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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday we went ahead and cleared Operation: Mechagon on the live realms with hardmode and it was quite the contrast compared to the PTR experience, feeling somewhat easy even though we had the hardmode active which we didn’t for the most part on the PTR.
The biggest change I noticed was by King Gobbamak where the damage from the quake he does had been heavily reduced, not really even needing healing to keep anyone from dying as long as nobody got hit—still a good idea to top up the group but not nearly as intensive as on the PTR. The trash before King Mechagon had a similar nerf, where it still does significant damage but is much more surivable without instant reaction from the healer or using the absorb shields from the other adds.
Another interesting thing was the hardmode on K.U.-J.0., where you get a stacking slow debuff which ends you at 80% reduced movement speed. Since the fight is rather dependant on being able to spread apart as well as line of sight the boss, this proved somewhat tricky to work around though there was a nice corner to the left of the boss’ spawn—when you are looking at him standing in the room—where it was rather easy to do. With weaker gear or less damage I would think this might still prove somewhat tricky though, we didn’t need to play the movement mechanics overly much since we were able to kill the boss fairly quickly.
Finally, the big challenge came by King Mechagon himself, where the hardmode actually caused us a fair amount of wipes since the timing for it is somewhat brutal. The hardmode activates a instakill mechanic on the boss that charges up (down?) with time, the energy bar of the extra boss serving as a timer and the mechanic firing when the bar gets depleted. This happens fairly quickly, however it can be stalled with the interruption sequence. This flashes on the skulls on the side of the room when the cannon is at 35 energy and the buttons become clickable at 10-15 energy or so giving your group approximately 5 seconds to enter the correct sequence to prevent a wipe.
We solved this by giving each of the buttons a world mark and assiging one of the damage dealers and the healer to one of the buttons, then having them call out their world mark color after they had pressed the button to inform the next one that it was their turn. We also had a dedicated player watch the sequence and call it, so the rest could keep focused on mechanics—in phase one this was the tank since they had a good view of the buttons and didn’t need to focus on the other mechanics as much, in phase two one of the melees was responsible for calling this since they needed to move away from the boss anyway in order to arrive at the button in time. This worked well though it required some practise since the timing was really tight. I’m curious if an addon ends up being developed for this, since communicating it through voice almost felt too slow with very little room for error which I feel might be a bit too punishing on more casual groups which I feel should be able to complete this boss at some point.
Overall, the dungeon was fun and I look forward to seeing it on mythic+ at some point as well as maybe trying for the no-death achievement there apparently is rewarding rank four of the Mechagon essence, which is good since in the meantime I will probably need to run the dungeon a few times in order to unlock the previous ranks of the essenece since I think it could end up being rather good for some fights or mythic+.
On Friday I finally managed to get Pathfinder Part Two unlocking flying which was a relief especially since I seemed to be a bit behind the curve on that with several guildies unlocking it already on Wednesday and Thursday with one outlier unlocking it already on Tuesday.
To be fair, I took the lazy way out of only doing the “normal” daily things in the form of daily quests and world quests and completely skipping out on the hidden sources of reputation gain in the new zones in the form of fishing and rare hunting among other things—what other things I don’t know since I didn’t really want to put in the extra effort for small reputation gains. One small extra thing I did do was the pet battle world quests though those in and of themselves don’t give that much extra reputation, defeating each of them the first time provided a quest item for a decent chunk of extra reputation—especially in Nazjatar where I think you get 250 reputation per turn-in—which was a boon as otherwise I would probably have had the required reputation a day or two later.
The first thing I ended up doing with my re-found freedom was inviting a friend for a round of azerite world quests since I had been completely neglecting those in a small protest against Blizzard’s insistence to keep flying annoying to acquire. This small protest is probably in vain and more likely to hurt me than anyone else but still it felt good to do. Still, being able to fly again is just nice and I’m very happy that ordeal is now behind me so that I can enjoy the game more and be less annoyed by the trivial things in it. Luckily I won’t need to worry about not flying until the next expansion—hopefully, unless they again introduce a no-fly zone which I doubt—and that makes me look forward to new content even more since I won’t have to explore it on the ground.
So it seems the weekly reset brought with it some changes to Nazjatar, namely fewer elite naga required for the bounty quest—believe it was 15 before, was only 5 now—as well as the requisition quests showing the areas of the map where you can find the items which is rather nice since it means I didn’t have to look that up somewhere else. Small changes but were still nice to see and makes it a bit less annoying to do the daily stuff in Nazjatar.
So patch 8.2 Rise of Azshara has been out for a week now being released last Wednesday and it feels so far we have seen the worst parts of the patch. Now, it was to be expected with a new patch that it would include lots of new world content and a renewed requirement to farm Azerite—neck level 55 being the goal for my guild—but the implementation of these new world quests as well as daily quests—wasn’t expecting to see those again—leaves something to be desired. Many of these require finding or killing something somewhat rare, like hunting six chests in Mechagon or killing 3 rare mobs in Nazjatar which means with bad luck you can end up running around the zone for half an hour without getting any progress on these quests which makes for a somewhat frustrating experience, and these type of quests seem to be a daily occurrence in the new zones.