7 days Alone at the Top: Kil'jaeden Killers

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We just got the World 2nd kill on Kil'jaeden an hour ago, more than 7 days after Method's WF, showing just how much this team is ahead of the curve. And so it's high time we had a talk with them on how they did it! Today we have Deepshades (Destro Warlock), Justwait (Guardian Druid), Kuriisu (Holy Pala), Lorgok (Balance Druid) and Scripe (Raid Leader and Shadow Priest) answering some questions on Method's domination of tier 20 and the Tomb of Sargeras!

Congratulations on your big win! We'll get into more detail on this later on, but let's just get a quick gut answer: Kil'jaeden - too hard?

Deepshades: I would say that the boss was not too hard after the applied nerfs. You definitely had to push both DPS and HPS while playing the mechanics properly but this is how a real challenge should be.

Kuriisu: At first it was, but after a butt load of nerfs it became manageable. It's a very challenging fight, maybe the hardest one I've done in my 11 years of raiding.

Lorgok: KJ is indeed very hard but the reason why it took so many attempts is because the initial state of the boss was broken and overtuned (insane timers/too many hps on adds/too much damage from Armageddon just to mention a few). There were more than 10 changes compared to the initial release. Overall I consider it as the hardest boss ever done (in terms of mechanics).

Was there anything specific about the preparations for ToS? Were you as prepared as possible going into the Mythic race?

Deepshades: I would say in terms of class-stacking we were perfectly prepared. Most of our members tried to farm the new legendaries and for the majority it worked out. In terms of artifact traits we didn't set any goal. Most of the players tried to get between 58-60 traits (58 traits for people with several specializations / 60 traits for people with one specialization).

Kuriisu: For most the grind was not that bad as everyone had most of the legendaries they wanted and new levels in the artifact are a pretty minor gain. For me personally it was quite challenging as I did a reroll from DPS to Healer, which was decided basically the day 7.2 hit the live servers. So I had to make and level up my new main, Paladin, grind out all 13 legendaries and farm the AP necessary as well as grind up AP and new legendaries for all my alts that went from being DPS to healer, and do it all in time for ToS release. The Paladin got his 13th and last legendary (a useless one sadly) on our first Mythic Desolate Host kill, so I feel like I've done as much as I could have in terms of prep for ToS.

Lorgok: In terms of preparation I'd say the biggest improvements came from the healing team. Joshpriest joining, Kuripala rerolling and choosing the right classes in the healing team had a big impact in my opinion. Props to the From Scratch players (Voci & Rytnek) and the Serenity contingent, who did an awesome job too. Overall our roster was much stronger compared to Nighthold.

Scripe: Apart from increasing it to 7 split runs from 6 there wasn't anything big, in fact we farmed way less AP beforehand since it was less relevant this tier (thanks for that Blizzard).

The first 6 bosses seemed to go down at the usual pace for a Mythic raid, anything special on any of them?

Deepshades: The only boss that stood out was Mistress Sassz'ine. I don't think Blizzard wanted us to play four tanks there (two default tanks + two additional Blood Deathknight tanks). They immediately adjusted the Hydra Shot after the kill so that our tactic wouldn't work anymore. She would've been better if she was released with the Hydra Shot changes that got applied in the second week in first place. Then she would've required better teamplay and that would have led into us needing more tries.


Did any of the early bosses have potential to be really good and challenging encounters with harder tuning?

Justwait: We prepared a lot for Demonic Inquisition and Desolate Host, both of which had the potential to be hard (albeit, DI being the second boss we most likely overdid our preparations for that one). The Desolate Host, however, turned out to be a lot easier than anyone expected, perhaps it's because of the offtanking of the adds being so easily possible or because Blizzard under-tuned the values making it almost the same as heroic.

Lorgok: Desolate host was very undertuned and Maiden basically had no numbers check (you could legit 18 man that boss without dying and still make the dps check).

Which boss was the first you actually felt had some challenge to them?

Deepshades: Mistress Sassz'ine was the first boss that needed to be executed properly, but overall I think the Fallen Avatar was the first actual challenge. You needed to play the mechanics properly and had to push the DPS and HPS requirements meanwhile. He was especially hard before the Dark Mark nerfs (25% less damage & Healer non-targetable).

Justwait: This was of course Mistress Sassz'ine. She didn't fall over like the bosses before her and we even cheesed the hydra shot mechanic with blood DKs in week 1. Once that was fixed she became even harder and is one of the more annoying bosses to kill now that is progress is over.

What was your schedule like throughout progress? Also, for how long would you have been able to go at it as hard as you did in week 3?

Deepshades: To be honest there was no real difference between the first two weeks and the third week. We started Wednesdays as early as possible (around server start) and tried to have around 9 hours of sleep each day. We would've needed to take a bit more of a casual approach the Monday after our kill.

A big issue that was brought up in this tier was the tuning aka over-tuning for certain bosses. We know about Avatar and KJ and will talk about them specifically later, but let's get to Maiden of Vigilance. She didn't take you that long to kill (73 wipes, 12 hours between Mistress and her kill), were there any tuning issues or bugs on her?

Deepshades: Maiden of Vigilance was actually working perfectly. We kinda wasted a bit of time on her because we played the Hammer ability with the group and didn't let a tank solo it, unlike most guilds.

Kuriisu: The biggest issue was getting weak auras to work the way we wanted them to :P
An annoying thing that happened is that Blizzard asked us to not solo tank hammers so we ended up taking it with the group and it made the fight harder, a thing Blizzard asked no other guild to do, which is kinda weird.
Edit: Justwait clarified the Blizzard communication a little. What Blizz specifically said was: "We are trying to stop you from soloing hammers and buffing the damage."


Moving on to the first really big hurdle of the raid, Fallen Avatar (453 wipes, 5 days 7 hours). First off, were the any stealth fixes and changes to the fight before you'd killed it?

Kuriisu: The first change was 5% hp nerf, absolutely needed as we were nowhere near the kill when that one was implemented.
The 2nd and most important nerf was Sear damage per stack reduction (30% -> 20%) and, more importantly, the rate at which the boss gets stacks while standing in fire was reduced (it went from 1 stack every 1.8 seconds to every 2.5 seconds). This was huge because before the nerf while moving the boss to a new platform he would very often get 3 stacks, rarely 2 and after the nerf he would get 2 stacks and in very rare cases only 1.

The funny thing is, when all those mathematical impossibility memes were happening we also all felt that way, but then we had a god pull which could have resulted in a kill if we played a bit better. Shortly after that the Sear nerf happened, and we knew we could easily kill the boss even on a non godlike pull. The fight had a disgusting amount of RNG before all the nerfs, if marks targeted non immunity classes or targeted people that already used immunities, it'd result in a fast wipe. If 2+ healers got a mark it was an instant wipe (all 3 healers having it also happened quite a few times). After they nerfed it for the 3rd time, reducing the damage of mark by 25% and making it not able to target healers, p2 basically turned into a joke.

Also, took us about 80 pulls to go from 0,5% wipe to a kill. And honestly even though our kill looks super clean that's just because it was a super good pull, dps doing crazy numbers, RNG being kind with marks and so forth - we still could have improved a lot, which proved to be true on the re-kill the next week.

What were the main issues that held you back for so long? Was it just a question of tuning numbers or were there bugs/not well thought out mechanics?

Deepshades: In the beginning we obviously needed to figure out how to soak the beams (how many stacks) and how many shields we wanted to play. After that we tried to find a proper phase 2 strategy for the soaking of the Dark Marks without having random deaths. When we were done with the strategy it was mainly executing the boss properly and getting him around 30% for the transition and preferably having the battle rezzes ready. We had numerous deaths from the Shadowy Blades that you couldn't really avoid which held us back in some tries. So basically it was mainly a numbers thing.

Justwait: The last phase being over-tuned and having a random 2-3 stacks when pulling the boss out of the lava was the biggest hurdle that held us back from killing the boss before it was fixed. We never managed to play a full phase 2 with everyone alive until the end before that.

Lorgok: The "mathematically impossible" was a meme so people shouldn't have taken it too serious but I do think that the boss would have never died so early without the sear stacks&damage nerf they did. The 5% hp nerf could have been avoided, it would have just delayed our kill by a few days. The boss had no real "broken" mechanic like KJ but it was too overtuned, especially the last phase.

It took you another three days to down Avatar for the second time, was he still in a rough condition, tuning wise, at that point or was it a gear/experience issue?

Deepshades: The biggest issue was to compensate the missing Vantus rune. The rest was just executing the boss properly again and having a good try. We also changed our last phase tactic again quite a bit.

Justwait: Since we didn't want to use our Vantus runes on Avatar again in week 2, and we wanted to keep split clears until after we were able to see more of KJ (we only saw phase 1 in the first night we had on him before the reset) it was a mixture of gear/Vantus runes that we lost and then executing what we did the week before.

With your experiences at Avatar, when you finally downed him what did you think Kil'jaeden would be like?

Deepshades: I thought at first: It can't get any worse now. But I learned my lesson. It could get worse and it did.

Kuriisu: Seeing Avatar being such a mess I expected KJ to be even worse, and sure enough, KJ was on a whole other level of broken. It felt so demotivating, shame on Blizzard for taking so long to fix broken fights this tier, so much time wasted on things that were clearly not tested and literally impossible.

 

Let's get to the big (red) topic then. 654 wipes, a little under 12 days spent on him and it took 7 days for the next guild to down him. First off: was he in any way possible before the most recent hotfixes?

Deepshades: I don't think we had any chance to kill the boss before the hotfixes. Even with 950 equipped Item Level we probably would struggle to down him pre-nerf.

Justwait: Possible? Maybe. It would take weeks of gearing if we'd want to be able to do it before any of the fixes were applied. Not really the way bosses should be designed in today's raiding scene.

Was a third week of resets absolutely necessary even after the hotfixes?

Justwait: No, we could have killed him in the second reset were the hotfixes in from the start.

Were there any stealth fixes that didn't make the hotfix notes?

Justwait: There were a lot of fixes throughout our KJ progress, sadly because of the holidays in the US (4th of July weekend) it took them longer to implement than we'd hoped and halted progress a lot.

Friday 7th:
- Armageddon now ticks for ~418k on mythic (from ~670k)

Monday 10th:

- Wailing Reflections spawn on tank deaths.
- Focused Dreadflame reduced to 15,600,000 (from ~30,000,000).
- Erupting Reflection HP reduced to 156600000 (from ~170000000).
- Wailing Reflection HP reduced to 288144000 (from ~304000000).
- Hopeless Reflection HP reduced to 33000000 (from ~40000000).
- Armageddon now spawns 8 small and 2 large missiles on mythic (down from 10 small).
- The knockback of Rupturing Singularity has been reduced ~5% on Mythic.
- There is more space between Armageddon Rain, Rupturing Singularity, and Erupting Reflection spawning in p1.
- There is more space in between abilities on the first intermission.

Thursday 14th:
- Darkness of a Thousand Souls damage reduced to 520000 (from 864600).
- Intermission 2 had some visual bugs with the Rupturing Singularities (Not really affecting our strat).

Do you think this is a good way to handle boss longevity/difficulty? Keeping him basically impossible for 2 weeks and either hard gating him behind a 3rd reset's worth of gear or hotfixes/nerfs?

Deepshades: I don't think it is a good way and I am pretty sure Blizzard didn't intend it in first place. I think Blizzard wanted to make sure you don't cut healers again like guilds did in Nighthold and gave all abilities a lot of incoming damage. They just went a bit overboard with that and needed to adjust it eventually. If the last boss dies at the end of the second mythic week it's perfect in my opinion.

A lot of people don't seem to understand the different types of difficulty a boss can have, complaining that the top guilds “whined” about KJ in the 2nd week of progress. Can you enlighten them a little?

Deepshades: Many players don't understand that we only complain when a boss is impossible. They actually think it's just hard and we have a problem with wiping or we just don't have enough gear. Kil'jaeden at the beginning was just way overtuned and all of Tuesday after our Fallen Avatar kill went into 100 tries of wiping in the first minute of Kil'jaeden phase 1. People also say we shouldn't complain about bosses we can't kill because our gear is not sufficient. People have to realize we dedicate around two-three weeks in progression for the race. We expect Blizzard to tune them around our gear level and make them hard mechanically. How is it fun to wipe to a boss just because you lack gear? We want challenges and push ourselves to the limit by playing mechanics while pushing our DPS and HPS.

Kuriisu: I'll just share this example as explanation:

End of 1st intermission pre nerf
Knockback (which knocks for 80% of the room) into Armageddon (10small nodes + 2big nodes, with each stack of the dot ticking for 900ish k) + beam (30, THIRTY MILLION damage) while you're still flying was impossible to handle, I reckon even with like 970 ilvl it would still be impossible to handle. Followed by more knocks.

End of 1st intermission post nerf
Knockback, 5-10 seconds of pause, Armageddon (8 small nodes + 2 big nodes, each stack now ticking for 700ish k damage) coupled with a beam (that now does 15 million damage). Followed by more knocks.

Last phase Pre Nerf
Each stack of Darkness of the Ten Thousand Souls DoT damage 950k (unavoidable, 950k per person, every 2 seconds = 9,5Million raid damage per second).

Last phase Post nerf
Each stack of Darkness of the Ten Thousand Souls now does 525,k DoT damage (unavoidable, 525k per person, every 2 seconds = 5.25 million raid wide damage per second taken).

How soon did you know the fight was going to be either extremely hard or basically impossible, especially compared to your recent Fallen Avatar experience? Considering some members thought even Avatar was impossible, were there debates as to whether KJ was doable?

Deepshades: After we reached Kil'jaeden on Tuesday and wiped to him a hundred tries in the first minute and seeing no changes were made on Friday when we arrived there again, everyone in the group knew it was impossible to make any more progress before fixes were applied.

Kuriisu: Everyone knew the beam was impossible to handle without losing people the moment we first saw it. The moment we saw the values of dot damage in the last phase we knew it was impossible. The moment we saw how timings worked out we knew it was impossible. 

Do you feel a lot/most of your wipes on him during week 2 were pointless? Did you feel other guilds were closing in on the advantage you had after Avatar as you were hitting a wall?

Justwait: This was one of the harder parts of progress, knowing that without any fixes you will be stuck on the boss and you are wasting time. Especially with Blizzard having holidays and weekends during our time on the boss, it was demotivating to keep pulling. Once we got feedback from Blizzard that changes were on the way, we regained motivation and kept practicing our phase 1 and intermission so that we'd have an easy time afterwards.

Kuriisu: Of course, we felt as if all the advantage we gained before (which was quite massive) was lost due to how the boss worked and how it was basically impossible to get past a certain point. Keep in mind, we never ever reached past 75ish% until they hotfixed it (like 350+ pulls), although we did make it to p2 a couple of times but never with everyone alive.

Lorgok: No, I didn't feel that way at all. Our week 2 attempts were very good and we made a lot of progression at that time, especially towards the end. If I am not mistaken, we saw darkness intermission once before the 3rd reset.
 

When exactly did you know that he was actually killable and felt certain you'd get him at the very least within the third reset?

Deepshades: I remember that we reached the last phase several times and got overwhelmed by the phase. After one long break Lorgok and our raid leader Scripe stepped up and kinda led us through it. On Saturday we had several close % wipes including a 3% wipe and the next day we killed it, and the rest is history.

Kuriisu: After the hotfixes we started seeing progress and we kept going deeper and deeper, once Blizzard told us about the dot damage nerf in the last phase we knew it was doable.

Where would you place Kil'jaeden in the pantheon of endbosses in WoW?

Justwait: In terms of difficulty progressing I'd list him after Lei Shen and Ragnaros. While those two bosses pushed your dps to the limit in addition to executing the strat correctly, Kil'jeaden is more of an execution check and you need to play 14 minutes without failing a single Armageddon or falling off. There are dps checks in place (killing adds on time, pushing phase 1 before the bad timings) but they weren't as hard to hit as other dps checks in the past.

Kuriisu: Probably the hardest one yet, for all the wrong reasons though.

Lorgok: For me it was the hardest boss ever, probably not my favourite for its mechanics (the frustration it gave me when it was broken might be one of the reasons) but overall it was a very great fight.

Obviously Rogues were a big hit on Avatar and KJ, were there any OP classes or must haves in ToS? What do you think of class balance in the raid overall?

Deepshades: I think the class balance in general was pretty decent. The only problem was that most of the hard bosses had soaking abilities which made Rogues just overpowered. Kil'jaeden also had a few abilities that made it really hard for classes with low movement which decided our setup on him.

Kuriisu: Rogues are obviously broken as usual. Warriors are pretty broken, Hunters and Moonkins are very good, 1 Warlock is required, the rest is pretty much whatever.

Lorgok: Class balance was very good overall except for Warriors' dps being ridiculously op (I don't even know how you can let a class like that go through after months of PTR) and Rogues being the "key" class on every boss you need mobility/soaking/damage.
I am really looking forward to changes for Rogues&Warriors.

Scripe: Yes, Rogues were way too strong this tier. DPS wise most classes were fine, obviously when you go for world first even if a class is a tiny bit worse you don't want to use it. However, utility wise some classes were way too strong to the point where it was stupid. We even considered gearing 5 Rogs initially but then thought "surely 4 must be enough", jk...

  
Rosters for Kil'jaeden and Fallen Avatar

How big was the roster going into ToS and how many times did you change the roster, pre and after hotfix KJ?

Deepshades: I think we were around 25 players and the competition wasn't too big. It was mostly decided by the classes we needed for the bosses. The majority of the KJ attempts we played with the same line-up. We just had a few tries with 5 healers and we were trying out a Mage/Retribution Paladin for a while but came to the conclusion to bench those classes relatively quickly.

Scripe: We had a 27 man roster while 2 of our players were not here initially. We changed our setup on KJ a lot at first just to try things out. Once we had a decent setup that we were satisfied with we didn't change anything unless it was absolutely required since you don't want a new guy in the setup learning the fight .

How do you keep yourself focused after a 200 wipes in row?

Deepshades: I don't really have a secret recipe for that. I've just been doing it for so many tiers that I am kinda used to it. I think enjoying the game as much as I do especially in progression is a big factor for it.

Kuriisu: Tons of caffeine, hype for WF.

Scripe:  Despite what people may think we don't just chain pull. A lot of time is spent on discussing strategies and testing things out. Sometimes we end up talking on TS about how to handle the boss for 2 hours straight. But generally staying focused is of course still hard, and the biggest focus-booster in my opinion is taking a shower.

Any shoutouts?

Deepshades: Thanks to my team Method for achieving my first World First endboss with me. Also a huge thanks to all the people supporting us all the time and especially while we are progressing. All the whispers that I received daily meant a lot to me.

Lorgok: Shoutouts to my real life friends that despite having no idea of what I was doing, always kept supporting me and asking me if I was doing great/winning. Also, thanks to all the fans and people who followed the race&supported Method, you guys are awesome. Oh and last but not least, shoutout to the internet cafe "Netvana" in Rome, thanks for giving me a place with a stable internet to play the last 10 days of progression :)