Here we are in the final legs of the Dragon Soul 25 man race, with seven guilds having finished it already. Tier 13 has been a really...uh...let's say "interesting" one, to be sure, and there have been many twists and unexpected results. We sat down with Arx from DREAM Paragon, who are the EU first and World 4th guild in the Dragon Soul progress race, to see what exactly happened and why this tier was so interesting.
Ahh Dragon Soul, what a weird race it's been. Let's start at the beginning, with the LFR ban. How much would you say it has impacted the progress race, whether directly through the one lost reset or indirectly by reducing morale or even willingness to go for it?
There was no lack of motivation, but the suspensions ended up having a pretty big effect nevertheless. Besides the mostly lost reset, people had scheduled their vacations on the first heroic week, which obviously didn't end up working all that well. As for how much impact the lost reset had, most guilds seem to have spent about the same time on Madness so the deciding factor for this tier was Spine. In general, the more gear you have, the less flawless your comp and execution needs to be, and that certainly holds more than true on Spine as well. Ultimately none of the suspended guilds could work around the gear deficit, and the Spine kills were delayed until the next reset -- after Madness was already down by KIN.
When you finally got to go into the instance on the second week of hard modes and got to see the bosses in action, did you think you could make up for lost time?
We at least expected to catch up much more. We knew Spine was a block, and the longer it took, the smaller the advantage would be. Frankly, we didn't anticipate a kill on that reset yet.
Would you say the first six bosses were about the same difficulty as the first 6 in Firelands or were they at least a little bit tougher? And of those first 6, were the encounters better/more fun here or in Firelands?
As a whole, it felt pretty similar. There was no real Baleroc-style (25) challenge in the first six though -- Ultraxion was simply easier. Interestingly, I personally think Gunship in 10 was the hardest encounter up to 6/8 in either mode. I prefer the DS encounters, but some still suffered from the same problem that the first part of Firelands had -- no meaningful dps check, with the exception of Yor'Sahj, Gunship 10 and Ultraxion 25.
Spine of Deathwing: the first real challenge in the instance. It took 9 days for the first non-banned guilds to down it and 8 days for you guys to get it after you started hard mode raiding. What was special about this encounter, was it really just a matter of gear and alt setup or is there more to it?
After you find your solution for tanking/kiting the bloods that spawn at a rapidly accelerating rate, the encounter boils down to a series of ~20 second dps burns. Class balance on that is about as good as heroic Nefarian before changes, so the raid comp plays a huge role in the fight. Additionally, you need enough ranged burst to interrupt Fiery Grips in a timely fashion before someone dies, which is especially crucial in 25-man where the ability is cast twice as often. Whichever way you go about it, it's incredibly dependent on the setup and the gear you have available.
What was specific about the Madness encounter?
We took a 3-day Christmas break, so it took us three disconnect-ridden raid nights. And I expect everyone else had a similar learning curve and timeframe to it. Essentially you spend the first night evaluating the kill order and working out the problems, and second night executing it and making tweaks. The right solution ended up being much too straightforward, and it felt like there weren't enough ways for an individual player to mess up -- compared to Firelands, Madness felt like doing Ragnaros without the last phase. Spine was the main course, and Madness was dessert.
How do you feel about this progress cycle in general? Where would you rank Dragon Soul with all the other instances released in WoW so far?
The first six bosses played out ok, but I'm definitely disappointed in how both Deathwing encounters were more about the setup and execution than solving the puzzle. As an overall experience, DS wouldn't fit into my top three, but it's certainly not down at ToGC-level either. As for progress itself, with the LFR suspensions and the resulting Christmas timing, it somewhat feels like instead of answers, we're left with more questions. Nevertheless, it's nice to have some fresh (if not new) faces around, and hopefully instead of endless bickering, this tier will end up leading to fiercer and even more interesting races in the future.