Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Judging Karazhan

By my latest calculation I now got about 140 Badges of Justice from Karazhan, that is more than 70 boss kills there, having killed every boss repeatedly. So in view of this grown experience and the changes the place and the environment has undergone in the last year, I'm reviewing my opinion on Karazhan. It used to be more on the negative side, but now it is broadly neutral. The key question for me still is how useful Karazhan is as an entry-level raid dungeon.

Most of the negative points of Karazhan haven't changed much, there are only some minor improvements: The attunement is going to be removed in patch 2.4, making Karazhan slightly more accessible. And while in my opinion Karazhan is still too hard for a *first* raid dungeon of a level, the level of gear people have on average has gone up, which ends up making Karazhan easier in an indirect way. You just have a better chance of having somebody with epics in your first Karazhan group nowadays, be it from raids or from PvP.

One of the biggest complaints against Karazhan is now just an historical footnote: Many guilds had a hard time moving from 40-man raids to 10-man Karazhan and then onwards to 25-man raids. The raid ID lockout system is largely responsible for the organizational chaos and guild drama that many people experienced due to this bottleneck. You simply couldn't take a successful 40-man raid and make 4 successful 10-man raids out of it, visiting Karazhan several nights a week until you ended up with 40 well equipped people from which 25-man raids could easily be formed. In many guilds a separation into A-teams and B-teams took place, with the A-team advancing faster, then getting impatient while waiting for the B-team to catch up, and quitting the guild to join the A-team of other guilds for 25-man raids.

But now we come to the positive points of Karazhan: the small raid size does have its advantages. One immediate effect is that Karazhan bosses drop 2 epics for 10 people, thus giving a 20% average chance to get an epic per boss kill, while the 25-man raids give 3 epics for 25 people, which is just 12%. Not only are you more likely to get an epic from a Karazhan boss than from a 25-man boss, you are also certain to get both reputation and badges of justice, so you'll never come out completely empty-handed from a successful raid. It is a good thing that patch 2.4 introduces badges for 25-man bosses, and adds even better badge loot. The badges have the positive effect that it is far easier to find an experienced raider willing to join a Karazhan raid group, even if there is no more epic drop loot for him there, than it was pre-TBC to find experienced raiders willing to go to Molten Core again. The small raid size also makes it easier for smaller guilds to get the necessary numbers together, although there isn't much flexibility in class choice. You really need 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 dps classes with a good class mix to get far in Karazhan.

My last point is totally subjective: I've killed the first bosses of ZA, TK, and SSC, but somehow Karazhan felt more "fun" to me. Karazhan has a lot of character, while I found other raid dungeons, especially Tempest Keep, a bit bland and unoriginal. Last night I finally met the third opera event, the Big Bad Wolf, and getting chased around as little red riding hood was incredibly funny. The night before I had killed the Void Reaver and Astromancer in Tempest Keep, and although we one-shotted them, I found the fights more annoying than fun. Moroes' "How terribly clumsy of me" or the comments of the concubines on the way to the Maiden have more character than anything I've seen in the 25-man dungeons yet.

Anything I missed? What is your opinion of Karazhan, and why do you like or dislike it?
It's not that Karazhan is exceptionally good, it's just that Eye, SSC and Magtheridon are bad by comparison. But then again, Karazhan's been in various stages of development for four years.
Its a hughe difference to just do "the first bosses" in any instance and actually completing one. This is a grave error by Blizzard to make little puddles of raid content for almost all players, its not fun to sniff at an instance which is blocked at the second or third boss due to difficulty or volume of trash.

There needs to be places where you can have adventure together, gruul fails to be such a place as does mag. SSC is too hard for the beginners.
By now I actually enjoy Karazhan a lot. For me it is the UBRS of BC ony much better.

Since I am playing a Paladin tank it is a lot of fun since there are so many undead around. Not too long ago I had a group without a second tank and we did not use any CC. The healers were busy, everyone was bombing as much as possible and could do maximum damage and I never lost aggro. That was an incredibly fast way to do this.

I am also doing this only in random groups and this has changed from mainly bad experiences (last summer) to incredible fun nowadays. If a group is not able to do the instance you normally find out at Moroes. I think this is good since you don't waste your ID if the group is not working well.

I also think this dungeon has the most character surely in BC and maybe in the whole of WoW.

There are some fun and well designed fights/events. The trash is not too annoying and sometimes can be fun too, the instance offers a lot of diversity in enemy design, there is a lot of loot for everyone and the badges are great anayway.

Overall I am disappointed by the 25 man dungeons and positively surprised by both 10 man raids. I actually enjoy both more then I did ZG, MC, BWL and AQ40 and AQ20.

ZG was fun but the loot was laughable. MC was really boring after you finished it a few times and both AQs had a really disappointing overall design. Some nice bosses but that's it. BWL was very interesting and maybe Naxx was but I have only seen parts of it.
The Moroes fight is my favorite instanced fight in the game.
And Big Bad Wolf is quite original and fun.
Hydross makes some fun comments and screeching noises that still make me smirk.

I think Morogrim is a fun fight with all those murlocs. And how he has gas that he then pops.

And it's fun to walk in on Void Reaver making himself a motorcycle and revving up.

Or having druid tanks on the trash to Al'ar and watching them fly around so we all sing the Gummi Bears theme.

Maybe it's just harder to sit back and enjoy these small things in a 25 man raid and not that blizzard doesn't have them. The attitude is that it's more serious business.
I find Kara irritating...because I end up humming along to the Organs and Harpsichords minutes after entering :)

Kara definitely has atmosphere. I really enjoyed exploring the place one evening after we had cleared it of bosses.

SSC and TK are great from a challenge point of view (you and 24 other embattled loonies), but they lack character!
Many people will never see SSC or TK, but most level 70s will end up seeing Karazhan. If you follow a design philosophy that knowingly limits content from large part of your player base, I think it becomes imperative that at least the immersive content that will be seen by most players have the most character and flavor. Another thing to consider is that Karazhan also the first raid dungeon in the expansion, so it was equally important that it feel epic to the newly crowned 70s or BC may have been called a failure.

One of the mistakes that Blizzard admits about Burning Crusade is that the only direct player exposure to Illidan in the story arc comes in Black Temple. If your guild never progresses that far or you are late to the expansion, then you may never see that content. In WotLK, one of the things they have said will be different is that Arthas will play a part in the story very early in the expansion and will continue to play a part throughout the whole story arc. It’s one thing to hold back content from players as part of your overall design, it’s another thing altogether to hold back your BEST content for just a few players.
Karazhan is the most diverse and intersting instance in the whole of WOW.
People talk about how wonderful Naxxramas was, but I found it to be an unremarkable place.

Too many old-school(pre BC) instances were boring and repetitive, be it MC, UBRS, even Stratholme with its tedious gauntlet of blobby men outside Rivendare's tower.

Is Karazhan attunement so hard? No.
I have recently completed this, having pugged every single instance that I had to go to - Shadow Labs, Steam Vaults, Arcatraz, Durnholde, Black Morass.
The only one I had to do twice was Durnhold because of the badly designed part of the quest where you have to speak to Thrall before proceeding.
Taking away the attunement for this (whether you agree with it or not), will lead to more drama, not less, as every new dinged 70 will be trying to get in there for the Epixx.

On another of your points:
I still think there are way too many Badges of Justice dropping at the moment.
Some people in our guild already have over 300 badges in their bank, and they plan to buy up every piece of new loot as soon as the vendor becomes available in 2.4. It's way too easy for guilds with Kara on farm to clean the place out in 4 hours or so every week, and pick up 20 badges or so.
I enjoy the challenge and progression, but I agree. I think because to me Kara is more connected to the old-world lore. I would like to see BT and Hyjal for the same reason. But fighting aliens? no thanks. (I hate netherstorm for the same reason,I mean I like it, but it's not "warcraft" to me) Fighting naga? Well naga are part of the old world but only barely connected to the Legion.
Karazhan has a LOT more personality than almost all of the 25 man content. Besides the Kael'Thas fight there's really not much to speak of in TK. SSC suffers from Molten Core syndrome in that you're stuck underground with all areas having a very similar look. Vashj is pretty chatty, but overall it is boring.

When you get to Hyjal you really feel like it's amazing and has so much personality, but 1 month later you're cursing the very existence of the place.

Black Temple is very well done, great personality, wonderful route you have to take slogging through the sewers to get to the courtyard and begin assaulting the temple proper. Great trash on the way to Mother Shahraz. Tons of interesting boss fights with lots of talking from the bosses, plus a good feel of things escalating as you go through it until you get to Illidan.

Illidan is a fun fight with as much personality as you could hope for. Lots of interesting (at least the first few times) talk and even a pause in the middle of the fight to flesh things out further. It's too bad you have to go from Karazhan all the way to Black Temple before you find a consistently quality raid experience though.
Kara is my favourite. And when I say Kara, include having to do the entire attument process. I like the progression of the doing the other instances to get "keyed" for kara. It's not hard. It's not like you have to do a attument on heoric of anything. So when I hear they're taking it out... sigh... it just means more instances that no one is going to bother to do. I can't see anyone "LF group BM" after 2.4.

I like the feel of kara too. The Tower is beautiful, each boss fight is somewhat unique, and the built in short cuts are a nice bounse too.

For 25 mans, IMO, their boring (SSC, Eye - i haven't been able to progress past this point). With the expection of the hardcore raiders with excellent organizational skills, you have 25 people standing around for 2 hours: trying to get 25 people together, players forgeting to pick up their assingements causing the raid to wipe, guild drama over vent, the "all I get out of raid is repair bill" qq'ing, etc, etc... Well that's been my experience anyway.

There's a real hump to overcome for any guild after kara. I find some guilds just can't get past Gruul as a guild. They just hit a wall in their progress as PVE guild, and end up losing some of their raider's to other guilds. Or the end using kara a cruch, in the "oh we can't get 25 people so lets do Kara again." Kara ends up becoming the "easy" and safe raid to do as a guild. I'm not sure if this is game design fault or a guild leadership failure. Maybe a little of both.
Karazhan has more polish than the other instances. I suspect this is simply because the developers put more hours into it. The T5 instances in particular seem hastily put together without much art/level variety. TK (and parts of SSC and BT) seem very trash-heavy, although not as bad as AQ40.

I like Hyjal, too. But it's the sort of instance that's more fun to just run around in (which anyone can do in 2.4, I believe) than to actually fight the bosses.

Zul'Aman would be decent (although not nearly as polished as Karazhan) if they changed Malacrass. That's never going to be my favorite boss fight. I think the timed event is a good sign from Blizzard. Giving new and better rewards when you get the first half of an instance on farm is a good way to keep people focused and keep the farm content from getting too boring. I wish there was something like that for T5 and T6. Also, while hard-core raiders tend to be excellent players, much of the success of server-first guilds is due to efficiency. So anything that encourages players to learn how to chain-pull, buff on-the-fly, etc. will make everyone's raid experience a little better.

My main complaints about Karazhan are the same as most other players.

1) Attumen is a very good "lrn2raid" fight. But your next choices are Moroes or Maiden, and those are both a large step up in complexity. I am hoping that the early raid instances in WotLK will have a more gradual learning curve. The latter parts of the instance really do have a decent learning curve. If you can beat Moroes, you can get to a fight that teaches you all the basics of raiding in WoW: tanking checks, healing checks, DPS checks, CC checks, target-switching checks, 1st and 2nd aggro abilities, "don't stand in fire," handling fears, moving in and out of melee range, using "portals," etc. Other than very specific tricks (Heigan, Gorefiend, etc) the only things you can't learn in Karazhan are kiting and using inventory items.

2) While gear makes things much easier, I can't say there are any real gear-check fights in Karazhan. However, there are some fights where raid composition makes too much of a difference (Paladins on Moroes and Illhoof and Maiden, Warrior tank or 2 priests on Nightbane, Warlocks on Illhoof and Aran, Priests on Moroes and almost every trash pull, etc).

3) While a good guild can easily clear the place in one night, I still think it's slightly too large. I would have split Karazhan into 2 "wings," where you have to kill the Curator to open the door to the second half and put them on separate lockout timers.

4) Too much trash in a few places. From Opera to Curator and from Curator to Aran.
My guild does 'Kara Badge runs' where we take 2 healers, 1.5 tanks (the 0.5 being whatever DPS thinks that they can take a few hits from moroes and some trash), and 7 DPS. This is a speed run in 2.5-3 hours for a full clear, with 1 or at most 2 DPS that could use gear from the place.
I raided Kara with many chars from the start of TBC and one crap thing didn't really changed much: trash between Curator and Aran is too long and boring.

Still Kara always been more fun than SSC and especially TK (probably nerfed now but trash was uber-annoying there). Actually T5 content (besides ZA) fails.
Karazhan has quite a lot of character. I'd rank its fights up there with Vashj, Kael and Illidan as the most fun fights in the game.

Also, generally you only really need 1 tank, 2 healers and 7 dps to do Karazhan quickly and easily once you're above a certain gear level.

ZA is also a really fun instance; doing a timed bear run is challenging and very rewarding. The trash between Bear and Dragonhawk (the scouts) is pretty fun as well, as you have to kill the scouts before they get away. Mages spell stealing the Flamecasters' buffs is also great fun.

All in all, Tier 5 was probably the worst content in TBC, apart from the final fights (Kael and Vashj). There was too much trash, it was tuned too hard initially relative to its reward, and it respawned too often.
You really need 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 dps classes with a good class mix to get far in Karazhan.

That's only true if you're doing Kara with a team of 10 unexperienced members. In my guild we clear Karazhan once a week in 4 hours, using one tank, two healers and 7 DPS. We just need the tank and one of the healers to be nicely equiped (full-epic, T4 geared).

Other than that, I agree with your post completely. The A-Team and B-Team split is pretty usual, and caused a lot of stress here as well. Thank God we're now on SSC/TK, and Karazhan is now done in a rush, just for equipping new members and farming some badges.

And yes, I also agree Karazhan have much more character than SSC/TK. It's a lot of fun. I hope T6 content is more fun than T5, which is really boring.
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