Eternal Palace heroic?

So with me playing the Hunter more frequently in recent times and many of the people I play with on Alliance not necessarily being active raiders currently, there was some interest in taking a poke at the new(ish) raid and see what the bosses in there were capable of and it also gave me a good opportunity to potentially get some more gear—unfortunately no luck with that.

We started out with a core of seven players, meaning we were a few short of being able to reasonably enter the raid necessitating looking for randoms to fill out the ranks. This lead us to the decision of going with the more PUG-friendly raid-size of 20 players, with the usual 2/4/14 setup—two tanks, four healers and 14 damage dealers. The bigger raid size allows for more individual mistakes from each player which tends to be a very good property to have when you are relying on players whose capabilities you have no idea of.

The raid started out well enough, with us killing Sivara on our first attempt though admittedly with heavy losses—it seems the decision to bring a larger group paid off, since several people clearly had no idea what they were doing in this encounter. I tried my best to explain the general tactics to our own group on TeamSpeak, knowing that they had little to no experience in the raid and this seemed to work out well for them for the most part.

After a successful kill we moved on towards the next boss, Behemoth, who did provide us with one wipe since several of our randoms did not seem familiar with the healing immunity magic and consequently didn’t get the buff allowing them to be healed—one of our own had also missed out on us killing the pufferfish on pull, meaning they didn’t get the buff at start and also ended up dead. A short couple of raid warnings later on the second pull we managed to down the boss with no casualties which was a relief since I don’t find the boss particularily interesting to play.

Radiance of Azshara again went smoothly, without many casualties and I believe only one try needed to kill the boss. To be fair, this boss’ mechanics are more standard faire than Behemoths’ and anyone who did some dungeoning in Legion and remembers Wrath of Azshara from Eye of Azshara knows something like 80% of the mechanics on this boss already, making success with inexperienced players more likely.

This, however, is where our moderately good run ended. We unfortunately got stuck on Lady Ashvane trying the relatively standard two-phase tactic but unfortunately not quite making it with our best try being with around 500-thousand boss health left. I probably should’ve done some more stringent pruning of people who weren’t performing or perhaps switched to the potentially more easy-to-execute three phase strategy if we had people failing, but the wipes eventually lead to the raid dissolving with the extra players we had found leaving. Luckily, this nicely coincided with a healer we know coming online who we knew and was reliable, so we decided to continue the raid in tighter setup of 2/2/6 though still needing two random damage dealers—for Ashvane we actually ran 2/1/7 since we still wanted to make the damage check for two phase and we knew our healer could handle healing it alone.

We rounded up the evening by killing Orgozoa without too much fuss and Queen’s Court with a lot of fuss, and I have to say though the first half or so of the raid was much easier with the larger group it was much more fun having mostly people we knew in the raid and being able to communicate properly even when we were having significant problems such as at Queen’s Court.

Overall I had a rather fun time doing some “casual progress raiding” in a somewhat more relaxed atmospehere than my normal progress raids, where while I did know the encounters many in the raid did not and I also had to play them very differently, not only because I was playing a completely different role from normal but also because of the small raid size towards the end necessitating me more frequently playing and paying attention to mechanics that I could probably normally safely ignore in heroic—it might actually be rather fun if we get this small raid going on a somewhat regular basis, at least for a while, and there seemed to be interest in doing so. Here’s hoping we find enough people to get going next week without having to look for extras!

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So, well, we killed Za’qul. And, well, it feels like there isn’t that much more to say about the fight from a healer perspective that I haven’t already said. It’s basically: keep the tanks alive, handle the bursts of damage from the dreads preferably with some sort of damage reduction cooldown—making Priests and Paladins good—and for the rest, just play the mechanics. Sure, there is some jumping between the different realms—specifically the fear realm in the later stages—but even there you just have to follow the rest of the group and go down at the correct times.

This means the fight is a bit boring to talk about since it’s all more in the execution than any specific exciting mechanic, and while the fight does get a bit more intense with time it isn’t overly intense. We also ended up running four healers for this fight, though I could see the rekills starting to get done with three healers quite quickly, since there really isn’t that much healing to go around. So overall, a bit of a disappointment after Queen’s Court, but still we got him down which is always nice.

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So I’ve mentioned having leveled my Hunter on Alliance before and in recent times due to some old friends who still play Alliance having returned to the game, it has given me the opportunity to play her a bit more and try out being a damage-dealer for a change, a role I very seldomly play in World of Warcraft. The experience has actually been a surprising amount of fun, with us doing mythic+ a couple of times per reset and Marksmanship proving to be a suprising amount of fun even with Barrage not being as good of a spell as it was in early Legion making the spec a bit less fun.

Screenshot of Lyrre the Hunter on the character selection screen
The not so Hunter-y looking Hunter

There is however, a bigger frustration I have with the spec and that is the somewhat silly way AoE damage works, with one target being good, three or more clumped targets being good, but two targets ending up as basically single target which can be very frustrating depending on the dungeon and the tank since one gets the feeling one isn’t contributing as much as one should on two-target pulls. From what I know, this is the primary reason our hunter in the mythic+ group I had Horde-side earlier in the expansion was playing Beast Mastery—a spec I do not really enjoy at all, and he I believe also didn’t find as fun as Marksmanship—which I feel is unfortunate. It’s a very strange feeling, seemingly being unable to anything sensible on certain packs.

Another slight frustration with the Hunter doesn’t really come from the class but rather from bad luck, with me not having looted a single new weapon in the three or so weeks that we have now been doing mythic+, leaving me to run around with a world quest reward weapon with very suboptimal item level and somewhat suboptimal stats. It’s frustrating especially knowing that we have several times done dungeons where an upgrade could have dropped and me at times even using a bonusroll in hopes of simply getting something decent yet constantly simply having the bad luck of not getting an upgrade.

Despite those frustrations, the experience overall has been rather positive and somewhat more relaxing than my tanking adventures—though those are enjoyable as well—and has given me the opportunity to do something completely different amidst the current mythic progress which is a welcome change.

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Queen’s Court

Hofstaat der K├Ânigin, in English Queen's Court, mythic achievement

So this is actually a bit of old news, but we managed to kill Queen’s Court on mythic!

The fight is actually a perhaps surprising amount of fun, being one of the more hectic fights so far as a healer with a somewhat constant barrage of high incoming damage on the group through the sparks along with the edicts that at time makes executing on healing cooldowns rather tricky, especially Repeat Performance as a discipline priest since it forces you to change the way you apply Atonement by silencing you after two consecutive casts of the same spell. This was fairly easy to work around by alternating between Shadow Mend and Power Word: Shield, but it was just another thing to keep eye on in a somewhat hectic fight.

Still, it’s also a fight that one can actually learn with the sequence of edicts being known and the bursts from the sparks being fairly predictable so once you get it down it starts feeling, well not easy but at least manageable.

Now with the kill being a few days old, means we have also had a decent amount of tries on Za’qul, which to be fair actually feels a bit more boring so far than Queen’s Court. The problem really, is that while there are some pretty large bursts of damage early on through the fears the rest of the time it’s mostly a case of doing damage even as a healer and playing mechanics—mainly the tentacles that on mythic come in threes—which just doesn’t feel quite as interesting as the previous two bosses. It does get better on in the later stages of the fight with the stacking debuff, but it feels like mosts tries so far we are losing people to the “simple” stuff of tentacles or simple bad luck with the spawn of the Maddening Eruption landing in the middle of the tentacles causing a wipe. So the fight is still tricky, it’s just that we haven’t consistently gotten to 40% where the fight really begins in earnest and the way there is something of a slog. Still, those last 40% will probably prove very interesting indeed and I’m looking forward to our progress there.

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We managed to kill Orgozoa yesterday, and honestly my thoughts from the PTR kind of still stand. The fight is really rought to heal, yes, and has to be executed well purely from a mechanical standpoint, but as far as really interesting things actually happening during the fight? Not really overly so.

Phase two still really felt like the easier one of the two, mainly because from a healer standpoint you are basically back at the beginning of phase one with almost nobody having the debuff. Sure, there are some other things to watch out for like the stomps and we did have a few deaths and consequently wipes to those but that I think is mostly because the area of that ability is somewhat unclear and people had to learn that, but overall phase two just doesn’t have that much more going on—always having the adds there for DOTs was nice as a discipline priest though, getting that extra healing going on.

And phase one, well, it got really rough towards the end even with us five-healing it, but it feels like such a slow burn that while it is challenging it doesn’t really feel exciting or overly dangerous most of the time with potentially the exception being during the Arcing Currents when players have to spread out in order to avoid spreading the Incubation Fluid to unaffected players so they are outside of many area healing spells yet take a burst of damage, but even those weren’t really lethal if the players were topped properly. That was still the primary point we lost players especially towards the end where almost the whole raid needs constant healing so it is something to watch out for.

After we killed Orgozoa however, we did have a decent amount of time left to get a few trys in on the Queen’s Court which proved much more interesting. Now, I was slightly skeptical of the fight at first because even though some of the decrees can be annoying on heroic like Repeat Performance, they’re mostly somewhat ignorable. On mythic however, the pure damage coming in from the orbs along with the much tighter timing on both the decrees as well as things like the charge made the encounter much more interesting than I was expecting. Also, there always being a decree active and them rotating in a set manner makes the fight more interesting as well, since that allowed the designers to put in really harsh sequences like the orb explosions during Deferred Sentence which then very quickly gets followed by Obey or Suffer. That combination really ended up being the most difficult part for us so far and the one which I think we will need to work on the most.

So I think we have some very fun progress ahead of us, once we manage to reclear everything this reset.

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Method Queen Azshara world first

So Method managed to snag the world first on Queen Azshara as is somewhat usual, though it seems to have been a rather close race with Limit this time around, moreso than the last couple of ones.

That however, isn’t really what I wanted to talk about, but rather the somewhat unusal setup they ended up running for the boss, namely: only running with two healers on the first kill of the last boss of a raid. Now, playing a healer myself this is obviously something that doesn’t feel overly nice since it means that more healers will be benchend than usual and to me it already felt rough having three healer bosses since I like my fellow healers, but also from what I know this is somewhat unprecedented and it feels like it points towards some heavy flaws in the encounter design of Queen Azshara for this to be possible at all.

One large contributing factor to this being possible was the maximum health reduction debuff that you need to take in order to keep the different seals charged which mean there has to be overall less damage coming in or it would simply be oneshotting players. This was also a large contributor to Method’s decision to run two discipline priests I think, since shields give you that extra buffer on that low health—of course, discipline also brings with it some decent extra damage, and them already running only two healers indicates every extra bit of damage is welcome.

But secondly, as noted above, the fight on heroic as well just feels like it has very little incoming damage, with me on our kills generally spending more time doing damage than healing. Sure, there is some decent burst in the last phase but aside from that the fight felt kind of boring from a healer perspective and I guess that is now simply getting validated even on mythic which I think is sad to see.

It’s odd, all of this makes me kind of not look forward toward Azshara that much, since it makes me feel like maybe the fight won’t be that interesting. Now granted, Method still needed several hundred pulls to get the boss down, so I’m not thinking it will be easy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the fight will be interesting which is unfortunate for the end-boss of a tier especially for one with so much lore tie-in. I guess I’ll have to see once we get there, but for now my excitement for the end-boss is down somewhat though we still have a long way to go so there’s time to change that—I also somewhat doubt we will be running a two healer strategy since we only have one priest at the moment, but we’ll see.

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Fortified and Tyrannical

We ended up doing some mythic+ after the raid yesterday as is somewhat usual, and it reminded me of something that had bothered me in Legion and is back in Battle for Azeroth though the other way around; namely the big difference between the fortified and tyrannical affix. Now, they make different parts of the dungeon stronger so it seems obvious that there would be a big difference between them, but the bigger thing I feel is not that there is a difference but that one of them always feels disproportionately harder than the other; in Legion that was tyrannical with some bosses simply one-shotting you if you didn’t have enough gear or later on if you simply played the wrong class or spec, in Battle for Azeroth however it seems to me that fortified is the much worse affix.

I think this change is due to Blizzard’s changed design direction with dungeons in Battle for Azeroth, putting more of an emphasis on making the trash interesting and actually having abilities to prevent the kind of insane large pulls that we saw towards the end of Legion especially in the Mythic Dungeon Invitational and while I think this design decision was a valid attempt at fixing that and something that is hard to change again for Battle for Azeroth, it does make the dungeons feel like much more of a slog for normal groups during fortified weeks as well as strenghtening the skip-focused metagame at the MDI which I think is more harmful than the one focused on large pulls. While those large pulls felt pretty insane to the averge player and even relatively high-end ones, they still required excellent execution and usually came with high risk while simply skipping the mobs while not risk-free is considerably less risky as well as from an esports perspective, being much less interesting to watch—this is probably also why so many players I know enjoyed the Reaping affix so much since it provided the opportunity to kind of re-live that feeling of making a huge pull and surviving it while also providing a nice opportunity for more multitarget focused classes to shine. I also feel that having very intense trash that constantly requires a high level of attention along with bosses that also tend to be mechanically intense even with fortified makes running dungeons much more tiring than it was in Legion and somehow also a bit less fun, and skips aren’t all that interesting either nor as generally available especially the ones done at the MDI since those often rely on the Night Elf Shadowmeld ability which you rarely have for the complete group on live especially since most of the higher-end activity is on Horde and not Alliance unfortunately.

Now, Blizzard has attempted to counter this skip-focused meta in the new season with the introduction of Azsharas’ emissaries that are often placed so that you have to vary your route or simply preventing you from doing a normal stealth or invisibility skip due to them having truesight, but I’m not sure this is a change in the right direction. As noted above, I don’t feel that the whole dungeon being this intense gauntlet of always complex encouters be they trash or boss actually contributes to a good dungeon experience, as a player it is actually nice having a bit of a lull during the trash while preparing for the next boss-fight with maybe some more interesting trash sprinkled in at times but not every single pack—looking at you, MOTHERLODE!!!.

Along with this, there is the general problem of the very high variability in the difficulty of different mythic+ affixes with this week being Grievous again which is just a pain to handle as a discipline priest making me much less eager to run significant amounts of mythic+ this week which I find a shame since it’s an activity I actually quite enjoy so being discouraged from participating in it doesn’t feel particularily good but this seems like something Blizzard isn’t particularily intent on changing.

Overall, I think that with Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard went a little too hard in the other direction with dungeon design and I hope we end up meeting somewhere in the middle with the next expansion where bosses one-shotting you doesn’t become a hardcap on how high of a key you can do that specific week like it was in Legion but trash still feeling more manageable even in large groups than it is now in Battle for Azeroth. If Mechagon is any indicator of future design changes though, I don’t think that is very likely given the trash in there but we’ll see with the next expansion.

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Lady Ashvane

We managed to squeeze in a kill on Lady Ashaven yesterday, on the last day of the reset bringing our total of first week mythic kills to four which I think is a rather respectable number this time around.

Lady Ashvane mythic achievement
It’s sometimes interesting seeing the translations of the names of the characters, with how Blizzard manages to keep the name similar both in feel and meaning

On the surface, not much changes with this fight from heroic with the primary difference being higher damage and healing requirements but in the case of this boss that was more than enough since the tuning is really rough meaning you basically can’t afford any deaths—that you can’t instantly battle ress at least—or you will not have enough damage to kill the boss in time. The bigger difference—for me, personally, as a healer—was the rather hefty amount of incoming damage as well as the fact we were only playing with three healers on this boss making every single healer mistake or general mechanics fail that much more critical, having just one extra coral patch up after phase two basically instantly spelled a wipe. I guess there is one significant difference to heroic there, when you laser the corals away in phase two they actually spawn a couple of spots on the ground that need to be soaked, if not they spawn new corals which spells a bad time.

In general, I found the fight suprisingly fun since there was almost always some upcoming timing I had to keep in mind and the rotation between phase one and two provided a bit of change in what I had to be watching, and because the damage check was so tight I actually got the opportunity to focus a bit more on doing damage during the lulls in my own cooldown usage which provided some interesting additional challenge since my damage actually mattered more than in other fights.

After the kill we had a little time left over to take a few pokes at the next boss, Orgozoa, and I can already tell that fight is going to be fun since during the few tries we did the healing requirement on individual healers seemed similar if somewhat lower than Ashvane with the difference being us having five healers on Orgozoa and only three on Ashvane. I even managed to go completely out of mana on one of our pulls which is impressive considering the fight lasted maybe three minutes or so which has me somewhat worried but simultaneously excited what that fight will bring, I guess I’ll find out this reset if we manage to clear out the previous bosses in a reasonable time.

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Mythic week

So mythic week for the Eternal Palace started on Wednesday and we have managed to get stuck on Lady Ashvane as was to be expected I think with her being the first “proper” boss of the raid because she has something of a difficult damage check even while running only three healers. I believe our best try ended up somewhere along 40% with us managing to get to the third phase two and some way into it but that’s nowhere close to killing her since as far as our timings go, we are trying to kill her in the third one and we don’t quite have the damage for that yet. Still, I think we had a rather good showing for only three hours of raiding on Thursday, having killed the three first bosses along with heroic clear on Wednesday.

The first three bosses proved easy enough

Wednesday in general was an interesting day, with a large part of the guild along with me deciding they wanted to farm mythic+ in preparation for the raid which meant I had to get up earlier than usual in order to be online when the servers reset. It was a fun time though the loot gods were not with us, with our group getting pretty much no titanforges and very few upgrades in general. I might want to do some more mythic+ on the weekend in order to prepare for the next raid on Sunday, though shouldn’t be quite as important for me since my gear is for the most part quite up-to-date and we didn’t really have healing problems on Ashvane as of yet though I guess it could enable me to do some more damage and it seems that Orgozoa could require a bit more healing again since I believe we want to run five healers for that boss.

Essence collection starting to come along

I’ve also had the time to run Operation: Mechagon again giving me the blueprint for rank two of Vision of Perfection which was welcome for Ashvane—using it there for the little extra damage it provides and the cooldown reduction also proved useful—though I have to say I’m not a huge fan of the time gating there, would prefer something more farmable but I guess timegating is the name of the game for essences, either through limited reputation or weekly things like the mythic+ chest or Mechagon with the exception being that one very grindy battleground essence that I’m happy I don’t need to get since I’m not a huge fan of PVP.

In general, I think that’s something Blizzard failed on in regards to the essences, depending on “luck” you might be forced (read, heavily insentivized) to do content you might not enjoy at all in order to get the essence that is actually good for your class and spec in content you do enjoy doing. Simultaneously, I do think it is good that there is some incentive to try out different forms of content in order to see if they have changed enough that you might like them now but this approach just seems unecessarily heavy-handed.

Overall, the mythic week has started out very fun with finally some proper fun new content to do along with a renewed interest in mythic+ from my guildies which means more opportunities to run dungeons which I also enjoy so if it goes on like this I’d call this week a success.

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The Eternal Palace

Ominous entrance

On Sunday we ended up killing Azshara first try after some rough sub-one-percent wipes on Thursday and it was a very nice feeling even though it would’ve been even nicer to kill her already on Thursday since I think we would have ended around top 10 world at that point.

This kill was immediately followed by clearing The Eternal Palace on normal as well as reclearing once again Battle of Dazar’alor for the mount from Jaina, all in all a rather impressive set of farm achieved on one raid evening which took me somewhat by surprise but I guess should have been expected with our quick progress in the “pleb”-raid on Friday where we managed to clear normal as well as several bosses on heroic with alts as well as the greatly increased damage from the essences.

Arakkoa tanking in the alt raid

The raid in general is rather fun, though the last two bosses, Za’qul and Azshara, have me worrying somewhat for the more casual players since they again seem to be somewhat complex fights with several phases and a ton to learn. That said, they will now have the advantage of a big item level increase through the new raid that they did not receive in Crucible of Storms which might prove enough to make this raiding experience smoother as well as my perspective on the whole thing being rather far away from their experiences so such troubles are hard for me to predict.

That aside, I did find the Azshara fight rather fun though somewhat boring as a healer until the last phase with not much damage coming in before that. There are a decent amount of mechanics to think about, among them the decrees and mind control which I think nicely show some of the personality of Azshara—being so certain in her position as a queen as to commandeer people who are not her subjects, as well as being able to charm almost anyone to do her bidding—as well as the wards which we need to maintan in order to keep the water from killing us. With how the tuning was on heroic however, it does make me curious how many wipes we will end up seeing on mythic since I think we had much less trouble with Jaina on heroic than Azshara and Jaina was 300+ pulls—on the other hand, for Uu’nat we went in on heroic without any idea what to do while almost completely ignoring mechanics and killed him on the first try, and yet on mythic he was 300+ pulls as well, so maybe that’s no indication.

As for the rest of the bosses, my thoughts from the PTR mostly stand, with the exception of Orgozoa who proved much easier on live than there as well as Za’qul who didn’t have quite the one-shot potential with his fears on live as he did on the PTR making the fight much more manageable—of course, that is partially down to our gear level on live as compared to the PTR, so this might be much more difficult with less gear. Also, the Blackwater Behemoth is still a poorly executed environment, with not being able to eat under water preventing the group from properly recovering from a wipe as well as buffing up, that really needs to be fixed in some sensible manner though the fight itself seems fine now.

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