We’ve been raiding in Dragon Soul for almost 8 months now. I thought I’d take a look at how enjoyable (or not) the instance was as a healer.
My guild cleared the raid on normal within 3 weeks of the instance being released, so I’m mostly going to focus on the hard modes. To give a sense of perspective, I’m including the nerf level the instance was at when we defeated each one.
Heroic mode killed pre-nerfs
Morchok was disappointing. The first boss should be the easiest, but not *that* easy. Walking into DS for the first time and one-shotting him was not expected.
In heroic, Morchok wasn’t a whole lot harder, and was certainly easier than a number of the later normal mode bosses. The healing wasn’t particularly difficult, and the Black Blood of the Earth phase was more of an annoyance than a challenge.
Enjoyment factor: 3
Heroic mode killed pre-nerfs
Normal Hagara wasn’t tuned to be very difficult, but I did enjoy the components of this fight. I liked that every phase was distinct and that there was a lot of movement (hey, I’m a Druid I like to run around in circles). My biggest problem, which is a complaint I have about most normal modes, was that there wasn’t enough damage to heal.
Heroic Hagara was interesting, but many of the mechanics could be brute-forced. Focused Assault should have made this a 2-tank fight but with enough cooldowns (and a DK) it could be single tanked. Frost phase should have required everyone to run around and dodge Ice Waves but it was easier for all the healers and ranged to stand in the middle and heal through the Watery Entrenchment. The one part of the fight I did find challenging was lightning phase. The damage got pretty intense if the lightning wasn’t quickly chained, and this was definitely a challenge to heal through while learning the fight.
Enjoyment factor: 5
Heroic mode killed at 5% nerf
Normal Yor’sahj was a complete bore. It was another fight that we one-shot our first night in Dragon Soul, and to me, it was even easier to heal than Morchok. It’s been a while since I’ve done the fight on normal but I remember there being very little healing to do. I was hard-pressed to even find a time to use ToL and Tranquility because there was so little damage going out through the fight.
The difference between normal and heroic Yor’sahj is night and day. Heroic Yor’sahj is my favorite fight in Dragon Soul. It’s amazing the difference an extra ooze (and a whole lot of extra health and damage) can make. Heroic Yor’sahj is a dynamic fight and required a lot of coordination. It was really fun and challenging when we started learning it. I remember trying to work out cooldowns for the fight and having 2 groups of CDs to use, based on whether or not purple was up, and calling them out when needed. RNG could make the fight extra challenging as having a red-black-yellow phase followed by a red-black-blue could easily use up all the cooldowns and leave you with none for the next set. I also really loved how each combination required you to heal in a different way. One combo required you to put out as much HPS as possible, while the next required planning and control. The purple ooze was a really nice challenge. Though I never found using ‘tricks’ (like Swiftmending pets) necessary on the fight, I liked how it made me heal differently than normal. Not using Wild Growth is harder than it sounds.
The one downside to Heroic Yor’sahj is that the increasing nerfs really killed everything interesting about this fight.
Enjoyment factor – 9
Heroic mode killed at 5% nerf
I don’t have a strong opinion on the normal version of this fight. It was a step up in difficulty from Morchok and Yor’sahj, but it was rather simple. The biggest difficulties usually came from bugs with the void ball. I did like that the fight involved some dispels, which had been absent through most of tier 12.
Heroic, on the other hand, was a lot more fun. The first phase isn’t too challenging, as long as you had enough people capable of bouncing the void ball without dying. Black blood phase is where things got interesting. There were many adds to deal with and a ton of raid damage going out. What made this part enjoyable for me was that people were spread out all over the room. Where much of the healing in Dragon Soul amounts to “group up in one place and use all your AoE and ground heals,” phase 2 of Zon’Ozz made you do something different. Healers were each responsible for their own group. Since my group consisted of 2 melee, 2 ranged and myself, I got a chance to flex my single-target healing muscles.
Enjoyment factor : 7
Killed at 10% nerf
This was the epitome of a tank and spank fight and it was pretty dull. The only complication was having to use Heroic Will, and healers got the simplest job of anyone as we didn’t even have to deal with Fading Light.
Heroic Ultraxion, from my healer perspective, wasn’t much different from normal. I don’t have any damage mitigation cooldowns (besides Barkskin, which isn’t really good enough) to allow be to be a soaker, so my job didn’t change. The huge problem with Ultraxion was how inconsistent it was in terms of outgoing damage. The first 3-4 minutes could be easily 2-healed. But once you get to Timeloop, you need 5. The transition from dull to nerve-wracking was jarring.
This fight was interesting for me in one way though. When we were working on this fight at the 5% nerf, it was still a very tough dps check for my raid. This pushed me to put out as much damage as I possible could during the first minutes of the fight when little healing was needed. It was fun to tweak my spec and glyphs in order to do as much damage as possible, while making sure I could still put out as much healing as possible at the end of the fight. A few million damage from a healer could be the difference between a 0.2% wipe and a kill.
Enjoyment factor: 4
Killed at 15% nerf
I really can’t even remember normal Blackhorn. I have so much time and so many attempts on heroic Blackhorn, I think it has erased all my memories of normal mode. DBM shows I’ve only wiped to this on normal once, so it couldn’t have been too difficult.
Heroic Blackhorn was one of the most frustrating fights in DS for me. First because of how buggy it was. We got to see (or rather not see) invisible monsters one-shoting people on the pull. We had to distinguish between real deck fire and fake deck fire. And I can’t even count the number of times deck fire continued to spawn all over the boat during phase 2, making Shockwaves all but impossible to see and leaving us nowhere to safely stand.
Second, soaking barrages really showed my raid’s flaws in terms of movement. We had so many sub-30 second wipes called after a handful of people died to barrages almost immediately. Blackhorn made it really easy to play the blame game when you ended up dying because you solo-soaked a barrage. Not fun.
The other thing that made Blackhorn less enjoyable was that by the time we got through our kinks in phase 1, phase 2 was a complete pushover. When we killed this at the 15% nerf we really didn’t even need to use our cooldowns properly in order to survive any Roars.
Enjoyment factor: 4
Spine of Deathwing
Killed at 20% nerf
Spine is the first normal fight that provided a healing challenge. The Searing Plasma debuff was something new to worry about and it was fun learning how to deal with. But once you got beyond that, this fight was very long and repetitive.
Heroic Spine was the most difficult fight in the instance. The healing, even when the fight had been nerfed quite a bit, was very challenging. Combining the debuff, bloods bursting, grips, heavy damage on up to 3 tanks, and the Superheated damage meant the healers not only had to put out enormous healing, but also had to correctly prioritize who they were healing. I actually really enjoy healing this fight, and don’t dislike it as much as a lot of people do. It has it’s downsides – it is too long, and too repetitive, and the difficulty scales up incredibly on the 3rd plate, but I like to be challenged, and this fight challenged me.
The one major thing I would change about this fight is the tendon burn phase. As a healer it’s not something that really effects me, but I sympathize with the dps having to respec and reforge for maximum burst for one tiny portion of the fight. It really disrupted raid continuity.
Enjoyment factor: 7
Madness of Deathwing
Killed at 20% nerf
Like Spine, Madness is very long and very repetitive. The mechanics on normal aren’t terribly interesting. The 4 platforms felt almost exactly the same and that got boring fast.
On heroic, Madness was a letdown. My raid had to work long and hard to get Blackhorn and Spine down, and Madness took about a quarter of the time that Spine did to defeat. Very anti-climactic for the last boss of the expansion. The Impale mechanic was a bit of an annoyance. It seemed like a test of how many damage mitigation cooldowns you could throw at it and as a healer without any, made me feel a bit powerless.
The worst part of the fight for me was that the first 3 platforms were simple, the 4th platform was more challenging to heal, but barring large screw-ups, not too bad. Then the final phase was exponentially more difficult. When learning the fight we were seeing wipes happen around the 12 minute mark. It was very frustrating to have to go through 12 minutes of the fight just to get a little bit more practice on the last phase, which required the most coordination and effort. That said, I do enjoy the last phase of the fight. It’s very stressful to heal – I’m a little in awe of those raids who did this fight at the 5% nerf. After 12 minutes of fighting Deathwing, you’re running low on mana, you’re getting a little tired, and both the tanks and the rest of the raid start taking crazy damage. I felt like the last phase of the fight really pushed me to put out at much healing as I possibly could, pushed the rest of the raid to mitigate as much damage as possible (“use your goddamn Dream!”), and I still breathe a sigh of relief every time we finish the fight.
Enjoyment factor: 5
I’ve heard many people complain about the recycled environments in Dragon Soul, but I really didn’t have a problem with it. I liked having Wyrmrest Temple as a backdrop for Morchok and Ultraxion, it gave it an epic feeling. Not all the boss areas were as impressive however. Zon’ozz and Yor’sahj were in rather boring areas. I think the two Deathwing fights could have been done much better but at least the environments were unique.
The biggest issue I had with the Deathwing fights was a problem of scale. Fighting on a dragon’s back should have been amazing but the actual fight area and camera angles made it very difficult to tell what was going on. Similarly, Madness was disappointing because you couldn’t really see Deathwing. It didn’t feel like you were fighting an awesome, fear-inducing, world-destroying, dragon because you could only see parts of him at a time – a wing here, a tentacle there. I think it was a huge misstep that we never got to encounter Deathwing in his human form – it’s an amazing model, and we never got to see it. Rades wrote an excellent post about lore disappointments in Cataclysm and how the way Deathwing was presented was one of the most disappointing things. Had Deathwing been better presented (both in character and in the form he takes), fighting him at the end of Dragon Soul would have felt much more exciting. The area where you fight Madness, surrounded by the dragon aspects, is kind of cool when you have the time to look around, but during the course of the fight you really don’t.
Overall, I’d say that Dragon Soul was okay. There were some disappointing bosses, but there were also quite a few that I found really fun to heal. I like that the environment varied – it was a nice change after Firelands where everything was red (and on fire). The worst thing about Dragon Soul was the nerfs. While I’m grateful for some nerfs (my guild never would have killed a fight like Spine without them), they come too fast and go too far. There were a number of fights – Yor’sahj, Ultraxion, Spine – that I felt we could have killed with just a little more time and effort, then the next level of nerfs came in and they were a cakewalk and much less satisfying to conquer. At 25% we’re pretty much stomping over everything, and next week the nerf is going to 30%. It’s gotten to the point where the mechanics don’t even really matter. One positive thing I can say about Dragon Soul is that I’m not nearly as sick and tired of it as I was of Icecrown Citadel at the end of Wrath. Of course, if you ask me again in another 2 months, that may change.