As you know, the contents of Phase 2 of WoW: Burning Crusade Classic landed on the public test server a few days ago, and numerous players have since taken the opportunity to visit the upcoming raid instances Serpentshrine and the Eye in the Fortress of Storms. Here's what we've learned about the difficulty of Hydross, Al'ar, and the like in the first few days.

WoW: TBC Classic - The initial situation on the PTR

When it comes to preparing for the two raid instances, the PTR leaves nothing to be desired. In the center of Shattrath, testers will find a circle of NPCs where they can stock up on the best gear from Phase 1, resistance gear, gems, enchantments, and consumables. In other words, each tester has the opportunity to tackle the two raid instances with optimal prerequisites.

Depending on when Phase 2 of TBC Classic hits the live servers, many testers may be better equipped than they will be when they first visit the raids on the live servers for real; because some items might not drop, because the perfect combination of gems and enchantments might have been too expensive, or because certain profession items aren't available.

WoW: TBC Classic - The eye in the fortress of storms

As we all know, there are a total of four bosses waiting for each raid group in the Fortress of Storms, and if you look for streams of test rounds, you'll find groups that were able to fight their way to boss Kael'tha's Sunwalker as well as raids that already failed Al'ar over and over again.

Before we get into the actual bosses, a few words about the trash. The groups between bosses have some nasty mechanics in store, such as a deadly whirlwind (RIP Melees), area spells, knockbacks plus silence effects (the smaller phoenixes), or a rush and blatant mana drain (the big phoenixes). Proper positioning (and control of individual enemies) and aggro management are key here. In the test raids, there were very frequent single deaths and even wipes.

WoW: TBC Classic - Al'ar

The first boss Al'ar is known to be primarily a coordination fight, specifically focusing on proper positioning and add control.

  • Al'ar doesn't seem to be in pre-nerf on the PTR at the moment. For example, he is mockable, he only summons one add when switching platforms, and he moves from platform to platform in a fixed order.
  • Since Al'ar is mockable, melee fighters can run along with the boss on top of the platforms in phase 1 and deal damage on the bird with ease.
  • Sporadically, Al'ar dishes out quite a few ladles. One bear in BiS gear took about an 18,600 hit (1,300 points of damage over death). Other than that, though, his hits heal well.
  • In the unattenuated version of Al'ar back in the day, you had to come together on Meteor to split what was actually lethal damage on the victim in the raid. On the PTR, however, the damage does not split, at the same time it is not lethal to individual players, so the motto is: spread it out!
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WoW: TBC Classic - Empty Skinner

The easiest boss in the eye at the time seems to be an easy challenge for most raids on the PTR as well, living up to its nickname of "Lootreaver".

  • Several strategies were used successfully: 1) The almost complete raid gathers at the boss, while the hunters on the outside dodge the bullets. 2) All ranged fighters spread out in a circle around the boss in the maximum possible range and only those targeted by the bullet run.
  • The damage from the earthquake is healable well, even if the entire raid is cuddling at the boss.
  • Aggro is an issue thanks to the knockback, which is why it might be a good idea to do a combat rush rotation in the tank group.

WoW: TBC Classic - High-Astromancer Solarian

For Solarian, the question early on was: which version of the boss do we get? Does the raid require arcane resistance?

  • There are four mechanics in particular that are critical to war in Solarian: 1) The boss distributes an unremovable debuff that stacks up and keeps throttling the raid's arcane resistance. 2) The boss distributes the Wrath of the Astromancer debuff, which stacks, skips to nearby players, and keeps increasing arcane spell damage. 3) Arcane projectile victims catch a lot of damage quickly, which also gets more violent as the fight goes on. 4) The adds must be collected and knocked down as quickly as possible.
  • To control the Wrath of the Astromancer debuff, you need to designate two players as "Arcane Tanks" to bounce the effect back and forth outside of the raid. When another player gets the debuff, they bring it to the "Arcane Tanks". These arcane tanks necessarily need as much arcane resistance as possible. With successful kills, these tanks had around 340 to 350 arcane resistance, the maximum in TBC is 365. Warlocks are particularly useful here.
  • The rest of the raid also takes a lot of arcane damage. So much, in fact, that you can make your life on the PTR a lot easier if each player puts on at least three or four Arcane Resistance items.
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WoW: TBC Classic - Kael'tha's Sunwalker

The few raid groups that were able to fight their way to Kael'thas were - according to our research - able to fight their way to the third stage at the most, which is when all the adds respawn in one fell swoop.

  • While the first phase is still quite doable with the servants gradually becoming active, the weapons spawning at the same time are quickly good for a wipe. The bow's multiple shot, for example, does enormous damage and should be tanked away from the raid.

WoW: TBC Classic - The Serpent Shrine

In the Serpentshrine you can expect a total of six bosses as well as a lot of trash, which was already good for countless Spirit Healer visits on the PTR. Look forward to shamans with water elemental totems, lurkers that leave poisonous mushrooms, and rays that charge around and interrupt spells.

WoW: TBC Classic - The horror from the deep

Before swimming to the circular island over which you lure the lurker, take care of the fish in the water. These deal lethal damage quickly and spawn until you've knocked out the add groups on the upper paths. At that point, the water will be poisoned, but you'll take significantly less damage in the water this way than from the fish.

  • On the Lurker, there are only a few critical mechanics: 1) Control and focus the adds, with the melee naga showing up a bit earlier. 2) Dive into the water very briefly when surging, or run with the surge (melee only). Staying in the water is not a good idea, as you will receive constant damage. 3) Melee fighters watch out for the recoiling vortex. If they are at the boss earlier than the tank, they might take unexpected hits.
  • The adds die pretty quickly. The damage for the raid is quite low if the mechanics are played reasonably clean. Lurker remains the easiest boss in SSC.

WoW: TBC Classic - Hydross

Hydross may be the first boss you run into in Serpentshrine, but he's also one of the bosses on the PTR that many a raid group has had the most trouble with. This isn't so much due to the resistances tanks need to bring; the necessary gear is available for free in Shattrath. But what's the problem?

  • The biggest problem is the phase transitions, i.e. the planned pull from the boss across the imaginary line where Hydross changes his element and four adds of the element spawn. Time and time again, we've seen aggro pulled shortly after the phase transition, the boss move across the line again, and the raid suddenly having to deal with eight adds. Normally, a wipe is then the result.
  • In successful kills, the adds were partially controlled, partially killed. Both are possible. With the control strategy, however, the boss must die after the second transition at the latest (so with "only" twelve Adds).

WoW: TBC Classic - Leotheras the Blind

With Leotheras, you'll need a warlock with as much fire resistance as possible, tanking the demon form. You'll also need to spread out in a circle around the boss to better dodge his quick-killing vortex (which leaves a nasty DoT). And anyone facing their inner demon must, of course, knock it down in time.

  • For some groups, the vortex didn't turn out as dangerous as it should have, because Leotheras was whirling on the spot. As a result, the DoT hardly mattered either. PTR just.
  • For some raid groups, it only became critical in the last phase, when players had to deal with Leotheras and the demon at the same time, at least when the vortex was working. Because then it gets a little chaotic while two "tanks" need to be healed.
  • Watch out for aggro when the vortex ends!
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WoW: TBC Classic - Deep Lord Karathress

In Karathress, you'll not only get to deal with the boss, but also his various helpers. Just focus Karathress away with all CDs, this was actually tried, but so far without success. In the Enrage, which he goes into after a certain amount of health, if any adds are still alive then, he just hits too hard.

  • Macros for the totems don't work, the same goes for the trash group totems in this area.
  • The fight plays as usual: pull the adds to the optimal positions, focus them in the right order, dodge the tornado and destroy the Spitfire totem as fast as possible. From today's perspective, a fairly simple fight.

WoW: TBC Classic - Morogrim the Tidewalker

Morogrim is known to have tidal waves, wet tombs, earthquakes and murlocs.

  • There is a bug thanks to which Morogrim on the PTR takes two hits in one second. In that case, a quick 10,000 damage hits the tank.
  • The Murlocs have a surprising amount of health. Even with five Warlocks and plenty of AoE power, it takes a while to defeat an add wave.
  • Victims from the Wet Tomb take a lot of damage and require a corresponding amount of healing in a short amount of time (especially if an Earthquake comes shortly after a Tomb).

WoW: TBC Classic - Lady Vashj

So far, we've only found video of one raid that was able to completely master the Serpentshrine. This took players, with minor breaks, over nine and a half hours. The last two hours were spent on Lady Vashj alone. Here's the first pull (which went to shit):

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You can watch the kill-try starting at 9:15:35. Here are some insights:

  • Phase 1 is easy.
  • Phase 2 is still add control over everything. Stand spread out, kill the elementals, kill the naga, kit the striders. And along the way, of course, the pillars need to be disabled.
  • Phase 3 is the most healing and damage intensive phase. Here you also get the mind control from the pre nerf version.

WoW: TBC Classic - Conclusion

Blizzard's developers definitely have some work to do on the PTR. They need to fix bugs and iron out the sometimes crude mix of original and toned down mechanics. In terms of difficulty, we can expect fairly easy bosses and crunchy challenges in equal measure. It seems unlikely that too many guilds will master both raid instances within one ID. Even small mistakes will quickly result in a wipe, and even the trash can be problematic. Also, you should start equipping not only your tanks for Hydross and your warlocks for Leotheras, but also the entire raid for Solarian.

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