Wrath of the Lich King was for many the pinnacle of raiding. Heroic modes and raiding achievements lifted gameplay to the next level, where simply killing a boss wasn’t a feat by itself. Now you had to kill it on a normally more-bugged-than-usual heroic mode and if possible do it in a way that you get an achievement as well. The sequence in which a guild would clear the instance suddenly became important, especially if they wanted to get achievement titles and mounts awarded to the best, but coveted by all. Raiding was much more approachable than before and the stakes for the top guilds became higher than ever due to the number of people now competing with the rewards being more awesome than ever. So much stuff to obtain, so many raiders to beat to world firsts and only so few raid resets. I described many of these bosses in my Ensidia Journey series, so here’s a top 5 rundown of my favorite WotLK encounters.
After the boredom of Sartharion and the return to Naxx, the Malygos encounter was surely a refreshing breeze in the storm of the already seen. Just when we thought we'd have to wait for months until Ulduar hits with some new content, Malygos swooped down and showed us that Blizzard still had it. This was yet another dragon, looking like Onyxia just colored differently, and was the leader of one of the five dragonflights, which are supposed to be something big in Azerothian lore. Since he’s blue I can only assume he has something to do with magic and after looking him up online I can confirm that is indeed the truth. With the in-depth lore section behind us, let’s talk why Malygos is one of the best encounters in the expansion.
Basically he’s the blueprint of what makes an encounter awesome. No trash to clear is definitely a pro, so is the fact he surprises the hell out of you when you fight him for the first time. If at any time during an encounter you say “holy mother of s**tf**k!” to yourself because it got you on the wrong foot and pulled out something you didn’t really expect, that’s an awesome encounter right there. It does start off pretty mundane though, a typical tank’n’spank with some positioning and proper timing on killing buff-sparks is nothing to write home about. The second phase still didn’t do much for me, even though it’s much more interesting in comparison. Here all you have to do is kill some adds, hide underneath a bubble every now and then and ride flying skateboards in the sky. Yeah, I’m talking Marty McFly hoverboards, not even joking! That part was cool as f**k though, but nothing compared to when you get him to the last phase. Suddenly the room begins to shake, the floors beneath you crack and break apart, and the raid's inevitable fall to death is broken by everyone landing on their own dragon. That’s right, a goddamn dragon! Queue the “holy mother…” line, because this part is what makes this fight so awesome looking back at it. It’s not a hard phase for anyone but the most spastic of spazzes, suddenly you change one's action bar and they are confused to all hell, but even on heroic mode it’s pretty much a walkover.
Not a hall of famer for its difficulty or challenge, but the coolness factor, innovation and the fact you get to hoverboard and fly the dragon definitely makes this a top 5 WotLK encounter for me.
4. Twin Val’kyr
Fjola Lightbane and Eydis Darkbane (something tells me these are not the names their mother gave them) are the second to last encounter in Trial of the Crusader, an instance that could be featured in a “biggest disappointments in WoW” calendar. They are the only thing in that shame of a two-room dungeon that was positive and might I even say fun. And fun they were! Twin Val’kyr are one of those encounters that qualify as a proper retard check in terms of color recognition and dodging/collecting objects that run in a straight line, now if only they were a bit harder... This is where I wish more was known about them, even as someone not into lore I’d love to read up on them. The Lich King obviously has some fetish for strong winged women and it can only be left to assumptions why these two are his favorite lieutenants.
The fight itself is very unique and fun, where half of the raid chooses black and the other half white, then during the fight dodge floating spheres of the opposite color and collect ones that match their own. Simple in theory, but due to the amount of flying objects and the general incompetence of your average WoW raider this can pose a problem or fifteen. One of the methods to make it easier on the peasants is to have (usually but not always) four soakers who have their movement keys actually bound and can recognize the difference between black and white. Their job is to shield the masses by wearing an opposite color and collecting spheres that would kill them while dodging ones that buff the group. Apart from these few heroes carrying the raid there are a couple of mechanics that everyone picks up pretty fast and never posed any problems to anyone. Every now and then people have to switch colors, dodge stuff and actually change targets. Not many hard mechanics for the most, but enough to confuse weaker members in the raid. All in all an amazing encounter and it’s a real shame it wasn’t made harder, but what can you expect from a team that managed to f**k up a whole instance the way they did.
3. Professor Putricide
Come on, if you don’t think this is one of the most amazing fights ever made there’s something wrong with you! Some fights I added on my list because they were innovative, some are there because they are hard, and Putricide could easily have made it for both reasons. This fight has everything, from controlling an NPC, to sick amounts of raid damage, dodging balls - which is kind of a running theme of WotLK - kiting, to smart positioning and timing with the Unbound plague and ultimately a crazy dps race in the end.
Like every good fight, this one too starts a bit slow with killing two types of oozes in an alternating fashion while nuking the boss when they’re down. Green ooze requires the raid to soak damage in a style similar to how you soak meteors, while the orange ones need to be kited and killed before they kill the whole raid by reaching their target. This entire time the player controlling the NPC is snaring the blobs, while the rest have to intelligently move, kite and kill. Put this part of the fight in vanilla and it would cockblock half the guilds for a year, but on this fight it’s the “slow start”. Phase two is technically a tank’n’spank, but with massive raid damage, dodging and transferring Unbound plague. The plague mechanic is one of my favorites ever, because it requires good team cohesion, understanding and communication, and if (when) stuff goes awry a good share of improvisation. Basically what players need to do is soak incrementally increasing damage from the plague and transfer it to another player before it kills them, all this while dpsing, healing and dodging bouncing goo balls of death. It’s intense, it’s awesome and it costs the raid a whole lot of combat reses and soulstones.
When this phase of the fight is over, the most exciting part of the fight starts: the “all we gotta do is kill him before he kills us” phase. And here this is WAY harder than it sounds. There’s acid everywhere while the boss is being kited, the plague still bounces, but now with a number of people dead. That amazing feeling when a bosses hp starts dropping slower and slower, your HP is at an unhealthy amount, spamming the abilities with what little mana you have with everything on cooldown… this is phase three in a nutshell and I still have no clue how we ever killed him with the gear we had at the time. An amazing boss and easily one of the best bosses ever designed and you can read more about Ensidia's experiences on the encounter here.
2. The Lich King
What is there to be said about the Lich King that hasn’t been said a hundred times before? By now everyone knows how this fight worked even though they never played WotLK if they are at least a bit interested in raid boss design. Same as Putricide and the boss reserving the top spot, this fight has it all. From challenge to innovation, LK can easily be some of the best scripting in gaming.
I’ve described the encounter and my experience from it in and out in my final ICC article. The reason why this fight is so good is mainly the epic scale of the whole thing. It lasts forever, has all the elements of a good encounter that I described earlier and makes you want to do it again and again until you perfect your performance on it. Traps that make people fly to Nagrand and beyond were a nice touch, and who doesn’t appreciate a mechanic that makes you hate your fellow man. And, if anything, the Lich King was full of those. The amount of abilities listed here are a good indicator of how complicated and well thought out the encounter was in the first place. From the first phase to the last soak phase this fight keeps you on your toes and doesn’t let you slack for a second. There’s not many fights that a caster can say they’ve had to be 100% focused on stuff that is not their rotation and s**t-talking on Ventrillo. Although there are certain technical issues that prevent him from being perfect in every way - like around a trillion bugs that plagued the encounter at its release; including Saronite Bombs building platforms out of thin air (I’m not ever letting that one go!). We would get nowhere by describing this encounter phase by phase, for anyone not familiar with it please check the video and we can only hope Blizzard pulls something like this off again.
The reason why LK is ranked #2 instead of the top spot is not its flaws as much as the quality of the next fight. And it has nothing to do with Saronite either, I swear.
1. Mimiron, Firefighter achievement
It’s just that this fight is perfect in every way. I wouldn’t only put it as a #1 fight in WotLK, but as the best fight up to this point in game as well. I haven’t progressed on any bosses past this expansion, but I’m familiar with most and my guess would be that nothing since has bested the awesomeness of Firefighter.
From a technical standpoint, Mimiron as well has everything that a fight needs to bring the best from a raider. Survival is of utmost importance here, the fight was so perfectly tuned to the level of gear that every phase demanded perfect play or the raid would ultimately fail. A used combat res in the first phase would come and bite you in the ass in the fourth every single time, so being fully focused on survival while still delivering optimal dps became a work of art. Neatly folding stacking fires that follow people wouldn’t be any less important, and one guy positioning them wrong in the third - flying head - phase could wipe the raid instantly. That “holy mother of s**tf**k” moment I mentioned on Malygos couldn’t be more fitting in this fight at the start of phase four. Just when you think the hardest parts are behind you, just when you think you have enough people alive (silly guilds thinking they could kill it with 15 alive, only to realize you need 25 in the end of p3), here comes phase four, the whole robot assembles and every ability he had in every phase reoccurs and starts literally burning your ass.
So you think mines and explosions were hard? That rotating turret with fires all over was challenging? That a beam nuking the ranged tank for a zillion damage a second was hard to heal? Enjoy all of that at the same time buddy. When your first thought while entering the last phase is “how the f**k are we supposed to kill that?” you know you have an extremely good (or an extremely bugged) boss on your hands. Luckily for us it wasn’t the latter and Firefighter's amazingness can only be rivaled with the relief and happiness of killing it - especially killing it first. Best fight ever, and definitely the high point of the expansion for me, if there was one boss that I’d love them to rehash, this is the one.