Thursday, March 20, 2008

Judging Karazhan

By my latest calculation I now got about 140 Badges of Justice from Karazhan, that is more than 70 boss kills there, having killed every boss repeatedly. So in view of this grown experience and the changes the place and the environment has undergone in the last year, I'm reviewing my opinion on Karazhan. It used to be more on the negative side, but now it is broadly neutral. The key question for me still is how useful Karazhan is as an entry-level raid dungeon.

Most of the negative points of Karazhan haven't changed much, there are only some minor improvements: The attunement is going to be removed in patch 2.4, making Karazhan slightly more accessible. And while in my opinion Karazhan is still too hard for a *first* raid dungeon of a level, the level of gear people have on average has gone up, which ends up making Karazhan easier in an indirect way. You just have a better chance of having somebody with epics in your first Karazhan group nowadays, be it from raids or from PvP.

One of the biggest complaints against Karazhan is now just an historical footnote: Many guilds had a hard time moving from 40-man raids to 10-man Karazhan and then onwards to 25-man raids. The raid ID lockout system is largely responsible for the organizational chaos and guild drama that many people experienced due to this bottleneck. You simply couldn't take a successful 40-man raid and make 4 successful 10-man raids out of it, visiting Karazhan several nights a week until you ended up with 40 well equipped people from which 25-man raids could easily be formed. In many guilds a separation into A-teams and B-teams took place, with the A-team advancing faster, then getting impatient while waiting for the B-team to catch up, and quitting the guild to join the A-team of other guilds for 25-man raids.

But now we come to the positive points of Karazhan: the small raid size does have its advantages. One immediate effect is that Karazhan bosses drop 2 epics for 10 people, thus giving a 20% average chance to get an epic per boss kill, while the 25-man raids give 3 epics for 25 people, which is just 12%. Not only are you more likely to get an epic from a Karazhan boss than from a 25-man boss, you are also certain to get both reputation and badges of justice, so you'll never come out completely empty-handed from a successful raid. It is a good thing that patch 2.4 introduces badges for 25-man bosses, and adds even better badge loot. The badges have the positive effect that it is far easier to find an experienced raider willing to join a Karazhan raid group, even if there is no more epic drop loot for him there, than it was pre-TBC to find experienced raiders willing to go to Molten Core again. The small raid size also makes it easier for smaller guilds to get the necessary numbers together, although there isn't much flexibility in class choice. You really need 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 dps classes with a good class mix to get far in Karazhan.

My last point is totally subjective: I've killed the first bosses of ZA, TK, and SSC, but somehow Karazhan felt more "fun" to me. Karazhan has a lot of character, while I found other raid dungeons, especially Tempest Keep, a bit bland and unoriginal. Last night I finally met the third opera event, the Big Bad Wolf, and getting chased around as little red riding hood was incredibly funny. The night before I had killed the Void Reaver and Astromancer in Tempest Keep, and although we one-shotted them, I found the fights more annoying than fun. Moroes' "How terribly clumsy of me" or the comments of the concubines on the way to the Maiden have more character than anything I've seen in the 25-man dungeons yet.

Anything I missed? What is your opinion of Karazhan, and why do you like or dislike it?

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