I fought Onyxia for the first time when the need for a key was removed. I have this little fixation for finding/hunting/chatting with/killing dragons. It was a bugged encounter I thoroughly enjoyed both from a lore and raiding perspective. So, Memory-Onyxia was raining down destruction upon us and it occurred to me that the fight wasn't familiar. This memory didn't use any of Onyxia's key abilities or attacks. In essence, this encounter was just a generic 82 elite given Onyxia's skin.
I was gutted.
I know it sounds like I'm whining and taking it all out of context, but the idea of fighting such bosses, many whom I will never raid in their 'natural environments' was very appealing. At the same time there was that chance of stepping back into the past and reliving a classic encounter. A way of remembering how your toon has changed over the years and summing up some of their most heroic achievements against impossible odds. It's reminding players that, even if they just dinged 80 and only did the most basic dungeons, they are just as qualified to stand up and fight Arthas as guilds like Ensidia
In an elitist world, the contest aspect of the Coliseum would be in full force. Completing all the content would be a prerequisite. You would literally need to show Tirion, Thrall and Varian Wrynn your strips before you could be allowed to go anywhere near Icecrown Citadel. Instead, in keeping with Blizzard's "endgame for all policy", the Coliseum is more lore-based than anything else.
So how could the Summon Memory encounter have been improved? The randomness of the encounter is the bit they got right. After all, how many people have downed Algalon? I wonder how much of these percentages are random chance or whether they are some how tied to the Achievements of the group?
My common sense tells me the chances of getting Onyxia over, say, Illidan is more than likely tied to the kind of boss, the level/complexity of the content and when it was released. Ignis and Cyanigosa are probably going to be more common simply because everybody and their guildies has done Wrath
content like Violet Hold and are moving through Ulduar at the moment.
The other aspect of this is whose memory Paletress is summoning. After all, we all started at different times during the lifecycle of WoW
and most of us have pugged certain content. What happens if you get the Memory of Vashj, for example, but never ventured into Serpentshrine Cavern or Archimonde but never went into Hyjal? Yes the ability to play against different bosses does make the encounter an interesting one, even if this is only on a physical level, but raids and bosses need more than that. It would be nice, for example, if each Memory had one of their original abilities rather than spamming the same spells and Waking Nightmare regardless of the skin it was wearing. A little originality in the combat would really elevate the fight, transforming it from something mundane and almost boring into something genuinely spectacular.
My ideal example of how this would work goes like this. Rather than summon a memory, Paletress would send you back into your own memory. The boss you got would depend on which one all of your groups members has defeated the most, making to pick one you all had encountered. You would find yourself in that boss's environment (so if you got Gruul you'd find yourself in his Lair in Blade's Edge Mountains), except there would be the feel of an illusion about it. You might still be able to see the banners and the important NPCs in the stands or hear their clapping. That aside, it would be Gruul but for the 'Memory of' prefix.
He would have all of his unique abilities as well as Waking Nightmare and would be his original level. If Blizzard really wanted to be smart, they would debuff your character with a spell called 'Regression' in which you had the same kind of level and abilities you did when the content containing that boss came out. If you were to, by chance, die the illusion would shatter and Paletress would allow you to have another go, even though you stood the chance of getting a different boss. It's an idea ripe with promise but one which will, sadly, never be primarily due to technical limitations.
The idea of summoning a memory of a past battle seemed so good on paper. A chance to do something really interesting. Blizzard could have taken the original bosses and made them the highlight of the 5-man content of the Patch. Instead, they just recycled their skins and wrapped them around a standard elite. When they could have made it much more, well, memorable.