Heroic Blackhorn

(Before I begin my ranty thoughts on Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn, I’d like to state that my guild has killed him on 25-man and that now that we’ve killed him, we are unlikely to change our basic strategy, so please, no “you should try this” or “no, no, do THIS” comments. Thank you.)

Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn has got to be the worst fight out there for my particular group of raiders.

I know, Heroic Spine awaits. We haven’t had a single pull on that encounter yet. I know it’s boring, monotonous, etc, etc, where nothing you do matters except for like, 18 second burns. However, I believe that’ll be something we’ll be able to accomplish with some time.

Allow me to tell you about some of the uncharitable thoughts I had about my raiders (my officers and myself included) during our 130+ wipes on Heroic Blackhorn.

“How the hell did they fall off the side?”
“… how the hell did they fall off the side AGAIN?”
“Move movemovemovemove goddammit, thanks for not moving and killing me.”
“Oh shit, they’re taking that one?! runrunrun dammit, shit, that’s my bad.”
“How many barrages can you die to in a single night? And whose fault is it if everyone in your group doesn’t go but you do?”
“FIRE IS BAD, JESUS CHRIST.”
“How many times?! HOW MANY TIMES do we have to remind you to MOVE OUT because of Blade Rush!??!”
“A SAPPER got through? SERIOUSLY?!”
“Oh good Christ, no battle rezzes are UP yet?”
“How many times can someone die to Degeneration before I sit them? Oh, wait, I DON’T HAVE A BENCH TONIGHT.”
“Yes, thank you for missing your Onslaught cooldown, now we are all dead.”
“Holy shit, we’re in Phase 2! … crap, that’s a wipe.”
“SHOCKWAVE IS BAD.”
“If you say even one more syllable, I will track you down and eviscerate you and I WILL ENJOY IT.”

This fight took every single weakness we have as a raid team and made it an integral part of the encounter.

1) Positioning. We are bad at positioning, collectively. I basically can’t say “spread out”, I have to draw out maps with specific areas for specific people to go to. That’s okay. I can deal with that. Drawing maps and layouts is part of a raid leader’s job. But we’re bad at it. We don’t clump when we should clump, we clump when we should spread. And, leading in to the next point, we are collectively awful at moving to somewhere we’re not necessarily expecting to be.

2) Dynamic fights. Again, collectively, we are awful at unexpected events, especially when they involve us moving somewhere. Heroic Majordomo Staghelm is a perfect example. I would organize everyone to stand in specific spots, but then fire would invade their spots and people would run around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s similar on Heroic Blackhorn and Twilight Barrage soaking. I discovered that my entire raid team, myself included, is awful with deciding whether or not to grab a Twilight Barrage and anticipating whether or not someone else will grab it. The sheer number of restrictions as to whether or not someone grabs a Twilight Barrage is absolutely ridiculous. (Is it centered on a beam? Screw it. Is it outside your immediate little box? Screw it. Is a Twilight Onslaught ABOUT to happen? Screw it. Did a Twilight Onslaught JUST FINISH? Screw it. Have we gone through two sets of drakes? Screw it.)

We tried four groups of four, we tried groups of 2 and 3, we tried damn near everything and tried keeping people paired with the same people more often than not so that they could get a feel for whether their partners would grab that one or not. In the end, we had four groups of 3 and two groups of 2 and this seemed a little more workable.

But by and large, people just kept immediately dying to barrages as we learned this fight. Over and over and over again. Generally, all my battle rezzes were used by the 90s mark. Actually, that’s an improvement from the earlier attempts where all three of them were blown by the 50s mark.

3) Decisive action. I am a fairly conservative raid leader. I always have been. I like to weigh my decisions before making them. That includes battle rezzes and calls for wipes. Delaying either on Heroic Blackhorn wastes a ton of time and with only 9 hours of raiding a week, with a total of ~30 minutes of breaks, means we don’t have a lot of time to waste. In the early attempts, I was hemming and hawing a LOT. By the last couple nights of attempts, I was like “fuck it, we are wiping” more often than not. But then, wipes are discouraging things, too. It’s a fine balance and it took a lot of time for me to figure out what was The Best course of action for the raid group.

4) Cooldown rotations. We’re actually not bad at this. We got REALLY good at them during Firelands (you kind of had to!), but incorporating the tank/DPS cooldowns makes things a little more difficult and yes, a little more — you guessed it — dynamic! And the tanks/DPS aren’t altogether used to being called on for CDs so they’ll miss them on occasion. I can’t even blame them — they just don’t always get asked to use those abilities.

5) Target swapping. We have, collectively, never been very good at swapping targets, dating all the way back to Tier 11. There were problems with people switching from Onyxia to Nefarian, for example, or on and off Al’akir’s adds or getting on or pulling off the right tron in the Omnotron encounter… Yet on this one, the ranged go from melee adds to ranged-side drake, to melee-side drake, to melee-adds. And the melee are going from melee add to melee add (not chasing when they Blade Rush), then swapping to the freaking drake, then back to melee adds. Oh! And yes! The Twilight Sappers, too! Not to mention how we don’t even really want to LOOK at Blackhorn funny until Goriona flies off.

It’s as though the deck was stacked against us for this encounter. It has been, by far, the hardest encounter for us to get down this entire expansion. And Spine awaits. Oh, good. ;)

That said, I have to say that the guild did a great job in holding in their frustrations, for the most part. We struggled, we were frustrated, we were angry and yet… we’re still going. We even managed to have some laughs in the face of such adversity.

Behold… the Countdown to Heroism/Wipes? video. It’s comprised of 11 attempts where we called for a wipe just after Heroism was called for.

Thank you to the Apotheosis raiders for making this fight doable with laughter all the way through as we defeated a boss that seemed to be designed to expose our collective flaws!

6 comments

  1. Zothen says:

    I understand the frustration, but what I don’t understand is why you didn’t back off and re-evaluate your approach by like the 50th wipe or so. There are so many ways to defeat Heroic Warmaster; if it feels like you are beating your head against a wall then re-assess your assumptions.

    I say this because we had the very same experience until wipe 25 or so. We were just pressing on with the “commonly accepted strat” which is basically how it sounds like you were doing it. But it was obvious that it sucked – for exactly the same reasons you mention. So we stopped what we were doing and discarded all of our preconceptions.

    The “soaker teams” concept is dumb, and as you have seen one single mistake by one person can easily cost you all of your raid’s battle rezzes. So in the spirit of Not Doing Dumb Things, we don’t use soaker groups at all. The entire raid stacks together into two groups – one is the tanks and melee next to a drake harpoon – and the other is a single stack of mobile ranged healers and dps. As a group, they simply avoid fire and move to the big swirls on the ground. We call this mini-game “follow the star” because the raid leader marks themself with a star and everyone just keeps stacked on it.

    A handful of mages and shadow preists and rogues soak the smaller barrages here and there. Mages solo-soak when Cauterize is available. SP’s use dispersion to solo-soak, and rogues use their cooldown too (I think it’s called “Ignore the swirls and hope nobody calls me on it”).

    You don’t need to soak but a few of the barrages as long as you do three things: *fully* soak all of the big ones, kill *all* sappers, and *never* let a drake fly away at partial health (well, we purposefully allow one to fly off at low health from the third/final pair to give us time to kill the last vrykuls first).

    After doing those things, we got our first kill within a few more attempts and repeats have been really easy.

    And I am sure there are dozens of other viable strategies. My point is that if you are getting that frustrated, then find a way to remove the frustration. Chances are, there is a different way to go about it that is not quite as stressful for your particular raid comp.

  2. Zothen says:

    Also, I didn’t mean to sound negative (I just re-read it and don’t like the tone)… I do congratulate you on your victory.

    It’s definitely one of the more unpleasant fights to beat. And the broken fire mechanic doesn’t help things at all.

  3. Kurn says:

    Zothen – Thanks for clarifying your tone and intent. :)

    The thing is, we tried a huge variety of strats including, but not limited to:
    - Ignoring barrages and soaking onslaughts
    - Soaking barrages and not fully soaking onslaughts (fire mages/spriests)
    - Soaking through only one set of adds
    - Soaking with 1, 2 or 3 other people

    We always at least attempted to keep the sapper from escaping (it was always a priority) though we didn’t 100% of the time nail it. Drake DPS fluctuated based on the group comp (which fluctuated due to attendance).

    So it’s not that we didn’t try different things. We certainly did.

    That’s why I prefaced the post with a “let’s not talk about strategy” bit. I wanted to avoid saying “tried it, didn’t work. Tried that too, no dice. Yep, tried it, died worse than ever before.” :)

  4. Joe Ego says:

    We got our first kill on Wednesday, in 3 pulls on our second raid night. We were so close last week. On the one hand we dropped from 500-something to 700-something for World 25 man guilds by killing 6 days later. On the other hand, it was all at the same 10% nerf level so I’m OK with this.

    Our kill came with no cooldown for the last Shout. It would have been a wipe at 0% nerf, so we’ll likely have some tweaking to do for next week’s kill. We ended up 24-manning the kill with an early man overboard. The missing DPS means we’re likely to see our Shouts at different times.

    I managed to get our video done quickly too. :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpzTubiB24w

    The fight is really crazy in that it’s easy to get caught up in your job and end up standing in a Barrage, spending too much time in deck fire, or eating a Blade Rush (or two). It is beautiful when it all comes together.

  5. Cel says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the things you said during that encounter. It very much reminds me of the night we had to do Maloriak with no rogue and the tank interrupts weren’t fixed yet. I was shouting things like “If that Felpuppy misses another interrupt I’m going to barbeque it!”

    /comfort Kurn

  6. Beruthiel says:

    You know what, Kurn?

    I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you should have done it differently (we use “unconventional” strategies that work for us all the time), and I’m not going to be shitty and be like “we got it in a fraction of the time you did” (because, really? Comments like that aren’t constructive, often make you feel like shit, and generally do nothing but piss me off and make me want to punch the commenter in the nose). And honestly, in the big scheme of things your raid team did what it needed to do, and you got it done. And that is all that matters.

    And so, all I’m going to say is “FUCK YEA! GRATS!!!!”.

    Good luck on Spine, and I anticipate that I’ll have a video up for it before week end. Maybe. :)

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