After their (very) recent win in Heart of Fear, a few Blood Legion players joined us for a talk about the raid, how they managed to break the very long running US curse on end-instance boss World Firsts (the last time a US guild got the last boss in an instance WF was Blackwing Lair back in Vanilla - and no Halion doesn't count) and the future.
Well, it's been a long time coming, hasn't it...
Just how crazy did it get when Empress finally went down, really? Sound-barrier breaking nerdscreams?
Riggnaros: Haha, yes, it has been a long time coming. It’s been awhile since there has been a dominant US guild competing for World 1sts. I am pretty sure the last US guild that traded off with the EU guilds on any type of consistent basis was Death and Taxes. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but hopefully we are able to make it a bit more common theme going forward.
Obviously it was important to seal the deal this time around. We wanted to make sure to finish strong this time and not have a repeat of Mogu Vaults. However, with that being said, we still have another instance ahead and need to make sure we’re able to stay focused on the overall goal.
As far as the nerd screams and such, anyone who is familiar with most of our guild or myself in particular knows we are pretty passionate and usually have some epic screaming after boss kills lol.
An important thing to note is that this is probably the first tier ever where the US did not have any sort of advantage over the EU, due to the first boss hotfixes, and having chosen this exact time to shine and be the No.1 guild must be something really special for you guys.
Riggnaros: It’s always nice to win, but there are still bosses left this tier. With that being said, Empress was quite a memorable boss for our guild for many reasons and it will definitely go down as one of my favorite kills due to the circumstances involved.
I really hate the constant forum wars with people complaining about the EU/US/KR/etc lockout and reset differences. None of the raiders have any control over any of that. That is all determined by Blizz and hopefully they are able to sort out things a bit more in the future to produce the most even and level playing field across the board. I think that will be very pivotal as this ‘e-sport’ continues to grow and become more and more mainstream.
There has been a lot of commotion after Paragon's leaving to 10 man, all the other top guilds were gunning for that vacant top spot. How different was the atmosphere in this tier so far considering that fact?
Riggnaros: We were definitely sad to see Paragon go to 10man. Hopefully things line up for them and allow them to get back on the 25man scene next tier or shortly thereafter. As far as ‘gunning for the top spot’, I think its more of just having to adapt to the ever-changing raiding scene. That top spot has went from Death and Taxes to Nihilum to SK to Ensidia to Paragon, and will continue to change over the course of this game's lifespan. Thus is the nature of the beast.
With you and Method being the dominant forces in Heart of Fear, exchanging World Firsts left and right, how confident were you in your win, especially considering how heartbreaking Mogu'shan Vaults was in the end?
Riggnaros: Haha. Yeah, the Mogu Vaults finish was quite frustrating on our end. Taking that into account and adding in our Tuesday server issues from this week, it was a very frustrating two boss stretch for us. We had our raid keep getting saved to different HoF lockouts (six diff lockouts to be exact) causing us to wait on GM tickets to be answered so we could zone back in. Then to throw some nice icing on the cake, we ended up having our server crash due to Galleon before we were finally able to get in there and start up.
A typical day at Galleon spawn on Illidan
After the Vizier brick wall for a couple of days and a few low % wipes, the actual nerfs came into play and Method got him much quicker than we did and blazed through the following three bosses before they called it a night on Amber Shaper. We pushed pretty late hours to catch back up and ended up passing them with our Amber Shaper kill and getting Empress pulls in before getting some rest.
We knew it was going to be very close and would come down between us and Method for who was able to produce the first Empress kill. Method is a very solid and respected guild and we knew we had to push it hard to ensure we had a shot at getting it first.
Ok, enough of this chitchat, world firsts, Empress and what not, let's talk about something REALLY important. Namely Imperial Vizier Zor'lok, the first boss of the instance. What do you think about the whole process and Blizzard's handling of it, the first nerf, the second nerf and the boss overall? What was the reaction after downing him and running into "boss" number 2, a 3 try affair, and even Garalon and Mel'jarak after that?
Riggnaros: Hmmm, where to start.
First off, you know I am in the same boat as you. I am all for seeing harder bosses and raids that aren’t full cleared in one reset. However, with that being said, it helps greatly if all the bugs and such are removed from encounters before hand. Spending 50% (or more) of your time having to instantly wipe a pull just because the boss goes Left instead of Right, wasting countless 300stat food buffs, dealing with the boss transitioning platforms at completely random hp values, and various other issues were beyond annoying to deal with and caused the fight to become more of a nuisance than a challenge in many ways. To be clear, it wasn’t -impossible- if it went left first, but it was exponentially harder and not worth the time. It’s hard to stay motivated and keep momentum when you literally wipe to the boss choosing the wrong platform 12 times in a row (yes, i said 12).
It got to the point of me making a twitter account and keeping it updated with his platform choice to help bring some humor into the situation: https://twitter.com/ImperialVizier All in all though, I will always remember the first boss of Heart of Fear and how it broke the mold of your traditional ‘first instance boss’ that we have come to know over the past few years/tiers. It was a boss of great design and innovation, but was overshadowed by its inconsistency and bugs (no pun intended).
Once we got Vizier out of the way, we knew the next three bosses weren’t going to pose much of a threat due to having extensive beta testing. There was some concern about Garalon and Windlord if Blizz would have the enrage timer/hp values tuned super tight, but that turned out to be quite the opposite. We made very short work of all three in a row and ended up taking on Amber Shaper near the end of our raid night/morning.
This turned out to be yet another 1-reset race. What are your thoughts on that, difficulty in general and whether this will be remedied any time soon?
Riggnaros: I think this instance would have been amazing if Garalon and Windlord had been tuned better. With both of those bosses staying up for a day or so, there is a very good chance that very few guilds would have cleared through Empress before reset. I do not think there will be more than a handful as it is, but I could be wrong. We’ll just have to see!
So, Terrace of Endless Spring, the big finish. Only four bosses and the outlook on them taking a while is bleak. This will be the final showdown and will decide the Tier 14 victor. Are you looking forward to it and do you have any other thoughts on the matter?
Riggnaros: You know us, we’re always up for a challenge. Hopefully the instance provides a good challenge and produces well tuned encounters. Only having four bosses should mean they are able to pay more attention to each of them and ensure there isn’t any tuning issues and/or bugs, exploitable features, spellstealable trash buffs, etc. In the end it will all come down to Sha of Fear and from the looks of it, that will be quite the showdown.
If I had to pick the hardest boss in its current state, I would go with Empress. That fight has so many moving parts that its very hard to keep pace with all of them at once. When our vid is released it will provide a more accurate view of what I am referring to.
So, which was harder, Zor'lok after the first nerf or Empress and Zor'lok after the second nerf or Empress?
Riggnaros: Zor’lok before any of the nerfs was borderline impossible. After the first set of changes it became doable, but still very very hard. We had some single digit wipes with that build, but it would have taken quite a bit longer to actually produce a kill. However, once the final round of nerfs came in and the boss could only spwan one echo, it became very doable.
With that said, In the current state of each boss, Empress is the harder boss of the two.
Which was the most fun boss to do
Riggnaros: Amber Shaper Unsok, hands down! I loved driving around the A-bomb. Brought back memories of Putricide and Kil'Jaeden.
Shinafae: Hm, as a Warlock, I loved Wind Lord Mel'jarak, whose long-lived adds were perfectly suited to Demonology sustained AoE ! I just wish he were harder on Heroic, so that I could have had more time to experiment with different approaches to handling him and his soldiers.
Your favorite boss, design-wise, regardless of difficulty?
Riggnaros: Empress. I would love to go into detail, but you’ll have to wait and see the vid!
Shinafae: I don't think that this question can really be decoupled from an evaluation of difficulty, because it was difficult to appreciate the mechanics of the easier bosses when many of them were negligible. Thus, my favourite boss would have to be Grand Emperess Shek'zeer, as it was a well-tuned encounter with minimal RNG and enough variety in the phases to maintain interest over a rather long (fifteen minute!) encounter. Generally, heroic end-boss encounters seem interminable, and a wipe in a latter phase is soul-crushing because it means that you have to suffer through another ten minutes of tedium and drudgery just to get to the good part (that final phase!) again. This was not the case at all with Shek'zeer; I found the pacing of the whole encounter very agreeable and the kill, when it came, was ultimately satisfying.
Ahdehl: Amber Shaper. It required everyone to able to perform outside of the comfort zone of their own class. Although we expected the orbs in the final phase to require slightly more... skill to be able to get rid of. It was actually quite simple to just run out 30 yards and have them intersect.
What would be some of the things you'd change about HoF if given the chance?
Riggnaros: Difficulty levels of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th bosses. I feel like each of them should have their hp values increased and enrage timers adjusted accordingly. Like I said earlier, if those three were tuned to be even remotely difficult, I doubt you would see a full instance clear this reset. Having those three bosses providing a much tougher challenge would have added greatly to the depth of the instance and allowed each of the fights to show their true colours instead of just falling over within a handful of pulls.
Shinafae: Well, I know that the instance was all about bugs, but really, did there need to be so many bugs of the programming kind present at release !? Other than the bugged bugs leading up to Zor'lok, I thought that the middle bosses of the instance (Ta'yak, Garalon, and Mel'jarak, I am looking at you) were too easy in their heroic incarnations. Now, I'm not actually a fan of progression cycles that take weeks upon weeks, with each boss requiring 100+ wipes to get right, as I am not able to put my real life on hold indefinitely. Two-shotting Heroic bosses though? That's not fun either. It's difficult to appreciate the complexity and unique mechanics that the designers gave to each of the heroic bosses when clearing their normal-mode counterparts in five alt-heavy raid groups was by far a more challenging feat.
Sinnermighty: A non-combustable Amber-Shaper, Wind Lord having more HP, Garalon's damage transfer actually being fixed before killed, and a tighter enrage on Blade Lord!
Ahdehl: Vizier can only start on the right side.
Kruciel: The biggest thing other than the damage amp on Garalon which is already being changed? I'd also try and make Heroic Wind Lord feel harder than Normal Wind Lord. He dies so fast there are literally 1/5 the amount of Wind Bombs on the ground on heroic. Oh, and I'd delete sonic spear from the game :(
Weirdest moment during progress
Riggnaros: Killing three heroic progression bosses in only a few hours. It felt really weird to be killing progression bosses in only 2-3 pulls.
Shinafae: Not a moment per se, but I thought it was both strange and amazing how popular our silly little twitter account, @ImperialVizier, became over the first two days of heroics. Riggnaros created the account as a way to vent about the good Vizier's annoying habit of choosing the left platform on the pull, but to me, the best were the comments made by other players working on Heroics that could relate to our plight. I'll almost be sad when Zor'lok is fixed so that he always chooses the right platform... Almost.
Sinnermighty: Some of us were sitting out for Grand Empress and Kruciel, one of our DK's, started getting very very twitchy whenever we hit Phase 3 (listening to just mumble and not being in the fight is BRUTAL!) and just started continuously strafing that whole phase 3 until we killed it.
Kruciel: Killing Ambershaper after going from 0/6 to 5/6 in a matter of hours, not actually realizing how many hours it was. I thought it was maybe 12:30 or 1:00 am... not 5:00 am. The adrenaline had me going so much I couldn't even fall asleep for hours after we called the raid.
Most rage-inducing moment during progress
Riggnaros: Ararat wiping a guaranteed Amber Shaper kill (10% with all 25ppl alive) to a sphere hitting the entire raid and killing everyone at once. The. Entire. Raid. Then proceeding to wipe for another two hours before killing it.
Shinafae: Aïe, this would have to be on Amber-Shaper Un'sok progression, where we were perhaps fifteen seconds off of a World First kill when one of our beloved DPS had the misfortune of being targeted by an Amber Beacon without noticing the debuff. He didn't move away from it and the ensuing explosion managed to kill the entire raid. The next two hours of wipes on that boss before we secured the kill were utterly agonizing, and I was convinced that if we didn't walk out of there that morning with a kill, Riggnaros would have personally killed the beacon terrorist IRL.
Ahdehl: Realizing that melee were about 8,000,000% worse than ranged for a couple fights.
Weirdest PM during progress
Riggnaros: “Status” x 1000
Pro Tip: I don’t run DBM or any other boss status mod.
Shinafae: At the Halfhill marked whilst grabbing food mats between pulls:
"Shinafae, you look beautiful in that sha helm, it really brings out the colour of your eyes."
Sinnermighty: "To help stay awake, put icecubes on your feet and jump as high as you can!" From a level 1 fan that knew I was tired ^^
How did the actual Empress kill come about, was it a steady improvement over time, a lucky shot or some new strategy?
Riggnaros: A little of both. We made steady improvement and also tweaked the strat several times based on where we were running into issues. There was nothing really lucky about our strat. I can’t really go into detail about it right now, but it was something we were able to replicate consistently. Once a few more guilds get a kill we will be putting out our vid and let you guys check it out and see for yourselves.
Shinafae: The kill came about slowly but surely as we refined the execution of our strategy and became more efficient with our pulls. We did go through several iterations of strategy for dealing with the add phase, but the beauty of this particular boss is that the method that we finally settled on was probably one of several that would have worked to score a kill. I enjoy bosses in which multiple routes to victory are possible, and each guild has the freedom to develop a strategy that plays to that guild's particular strengths and roster composition, and Shek'zeer was certainly one of these.
Ahdehl: Well, I had just woken up from a nice long nap in my chair, to hear people excited about a 5% wipe, and then they killed it the next pull.
Zoomkins: We pulled the boss and identified problems with a conventional raid strategy. We took it one step at a time and improved on each little bit step by step. Some of us personally came up with even better ways to deal with some of those problems. I was extremely happy to finally have someone give one of my crazy ideas a chance before shooting it down lol. You'll see the video. We progressed very steadily after a good nights rest from that point on.
Did you change anything after Mogu'shan Vaults that made you perform better this time?
Riggnaros: Nothing at all was changed between instances. Our Will of the Emp roadblock was due more to a strat decision than a performance issue. Our whole guild is playing very well right now and we’re all looking forward to Terrace.
Shinafae: I think that overall, following Vaults, we took a step back and realized that we, as a guild, needed to tighten up our play and work to eliminate the small, repetitive mistakes that resulted in early deaths and, ultimately, failed attempts. I think that this time around, we succeeded to an extent in limiting the number of times we made the same mistakes more than once, but as always, there is still room for improvement and much work to be done in preparation for the release of Heroic Terrace.
Ahdehl: We had the world first in our hands for Vaults, and just threw it away due to poor play. There was a LOT more focus this time around.
What's your raiding schedule been like this past week?
Riggnaros: We pressed it very hard. Anywhere from 14 to 18 hour days from Tuesday through Saturday.
Shinafae: It's been pretty insane. We've logged multiple fourteen hour raid days with only one or two small food breaks from time to time. I actually began to feel a bit of a cold coming on by the time we got our kill on Empress, but as a former athlete, I'm no stranger to long days like this and understand that the sort of commitment we put forth is what it takes to be competitive on a world level. I only hope that when Terrace rolls around, I will get enough time to sleep in between sessions!
Kruciel: Do plenty of dailies and get plenty of sleep the first 2 days of Grand Vizier. We identified immediately that we didn't want to kill either echo spawn in the final phase, which made melee uptime almost nonexistent for the last 90 seconds. You were either running from triple dances, fleeing to the disc priest barrier to survive Force and Verve during a dance or a double dance, running to the healers to stack up for mind control breaks. The quick snapshot logs of the final 40 seconds of our wipes had the melee who actually lived barely doing more damage than the melee that died while trying to do damage. Alas, he dies and melee enter the race to go from 1/6 to 5/6 in a matter of hours. And after 40 pulls of Empress, it was clear that the fewer melee in the raid produced a higher percentage of reaching phase 3 with all 25 players alive due to instant fixate deaths. Either you'd be attacking the exact mob that fixated you and get insta-gibbed, or you'd get fixated and have a sonic spear thrown at your face which always hit for around 600k via the mob pile being stacked up granting them extra damage. Out of the first 40 pulls I was in for, I died 1 time total due to fixate melee and twice due to fixate spear. While those numbers may sound fine, any uncontrollable deaths is not good for business. We knew we needed stability every pull to get into the final phase and see what's happening. We had some crazy theorycrafting discussions on "wtf does her heroic only phase 3 ability actually do because maybe the dungeon journal is being sneaky sneaky"
Are you happy with this part of tier 14, both Mogu'shan and HoF?
Riggnaros: I think as an overall whole, considering there have been 12 of 16 bosses thus far, it has been somewhat satisfying from a majority standpoint. There have been some good fights (Spirit Kings) and some not so good fights (Bladelord), but as long as Terrace lives up to the billing, the tier will be considered a great success.
Sure they have their moments, but I do think that Blizz is on the right track to becoming more involved and making sure things are better balanced and overall just ‘caring’ more about the PvE side of things. Maybe that's just the optimist in me, but that’s how I feel ;)
Ahdehl: This tier has been one of their better ones in a while. Most bosses have interesting tweaks to old abilities, and the ability to do multiple strategies for a boss is a nice change of pace.
What was the raid stacking/alt situation like?
Riggnaros: We are always huge on alts here in BL. Each raider maintains multiple characters and keeps them raid ready in the event they are needed. We have used alts on several kills so far this tier.
Ahdehl: Sit melee, bring ranged. Unless it was Garalon.
Kruciel: The main use of our alts went into running multiple normal raids for gear funneling. Two weeks before Heart of Fear released, we actually began running two heroic vaults to continue gear funneling. Once Heart of Fear normals released we repeated our 5 normal 25 man runs with a few mains in each. The only alt used for Empress was Optee's resto shaman. The melee stacking on Garalon wasn't needed to the extent we ended up using, but we knew it was going to get the job done quickly so we could continue on. Nobody wanted to waste any time with him already being behind Method in the race to Empress. The decision was unanimous to get the comp in and mow down the big bug.
Any other interesting stories during progress?
Riggnaros: This one happened in Mogu Vaults, but it is my favorite so far.
I stayed alive for the last few percent to kill the boss just before he killed me.
Kruciel: Well we 2 shot the 2nd boss, 3 shot the 3rd boss, and WOULD HAVE 4 shot the 4th boss but a mage hit a wind bomb, and would have 5 shot the 5th boss but warrior blew up the raid. I don't believe Empress would have been doable in 6 tries in any scenario though :(
What class would you say is OP in raids at the moment?
Riggnaros: I get asked that question quite often. Tbh there is no single answer to that. It is completely dependent on the fight and then after that you also have to consider the strat and how it compliments the class along with the player’s skill level that is controlling the character. Good players make almost anything work, but some classes do excel in certain situations (eg Frost DK’s on AE dmg compared to a Windwalker Monk AE).
Shinafae: I think that overall, Blizzard has done a fairly good job of class balance this tier, in that there's no one class that we find ourselves stacking five of on every fight, and no one class that never sees any raid time. That said, I think that the utility and raid cooldowns brought by Paladins, Druids, and Warriors this tier have proven very valuable in many of the tier's more challenging fights.
Kruciel: Any dps class that brings raid utility. Tranquility + brez, Skull Banner + Demo Banner + Rallying Cry + Safeguard + Taunt Die By the Sword. It's pretty easy to see why we went into the xpac with 4 dps druids and 3 dps warriors on the roster. Oh and of course, Spirit Shell is OP! Even without the throughput of a monk or a shaman, disc priests went from bench material to LET'S GET MORE OF THESE. There is no greater raid cooldown for burst damage, and only a 60 second cooldown!
Your general opinion of MoP so far, best/worst features of it?
Riggnaros: Best features: Staggered raid releases/multiple raid instances per tier.
I know many people aren’t a fan of those, but the fact you are able to focus on one instance at a time and put forth maximum effort on one instance at a time is very awesome. It allows you to push harder and put more focused planning into each instance while having breaks inbetween to avoid doing 16 bosses back to back to back to back to back...
Other Beast feature: PET BATTLES! Looking forward to those once progression is over! hahaha
Worst features: BMAH Being on Illidan, I can’t even begin to explain how frustrating it is to see heroic raiding gear go up only to know it will gold cap on the bid near 999k whereas other servers you see it going for 40-100k. Not to mention the spawns of gear are completely random and allow for a very imbalanced spread of gear among top guilds. I do not think current content heroic gear should be placed on the BMAH, and in the event it is, it should only be things like bracers/boots, not weapons.
Shinafae: I think that MoP has overall been a success in engaging the interest of players both new and old. I will admit that I'm not so much a fan of having to grind several dozen dailies per day, sometimes on multiple characters, for a shot at certain luxuries that I'd taken for granted in the past, like the best stat food or valour items. I will admit to the possibility of being a bit biased on this point, owing to the massive amount of time the game already requires of me to participate in both high-end PvE and PvP. It may have been nicer, however, if the various dailies and their associated factions had been released through a series of small content patches rather than all at once.
As for the best feature of MoP, I'd have to say that for me, it's the art. I can honestly say that in nearly five years of playing WoW, this expansion marks the first time I have ever flown around a zone with no goal in mind but to relax and immerse myself in the scenery.
Ahdehl: Bosses should drop Lesser Charms of Good Fortune. Dailies are just terrible.
Zoomkins: If raiding is the pinnacle of World of Warcraft's PvE content, why doesn't it reward you better with the Valor point system like it used to. Raiding requires hours and hours of hard work and concentration, how come I have to do even more chores outside of it to upgrade my gear I got from it. I want to be valor capped for clearing the hardest content in Mist's of Pandaria, not have to spend time on top of it, doing 5 mans?
Kruciel: I'll do you one better. The best feature IS the worst feature. The daily quests spread all over the world, forcing you to actually leave Orgimmar/Shrine is a move into the right direction, but making them required to the extent they are... IT'S ENRAGING DOING GOLDEN LOTUS FIVE TIMES IN A ROW ON ALTS just so I can hit that magical coin button every week to get 28 gold over and over and watch other people coin heroic weapons and trinkets and tier on alts. Outside of progression, I literally would get off work at 5pm on Monday to Friday, get home around 5:30 and do dailies until raid time (150 minutes of dailies every day). And one last thing, Imperial Silk requiring you to be in the Silken Fields... Is this serious? =/
Where would you rate HoF among all the other WoW raids?
Riggnaros: I am a huge fan of the TBC raids SSC, TK, BT, but my overall favorite has to be Ulduar. As far as where I would rate HoF among those, it wouldnt pass any of them up, but that isn’t to say it was a bad instance. As I said earlier, they just needed to have the 2/3/4 bosses tighter tuned and this would be an entirely different story.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Riggnaros: Just wanted to say thanks to all the Blood Legion supporters and Manaflask. I really do think this coverage you guys do for the PvE races is awesome and hope it’s something that is able to keep growing and getting better and better. Also, I wanted to give a huge shout out to the US-illidan community and in specific <Blood Legion Spec Ops>. They have helped us out so much this tier and we cannot thank them enough.