A lot of bloggers, in addition to the hordes of players and raiders have noticed that the content in the Lich King expansion has to date, been of a lower quality than that of TBC. This might in a large part be due to the changes we have seen in the community, people who once stumbled in Karazhan when they pulled two packs now take such in their stride. The other possibility is that simply the content is not sufficient, which given the size of Naxxramas (13 bosses), coupled with the three single instance bosses, makes it larger than TBC was.

What we can see instead is that the instances do not match up well, while Sartharion may involve a similar time to clear his trash and mini-bosses as Magtheridon’s four wandering packs did, the difficulty and approach is different. The trash leading to Magtheridon required tactics, there was no sheep, no crowd control, simple a case of slowing casting, interrupts, taunts (they dropped aggro), maintaining shield block and holy shield (only trash in the game which crushed). The trash was ultimately simple, but the raw damage possible on a raid was immense, and pulling two packs in a non-badge geared raid was likely a wipe. Following on from it we had Magtheridon himself, 5 cubes, 5 casters, 10 infernals, 2 minutes and then a big demon intent on wiping your raid and bringing the ceiling down on you. Sartharion doesn’t have that, his normal form is simply a tank, spank, and loot condition. What is more interesting are the drakes.

Adding a single drake adds little to the fight, it requires an additional tank (potentially a third for the adds), and does little to change the fight. Two is harder, suddenly there is a time limit on the first drake (well not really, but for the sake of argument we will assume your tank cannot tank 2 drakes at once, and your add tank dies after 5 waves of adds). The fight remains largely the same, all the tanks take more damage and there are void zones (I believe they have a funky name, but for the purposes of vent, don’t stand in the void zone is what I shall yell). A little situational awareness (and please Blizzard, blue portals, on a blue dragon, with blue whelps, in blue/white/red/grey/yellow aoe … make them red or green or something) and its no problem. Essentially the DPS requirement for 0 – 1 – 2 drakes is no different, it is simply a case of continuing to do what you have done (for arguments sake, 2 drakes taking Tenebron and Vesperon requires about 2k DPS for 15 DPS for a kill in a reasonable 90s +- 15s). The problem comes with three drakes.

Three drakes is not simply an extension of the fight, it is tactically no more challenging than a single drake or two, the adds still spawn, dragons still breathe and tailswipe and disciples still appear to make life a misery. What changes is the overlap. While previously we could arrange 90s of DPS per drake, we now have 45s (40 realistically accounting for the tank getting aggro) per drake for a perfect kill (or ~ 4000 DPS, rising to 4500 easily). This in itself isn’t a problem, a guild without the raw DPS (our best attempt was Shadron at 18% when Vesperon landed … and 13 DPS spontaneously combusted on Twilight Torment), could simply maintain a very strong healing, tanking and control presence and defeat the boss (2 drakes up, we have completed 50% of Vesperon and Sartharion with 11 people standing, 5 healers, 3 tanks, 3 dps). This doesn’t realistically work however,the presence of two active drakes (+275% fire damage effectively) means the Sartharion tank is pushed, and external CDs must be thrown on them (which we don’t have, since our healing core is often Shamans and Druids). The fight doesn’t change, the requirements do massively.

Dropping Sartharion + 3 drakes into Black Temple wouldn’t have seemed out of place, massive raid damage (check Blood Boil, Mother etc), control aspects (Blood Boil, Naj’entus), vast phase differences (Illidan), and multi-tank control (Council). The difference lies in the fact that the tanks have no control over their own life, Paladins, Warriors and Druids cannot survive a Vesperon + Shadron phase with 2 disciples up. By forcing the raid to support the tanks they force people to play a role they do not normally play, and add a whole new level of situational awareness that cannot be represented by sticking a skull on the affected target’s head. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact its probably good, but as the only real challenging fight in the game it sends a bad signal. What it says is that Blizzard cannot tune fights, let alone tune them to have multiple victory conditions.

I have been rerunning Black Temple recently, every fight barring the Illidari Council is tank, spank, and loot, Naj’entus, a control fight, can now be achieved by dpsing around the bubble, in short we can remove the control elements of the fight through raw dps. This isn’t an option on Sartharion, a five tank, three drakes still standing with 8 healers and semi-competent dps approach simply will not work, the time spent killing disciples would be overwhelming, the aoe spared on the adds would make an enraging Shade of Aran (15 minutes) seem short. There is no realistic control aspect to this fight, tanks get bored the second time they do it, the Sartharion tank stands and avoids firewalls (just like 0 drakes), the drake tank picks up drakes (just like the drakes themselves), and the add tank, sensibly demands the healers group together in the middle when a portal spawns, and grabs the adds effortlessly (if your healers spread out, this job makes solo tanking High King Maulgar look easy). The healing aspect is no different either, there is no massive damage spike to heal, there is no interesting damage pattern (see Bloodboil for group damage options, or Leotheras for positional damage and interest). The dps has a moderately interesting time in that twilight torment makes them pay attention to their health, which since WoTLK has not been their problem (Illidari council, your health was your problem, and it still is since each AoE ticks for about 3000 damage). Instead, the fight can largely be put down to two things:

High DPS – Perfect kill of 45s per drake, means 1 disciple up at each time

Massed Cooldowns – Negates the magic killer breaths

That is the only tuning knob Blizzard has shown us so far, “XXX casts ‘Magic breath of doom’, take more damage than you have health”. It is not a fun knob, Illidari council showed us huge amounts of magic damage (mage tank, aoe, poison, immunity) while ensuring it was spread and that a tanks role was not to stand there and pray someone hits a cooldown in time. We learned from Mother that you can make huge magic damage interesting (three people get teleported, while they are near each other everyone nearby takes massive damage), and we learned from Magtheridon that massive magic damage doesn’t need to be survivable, but it shouldn’t be class specific to save you from it. Instead of tuning the fight to make it interesting we got a fight which focuses you on raw dps, or raw cooldown usage. Sartharion and the drakes are protecting the eggs that they would hatch. A Magtheridon style (assault the eggs to force Sartharion to break off) gimmick would have been interesting and more suitable for multiple raid makeups, similarly adding an aspect like Mother’s cleave, Kil’Jaden’s orbs, or even Kael’thas’s shields and weapons would have been interesting.

Perhaps, once I kill this guy it might be a more interesting fight, to look on the M&S and go “well we killed him”, but that doesn’t really appeal to me, frankly my guild should have killed him by now, we can sit around a 50-58s drake kill without heroism, yet we bounce off and the level of other content has made attendance suck. The problem is that for the tanks, we simply cannot survive on our own (and yes we have rigged a bear tank, and we have a DK who can do the tri-spec and rotated CDs well, you still need to be careful), for the majority of our healers (and often we will support 1-2 Paladins / Priests in a raid) we are looking at few cooldowns to use on the killer breaths, meaning we can have our druids and shamans sitting there looking on, knowing the tank is going to die, and cannot do anything. This fight moved towards a game that isn’t World of Warcraft, where healers take an interactive role in tank survival, alas the World of Warcraft classes aren’t setup to play that game, and from the perspective of a tank used to having to pull out the stops to survive, or relying on massive overhealing (Patchwerk, 20 man, other tanks dead was interesting) it is a step in the wrong direction, because it means all I do is meaningless, I am not tanking the boss but rather dying slowly enough, it is a magic bullet game when we thought we were playing roles.

Blizzard needs to balance content around the classes as they are, and by that I don’t mean mages, locks and boomkin but tanks, healers, dps, and support. A fight of course can be managed easily if you rig your raid, or if you manage a great exploit such as voidwalker tanking, however the simple fact is that a fight can and should be doable in many ways (especially a hard mode version designed to test players), that may mean exceptional control (Council fights), it may be over healing (Patchwerk with 1 tank, Gruul), it may mean working as a team (Al’ar), or simply it may mean throwing all you have at a fight and not losing, but forcing a specific setup at a raid isn’t something we can all do, and if you don’t let us approach it in ways we can, then we can’t consider it hard or interesting but rather “Blizzard has a new toy”.


Larísa said...

I don't quite follow you here. I find the Sarth+3d fight very much techincal, demanding a lot of moving, situational awareness and coordination to properly deal with waves, void zones, adds of all sorts and portals. And being technical isn't enough, you've got to do tons of raw dps as well. How could this be boring?
Or is it boring just from a tank's point of view? Perhaps it's more challenging and fun for a ranged dps?

Chris said...

There is very little added to the fight, DPS basically stands in the area where Sartharion initially occupies meaning their objectives are:

Move slightly to avoid firewalls (about 5 yards).

Move slightly to avoid Void Zones (about 10 yards)

Void zones will typically have one of three spawning points, the healer group (4-5 healers + add tank), the ranged group, or the melee group + drake tank. There is very little situational awareness required because the threats are very well defined, the side of the area you stand on makes you safe from one lava wave, the other gives you a long time to know its coming (as add tank I rarely notice waves from the right). The void zones could actually be avoided by putting one person on follow.

The adds themselves, if they end up in the melee, they die with no major issues (the raw amount of AoE damage in a melee group doing single target dps is high), in the ranged they are taunted or pulled by the add tank, and on the healers they are auto-pulled by the aoe effects of the tank. Adds if handled correctly have almost no impact on the fight (and I have tanked 4 waves of Tenebron whelps).

The fight can either be classified as a raw dps race (which denies the fact Blizzard tried to add control elements), or its a badly implemented control fight because it relies on pretty specific raid setups to allow a tank to survive the killer breahts (which you cannot realistically kill the disciples to avoid as your DPS is too low if you treat this as a control fight).

This fight is far more like Thaddius than it pretends to be, it is a dps race pretending to be a control fight, but with elements that heavily punish "good" players who are not necessarily the best in terms of keeping up a full rotation while interrupted by elements or at noticing the simple positional requirements of the waves.

Perhaps it is more boring as a tank, but I know myself, our sarth tanks and drake tank all basically sit and watch tv while playing, by positioning the elements of the fight correctly we don't have much to do in terms of fun. I see a lot of DPS, Healers moving more than they need to, running around and reducing their dps and effectiveness beyond what they need to. I suppose part of that is that there is no real threat in 95% of the fight, the whelps and adds physically cannot kill me if my healer is alive, in contrast the adds on Akama basically demanded 1.5-2 healers and could push you. Having done the fight in a dps role, again it didn't occur to me that this fight is difficult or interesting because you don't need to pay attention to many of the things people do, by losing their focus on their role, they see it as far more difficult than it is.

Unknown said...

When you say the Wrath content is of lower quality, I have to disagree.

Perhaps the -raid- content, but the overall content (i.e. quests) is thought to be much better in Wrath by many.


Chris said...

:P, as I have said many times before, I am a raider. There is a limit to what Blizzard can put into a single person encounter without losing the essence of you having any effect on it, a 5 man can emulate many of the aspects of 25 man raiding (see for example Kael'thas in Magister's Terrace, the fight had many of the same aspects as actually fighting Kael'thas himself [phases 4 and 5] but with a much reduced populace). 25 man offers a lot of options, but in many ways can be tuned less than a 10 man can be (see ZA vs BT, the only equivalent I can think of for messing up was Sunwell tuned to about the same as ZA[and was thus harder since (1-error)^25 is way less than (1-error)^10).

Questing is nice, they did a good job in that and this expansion plays a lot better in those terms than TBC did, it is more linked, more interesting and perhaps more fun, but then I levelled through the area on my Paladin in 3 days, and on my DK in about 6, my priest and lock will do similarly if I ever get around to them. The content is nice, but for a raiding player where you want epic fights that really test your skills and co-ordination, WoTLK is lacking in a way even Karazhan wasn't.

I would give Blizzard kudos for their questing and layout, but the game spends so little time in that stage that while it is an interesting point, and likely sets them apart from games like WAR (which while heavily linked held less interest than the "slay 6 koblds" quests in elwynn. In a game heavily focused around the endgame, to the extent of making 70 levels of content effectively useless (and I still run BT, Hyjal etc for the fun of it) then it cannot be considered to be their main focus. In terms of dungeons, yes they are pretty and ok, but the fact is with the associated difficulty of heroics, so many instances beyond Violet Hold got skipped (I know I saw UK, Nexus, and I think VH, then heroic versions of the rest). To interest an end-game player you need to have interesting end-game content, and lacking an SH or MGT dungeon to play with, all we have is raids.

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