I’ve never been much for group content. Back in vanilla I would skip most of the quests that required grouping to kill a tougher mob, usually after dying to it solo a few times first. It was a big deal when I ran Sunken Temple that one time, that I still have my Devilsaur Tooth Trinket tucked away in one of my bags as a reminder that I actually did try a dungeon at level once upon a time. With that said, it was a major decision for me when I decided to attempt the Legendary Quest in Pandaria, and as a result, used Raid Finder (LFR) for the first time.
Ultimately, I was successful and acquitted myself well enough over the years that I’ve taken to calling myself an LFR-Warrior. Blizzard introduced LFR as a way to allow players with no access to a raiding guild the ability to experience all most content. The fact that it was significantly easier was part of that feature, and offset by a reduced rewards.
Back in Mists of Pandaria, I joined Rei and Jeremy’s guild for some Garrosh kills once my boosted alliance hunter was ready. This was late enough in the expansion that the raid was on farm and there was little concern about me affecting their performance. At the end of the day, for minimal effort I got some slightly better gear than I otherwise would have.
So once I started leveling my worgen hunter again, I inquired about what ilvl I would need to join them. After dinging 100, I ran dungeons to get to ilvl 615 for Highmaul LFR. Then, as soon as I hit 635, I jumped into Blackrock Foundry LFR. I splurged on savage bloods for upgrades and managed to finish the first part of the ring quest and finally my ilvl was the requested value of 651. I was going to join their raid, except this time, they had yet to down Blackhand. This would be a progression raid.
In my role of LFR-Warrior, I had no problem never using potions, or even misplaying my spec. As a Beastmaster Hunter I used Exotic Munitions because I wanted to try them. No one was going to decry my damage on Kargath, and even Mar’gok would fall eventually thanks to determination. Every time a player queues for LFR, there is a tacit understanding that they are going to get (a chance at) loot for every boss in that wing assuming they stick around long enough. I have been raised to believe that raiding is quite feasible in an hour or less and that no boss is impossible.
Impossible seems to be the default setting for most real raid bosses.
We entered the raid, and I was looking forward to only having to kill the trash in the main room once – unlike on LFR, where every wing requires a complete clear of that room (because someone invariably pulls everything). We rolled to the right down the tunnel and the first deviation in my experience came when we ventured right again at the forked bridge and approached Gruul first. I wanted to yell “Oregorger first!” because Gruul is gated behind the oversize Goren on LFR, but I knew better. We walked in, and were rapidly successful. If all the bosses fell as rapidly as Grull, tonight would be a good night. Then we approached Oregorger.
The Oregorger fight was just as challenging as it is on LFR (I always seem to find myself directly in the path of his rolling), but it had one wrinkle I had never seen before – coordinated interrupts. Oregorger’s Blackrock Barrage can easily be interrupted, but while he only casts one at a time on LFR, he casts three in rapid succession on normal. Players needed to take turns announcing who was interrupting which cast to ensure that all three were interrupted. A mechanic with this much coordination would be a problem for a randomly assembled group with no voice chat, which is why the ability was nerfed for LFR. This was my first opportunity to observe just how simplified LFR mechanics were. It would not be the last.
After Oregorger, the next boss is normally the Blast Furnace, yet everyone headed back up the tunnel to the main room and ventured for the second wing. The bosses were still fairly straightforward, although I placed more emphasis on mitigating damage and healing with my spirit beast than I otherwise would in LFR. We continued on to the third wing with Beastlord Darmac, and then Operator Thogar. Thogar provided the first wipe of the night, as the trains overwhelmed the group, but we then downed him. I was anxious to move on and keep burning my tokens to collect loot, but it was late and the raid was called.
I managed to join everyone the following night. We spent three hours downing seven bosses, surely we could do the remaining three in an hour or maybe an hour and a half if things didn’t go our way, right? I was wondering what we would with all the extra time.
We finally made our way to Blast Furnace, and the coordination of killing the adds proved too much. We wiped twice, but ultimately did prevail. There was some confusion about which players should be assigned to the boat during the Iron Maidens fight, but after one wipe and then relying on the hunters to handle that duty, they fell. The night was still early and all that was left was Blackhand.
I did not realize that this was as far as the raid had yet progressed.
We ventured into Blackhand’s lair, and threw ourselves at him time and time again. Each time, we would get farther. First, barely getting past phase one. Then, struggling with the siege engines and snipers in Phase two. Finally, we started getting to phase 3, but usually with too few of the raid left to survive. In LFR most of the raid makes it to phase 3, and even then it’s a damage race, but the knowledge that stacks of determination would be coming with any failure removed any real pressure on the raid. Blackhand was the first time I really missed that buff, and also the first time I felt like we did not need it.
Instead of a stacking buff, it felt like we were stacking knowledge.
Each attempt on Blackhand, we pushed him further. With every failure our group observed just how we failed, and worked to prevent that again. Too many Slag Mines? Players avoided them. Players getting Marked for Death and not hiding behind debris or a siege engine? They started hiding. The value of practice and experience became apparent, as Blackhand’s health dipped lower and lower. The only problem was that we could not get that experience in the same quantity on his third phase. We pushed Blackhand to 3% health before wiping, and then the group had to disband.
I had raided before – doing Garrosh last patch and up to Iron Maidens that night – but every raid boss I set out to kill had died. This was the first time I, and the group I was working with, decided that tonight was not our night, and that Blackhand would have to wait for another day. This was my first true taste of progression. And it left me hungering for more.
Logs were posted on Ask Mr. Robot, and I dutifully pored over them. I worked on upgrading my gear for better damage. I adjusted my talents and gathered some new pets. I wrote some new macros. I wanted to be ready for next time.
For anyone who has been raiding since before Cataclysm, LFR is a step down from raiding. It is often described as for players who used to raid but now lack time to join a proper raiding guild. The Group Finder serves the same purpose, but still requires coordination and hours of time to commit. Despite this, LFR can also be a stepping stool into raiding.
Back in Mists, I was excited when the first week Throne of Thunder LFR was open, the Gaze of Gara’jal dropped. For the first time in the game I felt like I had cutting edge loot when it was current (even if it was just LFR quality). So I was a little disappointed when Blizzard decided to give LFR its own gear set, and left the tier gear for Normal raiding and higher. That desire to keep getting current tier gear (or a look-a-like) helped fuel my desire to get into Blackrock Foundry Normal. And now it has me fueled to complete it. We killed Blackhand a few weeks later, and began attempting Highmaul and Blackrock Foundry on Heroic. Someday, I would like to be good enough to defeat the bosses at that level and earn the Ahead of the Curve achievements. I do not know how likely that is, but I would have said the same thing about “What A Long, Strange Trip Its Been” the first time I reviewed its requirements. I do not know how far I will go as a raider, but I do know I am no longer satisfied just being an LFR-Warrior.
Live Q&A with Ion Hazzikostas on Saturday. Ask him who watches him. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19698651/live-qa-with-ion-watcher-hazzikostas-6-4-2015
Do you like jumping through hoops? Then you’ll like unlocking flying in Draenor. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19800551/dev-watercooler-flying-in-draenor-6-10-2015
Blizzard previewed the patch 6.2 armor sets. Why aren’t there any Tauren or Worgen displaying the item sets? I hate never knowing how it will look on me until I get it. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19797621/patch-62-armor-preview-6-11-2015
Blizzard previewed Timewalking. Unless you’re reading this article while timewalking, in which case its a review! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19366716/timewalking-highlight-the-arcatraz-6-11-2015
Blizzard previewed the Shipyard. This is what happens when everyone plays Black Flag during development. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19713706/patch-62-preview-to-the-shipyard-6-10-2015
Blizzard previewed Hellfire Citadel. I CAN’T WAIT TO NORMAL RAID THIS!!! WHERE’S NORMAL ARCHIMONDE?!!?! LET ME AT NORMAL HIM!!! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/19546341/patch-62-raid-preview-hellfire-citadel-6-4-2015