5 Things I do not hate about the Coliseum

This is the first week in which I’ve run the Coliseum three times, which feels like a lot given that I’m not especially fond of the place. Amusingly, none of those raids involved hard modes, as we simply don’t have enough interested people to form two 10 man hard mode raids and I was apparently non-optimal (which I don’t agree with but I don’t actually like the Coliseum so who cares?)

I am not one to fret about other people beating the same content as me, but you can tell there’s something off with the tuning when my Naxx-10 geared alt can run it and come top of the healing meters. Just saying. It is both too easy and undertuned on 10 man, so there.

In the spirit of positive thinking, I’m listing some things that I like about the current raid instance. There will be another matching post about things I do hate, it will be rather longer.

All Takes Place in One Room

The Coliseum raid is set up like an arena. Players stand in the arena, and a succession of raid bosses get shoved in through the front gate for our killing pleasure. Unfortunately the Coliseum does not feature any of the really good parts of an arena such as being able to place side bets on the bosses, or gouts of blood and people sustaining really horrific injuries.

I don’t find the single room, bosses-come-to-you model to be an issue. It’s a change of pace, and makes the place rather dull from an exploration point of view, but one slightly different raid setup in an expansion isn’t worth fussing about. It also means that there is an explanation for why the raid bosses are turning up, rather than having them all standing around in rooms on their own waiting for us. Granted, it is a fucking stupid explanation (so, the Argent Tournament chaps collected all these really tough raid bosses and decided to make a three ring circus out of things…) but I’ll take my ongoing narrative as I can get it.

I realise that epic storytelling is not what one needs expect of raid instances but we can do better than “You enter a 10’x10’ room. A raid boss is standing in the middle of it.” Blizzard is trying to do this better I think – Ulduar does have explanations for the placement of many of the bosses at least  — but it’s a constant struggle. As I say, at least the Coliseum framework provides a kind of explanation.

I also like that we can see some of the bosses outside, either tethered around the tournament area or in cut scenes as they are captured. It is in fact quite a neat way to let non-raiders (if there are any left) get a sight of the raid bosses, dull as they may be.

And then the floor fell in

I am an absolute sucker for having the environment change around us as a result of things we have done (even if ‘things we have done’ just means setting off the next boss encounter). Call me shallow but I like it when the floor caves in and everyone goes tumbling down into the depths. Collapsing floors were the saving grace of the Malygos encounter and they entertain me here as well.

Anub’Arak

The last fight in the raid instance is rather more interesting than the rest. It features a few interesting twists on old mechanics – you have to run /into/ the patches of ice instead of away from them. We saw that mechanic used on Vezax but everything is always better when there are spikes involved, especially giant spikes that come out of the ground and try to stab people.

I also rather like the phase 3 mechanic in which healers have to try to keep the raid on about half health rather than healing everyone up to full. I think that’s a more interesting healing challenge than normal raid fights, on paper at least.

Also Anub has a really sexy voice. After having to listen to Tirion Fordring and the Lich King, both of whom have me reaching for my earplugs, I’ll settle for my velvet voiced beetle buddy. And when I say buddy, I mean undead giant beetle who is trying to kill me and my 24 closest friends due to being brainwashed by a fat necromancer.

Spikes on Tier 9

Did you know that there are three different ways to get hold of tier 9 gear at the moment? There’s the pure badge version, the 25 man normal token version, and the heroic token version. We’re all going to be in T9 whether we like it or not.

But at least it has spikes.

Easy Alt Gearing

One nice thing about the (lack of) difficulty is that it actually is easy again to put a raid together, bringing a couple of non-raiders and undergeared alts and still have everyone get something that is currently useful for them (ie. badges). I’m all for MMOs making it easy for people to play together.

This weekend I ran a raid along those lines. In some ways it was challenging to have such low dps but I also get a sense of achievement as a raid leader from being able to chivvy everyone through it in such a way that the overgeared guys don’t get too bored, the undergeared guys don’t feel overwhelmed, we don’t wipe more than once (faction champs, my fault for not having one of the healers switch to dps on the first attempt), and everyone gets something that they want – either loot or badges.

Ulduar was a bit too long and difficult to make that feasible. As a player, I did love Ulduar. As someone who wants to include non-raiding friends, Coliseum is relatively quick, easy, and accessible.

Your turn now. Say something nice about the Coliseum :)

Anub’Arak, a fight where blocking actually *gasp* helps

You know how it is, you wait all expansion for that shield block set that you had like a big clunking lump in your bags to actually be useful and then, for a shining moment, it actually happens. Well, maybe in my dreams.

Apparently warriors with top of the line block value sets are trivialising the heroic version of Anub’Arak, who is currently the end boss of the hardest version of the new raid instance.The trick is that they actually don’t hit very hard, it’s their debuff that magnifies the damage, so if you can reliably block all of the direct hit … you can take no damage at all.

If you want to try this at home, you will need enough block rating on your gear so that the total of your miss+parry+dodge+block as a percentage is at least 100%.  Because there isn’t a lot of gear in Wrath with block rating, that means an epic gear hunt.

Putting together a blocking set

If you would like to put a blocking set together, here’s a few key points to remember:

  1. Block value is not the same as block rating. But generally both are desirable in a blocking set, it may depend on your specific goals.
  2. You still need to hit the defence cap, the expertise cap, and the hit cap. You may need to switch gems, enchants, and trinkets around. This will inevitably mean that you will have much less stamina in a blocking set — you don’t get something for nothing.
  3. You can actually apply a filter to wowhead to search for gear with a specific stat. Here’s a list of level 78-80 gear with block value on it.
  4. IT’S NOT VERY USEFUL. A blocking set is a gimmick set — so do it for fun, do it to see what happens, do it because you’re bored, but don’t do it because you feel you must. Unless of course you’d like to play hardcore and copy Premonition‘s amazing shield tank who inspired the thread linked to above.

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.)