Firelands - Two Months Later

My guild downed Alysrazor today, taking us to 5/7 in Firelands. I wasn't there. I can't really complain about that fact since I was supposed to be there but cancelled on short notice because I was feeling exhausted and ill.

Still, missing a first kill always stings a bit, even if I don't find them as exciting as I used to. The time I missed our Kael'thas first kill back in BC due to my PC breaking down was the only time something WoW-related ever reduced me to tears. I'm used to pretty much always being present for our firsts due to having impeccable attendance, but my Firelands track record is the worst it's ever been, with Beth'tilac and Rhyolith being the only bosses that I got to see go down for the first time. With all the others I only got to see them die after everyone else had already done it and it felt a lot less exciting. I'm not sure why that is, as I think that my attendance is still pretty good and I feel that I'm pulling my weight despite of holy priests apparently not being that great in Firelands, but maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe I'm just unlucky. It feels a bit weird either way.

On the whole, I don't think that Firelands will become a memorable tier for me, though I struggle to put my finger on the whys. Difficulty-wise Firelands is just right for my guild, as the normal modes have kept us busy at just the right pace, feeling neither too easy nor too hard. The boss fights certainly all have something unique about them, and even the trash is fairly interesting. I've actually felt inspired to take screenshots again too, even though I initially recoiled at the way the scenery gave me Molten Core flashbacks.

But somehow, something is just missing for me. I've seen the Firelands fights get described as "gimmicky", and I wonder whether that isn't part of the reason. Mind you, I don't think that gimmicky fights are automatically a bad thing, but my impression of Firelands is that each fight is very much about one or two people handling a special mechanic (which they'll usually either enjoy well enough or hate with a passion) and the rest of the fight is fairly vanilla.

Shannox: This is actually the most universally interesting boss I've seen so far and probably my favourite because he does have some mechanics that (almost) everyone has to pay attention to, such as Rageface's face rage (say that ten times fast without getting tongue-tied...) or the enrages tied to the boss's and the dogs' various health levels. Still, it always seemed to me that the Riplimb tank probably has the most interesting job on this fight. As a healer it's pretty much: heal tanks, step away from fire and traps, top off raid, spam like mad in the final AoE phase.

Beth'tilac: This one is all about going up and down the web in time. I consider myself lucky in that none of the other healers seem very keen on it and I quite enjoy it, so I get to do it almost every time I'm there and it keeps the fight interesting. If I'm not on the web however it's nothing but: heal tanks, top off the raid, and spam like mad in the final AoE phase, again.

Rhyolith: Steering the boss is what it's all about here, and our dps doesn't seem to like it much. Still, once again the gimmick is pretty much the only truly interesting thing about the fight. As a healer, I (you may have guessed it): heal tanks, step away from fire, top off the raid, spam like mad in the final AoE phase.

Baleroc: This one is an interesting fight for healers, but I don't like him as the buff stacking mechanic feels like Valithria Dreamwalker version 2.0 to me. Nothing like spamming your biggest and fastest single-target spells for big numbers for the entirety of the fight... especially if you're playing the class/spec combination that is currently the absolute worst at single-target healing. I'll take Chimaeron's tight spell control over stupid stuff like this any day.

And finally, Alysrazor: While I haven't seen her die yet, the fight basically seems to come down to - surprise, surprise - healing the tanks, stepping away from (multiple sources of) fire, topping off the raid and spamming like mad in the AoE phase. I used mind vision on our mage during some of the more quiet stretches to see how he was doing with the flying around and even though I'm not sure that it's something I'd enjoy doing myself, it definitely looked to me like this was once again supposed to be the fun part of the fight while everyone else just goes through the motions. Okay, that and the hatchling tanking maybe.

Before anyone says that all boss fights in WoW can be summed up the way I summed up my role on these Firelands bosses, that's definitely not true. There can be importance in positioning (something that has hardly mattered to healing at all so far in Firelands, beyond not personally standing in the fire and not being out of range of everyone else). There can be frequent changes between AoE and single target damage (only seen on Shannox so far). There can be interaction with other raid members. As it is, it's all been kind of same-y from a healing point of view.

Still, I'm not sure whether I'm not being too critical of the instance because like I said earlier in this post, there are a lot of good things about it. It's just that it seems to me that unless you get to be the special snowflake to handle the boss's unique mechanic, most of them aren't really all that interesting... or maybe it's just a healer thing. Tier eleven felt more engaging to me anyway.

I'd be interested in other people's thoughts.


  1. I dunno... I haven't been able to do that much raiding in FL yet either (due to a fight with my old GM). I've missed plenty of guild firsts where I too used to be on nearly all in the past. But on the other hand I've found myself in a really good guild now, and I noticed immediately what an impact it had on my enjoyment of the raiding - not saying that your guild is the issue though.

    I agree that most fights require a little too much PoH spam, but on the other hand I blame that on priest aoe healing mechanic rather than the fights. As a holy at least you have CoH, Lightwell and Sanc too! As disc I only get to spam PoH for the last 2 minutes of Beth for example <.<

    Most fights may require a similar healing pattern, but they also require a lot of situational awareness, which I enjoy a lot.
    To me the challenge feels the same as in other raid tiers - get a role and fulfill it as good as possible, and so far I enjoy most fights.

  2. Firelands is far from my favourite raiding tier, but I'm not disliking it in any way.

    There are fights I enjoy more or less - but I think that's always the case.

    I think in an odd way, what I enjoy most is the fact that I do the fights on two different characters in two different guilds. It might sound like it'd get boring - but I actually really enjoy it. Some fights almost seem like a different fight altogether when I'm on the healer compared to when I'm on the dps character.

    This is actually making me feel a bit inspired to do a similar post but comparing the boss fights and how they feel as healer compared to as dps. Hmm.. perhaps I shall do that.

    I think you may be right to a certain extent about the gimicky fights, but I don't mind so much because I never feel that I don't have anything to do on a fight, or that what I'm doing isn't important to our success.

    As a healer I guess that yes it's about not standing in the bad and keeping people alive - but I guess I quite enjoy that part. Managing to move away from nasty stuff and making sure you don't die as well as keeping others alive is what I enjoy about healing I guess.

    Baleroc is probably the fight I like least as a healer, but it could be because it hinges so much on us doing it right. I feel like I'm almost oom after the first crystal (probably because I almost am hehe), but somehow manage to get through it anyway. But being nearly oom so fast frustrates me. I'm sure I'll eventually get the hang of it though (only did him twice on my healer so far) and not struggle so much.

  3. I don't dislike the place either, I just don't think that it will leave me with many happy memories because all the fights kind of blend into each other. From past tiers I know that there are so many more ways of making a fight interesting for the healers, in terms of spell selection and movement, but Firelands somehow feels like it's making me do the exact same thing on most of the fights. (Presumably because the devs thought, "Hey, we already made the fight interesting by making someone steer a giant/climb a web/fly around, what more do you want?") I'd be quite interested in hearing what it looks like from a dps point of view, because my impression is that they often do have the more interesting jobs on several bosses right now.

  4. I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to sound like I thought you disliked it. I more mean that for me it's somewhere in the middle, I neither like it very much nor dislike it. It's just.. I don't know, I'm okay with it, but it doesn't stand out to me in any way.

    I'm not sure I'd say that the dps jobs are more interesting, but I guess it's all about what people enjoy. I don't necessarily enjoy target switching for example (might be a warlock thing since my dps sucks when target switching in general), and while dps do get something to do on moving Rhyolith I don't get the sense it's something they enjoy.

    Flying around on Alysrazor.. I do that.. but I'm not sure that I enjoy it *lol* But I guess it does make the fight different to the regular standing around and dpsing. Maybe we should have let a healer fly too ;) (in my brother's guild one of their healers always pick up spare feathers later on in the fight and fly around just for the fun of it - always of course at a height that he can still heal his team)

    I'd be interested in hearing what you'd like to see more in boss fights to make them interesting. I think for me I enjoy them as a healer for the simple reason that I'm healing - which is very different to my "normal" dps role. I imagine it's different for someone who is a healer more often, same as I might find fights more "boring" as a dps more often.

  5. I missed most (4 out of first five bosses although I was there for Staghelm, Raggy and Shannox HC) of my guild's first kills too (I was quite busy in real life for the first 2 weeks of 4.2 so didn't have time to raid much) and combined with the fact I was not very successful in T11 heroics either, my confidence as a raider was quite low too. So I understand people who were in similar situation and asked what was wrong with their raid performance or whether the guild would not be better off without them raiding...

    Regarding holy priests, I believe disc are preferred because of cooldowns rather than their healing performance.

  6. 4/5 first kills for me so far, but I had high attendance in the summer (most raids). Now I am in a fairly busy time at work so I'll be glad if I can get 1 raid a week, esp as we are a solid team, but with somewhat heavy rotation.

    I kinda like Firelands, as a DPS. Shannox is good, Beth is fine, Baleroc is Patchy 2.0 except that this is OK, because one fight per tier where I get to stand and nuke with only modest shard-related movement and some defensive cool downs is a nice change of pace. Rhyo I hate with a passion. But not because it's a gimmick. Because the gimmick is badly implemented. If he steered reliably or predictably, it'd be fine, but I find he over and understeers like crazy. I've killed him, and I've wiped all night on him, and I honestly couldn't tell you a single thing different. Equally though I'm far from the world's best raider, so maybe I am just bad.

    So on balance, I quite like it. One thing I find interesting is Chilton's recent interview in WoW magazine. In Vanilla, the art devs made an instance, made is super cool and atmospheric (think BRD, Strat), then game devs put bosses in it. Now, the game devs make the instance to their design principles, and art devs paint over the instance with their art effects. Chilton said art devs made beautiful instances that sucked to play through (I'm paraphrasing). I thought this was an *extremely* illuminating article. Maybe I should scan it and post it up or something.

    The relevance? I quite like the bosses, but Firelands is utter garbage as a work of art. Flat plain of ORANGE and RED and BLACK and ANGRY, not pretty at all. I've been playing more PS3 recently due to being jet lagged a lot and needing solo play at odd hours rather than raid play at set hours, and seriously, the art devs at Blizz have lost their way. There are people out there creating beautiful gaming environments, it's a shame Firelands is so tedious visually.

    I rate it 7/10 overall, where my favourite raid instance would be Kara at 9/10, followed closely by Ulduar, Strat and Scholo at 8/10.

  7. Firelands has been open that long? I guess I ought to get around to running the quest lines.

  8. Great post - thanks! I'm featuring it as the "Yes, Firelands is gimmicky" side of a two-part article on the Melting Pot today, alongside Type H For Heals' article on the same subject.

    I must admit, I've not done most of the FL fights yet, but it's been my feeling that WoW's been going more boss-gimmicky for a while. I'll be interested to see how the debate shakes out.

  9. @Saga: What would I like to see to make fights more interesting to heal? Well, I already mentioned a couple of things in the post, such as more raid movement (spreading out vs. hugging or just moving around the room in a certain way) or more varied types of damage, but I can think of a lot more. Making it so I can't always heal (silences, stuns, movement etc.). Doing things other than simply heal! They gave every healing class dispel magic but for what? Killing Argaloth? They gave almost every class a crowd control, but again for what? When was the last time a boss fight required any? There are so many different mechanics already in the game, I do think they could mix it up a lot more without focusing on introducing something new that you have to learn just for one fight.

    @BoxerDogs: Interestingly, the look of Firelands has really grown on me. I agree that it's not pretty to look at by itself, but I find that it nicely focuses your eyes on where the action is, the raid and the mobs, which has made for some nicely framed shots in my screenshot folder.

  10. I don't think Holy is bad for Firelands, and I'm trying to opt out of parts of the priest community where this is accepted as conventional wisdom. (Maybe next patch I can visit PlusHeal again!) I went holy for the first time in T11, and my raid leader *begged* me to stay that way for T12. People in the raid are verbally sad when I get swapped to shadow and they lose their lightwell and "glory floor." Heck, last night we pulled in a non-raider guildie and went into Firelands with 2 holy priests and a resto druid! And it was FINE. Yes, our spec scales better with spirit than intellect so we'll have a bit of a mathematical deficiency as the xpac wears on, but holy has never been about topping the charts or flashy split-second saves (Guardian Spirit notwithstanding). It's about versatility and reliability and keeping the raid very stable. Everyone talks about about Power Word: Barrier not having a holy equivalent, but IMO they are devaluing the way in which Spiritual Healing and Test of Faith (and Sanctuary!) can combine to quickly heal up a raid.