Let’s take a little trip down memory lane. Cast your minds back a year to when Burning Crusade had just been released and we’d just levelled our way up to 70 and were starting our 5 man dungeon runs. And let’s not forget that we had to do 5 man dungeons to even get access to heroics since you needed Revered reputation with the associated faction to even unlock Heroic mode. Blackheart the Inciter in the Shadow Labyrinth was a nightmare boss for most with his mass mind-control ability. The entire Shattered Halls instance was universally despised by every healer who was forced to run it over and over again to grind the necessary Honour Hold reputation for the healing head enchant. The ironic part was that in order to unlock Heroic mode for the other Hellfire Citadel instances you needed the same reputation level that gave you the head enchant anyway.
Let’s talk about those heroic instances while we’re on the subject. They were hard. Our first heroic group posted an after-action report in our guild forum after running Heroic Steamvaults. Some of the trash was harder than normal mode bosses. These were guys wearing full level 70 dungeon blue sets, very experienced raiders.
Let’s talk about Karazhan. Remember that every single person in a Karazahn raid had to work their way through the attunement process to get the key back then, and there was no-one in Tier 6 gear to hold their hands while they did it. Karazhan itself was another brick wall difficulty curve. There were still guilds working on Kara as progression content when Wrath of the Lich King went live. Gruul’s Lair? We poked our noses in there once shortly after doing a few Kara raids and the tanks were getting two-shotted by the trash. It scared us away from Gruul and Magtheridon so badly we probably lost two months of raid progression due to being over-cautious in gearing up from Kara before we went back!
And then there were the attunement requirements for Serpentshrine Cavern and The Eye that meant you had to keep running the same heroics/instances over and over to get people the necessary access to the 25 man raid content the rest of your guild was doing. At least Gruul and Magtheridon were relatively quick to do at that stage, but if you were in Mount Hyjal and Black Temple and recruited another non-attuned raider you had to do entire clears of Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep before your new raiders could even get their feet in the doors of Hyjal or Black Temple. Let’s also not forget that Vashj (to a lesser extent) and Kael’thas were rock hard raid bosses! I lost count of the number of guilds who broke apart under the strain of trying to get Kael’thas Sunstrider down. There was a very good reason that even after the various nerfs and attunement removals you’d see people recruiting with messages along the lines of “Recruiting for xxx raiding guild, we’re 4/5 SSC and 3/4 TK, first 3 in BT and MH down”.
All of which brings us to today. And people are complaining that Naxxramas is too easy? We have very short memories! Let’s just put all of this into perspective, shall we?
Following the various nerfs to raid content that Blizzard implemented, as well as the seriously good badge loot that would see guilds who never progressed past Kara decked out in Black Temple-equivalent gear, we were pretty much prepared for anything, despite what Illidan would have you believe. Then there was the great pre-expansion nerf that would see raids gathering up and AoE’ing down trash that would previously have two-shotted any tank foolish enough to not go for mass mitigation tactics rather than balls-out threat generation. Brutallus was being dropped with half of his enrage timer left. People were gearing up way in excess of their progression or (and let’s be honest with ourselves here) skill levels, but it didn’t really matter because with the gear they were wearing and the various content nerfs, you could get away with zerging just about anything.
So now we’re in Wrath of the Lich King and we’ve a large percentage of the player base wearing gear that they’re never going to replace until after they hit the late level 70s at least. You hit those early Northrend dungeons and you just blitz through them. Marking targets for crown control? That’s for pussies! Gather them up and AoE them down! Now you’ve hit level 80 and you don’t bother with normal mode anymore, it’s straight into Heroics to pick up some level 80 epic loot! I know many players who have never seen the Occulus, Halls of Lightning or Utgarde Pinnacle except in Heroic mode. And to a large extent, in my experience at least, you can still get away with the same tactics. No need to gear up from running normal mode level 80 instances, get straight into heroics and zerg your way through!
What’s next? Naxxramas! This place is being PuGged a month after the expansion went live. I can remember the trash packs in level 60 Naxxramas . They were absolutely brutal. If you tried to AoE them down you’d be one very dead player in extremely short order. But in level 80 Naxxramas, with the changes to tank threat generation it’s a different matter entirely. In fact the only thing that holds me back on trash in Naxx now is the size of my mana pool.
We’ve gotten sloppy. We’ve forgotten how to mark targets for crowd control and seperate out the most dangerous mobs for special treatment. And we’ve forgotten how to do it because for the most part we don’t need to. There are no “most dangerous” mobs. Trash that would one-shot anyone who got too close previously and had to be kited now gets tanked. Raid content in Wrath of the Lich King is just one big loot pinata, we smack it as hard as we can and wait to see what loot drops out.
So people are zerging their way through 10 man Naxxramas, getting bored with it within two weeks, then zerging their way through 25 man Naxxramas and finding it not much harder than the 10 man versions. We’re all having some serious fun, but there’s a little voice in the back of our heads that’s wondering where the challenge is. And after a month in Naxx when you’re clearing the place on heroic mode in a night and half and wondering what to do with the rest of your raid nights, that little voice is getting louder and louder. I’ve heard it said that the solution to this is to do the same raids but with one hand tied behind your back, for the achievements. For example, doing the whole of Naxxramas with 8 or less in your raid. Now call me a bluff old traditionalist, but if I’m going to do a 10 man raid with 8 people I want slightly more reason to do it than another 10 lousy achievement points. Better loot? Sure. Another 10 meaningless epeen points? No thanks. So where IS the challenge in Wrath raiding content?
One word: Malygos.
This guy is badass. He’s a proper raid boss in every sense of the word. He’s not a brick wall-learning curve like M’uru was. He’s not as remorselessly unforgiving of the slightest error as the Eredar Twins were, but he’s a Boss fight like the way we remember them, make no mistake of that. You will not drop this guy on heroic mode the same night you first meet him. You probably won’t drop him in 10 man mode the first night you meet him either. You cannot zerg him. He hits like an armoured train. He will put pressure on your healers. He will make your dps wake up as they struggle to beat his enrage timer and do the correct dps in the right place to the right target at the right time. Your tank will worry about his survival again. He’s not impossible, far from it. He’s just a straightforward badass raid boss like the ones we used to know and love who requires a raid who can identify their arse from their elbow and he absolutely in no terms is going to go down to a PuG zerg. He’s the kind of boss most of us have forgotten how to do.
How refreshing! More like this please… oh wait. That’s it?? Yep, I’m afraid he’s the end of current raid content in Wrath. I’m hoping that he marks a change of pace in raid design however. It’s likely that Blizzard designed the intial Wrath content as a big “Sorry for Burning Crusade being so hard” Christmas present. Here are some loot pinatas for you to batter while we prep the serious stuff for a future patch, go ahead and have a laugh and gear up for the good stuff to come later.
I hope so. I mean, I like chocolate and candy as much as the next person, but too much can leave you feeling a little sick before long. Bring on Ulduar please!