Hear me now, believe me later… 4/7N 2/10N

Sunday was a good raid night, despite only having 9 geared guildies online.

We hit up Gruul and downed him after one wipe (which I put down as a free pass as it was the OT’s first week tanking BRF) and then spent a good time pumping up on Hans and Franz. Both times we had a PUG hunter with us who reminded me that there are decent PUG players who don’t make crude comments and curse. He might have been so polite because he won 2 items on rolls however…

Not going to lie, I love the Hans and Franz encounter. Complete with an excuse to do ridiculous SNL impersonations the arena is cool, the mechanics were fun and the fight had a nice learning curve to it.

We finished off the night with an abortive Highmaul Heroic attempt and then squished Kargath and Butcher on Normal to open up the rest of the bosses for Tuesday raid night. I got to deeps for the first time ever (yay) but since I got stuck managing stacks (boo) I didn’t hit the numbers I should have done (QQ).

Encounters

[full disclaimer: I did not raid pre SoO. This is mainly an attempt to make sense of peoples opinions and memories]

I get a lot of people tell me that raiding is easier now; that bosses are easier and that classes are easier to play. This feels odd in many ways and leaves me with at best questions, and at worst, a bad taste because that sometimes  feels like it detracts from what I’ve actually done.

But the thing is, I also read articles and watch videos of people who have been playing for a long while that say the opposite: Raiding isn’t easier – mechanics are more demanding, more varied and require more individual responsibility.

So here is how I see it right now:

Raiding hasn’t got easier; but where the difficulty lies has fundamentally changed

By explanation let’s examine tanking and threat:

The good old days Today
  •  Tanking rotations are primarily concerned with generating threat
  • DPS and healers have to manage their output to not pull threat from the tank
  • Mechanics involving tank switching revolve around managing threat.
  • Healing for the tank comes almost exclusively from healers and occasionally personal cooldowns
  •  Tanking rotations are primarily concerned with personal mitigation and damage output
  • DPS and healers will never pull threat from a tank
  • Mechanics involving tank switching generally involve debuffs and personal mitigation
  • Healing for the tank comes from a mix of personal mitigation, cooldowns and external healing

If people disagree with that assessment I’m happy to retract, but that’s the difference I felt between what people were telling me about tanking when I was learning (from folks who tanked TBC and WoTLK) and what my experience ended up as.

So what does that mean for encounter design? I think it means that because ‘rotations’ are easier – and I think they are easier now in WoD than in MoP; less abilities and more obvious priorities – then the way to make encounters more challenging is to add boss abilities that require players to do more. I’ve heard several people talk about the lack of a ‘Patchwerk’ boss this expansion. Even butcher has abilities to manage and other things going on. There’s no simple gear check.

As our raid lead said last night; the curve starts much higher now, but doesn’t get as high at the end of the tier/expansion

And I guess that’s ok, but if people would stop telling me everything is way easier now that’d be nice. Because While I agree that more abilities makes thing harder at the start of a raid zone, is the end that much easier? Garrosh was a tough boss – were Kael’thas, or Vashj really that much harder?

That’s probably enough QQing for now. I might come back to this when I have more coherent thoughts.

Proving Grounds Silver

It’s a double edged sword for sure. I mean, I get the idea behind it; here’s a solo scenario that shows you can complete basic tasks that you might be asked to do in a Heroic Dungeon. But the tasks you’re asked to do, for me, don’t always match up with what goes on. I picked an example from each of something you are asked to do (or not asked to do) that make me feel like I’m playing a different game just to play the game I want to.

Tanking Silver

The fact that I need to tank a mob in something that hurts us both if we are in it seems alien – and I’ve yet to find an ability in a dungeon or raid that has asked me to do that. The fact that the NPC puts out poor healing and only mediocre damage leaves me feeling like this is less about whether I can hold aggro, use my mitigation and move correctly and more about whether I can carry a group that isn’t doing its job properly.

DPS Silver

Totally imbalanced for class for a start; this was orders of magnitude more difficult on my shadow priest than on the paladin. But more importantly the damn thing never once asked me to move, and never did anything damaging. How often do DPS players die in fire under their feet because they didn’t notice? Yet this simple to add function isn’t present in the challenge, only a simple positioning puzzle that once you solve, makes the fight trivial. Once I was in the right location, I never had to move, I was never targeted by a relevant ability and I never had to use a personal cooldown to survive unavoidable damage. This is completely different to a dungeon or raid environment and still leaves me running heroics with DPS who don’t pay attention and stand (and die) in the fire.

Healing Silver

Of all the proving grounds this felt the closest to a real fight. The tank took steady damage and there was raid damage to heal through. Dispels are needed and if you don’t plan, you can go OOM. It was also the challenge I found the easiest precisely because of this; It was like healing a bad PUG, complete with tanks whining and DPS standing in the fire. However it felt once again like the challenge was about carrying incompetent players.

Future versions

For me the idea of a skill test before running heroics is a great plan; but the challenge should reflect the dungeons more. People should be expected to move out of void zones in all the challenges, not just the Tank and Healer. The tasks should be balanced more for classes and think about including similar mechanics to actual fights.