Windlord Slaying For Dummies

21 February, 2011

“There are two kinds of spurs in this world, my friend; ‘those who come by the door: and those who come by the window”–Tuco, The Ugly

Al’akir, being end of instance boss (even if that instance is very short), is a step up in difficulty from the other fight in the instance. Usually this increase in difficulty is rewarded by a windfall in epics. Cho’gall and Nefarian drop 8 items! Al’akir? He drops a measly 5 epics of random-enchanted gear. Bleh!

Why spend the time to kill this boss? A boss with a learning curve and one with little payoff. You can spend that time on heroic bosses in the other two raid zones just as easily.

I disagree with this line of thinking. While the payoff for killing Al’akir isn’t in the loot department, you can find it in other, intangible places:

Defender of a Shattered World: It is both a title and a mount (with Guild rep at exalted). Neither has anything to do with more DPS or more healing, but it is a great morale boost. That may seem insignificant, but showing that you are a guild that takes on challenges, even if the epic reward is low, is a message to those looking for a guild and those already in the guild.

Second, his loot isn’t great, but he does give 90 valor points and the epics can be turned into Maelstrom Crystals. On Zul’jin those materials go for over 2000g each. With enchants costing as much as 6 per, you don’t want to waste that opportunity.

Lastly, I think clearing an entire tier is very important from a raid-measurement point of view. Al’akir is hard, but it isn’t nearly as hard as ANY heroic boss. Putting your raiders in as many situations as possible helps refine their skills. Al’akir is a big time personal responsibility fight. That’s the trait you want to reinforce the most.

There’s my pitch for actually doing the fight. Now I’m going to attempt to give you some tips on making this fight more manageable.

I’m going to refer to this diagram a lot, so take a look at the symbols and their arrangement.

The platform in BossBlueprint‘s map is arranged to have a “spade” at the bottom. Our raid sets up on the circles between the spades. We found the tornado spawn points to be more forgiving this way. This strategy also assumes a 6 healer arrangement, you can add a 7th to the tank’s spot easily.

Hot Spots

The tornadoes (Squall Line) spawn at fix locations on the platform (near the Orange Circles).  Tornadoes on the west go counter-clockwise, tornadoes on the east clockwise. Combine this with the Wind Blast cooldown and you create areas on the platform that are more difficult to stand than others.

The hardest sectors are the ones marked with Diamonds. Put your best/fastest learners there. This shouldn’t excuse poor play, but some people are just better at these kinds of fights. Timing a Wind Blast to get knocked off or not, timing with the tornadoes, all that takes time. Those positions will never be easy.

On the other hand, the positions marked with Circles are very easy. The Wind Blast and tornadoes are perfectly offset and you’ll never have to deal with both. Very straightforward, not a lot of decision-making.

The spot that I marked with crossed swords is where I put all of my rogues/other melee. In 25 man, obviously one sector will need 4 people. Load up that spot with melee that can mitigate damage/self-heal.

Note: When Wind Blast is casting, Al’akir cannot cast his lightning AOE. Use that to your advantage to get through a Squall Line quickly, but don’t linger! You’ll kill some raiders!

Healing Tips

Heal quickly. Use your quick, inefficient heals to top people up as soon as possible!

1. You’re going to be running around (and flying) a lot, you might not get a chance to heal them if you wait.

2. That group’s healer might not be able to heal so cross-heal and overheal if necessary

3. You get tons of regen time in this phase because of (1), don’t worry about your mana, the goal of the phase is to survive.

Phase 2, Stormlings, Feedback

Ranged DPS on the adds, melee DPS on Al’akir full time.

DPS the first Stormling to 50%, hold it until there are 3 Stormlings active, and then start killing them one at a time (we have our tank mark the kill target). This will allow you to keep the Feedback stack rolling and climbing. It will become more difficult to keep the stack as the adds will spawn as the debuff gets closer to finishing.

If you are quick, and wait at the proper times (kill the adds just before Feedback goes away), you can get crazy dps numbers. Our highest stack was 12!

Hit Herolust Warp at 7 or 8 stacks. If you can get the stack above 10 I recommend all dps switching to Al’akir and burning until Feedback goes away, then restart the stacking (you’ll be out of Phase 2 at this point).

Phase 3…go down…go down…go down…go down…

Start at the top. When you enter Phase 3 immediately fly as high as you can go. Stare the boss in the face and give him the finger.

Mark one player and go down after each cloud appears. After Wind Blast be sure to fly under the clouds if a new one has spawned. If you go below the marked person or bad things will happen. Don’t wait for a call! If you wait for the call on vent, you’re already too late. Look at your character from the side so you can see the clouds (they are faint if viewed from above).

Lightning rods: strafe to side to avoid killing everyone. You learned this lesson on Ascendant Council, just don’t go out of healing range.

Fin

This is by no means a full fledged strategy as I’ve left several mechanics out, but this should clarify some of the more difficult parts of this encounter. Use one or use them all, but don’t skip this boss. Get it out of the way. Collect Maelstrom Crystals, get people confident in the fight. You’re going to have to kill it eventually, might as well do it now.

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Evaluating Encounter Balance: 10 vs 25

11 January, 2011

The hallmark of Cataclysm raiding was the new one instance  lockout. You can kill a boss on 10 man or 25 man, but not both (heroic raid-size locking aside). The immediate and obvious question: how are they going to balance these encounters?

The Impossible Task

Their intention was to make the difficulty between the two sizes equal. Anyone with a brain (or a calculator) can see that it’s simply impossible to manage that kind of balance. It’s not to say they haven’t tried. On paper, many of the fights look identical and even in practice, some of the fight mechanics aren’t much different on 10 or 25 man.

We’ll do it like those checkmark lists you see before big football match ups. All of these judgments are based on equal gear and equal skill (“all things being equal” as they say). I’m going to be talking about a lot of raid mechanics. Seek out the usual sources for boss strategy and in-depth ability descriptions, let’s get right to it!

Throne of the Four Winds

Conclave of Wind: Not nearly as exciting as the Concubine of Wind, but an interesting fight nonetheless. Any time the raid is forced to split up in separate rooms/platforms, I give the nod to 25 man. More healing coverage, less touchy on the DPS balance. Advantage: 25 man

Al’Akir: Lots of mechanics in this fight that involve movement and individual responsibility. From running between tornadoes to spreading and staying within your own sector, it all favors a 10 man raid. Healing is slightly easier in the 25 man version, as is often the case, but I have to give this one to 10 man. Advantage: 10 man

Bastion of Twilight

Halfus Wyrmbreaker: This is completely dependent on the combination of drakes you get. If the Storm Rider is active, 25 man has a huge advantage (almost too huge). Now that I think about, even the other drakes are easier to handle as a 25 man raid because you simply have more options available to you. More tanks, more healers to assign, etc. Advantage: 25 Man

Valiona & Theralion: Limp-preventing DPS timer, a little bit of movement in different phases, but quite possibly the easiest encounter in Tier 11. Advantage: Even.

Twilight Ascendant Council: Advantage: 10 Man, all that needs to be said.

Cho’gall: Cho’gall is an interesting fight to look at in terms of raid size. There are some ground targeted things and corrupted blood which require some individual responsibility. Based on my experience and the thoughts of others who have done this fight, the variety provided by a 25 man raid is a big help. You have more things to help interrupt Worship and damage splitting for add control in Phase 1 is always more easily handled by a 25 man raid. Phase 2 is about even, difficulty-wise, with maybe a slight edge given to 10 Man. Advantage: 25 Man

Blackwing Descent

Omnotron Defense System: Lots of different abilities that constantly cycle. All of these abilities go from “meh” to “wow” by adding another 15 players. Things like interrupting, slime kiting, and Lightning Conductor become noticeable in a 25 man setting. Advantage: 10 Man

Magmaw: Magmaw is another tough call. There are some ground effects that will endanger more players on 25 man (not to mention the parasites), but the larger raid probably has an easier time killing the parasites and keeping DPS up while chaining Magmaw. Another boss that is too easy to really analyze at this level. Advantage: Even

Maloriak: This analysis will vary greatly based on raid composition so with that being said I’ll give it to 25 man. AoEing a lot of adds, RSTS that only ever hits one person. The healing is significantly easier under 25% in 25 man. Advantage: 25 Man

Atramedes: Another prototypical “spread out and stay away from the poop” fight. There is less of everything in 10 man, but with the recent nerfs, 25 man doesn’t have too hard of a time. Due to room size and the strategy…Advantage: 10 Man

Chimaeron: A pure healing check. This list is trending towards giving the healing-heavy fights to the 25 man crews and it’s no different here. Advantage: 25 Man

Nefarion: This is the only fight I’ve done no significant progress on, so I can’t really comment. Based on the complexity of the fight it might favor 25 Man, but I don’t have enough personal experience to rate it.

If you’re keeping score at home…

By my count that gives 5 fights to 25 Man, 4 fights to 10 Man, with 2 as a toss-up with 1 undecided. I would say that’s a pretty even balance from top to bottom. My 5000 ft view of Tier 11 shows me a slight edge to 25 man just because many of the fights can make use of so many class mechanics. If you were to take 1 of every class in a single 10 man, you would be able to cover everything in every fight but it isn’t uncommon to have 2 of a certain hybrid class (or even 3 in some cases).

Taking out just one of those (maybe a warlock for healthstone, as an example) could hinder you on a particular fight. If players have to handle mechanics on an independent level, 10 man has an edge.

Twenty-five man raids still incur the logistical challenge of maintaining a large crew but the amount of loot (and extra Valor Points per boss) you receive cannot be discounted.

I’m currently loving the single lockout and what it has done to really improve the outlook of a raid week. I don’t have to get on people to make 10 mans on the weekends, and even if folks have to sit out for some bosses, they aren’t missing a ton of loot/points. Maybe 25 man raiding isn’t dead after all.

Encounter Order

Many of you might have waited until after the New Year to start into raiding, and might have a tough time deciding on where to go or what is appropriate. This is my ideal kill order based on difficulty, travel time, and also strat complexity:

1. Halfus Wyrmbreaker

2. Valiona and Theralion

3. Magmaw

4. Conclave of Wind

5. Omnotron Defense System

6. Maloriak

7. Atramedes

8. Ascendant Council

9. Chimaeron

10. Cho’gall

11. Al’akir

12. Nefarian

You can flip Council/Chimaeron and Al’akir/Cho’gall and get a list that is just as good. My reason for putting Cho’gall first is because his loot is much better than Al’Akir’s.¬† In any case, Nefarian is a difficult boss that definitely should be saved for last.

Be Heroic

Don’t look at what the “Top Guilds” (Top Guilds) have done as a model for your team. Only you will know when you’re truly ready to tackle the hard mode encounters. It will likely take some trial & error with plenty of log digging to determine what needs to improve to take that step over the heroic hump. Don’t fear it, but also don’t waste time on something that needs a little more juice in the gear department.

(Keep in mind you need to complete an instance on normal before opening it’s heroic mode)

Our raid week involves 3 full 25 man raid nights with a 10 man running Monday to try out any new encounters or work out strat kinks for the next raid week. Having that little bit of extra info can mean several attempts with your full raiding crew.

Raid leading is fun, isn’t it?

Obviously this all just my opinion from doing the fights, I’m looking forward to hearing how other people’s raids have been going early in Cataclysm.