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The Queue: Stonecore frustrations

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

Today we skip the flowery intro, because I really want to get straight to answering this first question.

Lipstick asked:

Why does everyone hate heroic Stonecore?

Oh boy! I've been hoping somebody would ask this for weeks. I am so excited I could spit! While I go through why I think everybody hates the Stonecore, please keep in mind that I'm largely discussing this instance in the context of PUGs in which you can't necessarily take the time to sit down and analyze boss data or parse your combat log to find out what happened to you. Also note that many of the things I describe below are being fixed in patch 4.0.6 -- something many players are calling nerfs, but I like to call making Stonecore not broken.

Let me break this down by boss.

First is Corborus. Corborus's burrow/unborrow timer is very strict, to the point that the very narrow area of crumbling dirt is wide enough that you will die if you run the wrong direction out of it. If you're slightly closer to the left than you are to the right, if you do not run left, you will die. Considering the snap decision nature of the ability, that's very unfriendly to people learning the fight. Your reaction is going to be, "I need to get out of this" and not, "I should run left." Doable? Absolutely. It's not impossible at all. But it's unfriendly.

To make things worse, the adds that spawn throughout the fight can daze you. If you get dazed in Corborus's trail, you will die. It is a death sentence, and there is very little avoiding it regardless of how good a player you are. If you haven't died to this boss before, I guarantee you that you will one day, no matter how awesome a player you are.

Next up is Slabhide. Slabhide uses a very misleading LoS mechanic. To avoid his AoE, you need to use the spikes that fall from the sky to line-of-sight the ability. However, you can't use about half of the spikes -- they're still inside of his hitbox, so you'll still be hit. If you don't already know the exact details of LOS/hitbox interaction from picking apart the game like raiders have for the last six years, it isn't immediately obvious why you're dying. It's not obvious to you, and it's not obvious to your party members. In a PUG, I have seen people die standing behind a spike and get yelled at for it. Neither the person who died or the person who yelled at them really understood why the player died.

The person who died did everything right -- he ran behind a spike when the AoE was cast. Because he did everything right, he assumes that the fight must not be LoS-based; it must be something else. The others in the group assume he is a terrible player and wasn't actually behind a spike, even though he was. None of them know that the real reason the person died was because the spikes don't break line of sight when you're inside of the hitbox, even though it's between you and the mob.

Once I explained it to everybody, the reaction from the group was, "Oh, that's really stupid." It is stupid. It's a very poorly designed encounter, one that I would personally describe as broken. Those spikes should not spawn inside of Slabhide's hitbox at all, unless the purpose of this encounter is to teach players that World of Warcraft's LoS mechanics don't work properly. Wrath of the Lich King raiders learned that lesson on Sindragosa, which was the worst raid encounter of that expansion, in my opinion.

Then Ozruk. Ozruk's primary problem is being fixed in patch 4.0.6. The Shatter mechanic is designed in such a way that you will wipe to him when you first encounter him. It isn't negotiable. It isn't a matter of seeing Shatter being cast and then running away from it. If you try to do that you will die, which is different from the normal version of the encounter. You need to turn and start running when the Paralyze ability is cast, including the tank. And then Ozruk will use his ability. There's no way for a tank to know that and adapt to it. There's no picking up the pieces if members of your group don't know how it works, especially the tank. Unless they're clairvoyant, they are going to die learning this fight, and the mechanics are set up in a way that they might not fully understand why they died.

You are hit with Paralyze. If you have a DoT on your character, Paralyze is immediately removed. If you're a tank killing Ozruk for the first time and your Paralyze debuff was removed the moment it went up, you may not have noticed it at all. When you die, your immediate thought is going to be, "Oh, I didn't run out of Shatter fast enough." What is there to indicate that you were supposed to turn and run away? You didn't remove Paralyze intentionally. You didn't plan for its removal. It just happened without your knowledge, and then you died, not actually learning anything about the Shatter mechanic -- a spell that most certainly does not function like other Shatters we have come to know in raiding.

Is the boss possible? Again, yes. Is it counterintuitive and very difficult for players to understand? Absolutely. The mechanics of the fight work against themselves. In patch 4.0.6, the Shatter cast time is being increased so this problem should be resolved.

The last boss of Stonecore is really easy, so I won't even talk about her. She's like the free candy you get for enduring the rest of the instance.

Personally, I think Stonecore is one step of difficulty above all of the other heroics. In the normals first, heroics second, raids third progression, I think it sits more in the raid level of difficulty and understanding how the game works. In fact, I would say Ozruk is more difficult than the normal mode of every single boss in the current tier of raiding except for Cho'gall, Nefarian and Al'Akir. Once you learn him, it's not a problem, but he certainly takes more work to learn than any other heroic boss. Other heroic bosses are hard, but how many of them make you sit down and really pick the game's mechanics apart?

... and that was about a thousand words, so I'm going to keep these next questions extremely short. This Stonecore thing very likely should have been its own post, but what can you do?

Brock asked:

My guild downed Halfus this past week. Should we stay in Twilight Bastion, or should we try and do the first boss in each of the raids or something entirely different?

This is always a tough question when raiding isn't strictly linear, because people are all going to have their own opinions of what's harder and what's easier. If you want the cop-out answer, I think you'll be fine doing the bosses in any order you'd like, as long as you save Cho'gall, Nefarian and Al'Akir for last. If you want a little more direction than that, my raid's first six boss kills, in order, were:
  1. Magmaw
  2. Omnotron Defense System
  3. Halfus Wyrmbreaker
  4. Valiona and Theralion
  5. Maloriak
  6. Conclave of Wind
Two bosses in Blackwing Descent, two bosses in Twilight Bastion, then we hopped around. I would say the first few bosses in each dungeon are roughly equivalent difficulty. You would be fine staying in Bastion for a couple more bosses if that's what you'd like to do. My raid has killed more than those six, but I don't know how useful it is to lay out our entire kill order.

Ishammel asked:

I was doing the Thunder Falls fishing daily a few days ago and at one stage, four non-targetable female dwarves spawned next to the stream, then proceeded to do a dance in a circle. There was no emote, music, or any other script I've seen running. It lasted for about 15 seconds and then they disappeared. Have you ever seen this or any idea what its purpose might be? My internet search skills have failed me.

That was someone using the Chalice of the Mountain Kings, an archaeology item. It's a purely cosmetic item that does nothing other than what you just described.
Have questions about the World of Warcraft? The WoW Insider crew is here with The Queue, our daily Q&A column. Leave your questions in the comments, and we'll do our best to answer 'em!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Queue, Cataclysm

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