So my guild downed the Sha of Fear on Sunday. Yay! Incidentally, you can play the above song 3 times and hit the chorus of a 4th repeat before that stupid boss dies. I know. I counted.

For the final boss in a raiding tier, it’s a completely underwhelming and irritating fight. I mean, feel free to watch it and see:

Ha. Yeah. You totally didn’t watch that whole thing – I wouldn’t have either, and it’s a video of ME.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that we downed him (though irked at myself for doing Karasang and Townlong on my paladin instead of my priest, so now I have to go back and do quests again to kill the Shas of Despair and Junkfood or whatever to get my raid title). I am not, however, looking forward to doing him next week for farm.

Here is my issue with this fight:

– First, if you’ve done it on LFR, you basically have done it on normal. The mechanics are exactly the same; the numbers are just kicked up a notch. So, there isn’t really an extra element, mechanically, to deal with – to me, that’s a let down.

– Second, the few mechanics that the fight has are really easy. Don’t stand in shit on the ground. Stand behind pillars when the panda is at 20%. Kill adds when you have the debuff from killing panda. Stand in cone when debuff is gone. That is it. It is REALLY easy.

– Third, however, is if anyone messes up on those mechanics, you’re wiping. Because of how your group gets split up, you don’t have leeway for anyone to die unless you have INCREDIBLE dps, or you won’t kill the panda quickly enough to get back in time for cackle, and then the boss just starts 1-shotting everyone because there’s nobody in range for him to tank. You can hope for a brez, but half the time your brezzer(s) will be in the other group or in the wrong pagoda.

– Fourth, your team is split up for basically 90% of the fight. This means that if people ARE messing up those mechanics, you won’t even see it half the time. I literally NEVER saw when people were dying – I’d just see them suddenly dead and hear the raid lead sigh and say, “Wipe it.” This kind of design is bad bad bad for team morale, as it’s a lot easier to get irritated and frustrated with people if you aren’t even seeing what they are tripping up on. There’s just also an emotional change, I think, that you feel in a fight when you aren’t really WITH half of your team. I actually felt a bit lonely without the other half of my healing team.

– Fifth, the fight is LONG. Nearly 15 minutes. That’s insane. You dedicate a lot of time to each pull, and that wears on people. We bloodlusted twice. I started fear warding myself as a joke to pass the time. As a side note, priests – shadowfiend shares a perfect cooldown with cackle, so pop it on the panda each time to help your dps team out.

– Sixth, and my biggest issue with the Sha of Fear, is that it is monotonous. You go through one mechanic in the first 3 minutes, and then you repeat that 5 times. There is NOTHING that changes the entire fight. Deathwing used a similar setup but HE GOT HARDER EACH PLATFORM. There is no rampup with the Sha, nor are there any phase transitions or extra elements to juggle as you push him lower. It’s basically 10 superfluous minutes of not fucking up.

Yay! Dead. FINALLY. We didn't fuck up :)

Yay! Dead. FINALLY. We didn’t fuck up 🙂

Not fucking up a static setup is far, far, far less exciting and fun than actively doing things to culminate in a win. Another fight with only one phase, Stone Guards – the very first fight in this tier – was more exciting than the ultimate boss, because Stone Guards gives us a continually increasing number of tasks to handle: the mines keep going off, littering the floor with more and more pitfalls. Chains and puddles mean that players have to dance around these obstacles, while maintaining heavy situational awareness. At some point, the lead will probably make a call to clear chains or clean up mines, and there will be a quick scramble to create breathing room while the tank juggles an overload.

In short, shit gets harder the longer the fight goes on. You feel a mounting sense of pressure and the fight gets more hectic. Small mistakes add up and you push more, hoping you can just hit hard enough, just heal fast enough, just keep going and hang on to down the boss before the slip-ups overwhelm you. There is tense anticipation, true excitement and shouts of palpable relief when you finally manage to succeed. To me, that’s a great fight.

Sha of Fear is not that. You could take away 10 minutes of it, and the fight would be unchanged. There isn’t even any long-term concern over resource management, because of the orbs and their mana return. The fight at 3 minutes in is exactly the same as the fight 10 minutes later.

I have to wonder what exactly Blizzard was aiming for with this fight. It seems to be a complete dud, but perhaps I am missing something essential and vital that I just didn’t experience during our pulls (I only heal right now, so my view is from that side of things). I hear it’s much harder and more exciting on heroic, but I don’t think “It’s way cool on heroic” is a valid excuse for a poor version on normal.

I think a simple change or two could have made this fight a lot more epic. Have the difficulty increase as the fight goes on, even if that just means tweaking damage so it ramps up over the fight’s duration. Maybe increase the number of adds that spawn; by the end, players would have to leave a good handful of them up, and focus on hectic avoidance of their ground effects. Have the cackles come sooner and sooner. Have a second type of cackle (an ominous chortle?) where something else happens in the pavilion (even if it’s just a RP change ala brain room with Yogg-Saron).  Have an ominous giggle where you just swoop around on a baby sha taking damage for a while. Ok, so maybe I really just wanted to fly around on the baby shas more….They really did do something right with the animation for that part. The movement feels awesome (why can’t the rocketway in Azshara feel that fast and swoopy?).

In any case, anyone else out there downed this guy? What did you think about it? Any thoughts to how he could have been spiced up?