Sorry, no pics today because I'm in a hurry.
Wednesday's raid on Ulduar was a blast, with FL and Razorscale downed completely blind before we had to call it.
We returned on Friday night, and decided we would turn left and face Ignis the Furnace Master before proceeding.
First of all, the trash leading up to him is brutal. We figured out that the Molten Collosi (a cute nod to Molten Core!) would stop destroying our tanks with their flamethrowers and pyroblast if we split them up. Then, we waited for their jumping lava debuff to hit a mage or paladin, who would bubble or ice block to stop the debuff. On the revenants, we spread out and ran away when they sent tornadoes after us. We still lost people occassionally, but it was definitely doable. Blizz has sinced hotfixed the tornadoes to move more slowly.
This was our first experience with real trash in Ulduar, and I gotta say that even though they don't require any CC, none of them are "group em up and aoe em down" like in Naxx. All of the trash pretty much amount to different mini-games: puzzles for the raid to figure out on the way to the boss. They are also quite sparse, which I love. Each pull is complex and requires a unique strategy, but you never have to do so many pulls that the minigames become tedious. Bravo Blizz!
So we reached Ignis and read off his abilities. It sounded simple enough: bring the adds into the fire until they get 20 stacks, then bring them into the water to shatter them (cool reference to how real-life forging works). At first we tried having the offtank stand in the fire with the add, which both pissed our healers off and wiped us. We worked out good places to position the boss, and started stunning and rooting the adds to relieve damage from the offtank. None of this seemed to matter. No matter how well we executed, we died with him around 65%. After an hour or so of solid wipes, we gave in and looked up a strat. There are no detailed strategies available for him that we could find, but every indication was that we were doing everything right already! We kept trying, but gave up after another hour of suddenly dying at 65%.
[By the way: the next day I looked into it, and it turns out that the stacking buff that increases his damage by 15% each stack is supposed to be removed when you kill the adds. It wasn't being removed. No wonder we always died at the same point: that was when his damage had multiplied to the point of being unhealable! We'll try again next week, since that problem has supposedly been hotfixed as well.]
We moved on to XT002 Deconstructor. We tried to go into this blind too. We wiped immediately on the first pull due to laughter upon hearing his voice (I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's hilarious). This boss has a short and unforgiving enrage timer, and does a ton of raid damage. We worked out that we should leave the "pummeler" adds alive on the offtank and just focus dps on the boss. I ended up offtanking, so I would do just enough AoE to hold the pummelers, then focus my dps on the boss to help with the enrage timer. After about an hour of this, we looked up a strat, and discovered that we were supposed to attack the heart when it was exposed (which we were avoiding on purpose so as not to activiate the hard mode), since it took much more damage than his body did.
The entire raid went "Ooooooooh..." in unison. Two pulls later, he was down. He dropped some stupid leather crap. Douche.
Continuing our 6-hour raiding marathon, we pushed on into the Atrium, finally entering Ulduar proper. We actually used CC on the first trash pull, which made it trivial. Then we faced a pair of golems who could flamethrower a tank to ash in an instant. We eventually managed to heal through it if the tanks used cooldowns. I later stumbled upon the idea of line-of-sighting the flamethrowers, which is a strategy I much prefered to the one where I get burnt to a crisp.
A few trash pulls later, and were facing an empty ledge. We approached and a &()*$ing gigantic torso, head, and pair building-sized arms emerged from beyond the ledge. Kologarn's bearded, stone face glared at us from above. You have never seen any NPC this large in WoW. It is pretty epic.
Reading his abilities, we spread the raid out and focused DPS on the arms first, since killing them did equal damage to the boss. We didn't last too long doing this, and decided the left arm's damage was trivial and not worth the hassle of having to kill an extra set of adds. Instead, we focused down the right arm, then the adds, then aimed for the boss. This worked much better, and we got him to around 20% before calling the raid due to it being way past our bedtimes.
Returning on Sunday, we recleared trash and made a beeline for Kologarn, since he was clearly easier than Ignis, whom we suspected was still bugged. Stronger execution and smarter raid-spreading brought him down in two attempts! I got a nice tanking neck, and our resto shaman got boots.
Oh, and you use his fallen body as a bridge to get to the next area. Awesome. I made sure to stomp on his crotch a few times for good measure.
We decided to ignore the Iron Council for now and go for Auriyia. She patrols a circular area just past Kologarn, similarly to the way the first boss of HoL works. We cleared out the two trash packs on the edges (the solution to this mini-puzzle is to tank them very far apart, and kill the spark every time it tries to travel between them). We had discussed it after dropping Kologarn, and considering that the upcoming bosses were going to be more complicated (and we had wasted a lot of time on XT and other bosses because we didn't know things that we were never going to figure out without a guide or hours of work), we decided to stop taking the bosses blind, and instead use strategies and face the next few bosses to see how it went. It was a raging success, and I anticipate we will keep using guides on bosses and just concentrate on learning the fights and increasing our execution to prepare for hard modes. Raiding blind was fun, but also got frustrating when the fights got more complicated. We're getting tons of discovery-fun from learning the trash on our own, so we'll mix it with some execution/accomplishment-fun by facing the bosses with strategies in hand. It was a cool experiment, but for us it proved unteneble. We either lack the patience, skill, or both to face this entire instance blind.
Anyway, the most complex aspect of the Auriyia fight is the pull of her and the two panthers that are linked to her. She's the High King Maulgar of Wrath. Initial attempts to Misdirect proved unsuccessful. Eventually, we really hit a sweet spot by having me drop Death and Decay in their path (paladin OT couldn't make it that night), then hiding around a corner and waiting for them to approach. Just before they reached us, I hit one of my tanking cooldowns, and as they turned the corner, the main tank taunted Auriayia off me and I nailed the panthers with a Howling Blast and then spread some aoe threat on them while the dps unloaded and killed the panthers one at a time. Leaving them in the raid proved to be the best strategy, to avoid a pounce. I won't bore you too much with further description of the strategy, but briefly: we fought her along the outer wall (starting near the stairs) and then would run out of void zones to the next available place that broke line of sight to avoid further pounces.
It only took about 45 minutes of trying to down her, and she was basically done as soon as we got the pull perfect. She dropped some nice tanking pants and a caster robe with no spirit (!!). As an added bonus, a bug actually landed in our favor for once: we all got the "Crazy Cat Lady" achievement, which requires you to leave the first 2 panthers alive for the entire fight, even though we killed them. We think they respawned back on their path during the fight.
With her down, we backtracked to take on the Iron Council.
The Council consists of 3 bosses together: an iron giant, an iron vykrul, and an iron dwarf. For the normal kill, you go after them in height order, from largest to smallest. We had the warrior main tank keep the two smaller guys off away from the raid, while I pulled the giant back to us.
The giant has a move with a wind-up castbar called "Fusion Punch". Apparently, it fuses my health bar with the number zero. Now excuse me while I go find where my face landed...
Focused healing allowed me to stay alive through the Falcon-I mean, Fusion Punches, and hitting my cooldowns helped as well. We gave it about an hour of attempts, improving every time, with our best one killing the first two guys before we wiped. Sadly, we then had to call the raid due to tank disconnect (a theme for us in Ulduar). When we died, it was usually due to the main tank or his healer being unable to escape the dwarf's giant aoe in time, or someone not moving out of the giant green void zones in time. I'm confident we will down these guys next week. The fight was very complicated and hard, but fair: when we died, I felt like it was because we made a mistake, not because of RNG or a bug or poor tuning.
I'm really looking forward to blowing through all of this in the first and second raid night next week and trying some new bosses, most likely Hodir and Freya are next on our hit list. Also, first shot at tier gear! Hurrah!
The tuning in this place is tight. It's challenging for us (in a good way, for the most part) even in a lot of 25-man gear. Honestly, I think the first half is a bit too difficult for a group in only 10-man gear. It's doable, but it's less a "step up" from Naxx 10 and more a haunted, gaping precipice covered in jagged rocks and angry bees.