Antorus First Impressions

Today was the day! With rosy cheeks and bright eyes, the raid teams of <of The Queue> descended upon Antorus the Burning Throne in a quest to save all of Azeroth (and also get some sweet, sweet loots). After a two hour raid night tonight, my team got through seven of the eleven bosses in normal difficulty, meaning that I’ve now seen a good chunk of the instance. Despite my lack of sleep (life has gotten very busy!), I absorbed a lot of information during those two hours of pulls!

The biggest thing I noticed right off the bat was that Blizzard definitely learned their lesson from Tomb; the first couple bosses of Antorus were much more in-line with the expected difficulty level. It wasn’t until Kin’garoth that my group wiped, and even there we only got stuck for a couple of pulls.

I will admit that my raid team is overgeared for this difficulty but this only goes to prove that, unlike Tomb, Antorus encounters can be outgeared. That was definitely a problem in Tomb – no matter how good your gear was, mechanics still had to be executed perfectly to avoid some sort of raid wipe mechanic. While I don’t think better gear should allow a group to totally roflstomp a zone, gear should definitely make an encounter easier and smooth over any minor mistakes. Antorus has done a much better job of balancing these two forces.

Partly due to my own bleary exhaustion and partly due to the fact that we tore through them so quickly, I honestly don’t remember a lot of the details from most of the bosses. The general impression that I got though, was definitely a raid with a lot of movement. As a holy paladin who’s built herself around Light of the Martyr instant casts, I was totally digging it! But, I can see more stationary classes not enjoying that as much.

One fight that did stick out to me though, was the Eonar fight. First of all, the room was absolutely gorgeous. Titan glowing technology everywhere mixed with plants and green, it was truly a beautiful room! Unfortunately, the fight itself felt… weird. There was a lot of running around to fight different groups of adds (presumably to stop them from attacking Eonar’s spirit or somesuch like that) and then, very suddenly, an achievement flashes up and we win. No boss, no final adds wave (that I could tell), just finish off this pack and we’re all done here. I suspect that this fight will be a lot more involved in Heroic because in Normal, it definitely felt very “LFR Desolate Host, but there’s actually no Desolate Host”. I honestly spent more time enjoying the scenery and tracking down the group than I did executing mechanics, and everyone’s health was totally fine.

Later on was Kin’garoth, who, as I’ve previously touched on, was definitely a step up from everything preceding him. Dubbed the Soup Boss by a sleep-deprived Pants, Kin’garoth featured not only a beam of death, but also balls of raid-wide AoE, an immunity phase, and two large adds which needed to be burned down as fast as possible. It definitely took us a pull or two to figure out that we needed to focus down the purple construct first as well as how to effectively avoid his almost instant kill zap. Once we got those two things down though, we were all set.

I did notice that there was a little big of awkward mechanics overlap (throwback to Fallen Avatar), but unlike the bosses in Tomb of Sargeras, we could actively control which mechanics overlapped by prioritizing a different add over another. I like that a lot; it gives teams the ability to tailor the fights to the mechanics they can better counter, making for a more engaging experience.

We got one quick pull in on Varimathras before the two hours was up, wiping at about 50% health and lots of mechanics still to work out (I’m looking at you, Misery), but I’m pretty confident that the team will be able to get him down at our second raid night of the week. Unfortunately, due to a metric ton of conflicts, I won’t be able to attend that raid so I’ve got a week to wait before I can jump back in. That just gives me plenty of time to get all excited again, right?

All in all, I’m super stoked for the new raid! Raiding is, by far, my favorite aspect of the game, and as much as I like having familiar fights down to a science, I also really love experiencing new ones! I have good feelings about my raid team’s progression in this tier, and I can’t wait to unlock that final cut scene for the first time (I always try to avoid spoiling it until I can see it myself). Bring on the Burning Throne!

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Tomb of Sargeras Recap

It’s Antorus Eve guys! Come tomorrow’s reset (for US realms, at least), the next raid tier will be upon us, bringing us new baddies, mechanics, and, of course, loot! However, before we entirely dive into the next raid, I want to take a moment to reflect upon the retiring giant, Tomb of Sargeras.

While the Tomb of Sargeras did perhaps have one too many soak mechanic and five too many RNG raid-wiper, I have to say, it was a pretty entertaining raid. The instance pretty adeptly avoided the issue of being ‘all demon’ like it threatened to be when announced. Each boss fight was different enough from each other so as to be memorable and independent. There were some spots that were perhaps tuned too tightly and a few mechanics that were incredibly unforgiving, but all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time closing the portal to Azeroth.

However, no raid review is complete without a blow by blow analysis of each raid boss, right?

Goroth

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic, Mythic
Best Known For: Nothing. This boss was a literal cakewalk
Attributes: +5 to Bowling
            +3 to Hide and Seek 
            +2 to Nap Time

I’ll be honest, Goroth was the boss I have the least number of kills on. Not because he’s super hard or anything – actually, quite the reverse is true. My raid team would often kill him before I was even able to get online to raid, that’s just how simple the mechanics were. While I did enjoy bowling for spikes the few times I did fight this boss, overall, he was pretty forgettable. But, as the first boss in an instance, that is just the perfect warm up.

Demonic Inquisition

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Annoying Target Switching (even I, as a healer, knew this)
Attributes: +4 to Dispel Mechanic 
            +2 to Belly Realm 
            +3 to Torment

After the faceroll that was Goroth, Inquisition was definitely a rude awakening. There was some sort of interrupt thing (look, I heal this stuff, ok?) and an annoying target swap along with the classic balancing act of accruing Torment vs DPSing, a lot to juggle while also getting your Calcified Quills out of the raid group so you don’t spike your friends up into the air. There wasn’t anything particularly unique or compelling about the bosses’ models or dialogues, which all in all, made the whole encounter rather bland. Definitely not one of my favorites.

Harjatan

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: HUG THE TANK
Attributes: +7 to Murlocs 
            +4 to Water Puddles 
            +3 to Stacking

While he wasn’t the most original of bosses, I quite liked the Harjatan fight (except for the fact that the druid and shaman healers on my team always whooped my butt on the meters with all the stacking). I liked the fact that everyone took one of the boss’s massive blows to the face, don’t ask me why, I just liked it. The panicked spreading during the frosty bit too, was awesome fun from a healer perspective to drop some massive numbers, before we all got back together to hug the tanks. It was a simple fight, for sures, but gratifying!

Mistress Sassz’ine

Nickname: Mistress Splashyfrass
Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Get in the Green Beams! and The Best Healing Trinket of the Tier ™
Attributes: +13 to Save Your Friends 
            +5 to WHALE 
            +2 to Run around and Panic

I will be honest: the first couple times I did this fight, I absolutely hated it. The mechanics were completely unforgiving in comparison to what had come before. The Hydra Shot damage was immense and very, very spikey. And there was just so. much. going. on! But, as time went on and I got better at the fight, I found myself falling in love with Mistress Splashyfrass. As a holy paladin, I discovered an awesome rhythm to the fight which resulted in that being one of my best bosses performance-wise. The chaos in the last phase was insane, but manageable, and the only person I could kill was myself. And did I mention, there were whales??

However, one piece of loot that the Mistress drops deserves a paragraph all to itself. Sea Star of the Depthmother. For every single healer on our team, and perhaps in the universe, this was the trinket to have. The proc rate was insane, and often off of frequently used spells. It was god-mode. And, unfortunately, I had terrible luck rolling for it. I spent months farming for this trinket. Months. I saved a coin every raid reset, and would consistently pug it when our raid was progressing elsewhere in the instance.

And then finally, one fateful evening, I got it to drop.

(Actually, I didn’t at all, a friend who was with me on the run did and he passed it to me.)

But I got it.

And from that day, everything changed.

Just like the beloved Cake! from last tier, I suspect I’ll be hanging onto my Sea Star for many moons to come.

Sisters of the Moon

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Being a Single Target Fight, Despite Looking like a Multi-Target Fight
Attributes: +3 to Moons! 
            +4 to Absorption Shields 
            +18 to Kill Your Framerates

The room of this boss was gorgeous. Hands down, I think this was one of the prettiest rooms of the instance. The floor… the floor was a moon that changed throughout the fight! Unfortunately though, this beautiful room very quickly would kill my poor ol’ computer, which meant I frequently did this boss with 15 frames per second or less. Not exactly the best experience! On a mechanics level, the Sisters had a healthy balance of fun mechanics and finicky ones. Clearing your stacks of Moon or Shadow debuffs on the floor was fun in theory but bothersome in practice. The pink beam of “Split this with your friends!” was very rarely split with friends because of when it came up in the fight. On the flip side though, I really enjoyed the absorption shield that needed to be healed off (really, any healer specific mechanics are a lot of fun!). Any excuse for big burst numbers is a win in my book!

The Desolate Host

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Split Realms
Attributes: +2 to Adds 
            +1 to Ancient Night Elven Burial Ground 
            +6 to The Hokey Pokey

While this boss was a total maze to get to (and a pain to leave from), I quite liked the Desolate Host. The change in mechanics from Normal to Heroic completely changed the way our raid team did the fight, making it much more interesting from a progression point of view. And I really dug the split realms since it put a lot more personal responsibility on each member of the raid. The fight did seem a bit long, but, on the bright side, once you got to the actual boss, you were pretty much golden. Oh, and Spirit Side is the Best Side!

Maiden of Vigilance

Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: COLORS. MOTHER OF PEARL, COLORS.
Attributes: +8 to Identifying Colors 
            +3 to Catching Balls 
            +5 to JUMP IN THE HOLE

Maiden was a boss that was either awesome… or awful. Who woulda thought that identifying colors would have turned out to be one of the most difficult mechanics Blizzard added in this tier? (For those of you who are colorblind, I have nothing but respect because I have no idea how you folks could do this fight.) At first, I really loved the idea of purposefully jumping into the hole at the center of the room, but the novelty of that quickly wore off after a few bugged explosions that resulted in a very, very long fall. Maiden, when it was going well, felt like a well oiled machine of stacking and spreading, running on the rails and collecting the same colors. When she was going poorly, it was a hot mess where one accident led to another, led to another, led to an explosion, and ended in a wipe. The best part: not even when we had her on farm were we safe!

Fallen Avatar

Nickname: Grunty (the Maiden) and Smashy (the Avatar)
Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Terrible Mechanics Overlaps
Attributes: +5 to Grunting 
            +5 to Smashing 
            +9 to RNG

Avatar… was not a fun boss. I’ll go ahead and say it. The fight was tuned rather tightly and the mechanics often overlapped in the most unfortunate ways. You have to run across the room to converge onto one point to burst through the Maiden’s shiel- but oh wait! It’s Unbound Chaos so instead you need to run away from all your allies or they will kill you! The bottom phase was just as aggravating with its Dark Marks throwing people every which way and the tornadoes which always seem to be headed straight for you and just- ugh! Not a ton of fun! There was just too much going on: far too many instant death, and, worse still, raid wipe mechanics. Adding to this, the Maiden’s grunts were just so danged loud! C’mon woman, I know you’re fighting and all that, but could you keep it down?

Kil’jaeden

Gotta get that boss kill shot in for this guy!

Nickname: The Guild Breaker
Difficulties Downed: Normal, Heroic
Best Known For: Being Absolutely and Completely Awful
Attributes: +9999 to Soaking Swirlies 
            +9999 to Burning Adds 
            +9999 to Knockbacks 
            +9999 to Darkness 
            +9999 to Weeping

I completely accept that the final boss of a raid tier needs to be difficult. I absolutely understand that the final boss must include challenging mechanics. I 100% buy that the final boss will require a lot of wipes before it is downed.

But Kil’jaeden? That was just mean.

The Deceiver rightfully earned his reputation as the Guild Breaker. The mechanics were unyielding. The timers could so easily go wrong. And even one Armageddon swirl missed pretty much meant a wipe, if not right away, then some point later due to healer mana loss. Kil’jaeden was tuned way too tightly, to the point of being painful rather than challenging. Progressing on him often felt like throwing oneself against a brick wall over and over while praying for change.

I still don’t understand why Illidan made us go find him in that darkness (what a jerk!). I still don’t understand which way the obelisks would do their zap. I still don’t understand why Fel Claws needed to hit like a dump truck going down a steep hill.

Luckily, after tomorrow, I won’t have to.

Despite a very brutal ending, I still have to say, Tomb of Sargeras was a decent raid. The bosses each felt different from the preceding, and with a variety of themes and designs, there was far less ‘demon burn-out’ than I feared. While not my favorite raid of all times, I definitely think that Tomb of Sargeras will be ranked pretty solidly up there due to a number of strong features. Just please, no more Kil’jaedens any time soon!

Onwards, to Argus!

Apparently, I’m a Raid Leader

ArchiHello my name is Fussypants and apparently I’ve been a raid leader for several months now.

Well ok, I wasn’t completely in the dark about this.  Actually, I knew exactly what was going on when I stepped up and offered to lead one of my guild’s raid teams.  But it just boggles my mind that I’ve been doing it for several months now.  Like whaaaaa?  Are we sure this isn’t just a hallucination?

Ok ok, let me explain how this all happened.

So as many of my readers know, I am one of the core officers in a rather large guild.  Well, I guess rather large guilds because we actually have two of them now.  Long story short, we’ve grown explosively over the course of the expansion and are now sitting at somewhere around 1200 characters? Hence the two guilds.

I also have talked a lot about raiding and as you can probably guess, I do that through my guild.  With a guild of over 1000+ folks, we kind of ended up with a rather large raid team.  It started off innocently enough, about 20 or so people who logged on twice a week every week.  But as the expansion wore on and the doldrums began, the opposite of what was expected happened.  Instead of our raid team shrinking, it actually grew.  We went from 20 of us to 25 of us to 30 of us until finally there were more people wanting to raid than there were spots in a raid group.

We had to do something fast.  The absolute worst thing in the world (at least in my opinion) is to have to sit folks, so we needed to find another solution.  And after much, much deliberating, it was decided that two raid teams was the way to go.

A raid leader for each team was decided upon but before we could even pull the first boss in our respective teams, one of the raid leaders decided that he didn’t want to commit to that level of responsibility.  And suddenly, we were left with a team without a leader.

Like I’ve mentioned before, my absolute worst fear was that we would have to sit some of our raiders.  And now with one raid leader gone before the ink was even dry on the page, there was a legitimate risk of this happening to one of the teams.  I couldn’t stand by and watch that happen to a group of people I knew had worked so hard to be where they were at.  So I volunteered.

Now, I had raid lead some pug raids before, explained a couple of mechanics, organized some healer rotations, the like, but never had I done anything quite to this level.  As I was about to find out, there was a whole lot more to raid leading than just telling the DPS to get out of the fire.

Xhul
THE FIRST LESSON OF RAID LEADING: ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING
I’ve always tried to maintain a positive and friendly attitude while online.  It just seems like the right thing to do- so many people use the internet as their escape from real life drudgery so who am I to bring negativity into their happy place?  But I will admit, this even tested me.

Wipe or kill, I found that I needed to remain positive and cheery the entire raid night.  If something was going well, fantastic!  Congratulate the group and particularly anyone who went above and beyond.  If stuff isn’t going quite so well, don’t get discouraged.  We all know something is going wrong, no need to harp on it.  A simple “what did we do wrong that time and how can we fix it?” goes so much farther than a “why are we so bad?”.

But with attitude, I found I also needed to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to cheer everyone up every raid.  Sometimes a night of wiping is going to get people down and there’s nothing you can do.  But this shouldn’t stop the raid leader from being positive, encouraging, and above all, focused on improvement.

THE SECOND LESSON OF RAID LEADING: YOU GOTTA KNOW YOUR STUFF OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES
I thought that I knew mechanics when I stepped up and offered to raid lead that first time.  Boy, was I wrong.  You see, it’s not good enough to just know one aspect of the fight. I can’t just know how to heal Kilrogg, I need to know every single part of the fight.  The Heartseeker mechanic.  The interrupts.  The adds.  The visions groups.

I’ve probably spent the better part of 20 hours just reading up and practicing mechanics so I could better lead my group.  I watched videos, read strats, combed logs, you name it I did it.  And in the end, it all paid off.  I can lead a Heroic Hellfire Citadel Raid in my sleep, I know the mechanics so well (not saying I would do this though).

There are some mechanics however that I do not know all the intricacies of.  For example, I know that the tanks need to taunt off for Zakuun when one tank gets Soul Sliced but as to what happens inside that spirit world, I haven’t a clue.  I can’t possibly know every minute detail.  As a raid leader, I learned all the mechanics but I leave it up to my raiders to find the tips and tricks of their class best suited for handling the mechanics.

When there is someone in the raid who has a better strat or understanding of a specific mechanic, I let them take point on it.  Heroic raiders have to use every advantage they get; I would be silly to turn away helpful advice.  Raid leaders lead, not micromanage.  I have a responsibility to know the fight as a whole but if someone knows a specific part in better detail, then I am going to let them take charge of that specific item.

Mammoth
THE THIRD LESSON OF RAID LEADING: YOU NEED A SECOND IN COMMAND
There’s a reason ships have First Mates- the Captain doesn’t always catch everything.  This is the same for raid leading, I don’t always remember to call every mechanics or to change the loot before raid.  And sometimes, I can’t even make it to raid on time or at all.

I am so very lucky to have a responsible and observant second in my fellow blogger Bodhirana.  If I miss something or can’t do something, I know I can count on him to catch what I miss.  I trust him completely to lead raids when I cannot attend.  And I can bounce ideas off of him when changes need to be made.

Fast forward a few months and a few raid team shuffles and here I am, still raid leading, still in one piece. It’s been an incredible journey- from Heroic Assault all the way to Heroic Archimonde but I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I’ve learned so much about raiding, about leadership, about the people on my raid team that I don’t think I could have ever learned otherwise.  I’ve been trialed and tested, but in the end, every single one of us got our mooses and every single one of us can call ourselves ‘Heroic Raiders’.

So there you have it! How I accidentally on purpose became a raid leader!  I guess I can add this to my growing list of ‘Stuff I Never Thought I’d Do But I Ended Up Doing Anyway’.

Until next time, stay out of the fire!

Yotaan’s First Real Raid

We forgot to get a screenshot from the raid (as we are prone to do) but we both agreed that this was a great screenshot all the same.

We forgot to get a screenshot from the raid (as we are prone to do) but we both agreed that this screenshot, from the guild holiday party, was pretty great all the same!

During this recent holiday vacation, Yotaan stepped out of his comfort zone and tried real raiding.  Not the LFG, mind you, but the real deal.  There was Mumble, call-outs, raid chatter, and all that fancy raidin’ stuff.  The group was coordinated.  Loot distribution was organized.  Fussypants was in her element, smiling the whole time.

Now, my experience with raiding is pretty limited – so I can only assume so much.  We were raiding Normal Lower Hellfire citadel, a holiday raid for the team.  Normal level raids need to have a certain level of organization and intensity, so I think this is how a raid is supposed to go down.  The team was relaxed, as it was not progression for them.  Yotaan was focused on the encounter as it was progression for him.

However, Yotaan was almost a fish out of water.  He’s not used to such coordinated play.  Now, I must admit, I had it easy.  I was literally sitting next to the Pants on our laptops.  She called out what I needed to do to keep Yotaan alive and dps’ing.  So, overall he did well.  Maintained some reasonable dps, not the lowest in the raid and certainly not the highest.  No wipes were caused by him.  Yotaan lucked out on some tomes, and he even got an weapon upgrade!

It was a lot more fun and a lot less stressful than I expected.  The group was jovial and fun.  I was even able to join some of the raid chat and had a good time.
As an outsider joining a group of established raiders, it appears that Yotaan joined a dance.  It was like a complicated stage dance, perhaps in a musical.  Some were going that way, some were going the other way.  It was fun to watch and the guild team was orchestrated very well.  Participating with over a dozen other players in a coordinated dance is a great way to pass the time.

And yet, while the experience was ideal, Yotaan does not feel the strong urge to raid again.  By raiding you are committing to a schedule.  You are the boss or have a boss (the raid leader.)  You are expected to show up on time and be prepared.  There are responsibilities.  There are requirements.  Wait a minute, this sounds like work.  It sounds like a job!  I already have one of those, I don’t need another one!
I want to play on my own schedule and time.

In the past I have written about not chatting and doing my own thing which I still like to do.  Of course, I also resolved to play with the Pants more this year as well.  But I don’t think raiding will fit the bill as a routine item.  Perhaps now and then I will join, but frankly, it’s not my thing.   I am glad to experience it and I understand the draw.

But raiding seems like work to me, and I play to play, not to work.

First Normal Highmaul!

Hey, would you look at that.  I actually got a screenshot from the raid!

Hey, would you look at that. I actually got a screenshot from the raid!

As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  And this proved to be true for me.  Mere hours after I posted my last article about my inability to raid this expansion, I got some fantastic advice in the comments and an invitation to another blogger’s normal raid.  You guys absolutely rock!

So problem solved! I now know the Highmaul fights!  And here’s how it happened!

Shortly after posting the article, I got a twitter DM from another blogger named Ambermist (you should all go check out her blog, she has some amazing stuff on raiding and WoD in general) offering to take me along on her normal clear of Highmaul.  I got Yotaan’s permission, downloaded Mumble, upgraded some gear and I was ready to rock.

I was invited to the raid and right away given a quick and concise rundown of the fight (it turns out there are tiger pits in the Kargath fight).  As soon as I was caught up, we were off!  I was healing so I got a good feel of the damage going out in each fight as well as deadly mechanics to watch for, which is absolutely perfect!

We tore through Kargath (if he focuses, run him through fire) and sped onwards into the raid.  Before each boss, Ambermist would give me a great little overview.  The Butcher (stack with ranged, run back after knockback) and Tectus (move right if you have debuff, otherwise move left) both went down without a hitch, and we were at Brackenspore (heal the mushrooms!).  We did wipe to this but we quickly picked ourselves back up, located the problem, and fixed it, downing Brackenspore with ease.

Up next were the Twin Ogrons.  I was a bit worried about this one because this is the one fight that people wipe on in LFR.  But my fears were unfounded because a quick explanation and boss fight later, and the Twin Ogrons (stack, avoid fire, shield charge, and ground swirlies) were down!  Ko’ragh was up next (run away when boss is coming to make silence circle, heal hardcore through shadow and energy marked players) and before I knew it, we were at Imperator Mar’gok.

Mar’gok unsurprisingly was the toughest fight in the raid.  There were a lot of mechanics to watch for (jump DON’T SURF waves, stack and avoid runes, stack for intermission unless you have mark, heal like crazy all the time) and a lot of raid wide damage going out.  We wiped a few times, but each time we popped back up and tightened our method.  Finally, with the help of another healer from their guild, the sorcerer king fell!

I want to send a huge thanks to Ambermist and her guild Check Please! Without them, I definitely couldn’t have done this!  The raid was clean, efficient, and cheerful, a perfect environment to learn the fights.  And I just want to say, I was super impressed by their ‘get stuff done’ manner! When things were going horribly wrong, we would quickly and cleanly wipe it instead of wasting time.  And even though people were streaming in and out of the raid group, everyone who joined was super focused and professional!  Very remarkable!

So now I have a pretty solid working knowledge of the fights in Highmaul.  I also have quite a few Normal pieces of gear (something I did not expect at all!) which helped greatly to increase my ilvl! I am ready to begin raiding again!  Huge thanks to Ambermist and Check Please for unlocking the world of raiding for me!!