Does Anybody Really Enjoy Faction Champions?

31 10 2009

I don’t try to hide it. Whenever I down Jaraxxus, I sigh at the upcoming fight. I hate Faction Champions. I’d rather lose Eye of the Storm than do this encounter, which says a lot since I’m not a huge fan of PvP. I know there are a lot of other people who don’t like it (and some crazy weirdos who do) so I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why I don’t like it.

  1. Randomness. In very few other fights can you get gibbed so easily, especially while CC’d. I can break fear once every two minutes with my PvP trinket, but when I can’t break out? More often than not the melee champions start chasing me and kill me while I’m CC’d. Is there any other encoutner in Wrath where something so random can happen (and happens frequently)?
  2. I don’t get to DPS. I spend most of my time in heroic FCs casting Chains of Ice on the Death Knight and the Rogue to keep them off our casters. So basically I end up running around, away from the kill target, to cast Chains. That’s boring. It’s not the same as having a few interesting gimmick-things to do in an encounter, like switching essences in Twin Valks.
  3. It’s not PvP. One of the irritating things about this fight is that I would likely perform better if I used a PvP spec. Since it is a raid, and not a battleground, I find this to be something of a design flaw. I’m all for some off-the-wall talents being useful sometimes (like reduced Death Grip cooldown to help with Sparks on Malygos) but when it’s better to completely nuke your DPS in favour of a bit more survival? I’ll pass, thanks.
  4. Morale. I play on a PvE server, so there are a lot of people in my raid who just don’t like PvP. Whatever people say about FCs, it will always be a PvP encounter forced into a PvE situation to me. Again, this is bad design in my opinion. If anything, this is the kind of encounter that should be put behind a PvP barrier like Wintergrasp, since at least the flavour of PvP is retained. So when we do this fight, and half the raid is irritated even before we wipe, well, it just doesn’t help the raid’s morale.

So why don’t you like Faction Champions?


Where Are We Heading Tonight?

30 09 2009

This is a question I see with growing frequency in guild chat or raid chat as the group fills up. This is because, as a guild, we are in a strange place with regard to progression. We’re not quite ready for ToC-25 hard modes, but doing Ulduar hard modes can seem a bit silly. They’re definitely harder than ToC-25 normal mode, but with (mostly) inferior loot.

This makes the term “progression” a bit loopy. There’s no doubt that Algalon is significantly more difficult than Northrend Beasts on normal mode, but Algalon’s loot is a few item levels lower. If you look back at previous expansions, raiding progression was a bit more linear. In pre-BC, you started off with a mix of Onyxia and Molten Core. When you could reliably kill Ragnaros, you’d probably move on to a mix of ZG (which was harder than MC) and Blackwing Lair. Then you’d start playing around with AQ20 and AQ40. Then, if you were awesome, you’d head into Naxxramas (when it was actually hard).

A mishmash of progression

A mishmash of progression

In BC there were significantly more raids but again a fairly linear progression. You started with a mix of Karazhan and Gruul’s Lair, moving up to Magtheridon and then upgrading to the next “tier” of gear when you were ready. In Wrath, you can get Ulduar level gear from heroics. You can get ToC-25 level gear from an instance that is easily pugged (Vault). Malygos, Sartharionx3 and Kel’Thuzad drop loot that is comparable (and in some cases superior, as with the Signet of Manifested Pain and Pennant Cloak) to Ulduar gear.

Onyxia muddies the water even more. Another puggable instance that drops ilvl 245 gear! It’s crazy! Is it better, though? Hard modes have certainly made progression a fuzzier line than before. While I do certainly enjoy attempting (and later succeeding at, hopefully) the Ulduar-25 hardmodes, it feels off to be doing them after completing the normal mode of ToC. Invariably, progression is measured by the kind of loot you can get from an instance. So Ulduar is behind ToC in these terms. The major change we have seen in the last few patches of WotLK is that difficulty no longer necessarily scales with ilvl.

I recall talking to my GM about the subject (or at least something closely related) and he lamented the lack of a middleground. Something between ToC hardmode and ToC normal (which is simply too easy and a bit boring) for guilds that fall between casual and hardcore. What could this be, though? Perhaps if hard modes could be calibrated multiple ways with different loot, as with Sartharion, there would be more for middle-of-the-road guilds to do. This is my major frustration with having “hard” and “normal” modes. Where’s the middleground?

The basis for creating it is there. Have Freya with two trees alive drop, say, ilvl 236 loot (between 226 and 239, which is the ilvl of Ulduar hard mode gear). This would require tweaking of certain hard modes, such as Mimiron, where you have everything built into the press of the button. For other fights, such as the previously mentioned Freya encounter and Hodir, calibrating loot drops to have normal, medium and hard drops wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. It would also follow Blizzard’s trend of giving its players options.

Be casual, be hardcore, be casualcore. Play as much as you want. Just hope that Blizzard notices you and gives you something appropriate to your skill level to do.

Onyxia and the Raiding Doldrums

16 09 2009

Ulduar has been out basically forever. Trial of the Crusader and its heroic modes are…well, not really the most exciting raids ever. I still think that a tournament was one of the worst ideas for a raid, regardless of the lore reasons. A whole raid in one room is simply not as interesting as a place like Ulduar was when it first came out.

As well, the normal modes of most ToC fights are basically jokes. Compared to Ulduar, where fights like Mimiron and Yogg-Saron actually required some solid playing to down. So how does this tie into Onyxia? 3.2.2 – I think – should be skipped. I know it’s mostly for the 5th anniversary of WoW, but I can’t help feeling like it’s only going to make Icecrown feel further away.

Some raiders I know are sort of in autopilot these days and I can’t blame them. Ulduar after months and months is pretty boring and ToC isn’t much better. Icecrown is supposed to be the saving grace of an expansion that’s had its fair share of rocky moments, but we have to get through 3.2.2 first. Personally, I couldn’t give two shits about Onyxia coming back. Some are excited, but remember how many people liked Naxx after a few months?

At this point, I really just want to see Icecrown. Enough of raids that only tangentially involve Arthas or are easy/boring. What’s keeping me playing isn’t the current content but what’s on the horizon: Cataclysm and Icecrown.

Sometimes The Pen Is Mightier

3 09 2009

Tristan, over at The Elitists’ Podcast, wrote something I found interesting (source):

Algalon is not a fight you bang against until he dies. That fight is fought… on combat logs, and in discussion threads on guild forums.

I haven’t fought Algalon yet, but after thinking about this, I realised that there are two kinds of fights, execution-based fights and planning-based ones. To explain the difference, I’ll compare a few encounters.


An example of an execution-based fight is Heigan, in Naxx. It’s execution-based because the mechanics of the fight basically force a certain strategy. When there’s bad stuff coming out of 3/4 the floor and a spellcasting debuff around the boss, it’s pretty obvious that you’re going to stack your ranged away from the boss and stand on the safe part of the floor. So the fight comes down to your raid being able to stay alive during the dance and cleanse some stuff. That’s the entire fight.

Aside from bugs that allowed you to hide in one corner of the room and avoid the bad green stuff completely, Heigan doesn’t really require any kind of planning as long as the raid is aware of the mechanics. A lot of Naxx is like this, perhaps to its detriment. Look at fights like Patchwerk, Grobbulus, Gluth, Thaddius, etc. Every Naxx pug I’ve done has used the same strategies for all of these encounters, which I’m taking to mean that there isn’t a large element of planning to them.


Tristan used the example of Algalon, but since I haven’t been there yet I’m going to use Anub’arak. The execution element of Anub’arak is fairly simple (execution here meaning avoiding getting hit by spikes, using permafrost to the advantage of the raid and killing the adds in a timely manner). During an attempt on this boss last night, we were executing everything well. Unfortunately, the boss enraged before we could get into the Locust Swarm phase. What this meant was that our strategy was flawed.

Since we didn’t always tank the adds close to the boss, we lost a lot of damage on the boss and the adds from cleave damage, both from ranged and melee. So the fix is to change our strategy to maximize damage on the boss while also getting the adds down quickly. So the planning element of a fight comes, in this case, when the execution aspect of a fight is not so rigid as to predetermine strategy.

Another example of a planning fight is Vezax. The execution aspect of this fight includes avoiding Shadow Crash, interrupting Searing Flame and properly using Saronite Vapors to regenerate mana (on normal mode, anyways). But unlike Heigan, you can’t just explain to your raid “avoid crashes, DPS the boss and interrupt” in order to succeed. You have to create a strategy to maximize the uptime of Shadow Crash DPS time and get the best placement on the Crashes. I doubt that every Ulduar pug uses the same Vezax strategy, unlike Naxx.

New direction?

If you compare the encounters in Naxx to ones in Ulduar, you may notice that Ulduar bosses, especially the later ones, are more planning-based than execution-based. Even relatively straightforward fights like Kologarn have some leeway in strategy. You can choose to only DPS the Right Arm when it grips someone in order to minimize Rubble, or you can kill the Right Arm and Left Arm whenever they are up. While not all Ulduar fights are planning-based (Razorscale is pretty clearly execution-based) on the whole they are more malleable when it comes to strategy.

Sometimes the optional choices in fights, such as kill orders, are linked to achievements, as with the Assembly of Iron. Other times they are simply decisions that need to be made, such as with Freya’s summoned elementals. Before going into the fight, you need to decide which elemental to DPS first and what % to stop at, when to switch, etc.

Encounters in the Trial of the Crusader are something of a mixed bag. Faction Champions is a strange combination of execution and planning because the “execution” aspect changes based on what your strategy is. Jaraxxus, on the other hand, is more execution-based. With Ulduar it seemed Blizzard was placing more weight on the planning side, but now I’m not so sure.

Death Knights, Faction Champions and You

20 08 2009

The Faction Champions encounter in the Coliseum is probably the most innovative and different fight in all of Wrath. Not necessarily because it’s really difficult (even though it’s a significant step up from Jaraxxus and the Beasts) but because it’s dynamic. Unlike most bosses, where you can succeed by paying close attention to a boss’s cooldowns and various other timers, Faction Champions plays like a 5v5 arena match scaled up to PvE numbers. What that means is that this fight requires an incredible amount of coordination and quick, intelligent reactions.

Luckily, as Death Knights, we have ample resources to help out in this fight. I actually wished I was using my old 17/54 Unholy PvP spec for this encounter to get the Ghoul stun along with some other utility (but strong DPS is very important in the early phase of the fight, so I don’t recommend sacrificing DPS stats/talents for resilience or utility). The only exception to this is the WG PvP trinket, which has 190 AP on it. If you haven’t already, check out Tankspot’s video guide to the encounter. Once you’ve done that, I’ll provide a few DK-specific tips for the fight.

A few DK abilities stand out in this fight. Let’s begin with some tips for using the ever-awesome Death Grip:

  • You can use Death Grip to interrupt heals (none of the FCs are immune to the GET OVER HERE aspect of the spell), but beware of putting dangerous melee on taunt diminishing returns.
  • My guild had me pulling the primary target (for us, the Priest) out of the pack to start the encounter, as well as gripping subsequent targets out of the hubbub so that melee DPS didn’t get cleaved by Whirlwinds, Hellfires, etc.
  • If you see a mob targeting (can be melee or ranged) a clothy or healer, don’t hesitate to grip it to you. You can also use Dark Command for this purpose, but again don’t overuse these abilities lest mobs become immune to taunt (happens after 3-4 taunts on a single mob).

Next up, tanking cooldowns. I’m going to lump AMS, IBF and Frost Presence together here. Depending on your spec, you will most likely have another cooldown in the form of Rune Tap/Vampiric Blood/Unbreakable Armor/Bone Shield, but I won’t mention these individually.

  • If you’re Death Grippings mobs around, taunting off healers and generally doing DPS to stuff, chances are you’re going to take some serious damage. The mobs don’t have aggro tables, but can focus on you if they feel like it for any amount of time. So if you notice that you’re taking a lot of damage, use a cooldown. Don’t pop everything at once – pretend you’re tanking and spread your defensive abilities out.

Interrupts (so incredibly important). Since these mobs are stunnable, interruptable and grippable, it’s your responsibility to interrupt important spells (note: this means paying attention to what spells you’re interrupting rather than blowing your cooldowns on every spell you see).

Here are the important spells to interrupt (from highest priority to least)

  1. Any kind of heal (Holy Light, Flash of Light, Flash Heal, Penance, Nourish, Regrowth, Healing/Lesser Healing Wave).
  2. Unstable Affliction (this spell is bad news – not only is it immune to dispel, but it also can be hit by your Priests’ mass dispels by accident and cause bad things to happen)
  3. Any form of CC (Fear, Polymorph, Hex)
  4. Damage spells (Shadow Bolts, that kind of thing)

Note that your interrupt abilities are not limited to Mind Freeze. Strangulate was recently patched to have an interrupt component for PvE, so even though it’s on a 2min cooldown, don’t hesitate to use it if necessary. This means keeping a Blood or Death Rune available when your Mind Freeze is on CD. You can also use, as mentioned earlier, Death Grip to interrupt spells (even if you’re close to the mob in question. If you’re specced for the Ghoul, you should be using Gnaw as well.

Chains of Ice and other utility things

  • The best target for Chains is the Death Knight, followed by the Warrior (because he Bladestorms around a lot slows are less helpful). Since these targets are often left alive late into the fight, it’s important to mitigate the damage they do. The best way to accomplish this is by either hard-CCing them (things like Polymorph and various stuns), fearing or kiting.
  • Unlike most fights with adds, the FC encounter lends itself quite well to Army of the Dead usage. While your ghouls won’t taunt the FCs themselves, they can and probably will taunt the enemy’s pets (which are only level 80) and mitigate some damage. Don’t forget that AotD also acts as a defensive cooldown and reduces damage done to you while channeling it. Since taunting random crap away from healers is what this fight is all about, AotD can be a good way to start off the fight.
  • Note that the ghouls will probably break CC, so use it at a time in the fight when lots of your CC is on DR or when you are ignoring CC to burn healers down. Anything that distracts the FCs and takes a few hits is a help to your healers.

N.B. See Kathmaul’s comments for some further strategy suggestions