Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Zon'ozz Pong

One of the things about being back in the saddle as Raid Leader is that I'm apparently going to feel motivated to complain a bit more (read: write on here) about boss tactics. Seeing as how we're woefully behind any raiding curve you can think of, I'm sure my tactics won't be news to anyone. Heck, they probably won't even be helpful. They may, however, be entertaining. Also, I've generally gotten some good and helpful comments from readers (since you're all ahead of me), and who helping someone else can make you feel good. So, I guess, help me help you. Or something.

Our ragtag group is on regular Zon'ozz. We've done him via LFR, but our goal (as has been since mid-Wrath) is to progress through ten man content at our own rate. That is to say, LFR doesn't "count" as far as we're concerned. It's like running BH on off nights. Good for gear and to keep the fingers limber (with a side bonus of introducing us to the bosses).

What I had conveniently forgotten about Raid Leading was that I can't help but get irate at shoddy visual cues and tricky mechanics. When I'm not RL, I'm a little more laid back. I don't feel personally responsible when someone dies. After all, it's not my crappy strat. (To be fair, I try to whisper the RL with any and all suggestions, but it's a little easier to weather when the buck isn't stopping with me.)

Well, now it is, and we're dying. For anyone who hasn't done this boss (and a quick sanity check for myself), here's the quick run down of boss abilities:
  • There is Purple Ping Pong Ball of Doom that spawns. Look for the lightning from his nose. It will bounce of players and do distributed damage.
  • There is a frontal conic called Psychic Drain. It hits like a truck, but will only occur when the ball is active.
  • There is a stacking buff for the boss that makes him hit harder. It stacks up until the boss is hit with the ball and then resets.
  • When the boss is hit with the ball, you enter what I call the Back in Black phase. Characterized by creepy tentacle monsters, a dark room, mosh pitting on the boss's butt, and, yes, me singing like Brian Johnson over vent.
That's pretty much it for abilities to worry about. There's one debuff the healers have to cleans ASAP that will cause a knockback, but it's unavoidable. It's probably unfair to my healers, but I consider that pretty much par for the course. (Isn't there always something stupid to dispel, just cuz?)

So what we were doing was the basic half the group on the boss, half the group out at max range. When the ball spawns, our tank flips the boss so the lightning goes through his crotchal region. The ball goes out first, then in (being ponged by the group). After it hits the melee group on bounce (2), we call for them to get out of the way. It pongs off the ranged group, heads back in, and then strikes the boss, starting Back in Black mode.

There are two major issues. First, the flipping ball has a giant hit box that is in no way indicated by its visual representation. After a while, it sort of felt like playing ping pong with ball that has a giant, beach ball sized force field around it. The graphic does not help really at all. Even when it hits a group, the explosion lags behind DBM's reporting and the actual direction change.

Second, a direct corollary of the first, the ball does seem to want to rebound directly at the boss. For the life of me, I can't figure out how it decides it's path. I tried hitting it flush with my ranged group paddle. I tried "adding spin" by moving into it. Yes, I even tried to curve the bullet. Myth Busted. Again. Seriously, if anyone knows how to get the ball to behave, you leave me a comment. Just when I think it's going right... it goes left.

So yeah, "catching" the ball with the boss is a big issue for us, especially when compounded by the fact that the actual radius of the thing is way larger than it appears to be. (So you inevitably get that one person that thinks they're far enough out, but really isn't and sends it ponging back unintentionally. Also, I've heard it sometimes ricochets off of pets. Anyone see that in action?)

When got used to catching, we found that we started getting the tank squished around the third pong match. That is, we were using a 3,3,3,splat... strat. Apparently, and this didn't occur to my bright ass until later, you can and should change the number of pongs. By leading off with a 3 pong, I was likely condemning us to a splat later. Supposedly it has to do with how the stacking lines up, because it takes longer the other times for the ball to spawn (and thus he builds up more stacks before you can get rid of them).

Instead, I should go with at least a 5,3,3,3 strat. We should be close to killing him by that last set of three, hopefully avoiding the splat. Leading off with 5 makes the next couple 3's not so bad, as the ball spawns sooner after you exit Back in Black mode. I guess there's a definite cooldown between spawnings, so by making it bounce more, you're shifting the phase back a bit in time, evening out how long you are forced to take it to the face. I'm not sure I completely grasp all the nuances, but suffice it to say, I need to try a front loaded pong strat.

Yes, this is a healer heavy fight. Our healers are, while not over geared, decently geared. We probably have room for improvement in that area, but it is what it is. We're casual, so we don't focus a lot on gearing, trying to make up for the "grind time" with being smarter in our strats. Thus, more research was needed, and while I don't think I can improve the ball catching, the new pong pattern should help. I can mess with it a bit to see what we can handle.

Anyway, any advice from y'all? Did I miss something? Is it just a matter of getting better geared so our healers can "heal through it?" (Five hits is rough with the AoE, but I think we can do it the first time through.) Otherwise, I'm just going to be pissed about the terrible purple ball graphic. Seriously, if you're going to make a pong mechanic, Blizz, at least make the ball part look logical. I'm not fond of giant invisible force fields on my balls... just sayin'.


  1. Tell the tank not to turn around until the ball is fully formed. Also I would work on having the Melee group move out of the way after bounce #4 (bouncing off the ranged will then be bounce 5 before it hits him). There is a long cooldown between how often he can spawn the ball and if you have it hit him after bounce number 3 you run the risk of (1) the debuff that the ball hitting him puts on him falling off and never reaching enough stacks or (2) hitting the enrage timer because you weren't able to get enough Black Burn phases or (3) it takes so long for the ball to spawn that the boss has built up a ton of stacks of HIS buff and is murdering the crap out of the tank. Basically he doesn't spawn the next ball any faster whether you do 3 stacks or 5, but doing 5 stacks makes sure the debuffs don't fall off. (Does make the raid healing harder but makes the tank healing easier. If you have a pally tank they want to glyph divine plea to better soak that Psychic Drain stuff freeing up more healer attention for the raid.)

    On the question of ball spin I was told that you need to wait until the ball has finished spawning before spinning the boss around, that it is turning him WHILE spawning that puts the "spin" on the ball. I don't know if that's true but when I started waiting to turn him around we stopped having problems with wandering balls.

  2. Ideally, you want the melee between the boss and the ranged. Kind of like they are blocking the ball from hitting the boss. That way it doesn't matter if the ball goes towards the boss, because it will hit the melee first.

    What we did was have the tank rotate the boss 90 degrees after the ball spawned, and had the melee attack from the side.

    Then when it comes time for ball to hit the boss (call this significantly in advance, while the ball is heading TO the ranged), the melee runs to the other side of the boss, so the boss is between the melee and the ranged. Thus the ball will hit the boss and enter Black phase.

    The hard part about this is that ALL the melee must run at the correct time. If even one person hangs back a bit, the ball will hit that person, most likely kill them, and bounce back to the ranged.

  3. We've consistently had the ball go off on weird angles for us. We try to minimize it by marking two players, one in the melee group, and one in the ranged group. Players assigned to each of these groups have to stack up on the marked player. And we don't mean stack nearby, we mean exactly on top. When the ball takes a weird angle the marked player has to move and his group has to move with him. When it comes time for the boss to take the hit the melee have to get out of the way and the tank has to move the boss appropriately. The ping pong is all about positioning. Once you learn it then it is not so bad.

    I'm pretty sure we stick with a 3 bounce, dark phase, rinse and repeat.

    We go with three healers for this fight. One in the ranged and two in the melee. In the melee group, pretty much one of the healers is going to have to be dedicated to the tank. The other dispels and heals the melee group. Obviously the ranged group healer looks after the ranged group.

    As a side note, my healer is a disc priest and prayer of healing is group specific. So for my AoE healing to work I have to be in the same group that I'm healing. I'm usually in the ranged group. If things are getting hairy for the melee group I'll wait for the bounce off the ranged group, move into healing range, pop off some instant casts, and then get back to the ranged group before the ball hits me.

  4. By three bounce I mean:
    Bounce 1: ranged to melee
    Bounce 2: ranged to melee
    Bounce 3: ranged to boss

  5. []-----()-X

    We set up 3 marks that way in a line, melee to stack on the Circle, ranged on Square and the tank on the X.

    Pull facing the raid, then spin him around once the ball goes out. We do 5 bounces each time to minimize the time spent without the ball. The Tank just needs to be on their toes after the 3rd or 4th bounce, depending on their gear, and save CDs for then.

    DBM has a timer for the ball but it has been on and off at times - best to keep him facing the raid, if in doubt. And as mentioned above, having melee and any healers in Melee move out completely after the 4th bounce helps a lot if the ball has been getting extra accidental bounces - the loss of DPS will be more than made up by the debuff he has during Black phase.

    If you're loosing the tank, make sure one of the healer stacking with Melee is focusing on the tank and have the other two healers cover Melee and ranged as necessary. Make sure your tank is using CDs - the boss starts to hit pretty hard as the phase goes on and right before Black, he can be swinging pretty meaty fists. The Tank will need a CD or two to get through it after the 3rd or 4th bounce for a few seconds, depending on their gear.

    Good luck! :)

  6. Ha, knew you guys would all jump on this!

    I'll need to read and digest properly before I can ask intelligent questions, but I'm running out of the office now and just wanted to say: thanks! :-)

  7. My raid was having all the same problems you listed when we last attempted Zon'ozz two weeks ago. Tonight we walked in and downed him in one shot.

    Unfortunately we're not exactly sure what it was we did that made it "work". We did the 5-3-3-3 bounce strategy, and only had 1 healer in with the melee due to an overabundance of melee. We tried to turn the boss only 90 degrees after the ball spawn, but I still wasn't always in range of the tank. I think the added raid finder gear we acquired since our last attempt didn't hurt either.

    Good luck to you!

  8. Thanks again for all the feedback! What I'm seeing is:

    1. If you're getting odd angles, try spinning him later, but really no one knows why this is.
    2. Have melee run through the boss so no accidents occur. (We started doing this later, but is a good idea.)
    3. "Cheat" by running out earlier (like after the 4th bounce). Usually folks are waiting for me to call it out, and I just have to make sure I'm Johnny-on-the-spot.
    4. 5 stacks may be better than 3, though it is a trade-off.

    That's what I'm gleaning are the important points. When we run next week, the plan right now is to try a few of these things, but if we're beating our heads, then check out Mr. Skittles.

  9. We do 5 stacks the whole way. We have the tank healer actually stand off to the side, where the melee group is going to run off to after the 4th bounce to make room for the ball to hit the boss. The healer already off to the side just makes the tank healing easier in the hecktic parts of the running out then running back in to stack up is all happening with lots of tank damage. This leaves 4 in ranged group, 4 in melee, tank and tank healer not absorbing the ball.

  10. Yeah, not a bad idea to have that healer mostly undisturbed.