Ahead of the Curve: Highmaul
Hello everyone, some of you may know me, I’m Afflikshin and I currently play Warlock in the world 31st guild <WHATEVER WERE AWESOME>. What is Ahead of the Curve you may ask, well I’ll be taking a look back at the glorious raids in Warlords of Draenor from the cutting edge perspective. I’ll cover how a top guild prepares to face the next challenge and what it truly means to be ahead of the curve. That means before you could overgear content by 20, 30, or more item levels, before the nerfs, and before there were any video guides out.
For my first installment of Ahead of the Curve, i’ll be reviewing Highmaul, the seat of power for the Gorian Empire. This 7 Boss raid is one of the best looking instances that Blizzard has ever created rivaling Ulduar itself in my opinion. Highmaul had a good variety in bosses that allowed many different classes to stand out and was a great entry level raid to start out the expansion. I was still a trial in the guild <Huge in Japan> at the time, a well respected guild who had just finished Siege of Orgrimmar at US rank 16, an impressive feat, but we knew we could do better.
Preparing for Highmaul.
We had it all planned out, many leveling groups that would blow through the leveling content the first day so we could start gearing out in Heroic/Challenge Mode dungeons and crafted gear but, as usual, Blizzard dropped the ball. Now, I understand how hectic launch days can be, but this was almost unheard how bad it was. More than half the guild couldn’t get past the infinite queue boss while the other half struggled with quest bottlenecks and bugs. Despite all the problems…..I’m looking at you garrison telescope, everyone was able to level to 100 by the end of week 1. I knew I had a lot to prove, I was the 3rd warlock and hadn’t played to my level during the last month’s of siege due to real life issues. I played long hours to replace my leveling gear with dungeon blues, I even paid a whopping 200,000 gold for my 665 caster trinket, and by the end of the week I was one of the top geared players in the US.
Heroic Split clears were infamous in Warlords of Draenor. Nobody really enjoyed running the same content multiple times a week, but if you wanted to stay competitive, you had to do it. <Huge in Japan> only required 1 main and 1 alt, I ran my Warlock and Feral Druid. The idea was to run 2 groups with half mains and half alts to funnel gear to the best classes/characters. The heroic bosses were pretty simple, a few of us had done all the beta testing for highmaul and could more or less explain the fights to everyone who was lazy. The first 6 bosses fell without a problem for both of our groups but we decided to merge together to clear Imperator Mar’gok.
Mythic week begins, Kargath Bladefist.
It was finally here, I had made the cut, promoted to raider rank and ready to prove myself as one of the best Warlocks in the world again. First up was Kargath Bladefist. Kargath was your typical first boss, simple mechanics and no such dps check. Mythic mode introduced the heat seeking tiger mechanic, A large tiger would periodically crawl out of a hole in the ground and chase down one of your buddies until it was kited into a flaming pillar. This led to some interesting situations, you didn’t want too many pillars up spewing fire out on your raid but at the same time you needed some up to kite the boss into as well as the cats. We played around with the idea of kiting the tiger around to gain the Roar of the Crowd buff that would increase damage but in the end, it was decided it would be easier to just run the tigers into the fire and kill them asap. Even in our item level 655 gear we had enough DPS to down the boss in a reasonable amount of attempts. 1/7M down, US rank 47!
We, like most other guilds, decided to tackle the Twin Ogron second. The twins were a fairly easy boss on heroic that didn’t change much from the beta tests I had done. The main difficulty of this boss was figuring out how to dance, literally. Between the flaming cartwheels of doom spiraling around, dipping in for enfeebling roar, dipping out for arcane volatility, running away from the whirlwind vacuum cleaner and dodging the charges and falling debris….. There wasn’t much room for error at our gear level, getting hit by any of those mechanics usually meant death unless you had a strong personal cooldown. This fight wasn’t that hard, but it was surely a step up in difficulty from Kargath, we had to bench a couple people who couldn’t seem to stay out of the fire. I was able to identify the safe zones from beta and help our ranged DPS stay alive. We wiped a lot more than I was expecting and was pretty bummed out since we weren’t doing as well as a few other guilds I knew we were better than. Before the first night was over, despite having multiple people disconnect, we defeated the Twin Ogron US rank 22.
We only had a few attempts on Brackenspore that first night before raid was called but I could tell he would be the first actual “Mythic” boss. As the second raid night began I was focused and ready to go, playing destruction, I was going to be key in killing the spore shooters. Brackenspore had vastly more health than the previous 2 bosses and was all about add management and keeping the creeping moss out of control. Yes the creeping moss, that mechanic with the flamethrower that most people just ignore was actually very important on mythic mode requiring 3 people to take care of the job.
We placed our 2 hunters and 1 balance druid on flamethrower duty, ranged dps would kill the sporeshooters, and melee dps was in charge of interrupting the Fungal Flesh-Eater add which was pretty much an instant wipe if his cast got off in our gear level at the time. Brackenspore was all about endurance, many first kills around the 9 minute mark with perfect execution the whole time. Can’t miss an interrupt, healers had to keep the blue mushrooms alive as long as possible and not pop any green mushrooms at the wrong time, the DPS check was rough, we had to kill add spawns the entire fight while keeping uptime on the boss himself. The mythic mechanics weren’t hard but for some reason our raiders just could not dodge exploding mushroom or a huge obvious super slow moving wave with a huge gap in the middle.
Sadly the biggest problem we had on Brackenspore was that our holy paladin and a couple of our melee dps were getting DDosed over and over causing wipe after wipe. We were still making great progress our first night on the boss and a kill was easily in reach if our players could stay online, by the end of night 3, after a heartbreaking 1% wipe we had to call it. I was upset, we were robbed by some nerds somewhere ddosing our players. The actual kill came within a few pulls of fixing the disconnection problems and it was bittersweet, I knew we should be higher. Brakenspore died, US rank 20.
Tectus, the Living Mountain.
Feeling good that our DC problem was behind us, we rode up to the 4th boss of the instance, Tectus. Tectus was probably one of the funnest bosses I had done in a long time, he was a very short fight that was complete chaos at the end. Most guilds killed him with only a few players left alive at the end. The only new mechanic introduced on mythic mode was Hollowed Shard of the Mountain, as well as letting an add cast was usually an instant wipe. The shard of the mountain just meant that when you killed a part of tectus, he would spawn a mirror of that add with 25% health remaining. Even though demonology was rather weak at the time, the sheer amount of AoE required made it one of the best specs for the fight.
Tectus was about a 4 minute fight with the first 3 minutes being pretty similar to heroic mode, just take care of the adds at the correct time and don’t kite the crystal barrage into the raid, easier said than done for some of our raiders lol. The true mythic aspect was at the end, we decided to kill both Motes at the same time and just try to burn down the 10 add spawns before we all died. It took a few more tries than I would have liked, but we demolished Tectus much faster than we took on Brackenspore. Tectus was brought down US rank 16!
Ko’ragh might be one of the most interesting fights of the entire expansion, and was one of the first semi road blocks for many guilds fighting their way through Highmaul. Ko’ragh was especially tough for guilds without a huge roster, only 16 guilds in the entire country were on this boss at the time, so recruiting wasn’t a real option if we didn’t have the perfect comp. Ko’ragh has 2 phases, I’ll call them bubble phase and add phase, in his bubble phase, Ko’ragh has a shield that absorbs all magic damage until it is broken so only physical damage hurts the boss. Magic users can only put in boss damage when the boss recharges and gives out a massive shield. Once again, Demonology had a chance to shine, the new talent Demonbolt was up to bat this time around. Demonbolt was actually able to pierce the immunity bubble while having a felguard pet out to inflict even more physical damage, it was probably the perfect caster for the boss. I was also on ball catching duty, on mythic certain waves of Overflowing energy cause the players to be mind controlled, kind of an annoying job because I lost dps, but I knew I could handle it so i volunteered to make sure it was done correctly.
An interesting mechanic that Ko’ragh had on mythic was Expel Magic: Fel, he would cast a debuff on 3 random players and it would mark the spot on the ground where they stand, when the debuff fell off, it would create a flame line from where it was applied to where the debuff fell off so you had to remember the spot on the ground where you received Fel. This caused a few funny but also sad moments where all of a sudden there would be a massive line of fire going across the entire room killing the melee because someone wasn’t paying attention. The Hardest part of Mythic Ko’ragh was finding the perfect balance of physical damage and magic damage so you could get enough shields up to soak the falling bombs, but also enough physical damage to actually kill the boss before the soft enrage. After experimenting with several spec changes within the raid, people changing talents, swapping people in and out, the stars aligned and Ko’ragh was defeated, US rank 11!
By the time my guild reached The Butcher, he already had quite the reputation. The Butcher was a boss that, in our item level, was extremely difficult, at item level 669, not even fully heroic highmaul geared, the DPS, tank, and healer check was massive. Everyone had to be at the top of their game for 4 minutes, the slightest mistake would be an instant wipe. Even when everything went perfect, we would wipe because the dps requirement was so strict. I was back on the spec that was named after me, Affliction. Affliction was a very strong single target spec with 1 downside at the time, soul shard starving. Luckily The little adds on the butcher provided unlimited shards meaning my damage was very impressive and important.
This is where the controversy begins, <Huge in Japan> started using the heroic mode strategy and just trying to pump out as much damage as possible in the 4 minutes but it proved to be insanely difficult, without the ability to class stack like the top EU guilds, we were forced to figure out a better way. I’m not sure who first found the video, might of actually been myself, but there was a new strat that eventually would be called the pool party strategy. Instead of tanking The Butcher in the middle of the room and having the Ranged DPS soak adds, we brought the boss into a little nook in the room which would cause all the adds to flow into the boss at a single point meaning nobody needed to soak and we could focus on maximizing damage.
Not everyone agreed with this strategy, saying it’s not intended and must be a bug. The way I saw it was, if blizzard didn’t want people to use the strategy, they would have fixed it, and since they didn’t, it is just a smarter way of doing the boss. Thanksgiving was coming up fast so raiding was going to be limited the next week, being so close to a kill we decided to come in the Friday before and give it a shot before the holiday week. After many hard attempts and tons of wipes at his enrage under 5% The Butcher finally fell, US Rank 9.
Imperator Mar’gok and Cho’gall
This was it, we had finally pulled ahead of a few rival guilds with our Butcher kill and we were ready to take on the final and most difficult boss by far. Imperator Mar’gok was no joke even on heroic, on Mythic he was something else. For most guilds, Mythic Imperator Mar’gok was over 16 minutes long and everyone had to be at the top of their game the entire time. With Numerous changes to every phase and a secret Mythic only phase, Mar’gok has too many mechanics to list. Phase 1 was definitely the easiest of the fight as expected, we decided to use Paragon’s 3 tank strategy and let our enhancement shaman take care of the small adds. Being a destruction warlock I couldn’t help but cleave a bit to keep my numbers respectable. We progressed passed phase 1 very quickly and I was confidant the boss wouldn’t last much longer, but I was so wrong lol. Intermissions were very tough to handle, we needed 2 teams of 5 interrupters with backups organized by a weakaura to take care of the Warmages and keep their stacks low. This was probably one of the harder parts of the fight, if 1 interrupt was missed it could spiral out of control and we could easily wipe right there, and for a 16 minute fight you can’t afford to wipe early. I personally never missed an interrupt, but there were a lot of people missing them and often….. After we finally started to get into p2 consistently, the next mechanic to conquer was Arcane Wrath.
Arcane wrath had to be taken care of in a very specific manner, and you guessed it, I was the crazy guy who volunteered for the job. As a destruction warlock, I knew I was going to see a massive dps drop doing this job, but knowing it would be done right was much more important as I put my guild first. Me and my healer buddy Yuffa would bounce the debuff safely out of the group, the hard part was actually getting the first guy who got branded to pass it to us…….SO MANY WIPES BECAUSE OF MELEE NOT PASSING IT TO US. Eventually we got phase 1, transition 1, and phase 2 down and started working on transition 2, probably the hardest part of the whole fight for us. Much like transition one, we needed to have our interrupt teams on point, but the huge Gorian Reaver would always seem to come out and instantly kill a tank or unfortunate individual or 2 or 3 or 4…. This phase was very intense and we wiped here a lot before finally breaking through. Honestly phase 3 was much easier than I expected, yes there were mines everywhere but for Mythic raiders of our level they were easy enough to avoid. I was off branded duty and it was up to our mages to grab the debuff and GTFO so I could focus on DPS and staying alive. This was a very stressful boss, we knew that our competition was close to us, and wiping in one of the final phases meant 12-14 minutes wasted. I’m not a fan of fights THIS long, 10 minutes is my max, a 16 minute fight with tactical changes, rebuffing, eating, rezzing between pulls…..you just can’t get that many attempts in per night.
After many many many pulls, we finally got our first taste of Cho’gall (gross), and sadly, His phase was one of the easiest ones. There were a lot of new mechanics but none were that complicated. Rehashed majordomo orbs, add waves that left poop on the ground, bomb that exploded, probably the most interesting mechanic was Infinite Darkness. ID was a debuff that would absorb all healing done to that player, when the debuff was dispelled, all healing absorbed would turn into a shield for all players. This was crucial in surviving the Enveloping night casts. I believe we had only been to 4-5 Cho’gall phases before we brought him down for good. Mythic Imperator Mar’gok was vanquished, US rank 9!
Everyone was going nuts as Cho’gall died for the first time and the realm first spam was sent to everyone online at the time. My whisper window filled up with congratulations and insults calling me bad and other words I don’t want to put in here lol. We did it, we beat our rival guilds and cemented a top 10 US rank, the highest <Huge in Japan> had ever seen. We all put on our Empire’s Twilight title’s and took our kill shot, the only thing left to do was…… the same exact thing next reset!!!
Looking back, I give Highmaul a solid 7/10. It was fun, easy and had some cool mechanics and bosses. The artwork was amazing, and the music fit well. Imperator was probably too much of a difficulty spike for most guilds and too long of a fight but will always hold a place in my heart because of BRANDED….Most players who do mythic Highmaul after the nerfs and with current gear will never be able to appreciate the raid for what it really was, but maybe now they’ll understand what it meant to really be…Ahead of the Curve.
Next week i’ll be taking a look at the “Real” raid in tier 17, Blackrock Foundry, home to one of the tightest tuned bosses in WoW’s history, Blackhand. Thanks for reading the first installment of Ahead of the Curve, I’m Afflikshin the warlock with AZBros, check back often for the best gaming opinions on the web!