By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Only One Raid? Scandalous!
With World of Warcraft‘s Warlords of Draenor recently releasing, only one raid was prepared for the expansion’s launch: Highmaul, an Ogre compound controlled by Imperator Mar’gok. Currently, all portions of this first raid are available in Looking for Raid, Normal, Heroic, and Mythic difficulties. Though the regular difficulties were available at launch, the wings in LFR were released over the course of a few weeks so that players could not leap directly in at the start. However, the difficulties do not have to be tackled in order of difficulty. Players, if they have the knowledge and gear (or someone willing to carry them), could in theory start directly on Mythic. In fact, some players did start on Mythic right away by abusing the Black-Market Auction Hall to buy Mythic gear, and swapping servers to get more mythic gear for gold. Though shameful, it did create results in that the raids were incredibly easy for these groups of people.
But is that all this raid is, a DPS check before Blackrock Foundry? Highmaul, while being the only content currently available for end-game raiding, is more than just a tank and spank. It is an interesting mesh of old mechanics used in new ways, perhaps as a test to see if guilds are ready to tackle the Blackrock Foundry. It’s not all shiny happiness, though. While there are a great many positives to the current end-game content, there are little things that are pesky and frustrating, such as trash runs for BoE items. Personal Loot is also a blessing and a curse in Highmaul. The chance for everyone in a group to find loot is fantastic, but constantly only landing gold in a group can be an incredible downer. Master Looter is still an option for non-LFR raids, but fewer people tend to gain new gear that way. So what is in store?
And That Makes One Hundred
It is a challenge to come up with new game mechanics constantly, especially for a game that has been out for ten years. The Highmaul raid has a few brief tank-and-spank encounters, such as the Butcher or Twin Ogron, but even these have different mechanics to require coordination and get raids working together. Simply standing in Butcher’s range and not moving, switching, or getting out of the way will result in very swift deaths. Failing to avoid Quake, waves of fire, and not grouping up for Shout during Twin Ogron will also cause repeated raid wipes. The raid difficulty of Highmaul is much higher than most starting raids; the mechanics are pretty intense until players out-gear the content. Even with high item level though, raids who simply walk in could find themselves wiping repeatedly due to a lack of attention to detail. And of course, many thanks to my guildies on Bloodscalp, <Open Source>, for raiding and progressing to help me put this together.
Imperator Mar’gok in particular has an incredulous amount of abilities, and phase changes. He feels more like a final end-expansion battle such as those found in Tempest Keep or Black Temple. He is not at all a “filler” boss with few if any difficult mechanics to handle, such as one might find in other expansions. In fact, this expansion so far is very much a call-back to Burning Crusade, so I would expect to see more content that is a reminder of those days. Each battle is different, and each one has an important caveat. It can be very easy to be overwhelmed by Moss in Brackenspore, or the breaking down over time of Tectus. Attention to detail is important on all levels of Highmaul.
It’s a Kind of Mythic
As you ramp up the difficulty in Highmaul, you get more challenges than the shift from Normal to Heroic in past expansions. Previously, the bosses would simply hit harder and/or gain more health. During Mists of Pandaria, changes to raids were tested such as Flex Raids (which are now ‘normal’ difficulty). The difficulty between modes is a more important change. Normal mode uses all of the traditional boss mechanics that are expected in the Raid Journal of the in-game Interface. Heroic adds a few more bits and pieces, and Mythic is difficult on a whole new level! Players can admittedly farm Mythic difficulty trash for higher level gear to make raiding easier (or earn extra gold), but the bosses will be much more difficult regardless of gear. Moving from Normal to Heroic is not a stressful feat, but moving from Heroic to Mythic can be incredibly challenging. The difficulty ramp is steep, but not so much that it is impossible.
A prime example is Kargath Bladefist. Normal requires you to have five players get pulled into the crowd to deal with two new enemies to avoid their damaging attacks on the raid, avoiding the tiger pit, and kiting Kargath into the flame traps. Mythic adds three more painful raid mechanics. Roar of the Crowd is an energy bar that tracks the favor the crowd has shown the players. The more the raid follows certain mechanics, such as kiting Kargath for longer during Berserker Rush, the more favor gained. The more favor, the more damage the players do. The Tiger Pits are now even more dangerous! The Tigers pop out of their pits, fixate players, and continually damage them. The Flame Pillars now also target players, which can be frustrating if you are not paying attention. And this is just the first boss! Not all bosses gain tons of new powers, but changes must still be made, such as two players entering Ko’ragh’s field, and Expel: Fel requiring players to move as little as possible, which could completely crush the raid if it hits a player that has to stand in the falling orbs.
Uniting the Clans
This is a very positive start for the expansion. In no way does Highmaul feel like filler content before the real encounters drop. The bosses are by no means impossible, but raids will have to put in the effort to conquer the content. I’m certain some raiding groups will blast through it, while others have to struggle and push week after week. I personally raid a few nights a week on Bloodscalp, and we have made progress from Normal to Heroic in a nice amount of time. I have to say that I am pleased with the content so far, and I am looking forward to seeing how Blizzard transitions from Highmaul to Blackrock. I will be intensely disappointed if they reuse the same style of raid that occurs in Blackrock Foundry. I doubt that will happen, though. Thus far the expansion has not let me down, so I’m expecting good things in the future for Warlords of Draenor.