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Dragon Soul Difficulty

Posted by Malevica on December - 7 - 2011

The current hot topic amongst the raiding blogo- and twitterspheres is the question of the tuning of the new Dragon Soul raid instance: far too easy and not enough to keep us going for potential 8 months? Tuned about right, when you consider it as a difficulty curve and realise that Firelands was rather flat compared to a strong curve in Dragon Soul. I also commented that I thought the raid was undertuned, but I think I may have been a little hasty in that assessment.

Some Data

<Abraxas> cleared Dragon Soul on Normal this week, taking a total of 20 pulls for the first 6 bosses and then 33 pulls on the last two together, although quite a few of those were on the Spine where we were 9-manning for practice because we had too many people LD that evening. For a better sample (albeit still small), I’ve taken the top 5 guilds on my server and averaged their pulls to kill for each boss for which data were available; it’s not very scientific, but it’s interesting:

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man

First Week Pulls to Kill for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data gathered from World of Logs for the top 5 guilds on Dath'Remar-US

Caution is due here because there may have been server issues affecting guilds on later bosses, or experimentation with tactics, or less information available from the PTR, but this does suggest that there was a pretty strong increase in the difficulty throughout the raid, for whatever reason, lining up with what Rohan observed over at Blessing of Kings.

For additional data, we turn to WoL again, tracking the kills-to-total-pulls ratios for the bosses, again on 10-man normal for comparison:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Dragon Soul 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Madness of Deathwing has no kill detection so it doesn’t appear, and Spine seemed to have dodgy kill detection earlier in the week so take that figure with a pinch of salt.

With the exception of Zon’ozz who seems to be causing raids a great deal of difficulty, once again you can see a curve there. Morchok is a pushover, but then there’s a good ramping up of difficulty between Yorsahj, Hagara and Ultraxion.

Both of these data sources point to a strongly-graded difficulty curve. Compare that to Firelands:

Success Percentage (Kills/Wipes) for Normal Firelands 10-man - Data from World of Logs for all uploaded reports

Again, a note of caution. Dragon Soul is a snapshot of week 1, whereas the Firelands graph includes the effects of nerfs which I’d expect to have flattened the curve somewhat, but again it’s suggestive of a difference.

So Is Dragon Soul Actually Too Easy?

Initially I thought it was. We’re a very strong but not elite guild and we’ve cleared 8/8 bosses in the first week. And we’re far from alone: on Dath’Remar, hardly a hotbed of hardcore raiding, 7 guilds went 8/8 in Week 1, and a further 8 are 7/8.

However, the situation we’re in is atypical. Guilds like ours, high-ranked but not the cutting edge, benefited from the Firelands nerfs to gain a gear advantage that wouldn’t have been available to us in previous tiers, so Dragon Soul normal probably should feel easy to us. It’s meant to be done in ilvl378 gear, not ~ilvl388 like many of us have, and it absolutely has to be designed that way. By the time we came to the Madness of Deathwing we were very close to the Cataclysm and Berserk timers on several occasions, so a starting position closer to ilvl378 should indeed mean a few weeks of farming would be needed to meet the checks of the later encounters.

In short, I think all is as it should be with the raid, the trouble is more a consequence of the previous tier, and perhaps premature reactions to first nights from surprised raiders like myself incorrectly assuming the whole place is at the same level.

The trouble though, with guilds like us being in this position, is that we’ve lost something important in the raid lifecycle: the “inevitable kill” phase.

Working through normal modes, for a guild like us, is supposed to be something that takes a bit of time while we learn the fight, but which we always know we’re intended to kill. It’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring, and the successes help to lift our spirits and build some momentum. Now, instead, what we have to look forward to are heroic modes which are a far from a certain prospect. We didn’t kill heroic Ragnaros; most of us didn’t make much progress in heroic Tier 11 let alone kill Sinestra; heroic Lich King (even with the 30% buff) evaded many. So every kill from now until MoP is likely to be a long, hard grind, and some kills we may not even get.

You’ll forgive me for feeling a little cheated.

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Categories: Featured, Opinion

Heroic Firelands

Posted by Malevica on October - 8 - 2011

Assuming you’ve not been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that just under three weeks ago the Firelands was hit with some pretty chunky nerfs, with 15% and 25% decreases in damage and health combined with reductions in the danger of some of the trickier mechanics (Alysrazor’s Tornadoes, for example).

My Context

How you feel about the nerfs is going to depend very strongly on your situation, so before I go and give my opinion I’ll explain where I’m coming from.

My guild had been pushing pretty hard, since forming up at the beginning of September, to work our way through the content and we were starting on Ragnaros when the announcement was made that we’d have a final week to down him “properly” before the nerfs arrived. We duly took him down on the Sunday night, and I have to tell you it was a big relief to all of us. You could feel the pressure on the raid to get it done and get it done quickly, before it wouldn’t feel like something to be proud of any more.

In the 8 raid nights we’ve had since the nerfs we’ve gone from 0/7 to 6/7 heroic bosses killed. Majordomo took a meagre 5 attempts, Baleroc took two. The rest took around a dozen pulls each to get down. Whew!

Now, and this is important, let me not take anything away from the team here. I’m not saying this isn’t an achievement to be proud of, because these fights aren’t (generally) a walkover and there have been some strong performances, some extremely quick learning, and good teamwork on show. And there are plenty of teams that haven’t progressed this much even post-nerf, we’ve leap-frogged several on our server. So I’ll say a huge congratulations to everyone involved.


My Sense of Achievement

When I’ve thought in the past about what makes a kill worthwhile for me, and therefore what makes me really value my achievements while raiding, I always put it down to the feeling of progressively learning to overcome a challenge, where that learning might be personal or collective.
For example, maybe I learned how to squeeze out a bit more healing to get the raid through a healing-intense period, or the healing team nailed our cooldown usage, or the raid’s positioning was spot on and no one got hit by the bad, or perhaps we finally beat that pesky enrage timer. Whatever the trick might have been, we started off not able to beat the boss, and ended up in triumph.

That could obviously account for being underwhelmed by heroic Baleroc who was more or less a push-over, but we spent a dozen or more attempts downing Shannox, Beth’tilac and Alysrazor and there was undoubtedly some progression involved there. So there must be something else that contributes to my sense of achievement that’s not been stimulated by the more recent boss kills.

Well, I’ve done some thinking, and I’ve come up with two prime candidates:

My Elitism

I’ll say it, I’m an elitist. I’ll also explain what I mean by that: I’m okay with the idea of content that’s graded and graded such that most people won’t see everything (myself included). People find their level and raid the content that works for them.

Myself, I want to be able to look at my raid achievements pane, or my titles, or WoWProgress and compare myself (or my guild) to others. I’ll be honest and say that I enjoy seeing which progression percentile I’m in, and how many people haven’t managed to see and do what I’ve seen and done. It makes me feel good, and I doubt I’m alone in that.

That “elitism” is a strong driver for me to put the time and effort into raiding, both inside and outside the game, even when it’s hard work. But when I look at WoWProgress and see an extremely flat field, with 10 guilds currently at 6/7 heroic and probably more to join us shortly, that ability to rank myself is diminished and with it some of my sense of accomplishment. By contrast, before the nerfs the half-dozen or so guilds raiding heroic content were pretty well spread out between 1/7 and 6/7.

We have been jumping up the rankings this last fortnight as we took down bosses so I have enjoyed a little of that feeling, but very quickly we’ve found ourselves just one of the pack again.

Which leads me on to the other factor:

My Pacing

This is the big one, I think: time.

I’m talking about the time it takes to down a new boss. It’s so quick that there’s just no real need for the poring over of logs or the researching of strategies or the discussion on guild forums. And I enjoy all that stuff!

I’m also talking about the time it takes us to acquire new gear and progress our characters. Like it or not WoW is a loot- and gear-centred game, but the speed at which we’ve taken down new bosses means we’ve had no sense of that progression. Whatever gear we started heroics with would probably have been enough, it’s just about getting the hang of the execution.
What I realise is that I actually enjoy seeing bosses get noticeably easier as we gear up, but I find that that once a boss is sufficiently easy to defeat the gear ceases to make much of a difference to the challenge, and so that point of reference is lost to me.

And I’m talking about the time we get to actually enjoy a new kill. It’s nice to get a new boss down and then enjoy basking in that feeling for a few days. Getting another new boss down an hour later has robbed me of the pleasure of savouring the first kill for more than that hour.

And finally I’m talking about the simple fact that time translates to effort, and that the more effort we put into something, the better we feel when it’s successfully completed. Simple, but true nonetheless.

My Conclusion

As I said right at the start, this is all a matter of perspective. I’m an individual, with a particular set of values and motivations. I’m also in a particular guild with a particular average skill level and particular progression.

For me in the position I’m in now, the nerfs sucked. Having worked our way through the not-especially-challenging normal-mode bosses, we were just about to deal with Ragnaros so we could start really testing our mettle against the heroic modes. What actually happened was that those promised heroic modes provided little challenge, so instead of a series of challenges we’re effectively left with just one, heroic Ragnaros. Maybe this is how Paragon feel every patch?

On the other hand, there is now a good spread of guilds between 5/7 heroic and 7/7 normal, so for those guilds the nerfs might well have been pretty sweet. And amongst the teams who were struggling with some of the normal modes, there might well be some happy faces there too as they can move beyond the two or three bosses and see some new content. I don’t know though, I’m not them.

Perhaps the Raid Finder will solve this problem. Move the “everyone should get to see the end boss, at least in some form” into the LFR mode, and you effectively have a third difficulty level to play with: Heroics for the Royalty and Aristocracy to complete or work through respectively, normals for the Gentry and Bourgeoisie to complete or work through respectively, and LFR for those without the time, skills or structure (and I’m not saying those are linked in any way) to handle the medium difficulty level. And alts. Lots of alts.

Or, and this is far more likely, it’ll just mean the problematic cases are moved to somewhere else on the spectrum, and they can moan about the state of the raiding game instead!

Also, I’ve been watching way too much Scrubs 😉

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Categories: Opinion

Cataclysm Raid Refinements

Posted by Malevica on April - 27 - 2010

Ah, Blizzard. Just when I’m beginning to despair of my ability to actually complete any of the half-dozen posts sitting in my drafts folder, they drop a magical gift-wrapped present into my lap.

This post isn’t all about healing per se, but I’ll add some healing commentary along the way. As a raider, the recent announced changes to raid progression are of huge interest to me, so I wanted to formulate, record and share my thoughts at this stage.

The Announcement – Annotated

The first of the refinements being made is that we’re combining all raid sizes and difficulties into a single lockout. Unlike today, 10- and 25-player modes of a single raid will share the same lockout. You can defeat each raid boss once per week per character. In other words, if you wanted to do both a 10- and 25-person raid in a single week, you’d need to do so on two different characters. Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel. Obviously the raid lockout change doesn’t apply in pure Icecrown terms though, as this change goes hand-in-hand with a few other changes to raid progression in Cataclysm.
We’re designing and balancing raids so that the difficulty between 10- and 25-player versions of each difficulty will be as close as possible to each other as we can achieve.

In essence you get a single lockout per raid per character. 25-player raiders will no longer need, nor will they be able, to also raid the 10-man version on their mains. To support this Blizzard will aim to balance 10- and 25-player content to have equivalent difficulty to each other, rather than the current model where 10-player is designed to be easier.

My first reaction? I love the change, I’m excited almost beyond words (only almost!).

I raid for the challenge, for the teamwork, and for the sense of achievement. 25-man raiding is currently the only place to find the most difficult challenges and it’s where the prestige is located, both in the form of the signature items and the achievements. But I much prefer the sense of teamwork that comes out of a 10-man raid. If this change truly delivers and provides the same challenge in 10-man, and the same achievements (look at the “Kingslayer” title for an example of this in action, it’s the same for 10s as 25s), then it removes a large chunk of the advantage to 25-man raiding from my perspective.

But wait, there’s more!

That closeness in difficulty also means that we’ll have bosses dropping the same items in 10- and 25-player raids of each difficulty. They’ll have the same name and same stats; they are in fact the exact same items. Choosing Heroic mode will drop a scaled-up version of those items. Our hope is that players will be able to associate bosses with their loot tables and even associate specific artwork with specific item names to a far greater extent than today.

Dungeon Difficulty and Rewards
10- and 25-player (normal difficulty) — Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop the exact same items as each other.
10- and 25-player (Heroic difficulty) — Very similar to one another in difficulty; drop more powerful versions of the normal-difficulty items.

We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people, so while the loot quality will not change, 25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you’re able to gather the people. The raid designers are designing encounters with these changes in mind, and the class designers are making class changes to help make 10-person groups easier to build. Running 25-player raids will be a bit more lucrative, as should be expected, but if for a week or two you need to do 10s because half the guild is away on vacation, you can do that and not suffer a dramatic loss to your ability to get the items you want.

There will just be raid achievements, not 10- vs. 25-player versions in most cases. The achievement won’t care if you complete it in 10s or 25s. If we do meta-achievement mounts, it’s possible we’d still have different colors of mounts, or maybe even different mounts; but for some players that might mean that 25s feels mandatory again, which would be a potential problem.

Way back when WotLK information was being drip-fed to the community and the parallel 10-man and 25-man progression paths were being described Blizzard were very clear that they wanted to compensate 25-man raiders for the added complexity of the organisation, and they did this by keeping 25-man raiding a tier above 10-man raiding in terms of difficulty (arguably), gear rewards and badges and by providing separate achievements for each mode. One expansion later, with the 25-player only days a more distant memory, 10-player raiding is a lot more accepted in the community and so the next small step is being taken towards truly equivalent paths.

Now both instances are of equivalent difficulty they can drop the same loot and grant the same achievements. I’m totally fine with 25-man raiders getting some advantage. Organising 25-man raids is harder, and there’s a fair amount more patience required to stay in 25-man raiding long-term, so I don’t mind if they get geared up a bit quicker. We’ll all get the same badges and the same items. In fact, since 10-man teams will probably work together better and have a better shot at taking down content early, 25-player raids might actually need the gear head-start to keep up. It’ll be interesting to watch the ranking sites in the early days.

It’s also nice to see there’ll be further “class changes” with 10-player raiding in mind, which most likely refers to a bit more spreading of Replenishment, Bloodlust and other key buffs.

We recognize that very long raids can be a barrier for some players, but we also want to provide enough encounters for the experience to feel epic. For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid. All of these bosses would drop the same item level gear, but the dungeons themselves being different environments will provide some variety in location and visual style, as well as separate raid lockouts. Think of how you could raid Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep separately, but you might still want to hit both every week.

This is interesting, and shows that they’ve thought quite deeply about this. I think this is a positive change, as long as they don’t go quite as far as Obsidian Sanctum and Eye of Eternity too often.

Looking back, Naxxramas combined with EoE and OS was a strange mix: a 15-boss raid along with two single-boss raids. The trouble with this model in Cataclysm is that you only get once chance to do the content per week; in WotLK if your Naxx-25 PuG had broken up after a wing or two you’d be able to go back on 10-man to at least see the content. In Cataclysm you’d be locked out of raiding for the week.

I’m generally slightly in favour of reigning back the ease of PuGging, insofar as it serves to seriously undermine the concept of a guild, but a change to an even-split multi-instance model is good for the whole game. I don’t want to punish PuGs, just increase the incentive to stick with a guild run.

This also should keep the raids more interesting. I didn’t hate To(G)C as much as some people seemed to, but it did get a bit repetitive fighting the same five battles week after week. Icecrown’s environments are fairly varied, ranging from the cave-like at the beginning to the three main wings, the openness of Deathbringer’s Rise and Sindragosa’s Lair, and of course the Gunship battle, but it’s not the same as being able to swap between Ulduar and Icecrown in a week.

We do like how gating bosses over time allows the community to focus on individual encounters instead of just racing to the end boss, so we’re likely to keep that design moving forward. We don’t plan to impose attempt limitations again though, except maybe in cases of rare optional bosses (like Algalon). Heroic mode may not be open from day one, but will become available after defeating normal mode perhaps as little as once or twice.

I’m pretty neutral on the limited attempts thing. It’s annoying to lose one because someone goes LD, or because the boss decides that a crucial player needs a double dose of Malleable Goo at the same time as the Volatile Ooze decides to single them out, but I’m also strongly in favour of mechanics which encourage people to take a wipe seriously.
I’m a verbal type of learner: I can picture an encounter and plan my approach in advance based on ability descriptions (which is why I tend to prepare my guild’s raid strategies. It was bordering on soul-destroying at times watching people frittering away our attempts by needing not only to see a mechanic but to fail to respond to it before they figured it out.

That said, I don’t mind gating either. Especially since they have said they won’t necessarily require the whole instance to be cleared before you can start on heroic modes. The heroic mode has been a bit of a slippery beast in WotLK when it comes to defining it. Naxxramas didn’t have heroic modes at all; you did things the “hard way” by ticking off achievements, things like speedkills, doing Sapphiron without frost resistance, by pulling extra adds on Kel’Thuzad. Ulduar shifted things slightly by allowing you to change some of the bosses in some way, typically by adding abilities to the fight. Then To(G)C and Icecrown came with fully-fledged heroic modes.

The intention Blizzard seem to be signalling is that normal mode is for most guilds, for PuGs, or if you want or need to pass by a boss more easily to get to the end of an instance; heroic modes are for the top X% of guilds who find normal mode lacking in challenge . I really like the Ulduar/Icecrown model, where difficulty is switchable on a boss-by-boss basis.
Allowing guilds to make the switch earlier, perhaps once you’ve completed a wing, perhaps once you’ve downed a boss, means that those guilds who really ought to be fighting heroic bosses can go straight there without spending weeks farming the normal mode. Our guild spent several weeks working on the Lich King, during which time the first raid of the week was a farm of the first 11 bosses and the other two raids were Lich King attempts. Opening up heroic mode earlier would have been vastly preferable for us.

This would provide a headache for guild ranking sites though. Currently you need to complete 12/12 normal mode, but in Cataclysm the decision will need to be made about how to compare a guild that sticks with normals with a guild that might be 8/12 normal and 6/12 heroic, for example.

In terms of tuning, we want groups to be able to jump into the first raids pretty quickly, but we also don’t want them to overshadow the Heroic 5-player dungeons and more powerful quest rewards. We’ll be designing the first few raid zones assuming that players have accumulated some blue gear from dungeons, crafted equipment, or quest rewards. In general, we want you and your guild members to participate in and enjoy the level up experience.

Interesting. I wasn’t decked out in 8/8 Absolution coming into WotLK, so I needed to run heroics to get suitably geared up for Naxxramas. I remember hours spent farming the Red Sword of Courage from Utgarde Pinnacle for our MT. I got my tailoring high enough to make craftable gear for a few of our raiders, and we got together groups for the 5-man quests in Icecrown for the sweet blues on offer. Happy days.

I don’t want heroics to be a grind like they were in TBC, but I’m encouraged to see them gaining greater prominence again. What seems to go overlooked is that heroic bosses very often use simplified or slightly modified versions of mechanics that you later encounter in raid bosses, so learning to tank, heal or DPS in heroics is a great testbed for raiding. Not to mention everyone will need time to readjust to some quite fundamental changes to your talents and abilities and to game mechanics.

I’ve never been keen to skip content or to be rushed through the levelling process.

The goal with all of these changes is to make it as much of a choice or effect of circumstance whether you raid as a group of 10 or as a group of 25 as possible. Whether you’re a big guild or a small guild the choice won’t be dependent on what items drop, but instead on what you enjoy the most.



Community response

Needless to say, there’s been something of an explosion in the WoW community lately. If you want it in raw form, you can try the EU or US threads about the changes on the official forums. If you feel like you have nothing left to live for, go read the MMO-Champion forums (I won’t link to them because then I’d have to read them).

Elsewhere on the web, there’s a range of views. Here’s a small selection from my blogroll:

Karatheya at Cold Comfort has got some initial thoughts from a leadership perspective, and I’m sure a more in-depth analysis of the implications will appear in due course.

Avalonna at Tales of a Priest offers a refreshing perspective from someone who is a hardmode raider. She says:

Maybe – just MAYBE – this change won’t be the end of raiding. You want to know what this Elitist prick thinks? I think this change could rock. Yes, you heard me right. Do I have concerns? Yup. But’s look at the possible positives

Larísa at The Pink Pigtail Inn takes the opposite view, worrying about the effect this will have on 25-man raiding, especially if the incentive structure doesn’t support 25s enough.

Pewter, the Mental Shaman, not content with stealing my section title (“the rise of the alt”, I swear I wrote it first, I just post slowly!) also put forward a very measured take on the proposals from the point of view of an officer in a 25-man raiding guild.



I’ll illustrate this with a quite from the EU thread:

dear blizzard,

Reading this gave me a bad feeling about the future of wow, casuals and hardcore players will be the same with this change. There will be no reason to do 25 mans because you can get the exact same things from both modes, unless blizzard makes both modes actually hard and the hardmodes would actually be hardmodes.

There’s so many things wrong with this logic, but this (albeit stated more eloquently) is a fairly common sort of feeling, so let’s examine it.

First, there’s an implicit equating of 25-man with “hardcore” and 10-man with “casual”. Go join a 10-man strict guild and tell them they’re “casual”.

There’s then a related implicit assumption that 10-mans are easier. Currently they are, because they’re designed to be run with gear almost a full tier behind the cutting edge, so 25-man guilds are steamrolling the content with more HP, more DPS, and faster, more powerful heals than is ‘required’.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve recently been working through heroic modes in Icecrown, and even with 264 across the board Marrowgar-10H is no joke, while Marrowgar-25H is far, far easier. On the other hand, Saurfang-10H is easier than Saurfang-25H. Different fights scale differently as you increase the number of players available.

Larísa actually captures it nicely, so I’ll quote her again:

If you’re in a 10 man raiding guild you’re likely to say that 10 mans are exactly as challenging as 25 mans – if not more, since the failure of one single player will have bigger impact of the outcome in many fights.

If you’re in a 25 man raiding guild you’ll probably argue that getting 10 people come together and play as a team is a piece of cake comparing to the administrative nightmare of arranging 25 man runs. Apart from that it’s way more likely that one out of 25 will screw up or just get dc:d in an encounter with tight margins, than that someone will fall off when you only have ten people to worry about.

I’m a huge fan of individual responsibility in raids, so I like the 10-man paradigm precisely because one player’s error can be highly significant. 25-man raids feel more anonymous and errors tend to average out; sure they matter, but they get compensated for more easily. One person going LD in a 25-man raid might be more likely but has a smaller impact, weigh those two together and, at least for me, it’s pretty much a wash.
Then raise the relative gear requirements of 10-man raids so that you can’t create yourself an artificial margin by overgearing the place and you have a great environment where everyone gives their best and focuses.

From this healer’s perspective, the big improvement of 10-man raiding over 25-man raiding is that you won’t have one of each type of healer available, so you won’t be able to slot neatly into a standard template, but you need to adapt and work outside your comfort zone a bit.
For example, Saurfang-10H tend to need to be 2-healed. But once you get to 1 Mark of the Fallen Champion you’re already healing two people full-time, and then there’s the raid damage to take care of. 2 Marks is really unpleasant. A Paladin trivialises this a bit with Beacon of Light, but if you don’t have one you need to adapt by stretching yourself and using your multi-target heals as best you can. We have our Shaman Chain Heal the tank through the Marked player(s), for example.

The rise of the alt

More interestingly, this does seem to suggest a subtle shift towards more alt raids. If you’re limited to one raid a week per character, your off-night runs will now need to either be runs to older content, maybe on heroic, or alt runs.

When I was co-leading a guild, particularly after dual-spec was introduced, we enshrined the concept of Substitutes. These were alts or offspecs who gained higher loot priority than regular alts, but agreed in return to maintain their alternative role and to switch to fill that role if we needed it in a given raid. The need for Substitutes was evaluated by the Officers and carefully reviewed, but ended up helping us out a lot when we were short tanks or healers in particular, and provided a more structured approach than letting people develop offspecs as they felt inclined.
Adapting this sort of concept could have strong rewards for either type of guild in Cataclysm, with massively increased flexibility for raid leaders. Taking it further, you could even allow some players to go “dual-main”, although your loot system will need to be flexible enough (or carefully modified) to handle this.

Since I only really play healers, and I prefer to concentrate my achievements on one character, I probably won’t be going dual-main, but the raid leader in me likes the idea.

The death of 25-man raiding?

I’m not convinced the sky really is falling. Will the number of 25-man guilds reduce? I’d bet on it. But the people who leave will be those who do 25s for the loot, the prestige, or the challenge. The 25-man guilds who remain will remain either for the “epic” feeling of a larger raid or role team, because like Pewter they have more than 10 friends, because they have faith in the leadership and want to remain in their guild, or because for whatever other reason they actually like the 25-man format.

If people don’t enjoy 25-man raiding, then allowing them to face the same level of challenge for the same rewards in an environment they prefer can only be a good thing.

Personal Implications

Cataclysm is a long way off, but the changes to guilds were already giving me a hankering to get back into guild and raid leadership again. These proposed changes have pretty much cemented this in my mind.

So I’m giving serious consideration to dusting off <Intent>, updating the policies, finding some more dedicated, professional raiders and forging a 10-man path to Deathwing.

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Your Bête Noire

Posted by Malevica on March - 4 - 2010

We all know the feeling of seeing the Dungeon Finder pop up a certain instance, or knowing that tonight’s raid will be squaring off against that boss and feeling our heart fill with dread. Palms sweating, we have flashbacks of dying tanks, desperate DPS running in vain for their lives, followed by the agony of dissecting the wipe.
That (slightly over-dramatic) scene is a response to facing your bête noire. Literally “black beast”, but more figuratively translated as “nightmare”. Mine? Heroic Pit of Saron, and Heroic Anub’Arak-25.


Many things can cause a reaction like this, in different combination for every person. Reflecting and understanding the origins of your bête noir is vital to defeating it, so here are some common causes and things that have helped me in the past.

The Unknown

Some things are scary because you simply haven’t encountered them yet. This is a perfectly natural human reaction which keeps us out of danger in the big, wide, dangerous world. However it can lead us to build things up in our minds, imagine the worst and focus on the ways it can go wrong.
As a personal example, while we were working on ToGC I worried a lot about Anub’Arak: would I see the marks? Would I be quick enough? Would I misjudge it and overheal? I didn’t have any way to know, so I fell back on worrying.

The best way to counter this one is to do your research as thoroughly as you can in advance to reduce the uncertainty. Talk to people in other guilds; read strategy discussion threads (PlusHeal is excellent for this); look up boss abilities or analyse WoL parses so you can understand the mechanics in as much detail as possible. But accept that you can only know so much, you will never remove all doubts.


I’ll set out my stall early and say for the record that I’m in principle a fan of measures like limited attempts which attempt to prevent “brute-forcing” encounters, and maybe I’ll touch on this in a later post. However I’m not a fan of things like the Naxxramas “Undying/Immortal” achievements or Tribute to Insanity.

I think that expecting perfection for most people is a bit of a stretch, especially when, at least from my perspective, the bulk of the pressure in those cases tends to be borne by the tanks and healers. I really believe that all three roles are equally important (I really do!), but immediate causes of wipes tend to be traced to tanks or healers while the underlying causes (e.g. why was there so much damage in the first place) tend to come up only in later analysis.

In any case the knowledge that a single slip-up could doom 24 other people’s achievement for that week can make a healer very nervous, to the point where they may dread an encounter. This one is, I think, harder to solve. A supportive guild will definitely help here: you might get a ribbing but if you know there’s no lasting animosity or risk of a summary gkick then that can be a great relief. I also suggest that a thorough analysis of the reasons for wipes (see a theme developing?) will allow you to root out those underlying causes, which allows you to feel better prepared for next time as well as properly apportioning the causes.

I’ll refer over to Critical QQ for a discussion of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in relation to WoW, which is also relevant here. This holds that the more competence one has at a given task the more this weakens self-confidence, essentially because mistakes are more readily recognised and noticed. Someone who understands the intricacies of healing will be acutely aware when they have made a mistake, while those raiders who may have made more mistakes overall may simply be unaware of this.

An example: Heroic Anub’Arak, Tribute to Insanity attempt, a wipe at a few hundred k health. The immediate cause of the wipe was a small gap in heals on the offtank which led to adds destroying the main tank and the raid in short order. While the initial diagnosis pointed to a slow or distracted healer, the subsequent discussion revealed a number of other mistakes which all contributed.


Perhaps the most difficult to work around are encounters feared for their subjective difficulty. I intend to return to the question of what makes healing challenging in a future post, but suffice it to say that this can be highly subjective. All healers have individual strengths and weaknesses and differences in style, as well as the particular focus of the class they play, so they can struggle with encounters that others shrug off effortlessly.

Handling this is just as subjective as the cause is, so each person’s solution will be unique. What has helped me as I’ve developed as a healer is to extend my understanding of my fellow healers in raids to learn where their strengths overlap with my weaknesses and vice versa, so I know that the raid as a whole has the skills to cover the demands of the encounter. When solo healing, when the teamwork solution obviously doesn’t apply, try “forcing” yourself to run the instances but do it with guildies if possible: guildies should be willing and able to adapt to a change in the execution to enable you to heal it more easily, or will be more understanding and forgiving of you testing your abilities and experimenting. I’ve been leaning on my guild recently as I try to regain a more in-depth understanding of the Holy playstyle on my Priest, having healed as Disc almost exclusively for a couple of tiers.

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Categories: Advice and Strategy