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  1. #1

    Default Alone in the Darkness Stabbed by Our Slangin' Branches!

    After hours and hours of wiping, strategizing, yelling, frustration, pouting, aggression, crying, and more wiping, we finally brought down the mighty beast that is Yogg-Saron, Alone in the Darkness! This fight is by far the most difficult, taxing encounter Vox has ever come up against in our five or so years of raiding, and certainly more difficult than anything I saw in years of playing EverQuest. Well beyond any intricacies seen in previous encounters, this fight is so well tuned and balanced that even a single mistake by any member is virtually unrecoverable. Nothing has come close to requiring the precision in timing and raid positioning that Alone has -- working out exactly when Constrictors spawn phase 2 and ensuring the raid is close enough to kill it no matter who it targets, but remaining outside of Malady-chain range, away from green beams, and avoiding Crusher Sweeps is the type of detailed strategizing we've not seen since the likes of AQ40 I'd wager, and even then nothing really came that close since you had 39 other people to suck up your slack, whereas if you fuck up on this fight, that's 10% of the raid down the toilet and outside of a battle res, no recovery.

    Seriously, would providing a night light kill ya?

    I would be exceptionally impressed with any Guild capable of completing Alone in Ulduar-10 gear, "as intended." I won't say it's impossible because there are certainly a number of better players out there than myself, but the tanking and DPS requirements would at least make that one of the hardest challenges put into WoW to date.

    My hat is off to Blizzard for their design -- the requirements for success are exceptionally tight on this fight and it shows. I'm also very proud of and thankful for all the hard work Vox members have put into this fight. We never tracked exactly how many attempts we made on Alone in the Darkness versus the other Yogg modes, but it's at least 100. Well beyond that of Firefighter, Freya+3, and Algalon combined.

    Now, having said all that, I must rant for a moment about this fight. While the design is done very well, some of the mechanics (basically phase 3), lend themselves far too well to specific class/raid makeups. Usually this requirement is not felt in 25-man, especially as most 25-man Guilds capable of doing Alone have variable rosters that allow trading of classes.

    However, for a 10-man Guild, we felt the hurt of improper makeup on many occasions.

    First would be an abundance of melee DPS (5 to be exact), which means no matter what, we must use one melee top-side during Phase 2 which puts more pressure on our 2 ranged DPS to drop tentacles quickly. Now, I'll grant that the encounter design cannot be faulted, as we are not intentionally melee heavy, that's just how it turned out recently, so if we'd recruited a larger roster, we could've added a 3rd ranged DPS to simplify Phase 2 top-side attacks.

    The biggest issue is the main hook of Alone itself: controlling Beaconed Guardians Phase 3.

    We tried a number of techniques to Phase 3 (full-time tanking through beacon, AE mobs down; single-taunt before heal, AE rest of pack down; double-taunt out of pack near Yogg, single-target down; etc.). In the end, the pull both beacons away method seemed the best after many, many hours of tweaking, but then the issues of control came into play.

    The unfortunate thing about the design of Phase 3 for Alone is, like many other multi-mob encounters, in order to be successful, a 10-man raid must have a much greater percentage of it's raid perform flawlessly than the equivalent 25-man raid to achieve the same outcome -- controlling Phase 3 Beacons/Guardians is a prime example of this.

    If we assume 3 Beacons per cast (2 for 10-man) and 2 Guardian tanks, that means 5 people out of 25 total must be used to handle Guardians Phase 3, or 20% of the raid. Conversely, if a 10-man raid wishes to have that same level of control and survivability, it would require 4 people out of 10 total (2 people to taunt Beacons, 2 tanks), or 40% of the raid. Therefore, by far the most difficult aspect of this encounter, the final Phase, requires twice the resources of a 10-man raid to have the same control that a 25-man raid has.

    Unfortunately that's not even the whole story, because a 25-man raid is likely to have access to at least one and maybe two Hunters, which makes controlling Beaconed Guardians during taunts exceptionally easy compared to a 10-man where access to a Hunter may be unlikely or impossible (as is our case). No matter how "good" one is at this game, it's undeniable that the ability to have a ranged DPS (i.e. Non-tank/non-plate-wearer) taunt a Beaconed Guardian pre-heal, and immediately drop threat on-demand back onto the MT, nearly trivializes the Phase 3 portion from a tanking perspective.

    Combine the above with the fact that due to the tight DPS limitations of the encounter, it's very difficult for a 10-man to add another tank without seriously hindering the raid DPS for Phase 2. Again, the numbers show everything. Assume for a moment a 25-man raid using a single tank and 5 healers for this fight and wanted more control for Phase 3 so decided to add a second tank. This means instead of 19 DPS, the raid would drop to 18 DPS, which is a 5.5% DPS loss (assuming all raid debuffs and the like were covered still, as would be the case). In a 10-man using 2 healer and 1 tank, adding a second tank for more Phase 3 drops the DPS number from 7 people to 6, which is a 16.6% DPS loss! Over three times the Raid DPS is lost for a 10-man to gain the same control as a 25-man for Phase 3.

    Consequently, while possible to reach Phase 3 with two tanks, it's much more reliable to use only one so our DPS is sufficient to get through Phase 2 within two portal phases rather than three, greatly reducing the risks to Sanity and random screw-ups within the raid.

    All of the above (lack of Hunter Taunts and an extra tank) make Phase 3 exceedingly difficult compared to the 25-man iteration, where again, a much smaller percentage of the raid must play perfectly to avoid critical mistakes. From a tanking perspective alone, finding the timing and global cooldowns to Taunt an incoming full-health Guardian every 15 seconds and also grab agro back on both recently-Beaconed Guardians before the next 15 second window passes is exceptionally difficult and the fight is balanced such that the margin for error is virtually nonexistent.

    Now you may be thinking to yourself, "But Kulldam, the reason 25-man raids only have to use 20% of their raid for Guardian control is because the Guardians spawn faster in 25-man Phase 3!"

    Quite right, but the numbers tell the whole tale. 25-man Guardian spawns are every 10 seconds, whereas 10-man are every 15 seconds. This means, over the course of, say, two Beacon casts of 90 seconds total (once every 45 seconds), 25-man tanks must initially agro 10 Guardians (90 / 10 = 9 + 1 initial spawn) and must re-agro 6 Guardians (3 per Beacon * 2 Beacon Casts). This means 16 Taunts in total between two tanks or 8 per tank. That comes out at the rate of one Taunt every 11.25 seconds (90 / 8 = 11.25). Now granted Taunt is off the GCD, but even before we assume at least one Hunter (which increases the delay between Taunts to 12.8 seconds with one Hunter, 15 seconds with two Hunters, etc.), this means 25-man Guardian tanks can focus on using threat-generation abilities at least 7 out of 8 GCDs.

    For a single tank in 10-man, the Guardian spawn count in that 90 second timespan is 7 (90 / 15 = 6 + 1 initial spawn) and the re-agro Guardian count is 4 (2 per Beacon * 2 Beacon Casts). Therefore, this means 11 Taunts in total for a 10-man tank, which is a rate of one every 8.2 seconds (90 / 11 = 8.18). 37% greater rate than 25-man tanks must manage, which means less time to misuse GCDs, lower threat generation, lower mitigation usage, etc.

    However, that's just the average Taunt requirement rate over time. The real challenge for tanks is the agro management of spawns just after a Beacon. For a 25-man, this is 5 spawns (one spawn just as Beacon triggers and 3 Beacons moved away and re-taunted). That means 2 Taunts per tank, whereas 10-man is 3 Taunts per tank (one spawn just after Beacon and Beacons moved away and re-taunted). Again, you may think the 10 second spawn time in 25-man versus the 15 second in 10-man makes 25-man the difficult choice, but in a time-constrained situation, such as pre- and post-Beacon trigger, it all comes down to GCD usage before shit hits the fan, in this case before any given Beacon can heal enough to kill one of the assigned taunters. That time frame is identical in both 10- and 25-man versions (arguably longer in 25-man since more Healer GCDs means more GCDs spent healing non-tanks if needed). Regardless, the 10-man Tank must Taunt 50% more Guardians in the time frame the 25-man tanks must do so.

    Again you may think to yourself, "But Kulldam, learn to play and use Tricks or Misdirection to help the tank grab incoming fresh Guardians during post-Beacon clutch moments."

    Once again, you would be correct, but this practice is in most cases impossible in a 10-man roster. Any Rogue the raid must be used for Fan of Knives > Wounding, so the chances of a second Rogue are usually slim, especially without a backup roster of classes. Likewise, as mentioned before, many 10-mans have no access to a Hunter, our own included, and if we did it would make Phase 3 much simpler (hence the entire point of this rant).

    The point I'm trying to make is that, as is so often the case, it's easy for people (especially those involved in 25-man raiding primarily), to jump to the conclusion that 25-man raids are the only challenging content and are tuned as such, whereas 10-man raids are tuned to be easier. The fact of the matter, and Alone proves this nicely, is that in 95% of the encounters existing/created today, 10-man raids offer a greater challenge to most appropriately geared teams than the counterpart 25-man version. The reason most people assume otherwise is that they either: A) Go into 10-mans with inappropriate gear, and/or B) Look at the roster size and make the seemingly logical assumption that "getting 25 people to do the right thing in a raid is harder than making 10 people do the right thing."

    On the surface, the above statement is true. But in reality, it is a false assumption. Take a moment to consider how Blizzard balances any given raid encounter. They decide what dangers will be posed to the players, and how many people in the raid must deal with the dangers. In most cases, these are not percentages, but are hard numbers. For example, 6 mobs spawn that must be tanked -- they are too dangerous to tank more than two at a time. Therefore, 25-mans use 3 tanks. The 10-man version of this fight will be one of two iterations: It will spawn 6 mobs that are too dangerous to tank more than three at a time, or it will spawn 4 mobs that are too dangerous to tank more than two at a time. In either case, use 2 tanks. Right away, 20% of the 10-man raid must perform this task flawlessly while the other 80% do their own thing (exaggerating the point by assuming the rest of the raid does nothing at this time, obviously not the case in reality). 25-man, 12% of the raid must perform this task flawlessly. That means, in terms of balance, the 25-man version can account for an 8% loss within the rest of the raid force without overbalancing the difficulty, which is equivalent to two people (2/25 = 0.08). 8% of the raid can die, be link dead, or screw the pooch whereas no leeway is found in the 10-man version.

    That, however, is an uncommon example where the 25-man requires more actual people tanking than the 10-man version. Look at a fight like Algalon, where both versions require two tanks. Here we have only 8% of the 25-man raid performing this role, whereas again, 20% of the 10-man must do the same. This means a 12% margin of error for the 25-man version not given to the 10-man.

    The same principles apply to other raid roles and the balance required by Blizzard. Healing is another good example. For Algalon, 25-man raids seem to use an average of 6 healers. 10-man raids require 3 healers. So again, to meet the expected balance requirements of this fight, 25-man must use 24% of it's raid force for this task, whereas 10-man must use 30% of the raid. Again, a 6% margin of error built into the 25-man balance that 10-man does not have; equivalent to 1.5 people (1.5/25 = 0.06).

    These above examples apply to DPS roles as well, but because DPS roles innately fill whatever slots not required by the Tanking and Healing roles, the margin of error mentioned above generally applies to DPS only. In the above example, the balance for 10-man versus 25-man Algalon means, between both margins of error in tanking and healing, the 25-man gains an 18% margin of error, which is then put straight into DPS classes as a matter of course. In other words, the 25-man raid is not so much given a straight 18% margin of error over 10-man, since in either case if a healer or tank screws up the raid dies, but instead gains an 18% increase in the ratio of DPS to Support Roles in the raid. This translates into more room for error by definition as more DPS can die or screw up, drop debuffs/buffs or miss vital warnings/positions.

    "But Kulldam, Blizzard accounts for this difference by making the DPS requirements of 25-mans more difficult than 10-man iterations!" you think to yourself.

    Once again, a statement made on the false assumptions. The main false assumption that leads to the above statement is that the gain or loss of one DPS player in a 25-man raid is the same as in a 10-man raid. However, a quick search of YouTube will quickly show that many, many high-end fights, after the first few kills, are defeated in a 25-man raid with 1 or 2 players dead, sometimes for a good chunk of the fight. Search for Alone in the Darkness 25 will show a good many examples. DPS, Healers, sometimes even a tank will die mid-fight and remain dead the entire time, yet the raid is still successful and the encounter is defeated. Again, one person dead or even two people dead is only a loss of 4% or at worst 8% of your raid force. Blizzard has balanced the encounter such that that percentage of loss as "acceptable to complete the encounter".

    Conversely, in a 10-man raid, even the loss of one person is 10% of your raid force, already well over that of even two people down in a 25-man. In most fights, such as Alone or Algalon, at the appropriate gear level (or even slightly higher), a 10% loss is not within the level of acceptance to complete the encounter and in most cases, the raid will wipe or is forced to do so. Losing one of your two healers in Alone means the absolute inability to heal Guardian damage. Losing a DPS player on Algalon means losing 14.3% of your raid DPS and not beating the Berserk. In 25-man Alone, losing a healer from 5 to 4 is very difficult, but still in the realm of possibility to heal Guardian damage. Losing a DPS player on Algalon in 25-man means losing 5.8% of your Raid DPS, almost three times less than the same player loss in 10-man. That sort of loss is acceptable and many 25-man raids can still succeed.

    The bottom line is that a 25-man raid provides more people in the raid, which means more room for error if a handful of mistakes are made, because there are statistically more people and a higher percentage of the raid force still available to pickup the slack of those that fail. In 10-man raids, that margin of error does not exist or is so slim that even one player mistake costs the entire attempt.

    Apologies for such a long rant, but I've been questioned many times about why we do 10-man raids and what I personally get out of it, and the challenge and close knit roster are the key factors in my enjoyment, and Alone was just a great example of how difficult yet rewarding it can be.

  2. #2

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    Hi!

    I generally try not to get too embroiled in the 10 vs 25 man discussion (tho, gief scaled-down legendaries!), but I do enjoy your rants all the same
    Anyway;

    A big gz on yogg0! Yes, i know its a little late coming, but its definitely worth commending since you did it without a hunter

    Btw, not sure that I'm supposed to have access to your raid discussion sub-forums, but you certainly have some stellar tacticians around here! Your combined experience and drive to suceed in the field is evident, keep up the good work in the name of Strict!

    <3

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