Sometime late on Sunday night, Achtung Panzercow passed the forty thousand pageview mark in just under 11 months of existence. I still don’t know how. I mean, it’s just me, one fat guy in the American South, taking time out of his occasionally-busy workday to randomly wank about WoW, right? A little roleplay here, some warrior advice there (some of which is even, on occasion, almost correct!), a bit of raiding in the middle, all garnished by snark and profanity? Doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination…and yet, a couple hundred people a day troop through here, day after day. (And half of you forget to wipe your feet.) Thank you all, so much. I couldn’t do this without the folks who come through here and read and comment, and I wouldn’t want to anyway.
The Anvil’s raiding this past weekend was a mixed bag. This was the weekend we decided we were going to start making serious pushes on some Ulduar hardmodes. But first on Thursday night, we stopped through ToC for our weekly visit. They really just need to put a vending machine outside the place…we do a retinal scan, it gives us our 15 Triumph badges, and we head on to something actually, y’know, interesting, instead of spending an hour and a half staring at the same room and listening to Garrosh and Wrynn stroke their peens. (OK, an hour ten minutes staring at the same room and then 20 minutes in Anub’arak’s pad. Whatev.) We went five for five on one-shots, including the hated Faction Champions, culminating on a nice clean kill on Anub’arak. We are, unfortunately, falling into that large gap between Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader. We’re able to cruise through 25 normal with relative ease now, but 25 heroic would probably gut us like a fish. It’s a somewhat awkward position to be in.
The second half of Thursday night was spent in Ulduar. We went for Shutout on Flame Leviathan, with no towers up–a pure speed kill. Well, how does fifty-four seconds flat sound for a speed kill? (Pyrite spam is love, baby.) Then it was on to XT, where we forced his hardmode for the first time by finally bringing enough deeps to destroy his heart. We couldn’t quite bring him down–our best wipe was about 35%–but that’s OK, as it was the first time a lot of us had seen hardmode on XT and we’re still learning how to handle Life Sparks and voidpoo and whatnot. We rounded out the night with Kologarn and Razorscale.
Thursday was interesting for me because it’s one of the few times–maybe the only time, come to think of it–that I’ve been pure DPS for every one of those fights except Faction Champions (where prot > everything). My Arms gear is still at least a full tier below where it needs to be, not to mention badly itemized, and Arms is not a killer DPS spec for personal glory anyway. But I managed, according to World of Logs, to squeeze out around 3500 DPS for the entire three hours, and actually beat a couple of other people on aggregate damage and DPS for the first time. It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but all four of us who tank for The Anvil rotate in and out, and all four of us get our turn in the deeps barrel occasionally. I got some deeps upgrades, ditched some of my excess +hit (maybe too much!), and once I get my new toys enchanted and gemmed, should be able to see a bit of an increase.
Now, Fridays have been our bane lately. We’ve really had to scramble to fill 24 or 25 slots. Because of the number of subs we were running, we pretty much knew that hardmodes weren’t going to work on Friday, so it ended up being a relatively laid-back three-hour tour of Onyxia, Auriaya, Hodir, Thorim (who gave us a fair amount of trouble, more than usual), Freya, and Ignis. I’m pretty sure our officers are going to extend the Ulduar lockout so we can take cracks at Mimiron (NO FIREFIGHTER), one of the IC hardmodes, Vezax, and Yoggy next week.
Personally, I’m pleased that Lin is closing in on a second piece of T9.25, because the warrior Tier 9 set bonuses are sweet. My problem is, I don’t have a ToC 10-man. All the 10-mans that my guildies, raidmates, and friends run are completely locked-in for tanks. So I’m only getting 15 badges a week, meaning it takes quite a while to accumulate 45 or 75 for a T9.25 piece (or even 30 or 50 for the vanilla T9). My wonderful wife tried to throw a 10-man ToC together on Saturday afternoon…yeeeah, it didn’t go well. It’s easy to get cocky when your raid group walks through Northrend Beasts like a tank through a sheet of paper, and then you take a mixture of friends’ alts and a couple pickups in and Gormok hands you your ass after he’s bitten it off and had a snobold roast it. It helps you remember that yes, it’s quite possible to dominate on Thursday night and look like a scrub on Saturday afternoon.
Oh, and Linedan, Azeroth’s Most Humorless Cow, has Hallow’s End wands. Whether he actually uses them or not, we’ll have to see. More than likely, he’ll accidentally hit somebody with one and be mortified.
The sweet: Friday night, The Anvil, on the sixth try of the night, dropped Yogg-Saron to complete our run through normal 25-man Ulduar. We had to extend our lockout two weeks to do it, so we’d have enough time on Friday to get some good attempts in on the Old God, and finally, everything came together.
The bitter: While the rest of The Anvil was beating the Yoggy out of, uh, Yoggy…my lovely wife, my charming daughter Nublet, and I were in a motel room in Perry, Georgia, asleep. We would be getting up the next day to sell my wife’s handmade shinies at a very cold but very fun craft festival. (Aside: 54 degrees, 15 mph north wind, wind chill in the low 40s. 30 miles south of Macon. In fucking October. Global warming, my big fat hairy ass.)
Finding out on Saturday evening that the raid killed Yoggy gave me some mixed emotions. Of course, I’m happy that “we” finally got the chance, by extending the raid lockout another week and creatively scheduling, to get enough attempts in to work through the chaos of the fight and bring it to a successful conclusion. Even though I missed part of the week before as well due to catching a cold or hamthrax or plague or cooties or something that I’m still not quite over yet, I was still a part of clearing at least the front of Ulduar in that lockout, and had been there for our earlier attempts on Yogg as well. We’re a pretty tight group, and like most good raids (cutting-edge progression or not), we live or die as a team, and team accomplishments are more important than individual glory.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tiny pang of “well, shit.”
I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there for our first Yoggy kill. I had a legitimate reason for not being there, of course…we do this craft show every year on the third weekend in October, it’s basically a (hard-)working vacation for us because my wife grew up going to it–her mom sold her handmade cornhusk dolls at every show for twenty-seven straight years until she got too sick to go. In fact, we even now have her mom’s old booth spot…booth A1, right by the entrance gate. It’s vastly more important that we be there–to make some money, to see old friends, to watch Nublet have the time of her life charming people and playing in dirt and riding hayrides and petting cows–than to attend our raid. My raid friends understand that. It was all planned out ahead of time, and honestly, my attendance has been so good in the past, even missing two weeks (one sick, one traveling) isn’t an issue.
But I wasn’t there for the first kill. I wasn’t there to see my chat window vomit forth 25 peoples’ achievement spam. I wasn’t there for the obligatory celebratory screenshot. We’ll kill Yoggy again, I have no doubt, but when we do, it won’t be the first time. It’ll be smoother and less painful, but it won’t be the first time. (Draw your own analogies. They’re glaringly obvious.)
And then there’s The Voice In The Back Of My Head. I hate that bastard. He’s the one that says things like, “see, they killed Yogg-Saron without you and we’re running a four-tank rotation as it is, they don’t need you.” I don’t listen to him as much as I used to when he’d make me doubt myself and have me half-convinced every week that the raid was about to dump me for poor performance, but he’s still there, and there’s still a little part of the ol’ brain that buys into his bullshit. Yes, I have a bit of a gear gap to the other three tanks because they’re all in 10-mans in addition to our 25, and none of the 10-mans I know have any tank slots available. Yes, I am still the Minister of Silly Mistakes. Yes, when I’m assigned DPS, my DPS is laughably bad, and when tanking my DPS is below our warrior tank and far below our paladin and DK. But I’ve also successfully MT’d everything in Ulduar 25 up through Vezax and everything but Anub in ToC 25. I’m not uber, but dammit, I don’t suck.
So here’s today’s topic for discussion. How have you felt when you haven’t been there for a big important raid first–a first kill, a first clear, a first achievement or hardmode? I think it’s natural to have a little undertone of bitter along with the sweet when knowing that your team pulled it off, but they did it without you. Deep down, I think we all want to feel a little indispensable. But the most important thing is that the team, the raid, pulled it off. And even if you weren’t there for the actual kill, you did your part to help them get there.
Yes, Gentle Readers, someday I will get back to solid, practical posting on warriors and whatnot. But after being repeatedly kicked in the mental nuts by Real Life over the past couple weeks, today is not that day. Instead, have a funny story from The Anvil’s Ulduar-25 last night.
I was the main tank. So you could say I was a bit of a stress puppy, because that’s how I am (as I tell my wife, it’s part of my endearing charm, dammit). We’d gotten through Flame Leviathan, XT, Auriaya, Hodir, and Thorim, and with a few minutes left before stop time, we went back to clean up Ignis.
So there I was, tanking Ignis around in a little triangle, leaving scorch spots on the ground for the construct tanks. We were just tra-la-la-ing along, and then…I died.
Me dying on some content is not unusual, but on Ignis? That wasn’t supposed to happen.
See, I have this pocket disc priest, Regatta, who is so good she smells like awesome wrapped in bacon. Seriously. When Reggie’s around, I don’t worry about my health, at all. I’ll get a heal or a bubble exactly when and where I need it; if the situation is salvageable, she’ll salvage it. She is a wicked good tank healer, and she was assigned to me for Ignis. And yet there I was in the Sprawl of Shame(tm), in the middle of a Scorch patch.
So the rest of the raid cleaned up Ignis and then Reggie started apologizing profusely on Vent…something to the effect of, “Lin, I’m so sorry, my kitten just killed you.”
See, Reggie has a new kitten. Her (yes, her) name is Radical Edward. Radical Edward, being a kitten, gets into everything. So it turns out that mid-Ignis-fight, Radical Edward climbed a nearby lamp and started playing with the lampshade. Reggie tried to remove her from the lampshade. Radical Edward, taking offense, proceeded to jump on Reggie’s head, knock her glasses off her face, and start dancing.
While she was healing me, she suddenly had a kitten doing a Mexican hat dance, with claws, on her exposed head, dangerously close to her eyes. There was shrieking and flailing and flying kitten. And when she could look back down, there was dead Panzercow.
I still love me some Regatta, and I still love me some fuzzy kitten. But I am going to suggest that maybe she needs to wear safety goggles and a hard hat for the raid tonight…
When The Anvil walked into Ulduar Friday night–with a full 25-man Friday complement for the first time in nearly a month–we’d already had what could be classified as a good weekend. We’d shaken off the failkarma of a few weeks prior and downed Auriaya and the Iron Council for first-time kills on Thursday night. Friday’s menu was a spicy appetizer of Crotch Pockets (Ignis), followed by a vegetarian main course (Freya) and some tasty ices for dessert (Hodir).
And we had extra incentive. One of our raid officers, the gracious and charming Dorritow, told us that if we cleared Freya, Hodir, and Thorim, and got to Mimiron trash, she’d dye her hair purple. Not in-game. In real life.
Clearly, we had incentive.
Ignis fell, and so it was on to see Freya. If Auriaya is Crazy Cat Lady, Freya is that woman who calls in to the local AM radio gardening show every Saturday morning and rambles on about her begonias before the host has to gently tell her that 7:45 am is too early to be spiking her Ensure with vodka, and then hangs up on her. Her area is filled with different plant adds, all of whom are out to get revenge for every bite of salad you’ve ever eaten and every bouquet of roses you’ve ever given your significant other. Basically, it’s PETA–Plants Eating Terrified Attackers.
Now many of us in the raid had never seen the Conservatory before, at all. I sure hadn’t, in 10- or 25-man. So you know how it goes on your first time into a place. Wipe on the trash, steady things up, clear the trash, start grinding down the boss and do a little better each time until you hit your stop time or the boss dies. Well, surprisingly, we cleared the trash with no wipes (though a few deaths), and set up for our first pull on Freya and her six exciting and dynamic waves of trash ™.
We dropped her.
Let me repeat…we kicked her ass the first time we ever saw her.
It was as close to a perfect performance as I have ever seen us give. We never got behind on the waves of adds. Each one died with a couple of seconds to go before the next one spawned in. Once we got a hold of Freya, it was all over…we quite literally beat the Yoggy out of her in short order. And everybody was standing at the end!
…for about one second. That’s how long it took the little bombs that I couldn’t see to go off right next to me, hitting me for about 35k damage and leaving me in the Sprawl of Shame(tm) as the raid celebrated our awesome one-shot. That is, if you’re keeping track at home, the third new boss kill of the lockout period, and the second which I was face down at the end of due to a lack of being observant.
After Freya, it was time for Hodir. Now we knew that Hodir wasn’t going to be as much of a pushover as his sister…uh, cousin…uh, common-law wife…? was. Despite the fact that pretty much all of us had conned his Sons into believing that we were generally cool and froody individuals who should get 20% discounts on their monopoly shoulder enchant prices, Hodir didn’t take it too well when we asked, “so, big guy, what’s in the box?” Frozen pain ensued.
I lost count of how many times we wiped on the big blue bastard–five or six, maybe seven, I dunno. This was raiding old-school, biyatch. This was grinding and grinding and grinding some more, refining our strategy, tweaking assignments here and there, learning things the hard way that weren’t in the explanation–after all, you can read about a fight, and even see movies of it, but until you’re actually there, it just isn’t as good for learning, at least not for me. Plus, I was in “roflcowpter” mode for this one (arms spec) since it’s a one-tank fight, so I had to shift gears and remember my “waiting for Godot” rotation that I hadn’t played in a few weeks.
But y’know what? We eventually beat the Yoggy out of him, too. Our fourth new kill of the weekend, and a great way to end an awesome lockout period. Sadly, we didn’t have time to attempt Thorim, so Dorritow gets to keep her hair its natural color. For now. Doom comes for you, darlin’, and it comes with a bottle of purple hair dye.
My wife runs Wednesday nights with a 10-man raid that’s made up of folks from our normal The Anvil 25-man Thursday/Friday raid. The raid’s called “No Bads.” I like to joke around with her that this means that I’m “a bad,” since I’m not running with “No Bads.” Get it? Yeah, it’s not that funny to her, either.
Last night about 8:45, as I’m messing around Alliance-side on my dwarf, she asks me, “you have any interest in 10-man Ulduar?” I was shocked, as I’ve never been part of this raid before; their tank rotation is set and very reliable–our 25-man MT, Gorebash, and the raid organizer, Haicu the DK. “What, Gore’s busy tonight?”, I asked, surprised.
“No,” she replied. “Haicu says he needs you as DPS.”
Now, you’ve got to understand, yes, I do have a secondary DPS spec on Lin, 54/17/0 Arms. But I’ve never been able to squeeze more than 2400 dps overall out of him in a 10-man Naxx. Ever. His best performance on Patchwerk, a good benchmark, was 3700 dps a couple weeks back; not bad for a part-time DPSer, but way under what all the other DPS in this well-geared, well-running 10-man can do. His weapon was a Wraith Spear that I hadn’t had a chance to get enchanted. He’s still rocking a couple of ilevel 187 crafted blues. And I’m still learning my way around the spec.
Still, I’m friends with this crew, and they needed people. So if they needed a bad No Bad, then a bad No Bad I would be.
It was a good run–Flame Leviathan, XT-002, Kologarn, Auriaya, all one-shots. We had some trouble on Hodir but got him on the third try, then went back and cleared out the Iron Council, Razorscale, and Ignis and called the raid 30 minutes early. I understand Haicu calling it early; we were doing very well, but out of our five DPS, I was a full 1300 below the fourth-ranked deeps on my Recount. I scraped out about 2200 for the entire raid and barely beat Haicu as the offtank, in fact. (By comparison, on my Recount, all four of the other DPS were between 3400 and 3800 for the entire night, trash included.) Throw in two of us never having seen Freya before, and we gladly took our 8 kills and ran. In fact, this was the first time I got to see the Iron Council, Auriaya, and Hodir, as our 25-man hasn’t killed Auriaya yet. So I had fun, and nobody seemed to mind the fact that I was sadly lacking in the painbringing department.
And there were lootses, yes, precious, there were lootses. For my tanky side, there were new pants:
Yep, Lin’s first piece of T8. Despite the socket bonus being very nice, those gem slots will hold two +24 stamina blues, and with an armor kit, they’ll be a slight upgrade over the T7.5 pants he’s got now. My biggest priority on him right now is stacking stamina, as he’s just over 30.2k unbuffed and running about 1000 health behind our other warrior tank.
And his DPS offspec picked up some new pieces of kit as well. A good cloak upgrade that looks fantastic to boot:
And, finally, a bit of a weapon upgrade. Granted, this is more of a hunter weapon than an Arms warrior weapon. The speed’s too fast and the top end damage is a bit low, actually 12 points lower than the Wraith Spear I had, so a Death’s Bite or other very slow 200ish dps weapon might be a little better. But, I think the higher DPS should still make it something of an upgrade over the Wraith Spear. Plus, we’re on an RP server, and looks do count for something…and it looks good. It’ll look better when I get Berserking on it tomorrow night. Besides, I was at the bottom of the loot list anyway, and nobody else wanted it, so why not? I can’t Mortal Strike people with an Abyss Crystal.
So thanks to Haicu for having me along and letting me see three fights I’d never seen before, and pick up some loot. The only downside is, now I have Michael Jackson’s “Bad” stuck in my head. And I’m mentally rewriting the lyrics into “I’m A Bad.”
Well, maybe it’ll give me something to do at work today when I’m not actually working.
Not long ago, I wrote a post on the Tao of the Click…”the Click” being that magical moment when, after working on a raid encounter for a while, suddenly everything “clicks” into place and you not just beat it, but beat it smoothly and convincingly. It’s one of the best feelings you can have in raiding.
But as the ancient philosophers of the East have taught us, for every yin there is a yang. If there is a Tao of the Click, then as Bhelgast over at Tales of the Aggronaut put it, there must be a Tao of the Clunk. Sooner or later, you’re going to have one of those headache-inducing, wipe-filled disasters that leave you sitting in front of your keyboard shaking your head and wondering why you didn’t take up something less stressful like open-heart surgery or less painful like javelin catching.
We got ours out of the way last week.
The Anvil’s Thursday night foray into Ulduar started off well. We had solid one-shots on Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, and Ignis. Our kill of XT-002 wasn’t anything to write home about (anytime you’re battle-rezzing your MT, that’s not good) and would have been a pre-nerf wipe, but we hung in there, stayed with it, and ended up getting him with over half the raid dead due to a bad combination of a too-close gravity bomb and a tantrum.
And then there was Kologarn. We’ve killed Kologarn twice before, so we set up for the fight figuring we’d get him in one or two tries, and move on to the challenge of Auriaya, aka Crazy Cat Lady.
We wiped eight times on Kologarn. And on none of those fights did we even get him to 50% health.
One time, I had trouble hanging on to the rubble that spawns when his right arm dies (I was designated rubble tank, our warrior MT and DK tank traded off on Kologarn proper). Sometimes, the tanks died fast. Eyebeams were constantly tearing us up. Healers were disconnecting. The relative smoothness of the Razorscale and Ignis kills was replaced with missteps, mistakes, and wipes. The banter on Ventrilo fell away, replaced by silence after each wipe. The whole thing was probably best summed up by one of our officers after about the fifth or sixth wipe: “OK, guys, talk to me. We’ve done this before, we know we can do it, so what’s going wrong?”
It wasn’t a situation where you could point at a person and say, “this person is causing issues.” (Unlike, say, the week before, when my problems holding rubble caused a fair bit of difficulty before we finally got Kologarn down. I did a lot better on it last week.) The fail was spread far and wide, and it was feeding off itself. Eventually, after eight wipes, we hit our hard stop time of midnight Eastern, and that was that. We’d have to try again the next night, Friday.
Now Friday nights have not been kind to us recently. Two weeks ago, the premiere of Star Trek cost us so many people that we could only field 19, and ended up trying to get the sub-21-man achievement in Naxx (and failing, due to problems on Gluth). Last week, at start time, we only had 23 people. But 23, we figured, was close enough to 25, and in we went.
We couldn’t get past the trash leading to Kologarn.
Let me repeat that, because reading it, even I don’t believe I had to type it: We couldn’t get past the trash leading to Kologarn.
Now yes, Antechamber of Ulduar trash can be tricky. They actually remind me a lot of those three bitchy six-pulls in the entrance hallway of Tempest Keep–not hard if you have good crowd control, but nightmarish if you don’t. Thursday night, we were blessed with four mages in the group, so keeping the stuff crowd-controlled while we smacked it down two at a time was trivial. Friday night, we still had two mages, a hunter, three tanks, enough druids to start a small zoo…yeah, you’d think, we got this. Or not.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell what kept happening. I tend to bear down and focus on my job instead of looking at Big Pictures, and my job was to grab what I was told to grab and go tank it in a corner so it wouldn’t eat squishy fase. And I did. And then I’d look up and my Grid was mostly covered in “DEAD.”
After the second wipe, things started getting snippy, just a bit, on Ventrilo. The snippy quotient got much higher after the third wipe. After the fourth wipe, I could just tell that things were about to go bad in a big way. I could hear it in peoples’ voices as a bit of an argument started up. One person actually just left the raid and the Vent channel. And that was when mercifully, one of our Chief Cat Herders, the beloved Dorritow, came back over from the officer channel and sent us home for the evening. It was a good call. The atmosphere was getting so poisonous and tense that we weren’t going to be good for anything else but more wipes.
Now as I’ve stated before, The Anvil is no Ensidia. We’re no server-first guild even on Feathermoon, which is firmly mid-pack in terms of raiding (not bad for an RP server, actually). But we’re a solid raid with a core that’s been together since the days when Gehennas and Baron Geddon were progression content. We just don’t crash and burn like we did last week…and yet we did.
It’s a sobering experience, and it’s also a reminder that killing a boss a few times doesn’t necessarily make it “farm” content. (And also, that even “farm” content can occasionally reach out and trip you badly.) It’s something of a call for each person in the raid to focus on what they’re assigned to do, stay aware of what’s going on around them, and know what to do in every possible situation, otherwise known as “don’t stand in shit.”
So here’s the discussion topic, dear readers. Have you ever had this happen in your raid? (If you answer “no,” by the way, I’m pretty sure you’re lying.) I’m not just talking an “off night.” I’m talking a night so bad, so chock full of caramel-covered fail, so utterly under your normal performance standards that it leaves you scratching your head as to how it could have possibly happened. It’s not one or two people repeatedly making mistakes, though that may happen. It’s a situation where everybody, or nearly everybody, is just not “on,” and it builds on itself until the whole raid’s performance falls apart like a Yugo. How do you handle it, as a raidleader, as an officer, as just a grunt like me? When do you keep trying and when do you just throw in the towel and send everybody home? What do you do? What can you do?
But hey. Tomorrow night, we’re going to go back into Ulduar. And this time, we’re going to pwn Kologarn in the face, boyyyyy and take his itamz. Because we are resilient, and because we’re not going to let one bad week define who we are. So we’ll walk right up to the “grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge” (a little Dora the Explorer reference for all you parents up in this heezy), do a /flex, and say:
“Ve are da Anvil, und ve are heah to fuck *clap* you up!“
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?
Last night was my first trip into the Titan Disneyworld known as Ulduar, and I came away with some random thoughts…
- Flame Leviathan is the kind of vehicle fight that may get me over hating vehicle fights. There’s enough going on there to keep it interesting, although honestly, I dislike the slow turning speed and lack of strafing ability of the Blizzard vehicle interface (yes, I keyboard-turn sometimes, shut up). But that was more than compensated for by getting to fling my wife out of a catapult onto the Leviathan’s back. What’s not cool about that?
- Based on the two non-vehicle fights we saw–Razorscale and XT-002–there’s certainly going to be more importance placed on the offtank there than in Naxxramas. Speaking as, basically, the low-ranking tank in my raid (meaning I do offtanking most of the time if I get to tank at all), this is a Good Thing Indeed. Razorscale had both of us OTs working very hard gathering the Iron Dwarf adds in so they could be AOE’d down. Perma-tanking Pummelers on XT-002 is fun…although trying to tank three of them when a Tantrum hits and Shield Wall is on cooldown doesn’t work so well. I don’t think I’ll be using that Arms spec and turning into the Roflcowpter for quite a while yet.
- Bosses in there hit redonkulously hard. I tanked Razorscale for about ten seconds on our successful attempt after the MT went down, and ate a hit for thirty-three fargin’ thousand damage before I died. XT-002 clocked me for over 23,000 and I don’t think he was enraged yet when he did it. At least on the early bosses, it appears Blizzard has gone to the “slow but hard” philosophy instead of what they did on, say, Patchwerk, who doesn’t hit all that hard but rains blows down very very fast.
- XT-002 skeeves me out a little. Maybe it’s because I actually have a three-year-old and I get to listen to real tantrums on a regular basis. Or maybe it’s because I see him doing his deep kneebends and toe touches and I think “holy shit, it’s Sportacus” and start having traumatic Lazytown flashbacks. (I truly despise that show.)
- Basically, Ulduar is a wake-up call. This ain’t your mama’s raid instance. It’s back to the days of Blackwing Lair, of slowly grinding through one boss at a time, maybe one new boss a week, wiping on fights again and again to hone your execution to a razor’s edge of near-perfection. It’s back to the days where a first kill on any boss, even the second one in the zone (Razorscale) meant something and was worth forming up and taking a screenshot.
By the way, our scorecard from last night? Flame Leviathan was one-shotted easily…and then we had to blow fifteen minutes running out of the instance because it bugged out and stuck us all in combat until everybody zoned out. Razorscale took several attempts, the last one ending with the dragon enraged and keeling over with just three of us left standing…the disc priest and two resto druids. (Birchslap!) We weren’t quite able to get XT-002 down before we ran out of time, though our last attempt got him to 3%. We’ll own him tonight, and then it’s on to Ignis. And we may do Malygos and take another poke at Sarth +3.