So, after doing a bit of searching around the internet I realized something which is new to me: because our guild has actually caught up with progression, there’s actually some people out there still looking for Ruby Sanctum advice. Weird.
The mini bosses were hell for us; I won’t pretend that I know why or how to fix it, so I’ll skip that in hopes that I can actually explain that for people who are still fighting with them in the future. Some brief notes:
For Saviana, not having an enrage dispel *hurts*; get one if you can. (Have your rogue do the anesthetic poison on a third weapon trick. Yes, it sucks. Sorry.)
For Baltharus: Picking up the add without it killing people may be hard. When it spawns, have anyone it is near stop/run away. Blade Flurry is painful. Tank the add away from the MT, and don’t bother killing it; just keep the tank up. (And have him use cooldowns during Blade Flurry.) It *is* possible to single tank both adds if your second tank goes down, but your DPS better kick it way way up and knock him out quick; any double blade flurry requires cooldowns cooldowns cooldowns.
For the General: Hibernate/sleep one of the adds, if you can, then have the OT grab the one that’s not sleeping. If you don’t have dragon CC, you can just have the MT grab the second one; having two doesn’t hurt that much. (Having 3 might; managing three would probably be the difficult part.) Do have DPS switch to adds when they come up.
Now, for the main event.
Three phase fight. Typical raid comp setup for new progression content — 3 healers, 5 DPS, two tanks. There is probably no combination of classes that works particularly more or less well for this, but you will find phase 2/3 much easier if you have some melee.
Phase 1 is pretty simple, light healing, etc. The dragon is a typical dragon — breathes fire, hits things with tail, etc. Occasionally, Halion will mark someone with Fiery Combustion. Fiery Combustion will deal damage, and is a bit like Rotface’s slimes: You want the person to get out to the edge of the arena, then get dispelled. The debuff is dispellable by both Curse dispels and Magic dispels — so every healing class can dispel it. (This becomes more important later on.) When dispelled, will drop a fire puddle that will knock back anyone standing too close — hence the reason to drop it at the edge.
Additionally, Halion will call down a meteor strike: big fiery glowing area. Don’t stand in it. Once the meteor his the ground, it will explode fire in 4 directions. (I would say ‘random’, but the pattern of the fire is always the same; however, the orientation rotates, so it is basically random from what I can tell.) Don’t stand in the fire. It doesn’t hurt a *ton* — at least, in p1 where you have 3 healers to help take care of it — but it’s still not very pretty. Once the fire lands, be aware of it, especially if you’re melee — you want to not run through it with Fiery Combustion if it’s easy to avoid.
We had the tank pull the head pointing to the raid’s left as we pulled, and had everyone stay on the dragon’s left side. Melee were in close, ranged were a bit further out, but not *too* far, because you want melee to run past for Fiery Combustion quickly. Basically, this phase is just a matter of learning the Combustion mechanic; like normal mode LK phase 1, after the first couple attempts, you’ll sleep through phase 1.
Now it starts to get hard.
Phase 2, everyone enters the shadow realm, tank first. As soon as Halion transitions, toss HOTs on the tank (and a shield if you have a disc priest), since he’ll take the first hit or two before you can join him. (You only have to give him long enough to spawn + taunt.) Once the tank is through, hop through the portal and have all of your DPS stack up on his left side again.
In the Shadow Realm, there is the new favorite of every meter busting disc priest: a ticking damage aura.
Combustion is now Soul Consumption; almost the same mechanic, but instead of pushing out, it pulls people in. (In heroic, people in the void zone also get snared.)
The most important new behavior, though, is the Twilight Cutters. These shadowy orbs of death (2 on normal; 4 on heroic) will spin around the edge of the room. Every 20 seconds, they will ‘activate’, connecting the dots to form a shadowy lance of death through anyone in the way. This ain’t your daddy’s “Rotate in a circle” fight. Those beams Hurt. Anyone standing in them when they turn on will be dead in .5s. (This is typically below reaction time, and well below instant heal time; if people die to cutters, it is not the healer’s fault.) What this means is that your Shadow tank has a hard job: he must keep Halion rotated such that cutters are unlikely to kill people.
There are a couple ways to handle this, but the way that worked best for us (and I’ve seen it mentioned in other places): Basically, if you can time it right, you should be able to rotate Halion only when the beams are on. The rotation time means that shortly (~2-3s) before each rotation, the beams should be back in about the same place, and the tank can wiggle the dragon slightly to line it up so that (assuming the Dragon’s head is noon) the beams run from 1-7 o’clock on a clock dial. Minimizing movement in the shadow realm is a key component of success in encounter. Doing this right gives ranged DPS more time to keep DPSing without moving, less likelihood of someone running ahead into flame breaths, less need to manage space for Consumption, etc.
The entire raid needs to rotate forward with the dragon when the beams are on. Anyone getting the debuff should run clockwise with it, rather than counterclockwise, because if beams come on, you don’t want to get trapped by them. Remember not to get *too* far forward — when the Dragon is about the flame breath, she will stop rotating, and rear up; Run Away from that head!
At 50%, you enter phase 3. Transition can be rough; the Shadow Dragon doesn’t disappear, so don’t run into a Shadow Lance while running to the portal. Have all your healers hot up your physical tank before they run out.
Phase 3 is the combination of Phase 2 and Phase 1; half your raid (including approximately half your DPS) need to go out, and half your raid stay in. We managed this with a disc priest out, and a resto druid/resto shaman in. (The ticking debuff favors raid healing; bubble spam will not keep your raid alive.) A disc priest can handle the healing outside reasonably well: you won’t need to bubble most of the raid, just concentrate on the tank and shield / spot-heal / dispel the combustion. I would assume almost any healing class could take the outside reasonably well; if your tank gets behind on heals, due to dispel or whatever, use a cooldown to catch up.
The mechanics of each realm are approximately the same, just with fewer people to help with them.
However, there is a new mechanic: Corporeality. The reason I said to split the DPS evenly is because you essentially want to have even DPS in both realms; no mean feat to balance considering the movement in the shadow realm. (Physical DPS will do much better in the shadow realm, and ranged in physical, due to the movement in Shadow.) Essentially, whichever realm is doing more damage to the boss will ‘push’ him further into the other realm — increasing the damage he does in that realm, possibly significantly. You really want to keep this corporeality even.
Since this is hard to balance, what we did was have our lock near the portal as much as possible, and when the dragon went further in one direction, he’d hop through and push her in the other direction. This was a potentially dangerous path to take — he reported being ‘constantly scared’ of dropping into a twilight cutter — but it worked out well for us.
People still need to get the hell out if they have Consumption/Combustion, avoid fire, avoid cutters, etc. Line the dragon up with the orbs/beams, and don’t dispel too quick.
Phase 3 is all about survival; we had no enrage problems on any of our attempts. Keep it together, and you can pull it off.
For our group, over the course of 2ish hours, it took about 10 attempts before we finally dragged her down. This fight is definitely a challenge even for a group which has killed the LK on normal; an interesting/exciting raid encounter, especially for healers, that requires a lot of self-management, and everyone to put forward their best, to snag it. Losing the 25% raid buff feels like a slap in the face, and you will want to make sure that you’re prepared for that; your numbers will be lower, your tanks will have less health, and there is overall a lot less margin for error.
In all of the work that Tipplesplitters has done on ICC, we have had PUGs. Our Lich King kill had a PUG, our Halion kill had two PUGs, our 3 heroic kills had PUGs.
Prior to Ulduar/TOC, Tipplesplitters was primarily a group of good real life friends — and several of the people in the guild were strongly opposed to pulling in anyone outside the guild for anything we did. Our first kills of Northrend Beasts and Jaraxxus — long before any of us overgeared it, and long before those instances were ‘faceroll’ — were with 9 players. Before Ulduar was released, the group would occasionally 6-man Sarth, in mostly gear from heroics or 10-man Naxx.
For a short period of time, I joined another guild to raid 25-mans. (Specifically, I did this from the time of mid-late TOC into ICC Lower Spire and Plaugeworks.) I wanted to be raiding 10-mans with Tipplesplitters, but a tendancy to under-staff rather than PUG meant that many times, we simply wouldn’t run the raid, even with 9 online, because we couldn’t do it and didn’t want to bring a PUG in.
Around the end of January, I grew tired of 25s; they were never really a goal, just what I ‘had’ to do in order to get what I wanted in game. I left the 25-man guild, and pushed to get Tipplesplitters actively raiding again, despite the loss of 2-3 people. At this point, we were down to a core of 5 or so — two tanks, but only one healer. (At the time, I was pretty much exclusively DPS: I had an 80 priest, but healing was not something I was good at.) When I rejoined the guild, I brought our tree druid (who had followed me to the 25-mans) back with me, bringing our core healing to two.
At this point, we had two tanks, two heals, and 2 dps who were able to show; not enough to have a good time of it, but enough to start making a dent with some PUGs. (Note that this was pre-ICC buff, so going into ICC was much more of a challenge.) Because it wasn’t a ‘guild’ event, we didn’t record a lot of this, but it seems like we basically did Lower Spire reasonably well for the first couple weeks, and grew our group. Two weeks in, I was asking How do you protect tanks on Festergut?
We had another DPS (Shadow Priest) come back to the game around this time, bringing our in guild numbers up to 7, but we were still regularly pugging a healer — which leads to a lot of variability. After a couple weeks of this, I started bringing my Disc Priest with us, and asked Epic Advice How to Learn To Heal Better, so that we could push further. I didn’t heal Festergut that night, but we did *kill* Festergut that night.
Over time, our guild group grew — we’re now at 9 people regularly raiding, and we just invited a 10th to join our guild, bringing us back up to potential full strength for the first time in almost a year.
As we were doing this, we did it all by picking a couple good people every time, and growing that group. From Herrman, a Balance/Resto druid who was great all around, and ran with us for a month, to Noixi, our Arcane/Frost mage who can never pick which spec is best. From Minikloo, a DK DPS/Tank who I remember as a great PUG from Naxx days, to Addor, a holy paladin who only ran with us twice, but who still gets auto-invited to anything I run that he wants to join.
There have been some bad players in there, but they don’t stick out like the good ones do. From these players, we have been able to grow ourselves a team. 3 months ago, we didn’t have a raiding group — now we’re the #3 casual 10-man guild on the server. 3 months ago, it was a surprise if people even signed on on one raid night; now, we’ve got a team on every Wednesday without fail.
Some of this is the result of the ICC raid buff: By giving every player who comes in a passive boost, it is possible to consider walking in with PUGged players, when in the past, that wouldn’t have even been a consideration. I learned this the hard way this week: doing Ruby Sanctum on an ‘off’ night, we were suffering pretty heavily because our PUGged tank — who would have been fine in ICC — didn’t have the health buffer that a fully geared ICC tank has. I haven’t had to worry about tank death from being undergeared in too long… and with a 25% buff, we wouldn’t have even blinked an eye at it. (We did down the dragon eventually, but it was a struggle.)
Finding good PUGs isn’t easy. A combination of sites like pugchecker, the armory itself, and Elitist Group’s website are helpful in evaluating the dozens of whispers you get over the course of trying to PUG someone. However, the most helpful thing is the people themselves: chatting with people for a couple minutes, asking them about their experience, and so on, has led to many a surprising and happy discovery on the potential quality of players. For example, in our most recent Heroic attempts, Noixi had to step out, and none of our other regulars were on, so we fell back to finding another PUG. (I left this one up to another leader.) When the person came in, I was worried; gear was okay, but not heroic-level great, and the toon in question only had 6/12 achievements. However, over the course of the night, the performance of the character outperformed many of our guildies, hitting buttons at all the right times without missing a beat. The player joined us for our Halion kill as well, and I couldn’t be happier.
Overall, finding good PUGs can be a challenge. When you do, however, the rewards speak for themselves. While I’m thrilled with the progress that we have made as a guild, I’m almost equally thrilled with the progress that our non-guild regulars have shown in everything from attendance — showing up every time, even when there’s no promise of a slot — to numbers, to awareness.
Of course, in the end, it’s nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a group of people who’ve downed the Lich King.
No King Reigns Forever. A king of Liches came to that deadly conclusion on June 23rd, 2010. After more than five weeks of half-starts, missed attempts, and general Just Missing Out, Tipplesplitters came together on that night to witness the death of a King.
On June 30th, after a late start, we banged out Marrowgar, Gunship, and Saurfang… moving us up to the #3 10-man casual guild on the server, according to Guildox progression.
On July 5th, after a later-than-desired start, we defeated the lieutenants of Halion, and prevented his invasion, defeating the Big Pink Dragon once. (I was going to say ‘and for all’, but I realize there is still heroic, and it’s likely we’ll keep going back for a while.)
All in all, Tipplesplitters is shaping up to be a solid group of excellent raiders. I couldn’t be more pleased.
After a couple dozen attempts at Sindragosa, our 10-man guild downed her last night, and moved into the number 4 10-man-only guild on the server in completing the Frostwing Halls.
Played with the Lich King a bit and got through the transition to phase 2… well, sort of. On our last attempt for the night, one tank made it back on the platform after it fell at the end of the transition.
It was great to come back to Sindragosa and kill her on our first attempt of the night. Definitely a big win for us.
Ever since the dungeon finder tool was released, there’s been a common cry from many different users, that they are are regularly being put into specific dungeons more often than others. There are a couple reasons why you might experience this, but you should know: based on all the evidence I can find, it is *not* all in your head.
The dungeon finder prefers to find groups of people who can work reasonably well to complete a dungeon together, while also meeting certain other requirements. Though it’s not stated explicitly by Blizzard, experience of both leveling a character and having a high level character shows that these requirements tend to seek to put under-geared players — especially tanks or healers — with classes that compensate for them via their gear. (Many people will be quick to point out that gear is not the same as skill, but gear is quantifiable; skill isn’t. The Dungeon Finder can’t check a player’s skill in general.) If you’re an undergeared tank, there is a good chance that you will have an overgeared healer, and vice versa. A single undergeared DPS will often be grouped with one or more higher-geared players.
The Dungeon Finder seeks to put you into a dungeon you will be able to achieve. When you first start running heroics, you won’t be dropped into HoR. This is another aspect of the gear check; this particular one lets you actually see the effect of your gear on your possible dungeon choices in the interface, which will tell you “You must obtain better gear.”
In general, the dungeon finder seeks to make a relatively balanced group: you won’t typically have 3 melee as your DPS, nor three ranged. In general, the dungeon finder tries to balance both number of characters of a given armor class and types of damage dealt. (This is, of course, thrown off by players grouping together and joining the random queue; you can have a group of 4 paladins if all of the paladins were in a group to begin with, and just grabbed one from the queue.)
The dungeon finder will attempt to put you in a dungeon which you are not locked to yet for the day.
Finally, the dungeon finder tries to put you into a dungeon that you are experienced with. This is the one that people seem to be concerned about most often.
Everyone knows that WoW has statistics about which dungeons you have done most: Sites like PUG Checker will show you your counts, for example. In general, assuming all other criteria are met, it seems that it is common for the Dungeon Finder to try to give players the dungeon that they have done the most often.
For the random daily dungeon (the first dungeon of the day), over the past week, Nesilo has had:
- Utgarde Keep (11 total)
- Drak’tharon Keep (7 total)
- Halls of Stone (10 total)
- Azjol-Nerub (7 total)
Looking at PUG Checker, we can see that this shows a heavy bias towards dungeons which are done more often by the character. Levelled after patch 3.3, Nesilo has never done a heroic dungeon via anything other than the random dungeon finder, but the number of kills of each dungeon show a strong indication of a non-random distribution. Culling of Stratholme and Occulus show 7 kills each, while Utgarde Pinnacle shows only 2 — and none done since the switch to only doing dungeons daily instead of running multiples each day. Gundrak shows only 3 kills — all of which were done in chain dungeon running. Nesilo has never run Gundrak as his first daily of the day.
This trend applies equally across other characters. Rosenblythe, on the same server, has run VH and Gundrak 27 times each, and UK a stunning 51 times… but completed Halls of Stone only 7.
You’ll see this trend everywhere you look: Any player with a discrepancy in their kill counts of a dungeon will see that discrepancy increase over time, and the larger the difference, the more heavily it appears to be weighted. If you’ve done one dungeon twice as much as any others, it seems almost a guarantee that your daily dungeon will be that one, unless you’ve got someone else in the group who is weighted in some other direction. Of course, this type of weighting is a vicious cycle: the more you do a dungeon, the more likely you are to do it in the future.
Practically speaking, there’s nothing that you can do about this: dungeon finder is controlled by WoW, not by you. One thing you can try is to extend your lockouts on dungeons as you run them, to try to have the “not locked out” condition override your heavily weighted single dungeons.
This type of weighting is actually very bad for users who might be casual players looking to gear up: By doing a dungeon every day, it seems that you are likely to quickly develop an affinity for that dungeon, meaning that — using the random function of the dungeon finder — you are less likely to see other dungeons, which might provide further upgrades for your gear.
Weighting dungeons such that an experienced ‘guide’ can lead lower geared people through it is a nice thing to try, but the current implementation seems to tie people overly much to a single dungeon, and that type of behavior is discouraging. Even quick and easy dungeons like Utgarde Keep get annoying after a while, and not being able to control this aspect of the game often leads to frustration. Random doesn’t necessarily have to actually mean random in this case, but the heavy weighting of such a mostly unimportant factor is certainly unfortunate.
Last Thursday, I got dumped into tanking Heroic Pit of Saron on my Paladin.
My first reaction when I saw the loading screen was “Aw, crap.” I’ve done PoS on a bunch of characters, but it’s never been a favorite.
The first reaction of the group I was with was “How did you even get in here with that gear? You can’t tank this.” To be fair, this isn’t a completely unreasonable response. My tanking gear has a gear score of 3800; my average iLevel is just above 200. My biggest problem doesn’t tend to be survivability, in general; threat — especially against anyone with ICC gear — is more of a problem. My only deaths as a tank have been due to bugged encounters. However, my health is low — even with fort + sanc + mark + 5% random dungeon buff, I’m still only at 30k buffed health — hardly the most encouraging thing when you zone into PoS as a healer.
I said I could tank it, and that if we wiped, I would leave the group and let them finish. I got a few groans, but people accepted this and we moved on. (Compare to the previous PoS, where I got brought in as a healer with a 4200 GS — and got told that having a blue trinket meant I couldn’t heal. That group didn’t pull anything, they just sat by the portal for 15 minutes until they could kick me.)
After making our way through trash, I find out that the reason the druid was standing back at the beginning was because he needed to do the quest, and needed help getting slaves. (Thanks for letting me know so I could help you here :p) So we go back, pick up slaves, etc. No wipes, only one death, etc.
We get to Garfrost. As a priest healer, I hate this fight with a passion: I *always* lose people on Garfrost, usually because they don’t clear their stacks. I pick him up, we do pretty well with the first rock, etc., though the healer doesn’t seem to be clearing stacks.
So I pull, we start killing him, etc. I watch as the rogue cloaks out of two stacks (what a waste), and most everyone, except the healer, clears their stacks on the first stone. Then Garfrost heads to his anvil, and I clear my stacks then chase him.
I failed to pull him back out to the stones, and people start dropping. One goes down, then two, then three, and it’s just the healer — with 24 stacks — and I. The healer goes down. My health is at 30%, garfrost is at 40%.
I pop my bubble, make sure I taunt Garfrost in case he had any plan on running away, and start DPSing. My stacks are now clear, so I’m not taking much damage. He throws a rock, and I run for it, and heal myself while he catches up.
I chase him around the rock, DPSing and keeping myself mostly full with Judgement of Light. At 30%, when I’m staying alive, the Shaman pops, and starts doing the dance around the rocks with me, throwing in DPS where he can.
A couple minutes later, Garfrost is dead.
“The hell I can’t tank this place.”
It was a very satisfying feeling.
Last night, I made it to 80 on my third character — the Paladin, Nesilo of Malygos. There was a fair amount of play time this week, but the majority of that was a 7 level grind over 3 days.
- Average XP/hour in dungeons: 200k – 300k. The peak rate for this was 325k. I was tank, so my queues were always instant, and the peak rate was a group of 5 who moved through 4 normal dungeons in a little over an hour. By the end of that time, I was actually feeling pretty comfortable in tanking, a first for me.
- Average XP/hour in battlegrounds (Alterac Valley, specifically): During the course of the battleground, either 100k (loss or turtle) or 350k (quick win). When a team heads to Frostwolf and captures those towers immediately, you get about a 10-15 minute battle (depending how good people are at defending towers), which gives 110k XP. (This is with Galv/All Towers/Drek).
- Average XP/hour questing: 350k with normal flying, 450k with epic flying.
- Average XP/hour grinding invaders north of Valgarde Keep, up through level 74: 700k.
The last one gets dull repetitively, and is a great way to keep yourself from getting any of the gear you need, but if you’re really tired of dungeon running, questing, etc. and are 100k from a level, being a prot paladin and attacking the forever-respawning invaders north of Valgarde Keep is godly. Immediately outside the gates, stand in front of the wall on the western side, just to the right of the three defenders who defend that wall. When invaders start coming in, Hand of Reckoning, Avenger’s Shield, Consecration, etc.. — the goal is to get as many mobs attacking you as possible (for Blessing of Sanctuary mana gains via blocks). Use Seal of Light, and Judgement of Wisdom, and keep up Divine Plea once you get it (71), and you should have no downtime at all.
I also used this spot to level my priest: the rate there was slower (~400k/hr, when not rested), but still valuable.
Levels 78 and 79 each took approximately 4 hours of playtime. 76/77 were a bit faster — Grizzly Hills + Zul’drak questing is pretty speedy with an epic flying mount. Storm Peaks and Northrend don’t even compare for pure speed.
This leveling experience helped reaffirm for me how much I love the Storm Peaks zone. One of the things I’m most disappointed with was that because of when I joined the game, I never really got to spend much time in Ulduar: having gone through the Storm Peaks fully (getting the questing achievement in that zone and no other, this time around), the lore behind the keepers, where they’ve gone, Loken’s betrayal of Thorim, the Sons of Hodir/Thorim storyline, etc. are all extremely awesome. I understand that to long-time players of Warcraft, the Lich King and Icecrown Citadel probably hold more sway, but I’ll always prefer the mechanical tinkerings of Ulduar.
Overall, hitting 80 again is an awesome feeling, and I’m looking forward to having a chance to tank once I get nearer that silly defense cap.