Here we are with still only two guilds having downed Blackhand and Method standing at the end of a tier with another crown on their head. After three tiers of domination in Pandaria, they had some very steep competition this tier, especially with Paragon returning and even grabbing the throne in Highmaul. Some people choose to count it as a 1-1 result, which is fine, but we here at Manaflask have always viewed the final tier boss at the end of a tier as... well, the final boss, and it seems obvious from the time it took to down them that Blackhand is significantly harder than Imperator Mar'gok. So Method claimed their fourth consecutive tier and came out ahead on Blackhand, taking half as many pulls on the boss as Paragon and downing him a full 5 days faster. So let's hear what Aladya, Lexi, Pottm, Sco, Sonie, Sparkuggz, and Quyncy have to say about Blackrock Foundry and the race.
As with every tier there has been drama and accusations thrown around, this time about account sharing to stack certain classes, despite the fact that this practice has been going on in races since basically Burning Crusade. We asked a question or two on the topic but the guild declined to answer.
Blackhand Mythic World First by Method
First things first, congratulations on the win and another tier added to your growing trophy case, making this the fourth in a row. The first Mythic tier has finished and you're on top, with possibly the highest degree of competition we've seen in WoW so far. How does it feel to stand over Blackhand's corpse and pull out a win over your "archrivals" Paragon, especially after Mar'gok and Highmaul?
Aladya: Defeat has never tasted more bitter and winning has never tasted better.
Pottm: Tier 17 was the first tier since Cataclysm where Method would once again compete in the same raiding bracket as Paragon. During Mists, there were many heated discussions on whether the 10-player or 25-player versions of the raids were more difficult, and establishing a true champion was never possible. We certainly appreciate the chance to prove ourselves in this unified bracket. It’s very refreshing to have a look on Wowprogress and see a dozen guilds doing daytime raiding and going for world firsts. Losing Mar’gok really brought our morale to the floor during Highmaul. Paragon earned a well-deserved victory there by recognizing the strength of certain classes and coming up with a strategy to utilize them in only a day or two. We knew we had to step up our game and our success demonstrated that the changes and improvements we made were the correct ones.
Sparkuggz: Feels good, but also unexpected. We went through a phase of figuring out who was playing to win and who was playing "just to play". Roster changes and other changes made motivation go up a lot after the disappointing Highmaul showcase. A bunch of people in Method were just not showing the commitment needed and the motivation to win was sub par. I think we changed that through Blackrock Foundry but there is still a lot of room to improve.
Quyncy: It was an awesome feeling, especially that this was the first time I got a world first on the end boss of an instance. Achieving this at the best competitive state of the game makes this probably the best moment in WoW for myself. After the failure in Highmaul we had to prove ourselves and came back with a different mindset for BrF.
In Highmaul you came in as the favorites from MoP, but coming in to BRF Paragon held that position. How was the pressure different for you performing well and winning the race this time around? Is it easier for you being the returning champion defending your title or working hard on reclaiming that top spot from 2nd place?
Pottm: I don’t think either guild was seen as a favorite coming into WoD. Either way, the pressure remained the same. It doesn’t matter if you scored first or second in the previous raid. What matters is the raid you’re currently progressing. The thrill of the race is always in you.
Sparkuggz: It's always easier to be the underdog. All teams that stay relatively high or at the highest through a long period of time eventually hit a point where winning and such isn't a motivational factor and you need new blood or something to make that adrenaline rush and strive to win come back. In Highmaul we realized that this was just not up to par with what Paragon had planned. That meant that going into Blackrock we prepared better and tried to improve in a lot of areas where we would just stroll through it previously. When you didn't really have to put much effort to win in MoP it sort of carried on into Warlords of Draenor. But it did feel somewhat easier as we went through a lot of roster changes (still are) and I don't think I personally expected those changes to really be something we could win with this time around as we didn't really replace those people who got demoted in the guild.
Quyncy: In my opinion we weren't really the favorites coming into Warlords of Draenor. We had a lot of problems even in the preparation time for Highmaul. People expect you to win, so does everyone in this guild. We play to be the nr1 guild in the world and the pressure will always be there during progress no matter which world rank we currently have.
Much has been said about your roster changes between Highmaul and BRF, but they've obviously helped. How difficult is it making those decisions, basically gambling that the new recruits/old members in new roles will outperform the veterans you demoted?
Sco: Some very difficult decisions were made during the period between Highmaul and BRF. There were several officer meetings - almost one every day for about a week after Highmaul. We talked (and talked and talked and talked!) in depth about what we needed to change in the guild to get us back on track and achieve the rank 1 in BRF. We proceeded with actions, the most visible were the roster changes (raider demotes; Treckie, Blatty, Eack, Officer changes; Razie to raider, Pottm promoted to officer). We then got together on TS with the whole raiding roster and discussed all the problems we had in Highmaul and how we were going to approach BRF differently - everything was out in the open and I believe these meetings on TS with the whole guild helped a lot. We were much better prepared with assumed boss strategies and setups. Importantly we were also cultivating better relationships between everyone in the team, both individually and with any 'groups' that had formed during the lengthy SoO farm - hugely important that the team is united during progress and believes in one another 100% - brothers in arms! One team one dream.
Pottm: Only one new player was recruited between Highmaul and Foundry. He was a former member of Method already and we knew he was more than capable. Other than that, the demotions after Highmaul merely made sure that our best raiders got to raid.
Quyncy: Roster Changes weren't really made and weren't necessary as well. we worked hard to get a better team overall, we only got Lorgok as a new addition to the guild, but he was already part of the guild during Throne of Thunder progress. We basically cut the roster by some players and made sure that we had the people we wanted to have in the raid to play classes that were definitely needed.
You started off somewhat slow, on Iron Maidens specifically, to the point where some people thought there was a problem with the guild. What exactly happened there, were you actually doing Blast Furnace attempts before downing Maidens?
Aladya: We exploited Iron Maidens so we never got the ship. This wasted an eternity. It was harder than doing it genuine and Blizzard fixed it anyway. So we had to do it normally and it just died.
Pottm: We went to Iron Maidens with a strategy that revolved around not spawning tornadoes off Sorka’s Blade Dash ability by Feign Deathing every single one of her casts. Unfortunately, doing this broke the encounter, as any one of the Iron Maidens would only jump to their ship after a successful Blade Dash cast. Therefore, we could reach the final phase without ever doing a boat. Thinking we had just won the lottery, we bashed our heads against an overly difficult execute phase for a day or two, with our best pull being at 1.5% remaining health on the last standing Maiden. The reason it was overly difficult is because completing a boat resets both Sorka’s tornadoes as well as all pulsating blood orbs spawned by Marak’s Bloodsoaked Heartseekers. Since we never did this, we ended up having 9 blood orbs up going into the final phase; something we could only outheal for a very limited time. We tunnel visioned on this strategy and ended up losing over a day of progress. After two days, Blizzard unlinked the Blade Dash casts from the Jump to Ship spell and removed the ability to Feign Death Blade Dash. We killed the Boss the first time we reached the final phase.
Did you do anything differently in BRF compared to Highmaul or previous raids?
Aladya: We didn't suck.
Lexi: I'd like to think the guild as a whole went into BRF with a completely different attitude, during and on the run up to Highmaul we had quite a bit of internal drama which was resolved before BRF release. I feel this time around we felt more unified and more of a team than in the previous instance. Unlike Highmaul, we also had numerous guild meetings to discuss class balance, bosses and our roster, which helped us decide which classes we should focus gear into for the more difficult fights.
Pottm: The first two things that come to mind is that we made class changes after only a pull or two and that we paid attention to getting enough rest. During Highmaul, we were very tired and almost everyone was underperforming.
Blackrock Foundry was a very non-linear raid, how do you think that impacted the race overall and how did it impact your own approach to it?
Lexi: It had little impact in my opinion, I think it was fairly obvious from the get go which order you would do the bosses in. It's great to have the choice, but it still feels somewhat of a set order in Mythic progression.
Quyncy: I personally like the fact that this raid instance wasn't gated except for the end boss, you could choose which bosses to down first, to get easier access to loot, to do harder bosses at a later stage with better ilvl, to make them easier to kill. Unfortunately on Mythic difficulty it was very clear which bosses you should do first and even when we reached the point to choose Blast Furnance or Iron Maidens we quickly figured out that Iron Maidens were the better choice to go for.
What did you think about the difficulty curve of the raid?
Lexi: The difficulty curve was great for BRF, the only exception to this would be Flamebender Ka'graz which was ridiculously undertuned compared to some of the previous bosses.
Quyncy: BrF was really a good example for how the instances should be designed. It felt like the instance started off with some easy bosses and the encounters were getting harder the further you progress through the instance.
There were several hotfixes on the bosses during progress, did any of them change the way you approached them or even invalidate a strategy you'd been using? Which were the best hotfixes and which the worst for you?
Lexi: Kromog was incredibly broken when we reached it, the Mythic change is that he will occasionally spawn three pillars that you must kill within a set amount of time to avoid a one shot ability from the boss. These pillars would randomly de-spawn or not get destroyed correctly which you can see on our kill video. Additionally between pulls the boss had its health hotfixed by 100 million (290m->190m), it was pretty funny when we noticed, and it made us more confident in achieving the kill.
Blast Furnace seemed like the only other real hurdle aside from Blackhand, what exactly was so tough about the fight? How was it before the hotfixes, were there many bugs and what were they?
Lexi: We actually didn't touch the boss at all until after the hotfixes, since we were still progressing on Iron Maidens. The boss requires a lot of control, especially in the first phase to ensure that the bosses Heat level is as low as possible, which means a high DPS requirement on the big adds as well as wanting to get out of that phase as quickly as possible. We wasted a lot of time in the second phase, trying to CC certain mobs or find ways to negate Volatile Fire, in the end we realised that we wouldn't be able to outheal this damage for two whole phases, which made us change our phase one strategy to prioritise entering phase two with a considerably lower Heat level.
Quyncy: From my perspective this boss was really well tuned and didn't have any bugs at all, at least when we got there which was after we killed the Iron Maidens. The biggest problem with the fight is the "Heat" which tells you how frequently the boss will cast "Blast", the aoe dmg the raid gets every time he casts it. For this you need to understand how the boss gains energy and how to prevent him from getting much before phase 2 starts. Having a good strategy for phase 1 with managing the adds correctly was probably the hardest part of the encounter.
Which boss was the most fun/interesting and why?
Lexi: My favourite fight by far was Operator Thogar, it's an amazing fight that requires massive raid awareness and co-ordination. It was a great fight to progress on since we had no idea what would happen next in the fight, we had to keep pushing further and further to see what we would have to deal with and then come up with a plan for it. Thogar was also tuned perfectly for the gear level we had on our first kill.
Sonie: Operator Thogar was the most fun, the trains were definitely something new and fun. I wish there was a higher personal responsibility, at the moment you can just have a leader and follow him dodging trains. But it's a very fun encounter! Another personal favorite is Blast Furnace, but I'm sure many will disagree on this one. From a healing perspective it was fun and intense with the quick blasts at the end of the encounter.
Which boss do you think had the most potential to be a truly great fight, if the tuning had been better and why?
Lexi: From Beta testing, I honestly thought that Flamender Ka'graz would be a challenging fight, but then on live we killed it in two attempts. The boss basically does nothing, so the only interesting part of the fight is when she summons her four Cinder Wolves which must all die within a few seconds of each other. Sadly, the wolves had very little health, we didn't even have to save cooldowns to kill them. I think this could have been a much more interesting and difficult encounter had the tuning been better.
Balance Druids seemed to be very much in demand on several bosses, even completely trivializing a few of them and it seems class stacking played a significant role in this raid, especially compared to Highmaul. Is this something that is even solvable by Blizzard or is it always going to be a factor in races? What are your thoughts on the matter in general and for BRF specifically?
Lexi: Starfall... it is so ridiculously strong and any Balance Druid knows this from WoD leveling alone. Almost every fight in BRF has multiple adds, making moonkins incredibly powerful and efficient. Whether it be Kromog hands, all the Blast Furnace adds, Blackhand balconies, Operator adds, Flamebender wolves. The issue is simply that the fights were tailored heavily to Balance Druids' core strengths, along with the spell itself, I don't think anyone ever complained that Starfall was overpowered in Mists of Pandaria? But suddenly now it's a big issue, in 6.1 Starfall damage is being nerfed by ~16%, however I feel it needs more of a mechanic change rather than a number change.
Sparkuggz: Class stacking has always existed, but with the direction Blizzard is going it looks like we will keep seeing it. They don't want every class to have the same Single Target, AoE or Multi Target damage, so one class will always work better than the others. Talking about Moonkins specifically, I don't think you NEED moonkins per say, but it was something obvious we discussed before progress, that the class brings damage on targets you need and brings insane spread out AoE. You can easily do all the bosses without moonkins, with maybe the exception of Kromog. In Highmaul you actually had a hard time without 3 tanks, including a DK tank and without an enhancement shaman on Imperator, which I don't feel is the same case for Blackhand, because you can work around it. Moonkins don't deal 3x the damage of other people, they are just "better" in some scenarios. Having 1x enhancement shaman in Highmaul was far superior to anything due to the fight mechanics. That being said, I don't know how you can take a class that AoE within 40 yards pressing 1 Starfall button without any target requirements etc.
Where would you place Blackrock Foundry Mythic as a whole in WoW's raid pantheon?
Sonie: I think this raid had a lot of potential, but a lot was lost due to bugged encounters. I rank it higher than Highmaul, but it doesn't fully reach up to the standard of Throne of Thunder in my opinion. Without all the broken bosses and mechanics, it would be a contender!
Sparkuggz: Too many bugs and unpolished fights to leave an overall great impression. I personally didn't think the Blackhand fight was worthy of being a end tier boss, it was okay hard (gear check) but there wasn't the same epic feeling as in the past. Still, overall a few good bosses and new fights like Operator Thogar. Overall the diversity of fights was a good split in Blackrock Foundry. I still feel like Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar were superior to it, but it was a far better entry tier than the whole Mists of Pandaria start, MSV, HoF & ToeS were way worse.
Were the Mythic additions to the fight worthwhile, were they better or worse than Mar'gok's extra phase, both in terms of fun and added difficulty?
Aladya: I hate wasting hours looking for a phase 4 when there is none. I thought the developers had went the extra mile of hiding things instead of being an open book.
Lexi: The additions to the fight definitely made it a lot more interesting. For example, the Impale debuff lasts forever, meaning one fail with Marked for Death literally spells your death. The Siegemakers in the second phase have different affixes, such as increased speed and health, as well as one that explodes on death, dealing fatal damage to everyone on the ground! I like this fight a lot more than Mar'gok, it feels a lot more epic and challenging, and honestly I was glad there wasn't a "super secret Mythic only phase", they are becoming a bit overdone and expected.
With 350-ish pulls, at what point did you feel confident about getting world first Blackhand?
Quyncy: When we solidly managed to handle phase 2 without any deaths, understood the last phase and only absolute perfect execution kept us from killing it. Another factor was that Paragon played with a lineup that was from our perspective not able to kill the boss.
Was it a strategy intensive fight or more of a gear/skill check?
Lexi: Both, you need a very intricate strategy to handle the second and third phases, otherwise you find yourself in pure fiery chaos. The boss was likely un-killable the first week, you need a massive amount of DPS to meet the soft enrages in both phase one and three.
Was it a polished experience in terms of bugs?
Lexi: The only bugs that I recall were that you could still get hit by Marked for Death in phase one occasionally, even if you are stood behind a rubble pile. It didn't happen too often, but it would waste your only combat res each pull that it happened. Another bug was that it wasn't possible to combat res someone who died on the balcony what-so-ever, so if someone died upstairs it was basically an instant wipe.
Rogues weren't that present in Highmaul but were very prominent on the Blackhand kill, what exactly changed to make them so much more valuable?
Aladya: They deny a mechanic on Blackhand which lets us use them despite rogues being horrible on the fight. No mechanic -> no rogues.
Lexi: Method Rogues have always had a history of doing interesting jobs/mechanics on our boss kills, for example Garrosh engineers, Siegecrafter belts, Paragons of the Klaxxi aims. This time it was no different, we used them to soak the smashes in the final phase since they take massively reduced damage via Cloak of Shadows and Elusiveness.
What was the funniest moment during progress?
Lexi: Taking a 45 minute break on the day of the Blackhand kill so that Kuznam could go get a haircut. I wish I was joking.
Obviously boomkins and were the OP class in this tier, were there any other strong speccs and which were the absolute worst ones?
Sparkuggz: I´d say melee suffered hard this tier compared to previous ones. Mage/Warlock/Moonkin were all super strong on nearly all fights and hunters were surprisingly better than expected. Class wise I'd say enhancement shaman and elemental shaman just didn't find any use in this tier at all. Every other class nearly has a niche where they are the best at (shadow priest on demand burst, warrior execute burst etc.), where shaman just feels like a class you bring to clear trash faster aka. sustained AoE. That being said, for the normal raiding guild I don't see class stacking being needed as much as people think. Most fights can be done with any setup, with a few fights requiring a certain amount of classes, but when it's cutting edge you obviously aim to play with the best setup possible.
Quyncy: I really have to disagree with what most people are saying about balance druids. We had our raidcomp for Blackhand already planned before even entering the instance on heroic difficulty. We knew Balance druid are "ok" on most fights and "good" on Blackhand. Starfall is in my opinion completely overrated, it provides constant aoe dmg but no burst aoe so it is not really overpowered in most cases (hi cataclysm/bladestorm!). Just because we played with 4 balance druids on Blackhand doesn't mean any other class couldn't have done it. The best specs in my opinion were : Demo WL/Mage(fire+arcane)/Hunter/Balance druid. What was problematic with this raid tier was that melees were, except for Rogues (survivability) and Warriors (sick execute damage) kind of useless, the bosses weren't melee friendly at all. That is why I, for example, had to play balance druid again.