Cataclysm’s Fantastic Four

1 February, 2011

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.

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Evaluating Encounter Balance: 10 vs 25

11 January, 2011

The hallmark of Cataclysm raiding was the new one instance  lockout. You can kill a boss on 10 man or 25 man, but not both (heroic raid-size locking aside). The immediate and obvious question: how are they going to balance these encounters?

The Impossible Task

Their intention was to make the difficulty between the two sizes equal. Anyone with a brain (or a calculator) can see that it’s simply impossible to manage that kind of balance. It’s not to say they haven’t tried. On paper, many of the fights look identical and even in practice, some of the fight mechanics aren’t much different on 10 or 25 man.

We’ll do it like those checkmark lists you see before big football match ups. All of these judgments are based on equal gear and equal skill (“all things being equal” as they say). I’m going to be talking about a lot of raid mechanics. Seek out the usual sources for boss strategy and in-depth ability descriptions, let’s get right to it!

Throne of the Four Winds

Conclave of Wind: Not nearly as exciting as the Concubine of Wind, but an interesting fight nonetheless. Any time the raid is forced to split up in separate rooms/platforms, I give the nod to 25 man. More healing coverage, less touchy on the DPS balance. Advantage: 25 man

Al’Akir: Lots of mechanics in this fight that involve movement and individual responsibility. From running between tornadoes to spreading and staying within your own sector, it all favors a 10 man raid. Healing is slightly easier in the 25 man version, as is often the case, but I have to give this one to 10 man. Advantage: 10 man

Bastion of Twilight

Halfus Wyrmbreaker: This is completely dependent on the combination of drakes you get. If the Storm Rider is active, 25 man has a huge advantage (almost too huge). Now that I think about, even the other drakes are easier to handle as a 25 man raid because you simply have more options available to you. More tanks, more healers to assign, etc. Advantage: 25 Man

Valiona & Theralion: Limp-preventing DPS timer, a little bit of movement in different phases, but quite possibly the easiest encounter in Tier 11. Advantage: Even.

Twilight Ascendant Council: Advantage: 10 Man, all that needs to be said.

Cho’gall: Cho’gall is an interesting fight to look at in terms of raid size. There are some ground targeted things and corrupted blood which require some individual responsibility. Based on my experience and the thoughts of others who have done this fight, the variety provided by a 25 man raid is a big help. You have more things to help interrupt Worship and damage splitting for add control in Phase 1 is always more easily handled by a 25 man raid. Phase 2 is about even, difficulty-wise, with maybe a slight edge given to 10 Man. Advantage: 25 Man

Blackwing Descent

Omnotron Defense System: Lots of different abilities that constantly cycle. All of these abilities go from “meh” to “wow” by adding another 15 players. Things like interrupting, slime kiting, and Lightning Conductor become noticeable in a 25 man setting. Advantage: 10 Man

Magmaw: Magmaw is another tough call. There are some ground effects that will endanger more players on 25 man (not to mention the parasites), but the larger raid probably has an easier time killing the parasites and keeping DPS up while chaining Magmaw. Another boss that is too easy to really analyze at this level. Advantage: Even

Maloriak: This analysis will vary greatly based on raid composition so with that being said I’ll give it to 25 man. AoEing a lot of adds, RSTS that only ever hits one person. The healing is significantly easier under 25% in 25 man. Advantage: 25 Man

Atramedes: Another prototypical “spread out and stay away from the poop” fight. There is less of everything in 10 man, but with the recent nerfs, 25 man doesn’t have too hard of a time. Due to room size and the strategy…Advantage: 10 Man

Chimaeron: A pure healing check. This list is trending towards giving the healing-heavy fights to the 25 man crews and it’s no different here. Advantage: 25 Man

Nefarion: This is the only fight I’ve done no significant progress on, so I can’t really comment. Based on the complexity of the fight it might favor 25 Man, but I don’t have enough personal experience to rate it.

If you’re keeping score at home…

By my count that gives 5 fights to 25 Man, 4 fights to 10 Man, with 2 as a toss-up with 1 undecided. I would say that’s a pretty even balance from top to bottom. My 5000 ft view of Tier 11 shows me a slight edge to 25 man just because many of the fights can make use of so many class mechanics. If you were to take 1 of every class in a single 10 man, you would be able to cover everything in every fight but it isn’t uncommon to have 2 of a certain hybrid class (or even 3 in some cases).

Taking out just one of those (maybe a warlock for healthstone, as an example) could hinder you on a particular fight. If players have to handle mechanics on an independent level, 10 man has an edge.

Twenty-five man raids still incur the logistical challenge of maintaining a large crew but the amount of loot (and extra Valor Points per boss) you receive cannot be discounted.

I’m currently loving the single lockout and what it has done to really improve the outlook of a raid week. I don’t have to get on people to make 10 mans on the weekends, and even if folks have to sit out for some bosses, they aren’t missing a ton of loot/points. Maybe 25 man raiding isn’t dead after all.

Encounter Order

Many of you might have waited until after the New Year to start into raiding, and might have a tough time deciding on where to go or what is appropriate. This is my ideal kill order based on difficulty, travel time, and also strat complexity:

1. Halfus Wyrmbreaker

2. Valiona and Theralion

3. Magmaw

4. Conclave of Wind

5. Omnotron Defense System

6. Maloriak

7. Atramedes

8. Ascendant Council

9. Chimaeron

10. Cho’gall

11. Al’akir

12. Nefarian

You can flip Council/Chimaeron and Al’akir/Cho’gall and get a list that is just as good. My reason for putting Cho’gall first is because his loot is much better than Al’Akir’s.  In any case, Nefarian is a difficult boss that definitely should be saved for last.

Be Heroic

Don’t look at what the “Top Guilds” (Top Guilds) have done as a model for your team. Only you will know when you’re truly ready to tackle the hard mode encounters. It will likely take some trial & error with plenty of log digging to determine what needs to improve to take that step over the heroic hump. Don’t fear it, but also don’t waste time on something that needs a little more juice in the gear department.

(Keep in mind you need to complete an instance on normal before opening it’s heroic mode)

Our raid week involves 3 full 25 man raid nights with a 10 man running Monday to try out any new encounters or work out strat kinks for the next raid week. Having that little bit of extra info can mean several attempts with your full raiding crew.

Raid leading is fun, isn’t it?

Obviously this all just my opinion from doing the fights, I’m looking forward to hearing how other people’s raids have been going early in Cataclysm.


Months Later, Questions Remain For 25 Man Raiders.

10 November, 2010

This topic was prompted by Beru, so all the credit goes to her. I was going to leave this in the comments section, but I want to share her article as well as my comments/response. Here’s a brief excerpt.

Exactly How Are These Raids Going To Be Equal?

As I was ranting a bit to Brade, one of the biggest points I was making was that I honestly see no way that these two raid sizes are going to be equal in difficulty. I just don’t think it’s even remotely close to being in the realm of possibility. I mean let’s take a simple mechanic like needing to spread out. Unless they shrink the size of the room – a 10 man raid is going to have a significant advantage and greater ease with this solely based on the fact that there are only 10 of them. How are they going to equal that out in a 25 man setting?

Let’s take a look next at some of the healing spells available – such as WG, Echo of Light (new priest version of effloresce), CoH, Efflorescence, Holy Radiance. All of which apparently now only hit 6 targets at full strength. Now let’s take a fight with constant raid AE damage, and oh yes…they still exist, and a 10 man raid now has another significant advantage over a 25 man raid. Those spells will heal 60% of their raid while in a 25 man raid those spells will only heal 24% of the raid. How is that remotely close to being equal? How can you design an encounter with those mechanics that is “equal”? Sure a 25 man raid will have more healers, but the difference a single healer will be able to make in a 10 man raid vs a 25 man raid is hugely disparaging.

CLICK HERE READ THE FULL POST

These are questions that I approached some months ago when the changes were announced. Those in my guild were not very optimistic and neither was I (frankly). There are so many points that are left unanswered and glossed over that it’s almost negligent at this point.

A) The “split into two raids” hand-waving. It’s not that easy: on a logistical and “attitude” level. The chance of having 6 capable healers and 4 capable tanks in a raid that is already “short players” is 0%. Compound this with the A/B team and what happens if one of the team fails or stops or doesn’t do as well as the other team.

B) Blizzard’s other fallback of “people who like 25 man raids can still do them!” The drive for most players is the reward of raiding along with the social interaction. It’s a delicate balance.

If there’s no reward, social interaction starts to mean less. If you’re put on the bench for a few bosses, their lockouts will remain open but it puts the onus on you to seek out a PUG to kill that boss at some later date. Let’s not even start on the heroic mode restrictions.

The further “ahead” you are, the more trying to “makeup” a boss kill becomes a problem. How often do you see trade chat advertisements for ICC25 with the last 3 bosses up? My guess is “every day.”

C) Connected to B: there are droves of players, good players, that like 25 man raiding. Hell, I love 40 man raiding! I love 72 man EverQuest raiding! But…do I want to raid lead a 72 or 40 man raid. Hell no.

The death of the 25 man format will not come from the raiders. It will come from officers and raid leaders of 25 man raiding guilds that just don’t find the effort:reward ratio no longer worth it. There is a dedication investment that players in leadership roles make. You become responsible for the rest of the raid and are in control (somewhat) of their leisure time.

10 man raiding requires no loot system (/roll), it requires no (formal) attendance tracking, little/casual recruitment, and no rigid guild structure. Is that a put down? No, it’s just a simple fact of numbers. Identifying a problem, a weak link, or trying a new strategy is simpler. Players that end up on the fringe of your respective raiding skill level (get swapped or sat often) will drop off and it will be difficult to keep that extra player buffer.

Do you get geared up a little faster? Certainly, but at some point both raid options will become gear-saturated and that advantage disappears. Speed of gearing means nothing. More gear helps with farming, it doesn’t really help with progression anymore, especially when the difference is so tiny (one or two pieces of gear).

It is far more likely that you will clear the tier before becoming gear saturated (either mode/both difficulties).

Put the rope down…step away from the railing…

Let’s not keep it all doom and gloom, there is a very large positive in all of this for 25 man raiders. The fact that you can only take your main character to one type of raid per week means that your raiders will be hungrier to get back in the saddle every Tuesday. The pressure to run extra 10 mans for more gear to keep up will be eliminated.

The players that do raid on off days with alts are the ones that want to do that and can control their “burnout” level. If they raid too much on an alt, it’s easy to dial it back with no impact to their guild’s raids. That is what is keeping me the most optimistic heading into Cataclysm, and I hope it works out for the better. A larger group generally means better group think and a larger group to rally around. Older guilds are built to handle the rigors and logistic of large-scale raiding.

Only time will tell.


Icecrown 10 (Kinda) Hard Modes: Round 1

9 March, 2010

The difference between a man and a boy is: a boy wants to grow up to be a fireman, but a man wants to grow up to be a giant monster fireman.–Jack Handy

Our 10 man finally got back together after our initial hard mode debacle, and started working on hard modes. The plan going in was to knock out all but the end wing bosses at the least. We ended up killing 8 hard modes, but it wasn’t exactly the eight we had planned on going in.

World of Logs Night 1

World of Logs Night 2

Tuning Fork

Out of all the wings, the mostly oddly tuned was Crimson Halls. It just seemed completely backward as far as what should and shouldn’t be hard.

Blood Prince council introduced several new mechanics that had to be dealt with:

  • Shadow Prison: Reverse Hodir. Every second of movement applies a dot that ticks for 500 shadow damage per stack. Only ticks when moving. Removed if you stand still for 10 seconds.
  • Glittering Sparks: Now more sparkly, reducing movement speed by 40%
  • Kinetic Bombs: Drop like rocks instead of beach balls.

Blood Queen Lana’thel introduced:

  • Stuff hits harder.

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