Yesterday I posted an article detailed a class by class basis of what changes were made in Wrath of the Lich King to create the unfun ‘monster’ that we have before us. My argument is sternly that Burning Crusade wasn’t actually as fun as people remember it was actually just addicting because of how hard it was, but not fun. The focus was showing that Wrath added quite a bit to the play style of classes and even the least fun classes are played better in Wrath than in Burning Crusade with few exceptions. This article will focus on why dungeons are actually better in Wrath than Burning Crusade. I’ll be going tier by tier starting with 5-man dungeons and ending with T10 vs. t9 belt/boots/bracers. But first, currency systems
This one is far longer as well so if you want to get to the points just scroll to the bottom. All the arguments are spelled out in their topics.
Dungeon Gear Currency
In Burning Crusade they introduced a unit of currency called Badges of Justice. They started off only being available in 5-man dungeons but soon ended up being everywhere. In the end people farmed these for no reason and ended the expansion with hundreds of them. I had on me over 500 of them that just went to waste. Blizzard gave a cop out for them in epic gems but people just didn’t take to it. The problem was blizzard kept updating the gear so people constantly saw the need to horde these things in order to get the new stuff. There were four tiers of badge of justice items and with each one came an increased cost of badges of justice. In the end the system favored hording badges in favor of what is coming next. People would do heroic grinds just before every content patch that released new stuff and then buy all of it right away, only to start another badges grind.
Wrath of the Lich King offered a new type of system that was to be anti-hording called emblems. Each tier of content had a different emblem. 10-man naxx/heroics had Emblems of Heroism ending with ICC having Emblems of Frost. As a dump for these blizzard put in place gem vendors which you could spend your emblems on. The idea was you would down rank your current emblem to the smallest one then buy gems. In the end no emblems were wasted and at best you would be earning two types of emblems total. During Ulduar progression there were three types.
What was the problem? It ended up being too complicated and nonsensical. Yes even though it was insanely efficient and made sure no hording took place blizzard decided that having so many tiers was a problem. So much that blizzard unleashed a new achievement (Emblematic) and once you receive that achievement you received a mail informing you of how to use these items. Blizzard simply thought their gamers were retarded and that people didn’t ask other players what to do with these things. Players are apparently too incompetent to understand tiers of emblems so they’re going to be gone.
I’m not going to go through all of them. I’m going to pick the two easiest, the two hardest, and patched dungeons.
Two hardest vs. two hardest
The two hardest Burning Crusade dungeons were on my accounts: Heroic Shattered Halls and Heroic Auchenie Crypts
The two hardest Wrath of the Lich King dungeons were on my accounts: Heroic Halls of Lightning and Heroic Old Kingdom of Ankhanet
First Burning Crusade. I chose Heroic Shattered Halls and Heroic Auchenie Crypts for one main reason: no one did them. Yeah in Burning Crusade the tank got to choose the dungeon and these two had little valuable loot making them not worth while for just badges of justices. Herioc Shattered Halls however was a requirement for an attunement so everyone had to do it at least once.
Heroic Shattered Halls first few pulls were nightmares. It featured the scariest first set of pulls any dungeon could hope to offer. With each advancing pull the number of enemies increased until you got to the final pull which had 12 elites that did stupid damage. I remember on my warrior LoS pulling them into a corner so that I could fear bomb them. This would save me from dying and I’d hope that my one thunder clap would be enough threat for when they’re come roaming back. While they’re running back other crowd controls would get deployed and I’d have to be geared enough to soak in all of the damage. Without proper gear a lot of the times it felt like people would get one shot. All in all this dungeon took about one hour to complete. The funny thing is (pre nerf) the quest you had to complete for attunement required you to do it in under one hour. Your entire guild had to do this unfaithful dungeon and unfortunately not all and in fact not most classes had available CC to use here meaning that a lot of times you’d do the entire dungeon with your elite team and sneak in the ret pally at the end.
Heroic Auchenie Crypts was less challenging and more annoying for three reasons:
- The first room is cluttered with odd patting mobs each has a chance of summoning an extra mob that rewards no XP/rep and on top of that have a chance of mind controlling one of your team mates. That team mate has to be DPSed to 50% health or else they kill you. But depending on the person it could always be a wipe (healer or tank).
- The bridge of doom! These little red balls would form that can be DPSed but not killed and they’d randomly fling you in a random direction. Every now and then they’d fling you off of the bridge and you instantly die. Your group has to wait 5-10 minutes for you to get back because the graveyard is in a very crappy place in relation to the dungeon.
- That last boss hit like a mack truck. So few people did this boss until the nerf but maybe people need a memory refresher. The boss applied mortal strike and each swing would take away about 20% of your health pool. On top of that every 30 seconds he would clone one of your team mates and that person would go after the healer and start using class specific moves. Nothing like having your healer HoJed right? Then at 19% he spawned a super mega add that did mirror damage to him and also applied the mortal strike debuff…. one that stacked. If your group couldn’t burn from 19 to 0 before healer became overwhelmed it was game over.
After doing the place once a group realizes pretty quickly that it required too much co-ordination and not enough reward. The dungeon was simply not done.
Now compare to Halls of Lightning and Old Kingdom.
halls of Lightning only really had two things to it that make it kind of hard:
- The trash before Loken could one-shot your melee via some sort of spell thrusting double whirlwind move unless they were interrupted. But there were three of them so one interrupt per mob or use LoL crowd control. Usually melee would just die and you would rez them after the pull, no biggie.
- Loken for low geared healers was a pain. The further from him you were the more damage you took. So some people went with the whole stack up strat while others went with the run out for vicious AoE strat. The stack up strat was always funny because every now and then you’d have someone viciously undergeared who would just get one-shot by it. Less funny: it’s the healer
I don’t even know where to start with Old Kingdom. The whole place is a pain. At the beginning of the dungeon you have trash that launch off one-shot missiles unless interrupted or spell reflected. Later on you have giants that AoE fear. In the same room you have ghostly caster who put a magic debuff that will lock you out of your spells if its not dispelled (similar to Deathwhisper curse). The Blood Prince sucked if someone wasn’t topped up then got chosen. No one understood the shrooms boss so that was just a wipe fest. Cyclone strike on the second last boss one-shot melee for no apparent reason at all. Finally the creme de la creme. The last boss would clone everyone and turn them against you in your own little world where everyone including healer and tank would have to kill their clones.
When I describe all four dungeons they all seem to be pretty hard until you realize that Burning Crusade dungeons took one hour, Wrath dungeons took 15 minutes. In the end most of the hardest parts of Old Kingdom could and are skipped. I don’t think people leave Halls of Lightning groups anymore but people definitely do ditch on Old Kingdom. As far as difficulty goes Old Kingdom might be up there with um… Ramparts?
As far as positioning goes both Old Kingdom and Auchenie Crypts (which were hard due mostly to annoyances not boss mechanics) are mid-ranged dungeons 65 and 75. Halls of Lightning and Shattered Halls are 80 and 70 dungeons respectively.
Two weakest vs. two weakest
Two weakest dungeons in my mind for BC were: Heroic Mechanar and Heroic Slave Pens
For Wrath: Utgard Keep and Azjol-Nerub
Let’s face it Slave Pens and Mechanar are 10x harder than Utgard Keep and Azjol-Nerub. But that’s the easiest that BC had to offer.
Slave Pens was a mass AoE pull dungeon with no crowd control. With the exception of one set of mobs nothing in there hit very hard. It presented a smooth run. Similarly Mechanar was also a pretty smooth run with very few boss mechanics to worry about. There was that one boss with the pluses and minuses. And then the fire boss who had to be kited away from infernals but really nothing that couldn’t be handled by any group.
Utgard Keep and Azjol-Nerub offered a similar feel, very short dungeons with limited boss mechanics to deal with. There were nightmares like a poor healer on the second boss of Utgard Keep or a tank who pulled the spider before she webbed off reinforcements. But nothing that a group of people who are new to the game couldn’t handle.
What’s the difference between it all? A Burning Crusade heroic even the easy ones required competence, people had to know what they were doing. In Wrath it was limited to the tank or the healer (but not both). Wrath only requires a good tank or a good healer. Burning Crusade you needed both. The easiest heroics required you to complete at least the first wing of the first raid (Karazhan). The easiest heroics for Wrath could be completed in blues and greens. This means it takes roughly 1-2 months to do a BC heroic and yet only a week or so to do a Wrath heroic. This kind of mechanic made it very hard for people to get into PvE, not to mention raiding. Raiding has actually tripled in size since BC has gone. Accessibility has made it so that more people can raid. Without having to deal with tedious over challenging heroics people have been able to get gear quite easily. In the old system you had to earn your gear through repair bills. I wiped in mechanar a good 5-6 times before I got the heroic cleared, Utgard Keep was a full no death clear.
I should also note for a beginner making Utgard Keep the easiest just made sense. It was the first dungeon. How is someone supposed to know that they should start farming heroics out of a level 63 and level 70 dungeon? We brought two healers to Heroic Ramparts and I was still getting damn near one-shot. Fact is, there is always going to be one or two easier heroics, doesn’t it at least make sense to have the starter dungeon be the easiest?
New content vs. new content
Finally the creme de la creme of 5-man dungeons… new content vs. new content.
On the part of Burning Crusade they only released one 5-man dungeon and that is Magister’s Terrace. The hardest of the new ones released is obviously Halls of Reflection. Each one of these is a different kind of difficult but in the end Magister’s Terrace takes the cake.
Magister’s Terrace offered you SSC/TK quality loot, that’s two tiers down. Comparatively Halls of Reflection offered 232 Trial of the Crusader quality loot (one tier down). this means that the final 5-man was more of a push into the final tier for one than the other (pst Wrath wins).
Magister’s Terrace was for all intensive purposes is a better dungeon. Magister’s Terrace had more interesting bosses with DPS essential interactive components. On the first boss you had to break those hour glasses. On the second boss you had to share kiling the orbs so the dot they give didn’t one-shot you. On the third boss(es) you had to kite around aggroless boss boss composing of a 5v5 filled with mobs that CC, heal, and mortal strike. And the final boss you had to dodge damage, interupt a pyroblast, kill ads, break eggs and for god sakes don’t touch the ground! The problem however was that the gearing requirements for Magister’s Terrace were very high. This meant that only a small percentage of the game could go there and that fresh 70s (the people who needed it first) would have to be carried in raids before they could enter MagTer (I wish the accronym MrT would have caught on).
Halls of reflection on the other hand felt like it was testing how much gear DPS had, whether a tank could AoE heal and whether a healer has enough spell power for ICC. If anything Halls of Reflection was a gear test for ICC-10. The bosses were all lame and was a giant pile of killing trash. There were dispelllable things but it was so healing intensive that blizzard didn’t want to burden healers with even more responsibility so they made them all short duration. There is a kill order but it ends up not mattering a bunch as long as you have tones of AoE stuns. The gear requirements for this dungeon were obscenely low. It took me two days total to unlock Halls of Reflection on my fresh 80 death knight. To be fair sometimes it does feel like mobs in here are one-shotting when there are two rogues out doing tones of poison damage.
As a lore element MagTer was a let down. I spent one month killing Kael’thas. It took me 5 minutes this time around.
First Tier content
So for the record, the first tier of content for Burning Crusade is Tier 4 (Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, and Magtheridon’s Lair). The first Tier of content for Wrath of the Lich King is Tier 7 (Naxxramas, Obsidian Sanctum, and Eye of Eternity). I will be excluding the Vault of Archavon from this article because it was a unique scaling dungeon.
Karazhan vs. Naxxramas
Karazhan for all intensive purposes had a strong design goal. Blizzard wanted to make the dungeon as hard as 40-man Naxxramas but tailor it down for 10 people so that it was accessible. Their design goal for the remainder of the expansion was to have the main dungeon be a 10-man and single and duo boss dungeons be 25-man. It just ended up that people enjoyed 25-mans more in the beta so SSC and TK were re-scaled to be 25-mans, leaving Karazhan as a solo 10-man (until ZA comes out) that sticks out. Before anyone denies it, Karazhan WAS hard. The way to gage how difficult it was, was to go in with newly geared blues tanks and see how far newbies can go. I was our guild’s main tank at launch and I hit 70 first. In Havoc-Tortheldrin (top guild on the server) we spent two months in Kara trying to build up a strong enough player base to take on 25-mans. The 10-man > 25-man dynamic was weird and completely non-synthetic feeling. In 10-man you had 2 tanks, 3 healers and 5 DPS. In 25-man you had 1-5 tanks, 6-9 healers and 11-18 DPS. This meant to make the jump from 10-mans to 25-mans you needed to have a fairly wide array of people with you.
As far as Karazhan went it was a nightmare. Early on the place REQUIRED warrior tanks and REQUIRED paladin healers. Health pools were too low and healers could not withstand the ticks of damage from the Maiden of Virtue so a holy paladin was required to place blessing of sacrifice on a tank to make sure his repentence broke from tank damage. Every now and then you’d get a holy pally who lets it fall off and there’s a wipe. The Opera event was a nightmare waiting to happen. Since there were three potential bosses it meant that you had to explain the boss fight within the one minute that they gave you for setup time. Keep in mind, an average boss explanation in Burning Crusade was 20 minutes long. Once you got these two down you would go back to Moroes who was a healer nightmare. Moroes had 4 ads with him with different abilities and different priorities. Some of them were healers, some of them stunned and some of them just spammed attacks on players. Tanks couldn’t actually tank these guys so they had to be crowd controlled and kited one at a time. This meant that you required THREE CROWD CONTROLS THAT COULD CC UNDEAD. Do you know how hard that is to find? In our first kill we had a holy pally turn undead one, a hunter freezing trap one, and a priest shackle one. Yes, two of our healers were doing the crowd controls. Moroes would also occassionally garote a random raid member and cause them to bleed. This is where the holy pally came in, he would bubble one off and use blessing of protection on the other. The second half of the wing featured a boss that required a warlock or paladin tank, a dps only boss with a strict enrage timer, a spectral dragon that required pin-point co-ordination to kill and a final boss that when hasted could two-shot a tank so three tanks had to pour heals into him.
Comparing this to 10-man Naxxramas isn’t fair. 10-man Naxxramas had half the boss mechanics of 25-man Naxx and had 1/10 of the damage, 1/10 of the DPS requirements, and 1/10 the experience. But on the side of 10-man Naxxramas, I’ll say this…. you were adequately prepared. Karazhan was the first place in all of Burning Crusade to get epics, heroics were too hard. 10-man Naxxramas was the 12th dungeon you could do to get gear and it provided a smooth experience. We cleared it as a guild (Sparda-Gilneas) in our first night and strategically ninjaed epics to high DPS, druid/priest healers, and our main tank (me). This gave us all the tools we needed to do 25-man Naxxramas.
25-man Naxxramas did have SOME challenges to it. Grobbulus required DPS to move when they got the slime and a half-competent kiting tank. Instructor Ravuzius did require two priests to do mind controls and to do it well. Kel’thezzad did require people to not stand in black holes. But for all the difficulties this dungeon may have given you, they were all fabricated, in the end you could heal through all of them. The trash was just a straight clear with no need for control or discussion about any particular mechanics. Boss explanations consisted of “there’s AoE damage” or “there are ads kill them” or my favorite “IF YOU STAND IN A BLACK CIRCLE YOU ARE AN IDIOT.”
Side note, boulder speech: “A boulder is falling on top of you and you look down and see a shadow under you. The boulder’s travel time is roughly 10 seconds before it inevitably hits the ground and crushes you. If you stand in black circles you will die in real life to falling boulders.”
Moving on. Naxxramas provided what Karazhan couldn’t, a beginner’s experience. Naxxramas made it so nearly the entire game got to experience some sort of raiding. If people could not find 3 tanks for 25-man Naxx they could run the 10-man version. People got a feeling for the difference between 5-man groups and a raid environment where boss mechanics change slighly and group dynamic becomes even more important. It took a group about one week to gear up for Eye of Eternity compared to the three months it took to get 5 tanks geared for Magtheridon’s Lair.
As a final stab at Karazhan, Karazhan required you to do a long chain that involved completing 4 5-man dungeons and about 5 hours of world travel to get to quest givers and objectives. One of the 5-man dungeons you did had to be unlocked by getting the “Key to Arcatraz” by completing Mechanar and Botanica. Naxxramas you just flew into.
Gruul’s Lair vs. Sartharion
Gruul’s Lair was tough and unfortunately hard to build a group for. Gruul himself was not that hard. Gruul is the second boss in halls of stone where if you stand next to each other you shatter each other and if too many are stacked you die, except with 25-man. The simple boss required you to run spread out and not stand next to each other during shatter. The boss required two high threat tanks and people to not stand in AoE, and an enrage timer that scaled upward with tank and healer gear… a pragmatically simple boss…. it was High King Maulgar that gave everyone troubles. High King Maulgar required a mage tank with a decent amount of health points (hard to find in those days), one good warlock or two bad warlocks, a ret paladin or fury warrior tank, two geared off tanks, two hunters or a feral druid and one geared main tank. So this will be a boss strat right here. If you want to skip over this section and watch the 8-minute video go ahead it’s posted below:
Maulgar has 4 ads total each with special abilities. The first ad to kill is a healer, this is tanked by a weaker geared tank or a geared ret paladin (LoLWHUT?). This mob gets stunned up by rogues as DPS nuke it down. The goal here is to get it down in under 2 minutes so that healing doesn’t become too intense. The Maulgar healers will eventually OOM because they are spamming the main tank so as each ad dies healers need to go to the main tank and spam him so that other healers can regenerate mana. The second ad to die is going to be te one tanked by two hunters. It is tanked by two hunters mainly because it does this AoE knock back and sheeps it’s tank target. So you want two ranged to be on it, hunters just happen to be perfect for it. After this ad dies you split up your DPS between two ads. The melee go to the warlock ad who is tanked by two tanks and two warlocks.
The warlock ad is uniquely difficult and requires 1/5 of your raid to pay attention to him. The warlock ad will death coil it’s main tank target and drop aggro off that target so it requires two tanks to switch back and forth (he’s tauntable). The warlock also summons a fel puppy. This fel hunter will silence anyone caught casting a heal and will one-shot anything that’s not a tank (3-shots tanks). So what you do is have one good warlock enslave the fel hunter and use it to your advantage. Some people like to use it to off-tank the warlock boss for a little bit since it does high damage/threat and has a taunt. Others like to stick it on the hunter boss and have it tank it. Either way after so long a second simultaneous fel hunter is going to come out and a warlock is going to need to banish it and use it later on. Fel hunters can’t really be used the whole fight despite their high DPS so eventually they have to be tossed into the maw of Maulgar’s vicious damage.
The final boss to die is the mage boss, tanked by a mage with high HP. The high HP is so that the mage tank can survive a single hit of fireball every minute or so. The mage spell steals a buff off of the fire boss called fire shield that eats the majority of the fire damage. Important note that anyone in melee range gets blast waved so ranged are responsible for kiling this one off. Since melee generally start stronger than ranged this is the last ad to die. I remember when someone found out this mob could be counter spelled and he ran up and one-shotted the mage with an auto-swing.
Finally you have High King Maulgar who hits like a mack truck on your tank and does a whirlwind on cooldown that below 40% will spread around the raid and one shot anyone who gets hit by it. Here you have all of your tanks just spam taunts in a triangle to try and keep him under control. Once he comes out of the whirlwind you have all your tanks pop their cooldowns so they can survive a couple of hits (since they’re not your main tank they can’t take too many).
If you watched the video the pull for this fight is complicated too. You need to get 5 mobs to 5 tanks with a limited number of misdirects. The mage opens with a high damage cast with a travel time so he’s fine. The warlock ad sits there and summons a fel hunter so he’s fine. This means that Maulgar needs to get to the main tank, the healer ad has to get to the crappy tank and the hunters have to pick up the hunter boss. This kind of sucks if you only have two hunters (which is what we had). So your group makeup for the first boss is: 3 hunters, 2 warlocks, 1 mage, 8 healers, 4 tanks, 7 other DPS. Your group makeup for Gruul is: two tanks, 7 healers, 16 other DPS. It kind of sucked in a world without duel speccing to have to sit people and bring in new people. But that’s how it went.
The loot from Gruul was mostly garbage. Most famously is this prize. It was used in the opening video for Burning Crusade by a draeini paladin and is a marquee item. However it was a 2-hander with spell power on it, presumably for a retribution paladin…. however even ret paladins went for strength 2-handers making it useless. It seemed to drop every time and go to some random latin RPing holy pally.
That was a pretty long story about Gruul’s Lair, let me catch my breath.
Okay moving on.
Sartharion’s Obsidian Sanctum on the other hand was not nearly as challenging… or was it? Blizzard made it so the 25-man dropped 7 items and the 10-man dropped 5 items. Every time you killed a drake you would lose one of those unique items and the boss would also get easier as a result. This made it so that people would could do the boss with a regular 25-man makeup (2 tanks, 5 healers 18 DPS). However let’s say you want to get all that extra loot. You are now required to bring: 3 geared tanks, 6 healers, and 15 DPS. Well holy crap that’s actually not that big of a step up. The raid make up required for the hardest difficult of Sartharion (three drakes) is your STANDARD for a raid. If you want to wimp it down you can do so and require less tanks.
I’ll be fair to this encounter the 10-man version did get obscenely wonky and non-sensical. You were required to bring 3 tanks, 3 healers and 4 DPS. You need one tank who could tank two drakes at the same time and another tank who could tank all the fire ads and one drake at the same time.. while needing a main tank to eat breaths for a good 5-6 minutes. In total the fight was going to take 11 minutes. Just before Ulduar gets released a group of the world’s highest melee DPS grab a single paladin tank and a single paladin healer and kill Sartharion before a second drake is able to land. In the end once you had full Naxx gear you could zerg down OS-10… Gruul’s Lair always required precise organized groups and a perfect pull.
Magtheridon’s Lair vs. Eye of Eternity
As far as difficulty goes this is probably the only fight where you will see something that is remotely even. Both brought new elements to the game that required players to act quickly and react fast. This is one of the few ‘hard’ dungeons blizzard created for Wrath of the Lich King… however Eye was far more accessible.
On the part of Magtheridon’s Lair there was no attunements required for it, while Eye of Eternity had a key requirement. HOWEVER the key was earned by killing equal numbers (10 for 10 25 for 25) Sapphron in Naxxramas. It was probably impossible to meet the Malygos (of Eye of Eternity) enrage timer if you didn’t have some Naxx gear in your guild, not to mention the extreme healing requirements. Strat below for Mag’s Lair once again posting a video on it.
To start Magtheridon’s Lair required an extremely broken group make up. The room had 6 casters total channeling into Magheridon supposedly keeping him banished. Each one of these needs to be tanked and held in place. Each tank needs either their own healer or a really good healer taking on two tanks. The raid stands in the middle of the room and nukes down the ads. The first ad gets tanked by a DPS since it doesn’t last too long. Every other ad needs a designated tank though. If a tank does not have an interrupt (prot paladins/feral druids) they need to have a fury warrior or a rogue with them to kick. Each ad will cast a healing spell on low health targets (the ones you’re trying to kill) this has to be interrupted. If the ads are not killed in time Magtheridon becomes active too early and it’s a wipe. Once Magtheridon is active there should be around 2 ads left and they need to die in time.
Okay so let’s phase 2 it. Magtheridon is loose and he does quite a bit of tank damage. Every now and then he’s going to knock the ground a bit doing little damage. The key here is it knocks people out of place. You are going to have 5 dedicated “clickers.” Clickers need to simultaneously click on cubes to banish Magtheridon before he can do his one-shot attack. At about 35% the roof falls in and if you don’t move out of falling roof you get one shot. He still does the earthquake and still cube clicking.
Simply put no one farmed Magtheridon because it was so hard. Instead people would run it occassionally for a quest that blizzard released that had no apparent reward at the time.
Eye of Eternity on the other hand had equally unique mechanics. Since it’s fresher I’ll only list them out. Sparks when killed went on the ground increasing damage. He cycloned people meaning healers had to get everyone up quick. Frontal cone breath with living bomb component that nearly one-shotted tanks. Phase 2 saucers flying around killing ads. Finally phase 3 learning how to use a dragon and how to heal or dps with it.
All things being equal in difficulty Magtheridon ends up taking the cake. EoE required one tank total, Magtheridon’s Lair took 5 nearly 6. On top of that the tanks in Magtheridon’s Lair had to be warriors otherwise you’d need to bring more rogues and fury warriors. In the end the Burning Crusade raiding experience was inaccessible unless you were a 40-man guild that had the plus or minus 15 people that you would need to bring to these sorts of encounters.
Second Tier Content
For the record for Burning Crusade the second tier includes Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep and Zul’Aman. For Wrath of the Lich King the second tier of content is Ulduar.
In fairness I will be talking about the 48 hour nerfed Ulduar, not the fully buffed one. However for Burning Crusade I will be talking about a nerfed Kael’thas (as Kael’thas was only killed by one guild un-nerfed).
I will say that both of these tiers were comparatively challenging the deeper you got into them, however there are maddening differences between them. I’m going to try and link bosses from each to Ulduar the best that I can. Before that I should note that SSC required 2 heroic clears to become attuned (not that bad) while TK required 4 heroic clears (including Arcatraz, Steam Vaults, Shattered Halls and Shadow Labs) as well as one Magtheridon kill. I talked about a kill quest for Mag’s Lair that didn’t really seem to have a logical ending to it, this ended up being the TK attunement quest. Similarly two new quest lines appear, one requiring Kael’thas and Lady Vashj and another requiring the a long chain of quests ending with killing Fathom-Lord Karathresh and Al’ar… and then just ending there for no reason at all.
As far as easiest raid boss I’m going to go with Void Reaver (also known as Loot Reaver) against Flame Leviathan. Flame Leviathan could be done with any raid group at all. Void Reaver on the other hand required 3-4 tanks 6-7 healers and some stellar DPS. Void Reaver was a DPS race with a unique attribute, threat. The 3-4 tanks would get a threat knock off at some point and a tank swap would occur. If you were amazing at your class like me you could hold threat for nearly 100% of the fight. Anyway Flame Leviathan shot balls into the range that had to be dodged so you generally stacked up a pile of melee for this fight. That was it. Flame Leviathan on the other hand ends up being harder. The first mode of it is obscenely simple and nearly impossible to wipe on. But as you keep more towers up and gain access to more loot the content gets harder and harder until it becomes something that takes time to perfect.
Okay moving on I’m going to just take some examples of bosses with unique requirements before I look at end bosses.
How about Freya and Hydross. Hydross required four tanks, two ads tanks and two boss tanks. Each of the boss tanks required capped resistance gear for either frost or nature and would have to move the boss in and out of a threshold point to transform him to the different types. The pay off was that he would gain a stacking buff and you’d move him across the threshold to transform him to a different form of damage and reset the buff. Each time he swapped over though he would unleash 4 ads that would have to be killed by your ranged and melee cleave. The boss had an enrage timer and once it’s up he enrages and aoe one shots the raid.
Freya was a boss who was slightly easier in easy mode but way harder in hard mode. Having three different types of ads she could spawn on regular mode that had to be dealt with she also gained a number of annoying effects like roots, aoe beams and the dreaded bombs in hard mode. This made for a much harder fight to do. Despite Hydross being the first boss of SSC he was one of the last bosses you would actually kill (kill order was Lurker Below then Tidewalker then Fathom-Lord then Hydross).
Maybe a boss with some openly unique raid requirements to it in Ulduar. Hodir was unique in that it was a solo tank fight in Ulduar. Others include Mimiron and General Vezax. Leotheras the Blind was as close to a solo-tank fight that you would get in this tier of content in BC. The fight required one soul linked warlock tank to tank the demon form of Leotheras. The human form was tanked by your regular tank. Every now and then Leotheras would do a whirlwind and hopefully you have other tanks or people with taunts who can keep him away from the raid otherwise it was a wipe. In the third phase he’d split into the two and you’d kill both. It was a relatively easy fight, and so was Hodir. Except with Hodir you had to beat a strict DPS timer. To do this you had to use boss mechanics to win. Ranged would want to stand in a light that gave haste buffs and toasty fires that granted them a stacking dot. The melee would want to be in a haste beam as well. There was also this damaging lightning debuff that when it shocked people it would grant them bonus damage. Your raid would want to run this to your top DPS. While this is all going on ice blocks are falling from the sky and every now and then he’d freeze the room requiring you to stand on a toasty fire your NPC allies help you with. NPCs get frozen every 2 minutes and have to be broken out so that they can help you DPS this boss down. The interesting part was your raid makeup: 1 tank 3 healers 21 DPS.
By this point I can nearly match any boss from the first 4 wings of Ulduar with almost any non-last boss in SSC/TK and show you that the bosses in Ulduar were actually harder than SSC/TK. The thing about SSC/TK that was remotely hard was ridiculous raid make ups featuring too many tanks/healers and special resistance gearing requirements. I will make one minor point: ZA was easy and hard. The whole dungeon was cleared by my guild in one night. The gauntlet requiring 4 boss kills in under 20 minutes took us about a month to get down. We sold ZA mounts for about 4 months. ZA was an example of blizzard’s first optional difficulty encounter that rewarded bonus loot for hard modes. ZA is essentially a Burning Crusade model for what Wrath of the Lich King would become.
The last bosses are horrible imbalanced against each other. The SSC/TK content was out for a full year before the launch of Hyjal and it took guilds roughly that amount of time to kill those bosses. Kael’thas went down after 5 months. Lady Vashj is getting compared to General Vezax and Kael’thas to Yogg’Saron.
Lady Vashj was a complicated 12-minute fight where nothing was intuitive and you just had to learn. The first phase was DPS with one person getting a debuff and having to move out of the raid. The second phase on the other hand required four different groups of 5 (10 people total). In these groups was one ranged preferably affliction locks or hunters and for each side either a dwarven healer or a holy pally (so 5 holy pallies or dwarven priests). The goal of the affliction locks/hunters was to kill low health ads as they spawned through pets, dots and direct damage. Every now and then an ad called a “Corrupted” would spawn. The DPS had to kill it fast before it despawned and then loot it. Once looted the person gained what was called a “Corrupted Core.” This immobilizes the target. The warlock had to send the corrupted core off to his personal healer. His personal healer then sent it off to two different intermediaries whose only goal was to get the Core into a lamp. Each of the four lamps once activated took 10% of the bosses HP away. The healers were healing anyone in range but their main goal was looking for striders. Striders were dangerous and had to either be kited by an affliction lock, an elemental shaman, a hunter or a frost mage. The healer had to stun the strider so that the kiter could launch 2-3 casts on it and grab some aggro. While running the kiter would have to hit some attacks and some snaring moves on it to make sure it’s slowed. The remainder of the DPS (other than melee) are in the middle nuking down the strider with the corrupted DPSers also coming out every now and then and helping. Your melee stacked in the middle and killed cleaving melee ads. The phase ends once the boss has dropped to 40% health. At this point is phase 3 where poison spawns all over the room. The tank has to kite out of the poison and the raid has to stay alive. Little bats are dropping poison and have to be killed until it’s pointless to do so (preferably by a hunter). The AoE dot is back as well so you will be sacrificing some raid members to make sure it doesn’t kill everyone.
Compared to that General Vezax is cake, even in hard mode. The goal of Vezax is your healers taking turns healing the tank and no one else taking any damage at all. This simply requires dedicated people kicking General’s casts and people avoiding slow moving AoE that will target them. There is no mana regen so the mana you start with has to last the whole fight. In the hard mode you can’t pop these clouds for regen so everyone has to be mana efficient, even your DPS. It took my guild roughly 9 attempts to get this hard mode. Lady Vashj took us a month to kill.
Kael’thas and Yogg-0 are both nightmares, I’ll admit that. The funny thing is that despite Kael’thas being an all-around harder boss more people killed him out of necessity. Yes as it turns out the mysterious quests ending with Kael’thas was actually an attunement for Mount Hyjal so once that dungeon was released every single person in your guild was required to kill Kael’thas at least once. HOWEVER no one farmed Kael’thas, and I do mean no one. Once he was dead people just quit the guild and guilds were unable to kill him again until Mount Hyjal came out.
Kael’thas was a 5 phase master piece. First phase involved individual ads with different abilities. One guy just chased random people and walked incredibly slow. Another chick required a warlock tank being spammed and would do an AoE disorient on anyone within melee range of her. The key to her was positioning, she had to be moved to the back of the room and the warlock had to be within 25 yards of her or she’d move but not within 20-yard of her or she’d do the AoE disorient. Another guy annoying would fear your tank and do heavy damage. Then the final guy wound up toys that when sent to you would stun you. The second phase you fought these random collections of weapons. After each weapon died they were lootable by a limited number of people. You wanted alll of your sword rogues to pick up at least one dagger and a legendary sword. You want your 2-handed DPS (if you even have any) to pick up a 2-handed axe. You want your hunter to pick up a bow. You want your healers all to pick up a healing mace. You want your tanks to all have legendary shields and all your casters to have staves. These had about 10x the stats of the weapons you got in that content so they were valuable. Killing them wasn’t easy either as each had moves similar to the classes that used them. The bow multishotted. The shield interrupted spells. The healing mace healed. Usually you’d assign two people to deliver weapons to healers and tanks who are otherwise busy. All of these weapons when equipped had secondary effects. The two important ones were the staff that made you immune to the AoE disorient effect and the shield that when used could absorb 10,000 damage.
Okay you have all the weapons down, now all the ads from phase 1 come alive, hopefully you have them positioned right. They need to be DPSed down fast. Ranged kill the kiting guy. Melee kill the toy trains stun guy. Then melee move on to fear guy and ranged move on to ranged fireballing chick. The key here is that they have to be down nearly before Kael’thas spawns. Kael’thas spawns and the fight changes. Now Kael’thas is going to charge up pyroblasts that he can spam. Pyroblasts do 20,000 damage per shot. Tanks at this time had around 10,000 HP. So in order to survive a tank would have to use his shield and a cooldown. Then use a bigger cooldown for the second one. Kael’thas had this shield that you had to burst and once it was down you could interrupt his spell. This is similar to Twins in ToC with their healing spell. We have 3 tanks in this fight so once one tank died because he ran out of cooldowns the next tank up would taunt and go at it. Kael’thas would spawn these annoying birds that when they died laid eggs and if you didn’t kill them would continuously lay eggs. If you didn’t kill the eggs in time a new bird would spawn and then Kael’thas would summon a new one and then you have two. There were also these AoE patches that people had to move out of and some random Kael’thas blast at the raid. Phase 5 involved you going into the air and dodging balls of doom without touching the ground… as well as fall phase 4 stuff. The fight in total took 24 minutes to kill and 45 minutes to explain.
Yogg’Saron was a different monster of near equal difficulty. Yogg’Saron started with killing ads quickly. If you couldn’t kill the ads in time you’d never get to the next phase and instead would be overwhelmed by ads. Every ad kill got you 10% closer to the next phase until you killed 10 of them. Each time someone stood in black stuff a new ad spawned. Ads spawned on their own naturally so you’d just have your tanks pick them up and DPS them near a little girl (Yogg’Saron’s image) and blow them up on her. Phase 2 involved two aspects one for ranged and one for melee. The ranged part involved killing these giant tenticals. Crusher tenticals would grab random players and immobilize so these had to die. Another tentical applied a -3% dmg debuff and if you had too many of these up you’d never do damage. Then there were these smaller low health tenticals that would just apply random debuffs that had to be dispelled and did damage. For melee you had to go into these portals and kill ads and DPS the brain of Yogg’Saron. The phase ends when Yogg’Saron’s brain hits 35%.
The key here is a new resource blizzard invented for this called Sanity. You start with 100% sanity but every time you take damage from something or look towards something or are linked to someone or any of the bosses random mechanics that reduced sanity you would lose some. Once you hit 0 sanity you became mind controlled and the raid wiped. In regular mode you can replenish your sanity, in hard mode you only get 100. As well in hard mode you lose other key buffs like 20% bonus damage, 10% health and a freebie death. In phase 3 you have ads that grow in size and strength the longer they stay alive so your melee DPS are on these. Your ranged DPS are on an exposed Yogg’Saron. Yogg’Saron will do a 3 second cast that if you’re staring at him while he gets it off you lose 20 sanity. So in this final phase you’re doing a lot of moving and being actively prepared.
As I said, more people complete Kael’thas in his un-nerfed seting (except the first nerf that doesn’t count) than Yogg’Saron (who was never nerfed but after launch). Kael’thas was only done to get into Hyjal. Once people cleared Yogg-3 they patted themselves on the back and declared themselves done demanding harder content to complete. The irony is that the harder content was there they just had no reason to do it. Blizzard FORCED you to wipe for a month on Kael’thas. With Yogg’Saron though there was never a reason to go beyond the first difficulty other than the chance at Mimiron’s Head mount.
If anything you can gather from all of this it is that Blizzard did a great job of scaling up content to be hard and yet accessible to it’s members. While in BC blizzard offered content that had ridiculous raid make ups and unique gearing requirements that were simply obscene. But the best part is it got even more obscene in the third tier of content.
Third Tier of Content
The third tier of content is for Wrath of the Lich King The Trial of the Crusader (ToTC) and Onyxia (Ony). For Burning Crusade it was The Battle for Mount Hyjal (just Hyjal please) and The Black Temple (BT).
In Burning Crusade by this point you have about 40 members in your guild. You have 5 tanks for Karathresh and Al’ar, you have 10 healers, and you have 35-40 DPS. Mount Hyjal as stated earlier required you to complete Lady Vashj and Kael’thas to enter. After defeating these super hard bosses you get kind of let down to find out that the first three bosses of Hyjal are so easy. Another quest becomes available as well. Your quest for defeating Al’ar leads you to defeat the third boss of Hyjal which then opens Black Temple to you.
There is a pretty severe boss disparity here. ToTC offered 5 bosses (although with hard modes and player scaling it ends up being 20). Onyxia had one difficulty and is a solo boss. Hyjal had 5 bosses and BT had 9 bosses. So this is a pretty vicious comparison. I should note that this is where currency kind of becomes more important. Blizzard decided that tier pieces would now cost emblems and improved forms of the tiers would be gained by looting trophies that would buff your tiers up. I’m going to go ahead and say that ToTC hard mode was harder than anything available in Burning Crusade and anyone that can tell me any different should look at the number of people who have killed Anubarak Hard Mode vs. Illidan.
Hyjal and BT were tedious and had retarded raid requirements. I’m just going to make a list of the ones that are weird:
- Hyjal trash: one prot paladin tank/4 destro locks
- Gorefiend: 8 healers
- Archimonde: 8 healers
- Gurtogg Bloodboil: 8 healers
- RoS: one warrior tank/two rogues/2 resto shamans
- Mother Shahraz: Everyone in shadow resistance gear
- Illidari Council: 10 healers/1 prot paladin tank
- Illidan: 1 warlock tank, 1 prot warrior, 2 fire resistance tanks
I think BT if anything showed us who was “in good” with Blizzard. While most guilds used token drops to craft gear in the guild, certain guilds saved them until Black Temple came out and crafted shadow resistance gear for Mother Shahraz.
Comparatively these bosses all had hasting effects to them. In previous content bosses with hasting effects received tones of extra healers to compensate it because it meant your tank could be crushed. In this tier of content there simply was not enough healers to cover the damage. Blizzard has stated than less than 5% of the game entered Black Temple and less than 8% entered Mount Hyjal while nearly 80% of the game has seen Trial of the Crusader. Why exactly is this?
Well Trial offered tones of gear options for such a small dungeon so people were always interested in doing it (even today people want their trinkets). Black Temple on the other hand was long and they usually dropped 4-5 useless pieces of gear per run that nobody would want.
Trial of the Crusader wasn’t exactly easy either. Groups could fail at it. There were mechanics (worms and poisons, dodging a monkey, kiting faction champions, collecting balls) that made this dungeon fairly hard.
I’m going to describe the Illidan encounter and then I’m going to link two videos, hard mode Anub and Illidan kill.
Illidan was a long fight, roughly 15 minutes total. Illidan had 3 phases to his fight. The first phase involved a protection warrior tank. The warrior had to kite Illidan out of the flames and use shield block every time the sheer cooldown is up, otherwise the tank dies. Illidan sent out little parasites to someone. That person would spawn parasites after a timer went down and they would spread the disease to anyone who gets bitten. So you had frost mages or hunters snare/frost nova them and all your ranged nuked them down. In this phase Illidan becomes a demon, your warlock tank picks it up with searing pain and just spams. Your raid runs to the middle of the room and spreads out for these AoE blood boil fire damage things. After they are done the raid moves close to the back of the room. Little orbs hold people in place and move towards them (they kill them if they reach). Your DPS run up and kill these orbs snaring them with whatever they can. Then Illidan transforms back to human form then business as usual. Phase 2 happen when he flies into the air. Everyone moves into the middle of the room. Your fire resist tanks pick up two fire ads who have to be within 30 yards of each other at all times but not any closer than 10 yards. So they have to be kited parallel to each other and drop a flame. Every now and then Illidan will shoot a slow moving laser at one of the tanks and he simply has to not get hit by it (or he dies). Illidan will bombard one target with a tone of damage. Once the two flames are dead Illidan lands again and it’s back to Phase 1 (except we call it Phase 3 now). The only real change here is you now have the option of using these traps an NPC is setting up to grant bonus damage. But the traps ended up being such small amounts of damage that no one ever used them. Boss dies.
Illidan Kill: here
Anub kill: here
I think the point that I’m trying to hammer across here is that while BT may have created harder content to do it was only harder because you had to bring a class with a specific gearing makeup or weird spec to deal with some mechanic. Blizzard’s raiding philosophy of “bring the player not the class” really shown through in Wrath as Blizzard was able to make encounters that were HARDER and didn’t require any specialized gearing or speccing.
The BC Gimme: The Fourth Tier
Blizzard was working on Wrath of the Lich King and it was taking too long. So the blizzard team decided to quickly put out some new content before they lost their oldest dearest hardcore player base. Blizzard came up with a 6-boss dungeon that would rock your socks off and even at 80 people can’t complete. But that is specifically what the problem ended up being, people couldn’t do it in time. At the end of the day if a player does all the right moves a boss should die. But in a world of vicious RNG and crushing blows that simply was not true. If a person relied on crit heals to keep someone alive or a high crit rate to do substantially high DPS then it would take multiple attempts to kill bosses. Even the best guilds could spend all week wiping on a single boss and this ended up being the main problem with these encounters, they weren’t actually hard they were impossible to gear up for.
I raided Sunwell Plateau on my warlock and set a top ten DPS record of 3,020 DPS. Average DPS for a destro lock at the time was 1,600 and for everyone else around 900-1200. Yet even as high as my DPS (and that of my comrads) got up, the bosses never seemed to die that much faster and nothing seemed to really change. All the boss moves had obscenely low cooldowns that didn’t get used on a timer like most bosses. The best example is an AoE cloud on Felmyst that would 2-shot you if you didn’t get a heal or 3-shot you if you didn’t move out immediately. It could literally happen at any time and I mean if it happened while a resto shaman was mid-cast a chain heal then you were doomed. Or my favorite was M’uru which less than 0.01% of the game has killed. Your ‘door DPS’ had to put out enough pressure to kill an ad before it was able to get a single melee swing on a DPS. This meant you had a rogue/ret/warrior combo stunning it up and killing it. If people didn’t do nice sized crits though they’d wipe. I always raided on the philosophy that “encounters don’t change people get lazy” but somehow Sunwell Plateau was just different, the encounters difficulty seemed to vary entirely based on RNG. This is why after two months on Brutalis we finally mustered up the DPS for it, then the next week we were flat again. We spent a solid weeks worth of wipes just on crushing blow wipes.
In the end we had to say good bye to our prot warrior for most of these encounters. The boss designs favored prot paladins and feral druids.
The most obscene part about this of course was that all your wait list healers had to come in and heal. Twins required 9 healers and Felmyst required 10.
Icecrown Citadel was no where near as hard as Sunwell Plateau. Even the hardest modes were not that hard compared to Sunwell Plateau, but my question is… did you ever really want it to be? When things are so obscenely hard you require unique raid make-ups to deal with it. For Twins we brought 10 healers, 2 tanks and one ranged tank. For M’uru we brought one ret paladin, one fury warrior, two rogues, and two BM specced hunters entirely for their stuns. For Felmyst we brought four CoH priests and four resto shamans (one druid and one paladin). For Brutalis we brought 7 destro locks.
Icecrown Citadel did have some of that, but not nearly as bad. The warlock tank in Icecrown Citadel didn’t have to spec anything special to tank, he just built threat. Whereas a Twins tank needed to soul link a fel hunter (fel hunter displled magic off of you). If you brought 9 healers to Valithria you did it entirely by choice as it was doable with 6. If you felt a moonkin was necessary for Saurfang you never watched the world first video where Heroic Saurfang was done with mages, locks and hunters. ICC allowed you more options while Sunwell Plateau made you wait list 10-12 people who were required to clear the dungeon. Sunwell in the end was a mistake of history. It was designed for hardcore gamers to wipe in until the launch of Wrath but as beautiful as it was, no one went there. Even without an attunement people wouldn’t enter there. Some people farmed trash but even those would be wipe fests.
The problem is (as I’m trying to spell out) not that people fear hard content, but they fear sitting people or having to sit out for content. Burning Crusade was BUILT around the 40-man guild model and since it was assumed you’d have this people’s guilds had to get retardedly big in order to raid. The ICC buff which scaled up was different. The encounters did not become easier they were still the exact same encounters. Instead what it did was it made the encounters more accessible for lower geared players. Think that for every time it went up you required 5% less GS. If the opening requirement was 4.8k then after 10% came live you would only need 4.3k GS. Until the final buff comes out (30%) and your requirement goes down to 3.4k GS. Of course the irony is that as the buff gets higher people are actually requiring people to have more gear than less. But that’s not a problem with the design that’s a problem with people.
I’m going to end this simply with the points that I’ve tried to make.
- The emblems system only made sense whereas the badges system got hoarded and were never used. Keeping the same unit of currency for each tier of content doesn’t make sense and only leads to people just sitting on it as if it were gold. This makes doing dungeons/raids feel less rewarding not more.
- The 5-man dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King were simple and only gave you a few mechanics to deal with. This meant that you could gear up for raids quickly. Compared to BC where you had to do raids first before you could farm badges of justice in heroics. Although having challenging heroics was great it just made raiding: elitist and inaccessible to the majority of people.
- As content scales there should be a way to catch up. BC launched Zul’Aman and Magister’s Terrace to that end, both giving you gear from SSC/TK which ended up not even being good enough for Black Temple… not to mention Sunwell Plateau.
- The intro raid content for Burning Crusade although hard required you to have too many people(nearly 40) available to knock out bosses. Intro content for Wrath on the other hand had simpler bosses with optional difficulty settings so that everyone could get access to some gear to try out harder stuff.
- Ulduar was actually harder than SSC/TK/ZA other than the last bosses. This dispels the myth that Burning Crusade was harder, it wasn’t, it was just less accessible to casuals.
- Attunements in Burning Crusade were not fun, they were tedious. Whereas some people state that it keeps the “baddies” out of higher end content all it meant for mid-ranged guilds was that you had to carry baddies through attunements.
- The people that complain Wrath is too easy are also the same people that haven’t completed the hard mode encounters. If they actually wanted harder content they’d join these guilds. Instead the same people complaining about content not being hard enough are usually the same people who were stuck in SSC/TK until the end of Burning Crusade.
- All of these changes that took place were a result of player demand. The odd designs of Burning Crusade dungeons made it so that only people like myself with too much time on our hands can do them.
- Insanely hard dungeons like Sunwell Plateau were not fun for anyone and were impossible to access because of strict gearing requirements. The ICC buff is an appropriate answer to this and makes ICC easier/funner to farm and fun for people with less gear to give a try.
This ends this section of my article on Why Wrath of the Lich King exists. The third and final part of the article will be posted tomorrow. This new part will emphasize on lore, guilds, and PvP.