Archive for the ‘Boss Encounters’ Category

Obligatory head-banging

23/11/2009

The hurdle. The barrier. The road block. The bulwark.

We know it by many names.

Most of us know it as the brick wall.

It’s the encounter that, for some reason, seems nigh-on impossible to complete and sees large amounts of time, gold and raid morale go up in smoke. You can’t pinpoint what’s going wrong. You can’t see what needs to change. You can’t tell who’s getting things right and who’s getting things wrong. You can’t tell whether to go at it fresh on another night, or plough on. You can’t pick people up no matter what you say.

You just. Can’t. Do it.

I know for a fact that everyone reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about, because we’ve all been there. Every guild on every server has come across the brick wall that has demoralized their raid to the point of just wanting to chuck it and move on to something else. It’s also true that there is no single encounter that causes the problem universally; every raid is different. For whatever reason, something just won’t click with your raid on a specific boss and you start to believe that the slow insertion of a knitting needle into your tear duct would be slightly more enjoyable. What makes it worse is that some loud mouth will undoubtedly tell you:

“Heh, that boss is ezmode”.

No.

For you, and your raid, it isn’t. Just like the encounter that the aforementioned loud mouth found rough, you and your chums made immediate sense of and put to bed in short order. But now I’d like to come to the crunch of this particular rambling, and that would be the point; if everyone has their brick wall bosses, and everyone knows how frustrating they are, why bother writing about them?

Because there is something to be learned from this.

I’m writing this hot on the heels of our forays into the Trial of the Grand Crusader last night. We took out the Northrend Beasts without too much trouble on a prior evening, only to hit Lord Jaraxxus and have it happen; we just couldn’t down him. I think we ploughed about eleven or twelve attempts into it, didn’t manage to beat the encounter, then called it. Last night, we went back in and almost got him down on the first try only to wipe at 5% after having a full raid alive at 7%. Damn, that hurt. We then proceeded to go at it, hammer and tong, for upwards of twelve times before finally seeing everything come together and Jaraxxus bite the dust. With hands excitably shaking and my ears ringing with boundless quips of delight from the raid, I leant back and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Here lies lesson one:

Know when to call it.

With a raid that’s generally pretty successful, it can be downright ridiculous how little effort your raiders are willing to put in. After as little as four wipes, you can start to see malcontent or complaints that better gear is required or people “aren’t in the mood”. I say nay. Raid encounters are meant to be difficult. They’re meant to test you. If everything went down within three wipes, where would the sense of achievement be? The fact is, certain encounters require you to practice, practice, practice until you master all of the nuances and deal with them successfully.

However, there is a breaking point.

As a raid leader who doesn’t mind putting a whole night into one encounter, I can often push a bit too hard. But it’s vital that you recognise when morale is so low, that all you’re doing by staying in a raid is wasting time, gold and good will. At that stage, all you’re doing is forcing people who’ve already given up to do something they don’t want to do and that is never a good situation to be in.

The key is to find the breaking point of a raid, judge what the concensus considers progress, and make a call based on that line. Yes, that extra push can often be the way ahead; but don’t flog a raid that gave up five wipes ago, because you won’t make them want to come back again.

So, moving on; what was the problem with Jaraxxus, anyway?

Well, as with most brick walls, I’d imagine it was both everything and nothing. Sometimes it was missing an interrupt. Sometimes it was Incinerate Flesh. Sometimes it was Legion Flames. Sometimes it was Mistress Kiss. Sometimes it was bad targeting. Sometimes it was threat issues on the adds. The fact is, no one thing was the problem – it was just everything. And when there’s a lot of mechanics that everyone has to keep track of, it seems easy for someone to forget something important.

So, the lesson here is just to expand attention spans?

Well, no.

Take a look at all of the encounters that stopped you progressing for any reasonable amount of time. Every raid/guild will be different, but for us we had problems with Kel’Thuzad, Sartharion with drakes, Hodir, Yogg-Saron and, latterly, Lord Jaraxxus (heroic). The erudite will have noticed that each of these encounters has got one major thing in common:

DPS players cannot rely on healers for survival.

The other common denominators here include target switching, almost continual movement and environmental awareness. However, the over-arching fact is that no matter how good your healers or tanks are, DPS players can be killed in these encounters if they do not take care of themselves. So, as you can see, here is the second lesson.

Look for the common ground in encounters where you have trouble.

There will always be a recurring theme in fights where your raid typically struggles. For us, it’s always when DPS players actually shoulder some responsibility for their own survival.* With that fact established, you can look at ways to either alter your strategy to limit that responsibility as much as possible, or try to help them deal with said pressures in a more reliable way and live to tell the tale.

So, here endeth the lesson and I shall summarise:

Know the breaking point of your raid.

Try to find the common mechanic that links the encounters your raid finds difficult – there will be at least one.

By trying to be objective and making informed judgement calls, you can limit the impact the brick wall encounters have on the morale of your raiders.

Do that, and you can welcome further progress a lot more quickly.

[* I should note that I am not saying “the DPS in my raid are inattenvite rubes”; being brutally honest, I think the blame lies at the feet of the Blizzard encounter development team. This expansion has seen a huge shift in the demands placed on a raid group, with the vast majority of fights absolving DPS players of any responsibility and placing the weight of success squarely on the shoulders of tanks and (particularly) healers. As a result of this, DPS players have chosen to concentrate on the one thing that really matters as far as they’re concerned; their contribution to Recount. This has been endemic throughout Wrath of the Lich King and your humble author truly hopes that there is something of a change to this status quo when Icecrown hits. Success in any given boss encounter should be dependent on the contribution of an entire raid, and not just tanks and healers. Here’s hoping.]

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