Sunday, October 07, 2007

Choosing Your Battles

With the removal of attunements, there is a point where a T4 raiding guild is faced with multiple possible paths for progression. Many guilds, in my opinion, are choosing a path which looks deceptively easy, but has a lot of negative repercussions.

After a guild kills Gruul, there are three or four possible choices for the next boss to focus on: Magtheridon, Hydross/Lurker in Serpentshrine Cavern, and Void Reaver in Tempest Keep. Of these bosses, Void Reaver is the easiest, and Magtheridon is probably the hardest. Given that Void Reaver drops T5 shoulders, a lot of guilds choose to tackle him after Gruul. I believe that this is a mistake, which ends up hurting the guild progression in the long run.

Casual raiding guilds, especially those on a limited schedule, need to organize their schedule for progression. There are three competing constraints that a raiding guild needs to follow:
  1. Maximize the time spent on Progression instances.
  2. Minimize the time spent on Farming instances.
  3. Maximize the number of epics gained from the Farming instances.

You need to spend time on boss fights to learn them. The more time you spend on a fight, the better your progess is. But you still need to farm a beaten instance for gear in order to improve your raid. Spend too much time farming, and you won't get the experience on fights that you need to beat them. Spend too little time farming, and your raid won't improve gear-wise. (Not to mention that your raid will get discouraged from the lack of loot.)

The key to sustainable progression lies in how you manage your farming time.

So, keeping this in mind, let's look at the three options again. What happens after you put the target on farm?

If you kill Void Reaver or Lurker/Hydross first, your farming instance is Gruul's Lair. You'll get about 7 epics for your farm night, and you'll probably have to add Karazhan runs to supplement the extra gear. Or you'll end up working on SSC, but farming Gruul's Lair and Void Reaver, which takes a fair bit of time and nets 10 epics.

On the other hand, if you tackle Magtheridon first, it may take a bit longer to learn the fight, but once he's down you have a farm night of Gruul's Lair + Magtheridon, which is very fast and gives 12 epics. This allows you to give the maximum amount of time to the next raid instance.

In fact, I believe that a guild should ignore Void Reaver until SSC is complete and becomes your farm raid. Even though you can kill him earlier, going after Void Reaver earlier is non-optimal for the three constraints listed above.

In my opinion, raid progression should go in the following order:
  1. Karazhan
  2. High King Maulgar/Gruul/Magtheridon
  3. Serpentshrine Cavern
  4. Tempest Keep
  5. Mount Hyjal
  6. Black Temple

You should concentrate on one instance, and farm only the instance behind it. As you move down, you drop the oldest instance in favor of farming the next instance. For example, once you've killed Magtheridon, move into Serpentshrine Cavern and drop Karazhan. Once you've killed Lady Vashj, move into Tempest Keep and drop High King Maulgar/Gruul/Magtheridon.

Note that this list is not organized in order of boss difficulty. The objective here is not to cherry pick bosses as you are able to, but to optimize for the three constraints. Maximize progression time. Minimize farming time. Maximize loot from farming.

I believe that is the best recipe for long term success.


  1. I agree with most of what you said, except this:
    "You should concentrate on one instance, and farm only the instance behind it. "

    Problem is, Vashj is *way* harder than the first 2 or 3 bosses in TK. So of course you should minimize the time spent farming, and maximize the time spent on new content. But what difference does it make if that new content is spread across 2 instances?

    The real turning point comes when you're in front of Leotheras. He's hard. So now you have a choice: Leo, or Void Reaver. They're both new content, and I promise VR will drop quicker for you than Leo will. So why not go for the one with a better chance of loot?

    Vashj is another turning point. My guild spent 3 weeks on Vashj before we downed her. We downed VR and Al'ar the first week we faced them. If you spend your new content time downing hard bosses in SSC rather than easy ones in TK, you're limiting your progression. Plus, the loot you get from the easier bosses improves your raid so it's better prepared for the hard bosses.

    The same thing happened pre-TBC. It was generally accepted that Naxx was harder than AQ40, but the vast majority of guilds beat Razuvious before C'thun (or even Twin Emps).

  2. Hmm.. aren't you ignoring one of your own points here? That a raid will get discouraged due to lack of loot? If you focus on just one instance at a time and hit a brick wall (for example, dying tanks on Magtheridon), your progression.. well.. stops.

    So now what? Go back to Karazhan and gear up some alts or gather some void crystals? If you hadn't limited yourself to just one instance you could continue straight from Gruul to Lurker/Hydross and/or Void Reaver/A'lar and be better equipped for the next week's Magtheridon raid even if you didn't down a new boss, thanks to trash epics and patterns.

    Variety spices things up, and being able to switch to a progress raid target that doesn't punish you that severly for your raid's weak spots allows you to progress while you're still gearing up.

  3. How do the two Outland World Bosses fit into raid progression?

  4. It's important not to underestimate the trash-clearing time. Coriel is speaking from the perspective of a three-hour a night raiding guild; from that perspective, it's non-optimal to spend time "farming" Void Reaver because 30-45 minutes of that time is trash (i.e. not purples, and therefore wasted). Then you pack up and go clear more trash for your farm boss... if you have time.

    Whereas with Gruul/Mag you get both instances down within those three hours.

  5. The way I see it, the big problem with going into TK to kill Void Reaver (and only Void Reaver) is a simple matter of poor return on time invested. This goes double for a guild like Coriel's that has relatively few raid-hours per week. Killing Void Reaver means clearing both Al'ar's trash and Void Reaver's trash, but only collecting loot from Void Reaver. If you only raid ~3hrs/night, thats probably about half your raid night gone.

    Furthermore the actual experience your guild gains is dubious - I'd argue that pretty much any fight in SSC is more difficult than VR. You're not gaining the skills that you need to defeat Vashj or Al'ar. So why bother? It's low-hanging fruit sure, but it's not a good idea. I think if you're zoning into TK you should plan on spending the night there and working toward a schedule where Al'ar, VR, and Solarian die one night, and the next can be spent either on Kael or back in SSC depending on how your guild wants to progress. Especially for a guild with a limited schedule, moving between instances can waste a lot of time.

    The one time my guild has taken a "split" progression path has been in BT/Hyjal. We'd spend one night in Hyjal to collect loot from the first few bosses & get some decent learning experience. After that we'd work BT until Naj'entus, Supremus, Shade of Akama, Gorefiend, and Gurtogg were dead. Those five bosses are something any guild that's killed Vashj and Kael should be able to manage with relative ease, and they represent a LOT of T6-level gear flowing into the guild. Also as your guild gets more comfortable with the content, clearing all five in a single night is very possible. After those five were dead we chose to turn our attention toward clearing Hyjal before tackling Reliquary & beyond, and I've been pretty pleased with how that division of our time has turned out.

  6. The key thing is that you need solid blocks of time to learn the hard bosses. If you get distracted by easy shinies, that will drag out your learning time on the hard bosses.

    People are right in saying that the less time your guild has, the more important scheduling becomes. If you only raid 3 nights a week, 2 nights should be progression and one night should be farm. The question is what are you going to be doing on that one farm night?

    If you really wanted to, you probably could delay Vashj. At 5/6 SSC, treat SSC as farm, and start work on TK. At 3/4 TK, switch TK to farm and go back to Vashj. The key point is when do you drop HKM/Gruul/Mags?

    Also, you go that path, you'll get nailed by Vashj and Kael, two hard bosses coming right after each other. There's something to be said for having a couple easy bosses after a hard boss.

    How do the two Outland World Bosses fit into raid progression?

    To be honest, for a guild with limited raid time, I don't think they do. I think it is better to focus on the other instances, rather than hoping that either one is up.

  7. The real turning point comes when you're in front of Leotheras. He's hard. So now you have a choice: Leo, or Void Reaver. They're both new content, and I promise VR will drop quicker for you than Leo will. So why not go for the one with a better chance of loot?

    Because you need to look at what your raid schedule looks like after you beat the boss. If you beat Leo, you're giving yourself a lot of time to learn Vashj. If you beat Void Reaver, you are actually losing time in the schedule.

    If we beat Leo, what does our raid schedule look like?

    If we beat Void Reaver, what does our raid schedule look like?

  8. I agree mostly except I dont believe that you should farm TK/SSC exclusively by tackling one at a time. VR and alar are so easy that they should be on farm status around the same time that Lurker/hydross are if not before. The only problem is the long trash in TK.

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  9. My guild actually is going through a transition much like what Coriel is describing. We just downed Kael for the first time yesterday, and since we only raid 3 nights a week we're debating whether or not its time to start cutting out older raids like Gruul and Magtheridon to make room for more Kael/Vashj kills each week (we have spent 3 weeks straight without even visiting SSC in order to concentrate on Kael).

    The big problem I see is that VR has an obscene amount of trash that is actually relatively difficult. Even for my guild it stil takes us a good 40 minutes to clear to VR (if we don't stop and kill Al'Ar for some reason). For a guild that can only raid for a little while each week every minute counts. I can easily see why you would want to skip VR and concentrate on SSC, where you could get multiple attempts at multiple bosses in the time you spend getting to and downing VR. The reason he is such an appealing target though his he is an easy source of tier 5 loot, unlike Leo/Fathom Lord which are both fights that require many attempts on.

    That being said, I don't think you should or even can completely forgo TK until you clear the Eye. Just as Hyjal/BT are meant to be cleared at the same time, the same holds true for TK/SSC. I honestly feel that spending 2 days in SSC and the third on VR/Mag/Gruul is the best course of action, it worked well with my guild for a while. Once we were 5/6 SSC we began spending more time in TK to get Al'ar and Solarian down. You can adjust the schedule as needed too depending on what you are going for (for example we completely dropped TK/Gruul when we were working on Vashj and dropped everything when we were working on Kael).

    Another option is to try going for Al'ar and Solarian on your VR nights. Both are relatively easy once you get the strats (with the change to the Solarian fight it is now pretty easy, Al'ar takes a while to learn but once everyone has the strat down its a good clean fight) and both drop very nice upgrades.

  10. Now that a couple of guilds are in BT/Hyjal on our server, the world bosses are officially for PUGs led by a few members of the T6 guilds and attended by just about anyone listening to Trade Chat.

    Our own guild is stuck because we don't have enough solid, consistent raiders to one-shot Lurker or Magtheridon. On any given night, we can usually bet that people are going to be dying to spout or missing cube clicks enough for us to waste the entire evening on one boss.

  11. Whilst I’m in the exact same boat as Coriel in what I’ve dubbed a ‘medium-core’ raiding guild we run 25’s three times a week lasting between 3 and 4 hours I think the light weight 25 mans end at Magtheridon.

    Whilst we have 15-20 players with (I imagine) the concentration, ability and enthusiasm to clear both of TK and SSC we struggle to fill the last 25% of spots with adequately skilled players having to draw on a casual base that is still running at Kara level competence or less.

    After a full nights raiding on VR last night will no reward because of an easily identifiable lack of DPS (that every officer had already showed concerns on) is it worthwhile throwing under experienced players up against the trash and the boss as an investment in there ability. Or cancel the raid and let those that need to continue Kara runs do so. (The week had already achieved Gruuls & Mags Lair and a Guild first on Lurker and some attempts on Tidewalker)

  12. steven, I believe it is worthwhile. Your under-experienced people need to get experience, and they can do that in the 25-mans.

    Gear is not as important as it once was. It's helpful, but you can run heroics or even PUG Kara outside outside of scheduled raids.

    Knowing how to squeeze maximum performance out of your current gear is more important than gearing up, especially for DPS. Getting T4 level epics is not going to take a 400 DPS character to 800 DPS.

  13. Here's a question along those lines: Is there any reason to not do TK first? Is Vael significantly harder than Vashj? While I realize most people view it as a Kara > Gruul > Mag > SSC > TK > Hyjal > BT, but would Kara > Gruul > Mag > TK > SSC > Hyjal > BT. My line of thought is that TK has fewer bosses.

    If you complete it first, and get it down pat it will take a smaller amount of time you can devote to having stuff on farm status. I would imagine that once you have it down and on farm status you could easily clear it in a night, unlike SSC which I would imagine would take a fair bit of practice to get to the point where you could clear the entire thing in a single night (6 bosses vs 4). Plus with such a small instance, you could probably clear it fairly quickly, and then afterwards if you have time squeeze in a Mag or Gruul kill.

  14. kaziel, Kael is supposed to be significantly harder than Vashj. So that's the main reason people don't do TK first. Otherwise, it would probably be a good idea.

  15. Kael is the hardest fight I have ever done in this game. This is comming from someone who cleared through AQ40 in Vanilia.

    Vashj isn't a terribly difficult fight, once you learn the positioning and everyone gets their core passing down its actually pretty easy (besides the enrage timer which is killer). Kael is an entirely different beast. You have to have 25 well geared, smart players to get anywhere on that fight. Not to mention any wipe on him sets you back 10-20 minutes because it is such a long fight.

    Now for "trash bosses" I would say TK is easier than SSC. In order of difficulty I would go ahead and say (from easiest to hardest) VR --> Solarian --> Lurker --> Tidewalker --> Hydross --> Al'ar --> Fathom Lord --> Leo. I think that working on both TK and SSC at the same time is the best course, and when you need to concentrate on a certain boss you can just drop the other instance.

    Kael was designed for people who have SSC on easy farm (including Vashj). It is an incredible fight, to say the least, both in its complexity and its scope. I really do hope everyone gets to experience it, I can honestly say that it is one of the most amazing fights in WoW right now, just short of Nef IMO.

  16. Greetings,

    As an officer in a not quite yet raiding guild, I found this article very interesting.

    I'm curious, where would Zul'Aman fit into your progression?


  17. alandion, it really wouldn't. If you have enough people for 25-mans, I would focus on them. Otherwise you have issues about making groups, people sitting out, people feeling they're not in the "A" group etc.

    It's best to raid as one team, and focus on the 25-mans. Do ZA on an off-night or something, but don't make it part of your regular progression (ie DKP, etc.).

    If you don't have 25 people, then ZA comes right after Kara.