I am endlessly intrigued to find players judging the difficulty of the encounters and how long lived the content is by how pro players, some of the most skilled and focused players in the world, engage the content. It's a little like judging the difficulty of juggling eight chainsaws by what the best jugglers in the world can accomplish. Sure, it might be easy for them, but when was the last time you tried it?Call me a homer if you want, but I agree with Blizzard's take on this situation. I find it difficult to judge an entire tier on the progression of a few elite guilds. Here are my reasons why.
The content wasn't designed to be 'quick'. It was designed to be epic, engaging, challenging and fun. It can accomplish those goals without being punishing.(src)
Elite Players vs. The Rest of Us:
Let me ask you this. What if a new golf course was opened in your area and as a promotion they had Tiger Woods come and play an early round to generate publicity. Would you say that the course was too easy if Tiger Woods hit 15 under par in that round? If the course was designed to be a championship level course then probably, but if it's intended to service the local population then maybe not.
If the WoW endgame was intended to test the most elite players then I would agree that Firelands is too easy, but that isn't the case. The raid encounters are designed with a broader population in mind.
The funnier part of this argument in my opinion is that as far as I know, the members of Paragon and the other 17 guilds that are 6/7 aren't the ones making this argument as of yet. If they want to say that Firelands is too easy, just as Ensidia did after Tier 7 content WotLK, then they may have a point since they've seen most of the content. However, many of the players I see complaining aren't even close to the 6/7 standard. I always think it's funny when players complain that they are bored or that content is to easy, when they haven't completed the content that is available to them. It's little like when my children tell me they don't like a food when they haven't even tasted it yet.
How Did They Get to 6/7 HM?
It’s also important to ask is how those guilds got to 6/7 in one week. We should remember that the Elite Guilds like Paragon approach new content much differently than a vast majority of guilds do.
PTR Experience: First and foremost, the Elite Guilds were on the PTR when most of the guilds are not. Tuesday July 5th wasn't the first time those guilds had seen these fights. So the first question is did they really get 6/7 after just one week of trying or do you have to consider the time they spent on the PTR. It's true that the PTR versions of these fights are not exactly the same as the Live versions, but the basic mechanics are the same. Adjusting to these modifications shouldn't be as difficult as learning the fight from scratch like a majority of guilds. I think it's very telling that the one fight that wasn't tested on the PTR is the only fight that wasn't killed last week.
Raiding Schedule: It's also very important to consider the elite guilds raid schedule. Blood Legion was already 2/7 Hard Modes before I left work last Tuesday. The elite guilds take extraordinary measures to get World Firsts at the start of a new raiding tier. They take of work and raid very long hours to try and get to kills first. I guarantee you that all 18 of those guilds at 6/7 raided at least 30 or 4o hours last week, and I would be willing to bet that many of them raided more than 60 hours last week. At the same time, most "Hardcore" guilds raid less then 20 hours a week now. Since the elite guilds put in significantly more hours you can't really compare the progression of more normal guilds to the elite guild, because their first week of raiding was equivalent to three weeks of raiding for the other guilds
Exploiting Staghelm: Being at the bleeding edge of content means that you encounter bugs and such before anyone else. Most of the time this isn't a good thing, every so often a guild comes up with a strategy that Blizzard hasn't thought of that significantly reduces the fight's difficulty. And in Firelands we have that situation with Majordomo Staghelm.
In case you hadn't heard there is a new Strategy that basically turns Majordomo Staghelm in to Patchwerk. If you've done the fight you know that it's a big dance switching him between forms with lots of stacking and spreading out. The longer he says in one form the more damage he deals and the more you switch him the more damage he deals. So the basic strat is to keep him in one form as long as you can take it and then switch.
In the new strat, guilds have used a Beast Master Hunter to tank the boss in Scorpion form with his pet. The Scorpion form's Flame Scythe is considered AoE damage and therefore didn't hit the pet. Every one else stands behind the boss doing as much DPS as possible without pulling threat off the pet. This basically takes every single one of the bosses abilities off the table. You don't have Cat form, Human form, or Flame Scythe. Since the raid is stacked behind the boss and not taking damage they also get full stacks of Concentration without any difficulty and can do 100% more damage. Literally, the fight is all about not pulling threat at this point.
Obviously this is a VERY clever strategy, but it's also clearly an exploit (though I doubt anyone will get banned for it). I guarantee you Blizzard won't be happy that someone discovered a way to completely avoid all of the bosses abilities and turn the fight into a tank and spank. I guarantee you that in the next few days you will see a hotfix that allows pets to get hit by Flame Scythe or something to that effect. So it's important to remember that some of the guilds that got to 6/7 this week got there because they used a strategy that most likely won't be available to the rest of us this week.
What Haven't We Seen?
WoW is six and a half years old, and in that time Blizzard has created hundreds of raid bosses. If you consider 5-mans that number goes even higher. At this point it's got to be difficult for Blizzard to come up with new abilities and fight mechanics that we haven't seen before or can't immediately throw into a bucket on how to deal with it. We have addons like Deadly Boss Mods and Power Auras that help us to know when we are standing in something bad or if there is an ability coming up that we need to avoid. If a mob needs to be kited or interrupted we have our go-to classes and players who we know can handle the job.
This isn't to say that Blizzard can't or won't come up with new and unique mechanics that will throw us for a loop. However, we as a player base are more educated about fight mechanics than we ever were in the past. When Blizzard throws a new ability at us most of the time it fits one of the standard buckets that informs us on how to deal with it. As a result high progression raiders are able to adapt to these new abilities more quickly than people who have not played as long or raided as much.
More 4.2 First Impressions:
I wanted this to be longer and its own post last week, but due to work issues that ship sailed. Anyway here are some quick thoughts on the other bosses in Firelands.
Alysrazor: I've done both aspects of this fight. I've been in the air and on the ground. From the ground it's a fairly standard fight. From the air, it's something completely new. To be honest I've found managing an Eclipse rotation while in the air to be quite difficult. Moving and casting the normal rotation at the same time is strange enough, but having to focusing on where the next Ring of Fire is took some of my attention away from making sure I was casting the correct spell.
Overall, I think it's a good fight, and I find the air phase very challenging. My main complaint would be that the Rings of Fire are a little difficult to see given that the entire zone is pretty much orange and they blend in pretty well to the scenery. I would like Blizzard to make them a little more visible.
Baleroc: It's probably different from the point of view of a tank or healer, but as a DPS I found this tank to be very disappointing. There's absolutely nothing to it as a DPSer. If your soaking a crystal all you have to do is make sure you keep the rotation straight. Other then that all you have to so is make sure your not near one of the spawn points and to make sure your not spread out to much to make the soaker's job difficult. Very simple in my opinion, and the heroic version doesn't sound all that impressive either.
Majordomo Staghelm: I've said in the past that my favorite fight of all time is Shade of Aran in Karazhan, and the dance of the Staghelm encounter reminds me of the dance of the Aran encounter. I like having the stack phase and then the spread phase. I like having to manage Searing Seeds and the Burning Orbs. All in all I like this fight.
Ragnaros: I have to say that this is a classic final boss encounter. It has multiple phases that build on each other. Lots of abilities to deal with. I think it has a good balance of complexity and difficulty and is a good fight. I'm not at all disappointed that my guild cleared it in the first week (without any PTR testing experience). As a guild who went 13/13 in tier 11 I think we should be able to pick up the normal modes quickly.
Heroic Shannox: Heroic Shannox was a little disappointing for me. I expected us to get him quicker. We spent about two hours using the wrong strat because we thought it was more like the normal version. Once we figured that out the fight went more smoothly. In generally I think it's a good fight for moonkin because it doesn't require a ton of movement, and our high amounts of damage reduction allow us to eat the immolation traps.
Heroic Rhyolith: We didn't kill this boss this week, but I think I've gotten a good impression of the fight. The heroic version is more complicated than I expected it to be. It's another good fight for moonkin if you can multi-dot and uses your utility well. Fungal Growth and Typhoon are great for dealing with the Obsidians. Our main issue was figuring out the steering and I think we figured that out and the end of our attempts this week. Hopefully he will go down quickly this week.