Tanks, healers, and the most dangerous LFR bosses

Recently I wrote a small article wondering whether the fabled Monday night Raid Finder festival of ugly death was just an urban legend. Opinions in the comment section were mixed, so I wanted to do a little ingame research to figure out whether the conventional wisdom was right and Mondays are an unusually deadly day for LFR runs.

While I'm nowhere close to being done with that little project, my first venture into the numbers in Siege of Orgrimmar and the Raid Finder did turn up some interesting results with my characters. The deadliest Raid Finder boss of tier 16 was not who I thought it was, the safest Raid Finder boss was really not who I thought it was, and there are some eye-raising numbers on the fights where a well-geared tank or healer was disproportionately likely to swing the odds in the raid's favor.

Also, the Gates of Retribution wing sucks. But you knew that already.

Warning: The data I'm using here is taken from the two characters I've had running Raid Finder on a weekly basis since patch 5.4 dropped, and this is only the beginning of a larger effort. Think of it as a conversation starter at best, and an exercise in curiosity as to whether their experiences are representative.

The starting premise and how disappointingly unscientific this all is

My main is a guardian/restoration druid and my alt is a restoration shaman. The druid always tanks Raid Finder and the shammy always heals. I was curious whether they'd had noticeably different experiences and if one of them was more likely to wipe on certain encounters than the other. Unfortunately, I can't control for gear; the druid is around ilevel 570 and the shammy is around 530, but for the sake of discussion I think it's safe to assume that both of them are reasonably well-geared toons for LFR content. Each of them generally does LFR between Wednesday and Saturday of each week.

I started off looking at character statistics through Deadly Boss Mods to see whether there were any clear patterns to their deaths in LFR. Assuming you have DBM too, you can see this yourself by typing /dbm into your chat log and loading the Siege of Orgrimmar module. DBM will tell you how many kills and wipes you've had in each form of content, though I'm pretty sure it resets this each time you update the mod or clear the cache. Unfortunately for the purpose of this little survey, I know this has happened at least once or twice since patch 5.4 came out. Fortunately, I'm too lazy to do it frequently, and the last time I remember doing it was before Christmas, although I don't quite recall when. I will tentatively guess that I have somewhere around two months' worth of data for this at the very least. It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.

In a perfect world, I'd have a fleet of characters at identical ilevels running SoO on Raid Finder on the same days at the same times with a full clear each time, but for the moment I'm stuck with these two, so here's what they saw.

And the deadliest boss of LFR's tier 16 is ...

General Nazgrim.

Maybe. Depending on how old my DBM data really is, Nazgrim might be getting a numbers boost from the fact that the Gates of Retribution wing was out on LFR for a month longer than Downfall was. However, if I'm right and all the data I've got is from December onwards, I'm a little surprised that Nazgrim still seems to be holding his own. I had expected Garrosh or perhaps Siegecrafter to run away with the prize for the most number of wipes in LFR by this point, but that's still not the case.

Having said that, Garrosh is very close to Nazgrim in number of overall wipes (a mere two deaths divide them by my own characters' reckoning), so it's not like there's a big difference. But I can well understand why Nazgrim has received a flood of nerfs since the LFR version went live.

Ranking the SoO bosses by number of wipes

If I consolidate both characters' wipe lists, a few distinct tiers of difficulty emerge, and there are some fights where one of them was significantly more likely to wipe than the other. We'll talk about that in just a moment.

  1. General Nazgrim: 27 As above. This is still the boss I am most likely to zone into for an incomplete Gates of Retribution, and usually for a raid that already has a stack or two of Determination. A lot of raids just seem to fall apart when Nazgrim hits 10%, and if you're already down a few DPS because people sit in Shockwave when he has a banner up, well, GG.

  2. Garrosh Hellscream: 25 Unsurprisingly, the final boss of the expansion is among the most difficult. His trash is also a pretty horrible experience on LFR, especially if you can't convince people to CC the Reapers and single-target the Harbingers down.

  3. Dark Shaman: 16 The Shaman experience on LFR has definitely improved a bit over the last few months, but a depressingly high percentage of the raid is still likely to die when someone panics and runs Foul Stream through people, or when melee get gibbed by the Geyser oozes. Much better if you can convince people to split the raid and keep the melee on Haromm and ranged on Kardris.

  4. Sha of Pride: 13 Hands up, all those of you who've seen half the raid get a ridiculous amount of pride from Bursting Pride and then die in one fell swoop to Aura of Pride? Even so, Sha gets my vote for "Most Improved Boss Experience" over the past few months. I haven't seen too many recent wipes on Sha.

  5. Siegecrafter Blackfuse: 11 I expected this one to be higher, but it's still firmly among average difficulty in LFR.

  6. Galakras: 10 It is much easier to guarantee a one-shot on Galakras if you're tanking. More on this in a bit.

  7. Thok: 8 "Stay out of the big angry slow-moving dinosaur's way" is good advice for us all.

  8. Iron Juggernaut: 8 Pretty much a healing spamfest but not notably different whether I was tanking or healing.

  9. Spoils of Pandaria: 7 Another encounter where I've been much more likely to get a one-shot while tanking.

  10. Malkorok: 4 This was another boss that I expected to be more dangerous than he was.

  11. Fallen Protectors: 4 Not a difficult fight by any means, but it does see an oddly high number of ninja pulls.

  12. Norushen: 3 These were very early wipes. As with Sha, I haven't seen a lot of recent problems here.

  13. Immerseus: 1 Don't ask me how I managed to wipe on Immerseus in LFR because I honestly do not know. It was on my druid, and if I remember correctly, we hit the enrage timer.

  14. Paragons: 0 Yes, that's right! The "safest" boss in tier 16 for me is the penultimate one, and that's despite the absurd number of ninja pulls and number of people who die to Xaril's poisons. However, almost all of the truly dangerous mechanics here have been neutered, and I suspect the encounter's safety lies in the fact that it's a glorified tank-and-spank on LFR. I have even killed Paragons 30 seconds into the enrage timer on my druid.

So Nazgrim and Garrosh are clearly a cut above the rest with respect to the overall likelihood of ugly death. Below that, Dark Shaman and Sha are within shouting distance of each, and then Siegecrafter, Galakras, Thok, Juggernaut, and Spoils occupy the rung below.

Added up, the Gates of Retribution has been the most dangerous wing for me with 61 overall wipes, and Downfall (the next highest) clocks in at a comparatively measly 36. The Vale has 21 (mostly due to all those early wipes on Sha) and the Underhold has 19. Interesting.

What's the difference between a "tank boss" and a "healer boss?"

While looking at this, I started to wonder whether the druid tank or shammy healer had markedly different experiences on these encounters, and at least for me there were a few noticeable trends. A "tank boss" is one where my guardian druid was less likely to wipe, and a "healer boss" is one where my resto shaman was less likely to wipe. There wasn't a big difference (if any at all) on most fights, but there were enough that it was obvious on four encounters.

  • Roughly equal: Garrosh, Sha, Siegecrafter, Thok, Iron Juggernaut, Malkorok, Protectors, Norushen, Immerseus

  • Healer fight: Nazgrim (say what?)

  • Tank fight: Galakras, Dark Shaman, Spoils

I think the tank fights can be explained easily. I've almost always done towers on Galakras, and the druid is sufficiently well-geared to contribute a lot of DPS there and get them down quickly. On Dark Shaman, you can avoid or mitigate a lot of damage if you're already familiar with the encounter, and I can often convince the raid to split up and nullify the most common raid gibs. As for Spoils, it's all about breaking crates at a pace you think your side of the fight can handle. I don't have anywhere near as much control over these mechanics on the shaman.

Nazgrim is a bigger puzzle; all I know is that my druid tank accounted for 65% of the wipes on him. The most plausible theory I can come up with is that the shaman is better for add control on that fight. The shammy can drop Grounding Totem to help neutralize the Arcweavers, Capacitor Totem and an earth elemental to help keep the Ironblades under control, Wind Shears the Warshaman's heals and purges the Earth Shields off the adds, saves all of his cooldowns for the final 10%, and can Bloodlust on a Berserker phase for Nazgrim.

Nazgrim is fairly simple to tank, and there's a limit to how much of a difference you can make with the adds because you don't want the Ironblade or Warshaman getting close to Nazgrim. At least, that's my best guess, and it might account for why the shaman is a bit less likely to wipe there.

So what does this all mean?

I'm not sure. I don't have as much information as I'd like yet, but even the limited amount that I have now interests me and I'd like to get some feedback. Does this sound reasonable to you folks, or have your experiences differed?

I'm going to keep plugging away at the LFR project, although it'll probably be several months before I have any worthwhile data on the "Monday night" issue.