Perhaps no one knows better how crazy the Tier 13 race has been and how things changed constantly in this latest progress race than vodka. They were neck and neck with Blood Legion at the start of the race, getting kills mere minutes apart and then went into the lead with a Warmaster Blackhorn World First and only two bosses to go. They finished the race in the No.9 spot so let's find out exactly what happened and what two of their officers, Killars and Adam have to say about this tier.
Dragon Soul has been quite the weird race. Let's start at the beginning, with the LFR ban. How much would you say it's impacted the progress race this tier?
Killars: Not to take away from those who had great success in this tier, but this tier was probably one of the worst in terms of a “race” that I’ve ever taken part in. With all the issues involved from LFR exploiting, server transferring guilds and/or players, class stacking, etc. it just added up to be a tier more about resources than anything else. The tier should be defined by strategy, difficulty, and dedication which I feel (especially as a final tier) Dragon Soul did not deliver.
Adam: The LFR ban has certainly had an impact on many guilds across the globe, but it was not the sole deciding factor for this tier specifically. In order to successfully conquer this tier a.k.a the spine encounter, you needed classes that had short cool downs and really good single target burst damage. This is why all the first kills are stacked with mages and rogues. Unfortunately this was the hardest fight of the tier and was not even comparable to what Ragnaros required. All in all, if you had the resources and classes needed to successfully fill a raid with those classes, you were going to kill spine with relative ease.
You were right in there the first few days, going neck and neck with Blood Legion and getting kills minutes after them at first. How did it feel during that beginning, to be in such a tight race?
Killars: A tight race is always exciting and fun as any competition should be. Unfortunately this race wasn’t even close to as exciting as it should have been due to the LFR bans. Most of the reason we play this game is for the competition and not having most of the top guilds to compete with on the earlier bosses really made it kind of “meh”. As I previously mentioned, this tier was just not what it should have been and I’m really looking forward to the opening tier of MoP as first tiers of an expansion can be really difficult to score well in.
Adam: The first few days of progression are always intense, and the faster you kill a boss the more time you have to work on the next one and so on. Like always, we had a goal to accomplish and put all our effort into making sure we got the bosses down as quick as possible. Ultraxion gave us a bit of trouble at first, mostly due to the fact that the dps requirement was very tightly tuned for the first week. We enjoy the competition and were underwhelmed that we could not go head to head with all the guilds that got banned from LFR. As many people speculate that top guilds hate each other, this is not true at all. For vodka, we respect the players and the guilds racing for world firsts.
When you finally got Warmaster Blackhorn World First, did you think you had secured your advantage and were in a really good place to get the rest down or were you more skeptical?
Killars: We secured nothing. When you know ahead of time from PTR that the last 2 bosses are going to be so much harder and you’re only ahead by minutes or hours, nothing is ever secured. A lot of people get really excited by early kills on the first 1-5 or so bosses of an instance, but those are quickly forgotten. All that matters is the last boss, or in this case, the last 2 bosses of an instance. No one will remember our “world first” on Warmaster Blackhorn and that’s the way it should be.
Adam: After catching up to all the guilds and getting Warmaster down in a timely fashion, it gave us a slight morale boost, but it's not over till it's over. We went into that fight with a very good strategy in mind and executed well in the allotted time we had. The real challenged was ahead, and spine proved to be a huge wall.
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?
Adam: In comparison, the first 6 fights in Firelands and dragon soul were very similar. The roadblock in Firelands was Baleroc and in Dragon Soul it was Ultraxion. Baleroc was a bigger obstacle than Ultraxion simply because of the mechanics and execution after the enrage. Our guild really loved the Yor'Sahj encounter as this is what exactly we thought of as an ideal encounter pre-nerf. The encounter gave you so many options and had great depth to what you needed to successfully conquer the color combinations.
What was it like hitting that brick wall that is Spine the first time? Was it really obvious that this was going to be the block encounter of the tier?
Killars: You don’t like to think of a fight being “too hard” or “over tuned” when you first arrive. You have to be positive and try to assume you are just missing something or need to try something else. After trial and error we realized our raid comp wouldn’t allow us to push a 2 nuke tendon realistically, so trying everything possible to work around that or gearing alts to retry a 2 nuke push was what we spent the majority of our time on. It always seems Blizzard puts up these walls but leaves a little room for stacking or exploiting to defeat an encounter. It will continue to be this way as making the encounter too hard while stacking/exploiting would mean it would be impossible for a normal raid even with weeks of gear. Gating is the only solution, but we’ve all heard/sung that song so I won’t beat the horse corpse in this interview :)
Adam: We spent a lot of our time going over different strategies that we would think would work well, and had some speculation on what exactly we needed in order to beat the encounter. Unfortunately we didn't have the resources needed to kill the boss in the tendon exposes that we needed (2/2/2) and it took a lot longer than originally planned.
Did you try many crazy strategies for Spine when you realized it wasn't really happening with "regular" ones?
Killars: The one thing we tried that had us laughing was prepping a second amalgamation to nuke as the tendon was about to finish casting. This would cause the tendon to reset its cast time and allow you to keep it exposed for 40 seconds~ straight. This caused a lot of raid damage not to mention massive amounts of coordination to even occur. This wasn’t really a great strat as it only really had benefit for dot classes, but nonetheless we did give it a few attempts.
Adam: I think we tried every strategy you could think of for spine. We were having success with one, then we tried another strategy and then we tried another and another and so on. Eventually we came to a consensus that we needed X amount of dps without heroism to break it in 2 etc. Kiting the bloods and dealing with the other small parts of the encounter we had mastered by the time we were able to break it in 2.
In the end, was it really just about well enough geared alts and the perfect class setup or was there more to it?
Killars: It wasn’t completely about well geared alts and class setup, but it was a neccessity to score an early kill. You still did need a comfortable strategy and good players to pull off a kill, but you had to have the right classes to make it work, yes. The sheer difference from a Rogue/Mage to a Shaman/Warlock/Druid was just too much to overcome. You're talking somewhere around 40% more damage per plate for just having the right class. Having a LFR geared Rogue/Mage was most likely better than bringing a 400 ilvl Shaman/Warlock/Druid etc. CDs always being up is just such a huge advantage.
Adam: To get the first kill on spine and stay competitive with the other guilds, you definitely needed gear and a raid that could sustain the 2 tendon breaks as we mentioned in our previous questions. The fight is mechanically simple and does not change, the only problem was managing the 3rd plate and keeping the fight sustainable for around 13 minutes.
The final boss, Madness of Deathwing, didn't really seem like such a large challenge after Spine, it took Kin Raiders two and a half days to down it. Was it a worthy end boss or should Spine and Madness be considered as one as far as endbosses go, especially compared to Ragnaros?
Killars: We spent 3 hrs the first 2 nights on Madness followed by a full day of 7-8hrs. The following day in 3 attempts the boss was dead. 15~ hours and 70~ attempts to kill a final boss of a tier is a joke. It would be weird to consider two 15 minute encounters as one so I won’t and just say these fights were very very disappointing. Ragnaros continues to be my favorite and IMO the hardest boss the game has ever seen.
Adam: Madness was very upsetting as an encounter and was extremely easy compared to Spine and Ragnaros. Even with Spine and Madness combined as one, I do not think it was comparable to Ragnaros. Ragnaros was definitely the best fight this expansion and the all around best tier for the Cataclysm expansion.
What was specific about the Madness encounter?
Adam: The madness encounter took us around 2 and a half days as well, in accordance to the top guilds. The fight was basically the exact same as normal mode with an added mechanic here and there. It took us longer than expected because of the holiday breaks, but this boss needed another phase like Ragnaros to make it spicy and interesting.
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?
Killars: This tier was just a complete failure. While I’m usually the guy to stick up for Blizzard and WoW, I expect more from Blizzard at this point, especially on an end expansion tier. They have learned a great deal from the amount of time WoW has been around and they continue to learn which is why I expect more as the game gets older. This, of course, is taken from a hardcore perspective and I’m not sure if Blizzard really has us in mind when they design the tier and everything that goes with it, but either way I feel let down. Specifically on Deathwing I felt the ball was dropped entirely. It could have and should have been such an amazing and in-depth fight, but there was very little change on the heroic version and the fight was just so straight forward. The way this expansion ended and the fact the next is based on pandas really makes some of us question if this is all something we wish to continue to do.
Adam: As the last tier of the expansion, I think we all were expecting a lot more depth and challenge than the previous tiers. It did not live up to its name unfortunately and I would rank dragon soul near ToGC level. This tier definitely has made a major impact on the community, and for the future of raiding.