Final Boss Case Study: Ragnaros

Nothing put your fledgling raiding guild on the map like putting Ragnaros on farm status.  The quality and quantity of applications you would get the moment that you downed this boss was a significant increase over what you would have received prior to downing him.  He was seen as a difficult encounter for newer raiders, who were not nearly as seasoned as the PVE players of today.


The first phase of Ragnaros was the fire resist farming phase.  Unlike TBC and later Wrath of the Lich King, there were no easily accessible recipes of fire resist gear.  The only craftable sets were epic crafted pieces that required materials dropped in Molten Core itself.  Unable to craft gear, players spent weeks or months in many cases endlessly farming 5 and 10 man content for the handful of resist pieces available.  There used to be a time when every guild application page asked you what your unbuffed fire resist was. 


Ragnaros spawns and is tanked in the middle of a large lava filled room with a spiraling island that corkscrews all the way out to the middle.  Ranged DPS was positioned 10 yards apart around the entire circle and the two tanks would be on one side of the boss while DPS would move in from behind.


Phase one was a simple tank and spank. For several minutes Ragnaros would simply beat on your tanks while using a knockback against the melee, which was on a timer allowing your DPS to back out and using a DOT and melee attacks against the tank.  Interestingly enough, he also had an ability that would make the tanks weapon take durability damage, the only such ability in the game.


Ranged DPS cannot pull aggro in this phase so long as a tank or melee was in range.  However, if the tanks got unlucky and did not resist the fire based knockback and the melee were all out of range, Ragnaros will start picking off ranged DPS and one shot them with a massive (for the day) 4000-5000 damage fireball.  Periodically throughout the fight Ragnaros will shoot at ranged players and do small damage to them but much larger damage to any players within 10 yards of the target. 

After a few minutes of this phase Ragnaros would become submerged and unattackable in the lava.  He would begin to spawn Sons of Ragnaros which were flame elemental adds.  These adds did not hit for very hard and could easily be off tanked by any melee class with 200+ fire resistance.  The entire raid would collapse into one corner so that the adds could be rounded up and killed with as much AOE as possible.  Ragnaros would return after about one minute or whenever the last add was killed.  Ragnaros would also treat any banished add (they are elementals) as if it were dead which prevented this from being an effective strategy for very long.


Once the adds were almost gone, the tanks would run over to the tanking position and get ready for Ragnaros’s return.  After the last add was disposed off the boss would pop up out of the lava and phase one would begin again. A simple tank and spank encounter with an add phase, while simple by todays standards, was unlike anything many of these players had ever seen before. 5 and 10 man bosses had very few interesting abilities to worry about and anything that did not revolve around tanking and spanking would give newer members trouble.


Additionally the fire resist requirements on raid members acted as a barrier to entry for newer raiders. The drops needed to craft the epic fire resist gear simply were not plentiful enough to allow for guild provided resistance gear to anyone beyond the tanks and some healers. Everyone else was forced to farm instances for rare drops. Fire resistance was the gatekeeper on endgame content back in vanilla WoW. Raid wide resistance fights, while prevalent in WoW 1.0 are virtually non-existent in either expansion since then.


Another thing to consider about Ragnaros is that he is the only boss in the game that drops tier gear higher than other bosses in the instance. Later bosses would continue to have gear drops with a higher item level or better stats, but Ragnaros dropped the tier 2 pants giving him this singular distinction.  Ragnaros and Onyxia both had large loot tables that included BoE blue items, another practice that did not get carried over into later expansion.


Ragnaros was a crowning achievement for many average and casual guilds.  Average guilds would spend several months learning and farming Molten Core before finally reaching the final boss.  Once there most would spend weeks learning the encounter.  With the first boss of Blackwing Lair, the next 40 man raid in progression, being a difficult encounter for casual guilds to learn, many guilds would never get further than Ragnaros in 40 man progression and would simply farm Molten Core and the lesser 20 man instances until the launch of TBC.


~ by Centuri on February 10, 2009.

2 Responses to “Final Boss Case Study: Ragnaros”

  1. Even more than a big hurdle, though, was the feeling of insignificance I had when seeing Ragnaros for the first time.

    Watching Ragnaros explode out of the lava in all his glory inspired FEAR. I remember hearing his voice explode through my speakers and watching that towering pillar of flame wielding a hammer bigger than my entire raid combined crush Executus into the ground, my fingers trembling on the keys as we launched into a full-on assault, praying the entire time that I wouldn’t fall under his gaze. Ragnaros truly made you feel weak.

    No single boss fight since has inspired this feeling for me. Nightbane came close. Sapphiron is another one high on the list. But since that battle, I’ve never been afraid, only determined.

    Maybe that’s because of Ragnaros. Maybe knowing that in the past when I tangled with this horrifying, burning monstrosity and came out victorious has changed my perspective on boss fights.

    Even so, Blizzard needs to come back to this boss and figure out what it was that made him truly terrifying. Was it his size? His display of raw power? Who knows… but future “final” boss encounters need to be along this magnitude. I’ll be greatly disappointed if I someday walk into Arthas’ throneroom in Icecrown, and cannot manage more than a derisive scowl before engaging him in combat.

  2. A lot of that feeling comes from fighting the forces of Ragnaros (Dark Iron Dwarves) for quite some time in questing areas and 5 man Black Rock Depths, finally facing off against him after weeks or months of learning Molten Core also helped a ton.

    They didn’t seem to get this right in TBC, as most zones were fractured. Illian is barely involved in Shadow Moon Valley. Vashj is somewhat connected to her area but is never really fleshed out (Why was she draining the water from the swamp exactly?).

    Kael is really the only boss from TBC that feels very tied into his surrounding zone. Even in the later implemented Sunwell Isle, the entire area feels more connected to Kael than to Kil’Jaden in Sunewell Plateau.

    Wrath is a bit better and I have faith in them to give Arthas a fitting entrance sequence.

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