Cataclysm’s Fantastic Four

Don’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger-pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory! — Bruce Lee

With a day off to literally do nothing in-game, I had a little bit of time to reflect on normal mode Tier 11. We still have plenty of farming time on it to go as we progress through heroic mode Tier 11, but we’re done with it.

There have been a lot of Negative Neds and Nancys out there hating on Wow 4.0, but I want to put a different spin on it.

In these past four weeks, there has been a lot of time to explore the newness of Cataclysm and settle into the 4th era of WarCraft. With so much content, some might find it hard to pick out the best parts of the expansion just one month in, but I’m selfish and 99% right, 100% of the time, so let’s have at it!

Let’s see how random we can mark these points

1. Guild Leveling/Perks/Reputation/Achievements

I’m doing this one first because I want to state up front how wrong I was about this feature  (I said 99% right, don’t judge me). Before Cataclysm, guilds were simply an angle-bracketed Ominous Latin Name or Abstract Noun. The only significant source of togetherness was a cropped screenshot after a boss-kill with that same guild name on it.

Now with guild leveling and reputation, all the players in the guild (from officer to friends & family) can contribute to the progression of the guild. Raiders in the guild contribute inside of the instance, but the quests, dungeons, and battlegrounds that the more casual members complete also contribute to the guild experience pool.

Giving a tangible goal to everyone in a guild grants ownership of that goal to every member. The guild rewards are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Most of them are just another pet or mount, but there are others that everyone can benefit from. Gold from looting put into the bank which can then be used for repairs (we have guild repairs turned on for everyone, all the time).

Remote access to the guild bank, experience and reputation boosts, and honor bonuses. If you contribute something, anything, you will reap the rewards.It encourages folks to stick with a guild and build it into something meaningful. The bonuses to reputation/experience given to guild instance groups help build camaraderie through cooperation.

As a friends and family member or retired raider, the fact that guild status was previously only tied to raid progression had you feeling like a passenger. Now you can give something as well, and that can only mean good things.

. Effort = Return (does not apply to Archaeology, aka The Devil’s Profession)

This applies to healing, but it fits into other areas of the game. What you put into the game, you get back out. There are no longer “Good and Bad” healers. You can be bad, Talisman, kind of bad, ok, good, very good, or Borsk.

Just kidding, but you see what I mean. Moonkins are just no good (*grin*).

There is a skill gradient. Because there are levels of skill, that means there is also a lot of room for improvement. DPS has always had this, but now healers get it as well.

To raise this concept one level higher, raid teams also get back what they put in. Execution is so important on every pull. Trash isn’t simply there for filler. You need to heal it like a boss and DPS it like a boss (like a bosssss). This constant need for execution translates to the Big Bad encounters. I’ve talked about raiding momentum before, and in Cataclysm you can use it to your advantage more than ever.

$. Strictly Tiered Progression

If you look between the lines of each tier (leveling, heroics, normal mode tier 11, heroic tier 11), there is a gear jump. The best equipment that you can get from heroic dungeons are blues. The best gear you can get from raiding is iLevel 359, and the gear from heroic Tier 11 is iLevel 372.

One of the best parts of raiding is feeling the power of your group increase as you kill more things. It’s fun to beat your best kill times each week through tighter execution and better gear you’ve acquired through progressing further through the tier.

You can only get the best set bonuses by completing an instance and getting any tier loot requires a significant amount of farming(a week of random dungeons only gives you 490/1250 Valor Points for the week). In Wrath of the Lich King you entered the first tier of content at exactly where you needed to be. Heroic dungeon gear was as good as some Naxxaramas gear until you hit the end bosses (Kel’thuzad,Sarth 2D+ and Malygos).

Some will find the jump from heroics to raiding a little jarring. Those entry bosses will be tough the first time (or two) into the instance, but as you get epics you can feel the boss getting easier. Enrage timers shrink, extra damage is a little more healable, and one mistake doesn’t mean an automatic wipe.

Even when Tier 12 is released and Tier 11 is bumped to the Justice Point vendor, I hope that the Tier 11 gear is required to meet the checks/timers present in Tier 12.

Gear progression is incredibly important to raiders.

HOLD UP

I thought raiders didn’t care about gear. I thought it was all about killing bosses and the people! Those are only 2/3 of the formula. The other 1/3, gear, is just as important. Getting best in slot kits allows you to knock out those last couple achievements. Stepping into Tier 12 with best in slot kits gives you confidence. You have the best gear, all we need to do is execute and we’ll start our progression again. By the end of the expansion, walking through Blackwing Descent will be as easy as riding the tram from Ironforge to Stormwind.

A. The Single-Lockout Raiding System

I saved the best for last.

As a progression-focused raider, you’re always feeling pressure. That pressure comes from within. It’s a competitive spirit that is pushing you to always do your best. You alleviate that pressure by doing everything you can to make sure you are ready to raid.

That pressure can morph into burnout.

Are all my reputations capped off? Do I have my enchants? Is there a piece of gear that I can craft as an upgrade? Did I get everything I can out of the Justice Point vendor?

Until this expansion, you could add “Did I do a 10 man and 25 man raid this week?” Many players had Best-In-Slot items in the 10 man version of an instance, despite the lower iLevel. As a raid leader, you always wanted people to do both, even if you knew that it would be nearly impossible to get everyone into a run.

If you didn’t do a 10 man, you knew that you were leaving an opportunity for an upgrade on the table. This stretches raiding from what was supposed to be a 3 or 4 day activity into a 6 day (or even 7 day) affair. Setting aside time and making commitments to two runs is stressful. It was a source of burnout for a lot of players. I have to do this content two, three, four times?! It makes me look back at Icecrown Citadel and Trial of the Crusader with venom.

The fears that I had about this system before December 7th were regarding offspecs. After one tier, I can say that for 25 mans, gearing for offspecs is just as easy. The tank drops and extra pieces show up very quickly due to multiple drops of a single item on a single boss.

This is blessing and a curse. Getting 3 +agi dps cloaks when you really need a healing trinket from Maloriak can be frustrating, but the benefit greatly outweighs this minor inconvenience.

Our raiding week is placed right in the middle of the week, Tuesday through Thursday, 4-4.5 hours each night. Raids are scheduled as far from the weekend as possible. I encourage efficiency and execution to get as much learning time while also farming the content we’ve previously completed.

From midnight Thursday until 7:30pm Tuesday, our raiders are off the hook. They can get out and do things to take their mind off what might have been a grueling week of wiping. There is time for alts, time for other games, and time for family. The overall burnout level is reduced.

By Tuesday night everyone is ready to get back in the saddle and start ripping the faces off of pixel dragons again. Raid Leaders everywhere can appreciate this.

What are you liking about Cataclysm? Let’s hear it.

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