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Firelands Aftermath: Vodka

Article originally posted on Manaflask

We continue our "tour" of the top guilds and their opinions on the latest raid tier after they finished it with Vodka. The no.1 US guild from the previous tier confirmed their status and took down Ragnaros World 5th and, obviously, US first. Were they happy with their performance, what did they think of the instance in general and Raganros specifically? We took some time and talked to the usual suspects, Grafarion the GM and Killars, one of the officers. If you want to know more about the guild, check out our previous Raiding Pinnacle features onthem here.

You managed to get the US first kill on Ragnaros and secure yourself as the best US guild by far, but you also placed World 5th. What are your thoughts on that, do you view it as a great success or were you hoping for a higher World wide placement?

Grafarion: Our goal has always been to be the best guild on a competitive raiding level. With the changes and preparation we made to our guild prior to this tier we felt like we had narrowed the gap between ourselves and other prominent guilds. We truly felt like we could compete more closely on a worldwide level. While we did not reach our ultimate goal I think we have shown great growth and development as a guild. More importantly I think we have shown we are a legitimate contender and a consistent raiding powerhouse. The reality is we still have a ways to go but I think we learned a lot and will continue to get better. In short: yes, we are proud of our accomplishments, but we are not satisfied as we feel we have much more potential.

Killars: We feel we did very well for the cards we were dealt. The realization, unfortunately, is that the US mentality is unlike the EU mentality on an individual basis. By that I mean we don’t have as many individuals who are 100% dedicated and willing to go all out from start to finish and that is extremely vital to being the best. I'm not sure how the rest of the US guilds will do, but besides getting a world first on an end tier boss our second goal (if the first wasn't met) was to establish ourselves as the #1 US guild. Although we’ve failed our first goal I think we did what we could to succeed at the second.


Why do you think US guilds had such a hard time this time around, especially after staying quite competitive during the earlier part of the race?

Grafarion: That is simply because of the jump in difficulty from the first six bosses to Ragnaros. Nothing really comes close in the instance and few bosses throughout the history of WoW raiding are even worth mentioning in the same breath. When bosses like this pop up it really thins the herd so to speak. If you take a look at the number of guilds stuck at 6 of 7 and that have killed Ragnaros that becomes really easy to see. Whether it’s EU or US the boss itself was really challenging and really puts any guild to the test.

Killars:  Each guild had their individual struggles with Baleroc/Domo, some of which were due to roster limitations, but they eventually fell over. The real testament of this tier was obviously Ragnaros. Everything compared to Ragnaros was a joke in every imaginable way. This boss is a hardcore guild testing encounter or possibly a "guild destroyer". It will test your guild's dedication, your guild's will to succeed, and overall mental fitness to be able to grind out attempts on this impossibly long fight with the most unforgiving final phase to date imo. I'm sure during Ragnaros progression people were thinking "Is this really worth it?" or something similar to that thought process. Think about wiping for a week to get to the final phase 10-11 minutes into the boss fight (while playing perfectly) only to realize you had the wrong composition and/or everything just fell apart in a matter of seconds when the boss became active. The fight was a grind of trying to play perfect for 10-11 minutes and then restarting the progression on the fight. You may even have a few "children" of your guild claim "This isn't possible!" or some inexperienced/burned out players just give up and not even want to log on for the 5th day of 10hrs of wiping to the same part of the fight. We actually did have 4 of our core members quit less than a week into our Ragnaros progression. Things like this are devastating but If you think negative you get negative results.


Why do you think only two US guild have downed Ragnaros so far?

Grafarion: The boss itself is just really challenging in many ways. It is mentally exhausting given its difficulty and the length of combat duration for a single attempt. In addition there are strict requirements for each phase of the encounter and not every guild can meet them with their raid composition. In addition, not many guilds are willing to dedicate the time and effort required to make serious headway on a boss such as this. Lastly I think that every guild has to deal with obstacles throughout progression beyond the boss such as players quitting the game, players unable to consistently raid the required times, players with a varying degree of ability, and computer/internet issues all which are devastating during progression.


Have you tried the raid in 10 man heroic mode yet? If so, how does it compare, difficulty wise, to 25 man?

Killars:  We never bothered to raid 10 mans previously with the lock outs being shared and again our alts really aren't maintained enough to really give it a go just yet. We will continue to do the 25 main and alt heroic raids so the only opportunity to test the 10 man difficultly would be in our 2nd alt 10 man raid which won't occur anytime soon.


If you could change one or two things in the Firelands, what would they be?

Grafarion: Well I always feel that these bosses leave a lot of untapped potential on the table especially on heroic mode. I would without question change Shannox to a point where he isn’t just “zergable.” The fight itself is actually quite interesting and it is too bad that it gets lost in the way it is taken down. I also think Beth’tilac and Lord Ryolith could use a bump up in difficulty. Ryolith for sure could have used some creative twist for heroic mode as the current one is rather pointless. Majordomo also left a lot to be desired at the precursor to Ragnaros.

On a less serious note I would also change the loot as many people have complaints about gaps for particular classes/specs/slots as well improve the itemization on several pieces. Oh and significantly improve the drop rate on crystalized firestones on heroic mode. : ) 

Killars:
1. Lord Rhyolith. No explanation needed (I hate this boss!!!!).
2. Majordomo Staghelm. Why is he so.... not epic. Blizzard really dropped the ball on this boss as it had the potential to just be such a great fight with.




Time for some Ragnaros specific questions.
How do you feel his difficulty was handled, in general and in relation to the other Firelands bosses?


Grafarion: I think Ragnaros was quite the epic and challenging encounter. My only gripe would be the length of the encounter given its difficulty. I also think that everyone would have enjoyed phase 4 a bit more if the powerful and well-known NPC’s were a bit more involved in the battle. Instead they just stand there…and watch you get clobbered. Overall we were pleased with the challenge he presented us but in relation to the rest of the instance there really isn’t a comparison, as Ragnaros is on an entirely different level of difficulty.

Killars: He was night and day in terms of difficulty. With the gear we had you had to have the perfect composition tailored to your strategy and play very well to even get to the final phase. When you actually reached this final phase you had to race against time and play very efficiently while hoping for a bit of luck to make things easier instead of nearly impossible.


How does he rate versus other bosses in WoW's history, end bosses in particular?

Grafarion: This boss was without question amongst the most difficult in WoW’s raiding history. Truthfully normal or heroic mode, I really wasn’t enamored by the Ragnaros encounter. I don’t believe it is amongst the most creative or fun end boss encounters. It was however, quite demanding on your raid, complex, and well-tuned. I think it is more of a relief just to kill it than pleasure just because of how many things have to go right over 15 minutes in order to score a kill.

Killars:  I haven't heard our guild nerdscream like this for awhile. The game was just starting to get easy/boring and then this happened. I mean it was fun, it was difficult, but I'd hope they would gate these bosses or have limited attempts for the final boss as it would put a limit to what top end guilds were required to commit each week (in hours). We threw everything we had at this boss hour upon hour and I'm sure the other top guilds did as well. Wouldn't it be more fun and fair for competition to only allow a certain amount of attempts/time per week. I know I'd certainly be able to relax more and actually breathe some fresh air haha.


What was the key to finally downing him? Was it a crucial piece of strategy/positioning that you found out at the end or was it just a matter of everything clicking, favorable rng and everyone playing perfectly?

Grafarion: Well the real hard part was having the right 25 people be online, stay online, and execute well for 15 minutes. :)

Killars:  The night we killed him we pulled a total of 4 times. Eventually you just master phases 1, 2, and 3 which allows you to get very comfortable with phase 4. Finishing off phase 4 required a little tweaking after seeing it enough times and then just adjusting to things we didn't plan for after we saw it occur a few times. Best examples would be handling dreadflame when it spawns on the breath as well as handling meteor kiting and trapping them properly. After mastering everything and seeing it all enough we just played well and believed we were going to get it till eventually it all clicked, we got some favorable RNG, and the boss went down.



Do you think it would have been possible for Blizzard to make all 7, or at least more of the bosses the same difficulty as Ragnaros?

Grafarion: They absolutely could make every boss in line with Ragnaros difficulty. That being said I don’t think that is a realistic expectation of the development team nor is it a desire of the player base. There is a very fine line between fun and challenging and tedious and grueling and having a steady progression of difficulty throughout the instance strikes a strong balance. The ultimate goal is for everyone to have fun and experience the content and I don’t think that would be the case for anyone if every boss was as unrelenting as Ragnaros.


How do you feel about the much shorter length of the progression race this time around? And specifically for the first 6 bosses?

Killars:  It's not something we like, but its also not something we hate. Raiding so hard for so long is enjoyable and fun but you like to get back to a normal everyday life schedule which is typically only going to happen when everything is dead. The first 6 bosses could have been tuned a bit harder. Shannox, Bethilac, and Majorodomo in particular could have been tuned a lot harder and should have taken guilds a bit longer to progress on. We spent about 1 month progressing in total which was nearly my exact expectations for this tier of 7 bosses. All in all I'm happy with it ending when it did.


Do you think you performed better this tier than the prior ones, regardless of the rankings?

Grafarion: I think that we worked hard, prepared well, and were consistent from start to finish which is something we have struggled with in the past. For us every raid tier is unique and has its own challenges that we learn from and take with us moving forward. Looking back there are, of course, things we could have done better but I think we did the best we could with the cards we were dealt and are pleased with the outcome.

Killars:  We performed better in certain aspects and we performed worse in others. We had a lot more time to prepare and strategize this time around though so I'll attribute most of what we did better to that.


Was the raiding pace better, worse or the same as in Tier 11, just based on hours a day raided?

Grafarion: Pace? Unfortunately without gating or time/attempt limit there is no pace. Any guild that wants to remain competitive must raid as much as possible until progression is over. This means as many days and hours as your guild can function productively in. For us that meant starting as early and ending as late as peoples' schedules would allow.

Killars: I enjoy not having to go through the progression of 3 completely different instances, but we definitely spent more time in Firelands per raid than we did in the previous Tier. Once we got to Ragnaros we had to pace ourselves a bit, especially when we had roster issues come about, but overall we put more work into Ragnaros per day than say a boss like Sinestra, Al’Akir, Nef, or Cho’gall.

I’ll mention again what has already been mentioned 1000x by players such as myself, Blizzard really should bring back the Sunwell gating style raiding. It’s just better in every way and I’m not going to go through all the obvious reasons as it’s already overdone.



How would you rank the instance overall in comparison to the other ones so far?

Grafarion: The instance was rather underwhelming on the whole. I am not sure why I feel this way but it just doesn’t stand out for me the way some others have from the past. Ragnaros definitely delivered but beyond that I felt that a lot of potential went untapped with some of these raid encounters, even if simply in the tuning. Hopefully they can deliver in the next tier of content with more fun and creative encounters that push the envelope further on the raiding experience.

Killars: The instance overall was okay I guess. I mean some bosses tuning was just silly (Baleroc). Some bosses were just too simple and not too different from normal mode (Rhyolith). Others just felt like they could be so much more than what they were (Beth’tilac / Majordomo). I just felt Blizzard had a really golden opportunity to make a great instance which ended up just being wasted, however Ragnaros was very well done in my opinion. Without Ragnaros being what it was this instance wasn’t very good if I’m being honest.


What's the funniest whisper you got during progress?

Grafarion: I would say the funniest one was for sure during the first week of normal modes when someone asked me if we had killed heroic Ragnaros yet. Honestly though more so than any other raid tier we actually got a lot of love and support from our fans so I appreciate that a lot.

Killars: I get a lot of whispers, but I can’t really remember any one whisper in particular. I will say the funniest whispers usually involve me being in the middle of a boss while someone requests my attention/help. After not responding for a few moments because I’m in the middle of a boss fight I get hate tells about how I think I’m too good to answer them or I’m an elitist jerk that would never answer random people. I normally answer every whisper I get and I just find it hilarious when people automatically label players in guilds such as mine as  jerks with an inflated ego. Gotta love it!


To what extent do you monitor what other guilds are doing and does it influence you?

Grafarion: We try to stay focused on what we are doing and not let what other guilds are or aren’t doing impact us. At the same time it is a competition and that urge to know what they are up to is a part of it. While it isn’t a center point during our raids we tend to have an idea of what is going on with other guilds, their progress(or lack of), their start and end times, and their raid compositions. I wouldn’t say it is something we game plan around but we are aware of it.

Killars: Personally I try not to really watch what other people are doing. I ask friends if they know or I may know someone from the other guilds that might be able to pass a bit of info, but some people go a bit overboard. I know there are people sitting on level 1 char spamming /who ______ to find out how long some wipes are and what classes are being brought etc. Spamming refresh on guild armory pages is also something I hear a lot about.

All the monitoring is kept as an individual thing and players are instructed to keep their gossip out of Ventrilo as it can cause a distraction to our own progress. We raid as long and as hard as we can based on our roster, schedule, and progression. No outside source effects our raiding typically.



What's the most ridiculous strategy you tested on any of the bosses?

Grafarion: Well we tried some really wacky stuff on some bosses but I think it was the most fun seeing our original Majordomo strategy evolve into what it took to score a kill. At one point we were running a spiral around the room while he was in cat form. That was interesting.

Killars: Another answer that will revolve around Ragnaros. For some strange reason we thought we could run around in 3 separate group clusters in a big circle when phase 4 started and we’d just run though the breaths periodically while trying to avoid spawning geysers. I don’t even remember what we saw the benefit of this being, but I think we intended to just kite the meteors (4-6 meteors at this point of progress) and constantly knock them back using DK death grip spamming. This strat was quickly crossed out after 1-2 attempts, but it made for some great comedic relief on what was a very grindy progression boss.


Is there anyone you’d like to give a shoutout to or thank?

Grafarion: I would like to give a shout out and thanks to my guild and all the people past, present, and future that make vodka what it is.

Killars: I’d like to really give props to Paragon and Method for really pushing it this tier. A special congrats goes out to them for sure. /target Lazeil /shakefist