So we did some PTR raid testing yesterday, the first four bosses of Eternal Palace on normal with item level scaled to 405. This scaling made the raid a bit of a challenge actually, along with the tuning otherwise probably being completely out of wack on account of it being the PTR where that tuning is being done. Sometimes the raid test are also intentionally overtuned to allow people to properly test the mechanics and not just steamroll them—was probably also the reason for the item level scaling. Of course, none of us knowing any of the mechanics along with playing two healers for 15 raiders also contributed though I think having a third healer would just have made it boring—it was still normal after all. But my point is, people on live realms will probably have better gear and more of an idea when going in so it will be easier.
Another slightly annoying thing was, while we did have the Heart of Azeroth scaled to level 60 theoretically unlocking a major and minor essence slot, only the major one was available since we would have needed to visit the heart forge in order to unlock the minor essence slot. Now why we didn’t do this, well that scaling was only enabled inside the raid, so once we would have been at the forge we would no longer have had the neck at level 60 and as such the slot would not have been available to unlock. To be fair, I’m somewhat doubtful that most normal raiders will have that slot unlocked when they start with the raid anyway though that will depend on how much easier it becomes to get levels in the Heart of Azeroth with the next patch and how much time we have until the raid is released but it would still have been nice to be able to test a minor essence in addition to the major one.
Abyssal Commander Sivara
The first boss was pretty trivial and I think we ended up killing it on our first try. The boss basically had the mechanic from Guarm, where everyone gets a color and you shouldn’t run into people with another color. In addition to this the boss occasionally shoots out arrows in all directions that also have a color and you should be especially careful not to get hit by the ones that have another colour though even getting hit by your colour is bad since it is also a debuff with a small ticking damage effect and a secondary negative effect. These secondary effects seemed to a bit buggy, for example one of them was reduced healing but it reduced healing by 0% in other words not at all.
The last mechanic that was enabled on normal was a random player getting targeted by a spear of another colour that a player with the colour matching the spear needs to soak. Soaking this spear stuns you until someone removes the spear, which then of course also needs to be done by a player with the same colour as the spear.
All in all rather simple but it was also the first boss on normal. It could get somewhat interesting on mythic depending on tuning, but being the first boss the tuning probably won’t be that hard. Still, the boss at least had mechanics you couldn’t ignore unlike the first boss of Battle of Dazar’alor so that is a plus.
The second boss we did was the Blackwater Behemoth, Blizzards new attempt to make an underwater boss. Or to be more exact, a boss with a third dimensions since the previous attempts weren’t really underwater but rather floating in the air—those bosses being Kael’thas as well Al’akir.
This seemed like it could potentially be the hardest early boss though again will depend on tuning. One of the big problems with this boss is being under water, which means that your movement speed is heavily reduced. Along with this, spells that you cast on the ground don’t necessarily hit you while you are swimming above the bottom of the cave, this was a big problem for me in the beginning since I tend to use Angelic Feathers as my movement speed ability and those are put down on the ground—later on I started swapping my weapons for the Underlight Angler, the artifact fishing pole from Legion. I would definitely recommend getting it if Blizzard does not nerf it before release since it’s a huge movement speed increase while swimming and actually allows you to swim against the pushback the boss does.
The other difficulty with this boss is the primary mechanic: everyone except for the main tank is heal immune—absorb shields worked while we were testing, which will probably mean that discipline priests will be rather strong here early on. To remove this immunity, you need to kill the pufferfish that are on the platforms around the boss but with the correct timing since you only have two of these per platform and the boss switches platform on a timer not dependant on health. This means the boss is also something of a damage check, since you need to be done with the boss before you run out of the fish and your raid is heal immune and slowly gets killed by the damage from the boss. The boss rather constantly does a chain lightning type cast on several players that increases in damage the more it jumps so the raid needs to be spread out—rather difficult for melees as well as while one is getting the pufferfish buff. The pushback which is a channeled casts also does a decent amount of damage so having players healable and topped up before it comes will probably be rather important—on our kill try we ended up focusing the pufferfish before the boss on the second platform for example. It will also be interesting to see how some tanks deal with this since the boss deals a large amount of damage to the whole raid if no tank is in melee range and it is of course hard to be in melee after the pushback.
The final mechanic are the intermissions, now these aren’t really anything more than swimming from one platform to the next however there is a small catch: if you are healable a fish from the depths will come and eat you while you are moving in between the platforms instantly killing you. This is also true outside of the intermissions so players need to stay on the platforms though there is a few second grace period so you can see you are in danger. During the intermission you also need to be careful not to swim into the jellyfish that are on the way since they also give you the healable buff.
All in all, it was actually a surprisingly complex boss for normal and I will be very interested to see how the tuning ends up being on live—this boss could pose some real problems for some guilds. Also, only the first four bosses being available I’m not actually sure if you can just skip it, we could definitely have done the bosses in another order so maybe that will be the solution for some.
Radiance of Azshara
This boss also surprised me a bit and was probably the second hardest one for us. It was basically a more complex version of the Wrath of Azshara from Eye of Azshara in Legion. So the mechanics that were the same: the boss is in the middle of a ring and you play around the boss—also, don’t use Shadow Step if you are a rogue—as well as the Arcane Bomb: players get debuffed with a bomb that explodes after a while stunning players in an area, dispelling the debuff allows the debuffed player to also avoid this explosion since the bomb is then left on the spot the player was standing when they got dispelled. The boss also spawns arcane tornades you need to dodge that knock you back and damage you when you get hit by them—with how much stuff is going on in this encounter this can easily lead to your death through a chain reaction.
Now the primary new mechanics—on normal at least—were the intermission in which adds spawn in one of four places that you have to get to since the rest of the room gets heavy ticking damage and the boss is taking reduced damage. Killing these adds allows you to damage the boss again as well as removing the ticking damage from the rest of the room. These adds consist of one big add that does a knockback with heavy damage which was the really dangerous part since getting kicked back outside the safe zone could easily lead to death. There were also smaller adds that need to be controlled and damaged down to prevent them from casting chain lightnig on the group.
The second new mechanic were lines of mines that spawned making moving between the different parts of the room rather difficult especially when one was trying to reach the adds. There were at times small gaps between the mines but we primarily worked around this by having one of the tanks soak one of the mines allowing the rest of the raid to get through—soaking a mine does spawn a new tornado though so need to stay careful.
All in all, mechanically the boss seems rather simple but like Wrath of Azshara back in Legion it’s just rather easy to be overwhelmed by all that is going on at the same time as well as the rather heavy movement requirement. We also tended to have a bad habit of spreading out a bit too much meaning it was at times difficult to keep players within range which was especially bad when they needed to be dispelled. Will be interesting to see how the boss plays on mythic—I’m expecting it to be interesting.
The last boss we did was Lady Ashvane and she was rather trivial for us especially compared to the two previous bosses, we killed her on the first try. The boss starts with a big absorb shield that needs to be damaged down so that the boss actually takes damage and after a while she will recast her absorb—apparently this shield will keep getting bigger with each cast so it will be something of a damage check.
Corals also spawn periodically that then spawn orbs that move to the boss increasing her absorb shield. These orbs can be soaked by players but doing so triggers an explosion damaging the whole raid—this means that the longer the fight goes on the more damage will come in. Now these corals can be removed through an additional mechanic: several players get marked with a colour in pairs. After the debuff expires damage will be dealt between these pairs and can be used to remove the corals. We managed to keep the corals quite well in check though I imagine this will not be as easy on mythic. I think this will heavily influence the difficulty of the fight as well as how big the damage check will be.
Another mechanic that could make these marks more difficult to play are the stuns: for us three players got put into a water bubble and stunned within. To remove the stun the bubble needed to be destroyed. Now we did get some warning before this happened though we didn’t really use this to stack up which we should probably do on mythic. However, depending on the timings on mythic these bubbles might come inconveniently timed along with for example the marks which might make the positioning for those much more difficult.
Finally, the tank debuff or hit the boss does leaves a damaging spot on the ground so the boss needs to be moved around the room. I guess the room filling up will be the soft enrage, though I’m guessing the healers will be out of mana and the raid will have exploded to the orbs before that happens.
Now the tuning for Lady Ashenvale seemed rather easy and we got her down on the first try. But there were some interesting mechanics in there that could prove problematic on mythic and I’m hoping the boss will be more interesting to play there.
The testing was actually surprisingly fun and I’m looking forward to doing more in the future. Us being almost a full guild group with one external player probably helped, but still being able to do even normal bosses in a version where they can present some level of challenge was fun. It was also a great opportunity to get something of a sneak peek on the bosses that will probably be more valuable than our first clear on heroic since with the smaller raid size along with only two healers means there was more to do as well as more responsibility placed upon us two. In the heroic week we generally have enough healers that I don’t tend to have to do much and as a consequence don’t really learn what is dangerous on the different bosses. Now this can of course change between difficulties as abilities get added to the boss but still it gave some idea how the bosses actually work.
So, hopefully there are more raid tests soon!