Sunday, March 24, 2013

Unnatural Progression

My guild has been working on Tier 14 so hard for so long – specifically Heart of Fear. We moved through Mogushan Palace at a pretty typical clip, without getting too terribly hung up on any one fight. We started the progression race late, since we as a team decided to take our time and enjoy leveling through the new content and experiencing the new lore. Once we started raid, we ran in to the usual rockiness at the beginning of a new expansion's raiding content. People switched mains, those who kept the same mains adjusted to new talents and spells, and adjusted to mana starvation. It was slow going at first, but we got a good head of steam and started rolling through well enough to keep us happy.

We cleared through Mogushan reasonably well and continued in to Heart of Fear. As I would expect, the second raid in the tier was harder than the first...however it was a much steeper increase in difficulty than I believe I encountered previously.

Now I've been raiding since Naxx in Wrath Of The Lich King, and have been on the front line of my guild's progression teams since Ulduar. I didn't experience raids as intended in either Vanilla or The Burning Crusade, so I can't use raids like the original Ahn'Qiraj or the Sunwell as a basis of comparison.

So. What was I saying? Oh right.

The sharp increase in difficulty between Mogushan and Heart was staggering. I'm uncertain changing up our normal progression strategy in T14 had an impact as well. We struggled in Heart of Fear. We bled for our first kill of Garalon. We bled for our first kill of Amber Shaper. We bled for our first kill of the Empress. It was so hard for us, in fact, that we didn't even finish Heart of Fear until last week. That's right, the week after T15 was released. Since Ulduar, we have always at least dabbled in the Heroic versions of the raids before starting the next tier. It was a real kick in the gut to have no “H” kills on GuildOx.

What boggles my mind even further is that in the same night that we downed the Empress for the first time, we waltzed in to the Terrace of Endless Springs and wiped the floor with the first three bosses. We did no in-depth stratigising for any of those fights. We wiped a total of four times on the first three bosses. Not four times each. Four total. How is it that we wiped somewhere in the range of one hundred times on Garalon before finally getting a kill – Garalon, not the final boss in Heart of Fear, but one of the middle ones – and then just glided through the first 75% of the next raid like it was no more than a heroic dungeon we hadn't stepped foot in.

I am by no means saying that the game has been oversimplified, or that Heart of Fear was overtuned. I'm neither an elitist nor a carebear. What I wonder about is how it is considered progression to move from a raid where the fights were so challenging that we sat and poured over logs, blogs, strategies, virtually anything we could get our hands on, to get a foot up and keep moving and once in the very next raid have that “Is that it?” moment.

It felt so unnatural to me. I anticipate moving from one raid to the next that the first boss will be easier than the final boss of the previous one, but from there I expect them to get harder. It felt like somewhere the designers sneezed when putting together the roadmap for T14 progression and accidentally put Heart before Terrace. Drag and drop error perhaps? I'm honestly baffled. I enjoy a good challenge and I don't beg for nerfs or reminisce about the good old days when fights were harder. I'm just not quite sure what the point of having Heart before Terrace was.

I can remember one other time that the road of progression felt as awkward as T14 did. Back in WOTLK, Ulduar was a solid challenge. We were working our tails off to get through Heroic Ulduar and enjoying every minute of it when they released Trial of the Champions. I felt then – and I still think – that TOC was filler, something that someone felt was necessary to fill the gap between Ulduar and Ice Crown Citadel. It didn't fit. It really wasn't all that challenging, especially considering fights like Mimiron. The only fight in TOC that proved any real challenge was the Faction Champions. Anub'Arak was appropriately challenging also, but overall the raid felt like a real dud, and didn't feel like it was a step up from Ulduar.

The biggest difference for T14 is that Terrace didn't feel like filler. It didn't feel like it was stuck in there unnecessarily. It didn't feel like an interlude between big chunks of lore to digest. It just felt out of place.

Did any of you feel the same way? How did you feel about the overall push through T14?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jin'Rohk the Impersonator

Built on an epic scale like Ulduar, the Throne of Thunder taunts us and draws us in. Wary, we approached, fearing the worst. Again like Ulduar, the first boss in the Throne of Thunder is nothing but a loot pinata.

This troll, perhaps from waking up grumpy over sleeping for too long, hurls around lightning like a Zeus wanna-be. Jin'Rohk is no Zeus, I assure you. (Elvis Zeus has LEFT THE BUILDING.)

The mechanics of this fight are pretty simple, as is their execution.

Focused Lightning / Lightning Fissures / Implosion
If everyone is doing their job right, this portion is a breeze to heal through. Focused Lightning spawns an orb that fixates on a random player and follows them around like a lost puppy until it hits them. When they player is hit, they take a fair amount of damage from it, as does anyone standing near them. Also, when the ball is being kited around, it is consistently doing damage to the entire raid. So long story short, GTFO when you have the orb chasing after you, don't get hit in the water (see next section for why...)
When the orb explodes, it creates a Lightning Fissure. Don't drag an orb through one of these. If someone DOES drag an orb through a Fissure, it triggers an Implosion. If this happens, be prepared to either use every possible and heal your branches off, or wipe, or both. It HURTS. It is possible to heal through one, if it doesn't occur right before a Lightning Storm. We had some glorious wipes from Implosions. GLORIOUS I tell you! (Don't let anyone say a wipe can't be glorious).

Conductive Water / Fluidity
Know it, love it, use it and abuse it. At set points during the fight, Jin'Rohk throws his target at a statue in one of the four corners of the room, triggering a pool of Conductive Water to form. Standing in the water gives everyone a delicious buff, Fluidity. It bumps people's damage done up, and (more importantly for us) increases their healing taken. Oh right. And it increases damage taken. If everyone is paying attention to what's going on, the “extra damage” is actually very easy to deal with, simply because the vast majority of that “extra damage” is avoidable. When people DO take the extra damage, it's much easier to heal them through it when they're standing in the water rather than outside of it. The damage going out during this portion of the fight is light to moderate, though fairly consistent. When the Lightning Storm is getting close, it's a good time to top people off so there are no accidental deaths at the very beginning of the storm.

Lightning Storm
From a healing perspective, the most difficult portion of the fight is the Lightning Storm. The easiest way to handle this is to stack up so that AOE healing can do its dirty work. As you'd expect, Tranquility, Wild Growth, Swiftmend/Efflorescence are all incredibly helpful during this fifteen seconds. I'll add that mushrooms could be helpful here, but to be honest my personal jury is still out on them. Top people off before the Lightning Storm, rotate CDs with the other healers, and make use of your Barkskin, Ironbark, potions, or Symbiosis (obviously dependent on its target) will make you feel less at risk of dying during this phase.

We wiped on the fight over and over again for an entire night....and then realized that we were seriously over-complicating it. The next evening, we got him in three tries. Take our mistakes and try to learn from them. Our two biggest mistakes were (essentially) over kiting the orbs and trying to stack in the dead center of the room during each Lightning Storm. How this hurt us (and what you can avoid!):

  1. Orbs: Those damn orbs and Lightning Fissures. First of all, we were kiting the orbs too far, increasing the overall damage done to the raid by their aura, which in turn was draining our healers' mana unnecessarily. Now the reason we were kiting the orbs too far was because we were trying to make absolutely certain that the Lightning Fissures would never touch the Conductive Water. In theory, this isn't such a bad idea – however, overall we determined that the DPS/HPS loss from running all over hell and back to drop the fissure in the absolute corners of the room was dragging the fight out way too long, and was causing us to wipe, especially when someone key would die trying to make their way back to the stack point for the Lightning Storm.
  2. Stacking: Yes, stacking in the center of the room during the fourth Lightning Storm is essential – you'll die if even the tip of your pinkie toe is touching the Conductive Water (our OT proved this point by going from full health to dead in the blink of an eye). However, during the first three Lightning Storms, it is so much easier to stand in one of the blocks not occupied with water. Moving to the stack point faster helped with AOE healing, as well as helped stop stragglers' deaths. It is much easier for a group to stack up in a quarter of a room as opposed to a very small center point.

As is becoming the norm, smart use of cooldowns, mana conservation and strategic use of self mitigation cooldowns continue to be important in this fight. Some days (ok most days) I really long for the days of a mana pool that increases with intellect. It saddens me that the days of reforging spirit to mastery or haste are nothing more than a memory. But I'm adapting.

Until next time, long days, pleasant nights & happy Raiding.

Guild First Kill Shot - Jin'Rokh

Here's my guild shot of our first kill of Jin'rokh.  So proud of my little guild for downing Jin'rokh during the first week Throne of Thunder was open.  Congratulations, Guardians of Fellowship!