Perfection. How Blizzard could have made Icecrown the best raid zone yet.

Despair, so delicious.

Icecrown Citadel is one of the most fun raid instances, if not the most fun raid instance Blizzard has designed.

It has everything.

Lore tie-ins, interesting trash that isn’t just 8 pack after 8 pack, and bosses that have truly great mechanics to deal with.  You can pick out some great moments in different encounters like dealing with ooze merging late in Rotface or the final Vampiric Bite and burn phase on Blood Queen.  Healing Dreamwalker to death and the Gunship Battle are also brand new, innovative mechanics.  Top to bottom, mechanically, a superb effort by Blizzard.

I often go back and forth with myself on this however.  Is it really great? Am I just happy to get some new content? Or is it really all that I think it is?  I can certainly say that tanks do not enjoy Icecrown as much as a healer or DPSer.  There are only a select few (maybe 4) that truly involve the tanks.  Too many give them nothing to do and could be tanked just fine if they DC’d (Blood Queen comes to mind).  Let’s take a look at the raiding features introduced in Icecrown and how they could be changed or maybe they’re good enough to stay as they are.

In no particular order.

Achievements

The best structure so far this expansion.  In previous instances there were several achievements that were not tied into the meta or have any reward outside of the 10 extra achievement points.  Blizzard did away with these achievements and made a very straight-forward system in ICC.  One achievement per boss that can be completed on Normal or Heroic mode, and one achievement linked to simply clearing each wing on Heroic Mode.  The Lich King differs slightly as he has two flavor achievements, but his Heroic Mode is not required to obtain a Frost Brood Drake.

The Lich King gets his own category for Heroic Mode which offers a Realm First! feat of strength as well as the mount Invincible to one lucky raider present on the kill.

Instance Layout/Pacing

The first stretch of trash to Marrowgarr is probably the worst of the instance.  It pales in comparison to the trash in the upper stretch of the dungeon.  Each wing is different than the previous one.  You have trash mobs with auras and lots of HP (Stinky/Precious), your standard packs (Crimson Hall Vampyr), and even a room with ambushing spiders (post-Dreamwalker).

The teleport system returned, but new waypoints further into the instance for the Plague and Blood Wings would have been nice.  The trash never feels too long or too tedious.  If you work on a boss a long time and need to re-clear, it won’t kill the rest of your evening.

Boss Difficulty

Blizzard offered one wing of puggable content (1/3 of the instance) and left the rest for more serious raiding crews.  Using Zul’jin as an example, most competent raid teams were able to clear out the pre-end wing bosses without a ton of trouble.  All of them were certainly a step up, but nothing over the top.

Limited attempts were the biggest hindrance to kills on Professor Putricide, Blood Queen Lana’thel, and Sindragosa, but each were a step further above their in-wing counterparts.  Professor challenges your coordination, Blood Queen challenges your DPS, and Sindragosa challenges your patience and survivability (bettTrraaYYYyy you!).

The limited attempts are really what we focus on here.  It’s hard to place this in boss difficulty or pacing specifically, so we’ll simply address it here.  It was a well thought out, well intentioned mistake by Blizzard.  Top guilds found a way around it, and many of the mid-tier guilds felt left out in the cold not able to continue their raid week simply because they didn’t bother gearing up a second ICC25 capable toon.  The idea of using an alt to raid with instead of your main where you spend a large portion of your time and dedication is dumb and not very fun.

The original system of having your entire instance locked out if you tried bosses on hard mode was ridiculous, short-sighted, and idiotic.  It’s a good thing that Blizzard changed the system to remove the attempt counter from normal mode bosses.  Trying to get your buddy his Shadowmourne quests complete all of a sudden were looked down upon as you were potentially sacrificing attempts for one person’s weapon.  Removing the attempts allows these quests to add a fun wrinkle to a boss you do every week the same way.

Kudos to Blizzard for seeing that and removing it, but we really wish they had done it sooner so that we could get on with raiding.  The gates were ok, the limited tries…not so much.

Flavor

Every instance has a bit of flare.  Naxxaramas had its in zone yells from Kel’thuzad and the Horseman.  The floor in Maly’s room broke, and Ulduar’s saved Keepers kept you company in the Prison on Yogg Saron.  Minor things, but all contribute greatly to the instance experience.

Icecrown has it in droves.  The weekly quests have your raid hoping around every corner what  you might get this reset.  The friendly NPCs in the ramparts buff you as you make your way to the Gunship, and escorting Grok to the Val’kyr mini boss break up the monotony of pull….pull….pull.

Bringing it all together

The instance is truly a great one, but where did Blizzard miss in my opinion? They missed with the limited attempts.  I’m of the mind that anything causing guilds to severely break up their normal operation (as in, basically requiring 10 man runs or alt runs before main progression runs) should be avoided.  It’s the same reason vehicle fights are uninteresting.  I play a shaman, I want to play a shaman.  I’m not really excited about playing a tank that has 2 buttons and can’t strafe.

Toggle-able Hard Modes unlocked after one complete clear is the way to go.  Keeping some limited attempts on those is even fine if they aren’t linked to normal mode.  It throws on a layer of challenge appropriate for hard modes.  And heck, if you run out of hard mode attempts then you still get to do it on normal and finish the instance.  The only thing you miss out on is a bit of 277 gear until your raid gets more experience with the fight.

Providing more heroic attempts and eventually the zone buff will help bring more guilds along and is the proper way to pace the very top end of content.  Gating/Limiting normal mode content when there is a heroic mode available is counter to the whole philosophy behind having distinct modes in the first place.

When we look back at Wrath of the Lich King I think what we’ll see is a transition expansion.  One that brought forth a lot of new things and gave the players features to test rather than use.  Hopefully Blizzard will do what they can to combine the best ideas from this expansion into a truly epic raiding system in Cataclysm.

Lord knows we’ve tested enough different ones this past year.

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One Response to Perfection. How Blizzard could have made Icecrown the best raid zone yet.

  1. […] real problem with the above question/answer is really a reflection of this entire expansion.  Please, Blizzard, pick a badge, loot, and hard mode system for Cataclysm and stick with it. […]

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