I really enjoyed Catclaysm. I enjoyed it for a variety of reasons; a lot of my friends started playing at the time, we started a guild, and raided together, classes had been streamlined, and about halfway through 4.0, Ret Pallys became viable!
One of the biggest things I liked, however, was Tier 11. Tier 11 was fantastic. It had amazing fights, unique mechanics, and lots of phat loot. It was the first tier that I properly raided in, and I could not have picked a better one to start. It had everything.
I know what you are saying now, “You have not tasted the wonders of Ulduar, you will never know good raid design.” Well, that is not entirely true, you see. I did tank Ulduar (although never finished) on Frostwald back at level 80, and from what I saw, it was an amazing instance, but that was the problem: I didn’t get to see the whole thing. As Kaivax’s blue post put it earlier this year
Ulduar is an example of a raid where lots of players got to enjoy the first few bosses, and very few players ever saw the last few. Yogg Saron and Algalon were among the least-killed bosses ever
Back then I wasn’t a good player, I wasn’t in a progression guild, and I didn’t get to see it all. I have been back since, farmed all the achievements for my Ironbound Proto-Drake, and I have to admit that some of the mechanics for hard modes are very fun, but I think it is time to take off the rose tinted glasses and appreciate what we have now.
Tier 11 did, however, have several key concepts in common with Ulduar, first and foremost being numbers. A staggering 12 (13 if you count the loot pinata) normal bosses and that always coveted 13 H: mode only boss, (okay I will admit I haven’t gotten this one down. [Note to self, pug this]) spread across three separate instances made a truly awesome tier. Each end boss felt like a massive finale, I felt that I was awesome three times more in that tier than I have since.
Gearwise no other Cataclysm tier can compete. I think we have lost a lot of perspective since we now can gear a fresh 85 into full raid finder gear in only a couple of lockouts. Let me tell you, back then stepping out of heroic dungeon rares into epic’s felt, well, epic. It felt like you were actually gaining power, becoming awesome. Seeing someone pull 14k DPS by themselves, or a tank walking around with 140k hp was a sight to behold.
But it is the bosses that really make up a tier, and by god did Tier 11 deliver. I am not going to go into detail about all the bosses that I liked (or those I didn’t) just my absolute favourites.
#1 comes from a very Ret Pally perspective, TANKING CHIMAERON (affectionately known as Chimmy) IN MY DPS GEAR! Truly an experience in how awesome Ret Pally’s are. This encounter was amazing in both design and execution and I commend the person who came up with such a unique central mechanic.
#2 goes to that feeling of elation after you finally get down all the crazy, bloody mechanics, that are trying to kill you in Ascendent Council. It didn’t even matter if we wiped, if I executed everything well, it was a success to me.
#3 was a tough choice. I mentioned that awesome finale moment that you got three times, but for me, perhaps the biggest one was the first heroic finale, which goes to Cho’gall. Man this fight was difficult (at the time) for my puny little head. Back then, I was actually a main tank, and boy did this fight have everything, positioning, tank swapping, lots of adds and a hectic last phase which I always somehow managed to screw up. Avenger’s Shield proved right there that it is clearly the best spell in the game.
Beyond that, the variety of settings, all three very unique, the return of old bosses, a really great connection with the lore (I wish Al’akir said something about me wielding his son’s essence against him but hey, you can’t have everything), introducing an innovative lockout system that managed to clean up all those messy double runs and multiple sets of gear, and who can forget: the new Valor Points system was a big hit, allowing everyone to access at least the first level of awesome, cementing Tier 11 as the best tier of WoW ever.
That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the two tiers since. Firelands was a lot of fun, mostly attributed to the whole amazing events surrounding it. I enjoyed doing the Molten Front dailies, seeing so many characters of lore along, and with literally everyone in the server doing the Molten Front at the same time, the whole event had a feeling of grandeur. The bosses themselves were alright. Shannox was a personally favourite from a tanking perspective, (I was the Riplimb tank, unforgiving yet satisfying) and I will never forget my solo kill of Lord Ryolith (my entire team died to the last concussive stomp and he had 120k left. I. am. a. boss.). Also, Leyara’s Locket is one of my favourite items in WoW…and yet, Firelands suffered from a lot of same same. The whole open design was interesting but the sheer amount of trash was disheartening. I think I wiped more on trash then on boss attempts in that raid. Additionally, my group fell apart before we could finish Firelands, which does colour my opinion, I will admit.
As for Dragon Soul, my main complaint is not one of the usual complaints you hear across the inter-webs; that it had a real disconnect with the lore, the design was like a shooting gallery, or the ending was piss-weak. No, my main complaint was that I found it so easy. I don’t know if it is just me, and I admit that I missed the opening few months of Dragon Soul whilst on break, but when I did come back, I managed to gear Justlight to raid ready in two weeks, down normal mode Dragon Soul once, do 3/8H the following week and 6/8H the week after that. There was no progression, there was no slowly building in power, it felt like a massive cop-out (okay there was a 15% nerf at the time but even then, mechanics can and should still kill you). I don’t think it is LFR’s fault either, I think it was just an over reaction to how hard Heroic Firelands was, but it ended up souring the whole experience.
Ultimately, though, we all have the right to our own opinion so before you hear a…differing opinion from Escalier next week so, what was your favourite tier?