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My Five Least Favourite Cataclysm Raid Bosses

March 18, 2012

Is the End of the World Over Yet?

In my last post I listed my five favourite bosses of Cataclysm.  Today it’s time to look at the bosses I disliked — the most frustrating, boring and poorly designed encounters Cata had to offer.  Luckily, it was difficult to come up with five, which means Blizzard got things right more often than it got them wrong.

In Which I Reiterate My Caveats

If you read my last post then you already know what I’m about to say.  In fact, I’m mostly going to just copy/paste, so feel free to skip down to the next heading if you wish.

This is a list of MY least favourite bosses, and therefore it is likely to be different from a list of YOUR least favourite bosses.  I don’t intend for this to be an authoritative assessment of the best and worst WoW encounter design.

Also, keep in mind that my main is a Resto Druid, so I’m bound to favour raid encounters that are interesting for healers in general, and which play to the strengths of Druid healers in particular.  I also have personal preferences that colour my opinions.

When compiling this list I decided to consider pre-nerf, normal-mode, Cataclysm raid bosses only.  This is because I haven’t experienced every heroic-mode, so there’s no way I could accurately rank heroics.  And, well, there’s not much point in considering a boss post-nerf because that’s not the “real” version of the fight.  (I think there are only three bosses I first downed post-nerf — Al’Akir, Ragnaros and Deathwing — and they were all downed within a couple weeks of said nerfs, after working on them unsuccessfully pre-nerf.)

My Five Least Favourite Cataclysm Raid Bosses

5. Warmaster Blackhorn

At first, I really hated working on Blackhorn.  I don’t mind fights with a lot of mechanics and movement, but I do hate when there are multiple mechanics happening simultaneously, all of them important, and some of which can conflict with each other if you get unlucky with RNG.  When the person calling things out is saying, “Kill drakes, new adds up, onslaught, SAPPER!” in one breathless rush, then perhaps there are too many things going on at one time.  And it’s especially irritating when the Twilight Onslaught happens at the extreme opposite end of the ship from the cabin, making it tough to kill the sapper.  I feel like this fight could have benefited from either having one fewer mechanic to deal with or having all the mechanics spaced out a little better.

But then again, the more I work on this fight the better I like it.  Now that we have it on farm it no longer feels as irritating.  In fact, it’s probably the most complicated and interesting fight of the tier.  However, I do have some other reasons to dislike it.

When we made our first attempts we had to switch from 3-healing to 2-healing because we just didn’t have enough DPS otherwise.  Unfortunately, that meant we were running with two Resto Druids, which wasn’t ideal.  There is a lot of very spiky damage on this fight, and many times multiple people need to be healed from half-health to full in about 2 seconds so they don’t die to the next Twilight Barrage or Twilight Onslaught.  Druids are not the ideal class for dealing with that type of damage, and it was extremely stressful to pull off.  Double Druid heals also meant that we didn’t have any tank saving abilities for the second phase of the fight, which made things a lot more dangerous.  We were still able to pull it off, but it’s a much easier fight to heal now that we are running Druid/Pally.

I’ve also run this fight as a Boomkin, and it irritates me no end that the Sappers are immune to my mushroom slow and my typhoon knockback.  Screw you, Blizz!  😡

4. Morchok

Morchok barely qualifies as a raid boss.  I’ve seen trash that’s more dangerous than he is.  (Stinky & Precious come to mind, as does the elemental trash before Ascendant Council.)  I understand that because it’s so easy to gear people up it’s necessary to have an introductory raid boss each tier, but Morchok is a joke.  There are several Cataclysm 5-man heroic bosses that were more difficult and teach more about raid mechanics than Morchok does.

But let’s compare him to the other introductory raid bosses of Cataclysm.  Tier 11 had 4 possible intro bosses: Magmaw, the Omnotron Defense System, Halfus and the Conclave of Wind.  All four were much more complicated in terms of the number of mechanics and the amount of coordination involved.  It was even necessary to be careful about raid composition to ensure you could handle some of the boss abilities.  (A good kiting class or a strong tank for Magmaw’s parasites,  a Mage to spellsteal Arcanotron’s converted power buff, classes with reduced fall damage for Conclave’s east platform, etc.)  Tier 12 had Shannox, which wasn’t a particularly difficult fight, but required skilled kiting from the Riplimb tank, coordinated target switching, and careful avoidance of traps.

Comparatively, Morchok is just far too easy.  As long as your ranged players can find a crystal every so often, and no one stands in the black goo like an idiot, a kill is inevitable.  I can’t imagine how any group could fail to down him unless they happen to be pathetically undergeared.

3. Spine of Deathwing

Fighting on the back of a dragon sounds like such an awesome premise, doesn’t it?  And the cut-scene of parachuting onto Deathwing’s back is quite possibly the most epic cut-scene ever.  So it’s unfortunate that the actual encounter is so poorly designed.

This fight is one phase that you repeat three times.  The repeated phases do not increase in difficulty, other than having more corrupted blood up toward the end.  But it’s not even an endurance fight.  Alysrazor felt like an endurance fight — you had to stay focused and at peak performance through all the repeats, with one mistake likely causing a wipe.  In contrast, Spine is mostly about sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for the next tendon to be exposed.

Now, there’s something to be said for fights that require controlled DPS and accurate target switching rather than mindless meter chasing.  But when you have an encounter where people are literally sitting around with nothing to do while they wait for the next add to spawn, there is a problem.  It feels like Blizzard didn’t have many ideas for this encounter, but wanted the fight to last about 10 minutes, so they just dragged everything out.

At least from a healing perspective some of the boredom is alleviated.  We two heal this fight in order to increase the amount of available DPS on the tendon, and it takes a bit of finesse to manage healing through all the debuffs without burning through mana too quickly.  When the Amalgamations go Superheated there’s also a fair amount of raid damage to heal through, and it can be a little worrisome if one of the healers gets stunned by Fiery Grip right at that moment.  Still, the fight is very repetitive and mostly involves standing in one place staring at health bars without the need to pay attention to anything else.  A good fight for healers with tunnel vision, I suppose.

Oh, and the feeling of fighting on a dragon’s back?  Not so much… More like standing in a very small pit.  You can’t even tell it’s a flying dragon unless you swivel your camera around.  Granted, there’s a lot of downtime for DPS, so they probably get the chance sightsee a bit.

2. Madness of Deathwing

Madness is drop dead boring.  I’m sorry, but it is.  Well, for healers at any rate.  It might be that tanks and DPS players find it interesting.  From my perspective it’s a total bore.

Here we have a long, repetitive fight immediately following a long, repetitive fight.  Only this one is worse.  Here, let me explain.

We do the platforms in “raid finder” order: Ysera, Nozdormu, Alexstrasza, Kalecgos.  The first two platforms are exactly the same — find a good place to stand, and heal normally.  There are no major sources of damage besides Impale, and if the tanks are using cooldowns and threat swapping that isn’t much of a danger.  I usually arrive on Alexstrasza’s platform at full mana.

On the third platform there’s finally a dangerous source of raid damage, the Elementium Bolt.  This means we actually have to move to stack up and then I blow Tranquility and everyone lives.  Well, that was momentarily exciting, on to Kalecgos’ platform, again at about full mana.

The fourth platform is where things finally start to get a little interesting, but not by much.  Again, we have to deal with the Elementium Bolt, which involves one of the other healers blowing a raid healing CD.  I tend to use Tree Form at that point as well to help out.  Because we don’t have the Alexstrasza buff we finally have a source of raid damage while the Blistering Tentacles are being killed, but it’s nothing too difficult to heal through.  At this point I’m praying that the DPS manage to kill the Arm or Wing Tentacle — I forget which it is — before Deathwing casts Cataclysm so that we don’t have to do this boring shit all over again.

If we succeed it’s finally on to Phase 2.  There’s a bit more raid damage going out at this point, but nothing too serious.  The real danger is that a tank will die from Tetanus stacks.  From a healing perspective Tetanus is annoying.  We just use CDs and pour healing into the tanks and hope the DPS manage to kill the Elementium Terrors before Tetanus starts ticking for the full health of the tank.  If the stacks do get too high and we run out of cooldowns then there is absolutely nothing we can do and the tanks will die.  At which point we will probably wipe.  Which means we have to spend 15 minutes running everything all over again.  Ugh.

The tanks do manage to stay alive more often than not now, so the last thing to worry about is the increasing raid damage from Corrupted Blood.  By then I have Tranquility up again, and I’ve never found the raid damage particularly difficult to heal through.  Essentially, if the tanks live we will kill Deathwing.  (Actually, even if the tanks die on the second set of Elementium Terrors we can still kill Deathwing.  I might know this from personal experience.  LOL)

And that’s it.  FOUR repetitive platforms to slog through before there’s any real risk of failure.  There’s no mechanics you need to move to avoid, unless you count stacking for the Bolt twice.  We could two heal the first three platforms easily, but we need a third healer for phase 2 and perhaps the end of platform 4, which means that the healers spend the first 10 minutes of the fight bored out of our skulls.  (When our Shaman is the third healer he does nothing but cast Lightning Bolt for the first three platforms.)  Epic final battle?  Good raid design?  Hell no.

1. Al’Akir

Tier 11 was almost the perfect raid tier.  There were multiple instances full of interesting bosses with creative mechanics.  There were cool little story events and scenes to watch, but not so many that it got boring to replay.  Even the trash was pretty well balanced — not too much trash, not too little trash, and each pack had their own creative mechanics.  Unfortunately, that perfection was marred by the inclusion of the worst boss of the entire expansion, Al’Akir.

It’s a shame, because the Al’Akir fight had so much promise.   Throne of the Four Winds is a breathtakingly beautiful instance, for one thing, and the fight mechanics sound interesting on paper.  However, there were three fatal flaws in the design.

First of all, Phase 1 was a nightmare of RNG.  If one group was targeted by everything at once they were going to die and there was nothing anyone could do about it.  It was horribly frustrating and promoted a sense of fatalism.  After all, if you play perfectly and still wipe, what’s the point of trying?  It was very discouraging.  In the end, you mostly had to pray you got lucky or wait until you were geared enough to burn through the first phase as quickly as possible.

Secondly, Phase 3 was a flying phase.  Why Blizzard insists on including flying phases is beyond me.  It is incredibly difficult to accurately judge your altitude and proximity to other players in WoW’s 3D environment.  Grouping everyone up together was a nightmare, as was then moving that group in a cohesive manner.  To make things worse, you needed to stay above the platform — if you flew too far in or out you would be ported to a random location.  So while you were disoriented and attempting to judge whether you were grouped up at the same altitude as everyone else you also had to be paying attention to your location relevant to the narrow platform far below you.  Oh, and there were still knockbacks — you had to be close enough to the boss that you wouldn’t get knocked back off the platform and randomly ported somewhere.  And by god, you better hope that every member of the raid group was able to do this, because if one person screwed up they could cause a lightning cloud to form at the wrong altitude and you’d wipe.

Finally, Al’Akir didn’t drop useful loot.  It was all crap with random enchantments.  At first he didn’t even drop Tier tokens, though Blizzard later added some to encourage people to bother killing him.  There was too much pain for far too little reward to make this boss worth attempting, much less farming.  Most people that killed him did so once or twice for achievements/the Dark Phoenix mount and then never went back.

Blizzard, please don’t design a fight like Al’Akir again.  If I never see another flying phase it will be too soon.

In Conclusion

You may have noticed that four out of my five least favourite bosses come from Dragon Soul.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  Dragon Soul is a very poorly designed raid instance, in my opinion.  Most of the DS fights are horribly boring and uncreative.  I think that when Blizzard was designing Tier 13 they were thinking primarily of creating fights that they could dumb down to moron level for inclusion in LFR.  It appears that they were then afraid to make the normal version of the encounters too different from the LFR versions, so we got similarly boring mechanics that were merely scaled up in terms of damage dealt/DPS required.  I sincerely hope that Blizzard won’t continue down this path in Mists of Pandaria.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2012 3:35 pm

    Blackhorn is the worst for me for all the reasons you listed and especially when *all* the bad stuff happens at the same time.

    I’ve discovered there is a huge difference between “interesting” fight mechanics and “convoluted” fight mechanics.

    Lately we seem to be going down the “convoluted” path…

  2. March 19, 2012 9:04 pm

    My thoughts on the LFR thing is to make the first few normal bosses close to LFR. So you can see things arent that much different in normal raiding then ramp up the difficulty till you get to the last guy whos totally much cooler now.

    • March 19, 2012 11:47 pm

      I agree that’s what they should probably do, and perhaps it’s what they tried to do with Dragon Soul (since the first four bosses are noticeably easier than the last four bosses). It will probably be easier to get the difficulty curve “right” with a larger number of bosses available. For example, if a tier has 14 bosses and you set aside 4 bosses to be extra-easy beginner bosses you still have 10 bosses left over to create difficult and interesting mechanics.

  3. March 20, 2012 10:18 am

    Amen to this. I hated Al’akir. I have never hated a boss as much as I hated that one. Even then, I have disliked certain fights. I have disliked the mechanics behind certain fights. But until I met Al’akir, I had never *hated* a boss before. I still don’t have a kill on record for either Conclave or him, and I never will. You cannot make me go back there. You just can’t.

    Great post!

  4. slice213 permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:29 pm

    Al’Akir…so much hate for this punk….so annoying! I didnt mind 1st two phases….but that flying phase…HATE!!!

    I dislike the Chim fight….seeing so many empty health bars, makes my stomach turn!

  5. Imakulata permalink
    March 22, 2012 6:35 pm

    Poor Al’Akir, nobody loves him. 🙂 I had problems in the flying phase too – I used to have problems with Valithria and Malygos as well but there was much less going on during the flight so I managed.

    I also find the “healer encounters” of Cata not be a great success. Baleroc was ok but Chimaeron, while interesting, had this “forget everything you’ve learned to far” thing going. Ultraxion is not interesting and forgettable except for the “making the sky go black” bit.

    As for the DS fights, I don’t really find them horribly uncreative (well, except for Morchok and Ultraxion) but I understand that eventually, the “been there, done that” feeling kicks in and the fights start to seem to be bland and repetitive.

    • March 23, 2012 11:38 am

      I think the worst part about Chimaeron and the “forget everything you’ve learned thus far” thing is that it was part of the first tier right after Blizzard completely redesigned healing. So not only were healers struggling to re-learn how to heal, but then they had to completely un-learn what they’d just learned and re-learn something else. And they had to do it really quickly because that fight was boring as hell for tanks/DPS and all the success or failure rested on the healers. It was incredibly stressful.

      Damn, thinking about it almost makes me want to go back and change my list. LOL

  6. March 23, 2012 10:09 am

    hmm fights I hated:

    Rhyolith, especially in heroic

    I didn’t really hate the other fights, but I did dislike:

    Heroic Domo – I could never move in time for the stupid kitty leap
    Magmaw – Hated the parasites, I am NOT a mage people

    There are other fights that are just downright boring, but I wouldn’t say that I hated them or disliked them. While people hated Al’Akir, I didn’t have a problem with it, I even thought it was kind of fun. I think spine had a good idea, but didn’t follow through with it very well. It is almost like there needs to be something more to do in that fight. When they talked about the fight they made it out to be this amazing fight up in the air flying over Azeroth etc. Instead we stand in one spot (unless it is time to roll him!) and the scenery is just pink clouds.

    So yeah, I’m weird. But we knew this!

  7. March 23, 2012 11:27 am

    Agreed on Al’Akir… never liked one bit of it! And so awesome you are from Kargath! I don’t know why I never noticed before…

    • March 23, 2012 11:42 am

      You’re on Kargath too? Hey, cool! I see that you mostly play for the filthy Alliance though, so I might be forced to pretend I hate you. (However, I do have a max level Worgen Hunter there.) Look me up if you ever need a home on Horde side. 🙂

      • March 25, 2012 11:57 am

        Haha, thanks! (And my apologies if we’ve ever run into each other in TB!)

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