Cataclysm is being released in just over a month. The Balance tree seems to be finished for Cataclysm from Blizzards point of view. I've killed every 25man boss on hard mode and completed all of the meta achievements. I am officially in a holding pattern just waiting for Cataclysm.
Not only am I in a holding pattern in the game, but the blog is in a bit of a holding pattern as well. There just isn't much to talk about at the moment, and looking at the other moonkin bloggers they seem to feel the same way. I took a look back at what I wrote before WotLK came out to try and get some ideas, and the only one that popped out was my expansion in review post. So, lets take a look back at WotLK.
The Nexus - To be honest I had a hard time picking my favorite 5man instance because none of hem really stuck out, but I always thought The Nexus was pretty well done. It had a decent length, and a nice variety of bosses with interesting mechanics. I wouldn't say I absolutely loved the instance, but if all the Cataclysm instance turned out like The Nexus I would be happy.
Least Favorite 5man: It's a Tie.
Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom - This one is a little funny because I actually listed Herald Volazj as a fun fight in my WotLK first impressions post two years ago. However, I have to include it as one of my least favorite instances, because every time it popped up on the LFD tool, I was disappointed. I could handle Oculus and Halls of Stone without a problem, but Old Kingdom was always a pain in the neck. I think it's because everyone seemed to do it a little differently. I never knew what bosses or trash we were doing, plus I suffered through some truly horrible tanks in this instance.
Trial of the Champion - Overall it was a horribly designed instance. I am not someone who is against vehicle fights, but the jousting mechanic sucked. It was a basic free-for-all that didn't really require any control or skill. When you finally got off the horses, the three mobs you had to kill were basic tank and spanks. Eadric the Pure and Confessor Paletress were only a slight improvement. The Black night did have a little flavor and complexity to him, but in my opinion it was too little too late. Combine this with massively long RP and this instance became incredibly boring.
Ulduar - I didn't like everything about Ulduar, but it was easily the best designed Raid Instance in WotLK. Most of the bosses where well designed and there was great variety. The hard modes in most cases actually changed the way the fight worked. The fights were tuned really well. My biggest complaint about Ulduar is that ToC was released to early and pushed it to the back burner before a lot of good guilds had a chance to complete it.
Least Favorite Raid:
Naxxramus - Just so you get a better sense of where I'm coming from, I never raided Naxx before WotLK. My first experience with it was in early December 2008, but Naxx's two big problems became apparent very quickly.
First, Naxx was way to easy. I understand that it is a first tier raid, but other then a couple of bosses like Thadius it provided almost no challenge. This was before the addition of Hard Modes as a rule, so there is no way that so many guilds should have been able and clear the instance in it's first week of real attempts.
The second problem Naxxramus had was that it was a relic of an earlier time. Have you ever had a friend or parent tell you how great this old movie is and then not see what all the fuss is about when you actually watch it? That is how I feel about Naxxramus. I understand why they brought it back, I understand why it was great back in the day, but it clearly didn't live up to more current design standards. Most of the Naxx bosses had only one or two mechanics that you really had to pay attention to. If you take a look at Karazhan, Gruul and Mag, you can see that the fights were much more complicated. Naxx was great in its day, but on fortunately it's day had passed.
Mimiron - Mimiron is probably going to top almost everyone's list, but I am having a hard time identifying a better fight. On normal mode it was a complicated four phase fight that required a lot of coordination. On hard mode, the addition of the fire made it insane. Having limited and unpredictable space forced the raid to think on the fly and adapt the strategy on an attempt by attempt basis. I was very frustrated at times with this fight, but it was also very satisfying.
Runner Up: Malygos - I know some of you will disagree with me on this but I thought Malygos was a great fight. Phase one was fun and interesting trying to manage the sparks for additional DPS. Phase 2 was a nice balancing act of keeping your self safe, but trying to kill the disks as fast as possible. Phase three was a great example of a vehicle fight done right in my opinion. It was a little difficult operating in a 3D environment but there were clear ways to succeed and clear ways to fail. Overall, a very well designed encounter in my opinion.
Least Favorite Fight:
Hodir - It's a little funny that my least favorite fight comes from my favorite raid instances, but the Hodir fight annoys me to no end. My problem with it was that there was no difference between normal mode and Hard mode. It really should have been called lazy mode and normal mode, because if you couldn't be bothered to figure out how the buffs worked and try and use them to your advantage then you were lazy. The other big problem was that it was easy to fail the hard mode but kill the boss on accident. There nothing like ruining a raid night because your DoTs kill a boss a couple of seconds to late.
Most Disappointing Fight:
Gunship - I could easily call Gunship my least favorite fight, but it fails so much that it deserves its own category. I think what's most disappointing about this fight is that it sounded awesome when they mentioned it at Blizzcon, but it turned out to be completely face roll. I think they were trying to make another fight like Karazhan's Chess encounter, but Gunship had several problems Chess didn't. First, a large number of players spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for adds to spawn. I was so bored on one of my kills I spent the entire time trying to see how high I could get on the horde boat as an Alliance Player. The second problem was that all of the mechanics lacked teeth. While the boss and some of the adds could hit hard there was much to worry about for the raid as a whole. Heck, you could stand in void zones and no one would care. Finally there was no reasonable way to fail the encounter other then a mistake by a key player like a tank.
Getting Immortal - Wrath of the Lich King is littered with horror stories about the Immortal achievement. I can probably only look back on it fondly because I eventually completed it while it was still relevant, but it was a monumental effort. We spent weeks on it, and had countless near misses with single deaths KT or some other stupid boss. We finally got it on April 1st just a couple of weeks before Ulduar was released and earned the T7 Meta mounts. It was an awesome feeling to complete that achievement, and clearly showed LoE was an awesome guild despite raiding half the time that most other guilds did.
A lot of people like to say Immortal was all about RNG. I agree that there is a decent chunk of RNG involved, but to say that it's all about RNG is just an excuse. When we failed one week, we figured out how not to fail like that again next week. If we couldn't trust some one to do what was needed they got sat. Overall, this achievement taught me to think about my own survival. I probably wouldn't be the raider I am today without it.
What Blizzard did right in WotLK:
Adding hard modes - The balance and design of Hard Modes hasn't always been right, but the concept is a home run in my opinion. I am not one of those people who thinks you have to be hardcore to see content, and with hard modes it's possible to provide difficult content for those interested in the progression race and regular content for those that just want to see content without being hardcore.
Balancing on the fly - Before WotLK the philosophy seemed to be that balancing should primarily happen when you release a new expansion. As a moonkin I would look at every patch hoping for a little buff here or a little buff their, but they rarely came. In WotLK the philosophy clearly changed, and it was for the better in my opinion. I love that, Blizzard was willing to make adjustment through out the expansion when they were needed. Now that we are on the door step to Cataclysm, I'm not worried that not all of the issues have been fixed. I'm now confident that Blizzard will continue to look at the problems and make adjustments when necessary.
What Blizzard did wrong in WotLK:
Wimping out on Hard modes - As I said above I think hard modes are a great addition to the game, but towards the end of the expansion Blizzard seemed to get lazy in their design. In Ulduar, doing a hard mode actually changed the fight. In most cases the bosses gained new abilities or a mechanic was added that changed the way the fight worked. After Ulduar most of the hard modes could be summed up in one statement: "The boss hits harder and more adds spawn." With a couple of exceptions the ICC strats didn't change much from normal mode to hard mode. So, all hard modes meant was that you were wiping to the thing you killed last week for 13 more ilevel points.
No sense of progression in WotLK raids - I'm having a hard time describing what I mean. In TBC, guilds progressed from Kara, Mag, and Gruul to SSC and TK, and then to Hyjal and BT. A guild could progress at its own pace and there was a purpose for completing content before moving on to the next one. In WotLK, once Ulduar was released Naxxramus was dead. As much as ToC sucked, it pretty much halted relevant Ulduar progression, and so one. Once a new patch comes out there is little incentive to go back and see the old content in anyway that is challenging.
Now, I'm not suggesting that Blizzard should go back to the big TBC style attunement quests, but I would like to see something that forces guilds and/or players to progress rather then start again as if the 3 month break they just took didn't happen. I think it would be possible to create a reasonable system with guild wide attunements and possibly restricting them to hard modes, but I think it's a little to easy to get into the highest level of progression currently.
I do have a couple posts planned for the time between now and the release of Cataclysm. I hope to have a new gear guide up before the release of Cataclysm. My raid guide should also be fairly easy to update for level 85 and patch 4.0.3. I also have a post on Leveling guides written that I will post once I know a little bit more about the various 80-85 being sold. I'm also thinking about a couple of other pieces like "Blizzard's unfinished Moonkin business" and a "Cata preview" from my experiences on the Beta.