So how is Ulduar working out for you?

I have an admission to make. I love the heck out of Ulduar. I’ve had a fantastic time raiding there, I think it’s an amazingly designed raid instance and even when it drives me nuts, I think Blizzard did a bang-up job in showing off why the raiders stick with them.

It isn’t just that the encounters are interesting and varied, or even that the instance itself is stunningly beautiful – there’s a lot of extra details that are simply there for pure entertainment value. This is what we in the trade call polish.

For example: had you noticed how much of the Ulduar trash bounces out at you? Last week I counted:

  • One of the trash robots at XT
  • Titan/giant trash before Kologarn
  • Kologarn himself, kind of
  • Auriaya’s cats
  • Snakes in a snowdrift (these won our vote for most amusing trash in the instance)
  • Mimiron’s spider tank trash

I know it’s silly but it’s the kind of silly that makes me giggle. The pounce animation is just funny.  Jumping robots! Argh, snake jumped out of a snowdrift! Hee hee! See what I mean?

I also had a chance to drive a chopper on the Flame Leviathan fight last week and that was extremely fun. I no longer know which vehicle I like best! But again, I’m way impressed with the designers – it’s a very fun and very different type of fight.

After a couple of slow weeks where we struggled with signups, or when we got the signups we struggled with raid balance, we’re moving again. I know there have also been nerfs but we also were able to recruit a couple of extra dps and it has helped a lot.

So last week in 25 man, we one-shotted Freya and got a long awaited first kill on Thorim too. Raid balance has now tilted to having a shortage of melee (never thought that would happen) so I’m getting slotted in as Fury more often these days.

In 10-man, we cleared the keepers for the first time a week ago. This week we did it again and one-shotted Mimiron so I guess he’s on farm now. This meant we had the dubious pleasure of working on General Vezax which is a fascinating encounter, and I suspect is next up on the nerf list. It doesn’t need much of a nerf, just something to make kiting less painful – I think it’d be enough if he didn’t cast shadow crash on the tank and didn’t do the searing flames while being kited in 10 man (because your only interrupter may also be tanking it and hence trying to kite at the same time, and that really isn’t good.)

All of our tanks have embraced the dual spec ethos and have either a dps or healing offspec. This gives us a vast amount of extra flexibility which is part of the reason that the 10-man team has been getting its act together. I would discourage any raid tank from going with two tanking specs unless you are absolutely bang up sure that your class will always be the best choice to tank every fight (or unless you know that you’ll be doing it anyway).

We frequently have 3 tanks in a 10 man raid and swap roles from fight to fight. This is also partly because the tanks tend to be super-keen and sign up a lot ;)

Tanking Ulduar

I have thoroughly enjoyed tanking in Ulduar. I feel as though it’s made me raise my game on my warrior, and that’s been very fun for me. It’s been a great challenge so far and I can see myself improving with practice.

I know I’m much better at strafing to move mobs around than I used to be. I’ve also had a lot more practice at weaving interrupts and stuns into my tanking rotation and at really working the trademark warrior mobility with intervenes, charges, intercepts, and the old traditional standby ‘RUN AWAY’.

It is a strong contrast with playing as melee dps which I find relaxing, but massively less engaging. Admittedly Fury is not a complex spec to play (which is one of the reasons I like it, since it’s just a part time spec for me) and does excel at letting you move around during a fight (this is the other reason I like it … and the whole dual wielding deal) so I suspect others would see more of a challenge.

Stepping aside from the whole issue of nerfs and the philosophy of hard modes, are you enjoying Ulduar?

Raid Update: When the going gets tough …

It’s summer. The weather is hot. Exams are finished. And this means one thing: people are wanting to take things easy and cut back on raiding.

And even in a tight-knit raid group, unless you regularly had several people signing up as reserves for your raid, you don’t have to lose many regulars before you can feel the pinch.

So even though the raids we have run have been going reasonably well, we’re sometimes struggling for signups on raids. We don’t always have the luxury of going with the ‘A Team’ (this means that sometimes we need people to come as off-specs or bring alts). And it’s affected both progression and morale. Or rather, it’s in times like these that you see who isn’t interested in signing for the wipe nights. Or in my case, who’d like to come but can’t make the schedule.

Morale can be a downwards spiral if you aren’t careful. All we can really do is press on, keep trying to recruit, and keep things moving as much as possible.

Last week I cancelled a 10 man for the first time because of raid balance – I’m not saying that 3 warlocks, 3 shamans, 3 paladins and a warrior couldn’t beat the keepers with at least two of them having to come as off-spec … ok, actually I am saying that I didn’t fancy our chances.

Note: We’d previously cleared out all the bosses up to and including Auriaya so it wasn’t a failed week, just I’d hoped to press on for more tries on Mimiron. Which is actually the only keeper we haven’t yet killed in 10 man. Maybe next week. It’s always a hard decision as to whether to cancel a raid or press on.

We still have a lot of the instance left but it’s hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for Tarsus who’s finding that some fights just are easier if you go with the optimal class balance (death knight tank, in this case). I say this cheerfully, but we don’t have a DK tank so if we get that far, we’re stuffed.

Raid Composition Issues

Death Knights making bosses easier isn’t the only composition issue in Ulduar. We’re finding that some fights are notably harder without a priest and since my main healers for 10 man are a paladin and a shaman – it affects morale.

We won’t stop trying but I don’t know that I want to have to do everything on extra hard-mode just because my friends don’t play the right classes.

I’m beginning to feel Syp’s reroller anxiety again. Did I make a mistake in not rerolling a Death Knight? Will they get nerfed into the ground? Will paladins be the next overpowered tank (this is my personal guess actually — as soon as they get an extra cooldown and block is fixed)?

There’s no way I will plan to gear up another tank now that Spinks is geared up and I like playing her but I sometimes wish Blizzard would just make us all identical – it would be better than this frustration. Is it bad to wish that you could be the best occasionally?