Last night we went in and spent some quality time with Al’Akir. Before we encountered him, there were a few crass jokes – like our goblin warrior refraining from wanting to tank him because “he’s too big for my tiny goblin body” *ahem*. But once we got in, we were ready to get down to business.
We had done our research, were ready for the encounter, and after a couple of hours managed to snag a kill.
However, I’m not really here to talk about the kill, per se, although I will answer any questions that you might have regarding the fight in the comments or via email. (We used a 1 tank, 2 melee, 4 ranged, 3 healer set up). What I am here to talk about is why I think that guilds will end up struggling with what is largely a fun and interesting encounter.
When we watched Tank Spot’s Video Guide on the encounter, we all hear Aliena indicate that phase 1 is the hardest part of the fight. And phase 1 does have its challenges, however once you figure them out, and know when it’s best to jump or move based on wind burst, it’s really not too bad. However, I think I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Aliena that phase 1 is the “hardest” part.
While she may be correct that as far as execution and technique are concerned it is the most challenging part, I’m going to counter that by saying that those aspects of the encounter can be easily learned and adapted to deal with by the majority of the community, and it can be done with relative ease. No, I’m going to have to say that phase 3 is the most challenging part of the encounter – and the easiest at the same time.
Say what? C’mon Beru! How can you say something is both hard and easy? You just aren’t making any sense!
Ok, ok. Hear me out here! Do you guys remember that post I did about Healing Valithria? In that post I gave a number of pointers with regards to how to get to your clouds, but also I had indicated that some players will be suboptimal players for the portals, even though their class is optimal for the portals. And the reason that this was, is because of the requirement of needing to move along the Z axis and how some people really struggle with the spatial awareness required for navigating the Z axis.
Well, guess what phase 3 of Al’Akir requires. If you guessed “movement along the Z axis” you would be absolutely correct!
And it is this mechanic that I think is going to make Al’Akir challenging for many guilds. It requires your entire raid team to navigate on the same “altitude” on the Z access, while constantly being blown back, having to run away if you have the bad, and adjusting your altitude upwards throughout the encounter. And you know what? This is really, really challenging for a lot of people.
Awhile back, Miss Medicina wrote a brilliant post that investigates why some people have significant difficulty navigating the Z axis. She goes into the science of why spatial awareness is harder for some players as opposed to others, and theorizes that it is physically impossible for some players to ever be good at encounters that require you to navigate the Z axis, because your brain just doesn’t function that way.
As we started getting into phase 3, we thought we were largely home free.
Now, in last night’s raid, we successfully navigated our way through phase one and phase two of the encounter – and once we started getting into phase 3 with some regularity, we discovered that a good number of our best players were challenged by the need to navigate Al’Akir’s clouds along the Z axis. And I had a hard time getting “mad” at them, because I am well aware that this particular “skill” is extremely challenging for a lot of people. Not only did we have people that would end up too low, and in a cloud – but people who thought they were with the rest of the group way above the group. Which causes own problems of its own.
We did eventually get him down, but it was far from “clean” and we still lost a few people who thought that they were out of the clouds, only to find themselves electrocuted to death by the lightening. And I strongly suspect that as more and more guilds start accessing this encounter we will find that phase 3 truly becomes the “hardest” phase in the fight. Not because it’s “challenging” – because let’s be honest, it’s mostly a “zerg the boss hard and fast” phase. But because people will struggle with the Z axis. I would put money on the same people, every kill, having trouble with this aspect of the encounter, even if they are perfect in the other two phases.
And you know what? For a lot of people, this is never something that they will be able to “learn” or “get better at”. It’s not something that “a few more pulls for practice” will fix. It’s entirely likely that it is something that many people will still struggle with, even after their 50th kill of Al’Akir. Just the same as many people struggled with it in Malygos. And for many guilds, I suspect that they will spend more time wiping in phase 3 than they do any other phase of the encounter.
Let’s talk about a few things that might help.
While I do not think that I can “teach” spatial awareness or Z axis navigation, what I might be able to do is offer some pointers that will make this phase of the encounter easier for those struggling with it.
- As soon as you enter phase 3 hit your “sit” button (for me it’s “x”), this will take you straight down
- Angle your camera so that you are largely looking and the fight from the top down. I liked a bit of a side view from the top, so that I could see the cloud below me start to crackle, as well as the “depth” of the cloud, to make sure that I was out of it.
- Pan your camera out. Do this so that you can get the view that I was referring to above: looking at it from the top, but with an angle on the cloud so that you can see where you are in position to the cloud below you
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! If you see someone that is flying off in BFE speak up and tell them “Beru, you are too high” or “Beru you are OOR of heals”. You can really help those that have trouble with this encounter by “navigating” them up or down.
- When navigating the Z axis use only your “sit” button and your space bar. This is the simplest way to move up or down, as it moves you straight up and straight down.
- When you have to run away, go back, left or right – not up or down. The risk with moving back, however, is that if you take a wind burst and get knocked REALLY far back, you will end up in the swirling vortex around Al’Akir, which may lead to your death.
- When moving up from the cloud, remember you only need to tap your space bar 2 or 3 times max. You want to be just above the cloud below you, to give you the most time to kill the boss before the clouds overwhelm you. If you are having trouble determining if you are out of the cloud, move up just a touch more than you think you need too and then come back down to the group immediately.
- Take a few pulls where your priority focus is on navigating the clouds. Even if your DPS/healing is shit for these, it’s likely still higher than it would be if you were dead!
- And lastly, try not to get frustrated. I know that is easier said than done, but it will only make things worse if you get all worked up. Stay calm as you try to navigate through the clouds.
I hope that helps some!
If anyone else has any tips, tricks or suggestions that they’d like to offer up please feel free to do so in the comments! If I see any particularly good tips, I will add them to my list here :)
edit: You can find a narrated video of the encounter here.