Are Easier Heroics Better in the Long Run?

Are Easier Heroics Better in the Long Run?

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The patch 3.3.2 includes a few amendments to Heroic Dungeons and how they’re played.  Entire packs of mobs are being deleted.  Bosses abilities are being shortened or being made less frequent.  Fight mechanics are being made easier.  In essence, Blizzard is giving us more opportunities to blow through these dungeons with little to no effort.

I’m an educator at heart.  Seeing as though my life “endgame” is to be at the front of a classroom, it’s important to me that people learn the skills necessary to go through life.  How to write a proper business letter, how to analyze a novel or article, or how to put your thoughts in order and present them in a proper argument.

How does this translate into WoW?  Teaching players how to follow a kill order, how to manage small and large cooldowns, or how to CC a mob.  Remember some of the cardinal rules of this game that we’ve all learned?

  • If the ground changes, get out of it. Pretty standard stuff, except for rare circumstances
  • If the boss starts spinning with his huge weapon, move away from it.
  • If a really annoying mob is causing havoc, CC it. If possible, avoid DoT’ing it.

We learn these the hard way.  And, we have to utilize and execute what we’ve learned in the current content.  Ground changes?  Sounds like Rotface’s ooze pools on the ground.  Spinning mobs?  Marrowgar.  The need to CC a mob?  The mind controls in Lady Deathwhisper.

“You are not prepared!”

With the level of difficulty amongst the endgame content, more and more groups are getting frustrated with the lack of skill within the community of 80s.  I equate this to meeting people in the real world that don’t demonstrate even a sliver of mastery of their native language (slang and colloquialisms are fun choices but shouldn’t be your foundation).  How do you get through school without being able to speak or write properly?  How do you get to start raiding without having a knowledge of the fundementals?

Take Ahn’kahet (AKA “Old Kingdom”) for example.  Jedoga Shadowseeker is the boss that floats in the air, summoning an add to sacrifice.  If she succeeds, she hits a temporary enrage.  I remember wiping to that when people first started doing heroics.  The tank had to manage a cooldown; the healer was spamming big heals. This fight demonstrated the need for DPS to turn up the heat to down the add.  Even I as a healer would Smite/Lightning Bolt the add.

Now, it seems that Madame Shadowseeker only does this once.  Does this just mean everyone blows all their cooldowns (Shield Wall, Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration, etc) to endure her short enrage and then they’re done?  The key to earning respect as a player with me is demonstrate a finesse of your skills, not be all RAWR OMG WTFBBQ DPSPWNAGE!!  You can be great player and still utilize all of your classes abilities efficiently.

“Time is of the essence!”

As these Heroics are being made easier and easier, that means people will be blowing through them faster and faster.  Making the value of the gear that people are getting lower and lower.  Follow this math:

Average of 4 badges (+ 2 from random) = 6 badges per run.

Clearing an instance in 15 minutes means 24 emblems an hour.

A whole set of T9 costs 210 emblems.

210 emblems / 24 emblems per hour = 8.75 hours.

Even if you play 3 hours/day, you could have full tier 9 in 3 days.

Given that, do I think it’s possible to really have a grasp of how to exist in a raid setting, possibly having an aspect of the fight rest on your shoulders?  I won’t say a flat-out “no”, but I’m hesitant.  I learned how to play my class through dungeons and heroics.  A fight like Rotface or Blood Princes is going to confuse players that haven’t had the ability to build an understanding of their class.

Consider it a slightly less horrifying version of a person who just bought their character on eBay that day.  Regardless if you’re a completely new player, or just levelling an alt, I fear that we’re starting to lose the building blocks to being a good raider to the ease of too much convenience.  (Sidenote: Notice I said “too much”.  I’m all for crafting the game so everyone has a shot, but there is a point when it goes too far.  I don’t want to go back to the days of needing to run alts through Karazhan to begin the gearing process for Black Temple.)

It’s like the economy (I know, a touchy subject).  If you start pumping more gear into the game faster, it devalues what’s already out there.  I guess the good thing is that people will be less freaked out by GearScore.  If everyone has a high gear score, more emphasis will need to be placed on player skill.  What good is a high GearScore if everyone has it?

“Lazy Sunday!”

“…WAKE UP IN THE LATE AFTERNOON!”  Sorry, a little sidetracked.  I love that skit.

Anyways, with Blizzard making things easier and easier, I fear they’re going too far.  ICC trash is already becoming AOE-able.  People are complaining about there being too much trash (yet, people complained about Trial of the Crusader not having ANY trash and being too boring).  Oculus is getting even bigger rewards.

I don’t want this game to become “just go in and blow stuff up”.  I like the challenge.  I like the dedication.  I like the workout.  I like the strategy.  Do I know how to create a balance with this?  Of course not.  If I did, I would be working for Blizzard.  I just don’t want the laziest crowd in the game to win over the hearts and minds of the game designers.

Now, I enjoy the mechanic of earlier ICC wings getting easier over time, allowing less progressed guilds to see the endgame content, but the latest epidemic of clueless raiders is troublesome to me.  How do you make the game more appealing to everyone, while still teaching those fundemental rules that we’ve all learned over the years?

What do you think?  Do you feel heroics are being made too easy?  How do you promote an understanding of class and basic fight mechanics amongst your raiders?

A Prescription for Raid Morale

A Prescription for Raid Morale

medicine

Raiding can always be stressful.  Although the content has been called “too easy”, some of us still struggle with certain encounters.  We’ve cut our teeth on Normal Modes, and make the step up to the Heroic.  Haunting are the nights of banging our heads against Icehowl cause one raid member is just a little slow on getting out of the way.  We shake our heads in disgrace because a DPS class is too used to “being carried” when we try Yogg+Anything.  Raid nights get called early, curses ensue, and it’s just not a pretty sight.

Whether it’s in raid or out of raid, I firmly believe it’s essential to insert breaks and morale boosters.  And by breaks, I don’t mean “Take 5 for bio and beer.”  I mean something active.  A couple examples:

In-Raid

Trivia Games

Kalheim, a feisty paladin in my guild, holds trivia games during downtimes in the raid.  While waiting for invites to go out or waiting for that last member to come back from an AFK or bio break, he puts up topic-centered questions for us to compete for the fastest answer.  These quizzes will encompass a variety of topics, usually gaming-based.  He pulls out Classic WoW Lore, the names of BC Boss spells, Super Mario trivia, and even gaming company trivia.

You can reward your raiders with anything you want.  A gem, some gold, free flask/food, whatever you want.  The key is simply to make the questions challenging but not impossible.  A topic or genre you and your guild talk about often; you can include everyone.

The Whipping Boy

First off, this is pretty much a voluntary position.  In no way do you want to ostracize one of your raiders who cannot take the brunt of it.  In our guild, this whipping post has a name, and that name is Zabos.  He’s an incredibly likeable guy, but he’s really easy to tease.  He can take it, because as a player, he’s really good at what he does.  He’s one of our officers, and talks a lot of smack, so the guild will lay it on pretty thick.  The guild has built up a tradition (before my arrival) of /gkick’ing Zabos out of the guild when a new boss goes down.  It adds an extra level of fun to progression and cohesiveness of a guild.  The phrase “Shut up Zabos!” gets passed around a lot.  It just makes me laugh.

Random, Off-the-wall “Attempt

This should explain itself.  After a long night of progression, you need a break.  Something to make you laugh or wake you up.  We specifically have a Morale Officer in our guild, Shenweh, who is responsible for making sure everyone is in good spirits.  When things are getting tense or tired, it’s her job to create little fun events like this:

Out of Raid

Actual Alt Dungeons

I have several alts at a variety of levels, and I have some real life friends that all stick together.  They play super casually–usually only once each week, if at all.  Although I have two 80s, their level 45 character is their highest.  The other night, we managed to get all five of us on together to do a run of Uldaman.  There was no run-through, there was no level 80 to accompany us.  Because the healer and our hunter were lower than the rest of us, we really had a chance to take advantage of crowd control and focus-firing.  Since they’re all new to the game, it was a great chance for me to be able to show them a fragment of what makes this game so great for me.  I hope that at some point they may be able to step into a weekend/off-night raid with me.  Here, I lay the groundwork. =)

If you have friends that are trying to learn the game, take the time to actually play it with them.  I know how much that means to both people.  It also gives you a little break, and a little time to relax.

Arenas/Battlegrounds

In my opinion, always have at least one person you know well to go on this adventure with.  Arenas can sometimes be a great way to get out some frustration (if they go well).  If you turn off the Battleground Chat in a Warsong Gulch or Arathi Basin, they can actually be pretty fun with a group of your friends.

Achievements/Holidays

Blizzard has given us this interesting little outlet to occupy our time when we’re not raiding.  Even little mindless ones involving pets or an Azeroth raid can be entertaining enough to ease your mind.  See if any of your guildmates have never seen AQ40 (I just had my first encounter before writing this).  If there’s a slew that have never been inside, show them around!  Especially if you’re in a leadership position, this shows your raiders that you’re invested in how much everyone’s enjoying the game.  Gotten all the achievements you want/need? Then just tag along for your friends’ benefit.  Share funny stories.  Reminisce about things that happened in those old raids.

———-

You can decide to do these on raid nights or outside of your standard schedule.  Think of it this way.  Although this game as fun, you want to avoid having progression start to kill your soul after a while.

What sort of things do you do in order to keep your raid’s morale high?  What do you do, as a player, to detox in-game?

ThespiusSig

Officers and Alts and Raiding Oh My!

Officers and Alts and Raiding Oh My!

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So very recently one of our Officers has been bringing his alt to our raids, not just farm content but our progression nights. This was obviously given the go ahead by raid leadership but it did stir up interest in a few raiders asking what was going on. As a standing rule my guild has never really taken alts on main raids. Normally alts are left to the alt raids on the weekends. We have in the past however asked very well geared alts along to fill gaps in our raid make up. So after taking care of a few guildies concerns, I figured it was something post worthy.
There seems to be a large concern about officers abusing their power to take their alts on main raids and get loot that would otherwise go to mains, or using their positions to get main raiders / toons to take their alts through content to gear up. While I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, because I’m sure it does, but I don’t think it happens as much as people think. Most time I see guild officers gearing up their alts to be able to pitch hit in a raid if need be. I’ll use my guild as an example. Most of the officers there have well geared alts, it breaks down something like this

GM DK tank main – Well geared Rogue alt

DKP officer/hunter class lead – Well geared Warlock alt

DKP officer/Warlock class lead – Well geared Unholy DK

Recruitment officer Dps DK – Well geared Paladin alt

Raid officer/Shaman class lead – Medium geared DK tank / low to medium gear Hunter

I put myself on the list because I am actively seeking to bring my hunter up to the well geared level of things. Other officers have other alts and such but you get the idea. The intent behind our gearing is something to help our raid and groups out. Let’s say our guild is doing two ToC 10 man runs, normally we have 6-7 raiding healers available. You don’t need 7 for two ToC groups. Let’s say one group is short a tank, my goal would be to be able to hop on my alt and fill that role so the group doesn’t fail to start. Another example and one that we’ve been using. We’ve been a little short on the melee front this past week. As a result the warlock class lead hopped on his Unholy DK for this weeks raids. It provided the same spell buff his warlock did to the raid but gave us the melee we needed for our encounter. It was useful to be able to pull someone’s well geared alt to fill the gap and keep the raid moving.

It should be noted that this isn’t required and that the vast majority of the time we spend gearing our alts up are through pugging instances and farming badges. That said it’s already proven useful a few times.

How to Handle Loot Priority:

So something that is key is to set up a loot priority for any guild raid even if it’s not a main raid. Our weekend alt runs we use a loot priority to keep things going smoothly.

Main spec > Off spec  // Main toon > Alt

Pretty straight forward  right? This has also encouraged more then a few people to bring their main toons to these alt runs as they are normally instances we don’t run anymore or alternate versions of what we are running (my guild is a 25 man focused guild so we do 10 man / alt 10 man runs on weekends) Everyone has fun and anyone can bring their alt along if they want, as long as we get a group composition we need.

Having well geared alts in a guild raid environment is a very useful tool that an be called upon when needed. It seems most people’s apprehension is when they see officer alts pop up in a main raid, I suppose I can understand that. If you’re in a situation that you feel like the officers or some officers in particular are taking advantage of the system, say something just like my raiders did to me.

Now, with all that said, this doesn’t just pertain to officers, but as the questions and concerns was about officers taking advantage of the system to bring in their alts to gear up that’s where we kind of hovered around. Raider alts can be just as helpful and there have been occasions when we asked a raider to bring in their alt. Sometimes this has even lead to them wanting to switch their mains for both their enjoyment and the good of the raid.

So, what do you think about alts getting geared up to raid? Do you have an alt army ready to take down Icecrown? Ever bring an alt to a main raid at the leaders request?

That’s it for today, until next timESig

My Newfound Respect for Melee

My Newfound Respect for Melee

melee_is_hard

Remember how I told you all, on April Fool’s Day, no less, that I was going to run off and play Ret Paladin? Well, it wasn’t entirely a joke. Yes, I’m still raiding on Syd, and still healing, but I’ve been playing my paladin this weekend as both Ret and Holy. I have a lot more confidence when I’m healing, and I have a few amusing stories about that stemming from a Naxx-10 PuG that I healed last night, but today I’m mostly here to talk to you about the special challenge of melee.

Not many healers have a melee class as their alt, and now I can see why. I’ve done ranged DPS before in group settings. I’d say it’s more of a challenge to me than healing at this point, but I can see how it could be done well. However, I was determined to take my Ret Paladin to some heroics. As I’m in a confessional mood, here’s a list of the Melee Failures I’ve indulged in over the last five days.

Failure #1

Accidentally taunting off the tank. Sorry, Brio. I’m still not sure how I managed to hit Shift 1 with the back of my hand, but I certainly did it.

Failure #2

Pulling mobs by accident . . . with my butt. You know, when you’re a melee class, you have to get behind the mobs. I think that my time as a healer has made me scared of them, and I tend to stay at max range, which can be rather dangerous with patrols around.

Failure #3

Hanging out in the green stuff. I was so happy when we defeated the first boss of Heroic Gundrak. So happy, in fact, that I stood there doing the Macarena as the poison slowly killed me. As always, I was suprised when Marfi hit the floor.

Failure #4

Staying in for whirlwind. I realized belatedly that the last boss of Heroic Gundrak was doing his little spinny thing. By the time I strafed out, I was low on health, and a ghost rhino charge made me go splat.

Failure #5

Standing in front of the boss. Now, I know I’m not supposed to stand next to Brio. I’ve made many jokes in my life about melee humping the hind legs of bosses. I’m not sure why I ended up in front of Heroic Anub’arak, but I do know what happened to me when he cast pound. Pound equals splat, for something like 10,000 overkill.

Failure #6

Getting ahead of the tank. In Utgarde Keep, I was getting antsy. Guess what happened when I edged in front of Brio? More pulling mobs. I’m glad Brio and I have a stable relationship, because I know exactly what he would have said if any other melee did that. Oh well, at least I can bubble and save myself.

Failure #7

Getting too far behind. Also Utgarde Keep. I have no excuse this time, only that I had to pee, and that turned into rather poor dps for a minute there. It turns out that you have to keep up, all the time, as a melee player.

Failure #8

Ignoring the kill order. Skull is for decoration, right? I’m issuing an apology to Amava, who was tanking Violet Hold on his cleverly-named druid Moodyswinger.

Failure #9

Panicking about my own health instead of trusting the healer. No, I didn’t say, heal me please, but I definitely used my Art of War procs whenever they were up, mostly on the tank, but also on myself. I have also bubbled a record number of times during the weekend.

Failure #10

Incomplete gear switch. I’m sure both Ret Paladins and Feral Druids face this one all the time. I don’t use any inventory manager addons, because my laptop’s poor performance means that I can only run necessary addons–nothing extra. This Sunday I DPS’d about seven heroics wearing my Holy libram. . . from Karazhan.

That’s my list of spectacular melee failures. The only one I didn’t check off this week was Die in a Fire. In my defense, Sartharion was the first instance I did with Marfi as DPS. I didn’t realize at that point I was making a checklist. I did die in that fight, not to a void zone or lava wave, but to a stray add. I also did about 1000 dps in my full suit of greens, but hey, I’d just dinged 80 10 minutes before. My dps has improved a bit now, but the failures keep mounting.

The Value of Failure

I’ve always told my students that failure is instructive. Errors are acceptable–even a good thing–while you’re learning a language, and they’re acceptable when you’re learning a new class role as well. If you never allow yourself to make mistakes, you’ll never learn. You’ll just continue doing what is comfortable and never branch out. However, I know my limits. I’m practicing in Heroics because they’re the minor leagues. The next time I see the green stuff, I’ll be running away.

There’s a very good reason that I haven’t let myself DPS in Naxx yet. Even though the paladin is different from my resto druid, it’s the same raid role, and I have a wealth of experience healing on both toons from Classic to current. In a raid, I owe more to my group members, so I have to know what I’m doing to some degree. Sure, I messed up my Holy spec last night and forgot to even get Bacon of Light, but it didn’t matter. I still beat the other healer, a better-geared Holy priest, on the meters. It is true that I only pulled ahead because she died on the first pass of the Heigan dance, which then continued for 10 more minutes with about five players alive, but I was proud of myself nonetheless. It’s absolutely amazing how much energy playing a new character can give me on this very, very stale content. However, the Flash of Light spam nearly killed me. Syd uses such a variety of spells, which I have mapped for both hands (left hand for direct heals, mouse for hots), that I never feel stress in my wrists. This morning my left wrist is killing me from repeatedly hitting the C key. I don’t know how full-time paladins do it.

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing the freedom that players had in their own play. Reader Revaan wrote a series of questions that I wanted to answer but I never got around to it until now. I’ll divide that post into two parts: One with a direct Q & A to his questions and the second half with a more detailed thought process.

Q&A

Revaan: The debating about consequences of respeccing seems to make it clear that every guild should have a policy about respecs. Do you require approval from anyone? If so who?

Matt: Yes and no. Players are free to respec on their own time for PvP or just for general farting around. I impose no conditions on their respecs. When it comes to raids however, they’re required to go back to the original spec they asked to be in when they joined the guild. I’ll elaborate more on this later.

Revaan: Do you have some sort of trial period with the new spec?

Matt: I usually give it a raid. I’ll compare that day’s performance with data from past raids and see if there’s a significant difference. If both specs are about the same, it’s a wash. I’ll let them decide what’s better for their style of play.

Revaan: What if the chosen role is full?

Matt: Tough. It’s first come first serve, usually. If there’s a set amount of tanks and another player wants to go Prot, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get a spot unless one of the tanks decides to retire or spontaneously gets their account hacked. But that rarely happens.

(Actually, at the time of this writing, I just found out one of my main tanks had his account compromised. Go figure.)

Revaan: Are they first up if that role opens up or will the guild recruit and you need to compete with applicants?

Matt: Typically no. Players tend to have a certain amount of gear invested in them. For them to change roles like that is a messy undertaking for the guild because not only do we have to find a replacement for the spec they switched from, we also have to gear up that player again. It would be as if we were gearing up two players again instead of one. I would much rather recruit from outside but I will never say never. Situations like these are often resolved in a case by case basis.

Explanation

I don’t like asking people to re-talent themselves unless I have a very good reason to do so. I prefer to let players come to their own conclusion about what’s best for them.

Here is a list of the 3 goals for the 3 different roles in the game.

  • DPS: To deal an insane amount of damage
  • Heal: To heal or mitigate an insane amount of damage
  • Tanking: To survive an insane amount of damage

Respeccing within the role

Let me give you an example of a case where I approved a respec.

During the infant stages of Conquest when we were working our way through Naxxramas, we picked up a Rogue named Derek. He’s an extremely bright and skilled player. He wanted to try out a new spec because he had reason to believe that he could increase his DPS output.

I don’t know much about Rogues. But I figured I had nothing to lose. I was essentially trading a DPS spec for a DPS spec.

After the raid was done, I pulled up the Patchwerk notes for that day along with notes from previous raids and compared them.

Sure enough, Derek’s performance improved notably. It was partly due to gear and partly his style. But it seemed the spec helped a lot. Alas, from what I’ve been told, this upcoming patch may nerf it. You Rogues probably know what I’m talking about because I don’t know what I’m talking about. All I know is, he respecced and his damage spiked upwards.

Derek did an insane amount of damage before. After the respec, he did an insanely higher amount.

Allow your raiders to innovate and test new specs that allow them to excel at the same role. I had a Warlock (let’s call him Tom) who tried a new spec every raid for the first few weeks because he wasn’t sure what the optimum spec was.

What’s cookie cutter now could become outdated later.

As my former mentor Blori once told me,

There ain’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved without more DPS.

Inform your GM

Let your raid leader know. I guarantee you that they will generally be supportive (the good ones at least). Here’s the process:

Derek: Hey Matt, I’d like to respec.
Matt: Why’s that?
Derek: I think I can do more damage
Matt: Sure, go for it and let me know what you need.
Derek: Don’t forget to log me for Patchwerk so I can compare it to last week.

It’s that simple.

Respeccing roles

This one I am not as receptive as. A raid composition consists of a simple equation:

X healers + Y DPS + Z tanks = Dead boss.

By changing the equation, you risk rendering the problem unsolvable. A great tank does not necessarily make a great healer and you may find yourself short stacked on bosses from time to time.

It is an extremely tough sell to a GM. But that’s when everything is good.

On the other hand, if your raid has a few key role players absent, requesting a respec could end up being favorable.

If I’m short on healers and a DPS hybrid requests to go healing to help alleviate the stress, I am way more likely to approve it.

  1. Keeps the raid in house. I don’t have to outsource my important roles to trade chat.
  2. Solves a problem with little effort: It’s a good reflection on the guild member.

I guess my underlying philosophy towards respeccing can be boiled down to one line:

If it improves the raid group in any way, ask.

Image courtesy of marcello99