The end of the Nighthold progress race has come (for 4 guilds, anyway) and Exorsus have emerged victorious, giving them 2/3 wins in tier 19. Nighthold was a proper race, lasting 12 days and having plenty of unexpected moments and more than just 1 difficult boss. We sat down with three players from Exorsus to go over their very impressive win: GM Alveona, Allenxx and Nurseos. It's going to be a long one so let's start!
First off, congratulations, you are the undisputed champions of Tier 19, with wins in Nighthold and Emerald Nightmare! With the position you’re in now you seem like you’d be the most objective with your answers this this question: how do you view a tier, is only the final raid important to determine who won, is it an average of all the raids or something else?
Alveona: I wouldn’t say that any of those instances were irrelevant. Every guild actually prepared really heavily for EN, that’s why I’ve been really curious when some guilds said like “EN was nothing, NH is the race”. Ofc every hardcore guild was shocked when 1 month of preparations lead to 1 day of progression, but on the other hand it did show how you'd do in “sprint” races. I’m pretty sure every guild has its' own strengths and weaknesses on hard/arcade/easy bosses. Plus if content is really fast it allows some other guilds who can only take 1-2 day-off to compete, which is great too. Talking about ToV - a lot of guilds said “we’re not going hard”, however in the end every guild (competing for world first ofc) farmed 35 traits, took time-off etc. We had some roster issues , pretty sure some other guilds had them too, but that’s not something that should bother anyone. After all Method were 1st and it’s a pure victory.
Nurseos: It’s an average because all guilds in this competition were under the same conditions for each new Legion raid. But on the other hand it would be foolish to deny the fact that the difficulty of the raids was growing, and that's why it's not a simple average at a same time.
There’s been some discussion on your end about maybe stopping hardcore raiding. What are your thoughts on that after your big win in Nighthold, did it change anything?
Alveona: Our discussion is mainly based on the fact that starting from Legion you needed to spend a lot of time between progress races to make your character ready for the next one. As it seems now, 7.2 introduces a lot of new traits and artifact knowledge levels, meaning the grind is coming back. Wasting ~month or even more for preparation and getting almost nothing in return is too much. Almost every new game (not only from Blizzard) atm is getting some event love, like either tournaments or showmatches. There’s even an example of a new Korean mmorpg where they’re paying for firstkills to top guilds. Yet still Blizzard is giving 0 attention to the PvE scene, even when progression streams are more popular than HoTS and some other games' tournaments without any media help from official sources.
Nurseos: After each big part of any expansion lots of our raiders says “omg it was the last for me”. But its only because they are exhausted after the race. So, give them a week or two and they’ll be ready to smash more demons.
You previously mentioned how you thought the 4 weeks of preparation for EN were part of the race for you guys, how were the preparations for Nighthold different?
Alveona: We’ve been discussing everything that we needed long before the content: raid composition, addons and weakauras, strategies for every boss, splitraids, farming schedule, 54 traits farm etc. Overall it took us ~2,5 months of preparations and our team did a great job.
Allenxx: It felt way easier than EN preparation. We had more time, all our characters max lvl with decent gear on. The one and only issue was legendary rng. But most of our players were lucky enough. Addons, weakauras - also huge of part of our success, since we got it on a new lvl this time. All credit goes to Afiya.
We didn’t really talk about the Helya situation and ban in ToV, so let’s mention it a little now. How did you feel when that ban hit, and then again after the Gul’dan kill when you were wrongfully accused of exploiting him as well?
Alveona: I still have the same opinion, which i described earlier in our post-ToV statement. So no plans to apologize for it or something like that. Talking about Gul’Dan, I’ve seen a lot of accusations, however, I’ve made some clarifications, if they were not enough for some of the crowd, just wait for the video. And about “lol Russians" spammers - if you’re still trying to react on some forum/discord/whatever posts from toxic retards seriously - you’re having some serious issues yourself, that’s why I’m just not wasting my time on such things.
After all the bad stuff (the ban, the “EN was too short, who cares about WF”) that came before, and all the time and effort invested into not only progress but the preparation for it as well, what did it feel like when you finally got Gul’dan down World First?
Alveona: It’s really great when everything you’ve been planning (well, almost everything) worked out well, every raider did his best to make this possible (apart from those ones who left mid-progression). I guess it was the moment we’re all been playing for. Of course getting world first in one of the best raid dungeons up to date was something we’re all really happy about.
Allenxx: It was a well-deserved win for us. Not taking credit away from other guilds (Serenity, Method), which performed great also. Everyone from our roster was on point during Gul'dan progression. The only time I was scared, when we wiped on 2% and the kill was almost there, but after a 15 hour session people started to get tired and we decided to take a power nap. In the afternoon of that day, Gul'dan finally got rekt. All of us were happy, satisfied and motivated for future shenanigans. Great feeling.
Nurseos: Well, turning back to EN WF, as I said, it was the first one for us and the emotion was so new. Actually, it never was the plan to rush EN during 17 hours, it just happened, so we were surprised more than the race observers. At NH everything was going according to plan (except one or two bosses since some part of their mechanics changed from beta/ptr). After defeating Gul’dan the feeling was so different, it took some time to realise that this long ride of preparations, grind and other stuff had ended. And this ride was great. Probably the best.
Were there any roster issues or preparation problems this time around? Did you feel like you were maximally ready for Nighthold when you entered it?
Alveona: We lost plenty of raiders right before and after ToV (mostly due to real life stuff), so we had some roster issues, however we kinda sorted them out before Nighthold. Our roster was really small in Nighthold (25 raiders at the start) + 1 of our raiders left mid-progression, which was a pretty serious setback, however we were able to handle it.
You and Method went to clear the easier bosses in Mythic before heading to Heroic splits, while Serenity did splits first and then when Serenity came back from them they got quite a few WFs. Do you think that choice had an impact on that relatively slow start you had?
Alveona: Both approaches had their own pros and cons, however this time I would say it was a bad decision to start with Mythic bosses (not counting first 3 bosses, their difficulty is too easy). Overall it was my initiative and I regret it.
Allenxx: As Alveona said, it would be better to go splits before Mythic this time. But anyway we did them after 7th boss, if I remember correctly. Basically we might have lost a few pulls here and there due to lower ilvl. Anyway we were extremely unlucky with loot this progression. Still got dem world first.
Looking at your wipe count, Tichondrius was your biggest issue in the entire raid (71 wipes compared to 8 and 6 from Serenity and Method). What exactly happened there?
Alveona: We had an interesting strategy for this boss planned for live progression, however it was completely ruined by some changes to the encounter. After that we made a new one, but it was too complicated. We were trying to execute it properly until we saw that other top guilds just killed him really fast so we changed our strat and killed it pretty fast. That was the moment where we lost a lot of time, considering we’d been leading before this boss.
Was there a boss that you thought might have been better than Gul’dan if it was tuned to be harder?
Alveona: Unlikely. Overall i would say this raid had an almost ideal difficulty curve with great encounters and perfect duration for progression. One of my favorites for sure.
Allenxx: Everything was tuned as intended. First 3 bosses - one shot. Krosus, Tichondrius, Spellbalde Alluriel and Botantis - mid difficulty. And the last 3 bosses was when things were getting serious.
Nurseos: The most impressive thing about NH balance is that even in 30ppl raids everything was ok (don't remind me about Blackhand - it was hell). So this raid keeps the same tuning between the bosses in all difficulties with any raid size. Great job by Blizzard.
Did you know exactly in what order you’d be killing the non-linear bosses before you went in or did you adapt?
Alveona: Thanks to our US friends, they were doing most of the job for us! Speaking of Botanist vs Etraeus, we started from Etraeus, however when we saw that Serenity killed Botanist fairly fast, we just went there to finish him and returned to Etraeus. Overall I don't think we lost a lot with this “switch”.
What do you think of the difficulty progression of Nighthold, with Aluriel being the first big bump and then Star augur the next (especially taking into account your own issues with tichondrius)?
Alveona: It’s one of the greatest dungeons in terms of difficulty progression. The first 3 bosses as a “gift” for the guilds stepping into Mythic difficulty, the next 4 bosses to make sure every semi-hardcore guild may have some meaningful progression and the last 3 bosses for the top tier guilds.
Where would you put Xavius (or maybe better to choose Cenarius) and Helya in the 10 Nighhold bosses in terms of difficulty?
Alveona: The mechanics of Xavius and Helya are both pretty easy. However, Xavius was really undertuned and Helya, on the other side, really overtuned. I’m not a big fan of fights like Helya, when the only thing that keeps you from killing it is just some big numbers. So if we’re talking pure difficulty-wise, Xavius could be like 4th boss and Helya 8th.
Allenxx: Xavius almost as hard as scorpion. And Helya - probably Elisande lvl, excluding the requirement of 4 shadow priests with pre-nerfed STM.
What were your first thoughts after the first few pulls on Gul’dan, since you’d never seen him on Mythic before?
Alveona: Thank god that terrible 1st phase from heroic is missing here. That was my first thought.
Allenxx: I was really exhausted after the Elisande marathon, so I finally felt peace and tranquility during Gul’dan first pulls.
Nurseos: I’m melee. All bosses are the same to me. Just kidding (or not). After “arcade” Elisande it was pretty boring in the first phase (yeah, Mythic P1 is almost equal Heroic P2). After reaching 2nd one it becomes more interesting to confront different combos of his abilities and some of them become a real challenge.
How long did it take you to get a good idea of what strategy and what raid composition to use for him?
Alveona: We had an idea for strategy and comp since PTR tests. We just double checked that everything was working and began polishing some details. The only thing that really worried us was the last phase (secret one), because if for some reason our raid comp proved to be too ineffective there it could be a disaster.
You got to the secret Mythic-only phase only 3 days before the kill, so it seems the real problem was the rest of the fight? How tough was the mythic phase and did you have to change your raid comp to get it down?
Alveona: The first day we got to it we saw it 1 or 2 times with our raid being alive, because getting to p3 was really difficult for us. On our 2nd day we had a lot of good pulls, however the Mythic phase had some serious bugs, preventing us from progressing on it. On the 3rd day part of these bugs were fixed so we were able to finally polish our strategy to execute it.
Allenxx: The boss is actually well-tuned and requires some dps and hps. As I said, we were really unlucky with gear after our splits and Mythic kills. After the reset, when we did re-clear, all of our issues solved themselves. We were constantly reaching phase3.
The Assassination rogue 4% buff went live a day before your kill and you used 3 of them on the kill. Do you think the kill would have happened without it?
Alveona: I’m quite sure that’s not something that had a major impact on our kill. Probably it would have taken us 1-2 more pulls, but not more.
Allenxx: Nerf or buff - doesn’t matter. Our rogues are always doing top-notch dps in any kind of situation.
Nurseos: Well, it was some kind of re-balance of Assassination Rogues abilities with the Agonising Poison talent, considering the previous fix of our artifact ability. But since we never used this talent on this fight, yes - it was the buff, not major (even including the fact that we had 3 Assa rogues), so it’s just some kind of bonus but not the thing that brought us the kill.
You had 2 Fury warrs, 3 Assassination rogues and 3 Shadow priests on the kill (with your DPS meters having leaked right after the kill). What do you think of class balance for Nighthold in general and Gul’dan specifically?
Alveona: To be honest it’s one of the most balanced patches I’ve ever seen. Almost all classes and specs are playable and doing some decent dps numbers. Of course some classes were performing a bit better than others (shadow priests, assassination rogues, fury warriors, havoc demon hunters), but not even close to the previous state of shadow priests with STM.
You were one of the first to ever see the Mythic-only phase of Gul’dan, was it well tuned and bug free or was it a bit of a mess?
Alveona: Tuning seemed pretty ok (the boss hp has been nerfed a bit since our first p3 transition), we encountered plenty of bugs on p3, however most of them were fixed relatively fast.
Allenxx: Pretty bugged and well-tuned at the same time. A few interesting mechanics at the end and some dps check for sure.
Where would you put Gul’dan in the WoW endboss pantheon?
Alveona: Gul’dan is a really solid one, so amongst the top with Archimonde, Lei-Shen and Ragnaros. Overall i think “secret” phases are what makes these bosses really cool and special (apart from Lei-Shen, he’s just cool!) .
How did the fight compare to Xavius and Helya? Obviously the video isn’t out yet so we can’t go into details, but just in general, was it more of a mechanics or execution or strategy fight etc?
Alveona: I’ve already shared my opinion about Xavius and Helya. Gul’dan 1st phase is more about optimisation, to make sure you’re not wasting too much resources on it, 2nd is both execution and strategy + dps check and the last phase is mostly mechanics and strategy with some dps check. Overall it’s a really good encounter, if a bit too long (16 minute fights are really exhausting).
Back to legendaries and itemlevel for a moment, did you feel that was resolved by the time you entered Nighthold or were there still issues of RNG in terms of your raiders not having the most optimal pre-NH gear?
Alveona: This problem persists and still makes us unable to play all of our specs/classes. Overall this system brings more issues and sadness instead of joy. Multispec dd classes just can’t use all of their specs due to this system, which is terrible. I’ve described all of these issues in my statement earlier, in case someone is really interested.
Allenxx: I pray to the Blizzard gods to get rid of this insane wf and legendary system. It tilted a lot of my friends and guilds members. I hate it more than the ap grind implemented in the game.
Are you be looking forward to Tomb of Sargeras, considering how the quality of raids has increased throughout Legion?
Alveona: It really depends on the timing of the release and possibilities of time-offs for raiders and the “grind” situation. As of now it seems 7.2 will bring even more grind than before, due to artifact research levels being added at the same time as you need to farm ap, which is terrible.
How many bottles of vodka did you drink during progress?
Alveona: Almost no one from our roster actually likes vodka.
Allenxx: Nurse definitely drinks vodka during pulls.
Nurseos: A lie and a provocation! 4 bottles of beer.
Alveona: To all my raiders for enormous effort, to fans for the support/consumables, to guild inactives for helping with splits, to fellow tank discord chat for loving me so much, to Blizzard for making such a great raid dungeon!