The Trial of Valor race turned out to be as unexpectedly interesting as the announcement of the raid itself was, with Helya becoming the real challenge of the expansion so far. Despite the guilds' claims of not really bothering with ToV much from before the race, once they saw that the endboss was an actual challenge they all went at it fairly hard - some of them a little too hard. The standings changed once again from Emerald Nightmare and Method jumped a spot to claim the very top, returning to their No.1 status, so we had a chat with Sco, Bangerz, Cayna, ChrisPotter, Nnogga and Qoning.
With basically all the top guilds stating they wouldn’t be going hard at ToV before it was released for fear of it being too easy and cleared in a day, progress started pretty slowly. What was it like for you waking up on Wednesday and seeing that Helya was still alive? Did you immediately decide it was time to get back to serious mode or did that happen later?
Cayna: I think most guilds went harder then expected, as soon as people realised you could get 35 traits a lot of top guilds went ham and spammed Mythic+. I think if the tier was taken as serious as for example Nighthold, it would have likely been a requirement to have the trait, unlike now where just the majority had it. Helya also was nicely tuned so it felt like a pretty good race.
In your opinion, were Guarm or Odyn easier than Cenarius (if we ignore 10ilvl difference)?
Qoning: Odyn and Guarm are completely different types of bosses than Cenarius, whereas he was the 'play the strategy rather well, focus on not dying and making it easier for your team' kind of boss, Odyn and Guarm are more of throughput fights and both test your healers more than your dps. There isn't much in terms of strategy on them, as it's self-evident what you have to do, just have to do it correctly. In my opinion, Guarm on mythic in particular tests your ability to communicate fast more than anything else. Maybe the story would have been way different if we had less gear, as both of those bosses felt like we had about 5-10 ilevels too much. So in this setting, Cenarius was definitely harder.
You’re back on top, World First again, how does it feel and was it even important to you in ToV, considering the comments made prior to the raid?
Nnogga: For various members of the guild this was the first time to achieve a World First Kill on an endboss and I think it is safe to say that it feels absolutely amazing to have pulled it off. There were a lot of naysayers that doubted our capabilities as a guild on public forums or social media but the core of the guild has been playing together for a long time now and we knew that with hard preparation and good planning we could definitely compete for World First. As soon as we realized that Helya actually was a difficult encounter I think everyone went back into "serious mode" and we wanted to get this kill really badly.
You’d tried Helya on the PTR and still thought she’d be dead in a day, when did it become clear that she was a real endboss and would take a while?
ChrisPotter: You could tell Helya wasn't a complete joke after the first pull, seeing the amount and rate of Taint of the Seas in phase 1, as well as seeing exactly how the Mythic Orb Lazers worked. It was the kind of boss where each time you got to a new part of the fight you would think "This is crazy how do we deal with this part", but you slowly work through it and decide exactly how to deal with each part of the fight and gradually work towards a kill.
With Helya being a proper boss, did you go absolutely full out on the her, as compared to Emerald Nightmare and what you plan to do with Nighthold?
Sco: Yes and no. Yes in regards to the “there and now”, when we realised the boss would be a challenging one that lasted more than the first day we committed to hardcore raiding hours and focused play. No in regards to our preparation, I think we were better prepared for Xavius, for example, in terms of addons and such. Then there was also the lack of a guild requirement on the 35 AP traits – which could have been enforced. Overall, our preparation was obviously enough to do well on Helya but it could have been even better. The ‘even better’ we will be committed to in preparation for Nighthold.
As Xavius was a horrible disappointment and not worthy of even being mentioned in the same breath as other raid endbosses, where would you place Helya in the endboss pantheon?
Sco: Helya is a great fight and I rate it pretty highly. In terms of difficulty it took 225 pulls which I would say is about mid-tier difficulty in regards to end bosses. The important aspect though is that the fight itself was both fun and engaging. The fight requires a lot of movement, a lot of coordination and a lot of team work. I will remember it fondly and as far as Legion goes it is the best boss I’ve played thus far – including those we have tested in Nighthold. Let’s hope Gul’Dan is something special!
Were you aware of the strategy some guilds used to down Helya that later caused those guilds to be banned and simply chose not to do it or were you unaware of it completely?
Sco: We weren’t aware of the P3 breath exploit until afterwards. We had considered that a tank dying may cancel the effect of one breath, but even then we didn’t decide to do it (this was maybe because the DPS kept using all our combat resses!! ;) ). Our Shadow Priests were aware of the insanity exploit but chose not to use it. We had more than enough DPS for a good transition in P2 and never saw the P3 hard enrage on any pull that we did.
What are your thoughts on the bans in general, do you think they were too harsh, should Blizzard have been more clear about not using the bug or have done something else differently?
Qoning: Considering Blizzard knew about the bug at least since the day Mythic opened, I think they were pretty harsh. They could have removed their achievements, give them a 3 day ban, call it a day. And to be nice to them, reset their IDs. I don't think the reaction was in line with what Blizzard has done ever in the past. On the other hand, it was all kinds of shady from the guilds to use obvious exploits when competing for ranks. I understand that it may have been a part of their strategy to sacrifice a tank on some of the breaths and this exploit basically meant that you could not do that at all, but abusing it made the encounter significantly easier.
What made the Helya fight so much better than Xavius in terms of difficulty? Was it just just pure numbers or were the mechanics also better?
Bangerz: Well, the big mistake they made with xavius was allowing us to choose who goes in the dream without any downside of it, meaning we could put our big dpsers in when it best suits them. The tuning was just all wrong on the fight which is obviously why it was so easy and then, like i said, they make it even easier with allowing us to put big DPS in specific dreams without corruption ever being a problem. However, Helya was just a much better planned, tuned and all round harder fight. The mechanics actually required a thought process and tactic whereas Xavius was just spread and nuke, nuke, nuke. The healing was incredibly harder and actually required specific cooldowns at certain times or the raid just slowly died off. The DPS checks were much harder in Helya than Xavius as well. P2 you needed good dps and coordination to beat timers in order to make the fight easier, whereas Xavius just required a small DPS check to push into P2 without a 2nd add. The mechanics were just overall far better in the Helya fight and Xavius was just a joke in terms of tuning and having nothing to do. At least blizzard proved to us they can actually make an end boss :)
The top 10 shows that most of the guilds used Guardian Druid to beat the Helya. What do you think tank balance is like now, are Blood DKs and Demon Hunters bad for the race?
Sco: For raiding I think tank balance has been pretty bad up until now. Guardian Druid from Legion Alpha & Beta stood out as the strongest tank by far and come live launch it remained top tier. For EN the best tanks were Druid/Warrior. For ToV the best tanks were Druid followed by Warrior/Paladin (Warrior received some nerfs in between & Paladin scales well with gear). Blood DK is an absolute disaster of a raid tank. We are seeing a lot of changes on the 7.1.5 PTR for tanks and I do think the gap will be closer between each of them. At this precise moment of writing though it doesn’t look like Druid is being knocked off the top spot – it might just be sharing it with some others. Overall Blizzard is looking to bring other tanks up to the same level, however, there are changes to Warrior I am not a fan of. I posted a video about this on my YT channel (as of the 1/12 build PTR build).
Now that progression is over what will you be doing to prepare for Nighthold? Your item levels have to be pretty much topped out at this point, are there still legendaries to be had or AP capped on alts? What can you still do to be in the best possible spot when NH starts?
1. PTR testing -> developing boss strategy/weak auras in advance.
2. Determine the absolute best class setup which means keeping up-to-date with PTR changes.
3. Making sure the roster is as strong as possible, recruit 1-2 additional players.
4. Farm as much gear as possible, including alts in preparation for successful split raids of NH.
5. Farm Mythic+ endlessly for AP traits past 35 (small dmg increase which adds up on progress)
6. Dream of getting the BiS legendaries, and then cry… ;)
You’ve seen Exorsus and From Scratches statements on the state of hardcore progress raiding. Putting aside their comments on the actual exploit, what do you think about the rest of their comments on the race?
ChrisPotter: A lot of what Exorsus say in their statement I agree with to be honest. The PVE scene in WoW has been left to die by Blizzard for a long time and its only due to the hard work of fan sites, streamers and forums like MMO Champion and Reddit that there is any life in it at all. The fact that there's not even an official leaderboard from Blizzard says it all. Legendaries are great, but when you're going for World first the difference between 2 bad legendaries and 2 good ones is MASSIVE and there needs to be a way for those of us who put an insane amount of time into going for World First to actually make sure we get at least 1 BIS legendary. It is an absolute joke that you can spend 15 hours a day farming, endless time preparing for the progress race, optimise everything you can, but with bad rng your character can still be at a huge disadvantage compared to others.
In case you're still hungry for more info, you can also check out the FinalBoss interview: