my second revamped Holy How-To Guide to help you out!)

First Reactions to the Nerfbat

Well, for better or for worse, we repeated our Heroic Shannox kill (3rd kill) without needing Jagged Tear to drop off our Shannox tank at ALL, ending the encounter with 15 stacks on him.

We downed Heroic Rhyolith for the first time, after 46 total attempts, 40 of which were pre-nerf. (That brings us to 2/7 HM, btw.)

And then we flipped it to normal to take out Alysrazor and Baleroc.

Since we had someone working on the charged focus for Alysrazor, we needed two “full powers” from her, so that’s two full cycles.

We had to call “DPS OFF!” several times.

The Initiates who cast Fieroblast? They apparently now cast Fieroblast after every third Brushfire. In fact, it took us several initiates before we realized they even still CAST Fieroblast.

Tornadoes are very slow, now. You can keep ahead of one and actually run into the next one with just a single feather.

Healers were healing Gushing Wound on the tanks because there was basically nothing else to do. I wonder what four healers for that next week would be like.

Baleroc melted. You can COMPLETELY screw up the healing order for the shards and people will probably still live.

I think we’ll be pulling Heroic Beth’tilac and Heroic Majordomo Thursday/Sunday, so we’ll see what they’re like. Those are new (to us) heroic fights, but it’s clear that the normal modes are just so completely ridiculous now, at least for a group that’s done three full clears and probably a few 6/7 weeks.

Really, it’s kind of sad.

Having said that, the raid group was in fine form on Tuesday night. Lots of laughing, lots of joking… for some reason, at one point, people were openly pondering the gestation period for a Smurf.

So we had a “fun” raid night with good spirits and good moods, for the most part, but it feels weird. The Rhyolith kill doesn’t feel hard-fought. The hardest part on Alysrazor was NOT killing her faster.

Normally, for me, the best part of any night is any progression on a boss.

Tonight, it was that I got the Eye of Purification.

Ah, well. We’ll see what the next few months hold for us, eh?

Oh, and don’t forget to listen to this week’s episode of Blessing of Frost! We post a new one just about every Tuesday, so be sure to keep listening. Next week, we’ll reflect on the Firelands nerfs and talk about some of the community’s reactions and you’ll doubtlessly hear me bleeping myself again. ;)

Too Soon, Blizzard!

I’ll apologize for this up front. This is going to be long. This is going to be angry. This is going to be ranty. This is also heavily my opinion and how this will affect me, personally. Don’t be offended if I don’t mention your raid group or your raid size or if I do and I’m mildly disparaging. I am not happy and that’s going to come out here. So I apologize now. This also puts a delay on my response to my own “Is Warcraft a Game?” post and my post about evaluating healers and my post about Paladin feedback.

My first thought upon reading about the upcoming nerfs to Firelands content was “What the FUCK?!” In fact, you can hear that thought in Episode 33 of Blessing of Frost. Note that this post gets angrier, so either click through or move along.

Continue reading “Too Soon, Blizzard!”

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

It’s definitely been interesting to raid with both my guild, Apotheosis of Eldre’Thalas, and a guild I was in for the tail end of Wrath, Choice of Skywall. I’ve learned a LOT about both Firelands and about being a holy paladin. I’ve learned a lot about being a raid leader, guild leader and healing lead. I’ve learned a lot about being a cog in the machine and being part of the rank and file.

I spend, well, I guess it’s about 15 hours a week raiding. In truth, it’s probably three hours or so too much, but nine hours isn’t quite “enough” for me, and 6 hours of raiding as “just” a raider isn’t anywhere as taxing as 6 hours of raiding as any kind of a leader. So I’ve spent a lot of time raiding Firelands over the last couple of months and have learned a lot.

What’s been the most valuable thing about this whole deal is that I’m learning from my own mistakes that I make in various raids. In Apotheosis, I’m guilty of spending too much time looking at the rest of the raid — cooldowns used, who’s dead, etc, and my healing suffers. In Choice, I’m guilty of spending a little too much time tunnel-visioning, so while I have great healing, I do occasionally get beaned by some environmental hazard.

I’ve also learned a lot from each raid and brought what I’ve learned to the other raid. For example, Choice did Baleroc before Apotheosis did, so I was able to take their strategy and refine it to suit my group. I was also then able to take stuff from Apotheosis raids and let the Choice leadership play with it as they saw fit. (They totally use our 1-8 naming of Rag elementals, which I like to think are thanks to me. ;D) Apart from the cross-raid knowledge, it’s always an amazing feeling to know that you helped a raid group do something, you know?

I mean, sure, I was dead at the end of both of the Apotheosis Ragnaros kills, but I knew I’d worked hard to get us there. For Choice’s first kill, I was one of three healers standing, there was one tank left and a sudden calm descended upon me. “We’ve got this,” I felt. I just felt it and knew it. I popped my Angry!Man (Guardian of the Ancient Kings) right as he came off of cooldown and proceeded to heal the crap out of the sole, remaining tank. (And as I did so, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, Kal would be proud of me for using him twice in one attempt!”)

The tank died shortly after, due to a meteor, but another couple of seconds of DPS and Rag was defeated.

So Apotheosis defeated Ragnaros again last week and tonight, Monday, Choice defeated Rag for the first time.

Both guilds are poised to play with Heroic Shannox this upcoming reset.

Despite my grumbling about heroic modes and such, I still do them, and heroic modes are where guilds go to raid when they complete regular-mode content, so that’s where both Apotheosis and Choice are headed.

I cannot WAIT to see the differences between the approaches to Shannox on heroic mode, can’t wait to see the mistakes both groups make and can’t wait to see how both guilds eventually down him.

I enjoy being a part of both raid groups very much and while my overall loyalty has to be to Apotheosis (both because I’m the GM and because I love my guild), healing with Choice makes me feel accomplished in a different way and allows me to relax in a way I can’t do with Apotheosis.

And hey, Rag down on normal for both my paladins, Ragnar-O’s for both my paladins… that definitely does feel pretty good. :)

PS: Don’t forget to check out Blessing of Frost, just released Episode 32!
PPS: Majik has a Twitter! Follow him @Majjity!
PPPS: I have two posts coming this week: one rewritten Holy How-To and another one about healer evaluations. Stay tuned. :)

Why I Hate Heroic Modes

I’m going to be honest with you; I hate the heroic mode toggle in raids. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do heroic modes, nor does it mean I think current raid content shouldn’t be more difficult than current normal modes. It simply means that I don’t enjoy doing the same fight with another twist or two plus everything hitting harder and having more health.

Beru linked to Borsk’s post about the end of his guild’s raiding. A sad thing, to be sure. It’s never easy to throw in the towel and it’s often something that has huge emotional repercussions for all those involved, so my sympathies go out to him. His post, however, is wonderful and he discusses a lot of different things. What really hit me is this, though, which resonated with me greatly:

I look back on TBC fondly because it was the last time when finishing the instance meant finishing the instance.

WORD. He went on to say “From Ulduar on through Firelands the heroic modes felt like a nuisance. While Rhyolith felt like a boss that needed put in his place, Heroic Rhyolith felt like “hey asshole, I’ve already killed you once, just give me my loot.”” Total agreement here.

So let’s discuss my disdain for heroic modes of any kind (for yes, it extends to dungeons as well). It dates back to the introduction of heroic dungeons back in the Burning Crusade. “Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed when I learned that I would “have” to do things like Hellfire Ramparts again at level 70. As a healer, the heroic dungeons of the day were pretty rough, at least to begin with. Heroic Black Morass? God help us all with the running around and the being oom and such. Shattered Halls? Deadly without a prot paladin to adequately AOE all the mobs so the poor healer wouldn’t draw healing aggro.

And even when I WAS geared, I couldn’t properly heal Magister’s Terrace. Without Beacon, with Holy Shock being a terrible option to use, most times, no Word of Glory or Light of Dawn or Holy Radiance… I mean, I was sitting there in mostly T5 gear and I couldn’t properly heal through the Kael encounter on NORMAL, much less heroic.

I disliked this model so much that I basically refused to do them. To this day, my paladin is still not exalted with the Sha’tar. I did what was needed of me for attunements and such, but people would laugh at others in guild if they were silly enough to say “Kurn, wanna heal a heroic??”

Wrath came around and regular dungeons were stupidly easy. I remember being on my hunter in Gundrak and trying to trap mobs like the pro that I am and tanks laughing at me.

So heroic dungeons in Wrath were tolerable, especially late in the expansion when everyone could faceroll them. To me, they felt like normals should have, shortly after launch. Their difficulty, even the “hard” ones, like Heroic Halls of Lightening and, later, Heroic Halls of Reflection, weren’t so terribly bad. (Not to say pugging them was always a walk in the park.)

And then they introduced raid hard modes with Ulduar.

I liked it, to an extent. On the one hand, they gave us more challenges and more dynamic fights to extend our playtime in there because it’s cheaper than making a brand new raid. Same trash, same maps, just different boss mechanics depending on various factors.

I was okay with this. I loved how to trigger the hard modes. XT hardmode was an excellent example. If you didn’t have the DPS to kill the heart, you’d never have to worry about switching it on accidentally. Flame Leviathan, while being able to choose a variety of difficulties, was awful because it stemmed from talking to one of two dudes and then bringing down or ignoring various towers. By contrast, how great was it to know that if you accidentally hit the big red button in Mimiron’s room, that your raid was probably about to die hideously?

I also really liked the Iron Council switch — couldn’t be simpler. Kill Steelbreaker last and that’s your hard mode. Similarly, Freya’s hardmode meant not killing her adds in the room. The switch was very simple on some fights and more obscure or complicated on others. And the levels of difficulty were really interesting from a tuning perspective.

Then Trial of the Crusader/Grand Crusader arrived with its four separate lockouts and a simple menu button to toggle it on or off. Simple, yes. Boring? Absolutely. It doesn’t help that the raid itself was mind-numbing. It taught me to appreciate trash, that’s for sure.

Again, I can’t fault them for the change because I am positive people gave a lot of feedback about how someone screwed up the triggering of heroic mode (or not) and such in Ulduar. Shoot, I probably did. When the weekly raids were introduced and people were exposed to the fights for the first time, I was like “Oh nooooooooo,” when I pugged into a Flame Leviathan where someone had talked to the wrong NPC and OH HEY, we’re doing FOUR TOWER Flame Leviathan!

So while it was easy to make the switches, it was also really easy to screw it up.

Then they realized that the four lockouts was just insane, thankfully, so they brought it back to one lockout per raid size (and now, in Cata, it’s just one lockout, period) with the heroic toggle in the menu.

And through it all, I’m still wondering why the hell we’re “forced” to go through each instance twice.

Now this doesn’t mean I don’t do heroic modes. I went 4/5 25m in TOGC. I went 11/12 25m HM with two guilds in ICC. I have my 25m ICC drake and my Glory of the Icecrown Raider 25. I went 7/13 25m HM with Apotheosis in Tier 11.

Why do I do it if I hate them so much?

In part, it’s because it’s THERE. I’m a competitive person and if there’s something to DO, I’m going to want to do it, whether or not I like the idea of it.

In part, it’s because the step up in terms of gear is great and necessary for when you embark on the next tier of content. Face it, if you’re decked out in 372s instead of 359s, you’re going to have a much easier time in Firelands to collect your 378s. And when you’re decked out in 391s, you’ll have an easier time in the next tier compared to the people in 378s. Those 13 item levels may not seem like much, but that’s the difference between heroic blues and Tier 11 gear. It makes a difference on your mana pool, your healing done, damage done, your sustained efforts.

So I do them because I know that my guild will be stronger for the next tier or the next fight or whatever. Logically, I can see that heroics fill a needed step in the gear progression.

I also do it because that’s just how progression works these days and, though I dislike how it works right now, I’m in that system and I want to progress. I want the heroic kills under my belt because they’re in the game. But I promise you, I would be a thousand times happier to kill Ragnaros, as we did last week, and know that we were now ready for the next boss in a new instance. That’s what happened in Vanilla — people cleared Molten Core a few times then moved to Blackwing Lair, then moved to The Temple of Anh’Qiraj, then to Naxxramas. It was a very linear progression.

It was even mostly linear in Burning Crusade.

You started in Karazhan and started to collect gear and some Tier 4. And once you were geared enough, you could join a 25-man team and — wait.

I feel the need to express how RIDICULOUS it was to start raiding content with 10-man groups and then move to 25-man raids. It was excruciating for us to gear everyone up for Gruul and Magtheridon and, as such, I can’t stand Karazhan any more. Which is a shame. I quite liked it, at the time. For a little while, anyway.

So, right, you went to Kara and then, to keep raiding, had to go to 25-man raids, where you would do Gruul’s Lair and Magtheridon’s Lair.

Once done, you’d move into Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern, consisting of a total of 10 bosses in the two instances. And once Kael and Vashj were dead, they were dead! None of this heroic crap.

Then on to Mount Hyjal and Black Temple and, eventually, Sunwell.

Borsk is right — finishing a raid instance back then meant something. Now it just means that the grind starts all over again, only things hit harder and have more health.

This is not remotely interesting to me.

The reasons for heroic modes are understandable, however. You have all this time and these resources being poured into raiding content and, if the raids are too hard (BWL? AQ40? Naxx?), only a small portion of the game’s population will ever see the raids. This is a huge concern of Blizzard’s and I can understand that. At the same time, they understand that there is a difference between a raid group that raids 30 hours a week and one that raids 9 hours a week and one that raids 4 hours a week. How to make everyone happy and make sure the ones who raid more seriously don’t get bored? Make optional hard modes for those who are organized and skilled enough to do those difficulty levels!

I can understand it.

I still don’t like it.

To me, it’s not remotely engaging gameplay. Triggering them? A flick of a switch instead of a game mechanic. Watching my tanks get absolutely crushed by the bosses who now hit 2701 times harder while having 300% more health? Not looking forward to it. Heroics have, to me, always felt “tacked on”. I imagine that the designers had a discussion like this about Heroic Sindragosa design:

“Okay, so Ice Bombs should just instantly kill anyone they hit on heroic? We’re agreed on that?”

“Yeah, yeah, anyone who can’t dodge those things deserves to die. What’s next?”

“Hm, good question. Probably should do something with Unchained Magic, right? Maybe it spreads to others if you’re in range of them?”

“Tempting, but… I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right. Sindragosa should be brutal. Think more brutal.”

“DUDE. I’ve got it. Are you ready to have your mind blown?”

“Hah, let’s hear it.”

“Unchained Magic BLOWS OTHER PEOPLE UP on heroic mode!!!”

“Oh MAN, that’s the best idea EVER!”

“Wait, wait. She should also PARRY THRASH.”

“YES! ON BOTH DIFFICULTIES!”

“YES!”

Jackasses. That’s not fun. I loved the Heroic Putricide encounter but not because it was heroic — I liked the mechanics of the plague. THAT was fun and engaging. Unchained Magic and parries? Brutal mechanics. I’m not asking for things to be particularly easy or unforgiving. I’m asking for heroic modes to be less about “boss and everything about the encounter hits harder and has more health” and more about things like the Unbound Plague.

It seems to me that it’s just so rare for there to be fun and engaging mechanics in heroic content. It’s usually just brutally harsh stuff.

Maloriak was engaging because of the new phase. Chimaeron was not. It was just more tank damage. Magmaw wasn’t, it was just more fire and more adds. Atramedes wasn’t, it was, hey, more annoying adds and less gongs. Omnotron was Nefarian fiddling with things and in the 30ish pulls we did on it, it didn’t feel engaging. It felt annoying. Nefarian seemed like it would be more engaging, but I can’t attest to that personally.

In Bastion, Halfus was downright easy on normal so heroic actually felt like you’d accomplished something. The dragons were interesting because of the addition of the twilight realm. THAT was a good heroic mode. Conclave was annoying on normal and on heroic, IMHO, so out of the 7 T11 heroic modes I completed (and attempted an 8th), I liked precisely two of the heroic modes: Halfus, because it wasn’t boring any longer, and Valiona & Theralion, because it was a new mechanic that wasn’t *just* more adds.

And my streak continues. I have a bad habit, since heroic modes have been introduced, of not killing the end-bosses on heroic. I went 4/5 in TOGC, 11/12 in ICC, then 7/13. And now I am 7/7 normal 25-man mode in Firelands and we’re looking at heroic Shannox and all I really want to do is say “screw you, I defeated Rag, give me a new instance.”

Heroics are easy for the designers. Just a few variables to change, a couple of new animations and a couple of new spells and that’s it. Are they challenging for us raiders? Sure. Do they accomplish Blizzard’s desire to have lots of people see their raid content? Yup. Do heroics give us an option to toggle the harder difficulties, allowing more people to see the normal modes without the more serious raiders going crazy farming the same crap for a year? Yes.

I still hate them and I do them because that’s what’s expected of me and because, by golly, I CAN do them. I try to view them as new fights and I get psyched to get them down, but it’s not the same as clearing an older instance. The pure elation I felt when we got Lady Vashj down for the first time or when Archimonde died, none of the experiences these days are comparable to that. My reaction, instead of “YAY, WE DID IT!!!” is usually “Oh thank God, it’s over,” and then I slump in my chair in relief.

So a big thank you to Borsk for helping me to pinpoint what I don’t like about heroic modes and why, even all these years later, the Burning Crusade raid content still leaves me all warm and fuzzy.

[I]t was the last time when finishing the instance meant finishing the instance.

Updates!

Last weekend, I was a guest on a podcast called My Epic Heals, which is a WoW healing-centric podcast run by a holy paladin named Eade, of My Pally Heals, and a resto druid named Wolfshayde. The other guest on the podcast was Vidyala from Manalicious. I’d previously gotten the chance to talk to Vidyala over on Blessing of Frost‘s Episode 13, focusing on the differences between 10s and 25s, so it was nice to chat with her again. :) The My Epic Heals episode came out yesterday. Strangely enough, it’s ALSO Episode 13. Cue Twilight Zone music? ;)

Speaking of podcasts… I don’t really listen to a lot of them. At all. Which is a little weird, considering I DO a podcast, but anyway. I stumbled across this snazzy podcast called Convert to Raid and have listened to all 8 episodes of it in the last couple of days. Really quality production on it and some interesting content. :)

And, speaking of raiding, I Frapsed our Rag kill. Here’s the raw video. Yes, my UI is cluttered, yes, it’s got weird noises (every time I gain Holy Power or spend it and every time Holy Shock is ready) and, sadly, you can’t hear me because of the way Fraps interacts with Windows. You can, however, hear Majik say “there goes another one” when I get flung off the side, as Tikari pointed out on our guild forums. ;)

Firelands Clear on 25

Oh man, oh man, oh man. What a relief!

On Thursday night, Apotheosis went into Firelands with Baleroc, Majordomo Staghelm and Ragnaros himself still alive and kicking.

Baleroc went okay. I’m still not convinced all the healers are hitting on all cylinders in that fight, but we had one wipe and then got him down on the next attempt, so I’m not even concerned right now.

For Staghelm, I’d completely forgotten about the achievement, “Only the Penitent…” but Majik said over Mumble “Don’t get too close, we’re going to try the achievement here.”

Now, I know the basics:

There are two flame orbs on either side of the trash, sort of in the inset part of the columns. You can’t see them normally from a safe distance, but use a hunter, priest or shaman to take a look. You want to get six people, total, to get up to the orbs (3 on each side) and all need to click the orb once to start a channel.

The trick is, if you get hit by the cast the Druid of the Flame is chain casting (Kneel to the Flame!), the orbs despawn and you’ll need to either try to reset the instance or wait for the next lockout (or maybe a soft reset?) to try again.

I love Indiana Jones and, as it happens, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is my favourite of those movies. The achievement borrows from one of three tasks that Indiana Jones has to do. The clue to the first task is “only the penitent man will pass” and Indiana’s big “zomg!” moment is realizing that the penitent man is humble and will kneel before God.

Since walking into the Majordomo Staghelm area will nail you with the Kneel to the Flame cast that one of the druids is casting and that wrecks the achievement, it’s pretty clear both from just the name of the cast and the reference to the movie that you have to run, kneel, run, kneel, run and kneel your way up to the orbs on either side of the trash. It delights me, to be honest. :D

Anyway, Thursday night, we sent Toga, Merk and Sara over to the left orb and Dayden, Majik and Void to the right side and got the achievement in short order. My entire contribution was “volunteers? Anyone?” and “Okay, click now!”

So that was fun. :)

Majordomo took a couple of tries, but we nailed the third attempt beautifully. 8 minutes in length, 2 deaths, one of whom reincarnated and one of whom got a battle rez and voila. Triple Vanquisher tokens, of course (thanks, Fandral. A lot), but two Flamescythes for our ferals!

And then… it was time for Rag.

The first two attempts were nothing to write home about. Attempt 3 was okay, but nothing special. Attempt 4 was a mindblowing 11 minutes long! And it was one of those heartbreaking, soulcrushing 1% wipes. (Okay, really 11%, but we win at 10.)

Attempt 5, nothing special. Attempt 6 was a ninja pull by mistake (silly treants!) and Attempt 7 was pretty poor.

Try 8? Another 11 minute endeavour and another heartbreaking wipe, this time at 3%. (Really 13%, but still.)

And then, try 9. No one died in phase one. No one died in phase two. No adds on any of the transitions hit the hammer. No person died to Engulfing Flames or Molten Seeds during phase two. Lava Wave damage was minimal.

And suddenly, after 9 minutes at 41 seconds…

Why yes, that IS lava floating around behind my achievement popups, thank you for noticing. ;) About 15 seconds prior to the win, I got blown off the side by a meteor.

9 people were dead. That’s not horribly terrible for a first kill, only one of the 9 was a tank and four of them were healers. We five-heal Rag. So, uh, props to Jasyla for being amazing and keeping Dayden up all by herself for a little bit there!

So that’s both amazing and so much of a relief, I can’t even express. That was our 70th pull overall. I think we’ve spent about 11-12 hours on him, all told. (Granted, that’ll include breaks, run backs, discussion, etc.) But what a relief to get it done.

What I think I’m most proud about, though, is that we didn’t drop down to 10-man at any point in time in order to see how the fights work. We are a 25-man raiding guild. There aren’t a lot of us left, it seems, so I’m really proud that we stuck to our guns and got through the content as a 25-man group, all the way through, for each boss.

We are the only guild on the server, thus far, to defeat Ragnaros on 25-man difficulty as our first kill.

A progressive 10m guild worked on Rag and got him and the very next day went into Firelands as a 25-man group and started pulling Heroic Shannox.

The other main 25-man guild on the server did both Staghelm and Rags on 10m before they got them on 25-man.

So I feel as though what we’ve accomplished is a pretty big thing in this day and age. To stick to our format, which is arguably a little more difficult given the spacing requirements on both encounters, and succeed at it, before anyone else does?

That’s awesome. It is the icing on the cake of killing Ragnaros and clearing Firelands, which alone are two pretty amazing things. But it’s totally awesome that Apotheosis is the first guild on Eldre’Thalas to down Ragnaros in the 25-man mode as our first kill.

I tell you, I kind of love these people.

A free Sunday night this week, I guess. I have absolutely no idea what to do if I’m not raiding!

(1)4%

We spent three hours and fifteen minutes in raid on Sunday night.

We walked in there, dispatched Ragnaros’s trash and looked at him, yet again.

I was feeling good. I was feeling like this could be a kill night if only we could get through Transition 2 and get into Phase 3.

We five-healed it again. God, I hate sitting healers. DPS, no problem. ;) But sitting my healers sucks! Still, I stuck with the 5-healer configuration and had three (THREE) healers on standby after Dar and Jasyla both got back from their vacations.

It was a frustrating three hours. The best we got was 37% with half the raid dead.

At 11:56pm, I was like “okay, guys. One last attempt.”

Just before the pull, one of our hunters went offline. It took forever for her to get back on, but I reasoned that it would take longer to summon someone and give them an assignment and all that.

Just before she came back, people started getting cranky. The clock had rolled over to midnight and people were tired and saying they had work in the morning and such.

The hunter came back online shortly thereafter.

I don’t know what I said, but it was something like “one more try, guys. C’mon.”

As we pulled, I typed in the raid warning: “INFAMOUS LAST ATTEMPT!” which is sort of our battle cry on our last pulls of the night.

Phase 1 – perfect.

Transition 1 – perfect.

Phase 2 – lost one person on one of the collapses, got him up. Lost another person before one of the collapses, got her up.

Transition 2 – perfect.

And then we hit phase 3, legitimately. We saw meteors! OMG!

When the last one of us died, Ragnaros was at a mere 14%. Since the fight is like the Lich King encounter and we essentially win at 10%, that is more like 4% remaining. 4% of 201,000,000. That’s 8,040,000 health or so. That’s it.

It was a weird night. It’s like, “YES! I knew we could execute this!” but also “Whyyyyyyyy did we fail to do this on all the other 16 attempts?!” There’s also the question of “Will we be able to recapture this momentum the next time we see him?” and also, “Does it count as momentum if it only happened once all night?”

I still enjoy the fight and the mechanics of the fight.

But I’m getting tired of seeing that dude purge us with fire.

Rag’s gotta die, it’s just that simple.

Maybe it’ll be time for one of my infamous inspirational speeches (that really just inspires people to go afk. ;)) next time we see him.

Or maybe, just maybe, we won’t need any kind of speech to pump us up.

(1)4%.

We got this.