Let’s take a second out from starry-eyed forward looking for a moment to address an issue I have with the current game.
Tomb of Sargeras…is a turd.
Yes, I know – it’s a beautiful raid zone that implements a lot of really neat visual themes to take us away from fel green, with an awesome little naga area, the whole Sisters of the Moon area, and then of course there is the awesome SPACESHIP FIGHT.
Yes, here’s the thing – I don’t think all of ToS is a turd. In fact, on normal difficulty, it’s a pretty darn good raid. I enjoyed normal difficulty.
I won’t fault the art team for Tomb’s inherent turdiness – they knocked it out of the park. Nor will I blame the folks behind the music, they did great. The story and lore are there, and the little nods to continuity, like a dead Gul’dan – great.
No, I cast my judgmental gaze at the encounter design team on this one – they are the ones leading Tomb into almighty turditude.
Let me introduce a bit of my other interests into this – I am a pro wrestling fan, even been in the ring myself a bit. On a standard, well-booked wrestling card, every match will have it’s own unique moments – spots, as they are known. There might be some basic repetition (punch/kick exchanges, clotheslines, etc) but overall, the flow of each match is different. What makes a good wrestling event work is one where the unique spots of each match stand out, and in hindsight make you think less about the boring, utilitarian work done in-between those moments.
Raids are like that to me. Yes, sure, we’ve dealt with some form of a taunt swap for tanks for 13 years. There’s the big AoE damage phase for healers to coordinate cooldowns, and add switches with burst phases to get DPS thinking differently. But it is the way in which these mechanics are delivered to us that makes the difference. Tomb of Sargeras, especially on Heroic and up, completely and utterly fails at this point. Like a bad indy wrestling card, every match has the same damn spots and a similar enough flow that once I’ve seen one or two of them, I might as well just leave.
Never before have I thought to myself that a WoW raid was an incongruous mess like Tomb of Sargeras. Each fight has a really basic, simple template, loaded to the gills with soak mechanics and errant floor dodging. The shame is that this hurts the fights that are somewhat cool and different, because it’s hard for me to remember the cool stuff from Demonic Inquistion when I just spent 30 minutes wiping to Fallen Avatar and his soaky puddles.
Let’s look at just one mechanic, the one most reviled in the WoW community currently – soaking. In case you’re doing the fight on LFR or just aren’t at all, a soak mechanic is basically anything where a player must cause a mechanic to be absorbed to prevent a larger, worse thing from happening. Usually, this is your puddles that do raidwide damage, unless one brave soul takes the hit type deal. Let’s look at each fight for the number of soak mechanics on Heroic:
Goroth: 1, meteors must be soaked by pillars
Demonic Inquisition: 0, thank you Blizz
Misstress Sassz’ine: 3!
Sisters of the Moon: 2
Desolate Host: 0, thank you again
Maiden of Vigilance: 1 (counting the tankbusters as 1 together, they’re basically the same damn thing)
Fallen Avatar: 3!
Here’s the thing in illustrating this – yes, sure, soaking mechanics themselves aren’t altogether bad. Done well, they can be great bits of encounter awareness, but Tomb of Sargeras just bludgeons you over the head with them on every single fight, save for two. Even on Desolate Host, you can argue that the Boneshard Armor on adds in the corporeal realm needing a shatter which requires taking a debuff and holding it is a weird form of a soak mechanic.
The fights in Tomb of Sargeras feel as though they were each designed by a different person, and no one on the team got together at the end to look at the combined output of the team and realize that there was a huge problem with repetition. What makes this idea even more disappointing is that we know that the dungeon team does in fact coordinate efforts, so these encounters, shipped in this way, were reviewed by the full team and allowed to release like this anyways!
The end result of this is a raid that feels dull, boring, and lifeless. Once you’ve learned how to manage soak mechanics, you’re more or less done learning and can autopilot through much of the raid.
Or, you could, but these soak mechanics are tied to some of the worst punishments or timers in the whole damn game.
Let’s look at Hydra Shot on Mistress Sassz’ine and Armageddon on Kil’Jaeden as our two main examples.
Hydra Shot, on normal, is fairly straightforward – there is one beam, and you get a few seconds after the one target is marked to wrangle everyone that can absorb it into place to share the love. Great! This is a simple, fun mechanic – on Normal. Everyone sees it, stops what they’re doing, gets into line with their buddy, and resumes DPS/healing. Awesome. Simple awareness check, adds a bit of depth to the fight. Heroic, though – you get 3 random beam targets. Here’s the rub – you get about 5 seconds to adjust to get 3 random targets as far out as possible, and to get your DPS and healers that remain into one of the 3 beams, but only one of them. No one can solo soak, because they get stunned, and the fight is a tight DPS check with constant damage going out for healers. You can’t have overlapping soaks and one person taking two, because they will get stunned for that, which is a no-no. Tanks take enough damage during this fight that having them soak it is unwise. The targets are completely random, with the only rule being to not target a tank, so you can’t presort groups in any real meaningful way, and you only get 5 seconds to react before it hits. Oh, and the fight has mechanics that can force you to constantly move and adjust! So what do you do? The answer is this – you make everyone get WeakAuras and the script for this encounter, so that they can be told where to stand by an addon since that’s the only way to do it quickly enough in most groups. Okay. For real – fuck that. It’s fucking asinine to do a fight mechanic like this, and while yes, I know, raiders use boss mods, this is just a giant middle finger to players.
Now let’s talk about Armageddon. Oh boy. So, on the surface, this one isn’t quite as bad. You get a number of circles on the ground, increasing relative to raid size, with one jumbo circle and a bunch of smaller ones. Your goal is to move players such that 1 is in every circle, with a tank or special favored class in the jumbo one. Those players take pretty decent damage, with the jumbo one dealing a large amount. Okay, fine, on the surface. The jumbo one is cut down in damage by Active Mitigation, so yay – put a tank in there, pop your AM, cool. If a circle is missed, though, the whole raid takes a huge DoT, one per circle missed, so if you miss one, your healers must scramble with a cooldown to ease the damage. If you take two, well, you are toast. That’d be fine, if it weren’t for the fact that these circles could, originally and until very recently, spawn ANYWHERE in the whole fucking room. If you have slow reaction times, all far out circles, or say, a melee heavy group with at least one DPS DK and their slow lumbering asses, well, you might as well just wipe and try again.
Armageddon especially points to an even larger problem with this design methodology – the direct incentive to class stack to your advantage. Mythic guilds this tier, you’ll notice, have multiple commonalities in each successful Kil’Jaeden kill:
-At least one Guardian Druid
-DPS made up heavily of Mages, Rogues, and Hunters
Why? Easy – Guardian Druid can stampeding roar, allowing the raid to quickly scatter into their circles. Most of the successful early kills were done with double druid tanks, leading to the hilariously massive disparity in tank completion of the raid. Having Stampeding Roar up that often was huge. On the DPS side, Mages can Ice Block, Rogues can Cloak of Shadows, and Hunters can Aspect of the Turtle – taking the big hits from Armageddon without endangering a tank or forcing them to stockpile resources for AM. A full rotation of these, with multiple of each class, gives you a strong foundation of soakers with tools that simply aren’t matched in any other way.
If you’re a mythic guild with members that have progressed alts of all sorts, that is probably okay – not ideal, certainly, but for one fight it would be fine. However, these advantages bleed into many of the other soak mechanics throughout the raid, and so you see how this whole raid design paradigm turns into a giant, smelly turd.
Blizzard has been, in many ways, apologetic for what has happened this tier, but the disadvantage to their current content plan is that we have Tomb for about 7 more weeks as I write this. Antorus is in game, but still being balance tested on the 7.3.2 PTR, and there will be some class tweaks coming along with that. I’ll be honest – I’ve found myself wanting to quit raiding until Antorus. I don’t care about AotC, don’t care about the loot, don’t care about the hours of camaradarie lost with guildies – I actually loathe playing the game when I’m doing Tomb of Sargeras, and it is the only content in 12 years I’ve been playing WoW that has made me so actively think about quitting. I absolutely hate this raid, and I cannot wait for it to be dustbinned promptly in November for Antorus.
It’s only really such a huge thing because it is a fundamental design disconnect. Blizzard can’t really hotfix a better raid design into the game in place of this smelly turd. They can hotfix pieces of the design, as they have done, but overall, Tomb of Sargeras will sit in Broken Shore, itself the crown of shit, as the smelly shit crown jewel.
It does speak to Legion’s overall strength in content planning that 7.2 is not looked at worse than Warlords of Draenor, because while as an expansion WoD was weak, I would easily rather be doing 6.2 content at 110 with AP tokens being thrown at me instead of Apexis Crystals, over doing the Broken Shore and Tomb of Sargeras. If they literally put in a 110 version of Tanaan Jungle and Hellfire Citadel, I would have actually enjoyed that more. But, rather than a shit wave the likes of which no sanitation engineer has ever seen, we at least got it in small doses. Broken Shore, a weekly little splash of shit, and then with 7.2.5, the opening of Tomb, and at least my own progression pace being moderate meant I wasn’t immediately drowning in turdwater. But boy, I feel that way now, and my only solace is knowing that soon, we’ll get AotC as a raid and likely will tune the fuck out until Antorus (I hope!).
I think back to this time last year, being at Blizzcon 2016 when they showed the patch 7.2 stuff and being very excited, in a world vastly different but in many ways both in game and out vastly better, and I wonder if Blizzard knew then that the raid design of Tomb of Sargeras was a turd, diving through their puckered content orifice to stink up the game.
I guess in the end, it really is a matter of perspective. To me, raiding is my primary activity in WoW, so when a raid tier is a giant turd, it stinks up my perception of the game like nothing else. If you’re not a raider, there might be other things in the 7.2 cycle that you really enjoyed and kept you around, but for me – I’m kept in game purely by Stockholm Syndrome, for the rest of this tier at least.
(I promise not to do a disgusting theme post again for a while!)