There was a time, not that long ago, where I expected that my guild would not get to the full AOTC loadout for the current season raids.
We were struggling on Conclave of the Chosen, and hadn’t even stepped into normal Crucible of Storms. It seemed likely that the patch would be out sooner than later, and with it season 3, and I had serious doubts that we’d make it through. Several raid weeks were cut short, or were spent fully on Conclave, and when we hit Mekkatorque and struggled to reclear the fight, I had my doubts.
Then, we got through to Jaina, and got the first AotC done after two nights of attempts on Heroic. It started to feel like we were going to make the progress needed, but I had heard a lot of things about Crucible, many from the heroic raiders I follow here. There was frustration, a number of wipes similar to what my guild went through on Crucible, and I could see us spending 5-6 weeks wiping on the one fight, failing to win, and moving on.
Surprisingly, and satisfyingly, I was wrong.
Granted, we had a few moments of luck along the way. Our guild put out a recruiting call to gather more players, and surprisingly, ended up merging raid groups with another guild, increasing our raid size drastically and making the scaling mechanics a lot easier, which has been something of a trend for the raid designs as of late. Our gear was already in the 400 item levels for everyone, and we were focused solely on Crucible of Storms after clearing Battle of Dazar’Alor. We had a group composition and class mix that worked relatively well for the mechanics of Uu’nat. Largely, Uu’nat as a fight also plays to our raid’s strengths – large damage output, a reasonably low number of high-movement mechanics, add mechanics requiring strong cleave, and the tank mechanics playing strongly to a pair of tanks with rapid relocation abilities.
These things combined to make the fight much easier for us, and in the end, heroic Uu’nat fell after only 19 attempts in total for us. I’ll include my impressions in this post, since there are only two bosses here anyways!
An interesting fight mechanically, you get a lot of choice for how to deal with things. We used the artifact order from the Fatboss guide on Wowhead, which worked fairly well, and had our balance Druid as the ranged tank. The mechanic mix is somewhat fun but creates a lot of hectic scenarios – you’ve got to weave in and out for shadow crashes, move out of frontal cones, position the bosses appropriately, and manage the adds as they spawn. The variety of positional mechanics (the ranged tank bolt splash damage, the AoE debuff, the crashes) all add up to a good amount of difficulty. It is somewhat a harder fight than I would expect for the first boss in a raid, but given that this is a mid-tier raid, it isn’t bad that this is the case and I think it does well at bringing the difficulty needed to the table. It feels like it places near the middle of BoD bosses, which is about right to me. The heavy reliance on movement mechanics screws the space cadets I raid with, but they are well-telegraphed and learnable. I enjoyed this fight, all told!
This is where things get interesting! Uu’nat, I would argue, is a true end of tier boss, and is probably harder overall than Jaina. Uu’nat has a large number of mechanics to manage during moment-to-moment gameplay, and has a lot of factors that feed into those mechanics – environmental tells, predictable AoE effects, timed mechanics, health-based phase triggers, short transition phases, the items from the first boss, and the actions of your raid. The tank swap is an interesting mechanic, not necessarily new in spirit (trade the boss for the adds) but the way in which that swap is managed is way better than prior versions of these mechanics, as the taunt swap mechanic automatically makes the adds magnetize to their new tank. The item mechanics are new and fun – using the Void Stone to reduce healing to players (and the boss!) in order to remove AoEs is a good twist on removing AoEs from play. The Tempest Caller is a similarly interesting burden – a huge benefit for the raid with a major downside, but one that requires you use it and manage the downside the best you can, with a high cost for failure. The burden of the most important effects is largely placed on the healers, which is a standard Blizzard trope of design and one which I strongly dislike. The trident for the tanks, while interesting as an idea, is not really important on Normal or Heroic, at least not enough to feel anywhere near as significant as the other two.
The phases vary the mechanics you deal with, from the void crashes of the first boss being added into the Heroic version of this fight, to the eye lasers only on phase 1 and 3. The first phase is just an endurance check, forcing the boss to 70% health while managing large, tanked adds and positioning checks (void crashes, eye lasers, fear zones, and the Oblivion Tears). The transition to phase 2 is short, and is basically just a moment to ensure adds are burned ASAP. Phase 2 then turns into a longer management phase, trying to burn the boss to 45% while managing two types of adds, one of which spawns a third type of add, while managing the Oblivion Tears and a new zone AoE called Unknowable Terror, which covers most of the space and requires that you move out quickly. The adds are buffed periodically and healed to full by the boss, requiring that you cycle through use of the Tempest Caller in order to burn down the adds to reduce the damage intake of your raid. This phase is where the largest number of our wipes were.
Lastly, phase 3. Once hitting 45%, a small transition to burn adds down yet again leads to a steady burn phase with several moments requiring breaks away. The boss will make the whole raid hostile to each other, requiring a break in cleave and AoE DPS. Eye lasers return to harass the raid. The difficulty of this phase is a challenge, and triggering an Oblivion Tear here is a wipe, mostly. This phase is grindy, but once you start making it here cleanly enough, you are on the cusp of a kill.
Overall, I really enjoyed the time spent in this raid, and the design of this mini-raid was pretty good, overall. I do think that the mechanics tend to be more punishing for smaller groups, which is unfortunate. The amount of damage, the variety of debuffs, and the management of the items on Uu’nat all favor larger groups, which is one of the first raid tiers in a while where a lot of fights simply favor much larger groups. When we did Uu’nat on normal with 13 players, it went fairly well, but was a bit of a challenge. When we did Heroic with 18, it felt much simpler in a lot of ways.
Overall, I’m happy to have gone from doubting getting either Ahead of the Curve for this season to getting both. Onwards to Nazjatar!