So this weekend had some more raid tests open on the PTR, Azshara Heroic on Friday for a couple of hours and all of normal except Azshara for the rest of the weekend and we took a poke in there again. Now the bosses we killed last time around all went down easily, after all they are the early bosses so that is to be expected. Now there had been some changes to the Blackwater Behemoth which overall made the fight significantly easier, though unfortunately they had disabled the use of the artifact fishing pole—or its effect rather, nothing happens when you equip it during the fight. But this time around the damage on that fight was much lower and the pushback also had a much shorter duration, making the fight much easier than before.
The rest of the raid however, was a bit more interesting. The first new boss on the list was Orgozoa, who actually proved to be a decent challenge to us since we didn’t quite understand the mechanic at first and weren’t sure how to handle the intermission. Now the primary mechanic, at least from a healer perspective, is the Incubation Fluid that he spits on a random player. This is a DoT that lasts for the rest of the phase and deals rather significant damage. That alone wouldn’t be so bad since the debuff wouldn’t spread too quickly since the boss doesn’t use the ability that often but the boss also periodically casts Arcing Current on a player with the debuff that chains up to three targets and spreading the debuff which meant that by the end of the phase we actually had quite a bit of healing to do.
The boss also spawns three adds at a time that were rather easy to deal with though they do leave after them a pool that needs to be soaked—in our case the tank could soak all of the pools alone—or they will explode wiping the raid, this mechanic was actually present on the trash on the way to the boss.
Finally for phase one, the boss occasionally does these circles on the ground and you need to move out, it can get rather tight since it’s basically a “dance” mechanic where most of the room fills up with them and you need to move out until they disappear and then new ones spawn. This goes on a couple of times and the fight goes back to normal—the only thing to watch out for here is that people stay properly stacked or spread so that the debuff doesn’t jump to new people.
Then there’s the intermission which just seemed to be a case of run down the spiral quickly enough in order to interrupt the boss or you wipe, watch out for the mushrooms that knock you back on the way down.
After the intermission comes phase two, and honestly I can’t really say anything overly memorable about it even though I ended up healing it alone since our other healer died on the way down. The debuff from phase one seems to be back, but only one player ended up getting it so it was really easy to heal through. I guess the adds changed from mind benders to naga, or maybe both? Didn’t do much from what I remember, though that might change on higher difficulties. Once we got into phase two, we killed the boss and in general we didn’t have that many wipes here but I’m still interested to see the boss on mythic especially with how the damage was in phase one to see how extreme it will end up there—especially since we were only thirteen or fourteen while playing this boss so the room will feel much more full with a 20 person raid.
The Queen’s Court
The next boss was The Queen’s Court consisting of two bosses: Silivaz the Zealous and Pashmar the Fanatical as well as Queen Azshara a bit in the background toying with the players.
This boss in retrospect actually surprises me with the amount of mechanics there were that were relevant on normal since my expectation at least is that there are maybe a couple main mechanics for normal and the rest start being relevant on heroic and up but on this boss there are actually two different fail checks which can instantly wipe you along with the spear throw from the melee boss that will probably instantly kill a single player if not soaked properly—same idea as the charge in King’s Rest for example, the more people in the way the less damage the actual target becomes, though do keep an eye out where you stand if you get targeted since it leaves a damage effect on the ground.
Now, the first mechanic which could wipe you is one of the abilities Azshara uses, Queen’s Decree and more specifically Form Ranks. This spawns—for us at least—three circles in the middle of the room each of which need to be occupied by one player and if they are not when the decree expires they explode dealing damage to the whole raid with the damage at least on the PTR being such that all three circles being empty wipes the raid.
There was a second decree that while not quite as bad could still potentially kill players who didn’t know how it works or notice that they had it, Deferred Sentence. This decree gives you an increasing amount of stacks that are reduced when you move however you take damage from moving, but if you don’t move all of the stacks explode at once at the end for some decent damage. This wasn’t too bad on normal but I could see this killing people on mythic especially depending on what other sources of damage are active at the same time.
The second potentially wipe inducing mechanic were the Potent Sparks, three of them spawned around the room and started slowly losing health and when they die they explode dealing damage to the whole raid and apply a debuff increasing damage taken from that explosion by 100%. So not a new mechanic, but still you need to kill them staggered so that the raid doesn’t wipe. These never really posed a problem since it even seemed that the debuff might be missing on normal and our damage dealers did a decent job of making sure they didn’t all explode at the same time anyway so the damage we did get from the normal explosions was easy to heal against.
Beyond that, the boss had some other funky decrees and random damage, but nothing overly noteworthy since they were all quite easy to get the gist of the first time one was affected by them. There was a particularily annoying decree though, Repeat Performance, which silenced you if you cast the same spell twice in a row. This wasn’t too bad as a Discipline Priest since I could just weave healing and damage but it seemed to annoy some of our damage dealers a lot.
Za’qul, Harbinger of Ny’alotha
Now for the final boss of the evening, since we tested Azshara on Friday and the normal bosses on Saturday. This one seemed rather overtuned especially for our group size which did make it a very cool boss to play but also meant that we unfortunately did not down it—also thanks to it getting rather late and people wanting to go to sleep.
This was probably the most fun boss we tested even including Azshara since there was actually a decent bit going as well as some interesting mechanics for healers, namely the fears.
Phase one of the boss is fairly straightforward and doesn’t last for too long, from 100% to 85%. Some adds spawn that you need to kill and a few players get feared—interestingly, for us even at the end when we were playing with ten, three people got feared which seems to indicate that even for small groups three healers might be preferred. Now the fear lasts for eight seconds and is dispellable, so if that was all it wouldn’t have been too bad for us, simply one person that was running around a bit longer since we only had two healers, but what made the fear probably our main cause of wipes was the fact that it explodes when it runs out or get dispelled and for a lot of damage—three simultaneous explosions killed pretty much anyone who wasn’t a tank.
I’m somewhat sceptical that the fear will remain with that tuning in the raid, since every single application would seem to require some pretty heavy cooldown usage to be manageable—remember, only eight seconds between the first and last blast at best—and I’m doubtful that is all that possible with how often the fear comes. I’m expecting that at least on normal the explode damage when dispelled gets removed, seems like that would end up as a heroic or mythic mechanic to give the boss that extra bit of something.
In phase two all the players get sucked into the Fear Realm where everyone gets a stacking debuff which dealt a minor amount of damage, stacking up every 20 seconds. For the most part, this phase was over so quickly that the debuff wasn’t relevant, but in phase four you need to re-enter the Fear Realm in order to kill the adds from phase one since they don’t take damage otherwise, and the debuff puts a bit of time pressure on that especially for smaller groups.
The second new thing was a debuff put on a couple of players which left spots on the ground so you had to keep moving while placing them in order not to die. It also made the available space in the already somewhat small bossroom smaller, so I can see this being problematic on mythic and for bigger raid groups since I’m assuming more people get the debuff. It also seemed a bit buggy or overtuned, since you always seemed to take the damage when a spot got put down, usually there is a grace period for the player with the debuff so they have time to move out—will have to see if that gets changed, if not it puts a decent amount of extra strain on the healers.
The debuff is especially bad if it comes in conjunction with the fear which we had happen a couple of times, both debuffs on the same player with pretty consistently lead to their death. Any players with the debuff as the fear came were also more likely to die since the damage from the fear explosion along with the damage from the debuff was tricky to heal against.
Finally for phase two, occasionally a tentacle comes from the side of the arena and tries to poke the raid. The area for this was decently big and the effect always seemed to go towards the middle, so keep an eye out on rifts that form on the sides of the arena. The damage was healable for us, but might very well be a one-shot on higher difficulties.
Phase three doesn’t have that much new going for it, you can enter the Delirium Realm where you get a haste buff but all other players are hostile to you, so only really makes sense for damage dealers but not too many of them since you still have the dispel mechanics to deal with. This phase generally went by really quickly and I barely noticed we were in it, but it did introduce the Delirium Realm to us so that we knew what was going on for phase four.
The final phase and as far as we managed to get. The first thing that happens is everyone gets pulled back into the normal realm and you now have to manage the abilities by going into the correct realm in order to counter them. The summoner adds from phase one are up? Go to the Fear Realm in order to damage them so they don’t keep summoning more adds. The boss gets an absorb shield—yes, a new mechanic—and starts casting to deal high damage to the whole raid? Enter the Delirium Realm and get rid of the absorb shield to stun the boss and interrupt the cast, damage from other realms doesn’t affect the absorb shield.
It seems the boss can also split himself, creating a copy in each realm which start giving him more energy and when he gets full, I guess that will wipe the raid. I don’t belive we actually saw this mechanic in action, probably comes into play later in phase four than we manage to get to.
Finally, the fear from the earlier phases gets buffed, dealing more damage than before through the explosion making it even harder to heal against. In addition, players in other realms are phased out so you can’t heal or dispel them which probably means this will be a minimum three healer boss, though I guess when someone in the Delirium Realm gets the debuff they just need to get out of there since they can’t be healed anyway since everyone is hostile there. So two healers might be possible, but the damage at the moment really is quite heavy and I’m not sure there are enough cooldowns to deal with it with only two healers.
The boss—despite the tuning and incoming damage—seemed really fun. I am very interested to see the final version, if it stays anything like it was on the PTR it will definitely end up being one of the blocker bosses for many guilds.
Now, Azshara. This was a heroic test, which meant we were scaled up a bit but also had more mechanics to tend with and the tuning was probably a lot rougher than for the normal tests along with a much shortened timespan—we only had an hour and a half or so to test Azshara—all of which meant we didn’t end up defeating her or getting overly far actually.
The fight starts with Azshara spectating and her sending out two lovers to deal with the raid. These need to be kept either in line of sight of each other or out of line of sight depending on the cast, believe Painful Memories was the cast where you needed to separate them but can’t remember the name of the other cast—should be fairly obvious though. The melee lover also occasionally throws a spear on a random player which needs to hit one of the two pillars in the room or it deals significant raid damage. It will also hit any player in the way, so the path to the pillar needs to be made clear. This seemed to be a bit buggy for us, where the spear would occasionally hit an NPC and explode or hit the pillar but still explode, so will probably be an easier time on live.
In addition to the lovers, there are three seals in the room which keep the water outside under control and these need to be kept charged—charging them is as easy as standing in one but this does give you a stacking debuff reducing maximum health by 10% per stack which lasts for the rest of the phase. The energy in the seals get reduced by two things, Azshara which is unavoidable so just recharge them, and hulks I believe they were called, which spawn in the middle of the room and run to a seal and start stomping it to bits. These need to be killed as quickly as possible so they don’t drain too much energy from the seal. They were also crowd controllable once and it seemed if you stunned them at the right time they would change their mind on which seal they wanted to go to which meant they had a further way to run so more time to damage them without them breaking the seal. The best timing I believe was just before they reached the seal and started casting, but it wasn’t 100% consistent and might have been fixed for live anyway—if not, definitely something to try since it makes the damage requirement easier. Azshara also occasionally charms a player and forces them to walk into the middle, which could be bad when there was damage spots on the ground which got put there by one of the tank mechanics of the lovers I believe so try to keep the middle area clear and interrupt the charm when possible—I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get a clear idea of how this charm mechanic worked since it was mostly the damage dealers dealing with it.
Then we have the intermission, where Azshara decrees you have to do something—or maybe even two things—and if you don’t you get stacks of a debuff that will probably kill depending on the amount of stacks. I believe the primary decrees were: stand alone, stand together, move, stay still, soak the arcane orbs. All fairly straightforward and the arcane orbs need to be soaked anyway so they don’t explode, though the move decree was a bit unclear how it worked since we had players moving yet getting stacks of the debuff. A theory we had was that it left small spots on the ground which applied the debuff, so moving back and forth or in a small circle wasn’t enough but we didn’t get to test that theory properly—also possible the ability was simply bugged on the PTR.
After the small intermission Azshara enters the fray and you get to deal with a couple new mechanics: a dispellable debuff as well as another charm. The dispellable debuff explodes when dispelled or when it runs out after 20 seconds, echoing of every other player with the debuff or Azshara that are in line of sight which basically means hide somewhere and get dispelled. This might get interesting on higher difficulties or with more players since there is a level of coordination required so that you don’t explode each other or echo from the boss exploding the whole raid.
The new charm mechanic actually properly mind controls a player making them attack the raid and gives them a decently sized absorb shield which needs to be removed in order to break the mind control—this seems like one of those mechanics which will be easier in big raid sizes since the amount of incidental damage will be higher and fewer players actively need to switch on the mind controlled player in order to break the mind control.
There was also a new seal in the middle whose energy needed to be kept low instead of high so that it doesn’t explode the raid, I believe decharging it gave a similar debuff to charging the other ones but since we didn’t spend a significant amount of time in this phase I’m not quite sure.
All in all, the bosses even on normal were a decent amount of fun to play for the most part—looking at you Blackwater Behemoth—and I’m now looking forward to the raid more than I was before. Even the first boss which tends to be trivial could have some interesting wipes up her sleeve thanks to the color mechanic which tends to lead to trouble so it will probably be quite fun progressing here “for real”. I guess I now just need to wait a couple of weeks or so for the raid to come out, we’ll see if Blizzard sneaks in some more raidtests in the meantime and if we end up participating in those.