The Hyjal / Sunwell Effect


I use PUGs to gauge a lot of player response to content, the new LFG tool has made it that much easier and given me a broader spectrum to poll. A lot of times I’ll bring it up in random banter and ask people what they think of the current content and such. Occasionally I’ll join a PUG raid on my Hunter in an attempt to gear her up outside of the guild’s assistance, but also to see how the pugs are doing on raids and ask questions without “Lodur” around. I’m guessing you’re wondering what this has to do with the “Hyjal / Sunwell” effect, and indeed what is the effect anyways? Well, I’d like to share some recent and past observations with you.

Let me explain to you what the Hyjal / Sunwell effect is.


Back in BC when end game raiding was all the rage, you had Black Temple, Hyjal and then the culmination of all things raiding for that time Sunwell. Hyjal Summit was an interesting raid instance. You sat in one of two camps and waited for trash waves to come to you. After you were done killing the trash waves a boss would spawn and come for you. The zone had 5 bosses. 4 of those bosses could be broken down into tank and spanks after their various tricks were discovered. Aside from the last boss it was a very easy instance and at the very least on my server, the zone up to the Archimonde fight was easily PUGable and there were many many Hyjal PUGs weekly. I know because I used to go to them on my hunter. So we can assume a level of ease at least for the first 4 bosses, with one boss that was a PITA but still killable.

Then came the Sunwell, and everything changed. People ponied up and the PUGs surged forth expecting to roll over some trash and get some trash drops and maybe even down a boss or two along the way. Then they encountered the first pulls, and it was like watching a charging bull hit a steel wall. Giant arcane powered robot wiped the raid in nothing short of what could be called a spectacular explosion of brightly colored bodies. I heard stories of established raiding guilds having to work hard on some of the trash and in some cases still wiping, let alone hitting the bosses. Trash required solid use of CC and careful maneuvering. The bosses were complex and required coordination in order to succeed. I never saw a PUG get past Kalecgos, and the ones I heard got there, only barely beat trash. That is at least how it was on my server. There were PUG / Farming groups that would go and kill trash, then run out and reset and lather rinse repeat in order to farm gems, gold and trash drops, but those groups required a certain level of gear (and they did check) before they would consider you. And that’s just for trash farming! People pissed and moaned that Sunwell was “soooo hard”, my argument was that Hyjal made people complacent.

WoWScrnShot_092309_232622Enter Wrath of the Lich King. The raiding scene in wrath mirrors pretty well that of BC but builds upon it. Naxxramas became our new Kara. Ulduar provided us deep lore and some decent challenges. and then came ToC (25). Trial of the Crusader offered an easy loot system (the tier available for badges alone), an instance with NO trash only bosses, and to be honest fight mechanics that weren’t terribly difficult. While it did require some coordination, I have seen more PUG groups successfully complete it then any other raid instance. The 4 bosses leading up to the final boss are gimmick fights like Hyjal was, with the final boss being a tank and spank get out of the way healers just heal fight. I’m not saying they aren’t fun, and as much as I hate to admit it Faction Champs is a blast watching my raiders run around like chickens with heads lopped off, but it just mirrors Hyjal a little too much as far as it’s placement in raid progression, content and general feel of the zone.

Now in Wrath we have Ice Crown Citadel. It mirrors Sunwell almost perfectly as well, especially with Chill of the Throne being so very similar to Sunwell Radiance. The fights are markedly harder and the trash is capable of killing a raid. The trash pulls require use of CC like priest shackles and paladin fears / stuns as well as requiring careful positioning of the raid. Random triggers cause giants to spawn that can interrupt spell casting and saber lash a tank into nothing in no time. The bosses while not overly complex, still require a certain amount of raid awareness and coordination and use of abilities such as CC to win. Lady Deathwhisper is a pain when not done right and it requires a lot of coordination to get all the components down pat. Saurfang is a beast of a fight currently and while people have beaten him I have yet to find one strategy that doesn’t call for at least two people to be sacrificed. That says something right there. What amuses me the most is the people who were pugging ToC (25) went rushing headlong into ICC (25) and in most cases hit the trash on the first landing and splatted. On my server I can’t find a PUG for ICC (25) on my Hunter, as a matter of fact she has an easier time finding ToGC (25) pugs. And while the argument can be made that the 10 mans are puggable, I say that while I’ve seen some pugs do ICC (10) the players almost always out-geared the 10 man tuned version. I also hear it from some of my raiders. We’ve been having fun with Saurfang. Random things like moonkin’s pushback randomly not working, Tanks dcing, starting the fight and immediately having 8 raiders get Mark of the Fallen champion. These are things that make new instances fun for me.

But IWoWScrnShot_092309_232622 hear the murmurs in the crowd. I have some raiders in my group that think ICC is too hard, I’ve been in pugs with my hunter that people have done nothing but complain about the difficulty of the new fights. This is what I call the Hyjal / Sunwell effect. ToC gave us a certain level of apathy. Sure Heroic Faction Champs is a hell of a fight, but once you get the basic concepts down for it is it really that hard? ToC spoiled us with easy loot and fast content, and as such continued the cycle of Hyjal / Sunwell. The effect is in the disparity between two level of content on such a level that it is noticeable among the general population. So now I hear people complain that Marrowgar hits too hard, or Saurfang is tuned too high. Personally I love it. I love content that makes me think and re-evaluate my raider assignments. I love actually having to go through trash to get to that boss and fight mechanics that while they may not be new are interesting in the way they are combined and presented. I love going through cut scenes and NPC conversation and hearing the lore behind the raid zone and feeling like I’m in epic content. The difficulty will only go up as each wing and each new boss and it’s mechanics are unveiled, and personally I can’t wait. I’m also excited that the vast majority of my raiders feel the same way and not everyone is suffering from the Hyjal/Sunwell effect.

What about you guys? Have you noticed people complaining about the difficulty? Raiders or PUGs? How do you feel about the new content so far?

Until next time,


Images courtesy of Matticus, My own screenshots and mmo-champion

28 thoughts on “The Hyjal / Sunwell Effect”

  1. I do not think that ICC 25 man at least is too hard. Marrowgar is fairly simple fight, Lady D requires some thought and depending on how you do it, some coordination between players. The Gunship is lawlable but still fun. Saurfang is a good fight but if you understand the mechanics of the fight it becomes alot easier to deal with.

    I am not sure why you think strats for Saurfang call for having people die with the mark. We do not employ that as a strat even though I have read that we find it not an issue.

    I think if you are a guild that struggled to get a Heroic Beasts kill or could not get one you will have some difficulty with Saurfang. Its a DPS race combined with a dont get too close to each other combo.

  2. With proper gear and raiding experience both ICC’s fall easily. I don’t thank that pre-nerf Sunwell is a good comparison, maybe Sunwell after the nerf when the middle 50% of raiding guilds suddenly got pushed up over the edge and could proceed through. I know that my guild is looking forward to the rest of the instance being more challenging the loot pinata that was the first wing.

    From the difficulty I would say if your guild was killing normal mode Anub but not able to get the first couple of heroics than the normal mode of this place is a well suited challenge for you. For those that were farming the hard modes it teeters on boring as far as challenging goes.

  3. “The trash pulls require use of CC like priest shackles and paladin fears / stuns as well as requiring careful positioning of the raid.”

    I don’t agree other than the carefull positioning the trash can be more or less AoE’d; we haven’t used CC once on trash.

    ICC is really too easy and if the rumours are true (and I strongly suspect they are after this week’s clear), I’m quite dissapointed they nerfed Marrow after the first week of release.
    .-= Napps´s last blog ..I’m taking my guild and you’re taking my money! (An answer post) =-.

  4. I have to disagree. I’m in a pretty casual guild, we still can’t down faction champs in 25 togc. Yet we went in ICC 25 with nothing but some tankspot vids and cleared it in 2 hours. Only boss we even wiped on was Lady Deathwhisper. Saurafang actually seems to go faster if you ignore most of the mechanics and smash your face against him. We 1 shot it our very first time there. And 10 man gets pugged easily. I did it on all of my alts the first week with the only problem being the gunship wouldn’t dock!

  5. In my opinion, ICC is still too easy, I hope the next wing will pump the difficult up.

    On the first week we were careful with trash and one of our raiders jokingly said “We are being careful now, I bet next week we will just be pulling everything and AoEing”, and that’s exactly what happened more or less, we just make sure not to screw with the traps while clearing trash groups.

    As for the bosses, we had some problems coordinating Lady Deathwisper on the first week, but this week we just finished all four bosses in less then 5 hours.

    That being said, we STILL have problems downing Northrend Beasts on heroic difficult and never made past Faction champions on heroic mode.

  6. What server were you on that could PUG Sunwell bosses?

    We had 2 guilds that cleared the instance pre-nerf. The only thing our pugs ever did was stack mages and farm trash for sunmotes and trash drops. Only members from the top couple of raiding guilds would have ever considered pugging T5 or higher, and only with other members of those guilds. Now, I’m on a much less progressed server and we have 8 guilds that cleared the 4 bosses in ICC the first week, and pugs that have gone in and been very successful within the first weeks of the bosses release.
    Hard modes may be different, but comparing Sunwell to ICC normal mode difficulty is a bit off.

  7. Saurfang is a beast of a fight currently and while people have beaten him I have yet to find one strategy that doesn’t call for at least two people to be sacrificed.

    I don’t think I could disagree more.

    We had a harder time with Ulduar normal when it first came out than we have with ICC. Our first night we one-shot everything save Deathwhisper, and that was only because we didn’t know that the adds came from the stairs as well. We’re a good guild, but we’re not worldbeaters by any means.

    ICC trash does require a bit of thinking, but only a bit. Marrowgar is about as straightforward a fight post vanilla wow gets. Deathwhisper is likely the only real challenge in that a lot of ‘different’ events can happen to disrupt you. The gunship is simple and the biggest challenge is whether or not people miss the boat and fall to their deaths.

    But Saurfang…Saurfang is all about a good strat. Once you use a good strat, the fight becomes essentially a tank & spank. It’s what we use to gauge our melee’s DPS levels, as there’s no movement, no target switching, and no buffs. It’s easier than XT for the most part. We got the achievement for him our first night too without trying anything special.

    The biggest key to the fight is managing the blood beasts and not being stupid and spreading out. That’s it. If your ranged are spread out, blood nova will be trivial. If you lay down traps, use typhoons and other knockback effects and or play ping pong using DKs/hunter shots, it’s very trivial. If you don’t do this, it’s incredibly hard. But who doesn’t do this? Make sure your melee aren’t using AOE (same with tanks), make sure your tanks swap at the right time, and it’s simple.

    A great strategy guide is here:

    Sorry you think it’s akin to sunwell. On my server, pugs are regularly doing ICC10 so far and I think we’ll be doing ICC 25 pugs here soon. I did Sunwell when it came out, and this is nothing close to Sunwell.

  8. What’s really interesting to me is seeing the disparity in comments here, on tankspot, Plusheal, etc. A sizable camp claims it’s too easy; another sizable group says ‘it’s too hard.’ You get some saying that 25 is easier than 10, while others say that 10 is trivial and 25 is hard. What it really seems to come down to is where your group is coming from. My guild is clearing ToC10 normal on a regular basis. Some of us have ToC25 gear from pugging. One or two have ToC heroic gear, but as a guild we haven’t progressed in Grand 10. Not surprisingly we’re having our difficulties with ICC10 (exacerbated by the fact that we had to take a couple of low dps people in last night, so we didn’t do that well).

    Personally I’m relieved to see trash that hits hard and offers some challenge again, though we haven’t used CC on the ICC trash as much as we’ve used it in the new 5 man heroics. I never really liked the idea of the ‘all AoE, all the time’ style of trash that came about with Wrath.
    .-= jeffo´s last blog ..Social Noob: The Story of Mick =-.

  9. @squiggly The sunwell pug I’m referring to never did any bosses. they farmed the first 4 trash pulls, ran out and reset. they would farm it for hours on end to get gems, gold and random drops. The comparison is the difference in level in this case between Hyjal and Sunwell and then from ToC (25) and ICC (25) NOT hard mode / heroic ToGC just plain old regular ToC (25) and ICC (25)

  10. @jeffo the AE everything mentality isn’t really new to wrath. I know many guilds who used to do that in vanilla. They would gear out their tanks and healers and just throw AE at pretty much everything. They still do.

  11. As I understand it, there is a buff that will increase each week, once it is all unlocked, which will make the whole thing easier and more pugable.

    “In the weeks and months after all twelve encounters are unlocked…(extra attempts)”
    ” To further help raids, Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream will begin to provide assistance by inspiring the armies attacking Icecrown Citadel. This is represented as an additional zone wide spell effect applied to all players that will increase their hit points, damage dealt, and healing done. This effect will also increase in effectiveness over time.”

  12. I have to agree with some of the preceding posts–the comparison of ICC release to initial Sunwell release seems a slight bit off. Pulls/bosses in Sunwell required precision that was relatively unmatched up until that point (memories of mind soothe’s gone awry, ugh) and I’m just not seeing that in ICC thus far. If however, your timeline is placed not at initial release and more towards the 3.0 nerf, where more guilds were flowing through BT/MHJ and then into Sunwell, then maybe I could see the comparison.

    I’m firmly in the camp hoping that the bosses increase in difficulty as we get into the other wings. And personally, I’d like to see a Kael-level of difficulty (pre-attunement nerf, please) in our final clash with the Lich. If the dude who’s been taunting me all through my Northrend adventures turns out to be a pansy, it will feel like such an empty victory.
    .-= Vixsin´s last blog ..The One Gem You Never Thought You’d Shelve =-.

  13. I agree with some of the others, if anything ICC is to easy. I’ve cleared both 10 and 25 man both weeks with zero CC and we are not a hardcore guild (never cleared FC on 25 man ToGC). We only let one person die on Saurfang in 25 man, in 10 man we don’t get a single mark. Paying $15 a month doesn’t mean you get to kill Arthas in a pug. It should mean something. No, I’m not saying it should be Sunwell hard because most folks should get to see the majority of the content but there is a middle ground.

  14. Well. I don’t think it’s too easy. My guild finally downed Marrowgar on 25 man, and we are now working through Deathwhisper. I have made it all the way on 10 mans, although Saurfang continues to be a difficult fight for us. I see a lot of people complain that it is too easy, but I think it’s exactly where it needs to be. You will always have people complain that it is too hard, while others complain it is too easy. This is due to the large spectrum of people raiding these days. My guild probably falls in the middle of the spectrum, having gone through 25 TOC and some 10 TOGC, but not 25 TOGC. We have enough people in that we do not need to pug, but are casual in that we do not have the same 25 at all raids. People come and go how their schedule dictates. Anyway, I hope we get to Saurfang in the next couple weeks. I look forward to the fight.

  15. I agree that the Hyjal-Sunwell effect does exist, but I don’t agree it to be as huge as sunwell was.

    In BC I was in a casual-hardcore (somewhere between that), which raided 3-4 times a week for 5 hours. We tried Kalecgos pre-nerf just once, after the nerf we cleared until Kil’jaeden.

    In wrath I’m in a VERY casual 10 man guild, which raids once per week, sometimes 2 days, for 4-5 hours. Some people are not that good. Our progression in ToGC10 was 1/5, in which our kill was VERY lucky.
    In ICC we struggled a little in Marrowgar, wiping for ~ 3 hours then getting a kill. The next week we cleared everything in 2 hours. It was easy.

    Obviously we knew how to kill stuff, but I think that the shift Hyjall -> Sunwell is HUGE compared to TOC -> ICC

  16. I think people are so totally wrong about what a casual is

    If you are raiding in a 25 man guild and you have cleared ToC 25 and a few of the hardmodes YOU ARE NOT A CASUAL GUILD

    Bashen who posted above would be a casual player.

    Right now I only raid twice a week for 6 hours. Clear everthing. I am not a casual gamer.

  17. While I feel that your assessment that people have become complacent is correct, I dont believe that you can begin to compare ICC with Sunwell. I will even concede that ICC is not “easy” although thousands of guilds cleared the instance on the first night, after dealing with the lag and overall instability of servers.

    What it comes down to is that Sunwell took a very, very, very long time for top end guilds to clear in comparison to ICC. I was in a top 100 guild back in Sunwell and it took us nights of wipes to get Kalecgos down and subsequently Brutallus, Felmyst, Twins and Muru, where as now it takes people one to two attempts to kill bosses in ICC. There were probably 200 guilds in the world that got Muru down pre nerf.
    .-= Wrathy´s last blog ..Icecrown Trash Explained =-.

  18. Its nice having trash again, and it does make you wake up and pay attention a little bit, but its not what I would call hard, and certainly not Sunwell hard.

    As for the bosses, in 25 ICC, we didn’t have too much trouble downing the first 3 bosses the first week. We couldn’t get Saurfang down before Tuesday hit, but we were below 20%. That’s probably just a matter of refining the strategy that works for us (our DPS seems to lag behind a bit as well).

    In a 10 man ICC semi-pug, we couldn’t clear Marrowgar, but that was more a factor of our tank being undergeared than the difficulty of the instance. And we still owned the trash even with only 2 healers and an undergeared offtank.

    Yeah. Not Sunwell trash, at least, not yet 😛

  19. While ICC does require some coordination, I don’t think it’s hard at all. And actually, after dealing with the “money shot only, no trash” encounters in ToGC-H, it’s nice being able to physically move through a dungeon and pace things out with trash. We cleared all 4 bosses in ICC-25 on our first evening there, and on our off nights, been clearing it in 10-man as well.

    Heroic 25-man Faction Champs can be tough for us because so many people have never PvP’ed in our guild, but we usually get it after a few tries (and sooner, depending on the make-up of the NPCs).

    Other than the occasional hiccup on the champs, the only wall we’ve been hitting has been heroic 25-man Anub’arak. It’s easy as pie on normal, but we run into RNG, plus it’s so buggy (no pun intended), with Anub retargetting like mad during the burrow phase if its target happens to be on a rock, etc. We’re hoping, with the added gear from ICC-25, that we’ll get to phase 3 *every* time, so the healers get more practice (at this point we get there maybe half the time).

    Given how easy ICC is (in both 25- and 10-man), we suspect that it’ll be REALLY tough in heroic. We can’t wait!

    Oh… and the Gunship Battle? Best. Encounter. Evar. Jetpacks are win! (get a priest to levitate you and you can go faaaaaar!!! Just be careful not to overextend and fall off!). I love everything about that encounter, down to the slight tilt of the ship when it takes off, and the way the enemy’s ship “peels off” by taking a huge turn. Too awesome for words!

  20. Having cleared the entirety of Sunwell pre-3.0, and raided everything (including all currently available heroic modes), save half of Naxx60, C’Thun, Ouro and Viscidus, Sunwell was extremely difficult and nothing currently available in Wrath matches that, yet.

    Naxx80 didn’t come at all close in difficulty to Kara (particularly before Aran was nerfed).

    The heroic version of ToC (ToGC) doesn’t mirror Hyjal’s difficulty (ToGC is a lot more difficult).

    The trash in ICC doesn’t come at all close to the trash in Sunwell.

    The bosses in ICC normal don’t come at all close to Sunwell pre-nerf, so it’s not really a good basis to compare.

    There has been at least one successful ICC25 PUG on my server, so far.

    I agree the jump in difficulty from ToC and ICC normal is rather steep. But if you’ve been doing the heroic versions, it’s really not. And it’s left to be seen how heroic ICC25 stacks up to SWP.
    .-= Lume´s last blog ..3.3: The Fall of the Lich King… So Far =-.

  21. I love ICC, my guild is pretty much of the mindset that blizz gave us ToC to hold us over while they put all their hard work and time in on ICC – and oh man does it look great. We’ve cleared 10man out, no hard modes yet but I’m sure we’ll be going for them before the next set of bosses are available. All we do is 10s so it’s not like we’re outgearing it and waltzing through, it’s tough – and we like it that way.

  22. I find the point trying to be made here is being overlooked.

    What Lodur is trying to say(corect me if I’m wrong) is that the increase in difficulty from 25man ToC(reg) to ICC 25(reg) is very significant, akin to the increase in difficulty from Hyjal to Sunwell. No where is it said that ICC25 is as hard as Sunwell pre-nerf. The comparison is made that 25ICC reg is much harder than 25ToC reg and that this difficulty increase is causing a division amongst players, which is somewhat reminiscent of Hyjal —> Sunwell.

    The argument is, however, different. Currently, players are claiming ICC25 is either too hard, or too easy while for Sunwell, many people called it too hard, whereas others thought the difficulty was just right. And frankly, I disagree with both camps, I think ICC needs its difficulty buffed.

    As it stands, the harder of the 4 fights is between Lady Deathwhisper and Deathbringer Saurfang. Both of these require something ToC25 didn’t(outside HM) and that was raid co-ordination. In ToC25, every player acting as an individual could succed while in ICC25, a group of pure individuals with no raid concern will not likely kill Deathwhisper or DBSaurfang or Gunship battle even.

  23. In my opinion, ICC10 is about on the same level as TOC25 was last patch. Easily puggable depending on the talent you recruit. Most people should be able to get a full clear with a vent server and a good leader. My first night in ICC10 we pugged a bunch of people with a 5k gearscore minimum and read the strats from over vent. We wiped twice on deathwhisper and twice on the boat (because our mage killing team was jumping too early and getting owned by bronzebeard). We got Saurfang down to 15% on the first try when our tank dc’d for the night mid-fight so we decided to call it off.

    I haven’t been able to try ICC25 because my server has a stupid habit where all pugs need to have the achievement and since I am currently unguilded due to my ever-changing schedule I haven’t been able to get it yet. (Side note: our server is seriously crazy about the linking achievement thing, we had people LFG the first week the raid was out asking for the achievement. Part of me wants to believe it was a joke, but the other part knows that it was probably someone who doesn’t know much about the game trying to get an easy pug going)

  24. My guild isn’t remarkably well-geared and yet we cleared the 4 available bosses in ICC 10-man the first week. And my not remarkably well-geared, I mean no one with a gearscore (per the addon) of over 4900 at the time of first kill of Saurfang. I know I was sporting nothing but T9/vendor badge gear…the stuff that everyone who chain-runs heroics now can get.

    Did we wipe a few times? Sure. But we downed the whole place and beat Saurfang with only one person getting the mark (and got the achievement for it). This past week we went in for the second time and one-shot Saurfang, again with only 1 mark.

    Afterwards we assembled a huge force of 12 people and farmed 25-man ICC for rep. With judicial use of CC, the trash is very doable. That said, now that we know that both 10-man and 25-man yields the same rep, we’re going to stick to farming 10-man for rep from now on.

    My point: ICC10 feels like it is tuned just about right. I actually feel bad for people who farmed nice gear from ToGC because they must just stomp the place. And, while I don’t know about the bosses in 25-man, as long as you have 12 competent people in the raid, the trash shouldn’t wipe any group.

  25. I find the difficulty of ICC to be comparable to TotC. It really all depends on your guild. I play in two 25-man guilds. The “serious” guild cleared both TotC and the first gate of ICC in the first week. The “casual” guild took 2 months to clear TotC (got stuck on faction champs until it was nurfed), and is currently stuck on Deathwhisper in ICC. So the difficulty seems comparable.

    If the Hyjal/Sunwell effect took place anywhere in Wrath, I’d say it was between Naxx and Ulduar.


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