The Thrill of the Last Boss

First there was silence. Grim determination. Clipped orders barked out. As time goes on, everyone keeps an eye on the clock, everyone keeps an eye on the meters, everything thinks, “This is looking good,” but can’t spare the time to say it. People call for heals, add switches, targets. The tension mounts. Phases change, people jump, health bars shoot up and down. Towards the end, someone yells “ten percent!” and everyone’s heart starts to beat that bit faster.

Then finally, the last percent (which always seems to take forever) clips out and the boss goes crashing to the ground. Voice chat erupts with cheers. It’s at least a minute before it is quiet enough for anyone to be heard. One of your healers whispers you to say that they didn’t think you were going to make it. And your raid has cleared the instance for the first time.

This is why we raid.

What’s so special about the last boss?

anubarak

So last night we got Anub’Arak down for the first time in the 25 man normal version of Trial of the Crusader. (I feel privileged to have been there and very proud of the raid and especially the raid leaders and healers – it’s a particularly testing fight for the healers). It was an absolutely classic first kill, we’d had a few previous tries, each one getting slightly better. This was the last try of the night, and we all were getting tired.

This is a familiar tale. So many times a first kill has happened on the last try of the night.

I know it isn’t just my raid group, other people follow the same narrative. Maybe  people try harder when they know it’s the last attempt, or being slightly tired makes it easier in some obscure way – perhaps thinking is not as helpful as just reacting at these times. But I do know that it is quite common to get a first kill on a challenging boss late in the evening, on the very last attempt.

And there really is something special about the last boss in an instance. Raid instances are usually sold to us as ‘belonging’ to one main boss who just happens to let some of his/her friends or employees rent rooms there too. The lore is all about the big guy at the end. S/he is the sole reason you are there, notionally.

To make the main guy even more significant, the last boss is also usually harder than the rest. So the gameplay is fitted to the lore ie. the lore says that endboss X is very powerful, the gameplay says that the fight is the most challenging. Plus of course the last boss usually has the best loot. This keeps the achievers happy.

It is also cool to be able to say “We cleared that raid instance.” It means you have seen all the content, and so the explorers are happy too. It also means that you feel a social bond with the rest of your raid group – we cleared that raid instance by working together. Again, good for the social players also.

So we really are all set up to prize these boss kills more highly.

A fight to challenge the healers?

I’m not overly excited by the Trial of the Crusader, but for all that, Anub is a cool fight. Blizzard is often guilty of testing healers by brute force. They can make a fight hard for the healers by making everyone take tons of damage, throw in the occasional silence effect, and have something really hard hitting on the tank for extra spikey damage. But harder doesn’t always mean more fun.

In phase three of the Anub fight, the healers are challenged to try to keep the whole raid alive but at low health. We’re taking constant damage which in turn heals the boss, but it is at a rate of 10% of your current health per tick. So if everyone was at full health, he would be getting more heals than we could nuke down inside the enrage timer. But … if you can keep the raid alive with less than full health, that means he can be killed.

That’s not the only interesting side to the fight but I thought it was one of the more interesting healing challenges I’d seen in a raid. I also know that a lot of people find the Coliseum too easy but I thought that particular boss was well-tuned to give us a good challenge.

I also used to think that Tiron Fordring was quite cool. His response to us killing this massive evil spider boss? Oh, why don’t you try the heroic version next?

Well OK, but a thank you would not have been out of order. Git. (Paladins are all gits, a warrior would at least have offered beer.)