Why Guilds Will Struggle With Al’Akir   16 comments

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.

Posted December 31, 2010 by Beruthiel in Cataclysm!, Raid Leadership, Raiding

16 responses to “Why Guilds Will Struggle With Al’Akir

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  1. Pingback: Linkage « You Yank It, You Tank it: Blog of a Tanking Death Knight Lady

  2. You are being way too defeatist about people’s ability to learn phase 3. While the science of spatial awareness is interesting, this fight doesn’t require any complex spatial reasoning and people can be taught to do it with a few simple patterns about how you move based on what ability he uses.

    In nonheroic, there’s no chain lightning, so a perfectly acceptable raid formation is a tight clump. Mark one player who’s good at moving correctly and have them be the clump point. For people who have difficultly moving in 3D, getting right onto the person will be the hardest part. But the way do it isn’t mysterious, you simply have to quickly check two camera angles. Also, it’s not imperative to be perfectly lined up on the clump in all 3 axes right away, only in the Z-axis.

    Once you find the clump at the beginning of the phase, it’s easy. When Storm is coming, tap spacebar for a second or so to move up. If you wind up too high, just down back down once you’re sure you’re clear of the storm. If you get Lightning Rod, strafe out to the side, when it’s over, strafe back. When he casts Wind Burst, press spacebar and W to get back to where you were. There are the only movements required, and none of them require placing yourself in all 3 dimensions at once.

    Don’t write off to some kind of innate inability what’s a raid awareness failure just like any other.

    • I don’t think I’m being defeatist by stating that the mechanics of phase three will be incredibly challenging for some people, and as a direct result of that many guilds will struggle with that aspect of the encounter because of that reason.  It’s the same reason so many people had trouble with Malygos, the same reason people struggled with Valithria and the same reason so many people had trouble with Oculus.  We may have to agree to disagree on this point, but I’ve seen too many people struggle with any movement along the Z axis, be it simple or complex, to think it’s not going to be fairly problematic for some people.

      That being said, I am also more than willing to acknowledge that the converse is also true, being that it will also be extremely simple for other people to grasp and that they will have no difficulty with it whatsoever.

      The goal of this post wasn’t to give people an excuse for poor performance, but rather to isolate something that is going to be problematic for some people and offer advice on how to try and overcome said problem.  And do note – many of your pointers for success mirror the ones that I offered as well 😛

  3. At Malygos, most strategies used 0 z-axis movement. In Oculus, people just didn’t know the drake’s abilities and how to use them. I don’t think any of these are examples of actual 3D movement challenges–the 3D element was mostly irrelevant. Valithria was really the only one.

    I’m just arguing that, similarly, most Al’Akir failures will not be excusable for a reason related to 3D movement. If Storm comes and someone doesn’t press spacebar, or they get the Lightning Rod debuff and they don’t press A or D, it’s clear-cut raid awareness failure no different from any other fight. Nothing about the movements I’ve described is any different from what you do at any boss fight.

    The basic task of getting into position near the bottom at the beginning of phase 3 is the only part that actually requires 3D movement using the slightly clumsy WoW system. But I suspect that the vast majority of failures you see won’t be related to that–they’ll be related to the boss mechanics I mentioned above.

    • Fair enough. I do see your point, and will concede, that to an extent, some of the issues can be narrowed down to fixing poor play.

      But I will also still maintain that the up and down movement is going to be a struggle for people, as well as determing your positioning in relation to the cloud below you, even if it is simple and slight! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention New Post Up! Why Guilds Will Struggle With Al'Akir -- Topsy.com

  5. Beru, I’m with you in understanding the difficulties that some people have regarding the Z-axis. Personally I have never had much trouble with spatial awareness, so navigating in 3d does not bother me much. However, I know that several of my friends do have that issue. Try as they might, they just do not “get” how to work with the Z-Axis because they are not spatially inclined, and these people are *fantastic* players who simply do not screw up encounters, ever. Yet, these are the people who had tons of trouble in Vashj’ir and just gave up because the 3d movement was too much for them.

    Perhaps when it is time to play with Al’Akir, I will suggest that we all go to Vashj’ir to practice our movement. At least there we can practice the up and down bit.

  6. And now I’m looking forward to that fight even less….but I’ll definitely keep your points in my when we get there. -.-

  7. Thanks a lot for this post. It just bumped Throne to last spot on the “raids we should start with” list… I’m one of those who need a lot of time to get used to navigating in 3D. Valithria was my own little nightmare and the only thing that saved me from constant embarrassment was the “but I’m best for raid heals!” excuse.

  8. People who have problems finding where to go on the z axis will have problems in that instance. People who get lost easily will have problems.

    Heck, I had problems knowing exactly where that mob in relation to me was in vashj’ir. More than once I was too far in a direction to loot the carcass and had to change my camera angle.

    People who refuse to change their camera angle sufficient number of times will have problems.

  9. Pingback: Stories of WoW » One month of Cataclysm

  10. I have a raid leader who don’t seem to understand how people can have problems in 3D environment, and then, he went to Vash’jir, did 2 quests and went back to Hyjal… That did not prevent him from yelling at us in raid but it helped understand the problem…

    About Al’Akir, at first, we tried to go all the way down and then go up but we found out that we were wasting time, and not improving our positioning. We decided to stay around his head, where he through us at the end of phase 2, blow dps cooldowns and go down with our “x” key.

    We kept reminding people to come back after a bump even if they thought they weren’t far, because you don’t see it properly. We gave visual indicator about were we should be : the head, the neck, the jewel, the belt. Beginning on top helped a lot because there is less things that you can take as markers further down.

  11. Try pre-planning or setting landmarks or visual references:

    To the top,

    Nipples! (Man-boobs!) – makes the raid laugh – good for morale!
    Top of Belt aka Blue Orb
    Bottom of Belt

    Back to top, repeat..

    I believe this preparation and coordination helps immensely with Heroic Alakir – if you get it using this – let me know!


  12. When my guild first started this encounter, we also had trouble with phase 3 (myself included). Eventually we found it a lot easier if you go up and hit the invisible ceiling instead of down. Since you don’t have to travel as far you save a second or two. And for a bonus, everyone will be able to start at the same “altitude”. By the time your raid gets to the bottom, the lightning clouds will have despawned and you can start heading up.

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