“What do we want?” “More complex fights!”
“When do we want it?” “…Next year sometime?”
If you were to capture a hardcore raider and peel back their surface, what you would find, besides a screaming raider, would be a love of challenge and a strong competitive streak. Raiding is fun for many people specifically because of its difficulty. Hours or even days of frustration and inability to kill a boss culminate in the strat finally clicking, people not standing in the bad, and the team achieving the victory they have worked so hard for. Most of us find little joy in a pushover, loot piñata style boss. Thus, we reason, if a hard boss is more fun and more rewarding than an easy boss, then an even harder boss must be even *more* fun and rewarding. Simple analogy, no?
Be careful what you wish for. It turns out in Blackrock Foundry Blizzard decided to give us what we were asking for. There’s no question that these fights are significantly more difficult than Siege or Highmaul. I know even with the improvements we’ve made in the past months, our guild has found heroic to be quite a slog; while previously we progressed reasonably quickly through normal/heroic. But the purpose of this post is not necessarily to QQ regarding raid difficulty, but to talk about WHY they’re more difficult. What is it that makes these bosses both harder to kill and harder to consistently farm than previous instances?
Okay, that sounds pretty simple. But lets dive into it a bit more deeply. What makes a raid boss difficult to kill? At its heart raiding, especially now that deep threat mechanics are more or less nonexistent, is essentially 3 tasks, performed in concert by the raid team. The dps team needs to do damage to the boss sufficiently quickly to kill it before the boss kills the raid, either due to a soft or hard enrage mechanic or due to the healers running out of mana. The heal team needs to output sufficient healing numbers to keep enough raiders alive to kill the boss. And finally, the raiders must avoid making any errors that result in their own deaths or the deaths of their teammates.
I’m sure all of this sounds a little raiding 101ish so far, but there’s a point to my rambling. The first two tasks are strictly numerical; i.e. they are something that more gear will make easier. If you kill a boss week X with gear set Y with 10 seconds to go on the enrage timer, and you perform similarly in week X + 1 when you have gear set Y + 1, you will kill the boss with 10 + something seconds left on the enrage timer. This will almost universally be true. The more gear you have, the faster the boss will die, the more output your healers will do, and the overall less healing they will have to do due to faster kill times. Numeric components of a boss will get steadily easier and easier as you gear up throughout the tier.
This is not true for mechanics. The mechanical aspects of a boss will be just as mechanical in week 12 as they are in week 1. It’s possible that what was once a 1-shot mechanic no longer is due to increasing health pools. It’s possible that what was once not possible to heal through now is due to increasing mana pools. It’s possible that you can skip certain parts of a difficult phase by virtue of overwhelming dps numbers from increasing gear. But by and large you will still need to execute the same mechanics as the tier goes on as you did in the beginning. And this is where Blackrock Foundry stands out in difficulty. Not in the tuning, but in the sheer number of one-shot or raid-wiping mechanics. Let’s take a minute to talk about the gib…
Gib: 1(n) of 3D computer games, a fragment esp. a gobbet of flesh resulting from total obliteration of a target usually by means of an explosion; giblet.
2(v) to cause massive damage to a target, to the point of obliteration.
Blackrock has an enormous number of insta-gib mechanics, even in heroic difficulty, which stand out even more when compared with the previous raid tier in Siege of Orgrimmar. Let’s list them out:
Gruul: Overhead smash will easily one-shot, inferno slice can one-shot an entire group.
Oregorger: Acid torrent can one-shot groups if a tank misses a cd.
Darmac: lewt baws
Flamebender: Failing to kill the cinder wolves before Firestorm is almost a guaranteed wipe
Kromog: Slam can one-shot tanks, Thundering Blows will generally kill anyone failing to reach a grasping earth rune in time. Even a solid reverb hit can kill a squishier raider.
Hans & Franz: Crippling suplex can easily one-shot one or both tanks.
Iron Maidens: Penetrating shot, blood ritual, and bloodsoaked heartseeker are all capable of gibbing a player. And don’t even get me started on turrets…
Blast Furnace – Ironically no insta-gib mechanics, despite being one of the harder fights
Blackhand – Bombs can easily wipe your whole melee group. A misplaced impaling throw is often a death as well.
Wow that seems like a lot of insta-death waiting for us. Just for fun, let’s compare it to the final tier in MoP.
Siege of Orgrimmar:
Immerseus – Standing in the Corrosive blast could one-shot a raider on progression
Protectors – Nope
Norushen – Tank failing to gain threat on the big adds before they hit a raider.
Sha of Pride – Nope
Galakras – Nope
Iron Juggernaut – Mines if you chose to set them off?
Dark Shamans – Standing in a meteor maybe (seriously?)
Nazgrim – Nope
Malk – Both blood rage and cleaves can insta-gib
Spoils – Nope
Thok – Getting chomped during phase 2
Siegecrafter – Nope
Paragons – Possibly aim?
Garrosh – Cleave during transition phases
Basically if you were doing even the most basic of mechanics there were 3 insta-gibs in Siege’s 14 bosses, compared to 8 out of 10 Foundry bosses, not counting bosses with multiple gib mechanics. And this is just on heroic! (Disclaimer: I’ve only seen a few mythic fights) The mythic bosses I’ve seen are significantly harder.
Personally I’m of two minds about the current design/changes. On one hand, I really enjoy throwing myself against the hardest content I can find, and I find each boss kill that much more rewarding given the recently upped difficulty levels. On the other hand, as previously noted in this blog, we are currently working to transition from a team clearing normal/heroics each tier to a team clearing mythics pre-nerf. It has been a great frustration to our progression that the very tier that we decide to really step it up is the tier in which blizzard moves the goalposts on us, so to speak, making the majority of the fights significantly more difficult. All QQ aside, I’m really loving the encounter design, and it’s fun to feel threatened as a tank on a regular basis. Now if I could just get people not to stand in front of flying spears…