Ny’alotha is my first cleared tier since taking my nearly four year break from World of Warcraft. While it has been fun to return to the game which has captivated me more than any other, the most prominent feeling that this tier has left me with is disappointment.
As a general disclaimer before moving forward, I returned to the game midway through this tier. I joined a friend’s guild who was 6/12M at the time of my return. Therefore, I missed progression on the first half of the instance. Additionally, I am playing significantly more casually than before. While still clearing the instance on mythic, it would be foolish to ignore that my experience was different this tier playing very casually compared to when I was raiding with a top 20 US guild. With that said, I still think that the encounters in Ny’alotha are on average less interesting than in previous tiers.
The front of the instance starts out pretty decent. Wrathion is a standard first boss – pretty easy and nothing special. However, while I think the movement debuff is conceptually interesting, in practice it is not. I tend to think that a mechanic that heavily punishes free movement of your character leads to a rather not fun experience. Not mention, there are many classes which can completely negate this ability and make it a non-factor (see: druid shapeshift).
Maut remains one of my favorite fights to heal in the instance. His stone skin phase provides an opportunity to open the healing floodgates. Additionally, the mana return mechanic during this encounter further encourages high healing throughput. However, for DPS players, the risk-reward gamble of running corruptions like Infinite Stars on this fight in order to parse can feel pretty bad. In order to parse well you need those corruptions, but if you proc too many too quickly, you are dead.
Finally, we have Prophet Skitra. This fight has an interesting mechanic where only half of the raid has the abilities to see adds in the encounter. If it were not for the issue with combat logs not properly tracking people with the opposite debuff, I think this would be a pretty flawless, easy, early encounter.
Delving deeper into the instance, we start finding more encounters where Blizzard tried some new and interesting (on paper) mechanics. Unfortunately, most of these fights fell flat. Dark Inquisitor Xanesh, the “soccer boss”, presents a new(ish) mechanic of guiding a ball through obstacles in order to score a “goal” and prevent an instant wipe to your raid. However, outside of that one mechanic, which occurs only several times throughout the entire encounter, nothing really happens. There are a few things that you need to move away from, but all-in-all, this is a tank and spank fight outside of the people responsible for kicking the ball around.
Furthermore, for a healer, this fight is entirely uninteresting. Healers are usually assigned to do some of the kicking, but overall the healing is very dull. If the raid is moving properly around the room, there is almost zero damage. Especially with current gear levels, I spend the majority of this encounter spamming damaging abilities. Another critical mistake in the design of this encounter was the damage reduction debuff given to the soccer players. While I understand that the kickers would not have much opportunity to do damage while setting up for their kick rotation – it would at least provide an additional layer of depth that good players can use to get an advantage.
Moving on to next boss – Vexiona. At the risk of being overly redundant here, this is an encounter that on paper feels like it should be a great fight. However, for the vast majority of the fight, things are pretty boring. For healers, the raid is not taking much damage during the first phase. Correctly dispel the tank, use an external on the despair tank, and heal the very minor damage coming from gateway spawns. For DPS, this is a deceptively single target encounter. The only thing that really matters is boss damage. No one should really be hard swapping to the add spawns. The tank should be rounding them up, bringing them under the boss for free cleave (especially if you have fire mages), and doing most of the damage with the annihilation ability.
The breath phases turn out to be incredibly boring. If your raid alternates moving from the “far side” to the “stairs side”, Vexiona’s breath ability is entirely predictable. Perhaps if she randomly chose a lane to breathe down, you might have to play a bit more on your toes. However, as is, this fight simply revolves around running back and forth across the room with nothing to heal or damage. The final phase is the only redeeming quality of Vexiona. If this phase lasted longer (or started earlier; or entirely replaced the air phase as the alternating phase) then the encounter would feel far more engaging.
Next up – my favorite wing of the instance. Hivemind is your typical hectic helter skelter type encounter. While there is not anything particularly unique about this fight, I think that it is fun to have encounters that are less about precisely coordinated raid movement, and more of a free-for-all “dodge things” encounter. Also, while this fight clearly favors certain DPS classes and specs over others, I think it is fun for DPS to have at least one fight per raid that allows them to see big numbers via cleave and AoE. For healers, this is also a fun encounter, especially when underhealing. There is a decent amount of consistent damage and movement which allows for a lot of room for good players to distinguish themselves.
At the end of this wing, we have perhaps my favorite encounter this tier – Ra-Den. This encounter is nearly perfect; a great combination of engaging mechanics and the ability for raid groups to come up with a strategy which works best for them, along with good healing and DPS check opportunities. This fight does well by providing enough simultaneous mechanics to make sure nearly everyone is doing something, and at the same time being punishing enough to make it so handling these mechanics properly is still required. Then, after the first phase, which requires precise movement and handling of mechanics, the final DPS burn phase changes into a hectic movement fight. Not to mention that this boss also drops some of the most valuable loot in the instance. All of this together creates a near perfect end-of-wing boss encounter.
Last and most certainly least, we have the Il’gynoth wing. This wing is a mess. Shad’har is entirely unexciting and is essentially just a Patchwerk encounter with some minor movement. Early in the tier, this boss provided some fun for healers with its consistent and high damage. However, with current item levels and corruption, this fight is trivialized. While I will not judge a boss based on how it feels after being nerfed by gear, it was still not very exciting before it was a complete pushover.
Drest’agath is the biggest flop of a fight that we’ve seen in awhile. I understand the concept of an add control fight with limited burn phases on the boss. Everything seems to work out on paper – hectic fight, dodge mechanics, near constant damage, and add control. However, in reality, this fight is really just all over the place. Often times, you kill adds faster than you can pick up orbs to DPS the boss. This ends up leaving a bunch of players being AFK, waiting for their debuff to fall off or new adds to spawn. Overall, this is probably the worst encounter in the instance.
Finally, we come to Il’gynoth. Depending on your guild’s strategy, this encounter may be a better or worse experience for you. For me, my guild does the “no dispel” strategy. This allows you to avoid the mind control mechanic, for the tradeoff that everyone needs to stay spread the entire encounter and if anyone dies it will likely wipe the entire raid. However, as a healer, this makes the fight extremely boring. For the majority of the encounter, I am in range of maybe 1/3rd of the raid, and often times less than that. Additionally, due to not dispelling the circle debuffs, everyone is constantly taking minor ticking damage over time. The issue with this is that the damage is too low feel like your heals are being effective and efficient (my rejuvenations tend to do 50%+ overhealing here); yet, the damage is too high to just completely ignore it. This creates a healing environment where the damage is boring, but annoying enough to require you to throw out pity healing. Perhaps the dispelling strategy is more engaging, but I do not know.
The end of this instance is a mixed bag. I think that Carapace of N’zoth is a well designed and implemented encounter. Whereas, I think that N’Zoth himself is a terrible encounter and potentially the worst expansion end boss that I’ve personally experienced. While healing Carapace is not particularly engaging or difficult, I think the encounter as a whole is interesting and well done.
There has been speculation in the community that Carapace and N’zoth were originally designed to be a single encounter. This makes a lot of sense to me. You start outside, fight your way inside of N’Zoth, and eventually reach the inner sanctum and take out N’Zoth. However, somewhere along the way, Blizzard (perhaps rightly) decided that the encounter was too long and had too much going on. Rather than adjusting the health of enemies and maybe skipping one of the phases while keeping the encounter whole, it appears that Blizzard instead decided to split the raid in two.
The issue with this is that they might have clipped too much of the encounter into the Carapace side, and left too little left for the N’Zoth side. Overall, N’Zoth himself just seems massively underwhelming from a design perspective. Sure, the boss is hard enough, but I don’t think he is interesting enough. You spend nearly the entire encounter just hitting tentacle adds and then afterwards, a lethargic N’Zoth who just sits there and throws out abilities at you. The Mythic-only phase is also massively underwhelming and turns out to be just a DPS race without much else going on. It appears like it was just tacked on at the end so the boss would have its obligatory “special” phase.
The vast majority of end bosses, and especially expansion end bosses, have a huge build up to them and have epic moments. Mythic N’Zoth just feels like Heroic N’Zoth with higher numbers and a silly tacked on phase.
If the community rumors were true, I think Blizzard would have been better off keeping the Carapace and N’Zoth encounters linked together. Maybe eliminate the first phase of Carapace, have the players start inside the first room of Carapace (the one where players split left and right). Then players fight their way into N’Zoth’s inner sanctum, finish off the Fury of N’Zoth add (who would have significantly lower HP than the full fledged Carapace encounter), and then engage N’Zoth himself (also, potentially cutting out one of the phases from the released N’Zoth encounter).
In conclusion, I think that Ny’alotha has some good encounters, but mostly just a lot of less-than-interesting ones. While my first raid back in World of Warcraft was disappointing, I am still very much looking forward to progressing through the Shadowlands (and hopefully back at a much higher level of play). What did you think about Ny’alotha? Let me know in the comments below on twitter.