Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boss Tuning and Hard Modes

When ToC first came out - and to a lesser extent now that ICC is out - there were a lot of complaints that the bosses were "too easy".  And a lot of these posts seem to imply that easy normal mode = easy hard mode.

The error with this is that it assumes mechanics are the primary driver behind interesting boss fights.  This is true to some extent - a straight tank-and-spank with nothing else happening would be very boring.  But the key factor is that mechanics are only interesting if you can't ignore them.
  • Marrowgar is easy now because, well, it doesn't matter if the whirlwind hits you or if you leave a dps in a spike for 15 seconds.  
  • Deathwhisper is boring because you can easily kill the add waves, dps the boss down and never hit enrage - and the Death N Decay and add damage isn't that impressive.  
  • Gunship has no real dps and barely any healing requirements - if you are undergeared you can just have your tank go over less often.
  • Saurfang is the most difficult of the first four - it has an actual dps requirement, although not a very high one.  With proper positioning we saw 3 marks in 25-man this week, and zero in 10-man.
The common factor between all of these is very simple:  Dps and healing requirements are too low for mechanics to be important.

To say it another way, what makes boss fights interesting is dps and healing requirements.  Not by themselves, but because they force you to pay attention to the weird stuff bosses do.  If Marrowgar has a tight enrage and his whirlwind will two-shot you, then suddenly it's an awesome fight.  Did the mechanics change?  No - but they became more important.

The same is true for practically every normal vs hard mode, and it's why I expect ICC Hard Modes to be awesome.  Every fight so far looks like it could be a blast on heroic, and Blizzard hasn't disappointed in the past.


  1. Curious, I thought Deathwhisper, not Saurfang, was the only nontrivial fight so far in normal mode. We run two ICC clears with mains/alts mixed for loot, so DPS can be on the low side, and Deathwhisper took effort to keep under control. Saurfang posed no issue even with low DPS--two marks in 25m and 0 in 10m, I think (going out of our way to position well to practice for Heroic).

    There's practically nothing to heal at Saurfang, whereas Deathwhisper is hectic and you can lose people to simple mistakes.

  2. In my experience Deathwhisper takes a bit more execution (which means you might need to spend an attempt or two learning it), but overall has a pretty low dps requirement.

    Saurfang has a slightly higher dps requirement, something that pugs may actually miss. I had a run on my warlock that simply couldn't kill him - my lock was undergeared at the time and we didn't have enough overall dps.

    If you look at WoL data:

    Then it looks like 10-man Deathwhisper is more difficult (possibly due to less tanks and the transition?) where 25-man, Saurfang beats it.

  3. I agree with your point. Many bosses are easy because their mechanics are too forgiving. The damage is weak and mistakes don't wipe the raid.

    The wipe count for Lady Deathwhisper might be skewed due to her achievement "Full House." If you didn't get all 5 adds or she transforms one before she transitions into P1, you have to wipe since no adds spawn in P2.

    Saurfang is definitely more difficult, relatively, to Deathwhisper. Guilds with weaker damage dealers will have a tougher time on Saurfang due to more Marks. After the first Mark and past 30%, it becomes a dps race to defeat him before the number of marks overwhelm the healers.

    Deathwhisper isn't a race. There is more than ample time between each add phase to clean them up.