This Week in Raiding: Dragon Soul First Impressions

Alrighty, now that the 50,000 Words project is done (and so help me if I see another screenshot again...) I can get back to writing about the game that I've been photographing for the past month. I would hate for Battle Medic to be known as just a screenshot blog.

There will be no screenshots in this post. I think I'm imaged out for a while.

As everyone knows, Patch 4.3 dropped Tuesday. Between a cranky computer that chose a horrible time to have a software glitch, a cranky baby that was overtired and dealing with a cold, and a cranky wife dealing with said baby, I didn't have a whole lot of opportunity to run the new content. I did manage to run End Time twice, once on my Paladin and once on my Shaman. End Time was a lot easier than I was expecting; very straightforward mechanics and what felt like low damage. I didn't really feel pushed all that much on either of my healers. End Time, at least, feels a lot easier than the Zandalari heroics and I am okay with that.

Last night Mountain Top went into the new raid instance Dragon Soul on Normal Mode for the first time. Our realm already has a number of 8/8 guilds, which made me optimistic that we would be able to get through it without too much trouble. From what I've heard, Dragon Soul is a lot easier than Firelands was, so long as the raid can manage the various different mechanics.

Without extensive preparation we managed to get three bosses down before we wiped to the Real Life boss. We spent about an hour and a half in a brand new, never-before-seen raid instance and yet still managed to easily one-shot Morchok and Yor'Sajh the Unchallenging Unsleeping. In addition, Zon'ozz fell after three or four pulls once we got the ball rolling, so to speak.

That's kinda nuts, really.

I really like the new 5-mans; they are short, well paced, absolutely stunning to look at and have the right amount of trash, I think. The boss encounters are easy enough to explain to a random group, and the entire dungeons can be completed quickly enough that they can be farmed without too much hassle. Which is what they are for, after all.

A raid, on the other hand, has to last. There is absolutely no reason that bosses should be killed on the first pull on the first attempt in the first week of a new raid - at least not by the non-hardcore crowd. Hell, some guilds have already 9-manned Morchok.

Now, as a disclaimer, we haven't pulled 5 of the bosses yet, so this may be premature, but I'm really worried that Normal Mode Dragon Soul is going to be easy enough that we'll blow through it in a week or two. And if this raid can be cleared by casual raiding guilds like Mountain Top so quickly, then unless the Heroic Modes are brutally, butt-clenchingly hard, the next five or six months until Mists of Pandaria comes out are going to be boring as hell. How long until we're through Heroic Modes and thinking, "What now?"

Mountain Top has never been a Heroic Mode guild - we have trouble getting the same people together each week and even more trouble getting a decent amount of time to raid. Five hours a week is about all we can manage on a good week, and quite often we're struggling to get more than two or three. With those time constraints, Heroic Modes always seemed out of reach. Now, however, with Dragon Soul it seems like Blizzard has lowered the bar for a guild like ours to get into them.

End game content in WoW has always been gobbled up extremely fast by the top-end guilds, and short of extremely restrictive gating mechanics (releasing the raid slowly over time, as they did with Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel) that's never going to change. Now, it seems as if Blizzard wants everyone to burn through the content just as quickly. I think this is a mistake.

When the Firelands were nerfed, I brought up the idea of the Tourist, which was received with a bit of controversy. Personally, I thought that the Looking For Raid difficulty level was going to be tailored for those people who couldn't or wouldn't run normal raids and just wanted to see the content to experience the story, but now it feels as if the Normal Modes are going that way as well.

Tonight we go back into Dragon Soul to see the remaining encounters for the first time. I would be very disappointed if we don't end this week at least 6/8, and wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Deathwing falls. Really, the only sticking point is how much time we'll have before we have a raider needs to leave in order to deal with the far more difficult fights with girlfriends, wives, babies and work.

It will be interesting to see where the numbers are in a few weeks. Will there be far more Guilds at 8/8 than Blizzard was expecting? And if Guilds do burn through the content as quickly as I suspect that they will, what is that going to do to the subscriber retention between now and Mists? Or, with the advent of the Yearly Subscription Pass does Blizzard even give a crap anymore, since the bribe of a pretty My Little Pony means that people aren't going anywhere and Blizzard has a free ride until the next expansion.

Time will tell, I guess.

I will say this, though, on a more positive note: I am enjoying the new content. Aside from the ease, I think the mechanics of the new bosses are quite cool, the scenery is beyond gorgeous and the sheer amount of lore that is stuffed into the raid and new heroic dungeons is amazing and engaging. I will be writing a lot more about the good things that Blizzard has given us in the coming days, I'm sure.


  1. Jebus, we must just be incompetent, then. We wiped on Zon'ozz all night long. We had the ping-pong phase well in hand, but kept dying in P2. I'm going to have to upload a parse and get somebody who knows more about healing this encounter to tell me what the hell we're doing wrong, because $DIETY knows I agonized over it during the run and came up with exactly nothing.

    But from reading the official forums and plenty of other people's comments, we are the only 6/7 guild in the world to not 1-shot the whole damned raid.

  2. I hear where you're coming from. Unfortunately the only experience I have with Dragon Soul so far is from the Raid Finder, but even that was done with only two wipes. We did all 4 bosses currently available, and were able to do it without much difficulty.

    I'm worried that we're in for another ICC - a long time in the same raid instance. Unfortunately there are no gating structures built into DS, and there are already 8/8 guilds after one or two nights. Kinda scary.

    We'll see how it goes...

  3. Good comment, Corath.

    I've gotten the same impressions so far in our raids- Firelands was definitely harder and more engaging. I experienced more wipes on normal mode in Firelands and managed to blow though the first four bosses in DS with the same team. That definitely gives pause for thought.

    Great article!

  4. I'm actually deeply concerned about what the gap between normal and heroic modes is going to look like. My guild wiped more on normal beasts of northrend 10 man in ToC than we wiped in the first six bosses in DS.

    My biggest fear for the player base is that, like ToC, there's going to be a huge divide between the difficulty in normal mode and heroic mode. Back in ToC 85% of guilds cleared the instance on Normal, yet less than 25% could kill the first boss on heroic. That left 60% of the raiding player base slamming their heads against a brick wall they had no business fighting, yet without any engaging content to work on that was within reach of them. The end result was a tier that was widely reviled as one of the worst in history. Blizzard can't afford to make a similar mistake at this junction.

    I was hoping that the addition of looking for raid difficulty would allow Blizzard to continue tuning content back to the ulduar, ICC (pre-buff), T11, and pre nerf T12 raids. I'm sorely dissapointed that this wasn't the case.

  5. We 9-manned/one-shot Morchok this week as well, because I got DC'd about 30 seconds into the fight and logged back in to find myself in Shattrath. :\ But the rest of my guild had an easy time downing him, even short a DPS. Ah well!

  6. Hell, we nine-manned Yor'sahj when one of our tanks D/C'd and the other pulled. I too fear this tier will be ToC revisited, and hope that Blizzard isn't making another huge mistake.