The last wing of Dazar’Alor went live, and I completed it on both Alliance and Horde sides.
I think I got used to racial changes in the raid. Turning my Micromantica into a goblin was not that bad – even though I was offered a pretty ugly face option, or whatever I could detect through the helmet. It is funny that my pioneer this time was Kargash – the fresh allied toon, because lorewise it’s Horde’s story, and because she’s the only ranged dps among my Horde toons.
There are little changes with storytelling between factions, unlike the second wing. There was a no name human who has a couple of replies to add on the Alliance side in the docks. There was a great intermission with captain Zadari and Talanji on the Horde side. Finally, the Horde asks Nathanos to go home after Jaina’s encounter, teleporting to raid entrance, while the Alliance is teleported to Anduin’s ship, and the king says that they will mend Jaina’s wounds.
What should be mentioned in the aftermath is the overall mood of the raid and how it changes across the wings. Obviously the first wing is tense and serious, because the Horde has yet to discover the scale of the invasion, and the Alliance is not sure how it all plays out. The second wing is grim dark, Rastakhan may not be the brightest lamp in the gallery of Warcraft authorities, but he’s not an asshole either, quite a lovely guy. Killing him feels bad for both factions, spiced up with Bwonsamdi’s ruthless betrayal and the king realizing that his bargain with the loa was bad in every sense.
And then comes the third wing which is almost… festive. I could compare it to Stromgarde warfront: while Darkshore is a fierce battle for mutual eradication, Arathi gives this excellent feeling of an equal rival match. The Alliance’s retreat is a happy hour – the rarest thing in the raids ever, even more so with final bosses. The Horde finally has an opportunity to cross swords with Kul Tiran and the Alliance’s regular forces, including the intriguing leaders. The Alliance witnesses the valor of High Tinker, the might of their new allies – the tidesages, and the badass Jaina Proudmoore in her prime.
So, on to encounters.
High Tinker Mekkatorque is obviously a fun fight, like most of the gnome content. Exploding sheep, amusing robots, and the key feature – actual tinkering! Note that affected players DO NOT shrink! The gnome devices change the size of THE WHOLE AZEROTH around you so you feel little – that’s how it works :) Remember “The Day when Deathwing Came” quests in Badlands? Or the famous rocket mount that spins Azeroth underneath rather than fly?
The key goal in LFR is not standing in the fire – in fact, this is the major rule for all the encounters here. You see a circle on the ground, you run out, and you’re good. Before incoming slowly walking robots overwhelm you, the ‘shrunk’ players should mount any robot in their vicinity, and do some tinkering. As complex as it seems, it’s actually not. When mounted, you see a colored mark over your head. You should only tap the action bar of the same color, do it several times (as the color changes), and a robot goes down, bringing some AoE relief to your allies.
Defeated, High Tinker is evacuated in his escape mod – have fun listening to Gallywix in rage why he doesn’t have one.
The encounter is quite simple, and even if most robots are functioning, it could be pulled out without wipes.
Stormwall Blockade is another split-the-group-in-two encounter in the raid. From the end of the pier you take a pterrodax to one of the two ships. Like with Opulence, tanks, healers and dps should be roughly equal on each ship.
The couple of tidesages try to summon some shapeless mostrosity out of the depths, so the first phase is coping with them. It’s nothing but a tank-and-spank thing, the only trouble being nasty AoE which you should avoid and interrupting a long, rare cast. When either of the groups defeats their tidesage, you use an on-ship teleport to help the other, and then you fight the monstrosity itself back to the pier.
Laminaria is also a tank-and-spank – stay out of the ground AoE and kill an occasional slow elemental. I can’t see a wipe option here, unless players are too slow to move out of the fire (well, water).
Lady Jaina Proudmoore is a multi-phase fight, but once understood, it’s completed in a breeze. The first phase is also about moving out of AoE and using catapults against the approaching Kul Tiran ships – quite a lazy one.
When Jaina freezes the boat still, the things go south. AoE are still in place, but in much variety – showing us the true arsenal of the best frost mage in the world. Besides, how cool is her father’s ghostly flagship? She not only unleashes the multiple hailstorms of ice, she also manages to levitate a GIANT VESSEL over your heads at the same time and launch arcane missiles from it!
The climax is the killer phase – once she teleports in the center and starts casting an expanding circle, everyone shoud hero and beat the wall of ice to hide in a small passage to avoid it. The core strategy is assembling all of the raid by the wall in advance to save running time. Once you’re through, free Nathanos (well, I’d rather leave him there), taunt a water elemental outside, and burn through the last 20k to end the encounter.
Like all Draenor raids taught you to cope with adds, Battle for Dazar’Alor is teaching you positioning in many, many ways. Most of the encounters winning strategy is this: get out of the bad, and live to tank and spank. Like everyone who survived WoD raiding is switching to adds without thinking, hopefully after Battle of Dazar’Alor the ground pools will imprint in the spine as ‘bad news’.
The encounters themselves are diverse and fun, as are the raid bosses appearances and lore. While the idea of a faction change is not exactly new (considering Caverns of Time), it definitely feels fresh in raid environment and is an interesting way to deliver the climactic story.
As I’ve already said, the mood swings are unique to the raid as well. Normally we go from dark to darker places progressing through a raid. This time it delivered an emotinally heavy climax in the middle only to be followed by an uplifting experience of the last three bosses. And yes, in the sea expansion we finally had a sea fight!
The last, but not the least is the BfA’s approach to deliver thematic transmogs for armor type, not the class. If you think about it, we had class armors as far as Vanilla raids. This significantly cuts my raiding time and doesn’t let the raid wear thin, to puking re-run limits.
All in all, this is a strong experience in lore, in mechanics and in the whole atmosphere. Now to farm the hell out of it :)