Monday, March 23, 2009
It was Saturday Night and the Alliance offensive was plowing through the West Courtyard of the Wintergrasp Keep when the tell arrived. An old friend of mine from my days as a 40-man raider was in a Naxx-25 PUG that was looking for a few more DPS, and he wanted to know if I was game. I considered it for a second - it was already pretty late at night in my time zone, and I've had some misgivings about PUG raiding in the past. Still, it was an opportunity to give something new a try with at least one friendly face in the crowd. I decided to go for it and left behind the rewards for the Alliance's impending victory victory a few minutes later (approximately 3K honor, a stone keeper shard, three Wintergrasp marks, and 13G) to accept my first summons into a Naxx-25 PUG.
I warned my friend that I hadn't really done the zone since our guild was attempting the 40-man version back in 2006. No worries, he said, Naxx is easy these days.
A Blur of Bosses
Naxx contains a total of 15 boss encounters. It eventually took us about 8 hours spread over two nights to kill them all, which sounds like a lot of work, but also comes out to less than half an hour per boss including time to explain strategies, recover from wipes, and distribute loot. The lion's share of the time over those two nights was spent on four encounters - the Four Horsemen, Thaddius, Sapphiron, and Kel'Thuzad, as those were the four bosses we wiped on repeatedly. (Night one featured smooth sailing through the spider, plague, and military wings until the Horsemen, while night two was a quick shot through to Thaddius and the remainder of time on those last three.)
I won't claim to know those last four bosses cold, but I have a reasonable understanding of what was going on, and I might in principle be able to repeat them without making too many beginner mistakes. For the other twelve, though, I can't really tell you what was going on, other than that my job was to stand and cast spells.
My old guild cleared Anub'Rekhan and Instructor Razuvious during the 40-man days, so I know that the former used to involve kiting the boss around the room, and the latter required that every single mana-using member of the raid get out of line of sight of the boss every so often on pain of extreme mana burn. Anub's formerly "must kite or die" attack now deals so little damage that the healers can just heal through it, while Instructor no longer has his AOE attack, and has apparently been toned down enough that he can be tanked by an actual raid tank for brief periods of time. (In 40-man mode, your best bet if you didn't have a mind-controlled understudy handy was to have a rogue use evasion, which made them unhittable for 15 seconds, after which the rogue would die.)
Without the context of knowing what the fights were about, I'm not sure I would have really understood anything other than my specific role(stand and nuke the boss, with a brief detour in Anub's case to stand and nuke the adds) in even the encounters I was familiar with. The only fight I truly bombed on was the Heigan encounter, where one phase requires running laps around the room with relatively precise timing to avoid a ground attack - I would feel worse about this if that fight hadn't killed 60% of the group (the remaining 10 were able to down him on the first try). Other than that, it's a bit of a blur. I could tell you what I did on most bosses, but that would be a very incomplete picture of what's going on in the raid as a whole.
Collectively, the 15 bosses drop 16 Emblems of Valor (Kel'Thuzad drops two as a reward for finishing the place). I've been earning them at a rate of two per week off of heroic Archavon, so I can literally say that I made eight weeks' worth of progress towards emblem rewards in a single night. Sadly, I suffered a disconnect during the Loatheb fight, and did not receive credit for the Fall of Naxxramas achievement that some PUG leaders request as proof that a player already knows the content, but I did receive the other five achievements in that category, which is about as many achievements as I've done in one shot anytime recently.
Because this was a PUG, loot was distributed by random /roll - players were limited to one "need", one "greed", and one class armor token per night. (BOE items were distributed by "need" or "FFA roll for the whole raid", and any item that no one wanted to spend even a greed roll on was opened up for FFA rolling.) Each boss drops four items (again, Kel'Thuzad drops an extra one for being at the end of the line), so that works out to about two items per person.
Sadly, the bosses weren't feeling the need to drop best-in-slot (read: no spirit please - even with the upcoming change, it's not worth what it costs) mage loot. I did, however, walk away with a pair of BOE shaman caster gloves (others have them listed at 800G on the auction house, but I have no idea whether they actually sell at that price, given that there are four of them listed currently) and one piece of legitimate loot - the [Spire of Sunset] off of Thaddius. The large amount of mana regen makes this a sidegrade for raid purposes (I need the hit rating from my old combo of the [Flameheart Spell Scalpel and the [Ward of the Violet Citadel]), but it's a major upgrade for farming and 5-man content, which is where I spend the majority of my time anyway.
Having seen the place in action....
Overall, I had a great time staying up way too late on back to back nights to clear out Naxx. The company was good, even if the raid start time was not, and there was an excellent nostalgia factor to finally getting to see the entire dungeon after all those nights of wipes in 2006.
That said, the experience reminded me more of an old-school UBRS raid (15 players - but undergeared and inexperienced ones since this was very early in WoW's life - zerging down 10-man content) than a real endgame raid. Someone commented around these parts that the 25-man content isn't harder than the 10-man stuff, and I'm prepared to believe it - I'm not even convinced that the 25-man stuff isn't the EASIER of the two, since there is (on most fights) a larger margin for error.
The raid leader had a ton of work to do since so much of his raid was new to the dungeon, and we had some excellent players, but the group also had to deal with players like myself who were inexperienced and low on the DPS meters. I don't think I was dead last amongst DPS, and my spec does provide the 10% spell crit buff (the other mage was Arcane, which offers much better DPS but does not provide this important raid buff), but I guess a part of me does feel like there SHOULD be something in the game that's hard enough that a group that takes players like me won't be able to burn through quite so easily.
Green, feeling reflective with his new shiny staff