Malevica over at Type 'H' for Heals had an interesting post recently of a Wrath Raiding Retrospective. Reading the post got me thinking about raiding over Wrath and some of the highs and lows while raiding and inspired me to write a post on it as well.
I think Ulduar would have to be it, for several reasons. All the lore around it is quite interesting, particularly with the keepers, the old gods, and the related quests around Storm Peaks which lead up to it. The instance itself feels really different from so much around Northrend which is, for the most part, leading you up to ICC and battle with the scourge and the Lich King. Ulduar seems to have real history behind it, there's a sense of age and aloofness that rises above the rest of Azeroth's battle with the scourge and Arthas. The final battles with Yogg-Saron and Algalon in particular give this sense, especially with Algalon, that all of our battles before and still to come pale in comparison with the larger universe, nothing more than petty squablings.
The Algalon fight is amazing - the whole concept is brilliant, the stripping down of basically all that we know to see how this emotionless observer sees our world: See your world through my eyes: A universe so vast as to be immeasurable - incomprehensible even to your greatest minds.
Perhaps it's the philosopher in me, I just love the thoughts it all can provoke and the shift in perspective.
I like the Yogg-Saron fight for similar reasons - the sanity, the shifts in perspectives, driving creatures and races to madness, exerting its influence across Azeroth. At various places in Ulduar and around Northrend you will get whispers from an unknown voice; 'Hope is an illusion', 'All that you know will fade', 'You will be alone in the end'. The fight itself is incredible as well, particularly diving into the memories of the past and breaking through the illusions to strike at his brain. Important turning points in Azeroth's history are seen; the Forging of the Demon Soul, the Assasination of King Llane, and the Tortured Champion.
Madness will consume you!
Most Difficult Encounter
Lich King Heroic would probably be the most difficult encounter in Wrath. It's incredibly long and balanced on a knife edge, which can make it particularly frustrating on progression nights, as the tiniest mistake can completely destroy an attempt. Each phase is never completely sorted either, so it's never a matter of simply repeating phase 1 to get back to progression work in phase 2 or 3, every moment is a battle where every player needs to be performing their best and have high raid awareness. DPS needs to be as good as possible while still avoiding shadow traps and defiles, killing valkyr, killing raging spirits. The tanks need to be constantly managing cooldowns, repositioning the Lich King, surviving the Shambling Horrors. Healers have to manage between covering infest and safeguarding the raid against it with constant top-offs and bubbles, keeping the tanks healed, and keeping up with all the movement. It's a long, intense fight, and easily one of the most difficult out there.
Least Fun Encounter
Anub'arak in ToC may be one of the least fun encounters. I didn't have the joy (or pain) of taking him on in heroic 25 mode, as the guild I was in at the time was not at that level. It was an extremely tense encounter, though, particularly coupled with the heroic attempt countdowns - a single wipe was extremely costly in terms of rewards, and generally Anub'arak was the fight where wipes would come. I was able to take on Anub in heroic ToC 10, and it was certainly a pain then and very close, particularly with just two healers. Regular Anub 25 can be a pain too, mostly for PUGs, which is the more usual method of going to ToC these days, as most guilds which are still raiding are focussed solely on ICC and RS. Even a PUG that's one-shotted the entire instance (even Faction Champs) will suddenly lose the plot completely on Anub. Adds won't be killed or they'll burrow when the tank didn't position them over ice, ice won't even be down because no one is shooting it, people for inexplicable reasons decide to not move when giant painful spikes are bearing down on them, and healers start healing too much in the final phase. The fight itself can actually be quite fun to do when you're with a competent group, but in a PUG, it so often ends up just being painful.
Most Fun Encounter
Thorim in Ulduar can be great fun, particularly if you're in the team that gets to go down the tunnel. It's a fun guantlet, which you have to get through quickly and skillfully to make it to the arena team in time and defeat Thorim. It's even more fun on hardmode, as you have to get through the guantlet quickly enough to force Sif down with Thorim.
A lot of the hardmodes in Ulduar were quite fun because of the ways to trigger them - while it's definitely nice to be able to just turn some on or off as you do currently in ICC and RS, it is quite fun to have to do something to activate it, whether pushing Mimiron's Big Red Button or destroying XT's heart. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, I suppose!
Most Rewarding Boss to Heal
This is a difficult one to pick I think, as it depends on just how you define most rewarding. For sheer numbers, I think two fights stand out in particular in ICC. For all healing classes, but perhaps Resto drudis in particular, Blood Queen Lanathel can be very fun for healers as well as for DPS as both strive to top the meters. The constant raidwide damage, particularly on heroic, means constant heals being pumped out and, consequently, the climb up the meters. The Twins in ToC similarly offer big numbers both for DPS and for Healers, with more DPS-increasing mechanics and raidwide damage. Valithria Dreamwalker can also be a rewarding fight to heal, particularly as its focus is on healing rather than damage. It tends to be a bit more fun for those able to go in the portals which, if the raid can be choosy, will generally get to be pallies and shaman, who can really rock the numbers on her.
In terms of difficulty, I think Sindragosa Heroic, Algalon, and Halion Heroic are some of the most rewarding fights to heal. Sindragosa is quite a fun fight I feel (so long as your raid has decent awareness, anyway), as I quite enjoy the mechanics of it. Unchained Magic can be very frustrating in Heroic since you essentially have to stop healing in phase 2 if you get it, but overall I find it a very rewarding fight to heal. Sindragosa can be tricky as different healers get Unchained Magic or Icetombed. I may have to top up the raid at one point, then suddenly need to go help heal the tank the next moment. I really enjoy the flexibility there.
Algalon, especially before overgearing it immensely (though it can still be difficult even when overgeared for it), can be a difficult and rewarding fight to heal as well. There's a variety of damage, from raidwide damage from Cosmic Smash to fast, heavy hits on the tank.
Halion Heroic can also be incredibly rewarding when the whole fight comes together. There's a lot of damage both to the raid and especially to the tanks and, especially when healing the Twilight Realm, there's a very delicate balance between healing the raid, healing the tank, and healing the consumption debuff target. Combine that with all of the movement to avoid cutters and voidzones, it makes for a difficult fight, but a great one when it all goes well!
I think our Halion 25 Heroic kill may be one of my proudest moments. It was a brilliant moment after weeks and weeks of hard work, numerous wipes, strategy adjustments, and simply hours of going in again and again to try to kill him. From both a personal level of working like crazy to heal it well and to ensure I didn't make any mistakes, like avoiding cutter deaths, to the guild-level of working with 24 other people to bring him down, it was a great moment when he was finally slain.
I'm also quite happy to have gotten my little druid to where he is today. I still remember my first forays into healing and the trepidation I felt healing my first heroic dungeon and, even further back, fleeing from troggs in Dun Morogh where I went to quest because I was familiar with the area after starting my hunter there. It's been a long, interesting and fun journey!