Friday, November 12, 2010

Field Report - Reality Check in ToCGC25

My guild and I went and did ToCGC25 the other day, just to get away from ICC somewhat, without having to quit raiding alltogether, like many raiding guilds seem to be doing now the last weeks before Cataclysm. Doing oldschool raids is a nice way to keep peoples interest up and it also gives you an opportunity to learn something about your fellow guildies and yourself. ToCGC25 and the harder fights in Ulduar (like Yogg and Algalon) can't be rofl'd through just because we all now have awesome gear. The more difficult fights in these raids are difficult because they contain one-shot mechanics and other components which require people to react to the environment and make quick decisions. This means these fights will be pretty challenging even today. I had tons of fun in ToCGC25. I had never done it before, since I wasn't in a 25man guild back then, but I have done ToC a trillion times. And the fights are exactly the same basically, just more and harder. So eventhough most of our core raiders are sporting a pretty nice 25man ICC gear, ToCGC proved to be something of a reality check. And it's also a good way to see what players are lacking somewhat in their overall raiding skill.

For instance, most of us have been doing the fights in ICC now a couple of times a week, every week for the last half year or so. We're beginning to know the fights by heart. They're still difficult, mind you. Fights like LK hc require some minute teamwork to pull off, and we haven't managed to get that one yet. But when you take people to fights they haven't done before, or haven't done in a long time, you quickly notice if they actually know anything about their class or if they're just playing from experience. To become the best player you have to be good at both of course. But someone who really knows their class knows how to improvise. I'm not awesome at this myself, but it is what I am always aiming at perfecting. I am talking about quickly evaluating the situation and acting thereafter. Instead of just knowing what is coming long beforehand and acting accordingly (and in many cases still failing). Taking people to fights they don't know like the back of their hand, and that still requires their full attention and skill, will give everyone a good opportunity to think through what they might have to become better at.

So how did our ToCGC25 run go?

Northrend Beasts
NB is one of those fights where you can nerdrage your way through pretty much just based on gear. Things died so fast I didn't even notice we were done. I was going through the tactic in my head - run from fire, run in with kobolds, keep tanks high - when I got the DBM signal that Icehowl was glaring at someone to crash into. I didn't get to think about much else because his smash, sending people in all directions, sent me right through the wall. And into nothingness. So while people were killing Icehowl I was falling through the world. I didn't die and I didn't stop falling and once they had finished the fight I could get a summon luckily enough.

Like I always say when I pug Jaraxxus for weekly - the only thing that could get a raid to wipe on him is if no one heals the Incinerate Flesh aka Flesh Trombone. So whenever I am healing that fight I put myself in charge of healing that so that I know for certain that it will be done. Unfortunately I noticed that my grid didn't show the debuff, so I had to heal it hardcore style by checking DBM who had gotten it, search through my grid to locate said person and start healing. Fortunately the healers in my guild are quite competent and this wasn't a problem at all. In ToCGC you have to destroy the volcanos that spawn Infernals because they will just continue to spawn infernals if you don't. As a healer I rarely keep track of what the dpsers are doing, I just hear people yelling at eachother over TS and continue my healing. Since we didn't wipe I assume dpsers did well on the adds and volcanos.

Faction Champions
My first thought was "oh god they're so many". I like this fight because it's different from other fights with alot of mobs. I won't say it's less predictable because eventhough they're supposed to act like players, they're still actually quite predictable. Maybe players become too once you've pvpd enough. The tricky part of this fight is that the Faction Champions focus on one target from time to time and then you have to use all your skills to keep that target alive. There will also be alot of cleansing and ccing going on, which I enjoy. Unfortunately FC is also a fight you can pretty much just burst through due to gear.

Twin Valkyr's
TV is the first fight where people actually have to start thinking for things to work and people not dying all around you. There are several factors about this fight that make it a tricky one. You've got the balls for one, if you keep taking the wrong colored balls you'll do pretty much damage to yourself. And since most people are standing close together for aoe heals and whatnot, it means everyone will be taking pretty much damage. Secondly there's the aoe-damage Light/Dark surge which deals 8000 damage every second to anyone of the wrong color. Even now that is loads of damage, and you notice at once if someone missed in switching their color, mostly because they died. And thirdly there's the shield. If dpsers aren't fast enough in switching target (and seriously, how difficult could that be?), the TV will heal and prolonging the fight is never a good idea. If I remember correctly we actually wiped on TV, maybe even a couple of times. I think people simply just underestimated the fight, which was easy to do after the first three bosses.


This mean beetle is still badass. I'll say it at once, we didn't even down him, even after many tries. There were several things that turned out to be big issues.
Firstly, the add-tanks had trouble getting initial aggro. What with the threat nerfs and all this might be understandable, but that meant a couple of dpsers, and even healers in some instances, died due to this. One interesting thing I noted though was that few people died from the adds backstabbing them after a burrow. They simply had more hp than the attack did damage. That surely wasn't the case back in the day.
Secondly, the tanks took shitloads of damage! As a disc I had designated myself to healing the Penetrating Cold debuff. In the first two phases there isn't much to heal though, and all focus should be had on the tanks. We had blows of 50-60k on our ICC 25man geared tanks, pretty insane. Our tanks died a couple of times due to this. And when one tank dies, a couple of dpsers usually follow, making a try difficult to succeed even if you manage to get the tank back up.
Thirdly you've only got a limited supply of ice. This is probably what makes the fight the most difficult because it means you have to kite Anub'arak for a rather long time when he is burrowed. Everyone else has to keep away from the spikes and the kiter has to make sure he doesn't get onto an ice spot too soon. Everyone has to use what cooldowns they have (most notably Hand of Protection) to have the kiter survive as loong as possible and everyone have to position theirselves perfectly in case they become the next target. Us failing with this is probably the main reason we didn't down him. People never got this to fully work and so we were without much ice in the last phase. Apparently only one patch didn't suffice.
Fourthly, in the third phase Anub'arak will start doing his Leeching Swarm doing massive raid damage and healing himself for the amount drained. This means people must be kept low on health, something that is really difficult for healers to not heal up. We're conditioned to keep people topped off at all times, and this fight requires us to do the exact opposite. Some healers, like druids also noticed that their hots were too powerful. They simply healed people too much. The shields of a disc priest are of course completely awesome in this fight and if some healers were focusing solely on tanks I am sure I could've solo-healed the raid. Unfortunately we never got to the third phase with enough people alive to make a real try out of it.
I really enjoyed the fight however, even after all those wipes and no kill. Because each try I felt like I had something to learn and something I could do better and that kept my interest up.

Going back like this is a really nice way for me to find new ways in which I can improve and cutting loose from the raid-treadmill that is fooling us into a false safety that we're awesome. I mean I know we're all awesome, but without some diverse challenge one doesn't evolve. Especially after a new patch like now where everyone has to re-learn their playing to some extent, doing another raid than usually could highlight problem areas. ToCGC is just challenging enough to do this.

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