Formerly Hardcore #1: Adventures in BRF, Part 1

Ragar talks about his adventures in Warlords of Draenor's newest raid

Hello and welcome to the 1st edition of Formerly Hardcore, ZAMs column on Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. The title probably makes it obvious, but in case anyone hasn’t guessed, this column is going to be from the perspective of an ex-hardcore raider. There will still be plenty of talk about raiding in general, especially for this first post, but I’ll also talk about different aspects of WoW as a whole as patch notes and my whims take me.

For our first column, I’m going to talk about my adventures into WoW’s latest raid, Blackrock Foundry. The gates of BRF opened up to Normal and Heroic groups on February 3rd with Mythic opening the following week and Looking For Raid difficulty a week later. My raid team is not large enough to try our luck in Mythic BRF, but after three weeks of Normal difficulty, dipping our toes into Heroic as well as trying the first two wings of LFR, I’m ready to talk about the raid.

Raiding with a Rotating Roster

My raid group is fairly good at what they do for how little time we have to raid, but we have one small problem: there’s not that many of us. On our best day with everyone available, we’re looking at ten or eleven players. However, most days due to work or family conflicts, we have at seven or eight - a world of difference from having a full roster plus a sizable bench in the more dedicated raiding guilds I’ve played with. If this were another MMO or even an earlier WoW expansion, this would mean someone needs to go sit in town asking for filler members or simply cancelling the raid. It would also mean the guild would need to start doing some recruiting to keep this from happening in the first place. These days however, all it means is throwing ourselves into the Premade Group Finder while we clear trash to the first boss.

If anyone out there is unfamiliar with the Premade Group Finder, here’s the quick rundown. Rather than queuing for an instance like with heroics and LFR, the Premade tool is more like providing a GUI for creating/joining groups. If a raid group is looking to find a couple players, the raid leader posts a quick description of their run (eg “Fresh guild Blackrock 10/10”, “Farming heroic trash for epics”, “6/7 on Imperator”), lists the roles the group needs as well as any other requirements such as minimum item level or voice chat. Once that’s all posted, the raid group is free to do whatever they want while their request sits on the Finder tool. If a player finds the raid’s posting and wants to join, they apply for the posting and if the raid leader says yes, they’re invited. It’s all the potential recruiting power of trade chat without the pain of using trade chat.

Since Premade Group Finder is finding you players you’re unfamiliar with, it is technically rolling the dice. Some days you get that player who just can’t put out the DPS/heals that their gear should be capable of, or they don’t have a headset to use voice chat and coordinate with your group. Even worse, some days you get those players that you wish didn’t own a headset—or better yet—didn’t play the game. Those are far from the majority, though. Overall, our experience with the Premade tool has been quite pleasant. We usually find more than enough recruits to bolster our numbers as well as give us a buffer in case someone needs to leave and the vast majority of them have been both capable raiders as well as pleasant individuals. A few have even enjoyed our group enough to add the raid leader as a friend so they can come back for future runs. If it weren’t for some of them being outside our server cluster, we probably would have even found a couple guild recruits out of the pool as well. With their help bolstering our numbers, we’ve been able to make headway into the depths of Blackrock Foundry.

What About the Actual Raid?

As of when I’ve written this column, our raid group is currently 8/10 for Normal BRF and 2/10 with the Heroic version. I’ve only been able to see Blast Furnace through the eyes of an LFR raider, so I cannot speak about the Normal version of that encounter or Blackhand afterwards. With that in mind, barring the last two Normal encounters completely changing my mind, I believe I can say that Blackrock Foundry probably has the best encounters of any raid I’ve seen in an MMO up to this point and some of the most fun tanking I’ve experienced.

We’ll start with the weakest parts of the raid, Gruul and Oregorger. These two are obviously meant to be the introductory bosses for the raid given their difficulty and low degree of complexity. Gruul is about as close to a Patchwerk fight as BRF is going to get – the main tank points him away from the raid to control the Overwhelming Blows damage and debuff while everyone else gathers in groups by each foot. The offtank taunts the boss just long enough to split Inferno Slash damage with one of the side groups before the MT takes it back, then then the two swap at 2-3 stacks of the debuff - this fight’s fairly simple. Oregorger isn’t much more complicated either. The offtank stands just off the main tank’s position to soak the initial Acid Torrent hit for the ranged group, taunts afterward and swaps position with the MT. This swapping continues until the ore phase where groups smash open crates while avoiding the rolling boss and healing the damage when he collides with a wall. This continues until he gets a full stack of ore, then it’s back to the first phase and this all repeats until either Oregorger or the raid dies. The only other responsibility a tank might have on this fight is if you’re low on interrupts for Blackrock Barrage. Sure you have to do the tank swaps correctly on these two fights and there’s on rare occasions something on the ground to move out of, but all told they’re just intro bosses and those are rarely ever interesting for a tank.

Things step up a little bit with the next intro fight, Beastlord Darmac. To begin with, he seems like just another easy fight from the tank’s perspective: hold boss by the gate where adds get summoned by Call the Pack, while the offtank picks those up and the raid AoEs them down in-between DPSing the Heavy Spears that get thrown around to Pin Down healers and ranged DPS. The fight gets more interesting once he starts jumping onto the three mounts in the room. The wolf Cruelfang periodically leaps to a ranged player, then back to where the tank was standing, dealing a stacking Rend and Tear DoT to anyone near where he lands, in addition to periodically buffing his damage until someone purges the Savage Howl enrage effect. This means that while Cruelfang is active, the tanks need to use cooldowns if they’re low during the enrage effect, dodge as many DoT leaps as they can and swap if their stack get too high; once Cruelfang dies, Darmac will continue to leap and apply DoTs periodically. Similar changes to the fight occur with the other mounts, Ironcrusher and Dreadwing – both have a stacking debuff that requires tank swaps while they’re alive and they introduce a new mechanic (Tantrum and Inferno Breath/Superheated Shrapnel) the raid will have to heal through or avoid even once the mounts are down. The entire time this is going on, you still have to deal with those Call the Pack add spawns, so whichever tank is waiting for their debuffs to fall off will still have work to do. Well, unless you’re a Brewmaster like me and you let your Ox Statue do all the work, but most other tanks will actually have to at least do a couple AoE strikes here. This is still overall a simple fight from a tank’s perspective, but at least this one gets more interesting as the fight progresses.

Hans’gar and Franzok – now we’re talking! This is the last of the introductory raid bosses in BRF and here’s where this raid starts to get interesting. This is a two-mob fight with a shared health pool, similar to Twin Ogron from Highmaul. Things start off fairly simple – each tank takes their own orc and starts their normal rotation, bringing them together for cleave damage. Occasionally one will leap off to Body Slam someone in the raid and continue bouncing from player to player for a bit, so other than dodging those Slams to minimize damage and the Shattered Vertebrae debuff, the second tank is basically just DPSing the other boss until his orc is done bunny hopping, After you’ve taken their health down about 15% or so, one tank will get picked up, passed over to the other boss, then used as a weapon to Crippling Suplex the second tank, dealing significant damage to both. This is your normal “use a cooldown for the big hit” kind of mechanic, but now the fight starts to get interesting. This fight isn’t really about Hans and Franz – it’s about the room you’re fighting in. After that first Crippling Suplex, the second orc will jump up top and start up the conveyer belts covering most of the room. Now players have to either continually strafe towards the entrance to stay in place with the boss or they need to move to one of the stationary beams between belts.

Those stationary spots are only temporary havens however, as there will be Searing Plates rolling down the belts, ready to deal damage to anyone on the belt or on the half of the beam closest to the belt. This means you’ll be moving back and forth between different belts and beams as a tank, trying your best to keep the boss as stationary as possible to maximize DPS while also trying to guide your raid around the molten metal plates barreling down the belts towards them. A similar mechanic happens later when the Orcs get together and then Suplex/swap again, with the other orc heading up top and turning on the stampers. You don’t have the plates to contend with this time, but now there are large stampers that will drop down from the ceiling onto the belts, causing everything in a panel as well as a small overlap onto nearby panels to get Pulverized. Those stampers will move in patterns across different panels, so you’ll actually be moving even more in this phase than the Plate phase. As you get toward the end of the fight, these mechanics come back and overlap. At the very end, you not only have to contend with both plates and stampers, but you’ll also have both orcs on the floor, Body Slamming the raid and dealing increasing damage to the tanks.

As hectic as all of that may sound, all of the mechanics are very doable and it’s easy to understand once you’re actually doing it. To illustrate, our first kill was with nine players and it wasn’t planned. Our 10th player from the Premade tool had to leave during our first night in BRF, so we were just going to clear out some trash in hopes of getting some 665 epics while the trash drop rates were so high. When we got to Hans and Franz, our conversation was basically “Well, we’re here… does anyone know this fight? No? Eh, screw it – let’s go for it!” If we can slop our way through that with no plan and nine people, any half-decent raider should be able to handle this fight.


There’s still six far more interesting boss encounters left in Blackrock Foundry to talk about, but those can wait until next time since this first part’s already long enough. By then I’ll also have the third wing of LFR to talk about – hopefully that one’s not quite as painful as the LFR Black Forge runs this first week.

That’s it for this first edition of Formerly Hardcore. You already know what the next column will be about, but I’m open to suggestions for future columns. Would you like me to talk more about tanking? DPS? Healing’s also an option, but I’ll admit I haven’t regularly healed since Burning Crusade. Same thing with PvP (playing a Holy Paladin for Seasons 1 and 2 killed off that desire), but I’m willing to talk about it. We could even look at pet battling if that’s where everyone’s interest lies. Tell us what you’d like to see in the comments below.

Michael “Ragar” Branham


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