Last night was a culmination of something I started at the end of January. It took us four months to get from pulling Magmaw to killing Nefarian and now we're done with all the normal mode raid bosses in this tier. Nefarian was the ideal place to end it - I think Al'akir would've felt a bit underwhelming if we had saved him till the end.
Killing Nefarian felt like it was the crowning glory of this tier. It literally felt like we had finally toppled this beast. As I've mentioned before, 12 bosses at the scale of difficulty that Tier 11 came in with, for a 6-hours a weeks raid, was just overwhelming and we really had to stretch our wings to get this far.
Not to mention the massive hits we took to our roster, the loss of long terms members I never imagined leaving us, having to PUG so many nights and being unable to progress. It has really only been the last month that our roster really stabilized when we picked up two awesome new recruits (one from the Dungeon Finder!) and two dear old friends moved over from the Horde side to raid with us that we regained some stability.
How we held the guild together through the brutal, brutal period between March and April, I'll never know. We were raiding and killing only 3 or 4 bosses a week but we were determined to get a group together and do even that little to keep momentum going, to keep from stalling. Every single time we took a step forward in progression, we took three steps back with our roster and had to retrain and re-gear a whole new set of initiates.
Yet, here we are, done with Tier 11 before the massive, massive nerfs incoming that will trivialize the content. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bemoaning the nerfs - hell, I'm almost looking forward to them - but for me, it was important to finish what I started, at the same difficulty level that it came in on. Yes, normal modes have taken some nerfs but I think they were good adjustments to over-tuned content. The fights are just about perfect right now.
Even so, the current normal modes are some of the punishing bosses I've ever faced in Warcraft. The end-wing bosses are a given, but even fights like Chimaeron and Ascendant Council - those fights are brutal, brutal affairs as you grind through them over and over, wondering if it's gear or strategy that keeps getting you killed. And 12 bosses in 6 hours? While training and gearing? Good luck.
There are at least 4 very difficult bosses (Nefarian, Cho'gall, Al'akir, Ascendant Council) and maybe 3 or 4 easy ones and the rest are, at the very least, challenging till you out-gear them. This is a hard, hard tier, no questions about it. There is not a single Naxxramas or Sartharion style fight where you can go on autopilot, no matter how much you out-gear it, you have to pay attention even after a dozen kills.
Anyway. It's done.
The guild has its Dark Phoenix mount and I feel like a boulder has slipped off of my shoulders and I can rest for a little while. We'll poke at some heroics, but I'm not too concerned with progression on them. This was my goal and man, am I happy to deliver on what I promised. It is the same relief I felt when we finally downed Heroic Putricide, and finished up our Glory of the Icecrown Raider mounts.
So - Nefarian.
How did it go?
Well. It took two whole night last week, and three nights this week. This is the longest we've worked on a boss in this tier (we worked on Heroic Putricide longer last year, but we did it in spurts, not a continuous grind like this.) And it took me a very long time to manage phase 3. I'm not sure I have it down 100% even now, but I have it down enough that I think we can repeat a kill consistently now.
The kiting in phase 3 is the most stressful tanking experience I've ever had - not because it's very hard (it's challenging and technical, but not very difficult) but because of what it takes to get there. Flawless execution in phase 1 and 2, coming into Phase 3 with Nef at 61% every single time. Gathering the adds in a pile that activate together quickly.
And then the dance begins, and you can't use any cool downs - you never know when you're going to need them. Alternate two short term ones for each Electrocute, trust the other tank to make sure Nef never breathes on the adds, watch your footing with the fire, and kite it away from the dragon clump, move adds fast enough not not get clipped by the Shadowflame but slow enough not to use up too much room - and one mistake - one mistake - means you're done and have to go through all of phase 1 and 2 to get another shot. Nine people had to repeat their job perfectly for four minutes every single time I made a mistake.
By the time Phase 3 comes around, I my nerves were shot from making sure I got every single interrupt on the adds while DPSing it down, healing heal the pillar, hitting my CDs for Electrocute, all without going OOM so I could always cast Rebuke. There were wipes I caused simply from sheer exhaustion of seeing the timers ticking down and not knowing what they meant any more.
Gear wise, this is the first time since Lich King that I've radically changed my gemming, glyphs and gear just for one fight - during the kill, I had managed to crawl up to 99.6% towards Block Cap, with a DPS trinket for that extra burst of Mastery (thanks for the affirmation on that end, Rhidach, I was armory-stalking you!) and that significantly smoothed out my damage intake.
And of course I would take the adds in phase three. I didn't even ask the other tank - and I'm sure he would've done as good a job as I did, if not better, but I wanted to take on that responsibility, I wanted to do the heavy lifting, so that the burden of execution was on me, and not on someone else. I knew it was the hardest job (well, short of healing this monstrous fight, but I can't heal at all) and so I took it immediately. I didn't want to have to blame someone else - I wanted the blame, if there was any to assign, to be on me.
And you know what? For all my reservations about it, all my complaints, all my frustrations - the Tier was worth it. Every minute of it. Hearing people over vent cheering and clapping and screaming for joy when he keeled over - with not one person dead at the time of kill, mind you, I have bloody amazing healers and I love them dearly! - the frantic run to collect the Dark Phoenix, the /cheers and /hugs - instantly made it worth every agonizing night.
Can't wait to do it all again in Tier 12. :-)