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King Atzel and his cronies

May 4, 2013 9 comments

Atzel’s Fortress is a 6-player dungeon in Cimmeria, containing about a dozen bosses, including Atzel himself. The bosses are connected by an interesting mechanic that is not often found in Age of Conan: Atzel himself gets buffed by the presence of some of the other bosses in the dungeon, and you can therefore weaken him by killing those other bosses first.

This general idea is well known nowadays, and pretty much everyone who goes to Atzel’s Fortress kills all the other bosses first (except possibly Rorik) and leaves Atzel for the end. But the details of this mechanic aren’t widely known; in fact, a number of misconceptions float around concerning them, e.g. that you have to kill all the other bosses first, or even all the ‘named mobs’, i.e. trashmobs with non-generic names (such as Strabus the Advisor, Proxo the Physician etc.). This last idea is particularly bizarre when you consider that very few groups kill e.g. Raze the Medic (unless they accidentally pull him while looking for Talon in the sleeping quarters on the ground floor), let alone Chef Ravenkiss (many people don’t even know he exists*).

[* Which is a pity since he’s one of the funnier mobs in the game. How can you not love an NPC with casts named “A Pinch of Salt” (which doesn’t seem to actually do anything, at least not anything that would end up in the combat log update: see Caudilloo’s comment below — if you are below 41% HP, A Pinch of Salt gives you a debuff of the same name: -40% evade chance, +50% hinder movement for 15 sec), “Bowl of Hot Soup” (fire damage) and “Buffet o’ Pain” (poison dot)? :P]

And these misconceptions aren’t necessarily new; you can already find ideas along those lines in some very old forum posts from just a few weeks after release (1, 2). I suspect some of the claims there are simply over-hasty generalization and over-confident speculation; or perhaps some of that was actually true back then but has been changed in some of the subsequent patches.

Anyway, I decided I’d investigate this in a bit more detail, and organized a few Atzel’s Fortress runs in which we were killing various bosses one by one and pulling Atzel in between to find out if and how he changed.

Adds from Lieutenant Ulf

Most players are only familiar with the Atzel fight the way it is after you’ve killed most (or all) of the other bosses; I’ll refer to this as the normal version of the encounter. Now, if you fight your way directly to Atzel’s throne room and pull him, without having killed any other bosses first, probably the most obvious difference you’ll notice in comparison with the normal version of the fight is that Atzel will spawn a pair of adds (Nithing Bodyguards) every 30 seconds.

It turns out that this is caused by Lieutenant Ulf (the boss on the topmost floor of the dungeon) being alive. As soon as you kill Ulf, the adds will no longer be spawning, regardless of what other bosses are alive. In one run we killed Tainmic, Talon, Amunhoten, the Widow, Suth, and the adds were still spawning in the Atzel fight; then we also killed Ulf and the adds stopped spawning. In another run we just killed Ulf without any other bosses, and the adds stopped spawning as well.

Incidentally, after we killed Tainmic, Talon and Amunhoten (but not yet Ulf or any other boss), I had the impression that the adds started spawning every 32–33 seconds instead of every 30 seconds. But it’s hard to be sure about this sort of timings.

Evasion from Amunhoten

Now, suppose you got rid of Ulf and therefore of the annoying add waves, so that you can actually fight Atzel instead of just desperately kiting the adds. Perhaps the next thing you’ll notice is how unusually often he parries your attacks, even if you have a decent amount of hit rating — at 15% hit bonus chance, you might be set for most high-end raid encounters, but a buffed Atzel will parry you like a madman 😛

It turns out that this evasion buff comes from Amunhoten being alive. As soon as you kill him, Atzel stops parrying. Similar to the Ulf buff above, killing other bosses didn’t have any effect on Atzel’s parrying.

Arrows and shield from Osithmes

While fighting the buffed Atzel, you might notice a strange ability that you don’t see in a normal Atzel fight: a bunch of arrows lands on the ground around you; in the combat log this appears as an AoE attack called Atzel’s Arrow. Admittedly, it doesn’t hit hard, compared to his other attacks; if it wasn’t for the animation, you might not even notice it.

But now that you’re looking at the combat log, you can notice another curious ability: he has a retributive damage shield. Each time you hit him (melee attacks as well as spells), he hits you back with 137 shield damage. Fortunately, a combo finisher seems to trigger just one tick of retributive damage, even if the finisher consists of multiple hits.

By killing bosses one by one, you can find out that these two abilities exist until you kill Osithmes, then they both go away. This is one of the least significant buffs in the whole Atzel encounter; in my experience, the arrows and the shield account for barely 10% of the total damage done by Atzel. This probably explains why, in the early days when Osithmes was very hard to kill, people would sometimes skip him and still be able to kill Atzel just fine in the end.

Damage buff from Menhotep

You might also notice that the buffed Atzel hits kind of hard; even with a well-geared tank and a well-geared healer (and by well-geared we mean ridiculously overgeared for what is after all meant to be one of the easiest level 80 group dungeons :P), you might have to resort to kiting him. I was looking at the damage done by Atzel’s various abilities as we were killing more and more of the other bosses, and none of it seemed to affect Atzel’s damage output — until we killed Menhotep. Then his damage went down by around 55%, making him extremely easy to tank. You can see this change very dramatically in the charts below.

In practice one usually kills Menhotep and Awar together in the same fight; but during the testing here, we deliberately killed just Menhotep and let Awar reset, and it turned out that this was already enough to remove Atzel’s damage buff. We haven’t tried if killing Awar without Menhotep would have the same efffect.

Other bosses and other abilities

As far as I can tell, the other bosses (Brokk, Tainmic, Talon, the Widow, Suth, and Rorik) have no effect whatsoever on Atzel, and neither do the named trash mobs. His other abilities remain unchanged no matter how many of those other mobs we kill, as does his damage output. The amount of damage he takes from players doesn’t seem to change either, i.e. killing other bosses does not affect his mitigation, nor does it affect his overall HP (he always has around 238k hit points).

Incidentally, the remaining abilities used by Atzel seem to be the following:

  • Rend, Beat of War: typical abilities of conq-style mobs: a sizable hit of slashing damage, followed by a bleeding effect (a slashing dot). But the dots are quite weak.
  • Crush: despite the name, this is actually a hit of slashing damage :P, without a dot afterwards.
  • Defiant Strike: a particularly big hit of slashing damage. It feels as if this one was particularly likely to be followed by a knockback, but it might be just confirmation bias.
  • Knockback: a long-distance AoE knockback, followed by some sort of aggro reset. You don’t see anything related to the knockback in your combat log or on the cast bar. I’m not sure what exactly triggers it, if anything; in one of the fights the KB was coming pretty regularly every 20 or so seconds. I’m also not sure how exactly the aggro behavior works, but at times it felt as if he swapped the top two people on his aggro list, similar to the adds in the Sodabeh fight in Ardashir Fort.
  • Lifetap: judging by the combat log, this gives him 33% health tap for about 25 seconds. You don’t see it on his cast bar, but it appears in the combat log; he seems to cast it a random intervals, usually around 10–40 seconds apart. One doesn’t usually notice this healing during the fight: if you’re there with a full group and his damage isn’t buffed (i.e. you killed Awar and Menhotep), the amount of healing from this tap will be negligible compared to your group’s DPS on him.
  • Stamina Drain: he puts this debuff on the aggro holder; according to the tooltip it drains 10% of your stamina at start and then another 5% every 2 sec, for 8 seconds. He does this fairly often; the tooltip says the recast time is 30 sec but IME he often recasts it much sooner.

Charts

The following chart illustrates how Atzel changed as we killed more and more bosses in one of the Fortress runs. You can see how he stops parrying (green dots on the chart) after we killed Amunhoten; how he loses his retributive shield (red dots) after we killed Osithmes; how his damage done (white hits are shown by blue dots, and his Defiant Strike is shown by orange dots) remains basically unchanged until we kill Awar and Menhotep, at which point it drops dramatically (the occasional outliers before that are due to Cunning Deflection and Stall the Advance). You can also see that the damage taken by Atzel (from my guardian’s white hits; represented by pink dots) remains basically unchanged no matter how many bosses we kill.


(Click to enlarge.)

And next we have another similar chart from a different run. This time we killed Amunhoten, Osithmes and Ulf right away, thereby depriving Atzel of all his buffs except the damage buff. Then we killed just Menhotep, but not Awar; as we can see from the chart, this was already enough to remove Atzel’s damage buff. After that, we killed Awar, then all the remaining bosses, and finally all the named trashmobs, but as you can see from the chart, there were no further changes in Atzel’s DPS or mitigation or indeed in any other aspect of the fight.


(Click to enlarge.)

Many thanks to Blas, Schu, Thaan, and Mel for joining me on experimental Atzel’s Fortress runs on which this post is based!

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Two more House of Crom armor sets

May 3, 2013 4 comments

I thought I was done farming the House of Crom armor sets after my previous post with screenshots of some of them. However, recently I decided I’d dust off my HoX (which had lain in virtual retirement since mid-2009 or so) and do the Khitai grind and rare farming with it, and in the process I ended up picking up most parts of the Bedlam set that drop in the Vile Nativity. I then noticed that that Bedlam is easier to farm than most other House of Crom sets, since none of its parts drop from bosses that people usually avoid, such as Shryke or the Arcanist. So it didn’t require too much trouble to finish it and post a screenshot. I also ended up collecting the Excavator set on my necro, since it all drops from Olik and Narvi and thus doesn’t require any special effort to farm, you just pick them up along the way during various House of Crom runs. So here are screenshots of these two sets, though I also appended them to my earlier post.

Bedlam

Most classes can choose between two sets in the House of Crom, but HoXes get only one. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky — in Ardashir Fort/Arena there is no HoX armor at all.

Bedlam is a fairly aggressive set, lacking constitution but with a decent amount of magic damage (463 magic damage; for comparison, the Brittle Blade purple set has 581 and the T3 raid set has 416) and critical rating (178 crit rating; the BB purple set has 205).


I’m intrigued by the style of this armor, which seems to cast the HoX as some sort of feathered savage witch-doctor — not something that is typically suggested by other HoX sets in the game. I might actually end up wearing it as vanity gear on my HoX.

Excavator

This is a social set and can thus be equipped by all classes. Unlike other sets, it drops from only two different bosses: the helmet, wrists, hands and shoulders drop from Overseer Olik in the Vile Nativity; the belt, boots, chest and legs drop from Rune-Caster Narvi in the Threshold of Divinity.


It’s a nice looking set, but in hindsight, collecting it on my necro may have been a mistake. It has such a clearly northern look (somewhat similar to what the Vanir in Conall’s Valley and the Field of the Dead are wearing, and unsurprisingly since it’s named after the (Vanir) excavators in the House of Crom I guess) that it can’t help feeling kind of incongruous on a Stygian character. I suspect it would fit a Cimmerian barbarian better :}

Categories: Age of Conan, Vanity Gear