Wing 1 has become available to me in LFR mode, and I went headover into the new raid.
I think this is the first time when a raid starts with a full-scale, 2-minutes epic cinematic. It was simply epic, and I love everything about it. Points of interest deserve a whole list of its own:
Jaina leads the assault, but Kul Tiran participation is scarce yet. We see only their flagship (Jaina’s personal ship as shown in the BfA introduction cinematic), and the rest of the fleet are flying the 7th Legion’s colors.
The success of the assault is provided by gnome technology and Gelbin in person. Azerite tanks, secret remote bombs, amplified Grong are all products of their ingenuity. Gelbin also has his moment of awesome, saving the day after being severely wounded – and granted he will be a raid boss, he’s ready to fight no matter his injury. Go gnomes!
We see how dangerous Zandalari fleet is – even if a great part of it left to the shores of Nazmir. Only a blitzkrieg would have worked: Alliance is not here to stay, but to pin the king and leave.
I am surprised that the fleet did not help the assault, serving only as transport ships. In the world warfare history, the fleet would first bombard the port defences, and only then launch a landing party. Of course the pyramid itself is out of reach, but cannons could have cleared the coast of Grand Bazaar at the very least.
Well, on to the raid itself :)
As predicted, the first three encounters for both factions are a light champion, a couple of fire mage and monk, and Grong. For some reason Grong and a mage/monk couple are swapped depending on the faction.
The Champion of Light is either a Zandalari paladin, infused with the Light of loa, or a Dark Iron paladin. The mechanics may seem simple: tanks keep adds and boss in different corners (swap may be ignored here), everyone turns away from a crusader’s cast not to get feared, and everyone keeps track of the boss’ seals to know either the raid is pummeling boss or adds at the moment. Also, don’t stand in the way of a light wave.
In reality, the boss is a problem in many cases. Tanks tend to stack everything on top of each other, everyone is beating what he pleases, and everyone is in the way of a slowly creeping light wave which is your raid killer. The fact that the said light wave is hard to detect doesn’t help. Thank gods it’s the first boss, so it’s not that punishing. I had five runs yesterday, and we wiped only once. But every time we ended up with half of the raid dead, myself included a couple of times.
The boss is quite interesting, and I liked the fight a lot. Lots of personal choices provide the success. Also, it’s fun to play for a healer. My recipe is this: stand in some corner out of the possible light wave paths, turn around to face the wall to exclude fears, scroll out as far as possible to see the field, heal! It is the first encounter that I spend playing with my back :)
The Fire Mage and the Windwalker Monk were easy, despite for what was expected. The Alliance battles a mag’har monk and a blood elf mage, while the Horde meets a Kul Tiran mage and a draenei monk. All in all the wide ground for the Alliance encounter is much more pleasant and comprehensible than a Horde’s thin and dark stretch at the pyramid’s terrace.
The tactics is simple enough: keep them roughly on the same health level, monk slightly lower. Burn through the mage’s barrier to interrupt a pyroblast cast. Melees must quickly kill a living bomb add. And there’s a labyrinth run too: the bosses cast circles on the ground and you should cross the whole room running through a maze, trying not to touch any of them. It appeared to be quite fun. People somehow don’t get lost and just follow each other. This one was meant to be a raid killer, but it’s not.
It was also amusing how they both turn into a phoenix and a jade serpent by the end of the fight. If you kill the mage first, you will have to deal with serpent monk fading away often. When monk’s absent on the field, you have no mechanics to avoid – just wait her out doing nothing! I think this is why you need to kill her earlier, because if she fades away, you may beat a mage at the end of the fight, not go have a drink and a cigarette.
No wipes on this boss.
Grong – is the simplest boss in a long time. It’s nothing else but tank-and-spank, with an occasional switch to a single weak add. The only problem worth mentioning is a raid-wide AoE which almost (almost) kills everybody, but as long as healers have their own raid-wide cooldowns at the ready, it is not a problem – it’s much like the first boss in Shadowfang Keep, health drop looks scary, but in reality it is not.
No wipes on this boss as well.
The difference across factions is visual: Grong is encouraged by gnomish robots in the Horde version, and in the Alliance version it’s death spectres which try to infuse him with power. Obviously Grong fights alive versus the Horde (as intended), and is raised as an undead by Bwonsamdi in person to fight the Alliance.
I guess this is the only wing where there will be any differences between Horde and Alliance. For the second wing we will learn the events of the Alliance’s trip towards Rastakhan’s demise – both factions will play the Alliance characters, and the third wing is the Alliance’s retreat played from the Horde’s perspective. So wings 2 and 3 will be the same.
The first wing has great differences considering trash. It’s a lot easier for the Alliance: a tank blasts a pack of mobs, while for the Horde you must fight it instead. Also the Horde’s path after Grong is greatly stalled by Jaina’s personal interference – there are aoe areas, players are stunned and damaged with her magic.
And the color scheme is aiding Alliance as well: the onslaught is led in the sunlit areas, much like the city in game (which makes even the boss fights a little bit easier considering ground marks for aoe attacks), and the Grong encounter is dark, but rather fun mysterious in color than unpleasantly deadly. The Horde’s part overall is significantly darker and more depressing. I would not say this is bad design: this perfectly delivers the faction fantasy, their feelings during the siege, and doesn’t influence the gameplay significantly.
My drops result: 1-2 pieces per character run, which is awesome and exciting – every piece is new for transmog sets! I also got some Bwonsamdi breath or whatever it is called for crafting – I think I may just delete them, I’ll never have enough to do this.
Overall the raid is epic, beautiful, the encounters are gold, and it’s a brilliant sequel of the meaningless bloodshed that this whole war is. Like I said, I can’t wait to see where Blizzard leads us with all this. And meanwhile I enjoy the new piece of story and my hero moments For the Alliance / For the Horde.