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Dragon Soul Difficulty

Posted by Malevica on December - 7 - 2011
First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man

The current hot topic amongst the raiding blogo- and twitterspheres is the question of the tuning of the new Dragon Soul raid instance: far too easy and not enough to keep us going for potential 8 months? Tuned about right, when you consider it as a difficulty curve and realise that Firelands was rather flat compared to a strong curve in Dragon Soul. I also commented that I thought the raid was undertuned, but I think I may have been a little hasty in that assessment.

Some Data

<Abraxas> cleared Dragon Soul on Normal this week, taking a total of 20 pulls for the first 6 bosses and then 33 pulls on the last two together, although quite a few of those were on the Spine where we were 9-manning for practice because we had too many people LD that evening. For a better sample (albeit still small), I’ve taken the top 5 guilds on my server and averaged their pulls to kill for each boss for which data were available; it’s not very scientific, but it’s interesting:

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data gathered from World of Logs for the top 5 guilds on Dath'Remar-US

Caution is due here because there may have been server issues affecting guilds on later bosses, or experimentation with tactics, or less information available from the PTR, but this does suggest that there was a pretty strong increase in the difficulty throughout the raid, for whatever reason, lining up with what Rohan observed over at Blessing of Kings.

For additional data, we turn to WoL again, tracking the kills-to-total-pulls ratios for the bosses, again on 10-man normal for comparison:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Madness of Deathwing has no kill detection so it doesn’t appear, and Spine seemed to have dodgy kill detection earlier in the week so take that figure with a pinch of salt.

With the exception of Zon’ozz who seems to be causing raids a great deal of difficulty, once again you can see a curve there. Morchok is a pushover, but then there’s a good ramping up of difficulty between Yorsahj, Hagara and Ultraxion.

Both of these data sources point to a strongly-graded difficulty curve. Compare that to Firelands:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Firelands 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Again, a note of caution. Dragon Soul is a snapshot of week 1, whereas the Firelands graph includes the effects of nerfs which I’d expect to have flattened the curve somewhat, but again it’s suggestive of a difference.

So Is Dragon Soul Actually Too Easy?

Initially I thought it was. We’re a very strong but not elite guild and we’ve cleared 8/8 bosses in the first week. And we’re far from alone: on Dath’Remar, hardly a hotbed of hardcore raiding, 7 guilds went 8/8 in Week 1, and a further 8 are 7/8.

However, the situation we’re in is atypical. Guilds like ours, high-ranked but not the cutting edge, benefited from the Firelands nerfs to gain a gear advantage that wouldn’t have been available to us in previous tiers, so Dragon Soul normal probably should feel easy to us. It’s meant to be done in ilvl378 gear, not ~ilvl388 like many of us have, and it absolutely has to be designed that way. By the time we came to the Madness of Deathwing we were very close to the Cataclysm and Berserk timers on several occasions, so a starting position closer to ilvl378 should indeed mean a few weeks of farming would be needed to meet the checks of the later encounters.

In short, I think all is as it should be with the raid, the trouble is more a consequence of the previous tier, and perhaps premature reactions to first nights from surprised raiders like myself incorrectly assuming the whole place is at the same level.

The trouble though, with guilds like us being in this position, is that we’ve lost something important in the raid lifecycle: the “inevitable kill” phase.

Working through normal modes, for a guild like us, is supposed to be something that takes a bit of time while we learn the fight, but which we always know we’re intended to kill. It’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring, and the successes help to lift our spirits and build some momentum. Now, instead, what we have to look forward to are heroic modes which are a far from a certain prospect. We didn’t kill heroic Ragnaros; most of us didn’t make much progress in heroic Tier 11 let alone kill Sinestra; heroic Lich King (even with the 30% buff) evaded many. So every kill from now until MoP is likely to be a long, hard grind, and some kills we may not even get.

You’ll forgive me for feeling a little cheated.

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Categories: Featured, Opinion

5 Responses so far.

  1. Grav says:

    I thought the first 4 bosses were undertuned for 378 ilevel, probably closer to 370 ilevel tuning (you could probably do Morchok in 359s if you know how to play properly). Zon’ozz kills are probably lower because gimmick mechanics are hard to implement properly (see Rhyolith).

    Ultraxion onwards was tuned about right, namely mid-380 ilevel. You still had to play pretty tight on Madness to meet the DPS and healing checks, which I assume would be a lot looser once you get 397 gear.

    Dealing with disconnects has been the biggest challenge for us so far, sadly :S

  2. Stubborn says:

    This is fascinating data, and while I know it’s accessible through some other means, I really appreciate you bringing it together and creating simple to read graphs for “the rest of us.”

    I find it particularly interesting that there’s a brief flat point at the start with then incredibly scaling difficulty towards the end. I wonder if this was intentional on Blizzards part as a sort of split between letting all their players see the content versus keeping some of the content elite-only. If so, it’s a good split at half and half.
    Great post!

    • Malevica says:

      I think the flatter start is partly the effect of some guilds having a gear level headstart so the early bosses are effectively all undertuned for them. We didn’t start wiping really until Ultraxion, for example, barring the odd slip-up.

      Plus, when we’re only talking about 2-4 pulls one silly mistake or a DC can make a big difference to the numbers.

  3. Ophelie says:

    Great post! And it seems to reflect what my guild is experiencing.

    When the guilds who were farming heroic modes in FL are screaming “too easy!”, they’re forgetting that the fights get more and more gear dependent as it goes on. Zon’ozz, for example, is a huge struggle for my guild because our tank gets one-shotted, and we insta-die the second we phase change. We beat him once, but it took blowing every CD and squeezing out every bit of our ability. What would be a pushover for a guild in heroic gear takes crazy amount of skill for a guild with players who still need a few pieces of 378 gear. Ultraxion, I suspect will be even worse.

  4. Astropolix says:

    Our guild as well is far from being a ‘top’ guild. We’re raiding on Die Aldor – which is like lower third of the servers. However after about a month of DS we’re already loling through the normalmodes. Our Palaheal recently suggested singlehealing Ultraxion so we could save ourselves a minute or so…

    I can see what you’re getting at though. We – like a lot of other guilds – were at 6/7hc on firelands for some time. We have ~2-3 ppl still needing 1-2 items each from there. So: yes, we might outgear the content. However I TOTALLY agree with you on feeling cheated. Plus I feel the transition from normal to heroic is way to harsh (probably excluding Morchok, who is a joke on normal as well as hc). We manage to shoot down Madness with our second tank d/cing on platform 3 and yet we struggle hard on Yor’Sahj HC…
    I think the ramp should be more linear there… Anyway, let’s hope the 8 months are just a joke! After ICC(+Ruby Sanctum if you wanna count it) Blizz promised to NEVER have such a long dryspell again. While I don’t really look forward to teddybearland I don’t wanna be stuck on farming DS for longer then ~end of april.

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