The problem with Ulduar is Naxxramas.
I love Ulduar.
I love the scenery. I love the lore — what I understand of it, anyway (I’ve never paid too much attention to that aspect of the game, which is ironic for someone who considers herself a compulsive role-player). I love the boss fights with their fun, occasionally gimmicky mechanics; the trash pulls that require creativity and thought; the unexpected humor (XT-002’s voice, AoE mobs named Trash and V0-L7R-0N spring readily to mind); and especially the newness of it all.
I love that healing is hard again; that I have to utilize my rotations rather than simply spam Chain Heal on the melee.
What I don’t love — and what actually caused me to end last night’s raid in tears (something I don’t dare confess to the guild-at-large) — was the Naxx-inspired cockiness that we took into Ulduar with us the first time we zoned in, and the inevitable crash that followed it.
I don’t think Ulduar is “too hard.” On the contrary, compared to SSC and TK — The Burning Crusade‘s sophomore tier — Ulduar’s easy modes are… well, easy. Laugh if you like, but we didn’t down Void Reaver the first time we attempted him. It took two days for us to master that particular fight, and we raced the enrage timer every week for a month before we could consider the “Loot Reaver” on farm.
I stopped counting after the first few dozen deaths (and I was playing a warlock at the time, so they were plentiful!), but I rather suspect that A’lar’s trash wiped us more times than Razorscale, Deconstructor and Ignis combined.
So, no, the problem isn’t Ulduar itself.
The problem is that Naxxramas was so easy by comparison to the raids that preceded it that we actually forgot what it was like to progress through new content. Once upon a tier, we congratulated ourselves when it “only” took a week or two of raiding to defeat a new boss. Now, we feel like we’ve failed if it takes more than two or three attempts, let alone nights.
Tensions are running high in my 25-man raid. We’re making decent progress — nine bosses fell (or were redeemed) in our second full week of raiding — but we’re certainly not one- or two- shotting encounters like we were in Naxxramas when it was new.
To be fair, most of us don’t want to. We complained bitterly that Naxx was “too easy”; by the time Ulduar was released, we were desperate for a challenge. (Granted, Sartharion 3D was a challenge — but it was also a hard-mode, so we tended to view it as an encore performance rather than a legitimate step in our progression.)
Still, there’s a difference between wanting to wipe in Ulduar and actually wiping in Ulduar. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget that this is exactly what we’ve been crying for, and start to lose our patience and eventually our tempers. This happened repeatedly in Saturday’s 25-man raid, as the same officers and veterans I count on to help me lead when Keaton isn’t around (and he wasn’t this weekend) tore into each other for perceived slights, mistakes, lapses in judgment and even disagreements over strategy. As hard as I tried to run interference — reining in tempers, soothing ruffled feathers, mediating the inevitable disputes privately while remaining outwardly positive — I failed utterly to control the raid and ended the night thoroughly exhausted, demoralized and in tears.
Even Sunday’s Ulduar 10 was rough. We cleared everything before General Vezax in just five hours, with a dozen wipes along the way — most of them on Mimiron. Given that this was only our second week of raiding, I think this is outstanding; GuildOx agrees, and ranks us as #1 Horde-side and #6 on the server (which is pretty awesome, if you ask me). Nonetheless, the bickering that was so prevalent in Saturday’s Ulduar 25 raid polluted our usually relaxed Ulduar 10, and far from enjoying the new content that I claim to love, I find myself dreading it.
Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy the people I play with. I’ve said over and over again that they absolutely make the game for me, and it’s true. It’s the short-temperedness and the peevishness among my core raid — two very recent developments — that are slowly spoiling the endgame for me. It may be a bit of a cop-out to name Naxxramas as the culprit, rather than the players themselves (or the guild leader who is accustomed to leading by example, and floundering now that she needs to take a more hands-on approach…), but I sincerely believe that the precedent that it set six months ago is hurting us now.
* * *
As I was writing this (in between SQL queries at work >.>), Matticus posted a theory about Ulduar frustrations that has since been picked up by WoW Insider:
Many guilds have forgotten what it’s like to hit a progression wall. Raiders who felt good about themselves and their abilities started having doubts about themselves.
This is what we’re experiencing. Exactly.
For us, the problem lies in the fact that these doubts have manifested as fits of temper — and, in some cases, depression — that are quickly snowballing through the raid. I’m going to have to give some serious thought to combating them, because I refuse to let Naxxramas of all things break my guild six months after we trounced it.