ZOMG 3.1 came out last night! And though server maintenance seemed interminable (every hour we got a new announcement saying they would make an announcement in an hour), the patch was surprisingly stable and low on bugs compared to past patches, especially ones of this magnitude.
My guild is full of realists, so instead of dashing straight into Ulduar, we had reserved this evening for everyone to get their addons squared away, set up their dual specs, and explore the new non-raid content. As it turned out, the patch was so stable that we were ready to raid at one point, so we threw together a quick raid on the Vault of Archavon and the new boss therein, Emelon the Storm Watcher.
But before I get to that, I have some ...news. I'm not sure yet if it's bad or good for you, but I'm pretty happy about it.
I'm switching mains.
Up until now, I've considered myself a proud member of the Rogue community, trying to encourage other rogues to enjoy the class and be proud as well, despite that fact that rogue numbers declined this xpac faster than any other class. However, a confluence of factors compelled me to switch mains. I have a level 80 DK, and I'd really been enjoying playing her lately, more than my rogue. I liked getting back into tanking a bit (as my offspec, when needed), and having that flexibility was such a boon, especially when my guild only has 2 other toons capable of tanking, so if one of them doesn't show we usually have to call a raid or bring alts. Dual spec makes this even better (and didn't help my rogue help the raid).
My 10-man raid is also caster-heavy, so I figured the unholy buff would be better than the rogue buff for our group overall. Though my rogue was in almost full Best in Slot, my DK also has excellent gear and was able to be competitive with my rogue (at least before he got buffed in 3.1) on DPS. The bottom line was, I was having more fun and getting more variety out of my DK (and I gotta say, womping things with a 2-hander was a factor), and it was a win/win for my guild. We didn't even have a DK main until now, which kind of made Malygos more of a bitch than he really had to be.
I also had another major reason to be disappointed with my rogue. Rogues offer the absolute least raid utility of any class. Period, end of story. Rogues bring the fewest buffs to the raid.
Consider this: Rogues are now the ONLY class that can't either offer tanking, healing, or replenishment if needed. They are also the ONLY class besides hunters who do not have an innate ability to buff a raid regardless of spec (Mark of the Wild, Battle Shout, Imp HP buff, etc.), and hunters have the advantage of being one of the more convenient replenishment sources (90% of raiding hunters are specced for it because it's their strongest DPS spec), a stronger misdirect, kiting ability, can bring more buffs from their pets, AND have buffs within their specs that are at least as good as whatever rogues can get. And let's not even get started on Battle Rez or Bloodlust for raid utility.
This isn't a big deal in 25 man raids, since it's pretty easy to get all of the major buffs covered. But in 10-man raids, it's inexcusable. You need to stack buffs, and every player needs to be buffing everyone else.
Before, I brought 4% physical damage to a raid with only 2-3 physical DPS, and a weak misdirect. I couldn't reliably use Tricks to buff someone else's dps because there was usually no one else in melee range with me, and Tricks wouldn't reach the mages or hunter, not to mention threat issues. Now I bring Horn of Winter AND 12% magic damage to a raid with 3-4 magic dps, AND tanking capability. It's no contest.
Rogues need to provide another buff. Preferably at base without it needing to be talented into. I'd recommend they make the 4% physical damage innate to poisons, and replace it in the Combat tree with something else like the bleed debuff (currently the purview of feral druids and arms warriors).
But anyway, yeah, now I play a DK instead of a rogue mainly. The rogue isn't gone, I just won't be playing him as much anymore, nor paying as much attention to min/maxing him.
And so it was that my Unholy DPS DK took on Emelon the Storm Watcher in a 10-man raid with my guild. We went in totally blind: not even a hint of strategy or research. It was thrilling: the fear and anticipation of not knowing what was going to happen, and trying to be prepared and alert to react. It was a blast! I definitely enjoyed the Tobold style of fun last night. :)
There's a new branch off to the right of the central, circular room as you approach Archavon. Turn down that branch, and you face a short hallway with just 2 trash mobs. They look like bluer, glowing-er versions of the stone trash you are used to fighting. They appear to be lightning revenants. When they get low on health, they start to quickly stack a buff on themselves that increases their damage heavily. You need to burn them fast right at the end, so they don't go around one-shotting your raid.
After clearing the trash, you face Emalon himself, which looks just like Archavon as far as I could tell. His room looks a bit smaller (thought that could just be my imagination). He's surrounded by 4 adds. Though they look like the lightning trash you just killed, they have different names and much lower HP pools.
As we stood there buffing up and planning, we went with a classic strategy: AoE down the adds, then kill the boss. Simple. Time-tested.
He spawns new adds periodically throughout the fight, and by the time we could kill even one of the originals, a new one had appeared at full health to take it's place. Around this time, one of them started to grow, gaining stacks of the buff to his damage. We kept AoEing. Then suddenly everyone was dead! A quick check of our combat logs revealed that the lightning add had zapped us all, so we decided to just focus on DPSing the boss down and ignoring the adds, and seeing how that went. The trash before the boss had triggered the buff based on HP, so as long as we didn't hit the adds too hard, we were safe, right?
Wrong again. Around the same distance into the fight, we all suddenly died all at once.
But this time, we noticed that the supercharge seemed to be triggered by Emalon himself (he emoted when he did it), rather than by the HP of the add. We also noticed, from all the pain, that Emalon had a Loken-style lightning nova with a long cast time that you had to run away from him to avoid. This is a nice anti-M&S measure to the fight.
When we got back, we decided that we would dps the boss until he supercharged an add, then we would focus DPS down the charged add before he could kill us.
It was a close thing, with the adds reaching 9 charges more often than not. But we did it. On our third attempt, we defeated the new raid-wiping VoA boss after going in blind. It was an awesome experience.
I thought the fight was very well-designed, for a simple WG boss. It had a good reason for using both tanks and it put damage control in the player's hands: run out of the nova, and your healers have less to heal through. In a way, this makes the dps players "heal" themselves, which is great, and forces them to pay attention beyond spamming their rotation.
The best part of the design is that it required quick focus, coordination, and high dps to survive. All the dps had to switch to the add immediately, or wipe the raid, and they had to do enough dps fast enough to beat the stacks. It was a rare instance of placing responsibility on the dps, rather than putting it ALL on the shoulders of the tanks and healers while the dps got to goof off and spam their rotations.
I can't wait for tonight's Ulduar-10. We'll be going in semi-blind this time, with a bit of knowledge of the abilities of the early bosses, but not strategy spoilers. Wish us luck!