It’s been roughly 2 weeks since Blackrock Foundry (BRF) has been released and people have been swarming all over it. It’s the start of the real raid tier as the new raid drops the sought after armor tier 17 pieces that can be exchanged for gear that enhance specific qualities of one’s class and spec. At this point and time, only a handful of WoW’s impressively massive population have even set foot inside BRF, with most people either too intimidated or care too little so early on, instead opting to wait for the LFR versions to come out before they start taking it seriously. Most people that have taken in their first few wiped in BRF are those fortunate enough to be in progression guilds or progression cross-server statics. I won’t be discussing the fights in-depth, but I will attempt to relay some useful tidbits on the differences between BRF and HM for those curious, but had not the opportunity to try the new raid, let alone in Heroic.
I came into BRF roughly a week after it went live, but even then, I found plenty of people who wanted to take a shot at taking down Blackhand. At frist glance, people will find the airs and ambience of BRF to be a familiar one, akin to the areas past Ragefire Chasm in Siege of Orgrimmar. For you people that are sick of SoO, don’t be; it’s a completely different experience and ties up sensibly to the lore since we all know Garrosh took back some technology from his present for the Iron Horde to learn and re-purpose. The environment looks great and brimming with the life akin to those of Isengard in the Lord of The Rings; Orcs toiling endlessly in the fires of the forge, fueling the hearth to create the weapons of war for the Iron Horde to use. The entirety of the aesthetic when combining visuals and auditory components, not limited to music alone, including boss speech, sound effects, and all the like make for a scintillating experience that makes one feel like they are really engaged in a siege against the main production of power of the Iron Horde, giving credence to not only an exciting instance, but also the flare and flavor that most disregard; immersion.
As with the trend in the past raids, there is nary a straightforward path, as many bosses are optional fights, with only a few required to actually access Warlord Blackhand. I’m very pleased that they opted for this route rather than the forced encounters of yesteryear, in the same vein that it was a great thing for Highmaul when it was first released. The music is quite good as well. The background music of BRF hearkens back to the days when raiding sounded and felt epic, like that of Icecrown Citadel and the Firelands. It’s quite a different experience than compared to that of Highmaul and SoO.
The bosses themselves, in terms of character modelling, are of the regular generic models we’re used to apart from the often small visual and size differences to set them apart from their NPC cousins. However, they all look cool enough to merit becoming bosses (barring Oregorger, because at least Gruul has a bladfist going on for him), and some are memorable enough for a few snickers and giggle at the very thought (see; Hans’gar and Franzok). It is refreshing to see better looking models that distance themselves from Highmaul’s blatantly uninspired ogre-boss aesthetic.
A Notch Higher
There is definitely a stark difference between Highmaul (HM), something that has been run to no end by many people, and BRF. To start off with, Gruul in BRF is probably the only dead-simple boss fight in the entirety of the new raid reminiscent of pretty much every boss fight in HM. If there’s one hangup most raiders have is that WoW has become increasingly simple in the past few years, and BRF makes a bit of amends for that. In HM, most fights, if not all, involve the particularly simple mechanic of boss as punching bag, trapped within a circular arena where only varying degrees of “avoid crap” occur. From Kargath to Imperator, this is all that anyone will ever encounter, with each succeeding boss tuned slightly higher than the last, but the differences, in the grand scheme of things, are of little importance.
In a surprising twist due to the trend in the past few years of WoW raiding, trash in BRF can be challenging and are extremely deadly when caught unprepared, even managing to wipe out groups of skilled and geared players on normal. Sure, there have been many bad trash groups in the past, but BRF has caught many off-guard in their first few times inside. Even in corridors there can be dangers that kill the unsuspecting raider outright, making even the most mundane places of BRF deathtraps.
Aside from Gruul, other fights are far more interesting, like Oregorger, where players have to open boxes of ore so that Oregorger can, well, gorge on ores. If left alone, he keeps rolling around in that phase, becoming all but impossible to dps him, with each crash to a wall increasing raidwide damage to a point it can no longer be sustained. Dropping him out of that phase returns him to the original tank and spank, and avoid crap phase as a group. It’s refreshing to find more encounters in WoW that are of this nature, becoming an intriguing instance where players don’t instantly get how things work. In general, encounters in BRF are far more tedious and methodical, requiring much more synchronization and understanding of both the nature of the fights and team unity.
Unlike HM, BRF holds many fights that require a tad bit more reading to understand the fight rather than outright getting into it and managing to unwittingly one-shot a boss. Many fights are movement intensive coupled with dps prioritizations and less reliance on common sense, like standing on the runes in Kromog’s encounter (yes, you need to stand in that crap just like the Malkorok fight). Lack of knowledge in a single fight can spell disaster for any raid team unlike that of HM where a few bad eggs won’t necessarily rot the whole bunch. And considering how the modern WoW player treats pug groups, a single wipe is all that is ever needed to break apart an otherwise amazing raid group. BRF is far less forgiving to mistakes but when one does clear a boss, it feels far more rewarding.
The Foundry Awaits
While Blizzard has been taking great strides in maintaining the game’s accessibility, Blackrock Foundry is still no place for beginners.As it was stated earlier, the new raid hosts new mechanics as well as blending together older elements from past raid that create new experiences. That said, if one were to ever have troubles with mechanics like that of Brackenspore or Tectus, or even lacking focus in paying attention to smaller-scaled mechanics like that of the Imperator, one may be inclined to master Highmaul first rather than rushing into Blackrock Foundry.
With all this, Blackrock Foundry is an amazing new addition to WoW raiding that can challenge both the hardcore and casual player in overcoming the fortress of Warlord Blackhand. With boss fights centered on both new and old mechanics, spun in different ways as well as those unseen before, BRF is a fantastic playground to conquer and hone one’s skills in. The new raid is a breath of fresh air that acts as a tonic to enthuse the jaded raiders from Highmaul overdose and serious burn-out syndromes. At least, at this point, it becomes apparent that the wait for BRF was well worth it to stick around for.
I can imagine that BRF’s charm will wear out eventually as with every raid, but it certainly is an excellent addition to WoW’s impressive roster of endgame content. But, right now, it’s seeing far more success and positive input than its predecessor, Highmaul, due to sheer change of pace, several more bosses, and far more intense action than anything else. I would even say that Blizzard have outdone themselves this time but let’s wait and see as the tier is still young and we have a few more years of this expansion to go. At this point in time, while many have been going at it, very few have progressed far into its depths, but given a few weeks, especially when LFR wings get released, BRF won’t seem as intimidating, but I believe it will stay just as challenging to the average pugging player, and we’ll see more people achieving success in Blackhand’s hallowed halls as we all wait for the incoming patch 6.1 that will properly integrate the elements of the new raid and higher tiered rewards within our garrisons.Related: Column, Raids, Warlords of Draenor, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday