Monday, May 25, 2009

[General] Thoughts on normal modes of Ulduar

As of Friday Fire and Blood downed Yogg-Saron, a hordeside first and a server second.

Yes, our server is a bit backwater. :)

Yogg is probably my favorite fight of the entire instance so far, though it's also very easily the most frustrating. Mimiron is more fun, but Yogg is harder (and thus I enjoy it more). But to explain this, I need to break this up into smaller bits.

See, some fights aren't really pushing any one quality of raiders, one way or another. Flame Leviathan is the biggest extreme; it requires so little from raiders that they don't even need to know how to play their own class to down the boss. Other fights are basically this way - ultra-forgiving, mechanically simple, etc. Thankfully there aren't that many fights out there.

Other fights emphasize an aspect of the trinity of raiding. For example, XT emphasizes (or at least emphasized) DPS. The healing requirements were not huge and did not require a lot of coordination, and the tanking was 'stand still'. But DPS needed to be on the ball to beat the enrage, to focus fire certain things, to do both massive single and AoE target, etc. This is commonly known as a 'check'. And checks are interesting, but they're not all that challenging most of the time because even with them, there's a lot of room for really good players to boost up the mediocre ones.

Most of Ulduar are 'checks' in one form or another. Razorscale's a tank check. Ignis used to be a tank check. XT is DPS. Kologarn is primarily a DPS and healer check. Hodir's a DPS check. Thorim is largely a healing and tanking check. Vezax is a tanking and DPS check.

What about the others? That's when you get into the next level of difficulty - raidwide coordination. This requires a big dance and a lot of coordination to get down. Freya's all about coordination; focus firing adds in certain ways, moving around, etc. Mimiron is a great example of a coordination fight. Coordination fights are often characterized by multi-phase encounters and often with weird roles that classes normally don't play, such as a ranged DPS acting as a tank. Iron Council (really, any "council" or multi-boss fight), Mimiron, and Yogg are this way - and Mimiron's the best of the lot.

So what makes Yogg harder? Yogg has the final (and in easy-mode Ulduar, the only) aspect of raiding: personal accountability. AKA the Teron Gorefiend/Ledge boss issue. Most fights require a certain amount of raidwide output; raidwide damage, raid tanking, raid healing. If one person isn't as good or doesn't do exactly what they need, it's usually recoverable. Some roles are obviously more important, but even in that case you know that you can put your best X (tank, DPS, healer) in that role and you'll be fine.

But some fights require that every single person in your raid is at least not horrible and knows what to do and how to do it - and if they don't, it's a wipe. Teron was the bane of many guilds because of this mechanic, where anyone might be selected for death and the dreaded construct duty. And every guild seemed to have 'that guy'. The guy that just for whatever reason couldn't do constructs to save their life, or freaked out, or always DCed right when they were selected and stood in the middle of the raid drooling, or whatever.

Yogg is really the only fight that has this degree of difficulty. And honestly it's not that huge by comparison to Gorefiend; it's still recoverable a lot of the time. Nevertheless, lots of ways to mess things up in phase 1 alone:
  • You could decide that clouds should not be avoided and should be hugged. Adds are fun! Worst part about this is that you can recover from this eventually...but you'll waste too much time to beat the enrage.
  • Or you just kill the adds in Phase 1 too early and they don't explode on Sara, meaning you're 20-30 seconds behind.
  • Or you don't interrupt a couple and kill off too many people (and make them stand still for too long)
In Phase 2, there are so many ways to mess up it's just an embarrassment of riches.
  • You could go sit in the sanity well and do half dps for a while.
  • You could just not kill crushers that appear on the other side of the raid
  • You could be a melee that's going down the portals and miss your portal...
  • ...or take someone else's...
  • ...or get grabbed by a tentacle and not call for a BoP...
  • ...or go into the portals and die because you couldn't turn around enough
  • ...or stay too long in the brain and get MCed
  • ...or not down the tentacles in the brain fast enough and wipe the outside raid
In Phase 3, there's less to mess up. You can not turn around fast enough on lunatic gaze and do mass damage to the raid. You can not kill the immortals fast enough, or not tank them well enough. Or simply your raid could just not do enough damage. Or your sanity could run out and you could get MCed.

For the record Friday was my first look at YS, but our guild had been working on him for a couple weeks. So they had worked out a lot of the kinks: positioning in Phase 1 and who does what, how to take the portals, how to keep melee from dying, etc. Each wipe does that, and that's why even when you don't have what it takes to down a boss right then that it's still valuable to practice. And yeah, I did n00b it up. I did take someone else's portal, I didn't call out for a BoP when I was constricted, I probably did too much damage to an add and made it blow up outside of a raid (pesky rip/rake dots are too damn good sometimes).

But I only made the same mistakes once.

From a cat perspective, YS is kind of annoying in that there's very little to backstab on YS. The way we did it there's nothing at all. I actually pulled out the bracers and boots from Sunwell and got ye olde 2pT6 bonus to do more manglespam, which wasn't so bad. Cats do have lots of advantages though - between being faster by default, having pounce and very good bursty AoE, they do a lot for the raid.

Anyway, YS is definitely the hardest fight because it requires such personal accountability. You can't carry people on it. People do have to perform at a reasonable level, but most importantly they can't screw up. It was nice to be able to do a fight like that again.

On a personal note, I got my second Ulduar piece of loot - Garona's Guise. None of the rogues wanted it, which I can understand; no armor pen, less AP, and a lot of unneeded stamina. But for a bear? Good times. I also got lucky on Emalon and got the Armwraps of Triumph. Three upgrades for tanking so far. Nothing for cat though. Although...honestly, cats don't need it. At least I don't. Even being a month behind on cat gear I'm still doing really strong DPS, 5k on any fight at least and often much higher. Cat DPS may need nerfing, honestly. Or at least better scaling.

Next up, hard modes for our guild. This should be interesting. Unlike T7, most hard modes in Naxx are gates. In other words, you can't just leave up a boss and go do the other stuff first, then go back and do the hard mode. FL, XT, all the Watchers, Vezax and YS are all this way. That leaves basically Iron Council as the only optional hardmode boss. So I'm curious - how are guilds out there planning on taking these guys on and making sure that you down the rest of the content? When do you give up on a hard mode for the week and go kill the rest of the stuff? I believe our plan is to spend our first raid night clearing up to the Watchers and killing the ones that we're not going to do hard modes on for a while (Mimiron for sure, Freya perhaps) and leave the optional bosses up. Then start work on the hard modes from then until night 3. On night 4, mop up everything we have left. It's a bit risky, but the alternative is to not kill the bosses we've already killed, and that means less improvement for the raid overall.

So how are y'all doing it?


Darksend said...

We pick 1 hard mode a week and tell your guild THIS IS WHAT WE ARE DOING THIS WEEK IN HARD MODE, if we kill it we can dabble with others but not before.

As for the gates, get flame levi out of the way with the minimum number of towers you feel comfortable 1shoting (for the extra badges).

Xt is probably still out of reach for a lot of guilds in 25 even post nerf. With mostly full hard mode gear my guild killed it 10 seconds after the enrage. This answers your other question though. We wiped all night on XT going back in the next night planning to kill it on easy and move on. We ended up having a perfect raid comp and 2nd attempt we got it to 250K hp then wiped to enrage. The raid leader asked if it was possible to raid both sunday and monday since only one was a regular raid, we all said we could and pushed as hard as we could and downed him and went back sunday and going back tonight to clean up.

Hodir you will know after a few attempts if you have the raid DPS to beat it in 3 minutes, the key is the adds. Free the mages first as they help free the other npcs. Shaman and druid next, and never free the priest (the mage will do it for you). Use the fires as a caster, as not only does it make you immune to the stacking debuff and not have to jump but it has a chance to add 3000 damage to a spell and apply a stacking debuff increasing magic damage. Tank it near beams for melee as much as possible, and make sure people spread storm power (as if you have the buff that needs to be spread you yourself got 0 benefit)

Freya you need to build on, start with 1 then 2, 3 has been said to be harder than muru back in the day, my guild has yet to try it. If you are short on time just kill all 3 and kill her quickly its the fastest off all the bosses but still the most painful trash.

wow, sorry for the wall of text crit i'll stop now (good luck)

Sylvanwing said...

I have a question that is way off topic for this post.

But I was wondering about the Bearcat spec and Infected Wounds. I really don't need it. Apparently I tried it out yet again and found that it never shows up because I always have a warrior thunderclapping.

So if it were YOUR bearcat spec. Where would you move the two extra points?

Right now I am just getting to the point where my cat is starting to hit 3K dps self buffed on heroic training dummy.

Shamad said...

It might be a bit hard to tell as a non-healer, and in part all the nerfs to Ulduar has eased on the pressure, but most of normal modes and pretty much every hard mode is a healing check. Ignis, XT(pre-nerf and hard mode), Council especially on hard mode, Hodir hard mode, Thorim hard mode, Freya with ground tremor(easy is pretty easy) and Mimiron (a LOT easier post-nerfs). Scrub healers should stay out, and pretty much 1-2 priests and 1 druid is needed for most hard modes.

We put in some time on XT on thursday too and it seems quite doable, thought the enrage will be close. Raidstacking helps a lot and the healers prolly need some innervates(common theme for all hard modes).

Hodir is in the same vein as XT, nothing especially hard, bring a retridin for JoL which is slightly OP atm and teach him to dispel. Not as if he has a lot else to do. 4 healers maximum, it might be doable with 3 if you can herd off the dispels. Bring 3-4 rogues for TotT.

Thorim is mostly a positional fight, once you figure it out it's a lot easier than brute-forcing it. Should have been doable yesterday but we were lacking a retri(uncommon for us) so the healing pressure was a bit high.

We've done attempts on Freya with tremor+roots and it's doable with proper control, adding sunbeams enforces raidstacking though(or so I'm told by friends in Conspiracy), healing is insane and you may need some extra stamina to avoid getting instagibbed, as well as some proper RNG luck.

Iron Council is a lot more doable post-nerf, although the right setup is key. Retri is totally OP once again for P3. Druids are simply the best healers for P1. DK's far and away the best tanks. Stack stamina on tanks and be prepared for them dying.

Yogg with one keeper is actually one of the easier hardmodes on 10man, although a bit tricker on 25man. We've done some work on the encounter with 3 keepers up which was doable, main issue was some people taking useless risks p2.

Vezax is supposedly a terrible RNG feast. Need more cowbell(or shadowcrashes atleast).

Fundamentally the problem is that pretty much all hard modes benefit from stacking and reducing healers, and in order to reduce healers you have to "stack" holy priests. Bringing more than 1 resto shaman to any hard mode atm makes it nigh impossible. Retri JoL(scales off AP and can tick for a good 2k to each target) is pretty much mandatory for most hard modes.

Wall of Text /over

Shamad said...

*Yay thorim dead*

Positions are key, once we got them working near perfectly raid-damage went down tons.

Kalon said...

Darksend, I think that's a wise choice (to pick one and stick with it) going forward. I don't know whether our guild could do something like that politically, but it sounds very reasonable and clear.

I honestly think that our guild could likely do Thorim before Hodir. We'll see. Tonight and Friday should be exciting :) Thanks for the helpful hints on the encounters in any case.

Sylvanwing - if you don't need IW, I'd either put the points in imp mangle or juggle things around a bit and put them in NS/MS. That's a tough one too; essentially the only thing you can juggle is imp lotp. But that might work for you. I simply can't stand doing anything other than raiding without imp lotp.

Shamad, you might be right, but I kind of think you're not. Is Ulduar a healing check the same way that Bloodboil was, or Brutallus was? It doesn't seem to require the same kind of coordinated healing that other fights did. Healing output, maybe - especially on hard modes. But nothing like a raw healing requirement that other fights have had. Then again, we typically run with at least two priests and two druids, so a lot of the scary raid healing requirements are easily taken care of. For once, our lack of resto shamans is something useful. :)

Thanks for the advice on the hard modes, and congrats on getting Thorim down!

Shamad said...

You've probably only seen some of the fights in their much nerfed forms, but original Ignis/XT/Mimiron normal modes were extreme in their raid damage.

Now Ignis was o/c bugged for a long time, but beyond this it carried large bursts of aoe-dmg that needed to be healed quickly in order to get people away from a critical health range(due to various other encounter mechanics that could easily kill a low health target before healers would have time to respond).

XT's original Tympanic Tantrum did 120% health damage while slowing movement, meaning if the healers were slow on the uptake combined damage from Tantrum and light bomb/gravity bomb was sure to kill large parts of the raid. With sufficient DPS much of this could be avoided by chaining hearts, which is how some early guilds managed to do it at all.

Mimiron used to require extreme co-ordination during p2 especially, we tended to use 3 holy priests when possible, each assigned to their own groups spread out around them at left/front/right of the boss for maximum PoH efficiency. As a reference, I can say I use a good 30k less mana(guesstimate, might be more) during Mimiron now than I did early on, all because of the nerfs to this fight.

Many hard modes still require similar arrangements. In general, PoH is a lot more demanding since it's not a smart-heal where as in TBC when you relied on resto shamans and CH, because of how it works it co-ordinates itself with the exception of the first hit, which is the only one the played controls and can thus be lost to overhealing.

ps. Orbit-uary down <3 took about 4h of work :) Steelbreaker next on menu for learning this week :)