8.1 introduced a ton of changes to M+ dungeons, some questionable but most good, and we covered many of those in last week’s Q&A. Now that we’ve had a week to play around in M+ with the updates and get a sense of how the dungeons feel, let’s take a look at the issues that still need to be addressed in M+.
Aside from moving which levels the affixes appear on keys (Fortified and Tyrannical sliding to +2) and the addition of the seasonal affix, BFA did a wholesale copy of Legion’s affix system. This has proven problematic because of the changes we’ve seen to the game after 8.0; Legion affixes were designed for a world where tanks were ultra independent, where gear swapping was a thing, and where trash was much less ferocious. Recognizing that some Legion affixes were now overtuned, Blizzard has made several tweaks since the launch of BFA to try to recalibrate those affixes so they felt more appropriate in this new status quo. Most of those changes have helped, but there are still some notable issues with certain affixes.
Grievous - Even after the nerf to Grievous, this affix is still problem on Tyrannical weeks. Boss fights in BFA were clearly tuned independent of affixes, and some bosses that are otherwise very balanced (and fun) from a healing perspective become a nightmare when Grievous is introduced. Typically Grievous itself won’t be directly responsible for someone’s death, but it will put such a strain on the healer’s mana that it becomes inevitable that the healer will run out of mana. There is no counterplay to Grievous on most boss fights; unlike trash where you can often crowd control and interrupt to prevent damage, bosses usually have unavoidable damage. And you can’t drop combat nearly as quickly on long boss fights (which can easily take five minutes on high Tyrannical keys) as you can on trash pulls. Grievous still needs work and, in my opinion, probably a full rework because affixes that generate additional unavoidable damage can never be balanced correctly in an infinitely scaling environment.
Quaking - Quaking and Grievous are a problem for similar reasons -- both affixes deal damage above and beyond what you would normally expect from a key. And like Grievous, Quaking is an issue on boss fights because many boss fights were not designed to accommodate random 20% health drops. Like Grievous, Quaking can never be truly fixed in its current implementation because it isn’t possible to balance an encounter where some weeks you take no extra damage from affixes and some weeks you do. No affix should have unavoidable damage.
Explosive - Perhaps the most RNG affix in the game currently, Explosive is maybe the most rage-inducing affix in the game because it’s so unpredictable. You could do the same pull 100 times in a row and alternate between total cakewalk and absolute meltdown simply based on how many orbs pop out at once. And the reason Explosive is so difficult to deal with is simple: Explosive orbs must be killed with single target spells because area of effect spells will not damage Explosive orbs. The logic behind this decision is understandable, as allowing orbs to be hit by AoE would make them an afterthought while you’re blowing up trash. But the consequence of making orbs only affected by single target spells is that (as you might have guessed by their name) single target spells don’t scale with more targets. You’ll do the same damage to one orb that you do to ten orbs that you do to 100 orbs. That means there is essentially a hard cap on how fast you can handle orb spawns; if two pop out, you’re still good; if three pop out, you need some help; and if five pop out, your group simply doesn’t have enough global cooldowns to do enough single target damage to kill all the orbs before one of them explodes. So while the RNG of Explosive is frustrating, it’s the potentially unlimited spawn rate of Explosives that makes the affix so dangerous. Either the affix needs some kind of governor on how frequently it can pop orbs out, or players need to be given the ability to target multiple orbs at once.
Teeming - The history of Teeming has been an interesting one because the affix has bounced between being a joke and being terrifying. When Teeming was first unveiled in Legion, it was one of the more benign affixes because trash wasn’t nearly as big of a deal in Legion as it is now, and the mobs that Blizzard chose to add to each dungeon tended towards the tamer side. Somewhere in the middle of Legion, Blizzard realized that Teeming wasn’t threatening enough, and it redid its Teeming selection. Suddenly the added Teeming mobs were frequently the scariest mobs in the dungeon, and Teeming made you rethink a lot of the pulls. Fast forward to BFA, and I think Blizzard approached Teeming with the late-Legion mindset of adding really nasty mobs to each dungeon to make sure the affix wasn’t toothless. The problem is that BFA didn’t need any help making trash more deadly -- BFA trash already mangles the tank. So what was once one of the speed bump affixes in early Legion became a showstopper in BFA, and Blizzard was forced to redo some of the Teeming packs. I think there’s still a feeling that Teeming (at least when paired with Fortified) makes some dungeons too difficult, especially if you don’t have a rogue in your group for Shroud skips. Because of the nature of this affix, and how it is very specific to each dungeon, it will likely require the most fine tuning of any affix.
Volcanic - And now for a change of pace, let’s talk about the most worthless affix in M+ history: Volcanic. When Volcanic was first introduced, it did 50% of a player’s health (instead of 40% now) and it always spawned directly under a player. After some complaints about Volcanic, Blizzard made the graphic easier to see (and thus avoid) and also nerfed the damage a bit and made Volcanic spawn near the player but not necessarily directly under them. These changes completely neutered the affix, and now Volcanic frequently spawns so far from the player that you don’t even have to move to avoid it. It’s easy to forget this affix exists while doing dungeons, and it needs to be beefed up somehow.
Golden Serpent - The 8.1 patch did nerf Golden Serpent by reducing its adds’ HP by 75%, but the issue with this fight is that Spit Gold just does way too much damage. As keys start getting around the +20 range, each tick of this DoT can easily chunk a player’s health < 30%, and there are very few reprieves during the fight unless you bring classes with lots of immunities. Spit Gold needs to have its damage reduced considerably as it presents a hard cap on the scaling of the dungeon at the moment.
Council of Tribes - Like Spit Gold, Kula’s Severing Axe just does too much damage. While it isn’t nearly as intense from moment to moment like Spit Gold, the length of the Severing Axe DoT means that defensive cooldowns will wear off before it finishes ticking, and it hurts quite a bit when it isn’t being mitigated. Coupled with the movement requirements imposed by Whirling Axes (plus potentially having to soak Barrel Through for a teammate if Aka’ali has already been downed), this DoT puts too much pressure on a healer right now especially if none of your party can immune or dodge it and you get three or four Axes in a row.
Lord Stormsong - Stormsong got an undocumented update to one of his abilities in 8.1, Mind Rend, which up to that point had targeted the closest player to the boss, meaning you could bait it onto the tank each time. After 8.1, Mind Rend randomly targets members of the group. This change wouldn’t be a huge deal except that Mind Rend’s damage starts moving into one-shot range when you get around +20 keys. Either the targeting mechanic needs to be reverted or the damage needs to be dropped considerably.
Vol’zith - Vol’zith also got an update in 8.1, and his Whispers of Power debuff (which stacks up to 9 times reducing your max health by 10% each stack but increasing damage and healing by 20% per stack) will now only target healers. Previously, it would prioritize healers first but would also cast on DPS and even the tank once the healer was debuffed. This is huge change for the fight because Vol’zith’s health is clearly balanced around the premise that multiple DPS players have the debuff and are doing mega damage. Now that only the healer can get the debuff, the fight can take nearly twice as long to finish as it did before the change. Either the debuff needs to be given back to DPS or the boss health needs to come down proportionately.
Spectral Berserker - Even after a 25% nerf to Severing Blade, this DoT is still giga scary. There are ways to play around it, but it just deals so much more damage than other abilities of the same nature.
Dazar’ai Colossus - These big boys have a ton of health and deal uninterruptible damage to a party member, but the roughest part about them is that they’re always packed in with other trash, and the colossi heal for 25% any time another mob dies near them so you have to focus them down first or the pull will take forever. Unfortunately, the mobs they come with are no treat either, and leaving those mobs up while killing the colossi invites disaster. It’s unlikely any serious M+ group will ever pull one of these mobs as they currently exist.
Ashvane Spotter - For those not in the know, Spotters have an ability called Sighted Artillery that spawns circles on the ground that will be struck by artillery after a few seconds. Any player or enemy NPC (barring a few lieutenant mobs and bosses) standing in the circle when the artillery hits will be damaged. The strat du jour in Siege now is to drag the last Spotter in the dungeon around using Sighted Artillery to kill large packs of enemies. This strategy is enhanced by certain affixes, such as Bolstering or Raging, which cause the artillery to do even more damage to enemies. And the artillery can hit the tentacles on the final boss of the dungeon, Viq’Goth, meaning you can save substantial time on the fight by using the Spotter to mow down one tentacle while the group focuses on another. I’ve repeatedly directed Blizzard’s attention to this *ahem* creative use of game mechanics, and Blizzard has yet to make any changes, which I can at this point only assume means that the developers think the interaction is fun and engaging. So I don’t expect this to change, but I do think it’s dumb and will put this here for posterity.
Tol Dagor Cannons - Ok so these aren’t technically trash, but they do make all the trash near them a joke. Prior to 8.1, the cannons in Tol Dagor did not scale with the level of the key, so while mob health kept increasing the cannons continued to deal the same damage in base mythics that they did in a +20. But 8.1 made cannons scale, and now these puppies shred. Not only do they make quick work of the mobs on the ramparts of Tol Dagor (which have boosted health because they’re intended to be killed with the cannons), but mobs from inside the prison can be dragged outside and blasted down with a handful of shots in probably less than 20 seconds. While I appreciate the effort to make the cannons meaningful, they have become weapons of mass destruction and trivialize anything you can reasonably pull to them. Some compromise is needed.
Hahahahaha. No. They still suck. But what DID happen recently is that Blizzard announced there would be no more weekly reductions on the amount of Azerite Power needed for each neck level like there had been up to this point in the expansion. In anticipation of new Azerite pieces for the next raid tier and the commensurate neck levels needed to unlock traits, many guilds have set goals for their raid roster regarding their Hearts of Azeroth. But guilds set those goals with the expectation that the AP needed to level the neck would continue decreasing, and so long as the AP needed kept decreasing it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to get up into the 40s.
Now, though, trying to get 40 or 41 or 42 is going to require you to hustle. A lot. World quests are a good source of AP, but there are only so many of them that spawn each day. You can get AP from raids, but again, it’s once per boss per week. And you can farm M+, but the AP/hour is bad when compared to alternatives. So where is a raider, struggling to stay in the good graces of his guild, supposed to turn in these dark times? Islands, of course. The AP/hour from islands is obscene when compared to any of the other repeatable AP sources. So players trying to futureproof their necks are forced to farm islands all day to have a realistic chance at meeting their requirements for the next tier.
This isn’t the first time in the history of WoW that players have been handcuffed to content because the rewards from it are too good to pass up -- in fact, just as recently as Legion players were heavily incentivized to do the fresh new Mythic+ game mode because it gave ridiculously good AP and dropped lots of gear. Which is partly what makes Blizzard’s insistence on running islands so chafing; not everyone loved M+, but virtually everyone liked it more than islands, and at least it dropped gear too. So why not leave M+ as a viable source for AP farming? It’s such an easy bone to throw to the community.
Islands seem like content that was custom built to burn out players: mindless objectives coupled with uninteresting mobs, and easy enough with good gear that you never really have to turn your brain on. The hardcore raiding community is feeding itself into a woodchipper right now to try to stay one step ahead for next tier, and I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of players from the top guilds take extended/indefinite breaks after Battle for Dazar’alor.
At least islands have pets and mounts, I guess.
- The mini bosses following the Golden Serpent (Queen Patlaa, Queen Wasi, King Rahu’ai and King A’akul) are all scary without buffs, so giving them more health and damage makes this room uncomfortable at best. Spectral Berserkers leave a nasty physical DoT on the tank that stacks, and it can quickly get out of control on Fortified weeks. Watch out for Spectral Beastmaster’s Poison Barrage as it can easily wipe a group if it hits multiple party members. Shadow of Zul will deal a lot of damage to the tank, so make sure to have cooldowns ready.Waycrest Manor
- The Heartsbane witches and Bewitched Captains do tremendous damage to the tank, and the Matrons have a lot of health. The confined quarters of the manor don’t leave much room for kiting, either. The Gloom Horrors before the final boss do a lot of damage when they jump, so you will want to be careful about which party member is standing furthest out (which is what determines who gets leapt on).Motherlode
- Be sure to interrupt Hired Assassins as their Toxic Blades / Hail of Flechettes combo can easily wipe a group. Mine Rats target random players with Throw Rock, so be careful not to pull too many and risk bad RNG on who gets targeted. Taskmaster Askari wrecks tanks, so make sure to have cooldowns ready for him. Watch out for Mastermind’s Energy Lash as it hurts quite a bit, and don’t let Feckless Assistants finish their Transfiguration Serum cast or they will turn into Grotesque Experiments which are much more difficult. Be vigilant with Crawler Mines on the way to Mogul as they will do quite a bit of damage if they explode on a player.
As a general note, there really aren’t dungeons that are terrifically affected by Skittish. Every DPS just needs to wait a second or two longer on Skittish weeks before popping cooldowns, and rogues and hunters can be extra helpful this week with frequent Tricks of the Trade and Misdirects.Shrine of the Storm
- There are a lot of big pulls in this dungeons, so just make sure that your tank has all the mobs grouped up before you start hammering away. Tidesage Council will require the tank to kite a bit and has two targets, so watch your threat on this fight as the tank may not have been generating aggro evenly on both bosses.Siege of Boralus
- Another dungeon with lots of small mobs that can be hard to cluster. Siege also has a couple of bosses with adds. Pay attention to threat on Bainbridge as he will periodically summon new adds with a fresh threat table. Give the tank a moment or two to grab the adds on Lockwood when she jumps up to the ship.
Tol Dagor - A popular strategy in Tol Dagor is to round up several of the enemies outside of the prison on the beach where there is plenty of room to kite and the mobs don’t use many abilities. A big pull here can be more difficult to pull off with Skittish as the tank will likely need to stay out of melee range for most of the pull. The trash on the ramparts of the prison, intended to be killed with cannons, can be problematic as the person in the cannon will generate a ton of threat and the tank won’t be able to stand near the mobs without exposing themselves to potential friendly fire from the cannons.