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Another Expansion Conquered: A Post-Race Method Interview

Article originally posted on Manaflask

The possibly most exciting progress race ever came to an end and Method came out on top, after being both the favorite and underdog at different points in the race. This tier also brought us the first endboss to survive the second reset, which hasn't happened since Al'akir back in Cataclysm. Paragon were also at the top of their game and presented the fiercest competition for Method, making the win that much more impressive. The top 5 changed quite significantly this tier as well and we'll definitely have more interviews with the other guilds soon as well, but for now let's focus on Aladya, Ashvael, Noxe, Pottm and Sonie as they talk to us about the race.


Archimonde Mythic World First by Method

Congratulations on the really impressive win. You've had a few days to decompress and absorb everything that happened in the race, what does it feel like now looking back? The closest tier yet in terms of competition and a lot of people were even expecting Paragon to clinch this one.

Pottm: Super proud to be #1. Our competition was ahead a couple of times during this progress, but we persevered and kept going, only to be held back by server issues, unavailability of players and no Hunter weapons! Being victorious in the end and killing one of the hardest bosses the game has ever seen world first is the biggest thing I and many others have achieved in WoW and I'm sure it'll take a while to top that. Also, congratulations to Paragon, relax and enjoy the free time after progress. #highmaul
 

"The Curse" seemed to be getting to you, since this could theoretically be the end of the expansion and shortly before the second reset you mentioned that some members couldn't keep taking days off work etc. and you even went "casual" raid times for a while. What exactly happened there, how long did you actually not raid "proper" hours, how much did it impact morale when you finally decided to get back to full commitment raiding and how much of an advantage did you think Paragon had gotten because of that?

Aladya: It was decided to take 2 weeks off work starting the Wednesday that mythic opens and ending in next week's Sunday. If we would have been extremely close to kill Archimonde on Sunday we would have gone for it 'till the reset, but we were not. I don't think Paragon got an advantage, I just think they were able to catch up to us a bit. The hour difference would of been bigger if they would have had to stop daytime raiding due to work on Monday and Tuesday.

Ashvael: Well, we're still not quite sure what exactly happened with the ID bugs. One theory was that certain developers did not log off their characters properly which caused the instance to not soft reset. However, we were not given any clear information as to what actually happened. We didn't raid 5 hours in total because of ID issues. Also we only raided 5 hours each (compared to 13'ish) on Monday and Tuesday of the 2nd reset. We were pretty hyped when we went back to raiding fulltime on Wednesday and it showed with our clear speed of 3 hours till Mannoroth. We sadly got stopped for an hour there due to ID bugs but morale was still high.

Noxe: We knew that mythic progress might last longer than 12 days and we planned the raiding schedule accordingly beforehand so it didn’t come as surprise when we finally reached Monday the 13th. The plan was to start the raid at 7pm on Monday and Tuesday (unless kill was really close) and then push it again on Wednesday and Thursday which was the case as you could see. We lost about 16-18 hours due to that.

Pottm: We planned from the get-go to raid Wed-Sun, Mon-Sun, take off Mon-Tue and go hardcore Wed-Sun again. Due to later bosses dropping higher item level loot we anticipated that this progress would last three weeks quite early and planned accordingly. We weren't demotivated by not raiding, however we thought we were behind after a certain hotfix was applied on Monday (see below) and we couldn't raid more.
 

Did you have any issues with HFC preparations, roster etc. or did you go into it as strong as ever? Were there any issues during the race itself?

Ashvael: Lost 2 players (Lexi, Lorgok) but kind of expected both to happen so it wasn't a big issue and we planned around it. During the race we gave A LOT of gear (full priority on Vanquisher token with 11 main users on it for example) to our 3 Death Knights which were nerfed in the beginning of the mythic week so that wasn't great.

Pottm: Our roster was pretty small this time around and we actually have trouble finding new, talented players. Otherwise: stronger than ever!

Sonie: Our roster in BRF was already very strong and before HFC we lost a few few people, 3-4 if I recall correctly. But we gained 2 really promising recruits. So we reduced our roster once again, same as we did after Highmaul. And I believe it had a very positive effect as it's easier to have a nice atmosphere with fewer people.

Did you have any idea how far along Paragon were on Archimonde at any time (especially in the last few days)?

Ashvael: We knew that we were ahead.

Noxe: Only our hunch that we are ahead based on how hotfixes were applied.

Pottm: On Monday I had a gut feeling that we were ahead. Due to not raiding so much on Monday & Tuesday and seeing that the boss was killable, I honestly thought that they could kill it any time, up until the very end. We got some info every now and then saying that we were ahead, but it's hard to believe anything like that during progress.


Mannoroth and Archimonde seemed like the only "real" bosses this tier, were there any others that kind of gave you more trouble than you were expecting?

Ashvael: We wiped a lot more than we should have on Xhul'horac. That happened partly because of personal player fails but we also made the fight way harder than other guilds by not abusing mage Evanesce.

Noxe: Gorefiend was harder than expected but I liked it. Xhul was a really fun and challenging encounter as well with our tactic.

Pottm: Xul'horac, but more due to running with a broken strategy than the boss being hard.

Sonie: Gorefiend was definitely a lot harder than we expected it to be. Then after we had a few bosses that were easier than we thought they would be, like Iskar, Socrethar and Zakuun.


Mannoroth Mythic World First by Method

This was definitely the most exciting race so far for us viewers, was it also different for you in terms of hype or general attitude towards it? Also how much do your fans motivate you in the race, it seems a bit difficult to "feel" the cheers in this format?

Ashvael: It was a lot of fun and we were pretty hyped after we took the big lead on Mannoroth (just to be stopped by Archimonde's tuning). It is great to see people cheering for us but sometimes it feels like more people want to see us fail than actually succeed which is a bit demotivating.

Noxe: It’s always nice to read positive comments but at the same time pretty depressing dealing with haters. But yeah guess that’s how it has to be.

Pottm: Personally, it helps me a lot. I get a huge morale boost when I read about people cheering for us, or when somebody compliments our strategies on earlier bosses. On the other hand, it's really sad to read the salty posts of haters. When you kill a boss two days and 200 pulls earlier, despite all setbacks, and when the other guild's best pull is 17% at the time of your kill, it's anything but "luck". But haters gon' hate, I guess.
 

Were you ever discouraged at some of the circumstances you were facing, like the raid ID lockout, the fact you had no rings by the third reset or the fact that Archimonde was overtuned when you got to him and you might have been losing your advantage because of that? The hotfixes that came in later

Ashvael: The lockouts were really annoying (especially the 4h one), however Archimonde's tuning was by far the worst hit to morale. We got there on Tuesday expecting to get some valuable information but could not get past P1 due to Doomfire dealing insane amounts of damage. We did notify the developers of our opinions regarding several spells but they did not want to change the Doomfire damage because it is such a core mechanic to the first two phases. After about 4? days they nerfed it by 40% finally allowing us and Paragon to progress on the fight without using a gimped setup with 4 Hands of Purity. It is discouraging to basically lose your whole time advantage due to unrealistic tuning.

Noxe: The ID lockout issue was definitely the most frustrating moment of this progress. Sitting there doing nothing while seeing other guilds inside the instance was a really demotivating experience. Other than that our Kormrok tactic turned out to be very messy and super annoying which cost us extra time. We often used rogues to deal with certain raid mechanics but this time it was counter productive. Definitely not a pleasant experience.

Pottm: Nope. I may have thought that we were behind, but none of it was our fault. We were still the best guild in the world!

A lot of No.1 guilds that reigned a long time seemed to eventually hit that wall of lack of motivation and just stopped playing as well or as much. This tier was looking to be that kind of event for you as well, but you pulled it off in the end. How have you managed to keep your players hyped and excited for the race and pushing so hard to keep that No.1 spot? That really seems like your real secret weapon.

Ashvael: We had quite a few people who weren't as motivated, especially during farm and didn't even login to the game for 2 months but they all stepped it up for the race. I guess wanting to beat Paragon again is quite the motivation.

Pottm: Big shoutout to our sponsors ZergID, HyperX and G2A!
 

It seems standard now to do a second clear of split Heroics before getting into Mythic, what exactly changed to warrant such a decision, is it just that other guilds were doing it?

Aladya: We actually went Mythic first for a few bosses on Wednesday. A big mistake because:
-> you can start heroics 1 hour earlier
-> you might save a few wipes doing heroic first due to gear
-> Blizzard is actively nerfing/fixing bosses during the first day a lot (see the nerf to Kormrok waves after we killed it but before Paragon got to it)

The counter that if you do heroic first you might give the same loot when you do mythic to the same guy isn't really that big when only 3 bosses are dead in the US when you start raiding.

Ashvael: You really don't want to waste your time on a bugged boss while you might as well have other guilds beta test it for you while you clear heroics. Also it's not optimal to possibly have low % wipes which wouldn't have happened with the 2nd set of heroic gear. Basically you pretty much know that the race is not only going to be 1 week long and you need to do heroics anyway at some point during the week so you might as well get rid of it in the beginning to avoid issues on early bosses.

Pottm: It's only been possible since the release of WoD. It wasn't a big deal in Highmaul, but Foundry and more so HFC gave tier bonuses and insane trinkets.
 

Did you do anything differently in HFC compared to previous raids?

Ashvael: Our Blackrock formula seemed to work pretty well so we didn't change anything major besides doing the heroics in the beginning. We still have our long breaks for food/sleep (probably more so than other guilds) because we value that more than raw amount of pulls.

One thing which may seem minor but was a pretty good change in my opinion was how we handled combat resses, on the last 2 fights especially. We basically told everyone that you cannot make any mistakes (resulting in death) within the first 10 minutes of the fight and we'd suicide certain players to avoid mechanics and gain dps. On Mannoroth we suicided 2 people in the last phase to get rid of the debuffs while suiciding tanks on Archimonde to avoid the Deathcallers and gain more DPS on the boss.

Pottm: I yelled a lot.


Hellfire Citadel was another non-linear raid, how much time and focus does it take away deciding what bosses to go for compared to linear ones? With the last two bosses being significantly more difficult than the rest, does it even matter that the earlier ones are non-linear?

Ashvael: It didn't really matter. Of course you can save some time by doing good choices during the raid to have extra loot on the harder bosses but it's really not a big difference.

Noxe: Early bosses don’t matter at all. In the end it’s all about end-boss so it doesn’t really matter on harder bosses either. All bosses need to die eventually anyway.

Pottm: Hmm, took about five seconds of time and focus after every boss. Didn't matter at all, especially since most of the bosses were pretty easy.
 

Xhul'horac and Tyrant Velhari were the first real choice that changed the course of the race, you and Paragon seemingly chose differently and they came out ahead. What exactly happened there?

Ashvael: We did try both bosses and swapped around a bit in the beginning but then decided to stay on Xhul'horac as we thought we had a pretty good & working tactic. In hindsight our tactic wasn't as easy as what other guilds did and was pretty hard to execute which made us lose a lot of time on Xhul'horac. We killed Tyrant pretty fast after that as we had some general knowledge of the fight and it is the easier of the two to actually execute.

Pottm: We went back and forth a lot. Poor preparation made us think Xul'horac was un-killable (thinking Empowered Chains would have 5 targets instead of 3). Poor preparation made me think you wouldn't do extra damage on Velhari's last add, so I said the boss was un-killable. Poor preparation made us unaware of a lot of things you can cheese on Xul'horac, so we went with an overly complicated strat and wasted 180 pulls.


Xhul'horac Mythic World First by Method

Was this another example of a good difficulty curve or would you have changed something? Especially considering the less hardcore guilds?

Ashvael: Beside Archimonde v1 I think the difficulty of the tier was pretty spot on. Many people didn't like Gorefiend being a wall but I don't mind a boss which makes you push your DPS in the beginning of the instance.

Noxe: Socrethar with stunnable adds ended up being a joke. Other than that it looked really good i must admit.

Pottm: Well, Gorefiend was much harder than the bosses that came after him, so that's an obvious flaw. Socrethar was and is still bugged (in the form that P1 adds are stunnable) and therefore a joke boss, Fel Lord was surprisingly undertuned. It would've been fine if those two bosses hadn't been as easy.
 

The fix vs. nerf debate. What do you think on the nomenclature, where exactly does a nerf end and a fix begin? If a boss is impossible to kill with current gear, does he need to be "fixed" or "nerfed" if there isn't an obvious bug making him so?

Ashvael: If an ability dealt 300k damage per second on 3 players for 15 seconds while many other mechanics happen during the fight, you would call it a fix as well. It wasn't possible to handle it properly during P2 and barely possible to handle in P1 while already stacking paladins for Purity. Of course you can call it a nerf but any player on the fight will call it a fix because it was broken & not possible to handle.

Noxe: To me a nerf is making a killable boss easier while fix means making boss actually killable. Some nerfs are really needed though (e.g. Doomfire damage taken) in order to prevent crazy class stacking which ruins the game so to some extent you could call them a fix.

Pottm: I'd call changes to mechanics that are not counterable by playing around them (Doomfire, Shadowforce on feared players) fixes. Shadowfel Burst from 1.5M to 900k is a nerf.
 

Which boss was the most fun/interesting and why?

Ashvael: I think Archimonde was a really fun fight because it plays so differently compared to the other difficulties of the encounter. For the same reason I also like Xhul'horac the way we played it. You were pretty much dealing with a mechanic at any given time as a hunter on that boss and that's quite rare.

Noxe: Xhul, Mannoroth and obviously Archimonde.

Pottm: Xul'horac (with our strat): lots of things to do. Archimonde P3: ten different abilities that start overlapping at very inconvinient times.


Which boss do you think had the most potential to be a truly great fight, if the tuning had been better and why?

Noxe: Xhul without cheesing.

Pottm: Well, Xul'horac would be great if you couldn't cheese him! Socrethar could've been okay, but ended up being not very different from Heroic.

Was there any class that stood out during this progress, like balance druids seemed to be in BRF? Were there some speccs or even classes that were just useless?

Ashvael: Hunters & Warriors were extremely useful in my opinion. Quite a lot of useless specs to even start listing them all, but DPS shamans for example.

Noxe: No class dominated this tier but I think warrior was shining the most.

Pottm: Arms Warrior, if any, but only on select fight and still not to the extent that Moonkins dominated in BRF.
 

Where would you place Hellfire Citadel Mythic as a whole in WoW's raid pantheon and rate it 1-10?

Ashvael: I would rate it a 9. Quite a lot of fun bosses, really good difficulty curve and one of the most challenging end bosses ever, if not the most.

Noxe: As a whole I guess solid 9. Without first boss possibly 9,5!

Pottm: Archimonde 10, rest 7? 6.5?

The first boss to survive to 3 resets since Al'akir in Cataclysm. I'm assuming you weren't too happy about that particular fact? Do you think he was absolutely impossible before the several hotfixes he got, even with more gear? Was it the correct call for Blizzard to fixnerf him if he was possible but with a LOT more gear (like 4+ resets worth)?

Aladya: The nerfs he got were pointless for Shadowfel Burst and needed for Doomfire unless you wanted 4 Holy Paladin healing setups (Hand of Purity).

Ashvael: Our optimal time frame for the last boss to die is the weekend of the 2nd reset as this is when our vacation days usually end. He was 100% impossible without the Doomfire change even in 730 gear. Maybe not with a raid full of 795 rings but the damage of that ability was insane. All other changes were minor and could have been outgeared easily.
Also I don't think Blizzard should aim for top guilds to be stuck on it till you have 4 weeks of gear. That's just stupid!

Noxe: He became killable after doomfire’s nerf imo. No amount of gear would help versus original version (at least not without 4 paladins).

Pottm: As far as I'm aware there were only three hotfixes for Archimonde, where one of them wasn't even publicly posted.
* The Doomfire damage hotfix was absolutely necessary. Even after four resets worth of gear you'd still need to cheese it with three or four Holy Paladins.
* Shadowfel Burst going from 1.5M to 900k did literally nothing.
* The last hotfix was that people affected with at least one stack of Doomfire wouldn't get targeted by Shackles in P2. This hotfix came in on Monday, and IMO this hotfix made the boss killable. We had only very few good transitions into the last phase before the hotfix, losing people pretty much every time we were struck by bad RNG at the end of P2. After the hotfix was applied we made it into P3 every other pull with everyone alive, and we could finally start practicing it. I believe with more time on our hands we could've killed him with the gear we had in week two. (Note that we only raided 5 hours on Monday and Tuesday)
 

How were the mythic additions to the fight?

Ashvael: The coolest new mechanic was probably the Chaos hitting 20 players at once instead of 2. We had a sick WeakAura by Pottm to deal with it but that ability looked insane on first sight especially if you keep in mind that you will die if you get hit by any line that is not yours. The last phase was really good as well in my opinion as it kept spamming you with abilities at all times. There is basically no downtime in the last phase where you can just chill & dps the boss because there's always something happening! In the end of that phase all the abilities start overlapping and it's chaos!

Noxe: Mythic is completely different from heroic. Definitely cannot compare those two.

Pottm: The fight isn't at all comparable to Heroic. You need to hit *very* precise timings in P1 or everything turns to hell. Finding these timings took a *long* time. But P1 is the easy part. We tried a dozen strategies to find something that works in P2. Everything failed once the adds started coming at 55%. You can't move, or you or someone else will die to Wrought Chaos. But if you don't move, you'll die to an add exploding on you. Finding something that works here was certainly the toughest job during this progress. RogerB did it, like always! P3 is practically a different encounter. You take all the adds from P2 with you, but once they're cleaned up, it's a new fight.
 

It took you around 472 pulls to down him, after how many were you basically sick of him?

Ashvael: Well, I wouldn't have liked to pull him another 200 times, that's for sure.

Noxe: Well, I enjoyed every pull!

Pottm: When we couldn't get him below 80% during the first two days. :( Holy Palas fixed it.


First time in Phase 3

How close were you to the kill just before the third reset?

Aladya: Not really close. While we had a firm grasp on P3 mechanics, we would have had issues with the dps check.

Ashvael: Not that close. We were getting to Phase 3 semi-consistently and were able to make out a working strategy but we lacked throughput to handle the last phase as well as sometimes failing DPS checks in other phases.

Pottm: Not close. 35%?
 

You didn't have any legendary rings there at the end, how much of a difference do you think they make on that fight?

Ashvael: I don't think 1 ring like Paragon had would make a big difference but having the ring on a majority of your raid will make a HUGE difference. During progress with lower item level than intended, there are always certain DPS/Heal checks that need to be met and that ring basically trivializes them.

Pottm: DPS rings should make P3 significantly easier, and, to a lesser extent, healing rings P2.

Sonie: We had two really close wipes, where a few legendary rings for sure would have made the difference. But overall in the encounter to meet the different 'dps checks', it would had been a big deal. Fighting Archimonde with 0 rings versus fighting him with 5+ dps rings is not the same encounter.
 

Was it a polished experience in terms of bugs?

Ashvael: There were barely any bugs on all bosses. It was probably the best raid ever in that regard. For Archimonde it was just that one tuning of Doomfire damage that almost made you feel like the boss is bugged! Other than that, big props to Blizzard QA.

Noxe: Wish I could Killing Spree with Empowered Black Hole debuff! But then again... I wish i didn’t have to use that ability ever so maybe it’s a good sign? :D On a serious note, I don’t remember any bugs so it was great experience in that regard.

Pottm: T18 was probably the best tier so far in that regard. I don't think Archibald had any major or minor bugs whatsoever.

Sonie: I can't recall any bug, except maybe that Doomfire soakers could get targeted by Shackle which got fixed. But that's not really a bug. This whole tier was really well done, so props to Blizzard!
 

How would you rate him compared to previous endbosses? If you had to pick the 3 hardest endbosses of all time, what would they be?

Ashvael: Extremely hard. You said it yourself earlier, that this was the first boss in a looong time to survive till 3rd reset.
Would rate Archimonde, Ragnaros, Lei Shen 25 in the top 3 hardest end bosses.

Noxe: Definitely the hardest endboss ever. Think Lei Shen and Firelands Ragnaros make it top 3.

Pottm: Only started HC raiding in MoP. So ... Archimonde, Lei Shen 25?

What would you change in WoW going forward?

Ashvael: Please make 3 raid tiers/expansion again. I already dread leveling another 6 characters and equipping them all from scratch again after only 2 tiers. Would also love if there was more content outside of raids, kinda like the Tanaan Jungle.

Noxe: Remove rppm procs. Remove Killing Spree. Most importantly, REMOVE DPS RACIALS.

Pottm: Increase class difficulty. Snapshotting, etc. All the stuff they removed after MoP. RPPM with haste pls! Remove LFR. Stop with pointless legendary quests and items. Heroics are boring, but the gear from there is too good: merge Heroic & Mythic lockouts again, or something? Unban Pottm!
 

Anything you'd like to add at the end, shoutouts etc.?

Ashvael: Shoutout to MMO-Champion for being extremely entertaining during progress while still being full of the most biased people on the planet!

Noxe: Shoutout to Kuznam’s mom!

Pottm: Shoutout to Joey for teaching Sco how to tank

Sonie: Shoutout to the EU GMs that called and woke up US GMs to be able to fix our raid ID lockouts!