Post-Raid Thoughts on Mythic Castle Nathria from BDGG - Tuning, Class Balance, Gearing and Covenants
We sat down with some of the officers of
to get a deeper look into why Mythic Castle Nathria was so different than other tiers, talk about class stacking, split raiding, and covenant choices.
finished the tier US 2nd and World 9th. This is their first tier going for full time raiding, but the competition this tier is at an all time high.
- The GM and one of the founding members.
- Ranged officer and prolific guide writer
- Freshly minted tank this tier and data wizard
- Recruitment officer of BDGG and one of the founding members
How has this, as a first tier, differed from previous expansions?
The tuning was a step-up from what people expected based on other expansions. Part of this had to do with item level, but I have a feeling this has to do more with RWF participants just being better/more experienced than in previous tiers. I'd imagine raids will only get more challenging.
Shadowlands has been an excellent expansion thus far, and this was a great first tier overall. The biggest differences I would say were the raid difficulty, how gearing played out, and the amount of content that was "required" for us to do. The main thing just comes down to what was required, which was surprisingly chill. You could choose to focus on the activities you wanted to, and most currencies and content did not reward any meaningful sources of power, so you could pick and choose what you did based on what you wanted to do.
Very happy with the expansion and looking forward to future tiers.
This was the hardest first tier I have ever done. The fact that it had two bosses be over 200 pulls for most guilds before the end boss is wild to me. I think with the RWF picking up steam Blizzard really wants to make these later bosses super-hard for guilds trying to push for World First. I am expecting this expansion to be filled with super-hard raids which makes me excited.
In my opinion this tier was very good compared to last expansion's first tiers. I think the difficulty was at a perfect level and I hope they continue to make the raids challenging in the future.
Was class stacking better or worse than previous tiers?
Seemed pretty similar. 4-5x at most for some fights doesn't seem too bad and achievable to prep at a WF level.
Worse. While certain classes performed quite well in Ny'alotha and other BFA tiers, it was never quite as extreme as how Castle has been. Unholy DK is the biggest offender by far, which was a very predictable result that I'm still shocked managed to make it through the raid in the state it's in. You have a DPS that is easily one of highest throughput damage dealers on both AoE and single target, has incredible durability, a short magic immunity cooldown, the best execute damage in the game, and most importantly is the only DPS that brings a raid cooldown, which also happens to be one of the strongest raid cooldowns in the game. Stacking Unholy DK's was and still is an absolute must this tier.
Outside of Unholy DK's class balance was relatively good however. Melee was awful in general for Sludgefist, but for Generals and Sire the balance was much better, with the notable exception being Hunters. Generals specifically is a fight where 2-minute cooldowns are incredibly important, and Hunters are just perfectly designed to get you through the hardest parts of the encounter in a way that no other class can really replicate, which is why you see guilds bringing 4 or 5 Hunters on that fight.
I think class stacking was about the same as it was in previous tiers. The only thing that made it different is that it was purely for the damage this tier unlike in past tiers it was due to needing immunities.
Yes and no. I think for a guild trying to complete this tier in 2-3 weeks class stacking was very important on a few fights. For example on stone legion generals hunter was very strong with Wild Spirits. DK was also a very stackable class due to AMZ being such a strong raid DR cool down.
How was class balance as a whole?
Seemed the same as any other tier. Lots of things viable, but only a subset that's optimal that WF guilds are going to run.
For range DPS it was pretty decent actually, but melee specifically was quite poor. WW monks and Unholy DK's are incredibly good, but most other melee just are not even close to them. This makes it hard for mythic, since most fights are designed to where melee have an incredibly high bar to meet to get brought since most raid encounters are just inherently ranged-friendly. If you had WW monks, DKs, and lots of ranged DPS, there is little to no reason to bring other melee classes on almost any encounter.
As a whole I think class balancing was fine, but I think DKs/WWs outperformed every melee by a large margin. All the range were close besides SP which was a little bit worse, but was able to buff your other strong classes with PI so it kinda made up for them being a little bit worse in damage.
I think class balance was decent. There were definitely some outliers but for the most part I think each class has a viable spec that could be used in raid at a desirable level.
As for spec balance. There are definitely some specs that could use some love.
With the changes to loot gating and drop rates, how did split raiding fare this tier?
Haven't ran the numbers in hindsight, but definitely lower in importance, but still required. The main difference was that there was no funneling heroic week. You could get extremely lucky with some double drops, but we're talking under a percent per character. In past tiers, we've seen non-raid content be okay sources of loot for the raid, but this tier that content was a lot more important (primarily rated PvP). Split raiding will still exist, as funneling can happen week 2, especially with things like Sire weapons.
The biggest difference this tier was gear progression. While the heroic drop rates were bugged the first week, raiding actually gives surprisingly little gear overall. In a normal 10 boss clear of heroic, you should expect to get 1.5 pieces of loot, so 1 or 2 pieces per week. This did two things that drastically changed how we had to approach gearing this tier. First, splits and raiding in general were much less valuable than before, meaning often the characters not in raid were the more geared ones since they had more time to do M+ and PvP. Similarly, M+ and specifically PvP became far more important. Arena rating actually was one of the most valuable things that you could do even during mythic, as 2100 or 2400 in arena gave you access to mythic level gear and even 233 weapons. Being able to target the specific slots as well ensured that you never had to worry about wasted gear drops. BoE's as well were incredibly valuable this tier, since there were 4 slots where you could just buy Mythic-level items for enough gold.
It's funny to say, but this tier was surprisingly good for gear balance between high-end guilds. Because splits and raiding in general produced very little returns, the gear difference between high-end guilds and average guilds could theoretically be quite small. There is nothing stopping anyone from getting too close to our item levels early on if you are willing to do all the content available.
For high-end guilds specifically, this also meant that smaller optimizations mattered more. This was most evident in how splits and heroic week gearing played out, since different guilds had very different answers for what they chose to do. Similarly, because the differences were much smaller than they have been historically, the difference in progression mainly came down to strat, preparedness, and player skill. Limit and Echo really showed just how for ahead of the curve they are this tier, which gives us and everyone else looking to compete a ton to think about and iterate on for future tiers.
You got a lot less loot if you were Limit/Echo this tier from splits since you weren't able to do the 7 boss coining/loot targeting thing that they did in Ny'alotha. But for other guilds it was about the same in week 2, there were a lot of tradeable pieces. I think something else to mention about splits for this tier is that Blizzard gave too much loot in the first week because of a bug, so I expect next tier for it to be a bit worse than it was for this tier.
Split raids definitely felt less worthwhile this tier. The decrease in loot drops per boss and the increase in iLevel from M+ / the amount of gear/ iLevel you could acquire in PvP definitely reduced the benefits of split raiding.
If you had all the time in the world you would do all 3 options, but with time being a factor you need to correctly allocate your time to what will efficiently increase your raids iLevel.
How much of a role do you think covenants played?
Covenants were an integral part of every build, definitely required for some strats (Mage Night Fae on Sludgefist to get combusts up each pillar, Hpal Venthyr Sire Denathrius damage). But that's nothing new, just comp optimizations. For the most part everyone just played their best covenant anyways, so they were just a part of the class. There still exists the possibility that people will need to play 2 a raid, but that's more of the exception than the rule.
Covenants only become important if someone chooses the incorrect covenant from a throughput perspective. There was a correct answer on every class for what Covenant you must be. If our Fire Mages did not go Night Fae, then they would not have been able to use Combustion on every pillar in Sludgefist, and we almost certainly would not have had the damage to kill it week 1. If our Hunters did not go Night Fae, then Generals would have been much harder since we would not have had Wild Spirits to carry damage on Commandos.
Covenants are very poorly balanced. For some classes, the difference between the best and worst Covenant is night and day. If someone was the "wrong" Covenant, it is not even a question of player skill at that point, they just would not have the tools necessary to compete at the level we would need them to play at. You cannot afford to compromise on something that significant when you are trying to kill bosses in the first few weeks.
In my opinion, Covenants affecting play was very class dependent. I also think this is a case of the 2-3 week clears vs the 4+ week clears. A good example of this would be Venthyr Hpal vs Kyrian Hpal. Venthyr Hpal definitely does way more damage than Kyrian, but Kyrian has way more throughput. Early on when DPS is a factor having a Venthyr paladin could greatly increase your chances at making a DPS check. Once you start increasing your iLevel and no longer need help to hit the DPS check Kyrian would Increase healing throughput and help the raid survive easier.
What was your favorite boss? Second favorite?
I like the Sire and Inerva fights a lot. Kael day 1 felt really well tuned. Sludgefist felt pretty well tuned as well. Maybe a tiny little bit over, but I think it was a pretty good fight for where it was, felt good to beat it.
It's a toss-up for me between Sludgefist and Sire Denathrius. Sludgefist was an absolutely perfect fight in terms of tuning and what was required to kill it, I wish there was a boss exactly like it every tier. Sire was probably a bit too easy for a final boss, but was easily the coolest fight thematically that I've ever done and was incredibly fun to do. So in terms of gameplay/tuning, Sludgefist is the best, but in terms of how fun/cool the fight was, Sire Denathrius wins out.
My favorite boss had to be Sludgefist week one. It was pretty much perfect for that kind of boss, I don't think Blizzard could have done a better job with tuning on that boss, and every kill that week was super close. My second-favorite boss was probably Sire. As a tank, I hate how the boss moved, but I think the concept of the fight was super sick with the mirrors going between realms in p3 and the 4 horseman in p2.
My favorite boss was Sludgefist. I think the tuning was perfect and I give Blizzard big props for that.
Second would be Council. But I’m partial to that fight for the sole reason of hearing Gazmo call out the dance moves in Discord.
What was your least favorite boss?
Generals, not even close. Was also a little disappointed by Artificer, thought it was gonna be a lot more chaos than it was, it just ended up having very large downtime periods. Attendants on council kinda ruin that fight for me, they just break up the flow so much.
Stone Legion Generals. It is such a miserably bad fight and it is not even close. If you asked every single person who has progressed and killed this boss, they would give you the exact same answer. SLG is a long, boring encounter where the majority of your wipes will be to incredibly stupid or frustrating mechanics that you have much less control over than you would want. Half of progression was figuring out ways to stop/limit damage for optimal push timings since the bosses can have wildly different cast sequences for important abilities depending on how they queue them between phases. And of course the biggest issue, the fight still just has several bugs that make it very difficult to progress. On our final night we lost I think 3 separate p3 pulls all because of different bugs, ranging from the boss randomly casting an ability he should not have at the end of the intermission to the boss just resetting 20 seconds into phase 3.
Stone Legion Generals needs a significant tuning pass, bug fixes, and some major reworks for it to be progressable by most guilds.
Least favorite boss was Stone Legion Generals. I think the mechanics were great and the tuning was decent but the amount of mechanics that spell queuing effected was too high in my opinion.
What changes to you hope to see in the next raid?
Adjustment of loot. (more general to the patch, and less to the raid) Right now PvP dominates, and it feels kinda bad to do M+ at all, reward-wise. Same with raiding to a lesser extent, you get about 1 piece a week. I know I've seen numerous posts about some sort of Valor system, and I think something like that or some other supplementary gearing system on the PvE side could be helpful. Likely, PvP gear acquisition rate will just get nerfed, since it seems we're supposed to get gear slowly, but we can hope. To be clear, I don't want that to happen. I'm down for the PvP rate, just give that everywhere.
No more 12 minute fights. A lot of reasons to be mad at generals for sure, but almost never has a fight been over 10 minutes and fun. Denathrius was ~10, but it feels like it has enough variety to not get stale, even though p1 isn't very challenging.
No more fights with 65 different versions. Having fights with very important abilities be on essentially random timers is frustrating. You can technically control this, but the amount of little things you can do that shift timers in some fights is pretty insane
More wishlist-y, but I'm a sucker for environment-heavy fights. One or two of those that aren't entry bosses. Instead of just the room being where the boss is placed, I like when the environment plays more of a role in the encounter. A few great examples of this like Siegecrafter Blackfuse in Siege of Orgrimmar or Operator Thogar in Blackrock Foundry.
Ideally no last-minute full fight reworks. It ended up being fine since Council (and to a lesser extent, Shriekwing) needed it and made for a better overall raid, was just a little weird to throw out a bunch of work.
Honestly, not that big of a list. I think the raid itself was actually super good. I think the difficulty curve caught everyone a little off-guard with it being a first tier, but I think it makes for much more competitive gameplay going forward. I expect raids to be harder from this point on, and I think that's a good move as long as fights are still fair (Goliaths were in the p3 dungeon journal for a while and I still have nightmares sometimes).
This raid was solid overall, so more than anything I hope next raid just continues to iterate in the same direction. I think raids should ideally be structured similarly to how this one was, just with the final boss being the most difficult in the raid. Raids have been the major selling point of the WoW PvE scene forever, and the raid design team has really carried the franchise for multiple expansions now. Not many of us would have stuck through thick and thin the game if raids were not as good as they are.
The biggest thing that will need changing is the way gearing works and the current progression systems. Gearing is super weird right now if you are just someone who enjoys PvE content. Currently PvP and specifically arena/RBG’s are the best way to gear up new and existing characters, without question. It is the only way to target upgrades at an endgame level. You could spend months chasing your last few item slots in raids, such as going for the only cloth shoulders that drop in the raid from Sire Denathrius, which is on a loot table with 5 items. The odds of looting those Shoulders are 3% anytime you kill Sire. You could easily go the entire tier without ever having those Shoulders drop. PvP allows you to target and buy upgrades with currency, so you are always able to fill in the gaps. The best solution is pretty obvious, Valor or another currency type needs to return to the game to allow PvE players access to the exact upgrade system that PvP players currently have access to. If nothing changes, then the most important thing that any competitive guild can do to prepare for next tier is to have all of their raiders learn how to PvP, specifically to get 2100+ or 2400+ in arena or RBG’s. It is just too valuable as a gear source to not be able to do at a competitive level.
On a more minor note, hopefully Stygia and Soul Ash are modified as well. There are no catch-up mechanics in place for either system, and players are worried that we will have to bank up huge amounts of these for potentially new legendaries or just to have all future sockets accumulated for the next tier. This is pretty anti-fun for everyone involved, so hopefully Blizzard addresses it soon.
No bosses designed around super finicky timers like Generals, and the last boss to be harder, and to make more fights tuned like Sludgefist. I think most great fights have been either challenging but predictable, or unpredictable but consistent in difficulty. When you have timers that get out of order and result in an automatic wipe, that feels really bad.
The only change I would like to see in the upcoming raid tiers is the reduction of random spell queuing in fights. An example of this is Stone Legion Generals. I do enjoy having to think on your feet but I feel like with SLG there were far too many spells that fell into the spell queuing rotation which made the fight extremely frustrating to progress. Spell queuing has the potential to create a nice puzzle to a fight, but when you have a large amount of spells in that pool it just makes the fight feel extremely RNG which, on a 10 minute fight, becomes very frustrating and sucks the fun out of the encounter.
The sentiment over at
seems to be that this tier sets forward a lot of new precedents for raiding. This could be a sign of Blizzard taking the RWF more seriously as an esport event, and taking careful steps to tune not just the raid, but the preparation and gearing leading up to a raid.
With the changes to the M+ ilvl cap, PvP reward system, weekly caches, removal of Warforging, and the ilvl differences between Normal, Heroic, and Mythic, there's a sigh of relief that consistency is coming to the scene. Split raids are less viable (though not completely gone) which will be a welcome change for guilds across the world.
Shadowlands is also highly acclaimed among the high end community, and we're all very excited to see what Blizzard does with the next tier.
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