This ain’t your mama’s raid anymore, son
So, no, the problem isn’t Ulduar itself.
The problem is that Naxxramas was so easy by comparison to the raids that preceded it that we actually forgot what it was like to progress through new content. Once upon a tier, we congratulated ourselves when it “only” took a week or two of raiding to defeat a new boss. Now, we feel like we’ve failed if it takes more than two or three attempts, let alone nights.
I was thinking about this last week as I made my first foray into Ulduar-25 (our raid’s second week). The Anvil had killed Flame Leviathan the week before but nothing else, mainly due to the instability of the server. So on Thursday we headed in, one-shotted Flame Leviathan, then after several wipes got Razorscale, then ran out of time before we could get XT-002, though we got the little (ok, big) brat to 3%. Friday night, we dropped XT-002, then slammed our hands in the car door known as Ignis for about two hours before admitting defeat (best attempt, 55%). So right now, we’ve done three bosses and are still working out what we need to do for Mister Crotchpocket.
I could tell people were getting snippy and stressed both nights. Ventrilo on Friday night was awesome because our main tank was wasted at the start of the run–he tanks better drunk, seriously. But after a few wipes on XT-002, and then never getting Ignis below about 55%, the good humor was gone and things were quiet and a bit tense.
How soon we forget, huh? I remember wiping on Vashj for six weeks before we finally got her, and it may have been more than that, come to think of it, but that’s all I was there for. We tried Kael’thas for over two months and never did get him before 3.0 dropped and turned that fight from nightmare to easymode. Just mention the words “Leotheras the Blind” around me and I’m liable to turn around and deck you, that’s how much I despised wiping on that fight again and again and again. And please note, The Anvil is not a “fail raid”; we’re no server first on anything, but considering that we raid just two nights a week for three hours a night, we do well. When we come, we come correct, dawg.
The fact is, folks, yes, Ulduar is a gigantic difficulty leap up from Naxxramas. Flame Leviathan isn’t very hard on “easy” mode, but from there, it gets much more difficult quickly–and I haven’t even seen the bosses in the second and third “wings” yet. But you know what? It’s not harder than Burning Crusade content. It just isn’t. None of the first four fights in Ulduar even begin to approach the sheer bloody chaos of Lady Vashj or Kael’thas, much less the massive gear checks of Sunwell. Hell, M’uru literally broke some of the best raiding guilds on Feathermoon.
What Ulduar is, is a Monday after a long weekend of Naxxramas. It’s a 4:30 am wakeup call. It’s a splash of ice water to the face. It’s a reminder that no, it’s not really normal for a 25-man pickup raid to be able to clear an instance in four hours, or a 10-man starter raid to get seven bosses in their very first night. It is a clarion call that successful raiding requires coordination, effort, and patience. It’s your indication that playtime is over, school is in session, and that now it’s time to start taking a hard look at your raid preparation. What gear do I need, for both my primary spec and dual spec if any? Are my enchants and gems what they need to be for my role(s)? Can I get a hold of the correct potions, food, and other buffs? Am I doing what my raid officers ask, reading up on strats if they want me to, paying attention during the fights? Do I know what I’m supposed to do for this boss? And of course, the most important question: Am I standing in shit?
What Ulduar isn’t is some new frontier of ZOMGHARD. Maybe the “hard modes” are brutal, we haven’t gotten there yet. But the next time you start to get frustrated wiping in there, and watching your repair bills mount, remember back to Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep and Mount Hyjal and Black Temple, and Sunwell Plateau if you were fortunate enough to go. There were no “hard” and “easy” modes in those raids. You slammed your head against the wall in any of those instances for weeks at a time, with some exceptions, and just accepted it.
But boy, did your head feel good when that wall finally crumbled, right?