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Tier 11 Retrospective

With Firelands on the horizon, Tier 11 raiding is coming to an end and I’ve been thinking about how this tier measures up.

Difficulty

Tier 11 served as a huge wake-up call after Tier 10. I played with a number of people in ICC who I thought were fairly competent raiders. Then we stepped into BWD. With no 30% buff to back people up, all of a sudden they didn’t seem so competent anymore. Spending 6+ months being completely overpowered for the content we were doing certainly made raiding in Tier 11 a challenge to start with. Everyone had to remember how to play again.

I really liked the step-up in difficulty. Normal modes were doable, but most had at least one or two tricky mechanics to overcome. Nefarian and Al’Akir were much more challenging (as end-bosses, they should be) though I found Cho’gall to be a bit of a disappointment.

I’ve only done half the available hard-modes, but overall, I’m very pleased with the difficulty there. Halfus makes a good stepping-stone into the world of heroics and I feel like there really is a progression – some bosses take only a night or two to master while some take many, many attempts and lots of trial and error.

Atmosphere and Aesthetics

Blackwing Descent was nothing we hadn’t seen before. It looks and feels very much like the rest of the Blackrock Mountain instances and raids. The lava pit where you fight Nefarian is the most interesting part of the instance as far as looks go. I did enjoy Nef’s introductions to the boss fights, it helps to tie everything together from a story perspective.

I really disliked Bastion of Twilight. There wasn’t anything interesting about how it looked, it was just a bunch of generic rooms and corridors and no real scripted events or story infused into the place.

Throne of the Four Winds was gorgeous. It’s certainly the best raid in terms of looks. It was a very nice change to have a raid in the great outdoors with pretty, bright colours and interesting architecture.

Tier 11 was pretty weak in this category. Though TotFW was very pretty, the raids overall weren’t that impressive in terms of atmosphere. Compared to the wonderfully detailed, varying and lore-infused raids like Karazhan, Ulduar, Black Temple and Mount Hyjal, Tier 11 fell flat.

Staying Power

I love that we had 3 distinct raids to work in, it really helped to prevent boredom.

I think the length of Tier 11 was good. I began raiding in January, meaning I spent ~6 months raiding this content. Though there has been the occasional time where I wished for new content already, it has managed to keep my interest. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind it if Firelands were pushed back a bit and I got to spend a few more weeks with this content. I think there are one or two more hard modes that are doable for both my guilds.

The Bosses

This is the most important part. How were the bosses? Were the mechanics interesting? Were they fun and challenging to heal?

Bastion of Twilight

I feel like Bastion of Twilight as a whole was weak. I can’t put my finger on the problem exactly, but whenever BoT is on the raid schedule I don’t feel nearly as excited as I do about spending a night in BWD. Perhaps it’s the trash. I think I’ve been killed by the first trash packs and the awful elementals before Ascendant Council more than I’ve been killed by any boss in there. Perhaps it’s the atmosphere – gloomy, with very few interesting things to look at.  Maybe it’s the bosses – there are only 4 of them and none of them stick out as particularly exciting or fun to heal. Or maybe it’s the uneven difficutly range of the hard modes. Most guilds kill Halfus as their first hard mode, then ignore the other BoT hard modes completely while they master 4 or 5 others in BWD and possibly Throne. Coming back to kill normal V&T, AC and Cho’gall always seemed like a let-down compared to the rest of the boss fights available.

Throne of the Four Winds

This raid instance is quite polarizing. Some people love it while others never want to step foot in it again. I enjoy the place for the most part. Conclave of Wind and Al’akir have new, interesting mechanics and can be quite challenging. I do have a few complaints though.

Conclave of Wind

I found this fight unique and a lot of fun, especially on heroic. There are a lot of mechanics to master, a lot of bad things to avoid (damn you Wind Blast) and a lot of coordination needed between platforms. Heal, heal, run away, heal,  fly through the air, heal, heal, move, heal, heal, jump. This fight really keeps you on your toes. It does have its downsides though. Because of how far apart everyone was, I often felt helpless. People would die on other platforms and I knew I couldn’t do anything to stop it – it was quite frustrating. However, when you finally master the fight it feels pretty fucking amazing.

Al’Akir

Though this fight is interesting and I learned it can be fun (after many, many, many wipes) I don’t think this encounter was successful. The first phase is too RNG dependent. Too many bad things converge at once and you’re pretty much out of luck. Phase 3 is frustrating. There are some players who just aren’t good at navigating through 3 dimensions. I even found it difficult to judge my position correctly on this fight, which I found surprising since I thought I had mastered that back in my Dreamwalker portal days. I know very few people who look forward to repeat kills on Al’Akir once they’ve gotten the one they need for their title.

Blackwing Descent

I think BWD was the high point of Tier 11 raiding. Each boss fight tested something different: healing, tanking, dps, awareness, damage avoidance, coordination.

Chimaeron

I love healer checks, so I loved this fight. More than any other boss fight, Chimaeron made me change the way I healed. I couldn’t rely on Rejuv and WG to heal Caustic Slime damage, I had to use direct heals, and I had to use them fast. I really appreciated that. Healers develop certain patterns for healing and Chimaeron made you reconsider those to adapt to the fight. Variety is always a good thing.

Atramedes

I really like the sound mechanic in this fight. It enforces that everyone is in charge of their own survival. Screw up and everyone sees you get pelted by massive fireballs that can’t be healed through. If that isn’t a deterrent to standing in bad things, I don’t know what is.

Nefarian

Nefarian is everything an end of dungeon boss should be. It tests healers, tanks and dps. It tests coordination, kiting ability, interrupts, running out of fire, and each raider’s ability to jump out of lava and onto a pillar (which can be the hardest part of all). It took my 25-man guild ~65 attempts to get our first Nef kill, and that seems to be a fairly common number. The fight required a lot of practice and hard work and made for a very rewarding kill.

Overall

Overall, I think Tier 11 was strong. Through Bastion of Twilight fell short for me, Throne was interesting and gorgeous and Blackwing Descent was a very strong raid that kept my attention for a full 6 months. It wasn’t the best tier – it doesn’t compare to the awesomeness that was Tier 6 (Black Temple & Mount Hyjal), but I think it’s been more enjoyable than any tier in Wrath (Ulduar-lovers will likely argue with me on that).

What do you think? Does Tier 11 still amuse you after 6 months? Any bosses you love or hate?