Cataclysm raid refinements open doors, leave questions

26 April, 2010

Bibi’s quick take on [MMO-Champion]:

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • 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.

The news came down this afternoon that these significant changes will be made to raiding when we get to Cataclysm. A little vague, a little bit left to be desired, but nonetheless thought provoking. From the perspective of a player that enjoys heroic raiding at the 25 man level, it certainly got me thinking.

Each tier so far this expansion has had a 25 man and 10 man raid. For hardcore raiders, it’s a simple concept, to gear your character faster, you do more content. Running both the 10 and 25 man each reset is an accepted practice. The only reason a person would kill the same bosses twice a week is for the gear. Also, with so much gear being placed on the badge vendor (tier starters in ICC), you also need that extra influx of badges to make sure you got the gear you need for progression right now and not 3 months from now (now being December ’09).

The biggest problem, aside from badge generation, was the fact that 10 man and 25 contained unique loot. But wait, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t they have distinguishable gear to really denote a “10 man” and “25 man” raider? The idea is good, but the itemization always fell short of the goal in a few unique circumstances. The biggest offender here were trinkets (Mjolnir Runestone, anyone?), but there were still a few weapons and other pieces of gear that just happened to be itemized better in 10 man. This meant that in order to get the best gear for your toon, you needed to do 10 and 25 man.

With 10 man’s removed from the docket of a main raider, it will relieve a lot of intra-guild stress generated from finding a 10 man group.  In a small roster situation, a 25 man guild barely has enough raiders to field 2 10 mans with a backup here or there. It’s a strange predicament and something, as a raid leader, you want to facilitate, but you end up going insane trying to do so. The new lockouts will now give you a hard number on the amount of gear coming into your raid.

So in Cataclysm the choice to be a 25 man guild will really mean something…

…or will it.

There was another practice that came about this expansion with the advent of gated content: running 2 25 mans. The amount of gear coming into your raid could be increased by running half of your guild’s mains  in 2 different 25 mans, filling each half with alts. This was easy to do in normal mode ICC since the content was easy and was released in small chunks. Once it went out to a full fledged 12 boss instance (and you had hard modes), trying to attempt this became harder to do so while actually having days in the week where you don’t raid.

The Cataclysm raids, according to the Blues, will be smaller (5 or 6 bosses each).  The temptation will be there (to split your raid), but I don’t think that the time in a raid week will be there. At the moment, you can already see signs that a lot of guilds are dialing back their raid time per week (and being incredibly successful doing so). Very successful, low hour per week raids are very attractive as they minimize time spent in game,  but maximize character progression.

The only difference between the two raiding types now is the fact that you will get more (badges, gear, money) from the 25 man. “More” is so subjective that it’s hard to comment, but this is something that I get a little worried about when I think down the line in Cataclysm.

End of the line for 25 mans?

Blizzard has now decided to support 25 man raiding only because there is a segment of the population that enjoys “large scale raiding.” Count me among that group. I love going in with 25 and battling a boss that needs the synergy and coordination of a lot of people. I hated the logistical nightmare of 40 man raiding, but liked the fact that it took so many people to kill one boss.

I don’t like worrying or speculating, or going doom and gloom, but this is something that I think is a good issue to bring up. The lure of 10 man raiding is how controllable the environment is. You are dealing with 10 people. Getting 10 schedules aligned and working is relatively easy. It’s possible to fit a 10 man into almost any day of the week and even change it week to week to suit the needs of the group. The group is also small enough that no loot system is really needed, and every decision can be made by the group.

Raiders were attracted to the 25 man setting because it had better gear and the encounters were (generally) more challenging. The only difference now will be the amount of gear. This begs the question: If I’m only raiding with 9 other people, why do I need more gear and badges? What are the chances I’ll be competing for gear if I’m the only Rogue or only Shaman?

Again, expansion talk is always precarious.

The difference in the drops (including badges and gold) could be incredibly significant. Twenty five man raiders may end up getting twice the badge/gold input as the 10 man raiders. However, this is an aspect that I think Blizzard needs to get just right, or it will mark the slow downfall (and eventual demise) of 25 man raiding. It is impossible to know at this point how big this will be. The price of badge gear, the exact amount of loot or gold, and the number of bosses will all factor in.

Turnover

There are a lot of established 25 man raiding guilds (Blood Red Moon being one of them). Our guild won’t die because of this lockout change, but it might be hard to maintain a roster as more “starting with Cataclysm” players enter the game and “older/veteran” players leave.

Over the life of an expansion, a guild loses players. Some of those players move on to other guilds, some just quit the game. During Wrath of the Lich King I probably saw no less than 20 players (if not more) join and then eventually leave the ranks of Blood Red Moon.  These players ranged from one week wonders to three year guild veterans and everything in between. It’s normal and something that is easy to handle with consistent, proactive recruitment. With the new system, what will be the motivation for a “new player” (Cataclysm borne) to seek out a 25 man raiding group?

My answer to that question is reputation. The rep of a server’s guilds will keep funneling players into them, but will that hold up once those players get a sense of what 25 man raiding and 10 man raiding are all about?

There’s still the question of current players. Maybe it’s easier for a group of in game friends to leave their guilds. Leave the dkp systems, the recruitment, and the logistics of 25 man raiding behind and start something for themselves and close friends. It might not be a new guild, but a new raiding group (you only get one lockout per character).

Could we see the rise of “raiding teams” along the lines of how people view “arena teams”?

Is an official format like this coming with the new guild leveling system (players being grouped by both guild and/or raid)? In game rankings, perhaps?

10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other

I’m anxiously awaiting what becomes of this statement. To me, the simple act of coordinating 25 people is harder, and Blizzard acknowledges that. I only hope that they align the difference in difficulty with their “more loot” policy for 25 man raiders. If 25 mans are more difficult, but drop the same loot as a 10 man, do fringe 25 man raiders continue to stick with 25 man raiding or instead opt for the 10 mans?

Does 25 man raiding end up being there only to serve guilds that have been around? Why would a player starting up a guild want to tackle building up a 25 man raiding force? Would it even be possible given the above changes?

Keeping the difficulty close will be, in a word, difficult. There was evidence of this during this expansion (10 man Sarth 3D was harder, comparatively, than 25 man), but most of it was the exact opposite. Icecrown Citadel Heroic, in its entirety, is simple on 10 man when compared to 25. The differences between things such as one Val’kyr vs. three on Lich King, or the minimized dangers of Lady Deathwhisper 10 (1 ghost, 1 add) are huge.

I would say the encounter designers really have their work cut out for them, but that is an understatement.

Toward the Future

I ask a lot of questions in this post because that’s what Blizzard has opened themselves up to at this point. I’m predicting a lot of forum rage and possibly a few rebuttals and clarification by the design team.

The direction they are heading: one lockout, same gear, same difficulty, gives players a black and white choice: 10 or 25 man., heroic or normal. For established 25 man guilds, this is a good thing. No more pressure to run 10 mans. Further, 10 mans can be reserved purely for alt advancement as a fun side activity. Smaller raid sizes encourage pickup raids. They also encourage raids at odd hours when you might have the people but not the time complete a full (12+ boss) instance without missing out on some of the encounters.

A unified loot pool will keep the quantity of epics down and hopefully control the itemization to a degree. There will always be bad pieces of gear, but now there should be less bad ones compared to ones that are actually desired.

Blizzard’s desire to focus game play and remove “grindy” elements is crossing them into a weird territory that other MMOs have not been. Formerly, the way to show how good you are in an MMO was how much time you put into the game. Blizzard’s divergence from this long established practice is an interesting one that pulls them closer to what people like from their console games. They want people to be able to show their stuff and achieve things in a small frame of time (and with the people they enjoy playing beside).

If anyone can pull that off, it’s Blizzard. I just hope that by doing this they don’t remove the challenge of the game that many of us have to come to enjoy in the format we’ve come to enjoy it.

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • 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.
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ICC25 Hard Mode: Riders on the Storm

2 April, 2010

Come on, baby, light my fire–The Doors

The hard mode difficulty curve is a funny thing in Icecrown Citadel. The easiest layout for a raid leader would be the bosses starting out easy and then getting a little harder one step at a time, allowing for a natural progression path through the instance. ICC does not follow this pattern directly. In your path up the Heroic Mode Mountain is Lady Deathwhisper.

Tackling Deathwhisper right after Marrowgar is akin to following Captain Sobel up Currahee, taking a train down the other side, and then climbing Mt. Rainier. For a raid leader, going for progression on Deathwhisper is a tough call since it gates hard modes that are much easier to complete.

For me, the increase of Strength of Wrynn to 10% made this decision easy. We needed to drop Deathwhisper and we needed to do it right now. Our strategy was solid, and our strategies for the other hard modes in our crosshairs were solid. Getting Deathwhisper down didn’t mean one new kill, it meant 3.

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5 Things I Hate That Raiders Love

30 March, 2010

If life gives you lemons, go find an annoying guy with paper cuts–Unknown

This is an unprovoked rant, but one I’ve been meaning to put down in black and white for a little while now. Everyone that raids with BRM knows these very well, and knows the response (from rage to slight annoyance) when they happen to appear in my field of vision. Only some of these have been detrimental to the point of wiping the raid at an important moment, but all of them just seem to provoke some sort of inner demon (“behold the power” and all that noise). Without further delay…

5. Everyone Has AOE, but no one knows when to use it.

Every single dungeon, every single raid, every single trash pack, you can’t get people to stop AoEing. I partially blame Parrot/MSBT for this. Lumping all of that damage into one giant Mack Truck of a number that is like crack to a DPS. “35k FAN OF KNIVES WTF MAN!”

All of this stroking is in good fun when a gnome or two dies, but when there’s one mob in a pack that requires a moment of focus fire, everyone forgets where their fireball key went. You’re fighting a trash pack for a couple minutes, and you realize That One Mob (let’s say it’s a Darkfallen Tactician for arguments sake) is still alive, killing all of your healers and sapping your tanks. The raid topples over and what you’re left with is 7 mobs at 10%.

This gets completely flipped on its head when you get to a boss that requires quick, well-timed AOE. Rotworms on Heroic: Valithria Dreamwalker is a good example. A perfect candidate for an AoE fest. Eight or 9 little mobs all bunched up, but they need to be killed immediately. The AoE needs to be rolling as they spawn (think: I Choose You Molgheim!), so they don’t have a chance to attack anything.

Naxx and clever combat text mods have made AoE, and it’s proper use a Raid Leader’s headache. Let’s not get too extreme, though, nobody liked Kael’thas trash. That’s swinging too far in the other direction.

4. Battle Rez

You are saying to yourself right now: “Self, how can this idiot hate battle rez” and I will reply: “Here’s a graph.”The Battle Rez rules are thus: 3 strikes and you’re out, everyone starts the fight with 1 strike. The likelihood of receiving a battle rez goes down exponentially as content gets easier, despite the shorter cooldown.

3. Disengage

Times when Disengage has failed in glorious fashion:

  • General Vezax. Disengage to get out of the raid with Mark of the Faceless, hit a rock, don’t go anywhere, heal Vezax for 20%.
  • General Vezax. Disengage to get out of the raid, but instead launch into melee.
  • Sindragosa: Disengage to escape Blistering Cold, but the hunter is turned the wrong way
  • The Lich King: Disengage to get off the falling platform, hunter launches self off the frozen throne
  • The Lich King: Same result as above, but instead trying to be clever when escaping Defile

The response every time this happens: “Disengage always works! I just messed it up that time!” If only the same excuse could be used when someone shoots their self in the face when cleaning their gun. Never point a hunter at anything, they’re always loaded.

2. Heroic Presence

Why Blizzard? Why must you curse Alliance Raid Leaders with this epicly short range, group only buff that is counter to your itemization philosophy? Anyone that raids with no less than 5 Draenei, beware. Those DPS left in the goat-less group will be sending you tells. Probably during the countdown for the pull on the next boss. You gave us one advantage, why did it have to be this one? Why couldn’t we just get War Stomp?

This is purely raid leader annoyance/rant/bitching, but it doesn’t make it tolerable. I thought that group specific stuff stopped with Shamans. The thing is, people generally don’t whine when they’re missing healing stream totem.

And finally…

1. Army of the DumbDead

Where do I even start with this abomination of retardation (forgive the pun). It’s as if the Death Knight literally clicks a button to resurrect every bad raider to come back and haunt my raid. Every tank that could never pick up a mob, every DPS Warrior that pulled aggro all the time, and every healer that stood in range of a cleaving mob are now back in your raid to wreak havoc.

The fix to prevent these mongoloids from screwing your raid over completely (Ghouls cannot taunt Skull Level Mobs), only steeled the resolve of Death Knights everywhere. “They can’t taunt bosses! It’s ok to use Army whenever I want!”

No it isn’t.

Adds on a boss encounter are not skull level. If you still like Army, go do a Tribute to Insanity run and have the DK in your raid hit Army as the Nerubian Burrowers spawn. Hilarity (at least for me) will ensue as your tank scrambles to keep them on the permafrost and above ground. They will fail, your will raid will lose it’s pretty pony, and everyone goes home hating those stupid little ghouls forever. That situation happened to us, except it wasn’t on insanity but it was on 25 man at 5%. We didn’t win.

I’ve seen Army screw up Rotface, Deathwhisper, and just about every heroic that I’ve ever done with a DK. Houston to DK’s, come in DK’s, Army of the Dead is a tanking cooldown.

Lastly, Army pulls on Faction Champions are stupid. You should be doing the opposite of the Army pull and have your MT (in tank gear and spec) pull the Champions. Nobody should cast anything (even heals) for the first 5ish seconds as the tank debuffs the mobs as much as he can. This will make a majority of the mobs stick to one person. Your DPS can focus on the first couple targets before the melee Champions start looking for Mages to stick their weapons in.

There can be no rest until this spell is removed from the game and it’s pestilence lifted from the lives of Raid Leader’s everywhere.

Something I Don’t Hate

One of BRM’s long-time officers and raiders (longer than me even) has started his own blog:

Known As Kro

Kro is an interesting person and player, and I think you’ll find his more off-topic WoW (and non-WoW) musings very enjoyable. He has a very clever way with words and tends to serve as our resident Devil’s Advocate in officer discussions, so he always has an alternative view on things. Go give him a read, he already has plenty of posts ready and waiting.


HHM: Recruitmentface

24 March, 2010

A guild should accept a recruit as a body accepts a transplanted organ: Full rejection or full acceptance, becoming a contributing part of the whole

Hidden Hard Modes (HHM) is a series dedicated to those bosses you see outside of the game. The bosses you need to kill just to make it into an instance and before you even kill one boss. This feature will be archived in its own page for easy access after it runs its course. Previous entries: Attendancegut.

Recruitment is one of the most talked about and debated guild relations topics out there. Nearly every guild is recruiting someone. So if everyone is doing it, how do you stand out and/or be effective in pulling in quality players? Guides on the details of making an “effective recruitment post” are only useful to a certain point. Sure it’s always a good idea to present your guild information in an intelligible way and be truthful about your needs, but there are so many recruitment threads out there. When a recruit pulls up a realm forum or recruitment thread he’s looking at the following parameters:

  1. Minimum progression: Anyone that is looking to move to another raiding guild has some sense of where they want to be and what they’re capable of (if only subconsciously).
  2. Raid Times/Attendance Req’s: Does their availability match with yours?
  3. Potential Raiding Chances: What is the likelihood that they’ll get into raids?
  4. (On Server Only) Friends/Family: Often if a guild disbands or a player is looking to move, he’ll go to the guild where most of his on-server friends play. It doesn’t matter if the guild is at the top or bottom, they’re looking for a familiar place with familiar faces.

That’s it. Anything else like handing out free repair bills or double coupons up to $0.99 are just nice little perks. If the potential recruit does not think your guild can meet the above three parameters, it doesn’t matter.

Recruitmentface

This doesn’t just mean bumping recruitment posts and spamming trade chat, it also means properly managing your raid roster for various compositions and full tank/healer coverage. The night you can’t do Blood Queen because you have no +hit buff available is a wipe on Recruitmentface.

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Holding Out For A Hero

19 March, 2010

A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.–Novalis

Heroism/Bloodlust is an essential raid buff on nearly every encounter. On some it’s just a way to get it over with a little faster. Other fights require it to meet a benchmark or cover all of the healing required.

This is a simple post that simply lists in a simple fashion when I hit (or call for) Heroism:

  • Lord Marrowgar (Normal/Heroic): Start of the fight.*
  • Lady Deathwhisper (Normal): Start of the fight.*
  • Gunship Battle: By the time you’ve read this far into the guide, you already have won
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (Normal): When Saurfang frenzies at 30%
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (Heroic): When you think you can win in the next 40 seconds.
  • Rotface (Normal/Heroic): Start of the fight.*
  • Festergut (Normal/Heroic): As the first gas expunge is casting.
  • Professor Putricide (Normal): After one complete tank rotation (All tanks have 2 debuffs). This generally lines up with ~20% and will aid the raid healing quite a bit.
  • Blood Prince Council (Normal/Heroic): First time the Darkfallen Orb passes to Taldaram. The melee doesn’t have to move.
  • Blood Queen Lana’thel (Normal/Heroic): After all 16 vampires are active.
  • Valithria Dreamwalker (Normal/Heroic): After portal #3 or #4, depends on how fast you are moving. Make sure GS is ready to go up on her when you exit the Dream/Nightmare.
  • Sindragosa (Normal): Final ground phase (generally ~40%), this will allow you to push back the enrage and also not put your DPS in jeopardy if you use it later (Mystic Buffets!)
  • The Lich King (Normal): During the second Remorseless Winter when the first Raging Spirit spawns.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in To(G)C:

  • Northrend Beasts: After the first Jormungar burrow, when Acidmaw is mobile for the first time.
  • Lord Jaraxxus: Start of the fight*
  • Faction Champions: Start of the fight, when the melee are actually on their target (wait for them to run in).
  • Twin Val’kyr: After the second vortex, or when you see a good number of dps empowered. On Heroic Mode we tended to use this as late as possible regardless of empowered just to guarantee we had the healing to power through the last 20ish%
  • Anub’Arak: Start of Phase 3 (Leeching Swarm, phase). This is the best way to counter the massive amount of healing done as he transitions over.

*Make sure the boss is fully debuffed before activating Lust/Heroism (Sunders, Ebon Plaguebringer, etc.)

UPDATE: The above are from a 25 man point of view, but also all work for the 10 man versions of these encounters.

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Approaching Hard Mode ICC25, A Road Map

15 March, 2010

To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some may say that non-linearity is the true way to create interesting content. It provides choices and perhaps a different way of doing things. In reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe you get to choose a different path through the instance when farming the content, but that is quite inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

What Raid Leaders want, and look for, is the best path through an instance. If they don’t know what to choose, the choice will quickly be made for them. Let’s take a look at the “First Four” bosses of the original Naxx:

  1. Anub’rekhan
  2. Noth the Plaguebringer
  3. Instructor Razuvious
  4. Patchwerk

One of these things is not like the other.

Even if an ambitious raid leader wanted to tackle Patchwerk first, he simply could not. What he will fall back on is either experimentation (if he’s one of the first in), or the experiences of guilds that came before him. In the case of Icecrown Citadel Hard Modes, the latter is where most of us fall.  Plotting out a course of action based on the science of guilds that have already tried (and failed, in some cases) is the best way to create an effective map of hard mode progression.

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ICC25 Hard Mode: Power Overwhelming

13 March, 2010

We burn…We need focus…Thorasoh’cahp! — Archon, StarCraft

Our third and final night of hard modes included two bosses that supercharge the raid to ridiculous levels: Blood Queen and Valithria Dreamwalker. Killing off both would allow us to meet and exceed our goal of at least 5 hard modes this first reset. It turns out we were more prepared for both than I originally thought.

“Eradicate”

Leaving a raid with a boss at 4.7% HP, knowing you needed just 12k more raid DPS, tends to leave a good amount of trepidation at the start of next night. You worry of falling into a loop of wiping since your momentum from the last evening’s attempts is all but gone. The best thing to do before starting right in on a boss is get the blood flowing. A warm-up if you will.

For us it was the trash prior to Dreamwalker. We cleared to collect our free single Emblem of Frost and then back-tracked to the Crimson Halls. The message? Once we drop Blood Queen, Dreamwalker could be saved shortly after.

Once again we prepped for Blood Queen. Potions at the ready, food and flasks, a quick double check to make sure all the raid buffs were covered.

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