Complexity-Limit: A Post-Victory Interview on the Race to World First

Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming

In Ny’alotha, the Waking City, Complexity-Limit brought home a historic world-first victory to North America for the first time in nearly a decade, dethroning Method from a dominant streak throughout this expansion and over the last several years in WoW. From their modest roots as a night guild formed during Siege of Orgrimmar farm in 2015, Limit has proved that they are an international force to be reckoned with.

Today, Complexity-Limit raiders Atlas, Goop, Lightee, Preheat, and Siory have joined me in this interview to reflect on the tier, sharing a wealth of insights and experiences on what it took to come this far as a guild and a family.

I want to extend a very special thanks to Veyloris for his thorough feedback to help me make this interview the best it could be. Also, thank you to Dratnos, Tettles, Azorea, and Fantasy for your tips and guidance!

VitaminP: What went differently this tier to contribute to your success in claiming the world first N’zoth kill? How much did your Complexity sponsorship impact your raid team as far as efficiency and gameplay? In contrast to the previous world-first event last tier, how were things different between being a group paid to travel/perform versus being a sponsored guild?

Atlas: We had way more resources at our disposal when it comes to being prepared for any possible encounter. With Reloe’s help with WeakAuras, Mystical’s help with Deadly Boss Mods, as well as the incredible accommodations provided by Complexity, we had a large array of tools at our disposal for progression that we did not previously have before. Spending time with the boys in person was a unique bonding experience since the majority of the guild was here. Hopefully in the future, the rest of the roster will be able to come and raid in person as well.

Lightee: Our roster’s constant improvement over the expansion is the main reason we won this tier. If you look back over all of BFA, you can see how we kept getting closer and closer. We opted to move away from some of the players that were exceptional at their class but less attentive to the fight as a whole in favor of players who are quicker to learn fight mechanics and contribute to strategy discussions. We also recruited a dedicated tank and moved Max to the coach position, which is something that helps speed up the early progression of any new boss. Having (almost) everyone in one spot is a huge benefit because we can spend our lunch and dinner breaks in a literal classroom with a massive screen to explain strategy and optimize movement. We were able to draw and plan our exact Anguish drop locations for every cast and plan all beam movements in a very time-efficient manner.

Preheat: There are a lot of reasons we did well. This tier was the culmination of all the work we put in throughout the expansion and the lessons learned along the way. Our roster is stronger than ever and we played insanely consistently. Having Complexity as a partner was huge for us—they have been a fantastic partner. Also, like Atlas said, having the help of people like Mystical, Reloe, and Bubbadub shouldn’t be understated.

Siory: From an execution perspective, I feel the biggest differentiation between this and prior tiers is that we were able to almost completely avoid the long stretches of inconsistent play that would occasionally plague us on bosses in the past. It can’t be understated how much time can be lost to inconsistent play, even on bosses in the middle of the raid with lower pull counts, but especially in the case of an end boss where by the second day, good attempts were already extending past 8 minutes. As for where the consistency came from, we were certainly more prepared and set up going into this tier compared to any prior, but it was more than just that. I do think for many people having an organization like Complexity and their staff providing a venue where players don’t have to worry about much at all except playing the game definitely helps with focus. Also, being in proximity to the other players helps morale, motivation, and just generally provides accountability to stick to a productive schedule instead of staying up too late talking to friends or pouring over logs and vods.

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VitaminP: What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages to having a one day “head start” on the raid in NA compared to EU?

Atlas: Being able to see the content first has its benefits and its drawbacks, but ultimately, it all depends on how functional the encounters are, which is largely out of our hands. Having a “one day head start” is entirely beneficial in concept, but when you reach encounters that are bugged beyond belief, that head start starts becoming more and more irrelevant. Examples of this include Fetid Devourer from Uldir, Carapace of N’zoth from Nyalotha, and Stormwall Blockade from Battle of Dazalor, to name a few. Some encounters have extremely detrimental bugs that effectively make a boss unkillable and put us at the mercy of Blizzard’s ability to acknowledge and fix those bugs until we’re able to kill those bosses. Obviously, a synced worldwide release would be preferred by everyone competing in the race and taking it seriously, but again that’s out of our control and ultimately on Blizzard.

Goop: There is literally no advantage to starting the raid early to bug test and figure out a boss route for EU guilds. This kind of gets talked to death every raid release, but unless the raid gets cleared in less than 1 day, the gap closes almost instantly due to EU having access to early boss strats + raid pathing in a branching/wing-based raid like Ny’alotha.

Lightee: I think the only way the head start can help us is if the end boss either dies within 72 hours or if the end boss is tuned so tightly that it is nearly impossible week 1 but becomes a complete joke after 1 reset of gear (i.e. G’huun). The reality is that our 16 hour head start is spent QA testing the bosses for the EU region so they get to come into progression with videos on how to kill each boss with most of the bugs already hotfixed. In the case of fights like Azshara and N’zoth, the head start is entirely irrelevant because the bosses weren’t in a killable (or progressable) state until sometime in week 2.

Preheat: When you stream progression and have unfinished bosses, the head start often becomes a wash. Other tiers might be different, but I think it’s fair to say that the head start this tier had no impact on our success aside from the increased viewership while we are the only region in the raid.

Siory: The head start is definitely a double-edged sword, and one that is more nuanced than just a mere “head start”. For example, NA realms have maintenance that often leaves the servers unavailable after the weekly reset time, whereas most EU servers have their maintenance complete before the weekly reset even occurs. Being the first to see the fights obviously brings in more hype for us, but it also exposes us to many more bugs. Even before Mythic week started, we had to alter our plans because of a bug with Il’gynoth not spawning in Heroic difficulty. This bug was fixed before the raid was even available in the EU.

Starting first and actually killing something first also provides everyone else with a template of how to beat the fight. Maybe nobody uses that template, such as with Ra-Den, but the information is out there. However, our start time does allow us a quicker response time from Blizzard when bugs do crop up, since they’re usually awake and monitoring our activities to some degree. Plenty of times though, those early bugs completely halt progression for several hours, such as with Fetid Devourer in Uldir or Carapace this tier.

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VitaminP: Do you see any world where the RWF would play out better on tournament realms in order to help even the playing fields and maybe reduce character prep time, or do you think this format would be a detriment to the content?

Atlas: I think the tournament realm idea is incredibly nice for equalizing the playing field between guilds. There’s a large factor of RNG that comes into play when these races occur (Titanforging, Corruption gear, even down to the base concept of getting the loot you want from Heroic week). Even being able to have multiple characters without having to spend a ludicrous amount of prep time would be nice, with the ability to plug-and-play whatever classes you want to stack without drawback of having a less-prepared character. However, I think tournament realm raids would be very hard to implement because there would be little incentive to actually play on live servers if this was the case, since it wouldn’t impact the competition at all.

Goop: In my opinion, the tournament realm for the RWF would be detrimental to the fun of the race. This would cut out all interaction with the community, which I think is one of the more interesting aspects. If Blizzard’s goal is to ultimately turn it into a 100% optimized spectator esport where all players have access to the exact same stuff, then tournament realm raids would be the right move for sure. But at that point, Blizzard would need an entirely separate team working on the “esports version” of the raid because there is no point to having all the easy loot fodder bosses early in the raid if you’re working with template characters. It would just be something completely different than what it is now.

Lightee: I think a tournament realm would be a massive benefit to competition. The RWF isn’t just a 3 week sprint—there is a massive time commitment to even have characters viable for raiding (insert begging for account-wide essences here). In this tier in particular, your guild needed to have over a hundred million gold to be able to buy the proper BoE’s to meet the tuning of the N’zoth fight. Every player that competes in this event would love a tournament realm, but there could be an unpredictable impact in community perception. Some people find it hard to relate to the MDI because every character has perfect gear (in some cases in season 1 and 2, gear that was not even possible to acquire on live servers).

Preheat: I really hope so. From my perspective, the positives vastly outweigh the negatives to having the race on a test realm. It would fix so many issues (delayed release, RNG, BoE buying debt fiasco, 2 week Island Expeditions grind, etc). I see tournament realms as the logical conclusion and solution to so many issues with the race, currently. Please Mr. Blizzard, if you are reading this, give us Tournament Realms for the RWF.

Siory: In terms of a competitive event in isolation from the rest of the game, the RWF would absolutely be better on tournament realms where everyone involved can have access to whatever classes, specs and gear they could want at whatever standardized power level was agreed upon for the race. The playing field would be much more even, the vagaries of regional differences with release timing and bugs would be eliminated, and players would be able to focus on the raid exclusively instead of doing 12+ hours a day of island expeditions or monotonous essence and reputation farms across whatever alts they feel they might need for weeks in advance. It would also prevent players who get unlucky from being unable to participate just because their character looted no azerite or useful corrupted pieces.

That being said, some of the spirit of the game would definitely be sacrificed. Part of the emotional resonance of the whole process comes with seeing who gets lucky with their drops in Heroic splits, the Mythic reclear or in their Mythic+ loot and weekly cache. Not knowing exactly what you’re going to get and making the most of your character with the limited items you get in the week and a half the race lasts isn’t talked about all that much, but it’s a very real and relevant part of the race as it stands now.

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VitaminP: In WoW, itemization without Corruption or Titanforging could maybe feel stale to some players once they attain all their bis pieces in a tier and feel “done”. While it seems like the Corruption system has been difficult to work around this tier due to all of the nerfs and imbalances happening, do you think it is a potential solution for keeping item drops interesting in the game? What changes would you like to see to Corruption if it is kept in future tiers?

Atlas: I think the Corruption system is an infinitely worse system than Titanforging. To be clear though, I think both systems were an egregious display of RNG-based “luck-of-the-draw” type mechanics. With that being said, I think most of the frustrations with Corruption is that it makes gearing an incredible headache where you have to consider up to 4-6+ pieces of gear swapping to stay below a certain threshold, in combination with a constant “chase after a carrot on a stick” situation. I prefer systems where you finally feel “done” with gearing instead of feeling helpless that your character might not be as good as someone else’s due to pure chance. I would much more be in favor of a system that has player agency in which corruptions you can put on a given piece of gear, as well as the ability to not only just cleanse an item of corruption effects, but to rather turn them on or off without losing the effect entirely.

Goop: Please make ALL items drop with whatever special affix system they want to use, and make cleansing items free. It makes no sense logistically or thematically for it to not be this way. I also don’t agree that itemization without Corruption or Titanforging can feel stale. I’m of the opinion that the majority of competitive players want a loot system with as little RNG as possible. The way Titanforging has existed in this expansion compared to legion was honestly a completely fine model. There was no Titanforging in Mythic raids because the loot was already 10 item levels below the cap. Weapons couldn't Titanforge at all in any level of content. Azerite couldn’t Warforge or Titanforge. Compared to Legion where Mythic was 15-25 ilvls lower than the Titanforge cap at any time and ALL slots could Titanforge, the BFA system was completely fine.

Lightee: I think the biggest thing with a system like this is balancing. You can’t release a system like this where some traits give 20 DPS per corruption and others give 273 DPS per corruption (real numbers from my Brewmaster comparing Echoing Void to some of the stat proc traits). This system has all of the downsides of the Legion Legendary system without any of the upsides. The balance is about on par with the original design of Legion Legendaries (Subtlety Rogue boots being a 22% DPS increase), but the effects themselves are bland. There is very little interaction with any of the corruption effects. Most of them just give you passive damage increases with zero interaction.

Acquiring the optimal corruptions for your class comes one of two ways: RNG or BoE’s. 99% of the WoW community cannot spend 5 million gold on a BoE, so for all intents and purposes, RNG is your method of acquiring the gear you need. If you do not get the right legendary (sorry, “corruption”), your character will be significantly worse than someone who did get the right corruption through no fault of your own. It hurts to see Blizzard make the exact same mistakes when they solved this problem in patch 7.3.5 by allowing you to target legendaries and finally play the expansion the way you wanted to.

Preheat: Just like the Legendary items in Legion, the concept is very cool and interesting and adds a lot of flavor to the game, BUT there is one issue: the way you acquire the super cool corrupt items that increase your damage by 10% is awful. BoEs are the only sure-fire way to get the corruption you need, but since you can buy those with WoW token gold, the game for most players has effectively become pay-to-win. I have a simple solution to instantly make the system better: make all items corrupt and remove the cost to purge corruption. Just let them all corrupt and allow players to remove the corruptions they don't like and BoEs won’t be a pay-to-win disaster. Gearing with corruption would then become a realistic goal for the player base at large.

Siory: From the perspective of a progression-minded raider, the problem with drops now isn’t one of balance and poorly communicated changes but lack of player agency in the process. Especially for the race itself, players have a very limited corruption budget; you can’t use many corrupted items simultaneously right now. So in our position, we’re able to provide most players with the corruptions they want as balance shifts through BoE items. But what happens when any player, even a more casual one, opens their Mythic+ cache and gets an item with a corruption they’d ideally use in the future when they have a higher corruption budget? As it stands now, they’re forced to decide between permanently cleansing an item they’ll probably never see again or wearing something much lower item level as a stopgap, thereby breaking that long espoused correlation between item level and item usability. Some kind of system that allows players to get at least something back from that cleansing process that they can accumulate and use in the future to get the corruption they want would be better.

Another route that I’m not quite as fond of would be to have every single item drop with a random corruption affix and you just pick and choose which you want to wear or cleanse. Since it’s less likely than in the current system that you’d never see an affix ever again, it feels less bad to cleanse something good that you don’t have the budget to use just to get an ilevel gain. I don’t like this solution as much though because it pushes WoW more towards a loot-spam game like Path of Exile, Diablo III, or Destiny 2 and I don’t think the rest of the game’s structure would keep up with that without other large changes.

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VitaminP: What were your favorite moments from this RWF? We know you’ve said that the Complexity facilities were amazing, so can you please tell us what it was like to use the classroom after seeing the secret phase of N’zoth knowing you were the only guild in the world who had seen it at that point? What was it like to all be in the same room able to troubleshoot and analyze the phase together for the first time?

Atlas: Being able to have dinner breaks with so many people from the guild and spend that time both messing around and talking about the boss was a unique experience that I was very fond of. The classroom was very useful for us when it came to positioning and strategizing, especially on N’zoth when space remaining from Evoke Anguish became a legitimate issue once we realized the boss is meant to be burned from 80%-2%.

Goop: Honestly, the entire experience was indescribably awesome. Getting to game in the same physical location as most of your guild and the special bond that is created from that is something really invaluable. The classroom specifically was insanely cool, but I don’t think it was used at all until the last couple bosses and especially N’zoth. Being able to plan out the last phase of Carapace on the board was probably a big reason why that boss fell as quickly as it did.

Lightee: I think one of the biggest benefits of the classroom is being able to visually show what you want to do in a way that is easier for everyone to understand. Strategy discussions over discord or in the classroom were mostly the same—5 or less people talking about how to optimize movement to handle whatever mechanics the boss is throwing at you. When done over Discord, the problem we always ran into is that we would get to the phase we were talking about and then someone would run the wrong direction or drop a debuff in the wrong place because they didn’t fully understand the strategy. My favorite moment was definitely the Atlas sneeze.

Preheat: It’s still surreal to try and explain this. We got paid to have our whole guild meet up in a state-of-the-art esports facility with infinite free snacks and energy drinks. For everyone there, our success was the sole goal. Just imagine getting the chance to have your guild meet up for progression for a 2 week long WoW bender. It’s literally 13 year old me’s dream come true x1,000,000 and something I still have trouble believing is actually a thing.

Siory: My favorite part of these events and the thing that makes them the most special for me personally is just being able to game and hang together in the same place. We’re all familiar with each other from playing so much together online in voice comms, but being together in person is different. Being able to strategize together over dinner or just hang out and have group conversations about other things in a much more natural way than you ever could over voice is difficult to replicate normally.

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Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming

VitaminP: Who do you feel are some of the more “unsung” heroes of Complexity-Limit? Is there anyone you’d like to shoutout or show some extra appreciation towards?

Atlas: Azorea works incredibly hard on the management side of the guild to always make sure we’re taken care of, and we truly don’t deserve her. Reloe and Mystical’s work in providing both WeakAuras and DBM timers for us this tier in particular was invaluable. Bubbadub, our coach, also provided great analysis of our attempts on a pull to pull basis and was able to see things from outside the box and give us ideas that we might not have been able to see ourselves. I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed, but these are a few that stood out to me in particular.

Goop: All of the support staff are definitely a huge factor towards our success. Azorea is mom, “Veylons” is bank, and all of the Complexity staff at the facility made sure we stayed alive in order to game for 2 weeks straight uninterrupted. Daddy Complexity was around the facility a lot and was also encouraging us to take our vitamins and drink more than just Redbull and soda the whole time. All of those guys own.

Lightee: The unsung heroes of this race were Mystical and Reloe. Our old solution for addons was to have one of our raiders (Siory) update BigWigs timers in between boss pulls. Siory and I also worked on creating WeakAuras for various mechanics which always took time away from pulling. Having addon stuff handled by people outside of the raid is a much more efficient solution.

Preheat: There are a lot of people that come to mind, so it’s hard to pick. However, I might have a lot more appreciation for this member than other guild members because we have a pretty close relationship. I’m going to have to recognise someone who has been one of the longest standing members of Limit—someone who has been there through all the good and bad who is always encouraging us to be our best in-game and out. Of course, the person I’m referring to is my wife, Brittany aka “Banmen.” On a serious note, Brittany has been there since the beginning and has supported the choices that led me to this moment. She is amazing and thoughtful and, if I get more into it this, it’s going to get too sappy so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead.

Siory: Obviously, we have people working behind the scenes and not on streams taking care of a wide range of things for the guild. Azorea in particular handles a large amount of stuff I’m aware of (and probably many times more that I’m not aware of). We also had Bubbadub providing strategy and coaching advice the whole time. I’m sure people know that he was involved due to Max’s stream, but they may not understand just how much having him around helped with strategy formulation. We also had Mystical from DBM and Reloe helping with boss mods and WeakAura development, which took a huge load off my shoulders personally as I was the one that usually had to do those things. This time around, I could focus much more on just playing and only really needed to make a few small WeakAuras in the moment because I could hand off transcriptor logs to Mystical and know he would promptly handle correcting boss timers and warnings.

Also we’d all be remiss if we didn’t shout out the people who weren’t in. We brought 26 players to this event and had several more at home but a Mythic raid only has 20 slots. Even though they weren’t in, they were still there participating in discussions, hanging out during meals, and watching us progress on the big screen.

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VitaminP: So we know that, prior to the tier, you made the decision to partner with Deadly Boss Mods (DBM). Can you please explain the situation more in-depth of BigWigs vs. DBM do you feel that something like this will become required for future competitors to have their own version of boss mod addons and additional support to compete in the race at the highest level?

Atlas: Partnering with DBM was just in our best interest, given that Mystical is on a similar schedule as us and was able to give updates to the timers and the addon on the spot. Having someone outside of the guild that’s able to provide us with these things eliminates time that we ourselves have to spend developing timers and updates and gives us an extra edge in how efficient we can be with pulling bosses.

Goop: Well it’s pretty simple; the guild needs accurate timers and Method doesn’t update their addon to the public until they have killed a boss.

Lightee: Every guild that competes at this level has to have their own solution for bossmods. There is no reason for Method to give us BigWigs timers for a boss we are both progressing on and there is no reason for us to give them DBM timers for the same reason. Unfortunately the side effect of this competition is that none of the timers are made public until after all guilds in serious contention for World First have killed the boss.

Preheat: Really the Bigwigs vs. DBM thing comes down to having a partner in our corner. There is no scenario where we could have the level of support with BigWigs that we received from Mystical with DBM because we will never be the focus of the people who develop it. Sometimes, you have to forge your own path even if it upsets people. The decision to go with DBM was a bit of a risk at the time, but I don’t think it could have gone better. We look forward to working with Mr. DBM in the future!

Siory: Historically, we’ve used BigWigs because it’s cleaner-looking out of the box and, most importantly for me since I’m the only one here who modifies boss mods for us, it’s much easier to modify than DBM. The reason that’s an important point is because boss mods absolutely need to be modified, particularly for encounters that were never tested publicly.

By using BigWigs though, we were always at a tactical disadvantage. BigWigs is a good boss mod and no flame to them, but their primary contributor for Mythic encounters is Justwait from Method. Not surprisingly, Method internally runs a much more up-to-date version of BigWigs and historically has not released any modules at all for final bosses until after they have secured that kill because why would they want to give the competition an advantage they’ve made for themselves? Up until this tier, we have been willing to take that loss on the chin for the ease of modification because we thought doing the modification internally was worth the familiarity of using BigWigs over the unfamiliarity of attempting to migrate to something else.

Things came to a head for us literally hours before the launch of the Heroic raid in NA. At that time, BigWigs still had totally empty modules for several Heroic bosses. There were also some tweets from people involved in the addon community that we didn’t really like the implications of. DBM already had Heroic data for all those bosses BigWigs was missing and the idea of being able to delegate boss mod modification to a passionate professional was very very appealing, not just to me personally but also guild management types like Max and Preheat. Calling Mystical from DBM “passionate” is an understatement and working with him has been a great and productive experience and I feel like he’d agree.

As for what other competitors need, it’s actually nothing new. It has always been the case that competitors need to be able to modify boss mods themselves (or with the help of the addon author) because nobody is all that interested in sharing the modifications they worked hard on internally with the competition while they’re still racing on the fight. In essence, that’s what Method has done with BigWigs for themselves. They’re modifying their boss mod internally as they see fight just as we did in the past. It only comes across like a conflict of interest because the primary contributor to the public release is also the one doing the modification internally, but expecting them to release that publicly while they’re still on the fight is indeed “depleted.”

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Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming

VitaminP: Max sat for the N'zoth kill (and the other kills albeit Drest’agath and Vexiona) to coach and shot-call while watching other raiders' PoVs. Can you explain the advantages of the so-called “21st raider”? Do you think it’s possible to lose interest in the game if you’re not an active character in a raid?

Preheat: Previously, we had Podra call the shots from outside the raid like on Mythic Azshara and it worked well for a time, but it was something Podra (and almost everyone else) was NOT interested in doing moving forward. Max is in a unique position being the leader of the guild, the raid leader, and the face of the guild. He doesn’t have anything to prove and I don’t think any of this would work if it was anyone other than Max calling the shots.

Siory: The 21st raider approach was used by us in the Eternal Palace as well when Max sat for Za’qul since at the time the fight was easily handled by a single tank. Conceptually, it’s a very simple and logical strategy. By being freed from worrying about the concerns of actually playing their spec and role within the raid, the 21st raider can focus on making calls and directing the play of others. There are some fights where the encounter is scripted enough that the 21st raider doesn’t have much to do once the overarching strategy is laid down. There are also some fights that are spread out and chaotic enough (Destragath would be an example from this tier) where Max would rather be in and hands on so he can see things playing out with full control over his own target and camera instead of relying on being able to find PoVs with that information among the raiders.

You’d have to ask Max about his interest level as the 21st raider, but more generally, I do believe if you’re one of the players that doesn’t get to raid much because of the class you chose or more random factors like loot luck, it can absolutely take a toll on your interest in the game. That’s another reason why I think it’s important for those players to still be included in person at a venue like the GameStop Performance Center because it keeps them involved personally even if they can’t be in game.

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VitaminP: Do you see the “21st raider” being a more prominent role in the future that other guilds may even emulate, or do you see this as more of a situational decision from boss to boss on whether this style of raid leading makes the most impact?

Atlas: I think when it comes to world first competitions, I can see it becoming the standard. The benefits it provides are pretty substantial, although at the end of the day, it all comes down to having your players just play well.

Goop: Many people probably don’t know this, but the guild I was in before Limit (Encore), used the “21st raider” strat back on Helya in Trial of Valor and it was one of our best finishes to a raid as a guild. Big Dumb Guild I think have also used it in the past, as well as some Asian guilds, so it’s not a completely new idea but the first time it has been used at this level. If you’re wondering how effective it actually is from a raider’s point of view, it can definitely help to alleviate brainpower to focus more on personal performance rather than worrying about the raid, but it’s certainly not mandatory for the majority of bosses. It will definitely end up being the new “meta” for world first progression, but I doubt your average top 100 guild needs to worry about implementing it at all.

Lightee: I think the 21st raider is always better than having your raid leader playing the game, but it is not an insurmountable advantage. I expect all guilds competing for world first to do this but would be very upset if any of the more casual guilds attempted to emulate this behavior. Many things in WoW trickle down from the top and have an unfortunate effect on other people’s experience. I hope this will not be one of them.

Preheat: I think that maybe the overall effect of the 21st raider is being a bit overblown (just based on Method and fan reactions) but it is absolutely an advantage. Mileage will vary depending on the fight, but it’s pretty obvious that 21>20.

Siory: I’m fairly certain more guilds will attempt to have a 21st man raid leader on fights where there is a lot of calling that needs to be made.

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VitaminP: Let's talk about the communication you had with Blizzard regarding the N’zoth fight (i.e. when the boss despawned, the absorb shield on the boss, the “hidden phase” etc.). Do you have any comments or can you explain what happened for anyone who wasn’t there to see this situation unfold?

Atlas: Having a direct line of communication with Blizzard is so important when it comes to reaching encounters that are either bugged or ambiguous with what is considered “acceptable'' to do. One example of a bugged encounter this raid was Carapace, where his Mental Decay was double ticking sanity drain and effectively draining 40 sanity in one cast instead of 20 sanity. In combination with the raid-wide AoE he casts, he could drain 70 sanity from you in under 5 seconds. This made killing the boss virtually impossible as people were randomly getting mind-controlled, but once Blizzard fixed this bug, we killed the boss in something like 3 pulls. When it came to N’zoth, the majority of the guild felt pretty frustrated for multiple reasons. We encountered several bugs with the boss, and it was hard to tell which was a bug and which was meant to be. Even upon killing it, we had to deal with a bug where a person who went down into the Psychus phase would still appear in both realms. They would get affected by the Paranoia mechanic that the upstairs phase had to deal with, and would then just die to the damage of the mechanic since they were linked with someone across a phase and across the entire room.

Furthermore, we had a few more bugs—the chamber gateway bug being the most notable. In some of our earlier pulls, we decided to not go into the chamber phase to see what would happen. The boss would spam his AoE Eternal Torment ability, which we healed through, but then he shielded himself at 25%. We then went into the chamber phase, killed the add in the secret phase, and returned, only to find the boss despawn in our face. It’s fair to say this wasn’t how Blizzard intended to have the boss done, but without any clear indication or communication on what happens in the fight, it left us pretty confused. Magni and MOTHER also just sat in the chamber phase stunned, whether the add was alive or dead inside of there and there was no voice lines or anything to even hint at what was supposed to happen next.

After many pulls, we then tried figuring out if a percentage based push was needed after that phase, and upon seeing 30%, another Magni voice-line triggered. This was the same voice-line as the previous chamber phase, and led us to believe a second chamber phase was needed to kill the boss. After changing our entire strategy for puddle placement to get to the gateway, and then finally reaching it a day later, Blizzard told us that it’s not meant to play that voiceline and that there is no second chamber phase, essentially wasting all of our strategy for that day. I understand that them telling us how the fight works is nonsensical because it would give us a huge advantage, but not having the foresight to see guilds not doing the chamber phase and burning the boss, as well as not noticing the chamber phase trigger happens twice was very frustrating to deal with in the moment.

Lightee: This raid went much smoother than I expected it to based on how polished the rest of 8.3 was. There were a few minor hiccups (Ra-Den being hotfixed to pierce immunities which bricked our strat but then not being hotfixed to respawn slower). Carapace was the first boss we got to that didn’t work. There were problems with how his sanity detection worked which caused you to become mind controlled before your sanity hit 0 which in practice meant that we only had 70 sanity for the first 95% of progression. It died 3 pulls after being fixed. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the two bosses that were never PTR tested were the two with the most issues.

My biggest issue with N’zoth was that we did not know what the developer intention was with the fight until we were finally told that the 25% psychic shell was a bug. We spent tons of time theorycrafting what p4 might be based on datamined abilities and worked on minmaxing Neck usage and made changes to our strategy based on the assumption that there was something more. The 25% Psychic shell bug was 100% reproducible. It happened every single time you did the fight as intended and brought him to 25%. It happened on stream on the 2nd and was not fixed until the 5th (although we did not do the Magni phase yet so perhaps the interaction on the 2nd was considered “intended”). Pulling this fight on live in godmode a single time and progressing through the fight as intended would have revealed that it did not work.

I think the concept of a secret phase can be interesting but the way N’zoth played out makes me hope they don’t do them again. I prefer things like Carapace randomly having 4 tentacles instead of 1 or the Argus spinning axes, secret mechanics inside an otherwise normal phase.

Preheat: I never would have expected that an entire phase of a boss was an elaborate bug, but now this is something we have to consider from here on out. The whole situation is beyond hilarious but one thing I have to give Blizzard props for is their timely responses to our questions about the changes they were making. They are absolutely NOT proactive but at least they are reactive, so I have to give them credit for that.

Siory: Having a direct line of communication with Blizzard is obviously invaluable for reporting bugs and fixing other issues. Obviously, they don’t provide any hints about encounters and even factual statements about how things work usually only come after a problem arises. The story of N’Zoth runs much deeper than I think anyone at Blizzard is willing to admit right now. Reloe and Mystical shared some of the details about that on twitter that conflict with Ion’s own statements about the fight.

Regarding what happened, most of it stems from a structural issue with the design of the fight itself. The lack of any action of any kind from Magni and MOTHER after clearing out the Heart Chamber made it difficult to discern just how the fight was supposed to progress. Even after killing the Voidspawn Annihilator the two of them just sit there stunned. That’s when we began exploring other avenues.

The first thing we tried was just healing through the 9.5s Eternal Torment spam he would do while the Heart Chamber was active instead of actually going to the Heart Chamber. Healing through that damage was trivial in HPS terms, though still finite due to mana. That was the pull where we got him to 25% and he put up the shield and shortly thereafter Blizzard hit the panic button: they despawned the boss for the entire region and applied a hotfix that increased the damage of Eternal Torment in that phase by 300% and making him spam it every 2.5s. They likened it in their communication to when Method was trying to heal their way through Thok’s intermission back in Siege of Orgrimmar.

Obviously at that point they wanted us to go to the Heart Chamber, but Transcriptor logs of that pull showed him regaining the shield and spawning a second gateway with a different Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) from the first one, which is why this happened. That canard of a second gateway is what informed the development of our strat over the next couple of days since we mistakenly assumed that was actually part of the fight and Blizzard wasn’t about to tell us differently.

We also experimented with staying up in the Heart Chamber indefinitely to see what would happen. For several minutes nothing happened while the boss merrily went about his phase 2 ability cycle. Eventually Blizzard had enough of that too and hotfixed the Thought Harvester tank special to have an infinite range so they could kill us in the Heart Chamber. As silly as it seems, it’s actually a good fix because, in theory, anyone that could clear out the Heart Chamber could sort of AFK and just kill the boss with Warlock’s Absolute Corruption.

It was only the next week after the reclear where we were able to legitimately push the boss to 25% and still expected a second unique gateway spawn (or at least a reactivation of the existing one). We had even altered our strat with Evoke Anguish to keep the gateway clear because of this. However, when we got there, nothing happened, no shield, no gateway, no roleplay, and the boss kept doing phase 2 abilities in a way he hadn’t when we had gotten there by cheesing the Eternal Torment the prior week.

It was at that point I sent a pretty angry email to them about the fight and heard back the now infamous (at least internally here) that it was a script logic bug. Supposedly, N’zoth was intended to shield and produce a gateway at 25% as a backup plan for guilds in the future having enough DPS to kill him in the 153s it takes for the first gateway to spawn. However, according to Blizzard publicly anyway, the script bug had been making him do this at 25% in addition to the 153s timed spawn of the first gateway. Because of the info Mystical shared in his tweet, none of us really believe that, but it’s also unlikely you’re going to get a more detailed answer from Blizzard. After that though, it was at least clear where the goal posts were for the fight. Get the boss to zero before he enrages and casts Evoke Anguish.

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VitaminP: From downing your first end-tier boss as a guild in Hellfire Citadel, you’ve come a long way and seen many tiers of content together. If you were to compare the mechanics of some of these end-tier bosses such as Archimonde, Argus, and Jaina etc. to N’zoth, how do you feel this tier stacked up versus previous tiers? Was killing N’zoth one of your most fulfilling experiences as a guild/organization?

Atlas: I felt N’zoth was pretty underwhelming in terms of an end-tier boss, let alone an end of expansion end-tier boss. Phase 1 was too long and too dull when it boiled down to just “kill tentacles, do Psychus”. The secret phase was extremely underwhelming, with us completing it on our second attempt ever. It just had some random void dude in there too, there was nothing really “Mythic” about it. Phase 2 was just a repetitive cycle and burning the boss from 80-dead felt pretty lame. I was hoping there would be a lot more interactive and epic concepts to the fight given that N’zoth is supposed to be an all powerful old god, but it felt like a mid-tier boss with the tuning dial turned up.

Preheat: I’ve been with Limit since we first formed and I can’t believe how much this guild has changed. We have come a long way from the night guild we initially created to pump high ranks with minimal effort. I’m still too hyped from our kill to think critically about how the fight stacks up against previous end bosses, but it certainly felt to me like one of the most iconic bosses to date.

Siory: Archimonde in particular is hard to compare to any fight since, because without some kind of addon assistance on the Wrought Chaos mechanic that fight would have been very different. Argus and Jaina, while not easy by any means were very easy to grasp structurally and getting into a rhythm for them was pretty straightforward. While N’Zoth is certainly less interesting and less intense, I liken it more towards Legion Kil’Jaeden if anything. The punishment for mistakes in all phases feels similarly high to me.

As a healer, I think this was probably the best tier of the expansion. Not all the fights were fun to play at a macro level, but the micro level of healing most of them was better than almost any fight this expansion outside of G’huun and Mythrax. This is somewhat of an ironic conclusion because based on PTR testing the general consensus among healers was that it was going to be a boring under-healed tier with most healers opting into damage-dealing corruption items instead of healing throughput corruption items.

For me personally, being as old as I am and playing as long as I’ve had, finally finishing first in a tier is always going to be the most special even if it’s eventually surpassed in hype or difficulty.

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VitaminP: When you guys killed Vexiona, Max made a comment that, if all Blizzard had done was add a tail swipe to Vexiona's mechanics, then it would have been a ridiculously hard fight. What other fights in the tier may have been missing just a small tweak to incredibly ratchet up the difficulty?

Atlas: Skitra in its PTR iteration had a ridiculous amount of health and would’ have been very difficult to deal with. It is an early boss though, so it would feel out of place to have a difficult boss that soon. Carapace could’ve had a more tightly tuned phase 2 that required you to be more systematic with popping Adaptive Membrane on the growths to maintain sanity, but it felt like it just got blasted through. Outside of those two, I feel like the raid was actually very well tuned and not much could’ve been done to make it much harder.

Goop: There are lots of fights where a single mechanic tuneup or change could have made it very difficult, but I think the only tuning or mechanic missteps this raid were Il’gynoth, Vexiona, and Carapace. Carapace phase 1 and phase 2 were entirely too easy, and Vexiona for some reason has a ton of adds that are completely trivialized by using the big add to murder the rest of them without any interaction from your raid. Il’gynoth was a hard fight if it’s done as intended, but the prevailing strat for guilds killing it now (which we knew about but didn't want to use because it would have instantly been fixed) is to ignore the Mythic mechanic, which also allows you to ignore the mind-control mechanic, essentially making the fight a two mechanic fight while you beat on a target dummy.

Lightee: I think one of the biggest problems this tier was boss health. They buffed all bosses by like 10% after we killed the first three but they clearly did not expect corruption to be as powerful as it was. Ra-den, an end wing boss, died in 5:46 on our first kill and 4:21 on our re-clear. Many of these bosses needed at least 30% more life. In our first pull on Hivemind testing, we thought the boss mistakenly had LFR numbers...120 million health per boss. On live, it ended up being 150 million per boss, but it should have been 250-300 million. Early bosses are always going to fall over quickly, but every boss except Ra-Den, Il'gynoth, and N’zoth were far too easy. On the bright side, N’zoth himself had some of the best tuning of any end boss in recent memory.

Preheat: Ra-den pre-nerf without Warlock cheese was actually insane, since you had to use lust to skip the last set of orbs. The tuning was perfect and it is a shame that no other guilds got to experience that fight the way we did.

Siory: Skitra is obviously missing an entire encounter, which is more than a small tweak. Not long from now, that fight is going to devolve into no mechanics other than the boss vanishing every 20%. I also think Carapace was missing something. The last phase is difficult because you’re on the sanity clock from unavoidable sanity damage that you can’t even outplay, not because any of the mechanics presented are challenging to deal with. Carapace was my biggest disappointment fight of the tier. It had the parts to be epic with the huge tentacles slamming down and the large movements through 3 very different play spaces. But it never actually delivered on being epic or difficult in practice.

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Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming

VitaminP: One of the struggles for many guilds in the WoW scene is how to make AND maintain such a strong roster of players from tier to tier by keeping recruitment open, but also maintaining some level of guild veterans who form the backbone of a guild. How does Limit handle recruitment and bench time? From the outside looking in, a lot of people wonder at what point you bench players or fail trials due to performance. How do you guys determine good raiders versus world-fist caliber raiders?

Lightee: I think one of the most important things is removing any idea of a guild veteran. We also don’t really have trials. It doesn’t matter if you have been in the guild for 5 years or 1 year or 1 month, if you aren’t good enough to raid you get benched immediately. There are only two factors that matter: Skill and attitude. Some people might be good enough to earn a roster spot but if they react poorly to criticism or have problems claiming responsibility for mistakes, they are going to be a burden to your progression. We didn’t have any major moments this tier where it was clear that one individual needed to be benched for progression. Our roster has gotten so insane that class viability is the main deciding factor in who gets to raid. In some cases, personal loot determines who raids and who doesn’t.

Preheat: Playing this game at the level we do requires a deep roster. Sitting is just part of the game, and I feel that in Limit we have members who understand the bigger picture. To the average troll, commenting on sitting is just the low-hanging fruit, but the reality is that any of our members would be an all-star in any other guild. In other guilds I’ve raided in, ranks, achievements, and loot gave validation... but we choose to raid here because our success gives us all the validation we need.

Siory: The only way to determine good players is to see them actually play, especially in situations they aren’t familiar with. Seeing how someone learns and adapts and how much they can get out of their character while doing so is how you learn if they’re good enough. Recruitment then mostly consists of reaching out to people who seem like they’d be good and then putting them into that crucible and seeing what comes out.

Culture and respect also play a large part in it. Max talks about both of these a lot. Everyone makes mistakes, and trying to hide that or make an excuse for it is counterproductive. Having a culture where everyone knows that if someone makes a mistake they already know what they did and are thinking about how to fix it is very important for building trust and respect and cuts out all the blamestorming.

Once that culture is in place, if someone does need to be sat for whatever reason, the decision is understood and respected instead of resented. Some people just have bad fights, some people have bad nights, maybe they need to be sat for a fight. As long as that kind of respect is maintained, people who have a proven track record of performance can be sat without alienation and come back in the next day or the next fight and get back to playing well.

There is also just the tacit understanding that everyone is potentially replaceable if someone better comes along. It sounds like a stressful statement when you just spell it out like that, but it’s an important overarching concept that stands as a challenge towards every player to always strive to be the best they can in performance, preparation and attitude.

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VitaminP: Now that there is quite a bit of downtime until Shadowlands, can we expect to see Limit reach into other competitive WoW content? What's next for Complexity-Limit?

Preheat: Nothing specific I can get into now, but we have big plans for the rest of the expansion, so stay tuned.

Siory: I’m not really involved much in the management of the brand or its expansions. I know Max is planning to get into Mythic+ more seriously again. Some players have talked about playing some Final Fantasy XIV in the downtime. I personally will be playing a great many non-WoW games until Shadowlands because I don’t like just being constrained to playing WoW exclusively. After the success of this tier and event, however, I’m pretty sure you can do a bit more than pencil us in for the first tier of Shadowlands.

Goop: I wish I could play MDI, but I’m banned for 2 eternities. Yeet

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Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming

VitaminP: What do you see for the future of WoW esports for guilds that are unable to raid the amount of hours that you do? What advice do you have for guilds aspiring to reach into world-first level content or for competitive guilds looking to become esports organizations in WoW?

Lightee: WoW esports are extremely time intensive—if your guild can’t raid 14+ hours a day for 2-3 weeks you probably don’t stand a chance of getting the very first kill. Most guilds segment themselves into different categories and compete within those categories: eg. first 16 hour a week guild, best weekend only raiding guild. In the end it is just a game, the goal is to have fun and victory is achieved by killing the boss regardless of when others might have killed the boss.

Preheat: Well, as a guild that used to only raid nights, I can say that with the right leadership and some hard work you can eventually work your way up to being the best in the world. I would put money that, right now, there is a guild no one really knows about that will break into the top 5 in Shadowlands. So as long as World of Warcraft continues to produce content, new players will come to the game who are better than anyone playing now.

Siory: Unless the nature of raids changes significantly to be something more like Destiny 2 where a raid lasting more than 24 hours is abnormal, I think it’s always going to be a bit of a struggle for guilds that can’t raid as much but have aspirations towards WoW esports or larger brand recognition, at least when it comes to raiding.

They can (and likely will), continue doing as they do, raiding as they can, and taking well-deserved pride in how quickly they kill things on their reduced schedule. However, without any kind of limitation in place or massive structural time, the top of the race will always come down to those guilds able to raid all day every day until the boss dies.

If they’re really looking to build a brand out of that I feel like they’d have to explore other areas of competition like MDI or other types of content creation like community sites, guides and the like. I’m not a media expert, but I can see basic Twitch metrics and, after the race is over between the top guilds, viewership falls off dramatically for those that don’t have some other kind of existing hook to their content.

Photo Credit: Complexity Gaming








About the Author

Vitaminpee mains a Brewmaster and loves to do competitive Mythic+. She is the Social Media Manager for Big Dumb Gaming and is attending Graduate School to pursue her Masters of Business Administration. She is a partnered Twitch streamer and Discord Partner who plays all tanks at max level and loves pushing keys with her friends on both the NA and EU regions. Feel free to message her via Twitter for any business-related inquiries.