Friday, October 28, 2011

The Cake is a Lie, The Dance is a Cake.

Therefore, the dance is a lie. One of the complaints that's been going around the blogosphere of Azeroth the past few weeks has been the notion of the difficulty in the firelands tier being due to this new breed of "Dance" style bosses. Bosses which mercilessly rewarded a step out of line, a strike out of rhythm, with a dirt nap, and dire consequences for your raid. One of the foremost proponents of the Dance Theory has been Gevlon, of the Greedy Goblin. In a post he made a week ago, he railed against the Dance as "Inaccessible" and not "Friendly to Casuals". He brings up Shannox as an example.

I've yet to see a player who finishes Shannox alive in the first few times he sees it. I've yet to see a new tank who doesn't do atrocious movement on Shannox wiping the raid. And it's just damn Shannox, the first boss available in Firelands.

This is what got me looking at the complaints with a much more critical eye. When someone mentions tanks, it attracts my gaze like Frodo donning The One Ring invites the gaze of the dark lord of Mordor. A new tank making a mistake that wipes the raid? Ummmm... that's "new"? Pretty much every raid encounter in the game, if the tank makes a catastrophic mistake, it's a wipe. Can't stance dance on Nightbane? You're dead. Didn't Shield Block Shear? You're a corpse. Missed the CD on Plasma Blast? Taste the floor! Didn't manage orbs on Blood Council? The floor is a dish best served cold. Can't drop your stack on Shannox! At least the floor is warm there. Sometimes you can pull of a miraculous deterrence while a battlerez gets the tank back into the fight. But most of the time you're going to be listening to the shrill voices of your mages trying to convince everyone to die before their invisibility gets broken. If the tank fucks up, it's a wipe. This is not new. This is not Sparta. This is raiding!

Having deconstructed that aspect of his anecdote, I looked at the others. Gevlon has yet to see a player finish Shannox without dying on their first several pulls of the boss. Really? A non tank in that fight has only two ways that they can get themselves killed on that fight. They stood in a trap, which takes 5 seconds to arm, and DBM howls like a banshee when one gets dropped within 10 yards of you. The other way is that they someone wandered off to Buttfuck (It's pronounced byoot-fick), Egypt and got hit with face rage. These are not mechanical problems. They are not anything that is new to raiding. There are two things that cause these errors. You either have a bad player, one who lacks situational awareness to avoid placing themselves in that situation. The other possibility is you have a bad raid leader. One who does not properly explain their strategy in a clear and concise manner. On normal mode for a DPS player, Shannox boils down to: Kill Mob A, Kill Mob B, Kill Mob C, don't stand in the fire. We're talking about a veritable two step in terms of raiding complexity. I shudder at the thought of what happens when his raid attempts Cuban Salsa.

The claim is that every encounter in firelands requires some sort of esoteric ballroom skill. Two Step on Shannox, a stately waltz on Rhyolith, Meringue on Baleroc, Charleston on Beth'tilac, Swing on Alysrazor, the Majordomo Mambo, and the Ragnaros Tango. Without a complete mastery of all these disparate techniques, which have never been required in the game before, you will wipe, and wipe, and wipe, until your second left foot gets loose and your raid gets funky.

This is not the case. Lets look at the primary mechanics on each encounter.

Shannox: Traps. They arm in five seconds, and either do a good amount of damage or freeze you and force your raid to break you out. Mimiron mines, initially armed immediately, one shot clothies, and blended in with the floor. Hodir Flash Freeze, stand on the snow within a 4 second warning, or be frozen and force your raid to break you out.

Beth'Tilac: Split the raid between topside and bottomside. Happened in Kalecgos and Yogg. Jump through a small opening to change position, or die. It was worse on Yogg, make it to the portal, or get mind control, and actively harm your raid, and force them to kill you. No battlerez, only lunacy. Algalon did it too, only the other side was filled with untanked monsters that wanted to eat you. Admitidly, that could happen on Beth too. Meteors. Every void zone ever.

Rhyolith: Designate DPS to judiciously split DPS between multiple targets so as to ensure that raid damage is manageable. That's the Algalon star wrangler's job description.

Alysrazor: Tank DPS matters! Tank DPS always matters, tell your tanks to stop being lazy motherfuckers. Flying! Chasing small spell effects in a 3D environment, good old Valithria! Tornadoes! Spell effects that travel in predictable concentric circles, phase one yogg.

Baleroc: Soaking a debuff that does more damage the longer you have it? Wrack, Burn, that plague on putricide.

Majordomo: Soaking orbs, see Baleroc shards. Countdown debuff that blows up everyone near you? All the way back to molten core, Baron Geddon's Living Bomb. Forcing phase changes through player movement? That's actually a new one, but it boils down to stacking and spreading, which is a staple of many boss encounters. The difficulty of the mechanic actually falls solely on the head of the raid leader, determining when the switches need to be made.

Rag: Magma traps. Knocked up and need to mitigate fall damage? Conclave of the Wind brown platform ultimate. Adds need to be stopped before reaching a certain point? Jegoda Shadowseeker, too bad everyone skips her. Ground catches on fire? Every boss has fire on the ground. Wave of fire emanating from a central point? Kilnara's black wave of fail. Adds that need to be AoE'd down. Freya lashers, Maloriak Aberrations. Adds that need to be kited and explode if they catch you? Mimiron Bomb Bots.

Aside from the very cool phase transition mechanics on Majordomo, there really
aren't any new mechanics on any of the fights in firelands. The "Dance" is something that has been around since the beginning of raiding. Sometimes counter intuitive mechanics have been included. Who remembers the Shade of Aran chant? It's before my time, but I've heard it before. "I will not move when the flame wreath is cast or the raid blows up." This shit is older than BC. Hell, the term "Dance" was first applied to Heigan the Unclean in Naxx40, and he was considered one of the easiest bosses in the instance. Level 60 bosses required dancing skills. Why is this tier suddenly different?

Failure to dance is caused by two things. Chronic failure is indicative of a bad player. One who lacks the situational awareness to note the a portal to the gaping maw of hell is opening under his feet, and he should probably move elsewhere. However, the persistent failure of every new player in a raid is indicative of a poor raid leader. If you cannot articulate the strategy that you want to implement, then obviously the raid will struggle to realize your ill defined vision.

There are three steps to making a clean entry into a raid. The individual must do a little research on the encounter. Go to and watch the video for the encounter, or even just read the dungeon journal that Blizz has kindly handed to every player. The raid leader must then come up with a viable strategy, and clearly communicate everyone's roles and responsibilities. It is then back on the individuals to execute the raid leader's instructions. These have been the steps that every raider has taken as they entered raiding.

I took those steps, and chronicled them on my first organized raid outside of
Vault of Archavon. Without ever having raided anything beyond the original earth watcher, I went and watched the videos on all 13 bosses in Naxxramas, my raid leader did a good job of explaining what he needed me to do (except he initially told me not to taunt on Gluth, but nobody's perfect.), and I executed what he needed me to do. Did we one shot every boss? No, but we one shot most of them, and we didn't wipe more than twice on any of them. The kicker, over half the raid got the achievement for clearing naxx when we downed KT. It can be done. I know, because I did it. I saw a raid leader lead a raid that he had never cleared before, and do it flawlessly. Did we catch lightning in a bottle? Perhaps. But there's no reason why a pug shouldn't be able to jump into a run that has a boss on farm and not screw up if we could tank a mostly fresh raid and do a full clear.


  1. I miss the Heigan Dance. But yes, you make excellent and accurate points. What periodically irks me is that the raid encounters really are just rehashes of the same old mechanics, and few things are mroe annoying than people who fail to grasp that reality and simply adapt a learned technique to a new visual environment.

  2. Wouldn't Hydross be an example of forcing phase change through player movement?

  3. That it would, I forgot about that. Well, there goes the new mechanic I thought they introduced for Cataclysm.