So I was laying awake in bed last night at 2am because I’m a nerd and things like raid difficulty in WoW keep me awake at night. You too? Cool, glad we’re on the same page. I was thinking about the relationship between Dragon Soul and Firelands and why these two raids feel so different. Dragon Soul is, in my opinion, far easier as a whole than Firelands. I think the majority of players would agree with me here, but I could be wrong. But what exactly is it that makes it so much easier? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Interactive Video Strategy Guides
How many times have you watched a video strategy guide for an upcoming boss attempt and thought to yourself “I really can’t tell what they’re talking about, I’ll just have to wait until I see it”? I know I have. But what if your player could be standing there in the middle of the video while the rest of the raid kept going. Wouldn’t that be amazing? You would be free to make mistakes which don’t have any major consequences but you could also follow the rest of the raid and just get a general feel for how that particular encounter is designed.
I’m about to blow your mind right here:
THIS IS WHAT LFR IS.
Yeah, let that settle in for a second. How many of you completed the LFR modes of a boss before completing their Normal mode counterparts? Do you think the LFR version left you better equipped to tackle the Normal version? Even if you still had to go look up a guide for the normal version, you had already seen the fight. You knew how it worked, you knew what all the abilities looked like, and you knew what was being talked about when the narrators discussed specific boss abilities.
Now think about how many times you’ve made mistakes in LFR. There are a few mistakes that would potentially kill you, but most of them just give you a nice big slap on the wrist and say “Now now, don’t do that again.”
It’s not really fair to say that Dragon Soul is easier because it has an introductory raid setting, but it’s definitely one of the contributing factors to the accessibility of the normal mode. One could debate that if Firelands had an LFR mode, then it would have made the normal mode feel easier too.
Together We Stand, Divided We Fall
It’s important that I clarify something here. Despite the fact that I brought up LFR, I am trying to compare normal modes to normal modes. It’s only fair.
What really got me thinking about this whole thing was the general mechanics of the boss fights. Overall, Dragon Soul encounters seem to have mechanics that require the entire raid to do something together or at the same time. Let’s do a quick (and very simplistic) review of their mechanics:
Morchok – Everyone get out of the black stuff.
Zonozz – Everyone bounce the ball, then stack.
Yorsaj – Everyone kill this slime, then stack (or don’t stack).
I’m currently realizing that I don’t know how those two assholes spell their names.
Hagara – Everyone run in a circle.
Ultranixon (lol i think he sounds like nixon) – Everyone push the button, push it again if you get the light.
Blackhorn – Okay, this one is the anomaly as there’s a lot for everyone to watch out for. Personally I think it’s the most interesting fight of this tier. It still has some “everybody do this” mechanics, but a successful raid will split up DPS assignments and responsibilities.
Spine/Madness – Everyone kill this, stack here, move to next spot, kill this, stack here, move to next spot, etc.
The point I’m trying to make here is that everyone is generally working on the same thing at the same time. It’s very easy for a raid leader to call out what everybody should be doing at any particular moment in time.
But Firelands? No way. It seems like the majority of the fight required you to split your raid up into two (or more) teams, that would all have very different tasks to accomplish. Let’s go ahead and review their individual mechanics. I acknowledge the fact that I really simplified the Dragon Soul boss fights down, so I’m going to attempt to simplify the Firelands encounters down AS MUCH AS I POSSIBLY CAN.
Shannox – DPS focus Rage, then evenly bring down Rip/Shannox. Tanks coordinate freezing Rip and kiting to drop stacks. Everyone come together at the end to kill boss.
Beth’tilac – Tank/Healer go up at same time with rest of “up team”. Some of “down team” focus drone, some spinners, some spiderlings. Keep drone away from spiderlings. Everyone come together at the end to kill boss.
Rhyolith – “Steering team” coordinate DPS on left or right leg in order to turn Rhyo so that he hits volcanos. Tank pick up adds for “ranged team” to kill. Everyone come together at the end to kill boss.
Alysrazor – One or two DPS fly up into the air and fly through rings and basically tell the rest of the raid to go bugger off. Tanks pick up eggs when they hatch and kite them to eat worms, rest of DPS keep the druids of the flame locked down until they die. Everyone come together at the end to avoid tornados then kill boss. Repeat if boss isn’t dead.
Baleroc – First two DPS take first crystal, second two DPS take second crystal, rotate. One healer take soakers, one healer take tank(s). Rotate.
Staghelm – This one’s definitely the anomaly here. Everyone stack up, everyone spread out.
Ragnaros – Watch out for a million random things that are all happening at the same time, go kill your assigned add, stack for eggs then everyone move out of eggs together, go kill your assigned add again, continue to watch for the million random things but if Rag’s balls are following you then kite them and keep them out of raid.
I would argue that it would be impossible for a raid leader to call out everything in most of these fights. In some cases, you’re just far too split up to be able to see everything. In other cases (like Baleroc and Ragnaros) everyone just really needs to be able to take care of their own individual assignment and watch for anything that might one shot them.
These fights were complicated and annoying and such a pain to learn.
And I LOVED IT.
For me, the harder the fight is, the better the reward when you finally get the boss down. That feeling that you had so many things to watch out for and you did them all PERFECTLY. That’s why I play this game. It’s awesome.
Staghelm was underwhelming, on our first night attempting him, our guild managed to down him on our second pull. There was no feeling of joy, it just… happened. But the sheer crazyballs mechanics of all the other fights made it my absolute favorite tier of raiding. Many will disagree with me, I know, and that’s okay (actually it’s not okay but we’ll let it slide). But damn I loved that tier.
So Then What?
Every tier of raiding always gets easier. Your gear improves, you end up knowing the fights like the back of your hand, it’s just the circle of raiding. But then one night during Alysrazor when I was a chicken flying through rings up in the air, I came to the realization that I didn’t enjoy that fight at all. It started out as my favorite fight of the entire instance but after it became second nature I just realized I was playing a single player game. All these complicated routines I had learned in all of the encounters had such terrible diminishing returns because there was no more decision involved. On Shannox, Beth, Rhyo, etc, I’d kill what I was supposed to and wouldn’t stand in anything that would kill me… cool. But it wasn’t fun anymore. I was just doing what I was supposed to, there was little to no communication during the fight, it was just… happening.
But then Staghelm came around and the diminishing returns didn’t hit him as hard. It took me a while to realize why I still kind of enjoyed that fight, even after it posed no challenge whatsoever for us.
It’s because we were still making decisions and acting as a guild in the middle of the fight. It’s a really basic concept, stack when you want him to go scorpion, split up when you want him to go cat. But it really kept the fight… ALIVE.
The Future of Dragon Soul
So will the same thing happen to Dragon Soul? Will I get as tired of the fights as quickly? Probably not. I’m tired of Morchok already, but the rest of the fights just still continue to feel really fresh and group-oriented for me.
The Staghelm fight alone is absolutely incredible. It takes a lot of the complication of the Firelands encounters but scales it down so that your entire group feels like they’re achieving something together.
I don’t really have an ending here. I’m not sure that I have much of a point. Maybe I’m just asking for more fights like the ones I like… that’s pretty selfish of me. Just some observations to think about. I’m not even drunk right now. I’ll make the next one funny, I promise.