With all normal modes being farm for most progression guilds, I thought this would be a good time to give my opinion on this tier’s normal mode encounters, and what I thought about each boss. Due to the length of this article, we have split it into two parts for easy reading. This is Part I, please click here for Part II.
Overall, I think this has been a very successful tier for Blizzard. Almost all the encounters feel well tuned, placed, and interesting. Also, the number of bosses feels perfect, 12 “normal” encounters with one bonus heroic boss at the end. I wouldn’t mind if Blizzard made this twelve boss-one instance set up the new model for all their raids. It is really the sweet spot. In Firelands and Dragon Soul, there were not enough bosses, and the period in between tiers was too long for them. In MSV/HoF/ToES, 16 bosses seemed like far too many, especially spread amongst three instances. Meanwhile, 12 normals and 13 heroics seems great and doable for most progression orientated guilds, even with Blizzard’s new accelerated launch schedule. Now lets take a look at the encounters.
The first wing of bosses felt very well tuned (at least on 25m) for the beginning of the instance. We cleared all three of these bosses first night within an hour with little issues. Although, Horridon and Council were a bit overtuned for 10ms at launch, but has since been hotfixed. Jin’rokh is a solid first encounter on normal mode. Almost all guilds, even “super casuals”, should have no issue killing him within one raid week, if not within one raid night. He has some very basic mechanics that are easy to deal with, however, they are still fun and new.
Horridon is the second boss in the instance. For 25ms he was a push over on normals; however, he was pretty over tuned for 10ms the first few nights. Thankfully for 10ms, Blizzard quickly addressed the issue and hotfix nerfed the adds (hotfix was also applied to 10m Council). Overall the fight is solid. Horridon does not stand out to me as an amazing fight, although he is not a bad fight either. At first he may seem a bit chaotic with all the adds and abilities, but if you dig deeper, he is really simple. There are four doors of adds. Each door has adds that put debuffs on raid members (one poison, curse, disease, and magic) that healers need to dispel. Also, each door has an add that spawns some type of void zone, all of which are pretty similar in the fact that you deal with them by just staying away. Finally, each door will spawn a Dinomancer add which needs to be brought to 50% to move to the next door. I think this is a good encounter to have at the front end of the instance due to it’s simplicity. In addition it is a nice “learning boss” for more casual groups to get used to add control type fights before more punishing add control fights (ie. Dark Animus).
Finally, the last boss in this opening wing of the instance is the Council of Elders. Most of the commentary from various forums about this fight has been mostly negative. However, I think this is a little unfair. Many casuals are complaining that this fight is overtuned and needs to be nerfed. I do not agree. For a hardcore guild, like ours, this fight was quick and easy (as all normals are for heroic guilds). However, this fight seems to be a bit of a wall for many casual groups, especially 10ms. I think that is great! Why? Well, this boss is the end boss of the first wing, and should be sort of a milestone in progression through the instance. In my opinion, the best way to design an instance is to have speed bumps scattered equally throughout the raid. This way you might have a more difficult fight, then 1-2 easier fights, then a more difficult fight, etc. This helps keep the place interesting. If all the bosses were too easy, it wouldn’t been fun and everyone would clear the instance too quickly. But if all the bosses were too hard, almost no one would clear the instance in a reasonable amount of time. So, having hard and easy bosses mixed makes for a perfect combination. Also, I find it relieving to down a “speed bump boss” then have 1-2 lighter bosses afterwards before the next break in progression. All-in-all, Council is not a hard fight, it is just harder than the previous two, and thus provides a perfect speed bump in the progression of fights. If you are a group stuck on this fight, and getting frustrated, just keep at it and these guys will eventually die! (And isn’t it much more rewarding after killing a boss which took a bunch of wipes?!)
Next is the Forgotten Depths wing of the Throne of Thunder. Before I get into the bosses, I think this is the perfect opportunity to talk about the ambiance and environment of the raid. One of the greatest things about everyone’s favorite raid, Ulduar, was the sharp contrast of environments as you moved through the instance. You started outside with the Flame Leviathan and XT, then moved inside to the Council, then to the vastly different surroundings of the various Protectors, then finally down to an alien Old God environment with the General and Yogg-Saron. This is how the Throne of Thunder feels as well, and it is one of the best parts about the design of this raid. One of my major gripes with the raids in Cataclysm, besides the small number of bosses and lack of creativity in encounter design, was the stale environments of the raids. This is especially true in Firelands and Dragon Soul. In those instances, the environment never changed, it got old and boring very quick (especially when you farmed Dragon Soul heroic for almost a year).
In Throne of Thunder, each wing has it’s own distinct feel and look. The first wing is outside in an overgrown ruined palace type area populated with Zandalari trolls. In the second wing, you go down to the depths below the Throne of Thunder to fight various animals and beasts in a dark cave-like setting. Then you climb out of the depths and find your way to the “Anima Wing” with Durumu, Primordius, and Dark Animus. This entire area has a dark and evil “mad scientist” feeling to it. Finally, you end the instance with the Thunder King’s wing, which has a clean look to it with a lot of lightning-esque art. This ever changing environment adds a lot of variation that helps to break up the monotony.
Anyways, back the bosses in this wing. First we have Tortos, the giant turtle. In my opinion, this fight serves no purpose. It’s mechanics are not interesting or fun in any way, they are really just annoying. The bats are nothing more than a reason to have two tanks on the encounter, and give something for melee to do. Meanwhile the turtle shells are hardly innovative or enjoyable, they just serve as an annoyance. I know this is a review of normal modes, however, the heroic Crystal mechanic does add some fun to the fight, especially for healers. Although, the main premise of the fight is rather boring still. I see what Blizzard was trying to do with this fight, but it really just didn’t work out. This is the only fight in the entire instance I think is downright bad. Remove this encounter and Throne of Thunder goes from great to excellent.
After the turtle we head to the hydra boss, Megaera. I have mixed feelings about Megaera. I really like her mechanics and the way the fight works, being able to choose your order, and thus how the fight progresses. However, on normal mode, she is extremely undertuned and this “easy-ness” takes away from the interesting fight that she really could be. Obviously, this issue will be fixed for guilds who see her on heroic difficulty. Although, I am a little disappointed that many casual groups will not see Megaera’s full potential to be a really fun and interesting fight.
Finally in the Forgotten Depths, we have Ji-kun. Ji-kun is one of my favorite fights this tier. All of her mechanics are pretty interesting and the fight is a lot of fun. In addition, there are multiple viable strategies for dealing with her nests, which allows for variability in the ways guilds down this boss (which is always good). Overall, the fight is really fun. You organize into 5-man squads to go kill birds at particulars nests while dealing with quills damage and flying around catching food for a DPS boost. All the mechanics in this fight interact together in a perfect symphony and it feels really good once you figure it all out. This is a superbly designed fight, and I hope to see more fights like this in the future. Once again, as with the Council fight, Ji-kun is a bit harder than the previous two fights, and will provide a bit of a halt in progression for most groups. However, because this is such a great fight, you probably won’t mind spending some extra time on her. Take your time and enjoy this fight!
This concludes Part I of our editorial review of this tier, please click here for Part II. If you have any comments or questions about this article or the material discussed, please feel free to leave a comment below!