With the launch of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm patch 4.1 we are going to be able to explore two classic raids once again. The two raids are ZulGurub and ZulAmon and are being changed over to 5 man heroic instances. Last week we looked at ZulGurub and that means this week it is time to look at the ZulAman instance.
ZulAman was a huge player favourite when it was organically launched as it provide a really difficult 10 player raid experience for those that were looking for some challenge. It had 6 well tuned encounters and a special speed run event that let you try to fight your way through at a frantic pace to earn a bear mount. All this to say that many players are very excited to have this instance back.
The instance itself has not changed all that much, neither lore wise or fight wise. There are a few minor differences, for example Harrison Jones is no longer there to ring the gong with you and open the doors, instead its the leader of the trolls. Also, since it is a 5 player instance now, many of the big trash pulls are gone, in fact a lot of the trash is gone to help speed the instance up. The trash that is left behind though is very difficult so watch out! CC is a must, especially when learning the instance and on the larger pulls, as is removing the enemies powerful buffs.
Bosses in Zul'Aman 4.1
There are 6 bosses in ZulAman and all but the final one are the same bosses as in the original raid instance. There are new mechanics for each fight though, and some tuning to original mechanics has been done to accommodate the fact that this is now a 5 player instance instead of a raid. For example it would not be fair to expect groups to have 2 tanks available for the bear boss that used to need to be tanked by one in bear form and one in troll form. The bosses are still interesting though. The bosses and a little bit about the fights are as follows, keeping in mind that this is still PTR and the fights are subject to change. In fact I expect a lot to change, especially the tuning of the fights as some were very easy, while others were exceptionally difficult even with players in raid gear.
This used to be a two phase fight with two tanks, as mentioned above. Now, however, it is mostly a tank and spank fight with some almost random charges thrown in that need the be healed through. The charges are to the furthest player away and applies a debuff to that player. So rotating players out to distance to minimize the effect should work. However damage is so light in the fight right now that it is not needed. The fight is very simple and most players on the PTR feel he will be buffed in some way before release.
This is a fun fight and very similar to the original. There is a lightning phase where you need to get under the cloud to avoid the lightning damage going on everywhere else on the platform. There are also birds that attack random players and a white eagle that swoops down to grab players and carry them away. When a player is picked up, everyone needs to burn the bird down quickly to get the player back and involved in the fight. One thing to note is that the player being carried by the bird can still attack and heal, so make sure you do.
While all of that is going on you still need to find time to down the actual boss. The fight is fun, but can be hard on a healer, just like in the original fight, so anything you can do to mitigate damage, or down the boss or birds faster is a good thing.
This fight is almost identical to the original. There are eggs on each side of the platform that will be hatched by a troll hatcher and the adds then need to be killed. Any egg not hatched before the boss gets down to about 35% health will hatch and swarm you. Therefore you need to let one side hatch and kill them while taking a break from the boss, and then the other side, then down the boss. The boss also has some nasty AoE fire damage. Players need to once again learn to not stand in the fire! The dragonhawks that spawn do a LOT of damage currently and are very difficult to deal with. This may need to be tuned.
This fight moves between a troll phase where you deal with the boss and his totems, and a lynx phase where you have to deal with the boss and a summoned lynx that does a lot of melee damage. In the Troll phase the totems need to be dealt with quickly especially the chain lightning one that can quickly wipe the group. In the lynx phase the healer must push big heals to the lynxs target which seems to be completely random when it comes out. You need to down the lynx then go back to the boss. This repeats until you have downed Halazzi.
Hex Lord Malacrass
This fight is the most different than the original raid version. Instead of a whole group of adds along with the boss, there are only 2. This is part of the issue with taking a 10 player raid and changing it to 5 player dungeon. The adds here do not do a whole lot. You can CC the adds and control them that way or you can down them and then move onto the boss.
The Hex Lord himself is a fun fight though because he can steal your abilities, so he turns into whichever classes you have in the group. This makes it an interesting and different fight every time you come into the encounter. One key here is to make sure you have players interrupting any time you can.
This is a new boss even though the mechanics have stayed the same as the old boss Zuljin. In this fight he starts off in troll form then turns into various forms as his health drops. It appears that he changes into a lynx and then a dragonhawk as those are the only ones I have seen, although all four previous bosses animal forms are around the platform, so this may change.
In the Lynx phase you get two adds and the boss. The adds need to be burned down quickly to minimize damage and the boss charges random people and then hits the tank hard applying a stacking debuff. In the Dragonhawk phase he does a spiral flame attack, sends out lanes of fire and summons fire pillars that all need to be avoided. There is a lot of group damage here to heal through.
Gear in Zul'Aman
To go with the revamp of ZulAman there is some awesome new gear. All of the items that drop will be item level 353 which is just below the current first tier of Cataclysm raid gear which is item level 359.
In addition the itemization is excellent on most of the pieces. They also fill several holes that existed in pre-raid itemization from previous heroics. This is seen especially with the trinkets and weapons which are all excellent.
The one concern though is that the gear is so good that it almost replaces raid gear for effectiveness. In fact with is you will be close enough to raid geared that you may be able to skip the first tier of raiding and move onto the second tier of raiding when it becomes available.
The Messiahs Take on ZulAman 4.1
Ok, I have to admit I was a bit rough on Blizzard last week for the rehash of old content in my preview of Zulgurub, but honestly I still feel that way. Its almost like being cheated that they have taken all our monthly subscription fees for the last few months and give us slightly reworked content, and not new content. Really, come on guys you can do better than that for all the subscription monies paid to you. For a complete look at my comments about this check last week's ZulGurub 4.1 preview.
However, there are a lot of good things with the new heroics, and as I said with ZulGurub, if this was in addition to new content, or on a monthly basis, Id say, please sir may I have some more.
This is a very hard instance and feels like a real step up from the old heroics. It is to the point that it is hard even if you are in full heroic gear or heroic and some raid gear. While still being tuned and some fights dont seem to hit hard enough on some abilities and others hit almost too hard, overall it provides a solid challenge to players.
The mechanics in the instance, while very similar to the old raid version, have undergone some tuning and refinement to fit a five player instance. Also because this is not new, there has been a lot of testing already done through watching the original raid over time. This means that in general the fights and mechanics flow very well as they have had time to mature. Sure some of the exact damage outputs are botched in the PTR right now, but overall the fights feel good.
Also, despite complaining about it cheating players from new content, I rather like seeing some of the old content again. These instances bring back memories from some good old days with some fun groups and players. After all this was once an extremely difficult 10 player raid that had groups struggling on it for quite some time. Even once you knew how to do it there was still the timed race through it to try to earn your bear mount. Those were good times.
What are your thoughts on this instance, or on any of the re-used content coming back into the game? Comment on it below!
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