Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dancing with the Drakes

Conquest decided its time for Sartharion plus all three of his drakes to die in one epic battle.

Sarth and company didn't quite agree, but they were willing to indulge us with a few hours of Waltzing Matilda.

All I can say is...this fight is simply awesome.

I know most of Conquest was way more progressed in TBC and Vanilla than I was, so maybe they saw more epic battles than I ever did. And maybe they'll think I'm a turd for saying I loved a night that could be interpreted as fail if you view life through a black/white win/fail lens.

But it was just so cool.

Lets explore...


Few fights in WotLK have provided Conquest with much challenge.

Sarth+1 was a one-shot, but I'd venture to say it was no cake walk. Fun night, though.

Sarth+2 was an hour or two of wiping, adjusting, tweaking, slowly progressing, resulting in a kill our first night trying. So a bit harder, and subsequently, a bit more satisfying when we nailed it.

Malygos was cool. A night of endless wipes, but steady progress through the phases. Practice Aces High daily quest for a few days. Return to kill him on our next night of attempts. Again, seeing steady progress and relying upon your Officers to adjust strategy and your members to adjust execution, very cool. The only thing that soils this one in my mind is how Phase 3 is totally unrecognizable mechanics that have nothing to do with the 80 levels a million hours of raiding you did with your toon. And you're riding a stupid dragon vehicle mount. But I digress.

Sarth+3 is tough. Very tough. Through a two hour wipefest, we made progress, tweaking one small piece of strategy at a time. Overall, the progress was still just the tip of the iceberg, where we can semi-reliably take out the first drake. So many moving parts to master, this one is going to be so sweet when we kill it.

Moving Parts

Moving parts you say? Do tell!!!

Of course, all this is from the perspective of a team that is still very early in the encounter. I'm sure there'll be more to tell once we've seen the full encounter, but here goes. Also, its from the perspective of a ranged DPS class, but you know that.

1) Flame Wall - You start off with the basic Flame Wall, same as in zero drakes. Make sure you recall pet each time you hear "RUN AWAY, LITTLE GIRL!" regardless of how much it'll gimp your DPS or how much of a Bestial Wrath you'll need to waste.

2) Sartharion - Also, same as in zero drakes, you've got Sarth himself. Nasty cleave in front of him, so make sure you know which way he's pointed. Not sure if his tail is evil or not, but I'm not about to hang around his arse to find out.

3) Void Zones - We all hate dying in the fire. So stay out of the void zones.

4) Lava - You're surrounded by lava, so don't run off the edges of the platform, unless you're choosing lava as the lesser evil when faced with an inescapable flame wall.

5) Tenebron - First drake to land. Need to watch the aggro and positioning while a tank picks him up. Oh, and to make things fun, a Flame Wall shows up right as he lands, making the transition rough. He's got bad breath that'll fry you, so watch your positioning closely.

6) Whelps - Tenebron periodically hatches eggs or something. Those eggs become nasty whelps. You must (A) have a way to handle the whelps, and (B) burn Tenebron down before he hatches a second set of whelps.

7) Flame Elementals - I think this is same as zero drakes. Fire Elementals wreak havoc amongst the raiders, so you need a way of controlling them or killing them. When Flame Wall hits them they enrage, so need someone like a Rogue to remove the enrage.

8) Shadron - The second drake to land. If your DPS output is like ours, you'll have overlap. Tenebron is still alive while Shadron arrives. So a third tank is required to pick this fella up.

9) Shadron's Portal - There's a portal with some acolyte or something in it. He does something bad. Good idea to kill him, which requires some DPS, a healer and a semi-tank (DPS spec DK or the likes) to pop into the portal from time to time.

And that's about all I can share from personal experience.

We had some attempts that were insta-wipe. We had some attempts that showed incremental progress over previous attempts. We had one attempt that was clicking, and went much smoother than the others, thus leading to the need to figure out how to transition from one portion of the fight to the next.

Interface Changes

Two interface settings help this fight out substantially.

1) Spell Details - Via the normal Video Settings screen, crank Spell Details down as low as you can. This makes the void zones stand out visually very clearly, and removes confusion that can come from Death and Decay or Consecration.

2) Camera Zoom - Why a special command is required for this, and not just the default camera zoom slider in the camera settings thingie, is beyond me. Zooming your camera way way out makes it way way easier to see the flame wall and determine (A) which side its coming from and (B) whether the gap is on the sides or in the middle.

/console cameradistancemaxfactor 4

I also use this on Malygos, and it helps a ton for spatial orientation during Phase 3. It definitely takes some getting used to or else you lose your own toon in the crowd, but once acclimated to the wider view, you're in business.

More fun to come

After a while, the raid leader called it and we went over to Naxxramas to pwn some mobs before going to bed, which was a good move as it vented some steam after an exciting but tough start to the night.

I think the general conclusion is that we didn't have enough DPS to reliably take Tenebron down fast enough, and also haven't mastered how to control the whelps yet.

I sure hope we keep pushing, though. Finally we found a challenge in WotLK worthy of night after night of slowly mastering the encounter.

Its fun, its got a lot of variety, there's a huge number of tactics we can use to make it happen, and most importantly, there's no stupid dragon vehicle mounts.

It would be a shame to abandon the challenge and wait till we get a little bit more gear raid-wide.

We can do this if we focus and keep trying.

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