"The only normal mode encounters that cannot be soloed right now as a DK are Kalecgos in Sunwell Plateau, Valithria Dreamwalker in Icecrown Citadel (unless you're a draenei with Gift of the Naaru), Conclave of Wind in Throne of the Four Winds, as well as Hagara the Stormbinder and Spine of Deathwing in Dragon Soul," Mionee muses. "That leaves quite a lot of soloable encounters. On a more general note, what's left to solo are the heroic versions of some encounters, or the 25-man versions of bosses that have only been soloed in 10-man."
"To give a rough estimate," she continues, "by the end of Wrath of the Lich King, I was doing Mount Hyjal; by the end of Cata, I had completed nearly every possible heroic encounter from Wrath (a few exceptions aside); and right now, I have completed everything in Cata aside from the three above-mentioned encounters."
Mionee gives us the inside scoop on soloing some of the game's toughest content and answers the question of whether death knights are really overpowered, after the break.
Main character Mionee, goblin blood death knight (formerly a "lovely draenei female")
Realm Auchindoun (EU)
WoW Insider: Mionee, what's the most difficult encounter you've successfully soloed so far?
Mionee: Mmm, hard question. Usually there's different kind of difficulties. There's the execution part that can be tricky (positioning, reacting to situations, interrupting, etc.). Sometimes, it's just pushing the required DPS or survival that becomes hard.
So far during MoP, my favorite boss strategy-wise was Ragnaros by far. (Honorable mentions to Yogg-Saron and the AQ-40 bug family, in their respective eras.) Number-wise, Madness of Deathwing was extremely tight (honorable mentions to Mimiron hard mode, LK, or Archimonde back in the past).
I tend to prefer those "strategy" bosses over the pure numbers bosses. Numbers bosses can become really easy once you get enough gear. Most of their difficulty comes from finding small tips and tricks here to there to maximize your DPS and manage to do it with less gear. There's some breakpoint after which you don't need to do that anymore and the boss becomes pretty straightforward.
So what's the attraction? What part of the process of soloing do you get the biggest kick from?
The attraction is the challenge, personally. I like to push the limits in that particular domain that is soloing. I personally don't give much credit to the world-first stuff, but I have to admit that if I know some encounter has already been soloed by someone, I tend to be less motivated by doing it as well, since I'm not pushing any limit or learning anything from it. Fortunately, that's very rare!
Planning is, in my eyes, the most important and most enjoyable part. I love theorycrafting, and I know pretty much everything there is to know about game mechanics. I love imagining what could happen if I did X or Y. I actually spend very little time doing soloing itself. I usually plan what I'm going to do in advance, then check if it's doable or not, and usually have backup plans if it doesn't work. For example, on Ragnaros, it only took me two attempts to get to the last phase because I had planned everything beforehand. All the subsequent wipes (around 10 wipes or so) were only due to small details I polished attempt after attempt and from learning how to play the fight correctly.
Is there an encounter you just haven't been able to beat?
So far, the only encounter that I feel is beatable number-wise but hasn't been done because of a lack of strategy is Spine of Deathwing. It's an incredibly annoying fight when soloing. Deathwing can do barrel rolls even when facing only one player, which means you have to alternate between the left and the right side of his back every few seconds to prevent him from rolling. That quickly gets old after a few minutes of going left and right.
The fight is also extremely RNG because the tentacles sometimes decide to randomly cast Fiery Grip on you regardless of what you're tanking, and [it] has an hidden 15-minute enrage timer that makes that RNG pretty important. (Without that hidden enrage timer, you could just drag the fight indefinitely until the stars align.) So far, I haven't found a way to beat the RNG of the encounter, and considering the frustration of the constant left and right movements, I didn't give much thought to it. This is definitely one of the next milestones, however.
If Spine didn't roll while solo, that RNG wouldn't exist, though. The problem when the tentacles cast Fiery Grip is that you can't prevent the roll from happening anymore; thus, the Amalgamations end up flying from Deathwing's back, and you lose all your current progress towards the next plate lift. No idea just yet on how to counteract that in a reliable way.
Tell us about your spec. What do you change or do specifically for soloing?
For soloing, my DK is blood nearly all the time. I used to love the flexibility DKs had during Wrath of the Lich King, having access to a variety of tanking tools and good survivability in every spec. However, since the change to DK specs in Cataclysm, this is no longer the case, and frost/unholy DKs are one of the least survivable classes on the overall scale. There are very, very few uses for such specs. Frost is good at kiting (but blood isn't bad either). Unholy has access to a permanent pet. They also deal more damage if you can't get any Vengeance for some reason. (But in such a situation, is the content remotely hard to solo?)
Regarding talents themselves, I change all the time and have always been doing so. My character has over 40k gold spent in talent tree respecs, which says quite a lot. There are a few talents that change rarely, and some others that change all the time because they are very situational (Death's Advance, Chilblains, mass grip, etc.).
I'm sure many readers are curious about your addons and UI.
My UI is pretty simple. I use TellMeWhen, WeakAuras, Dominos, X-Perl, Grid, and Bigwigs (and My Little Companion). It seems like a lot of people are asking me about that TellMeWhen icon that displays your Vengeance and Blood Shield.
Sounds straightforward. So what do you think is the single most important key to successful DK soloing? How much does that emphasis change from encounter to encounter?
Mmm, that's a hard question again. Overall, I'd say the most important quality if you want to be a good soloer is to be patient and to be good at not losing focus. If you want to be one of the first to solo bosses, then you'll have to add the planning and creativity part to that, but if you just plan on watching vids and repeating kill vids (to farm mounts or whatever), then all you need is to not lose focus and follow the strategy all along.
Now, if talking about "extreme" soloing, the most important parts are being able to maximize your DPS and your rune usage (and this is probably one of the hardest parts, despite what one might think) and to have perfect control over the damage you take. There are situations where you want to take just a tiny bit of avoidable damage -- not too much or you'll die, but still enough to generate Vengeance in order to beat an enrage timer or kill adds quickly enough. I think managing that correct amount of damage taken is something that comes with experience, knowledge of your character's limits, and some foresight.
Positioning and awareness in general are extremely important.
Finally, gear optimization. You need good gear, but you also need to be able to min-max everything about it, and in most hard fights, that usually involves knowing exactly what amount of tank gear is required to survive and finding that perfect sweet spot where you have just enough DPS and just enough survivability.
Let's be honest: Are death knights overpowered? Could any other class do what you have accomplished with Mionee?
Depends on the meaning of "overpowered." There's nothing intrinsically overpowered about beating old bosses on your own. You're not really gaining any advantage over the other players or any additional gold or mats or anything of that nature.
Is the class superior to most others in terms of the self-healing it can provide itself in a solo situation while still dealing respectable DPS? That's not even a debate, and the answer is a definite yes.
Now, let's not get too confused though. Since MoP, there have been a lot of changes to the other tanking classes and these specs have a lot, lot of self-healing and solo capability as well. Death knights are extremely versatile and have a lot of tools at their disposal, as well as extremely good scaling with gear (while the other tanks will scale a lot more with Vengeance, which is much less relevant to your gear level). This makes death knights my favorite soloing class by far.
However, in terms of pure numbers, warriors are better than DKs -- yes, yes they are, believe me or not -- but that comes at a price, like having a very little HP pool (35% @ Second Wind) and a smaller amount of tools in their arsenal. (For example, AMS is pretty much a blessing that makes DKs unique and will always separate them from the other classes in terms of soloing). You shouldn't be too surprised to see some warriors managing some feats that would have been deemed impossible, and they might surpass DKs on quite a few occasions in the future.
Are DKs still the best all around for soloing? Absolutely, at least in my eyes. Do we still live in a world where DKs trump every class in soloing by a huge margin, like during Cataclysm? I don't think so. The margin is now much, much thinner than it used to be.
Do you raid on Mionee as well with Envy?
I raid in Envy as a DPSer that sometimes goes for the role of third tank. (Yay, more off-spec loot!) Now that the content is on farm, we only raid around two to three nights a week. Personally, raiding takes priority over everything else, including soloing. Soloing is just my side-by, personal hobby.
Do you ever get help clearing for or practicing your solo encounters from guildmates?
Happens once in a while, but it's pretty rare. Since MoP, I think the only help I asked was for Hagara and Spine. Sometimes I ask if people have lockouts with direct access to the bosses I want to attempt, which saves me quite some time. During Cata, I got help for Atramedes trash in order to solo it on a hunter or to beat Thorim when no-one had found the strategy to solo it yet.
A hunter soloist! Have you worked most of your solo magic with Mionee, or do you solo frequently with other characters, too?
These have all been with my DK. I pretty much fell in love with the class during the beta of Wrath of the Lich King. I used to do weird and obscure stuff with my mage and shaman during vanilla and BC, respectively (mage-soloing 5-man instances in vanilla, shaman tanking in BC), but nothing came close to the amplitude of the stuff I'm currently doing with my DK.
Nowadays, my alts are a prot/ret paladin and an elemental shaman. My shaman has somewhat decent gear, but my paladin is terrible.
Any new soloing goals?
Ragnaros on heroic should be the next milestone, but I don't know how soon it will happen. There are some other bosses that might prove challenging or interesting on the way to Ragnaros, but this guy remains the major priority, in my opinion. Definitely looking forward to this fight. The transition phases and phase 3 should be amazingly hectic, moreso than normal mode.
Yogg-0 in 25-man should be a huge milestone as well (Mimiron's Head!), but it's a hard one that probably won't go down any time soon due to the nature of the fight.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.