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.


Current Events: Shaman Cataclysm Preview

6 July, 2010

Son of Odin, Thunder God, Master of War. Asator

The lift of the NDA on in-development Cataclysm content and the opening of closed beta has unleashed an avalanche of information (or tidal wave, I suppose would be more appropriate for this expansion) onto the web. Most of it is a lot of stuff that doesn’t get a big rise out of me anymore. Seeing flyover shots of zones and new NPC models just isn’t very interesting to me. We’ll be looking at all of it for the next 2 years, probably, so it’s nice to leave at least some of it discovery.

I was in the Burning Crusade beta test, and I ate up every bit of released information. Every single screenshot, video, and new dungeon to test. I did it all. For Wrath of the Lich King it was the opposite. My experience with each expansion was largely the same.

Actually, I don’t really want to spend several hours of my day flipping through 20 high res pictures of the same animal in different colors.

The shaman talent tree, on the other hand, is something that is very intriguing. There are a couple changes from the preview that puts a different spin on some of the comments I had before.

Improved Earth Shield

Improved Earth Shield is no longer a member of the Restoration talent tree. Earth Shield is now a 1 talent point ability that will have 9 charges as a base amount. Not an expected change, but a welcome one since adding 2 more charges to Earth Shield by spending 2 talent points is one of the most uninteresting/boring-but-required decisions one makes when filling out a resto spec.

Empowered Healing

In place of Improved Earth Shield we have Empowered Healing, we have a new 3 point talent:

Your Greater Healing Wave spell gains an additional 7%/14%/20% of your bonus healing effects, and your Healing Wave and Lesser Healing Wave spells an additional 3%/7%/10%

Nature’s Blessing is prerequisite for this talent that exists in the bowels of the tree on tier 9. To me it’s a little bit ‘meh’. Basically, you’re going to take both of these talents to make sure your output is at a maximum, so there isn’t much to talk about here. As you’ll see a bit later in this post, you lose nothing by having to take this talent.

Telluric Currents

Another new talent since the first preview:

Your attunement to natural energies causes your Lightning Bolt spell to restore mana equal to 15%/30%/45% of damage dealt.

A tier 10 talent to improve Restoration DPS? Interesting. Well, it improves our DPS by making those weak-ass lightning bolts not hurt our mana pool all that much. Before I give my comments on it, let’s take a look at the beta build I would use if I had a level 85 shaman on the beta: 0/18/58

I haven’t made up my mind yet as to whether or not the current restoration talent tree is a blessing or a curse. Even with this second iteration, a PvE/Raiding Focused Shaman can take every talent that they need to improve their output. Perhaps I misunderstood Blizzard. They once said they would put enough talents into the tree that you wouldn’t be able to get everything you want.

However, that isn’t the case for me. Maybe my priorities of trying to maximize my output for raiding are different from players that might dabble in a little PvP, but it seems like going “all-in” to the resto tree still allows me to get some great utility talents like Enhancing Totems, Ancestral Swiftness, and Telluric Currents (and even Improved Reincarnation if you want to count that).

This isn’t a bad thing, in terms of making sure you’re getting the most out of your spent talent points, but some may say it doesn’t allow shamans to differentiate themselves within a raid (tank vs. raid healing). If you want to do something other than be a primary raid healer, then you need to change classes. Roll a Paladin, maybe test the waters of Discipline within the Priest realm, but don’t cry about (possibly) sub par single-target throughput when you have some of the best raid healing tools in the game on your side.

Fghtin’ Words

Back to Telluric Currents. These days in the land of milk, honey, and “hard mode” content, we healers find ourselves a little bored in some parts of a fight. There is no worse feeling than sitting in a fight as things are going on and not contributing at all. Every fight requires a minimum amount of healing, tanking, and DPS. Unlike healing and tanking, DPS has no maximum. The first thing a raid leader does after putting a fight on farm, or trying to shorten a phase or beat an enrage timer, is find a way to drop the total number of tanks and healers.

Even then, there will still be times as a healer where you’ll stand waiting for the next event so you can heal up. Maybe giving us the ability to provide some DPS will stem some of that boredom, but in the end if it isn’t a meaningful amount of damage (and it won’t be for various reasons) then healers will just zone out anyway. Another primarily-pvp addition which is probably needed.

I’ll take the talents because there isn’t any more to take (output-wise) in the tree. There are various talents like Nature’s Guardian, Focused Mind, Healing Grace, Totemic Focus, Healing Focus, and Focused Insight that other shamans will take instead.

This brings us to the Blue Post on DPSing as a healer:

Opportunity 1: Leveling or soloing. Not every healer wants to use their dual spec on say Elemental or Shadow.

So basically we’re looking at the mythical healer that needs a PvP and PvE healing spec while leveling. Those don’t exist, no matter how ambitious. If you are one of these healers then you get my usual response: just level up. There is no reason to use a healing spec when you’re leveling unless you are paired with a DPS class as a leveling partner (as I did for WotLK). If you are stubborn enough to have 2 healing specs while leveling solo, you get to suffer. With dual-talent specialization, you get the opportunity to do two things very easily. If you want to do 3 things then you have to do what everyone’s been doing since  release. No big deal.

Opportunity 2: PVP. Good healers, especially priests in today’s game, can contribute a lot of damage.

The talents that resto shamans currently get do not increase our damage unless you stripped out a few of the more PvE oriented talents and dipped into elemental. I’m stepping out of my element (pardon the pun) and into PvP so I’ll just move on.

Opportunity 3: Dungeons. This is particularly true when the content is easy and you want to get through it quickly. Healing more doesn’t make things go any faster. Dealing damage does.

DPSing in a healing spec with the talents we have now (beta+) is about as fun or interesting as playing with a paddle-ball blindfolded. If we’re talking about speeding up a 5 man when “content is easy,” then I might get to cast one lightning bolt (maybe two) per pack. How that contributes to speeding up content, I’m not real sure.

Opportunity 4: Raids. No matter how challenging the content, there are moments when nobody is taking damage and you can spare the mana. Your choices are do nothing, tab out to YouTube, or maybe do a little damage.

As a raid leader you can also add “cat herding” to that list (in place of do-nothing). If I wasn’t a raid leader then I’d pick do nothing or YouTube. DPSing as a healer, again, consists of throwing out a base spell and then saying on vent “woohoo a [1/4 DPS spec] damage lightning bolt!” The short version of all of this: if you find yourself really wanting to DPS, use your secondary spec for DPS, otherwise suck it up. That’s why it’s there.

The real way to make healers happy is keep them interested by healing in raids even towards the end of the content’s life-cycle. I’m not sure if that’s possible, so I’ll just consider it a reward for being the hardest working role at the beginning of the tier.


Halion Post #72653: This is the good Twilight

1 July, 2010

Rebels souls, deserters we were called. Chose a gun, and threw away the sword. Now these towns, they all know our names. Six gun sound is our claim to fame. — Bad Company

You’ve already watched the TankSpot video, you’ve read the brief strat write-ups on WoWHead, and maybe even dabbled in a bit of the lore. Going back over all of that is just going to be a waste of your time, and mineso here are my brief (not) impressions/opinions on the last raid of Wrath of the Lich King.

Overall, I was pleased with the new visuals and layout of the instance. It’s only one room so my expectations weren’t amazingly high, but they did a good job capturing the Red Flight’s theme that you see in Dragonblight.

The mini-boss concept is something that they’ve opened up in Wrath of the Lich King and I hope continues into Cataclysm. The dogs and the valkyr in Icecrown Citadel, along with the drakes in Obsidian Sanctum and Lieutenants inside Ruby Sanctum, break up the trash clear in a good way.  They have mechanics that you actually have to worry about and give your DPS some time to actually ramp up and use their real rotations.

For healers, we get to glance back at the monitor during trash which is nice. So far in Wrath there has been no trash other than maybe Crimson Halls that required any sort of real attention.

Halion Phase 1

Being outdoors in an open grove, you immediately get the sense that you are going to need to use most of the area and do a lot of movement. The first step that I always try to take when setting up a fight like this is try and maximize the raid’s usable space, if possible. The fiery wall surrounding the fight area is a nice border you can park Halion’s side against. The breath and tail aren’t really a problem, and if a meteor or poorly placed “void zone” force movement, you can just walk along the outside rim.

Phase 1 is a big time joke. There is nothing in this phase of the fight that can kill you (even if you try). You can take  a meteor to the face and still live. Why? I have absolutely no idea. If it was so important to move out of it, why make it take so long to land or even give much of a warning at all. As it stands, anyone that’s even barely paying attention will reduce the raid damage to nothing.

Conversely, a raid with lower DPS might have to deal with more meteors and void zones. Our raid comp ended up being 2 tanks (Warrior/Paladin), 5 Healers (Shaman/2xPriest/2xDruid), and 18 DPS (10 ranged, 8 melee), which is very DPS heavy. As we reached 75%, we were consistently getting 2 void zones and 1 meteor. Yawn.

Zone into the Twilight. Don’t touch the Dragon. He bites.

Hallion Phase 2

BloodlustHeroism as soon as everyone is phased in.

Going into this fight, you might ask yourself: “self, how the heck am I going to see the people to cleanse in the right spot while I’m running around dodging this big lazer!?” The answer is simple, just cleanse it right away. We tested fairly early on that the damage done by the void zones (both shadow and fire) in normal mode are easy to heal through for quick bursts.

Cleansing people immediately in the Twilight gives you these benefits

  1. Mindless. Your healers won’t have to think a lot about people’s position and whether it’s “safe” to cleanse. The debuff pops up on your grid and you just knock it right back down.
  2. Small void zone. An immediate cleanse creates a void zone that’s about 8ish yards across. Even if it’s dropped in melee, Halion’s hit box is so big that you almost don’t even notice it. They disappear in enough time

Phase 2 doesn’t last all that long (a trend from Phase 1).

Halion Phase 3

Shieldbubblebear Wall while people are zoning in/out and healers are making sure the Physical Realm team is safely ushered back upstairs.

If assigned, zone out into the Physical Realm. Don’t touch the Dragon. He bites.

Your raid is now split in two. We sent the melee upstairs (+hunter) and kept the ranged DPS downstairs. The Twilight Cutter is impossible to get hit by if you’re a ranged dps unless you’re standing right on top of an orb. Conversely the melee are always in danger of getting caught up in their rotation and being zapped.It’s also easier to just say “melee up, ranged down” and you don’t have to bother with pesky group assignments.

Physcial Realm (Top)

One Healer. One Tank. A little bit of fire. We started off with our healing split being 2 down (Me and a Druid) and 3 up (Druid + 2 Priests). We then went to 2 up, 3 down (Me/Druid/Priest), and by the time we killed him we determined that the top can be easily solo healed. Four healers, split between tank and raid, is good insurance for the Twilight Realm which is significantly…more involved than the Physical Realm.

Twlight Realm (Bottom)

Healer tips for those that are new:

  1. If your tank is closely following the beam (like he should be), a good place to stand is right on the bosses front leg. This will keep you in range of him with some buffer if a void zone is dropped oddly, but will also keep your DPS healing targets within 40 yards.
  2. That being said, make sure you don’t get cleaved or breathed on, it’s easy to lose track of which way the dragon is facing while you’re running.
  3. The tank is your number one priority, do not focus on keeping raid members topped off 100% of the time. Make sure you are keeping them in a safe range, certainly, but this fight is over immediately if that tank drops. Dead raid members can be battle-rezzed (also: ankh, soul stone) and take the portal back down.
  4. Riptide and LHW are your best friend. Being soft-capped on your haste is a good thing here.
  5. Communicate with your tank and let him know if you’re out of range for any length of time. Even if it’s only for a little, Halion hits hard enough that an unlucky avoidance streak will equal a wipe.
  6. I found myself hitting my NS cooldown as soon as it came up and waiting on it for a quick burst when I was moving (prelude to Cataclysm and spirit-walking).

One thing to keep in mind if you choose to do a melee up, ranged down strat, Halion’s corporeality will dip under 40% quite often as the ranged DPS will be forced to move as a group much more often than the melee. Just have the Physical realm pause for a bit and let it come back up.

Stay out of the Twilight Cutter and you’ll have little problems. Like I said above, a competent healer can handle the Physical realm on their own. Even with the movement requirements in the Twilight, I never felt overly stretched. Though, after healing Putricide(HM) Phase 3, Halion phase 3 is a bit of a breather.

Impressions

I made the comparison of raids to Theme Parks a few posts back, and that analogy holds true for Halion. Halion is a boss that’s all about making you feel like you’re about to die at any moment, but never actually does anything that will kill you. The void zones aren’t really void zones, you can run across one and live with just a couple heals (if any). The Twilight Cutter is dangerous but the extensive emotes and the slow movement mean you really have to leave your computer to be killed by it.

We obviously haven’t done heroic mode (yet), but I’ve read enough about it to know that there is a lot more potential in this fight. Heroic additions such as adds from meteors, void zones appearing in both realms, and two simultaneous twilight cutters means that if you didn’t have enough things to not stand in before, you can rest assured that you’re available space will be much tighter.

Anyways, as far as the normal mode version of the encounter goes, it was a fun and refreshing take on YADF*. Anything that splits the raid in half is always a challenge of balancing and coordination. You never quite know what is going on so it forces you to actively communicate and keep vent cleared. The vent clogging can get out a bit out of hand as the Twlight Realm will be talking a lot more than the Physical Realm.

The first two phases were just too short for even very average DPS. Because of this, you don’t really deal with any of the mechanics until the last phase and by that time, as long as your tanks stay upright you can limp home if needed. The meteor and void zone timers do not require your movement and positioning to be as strict as I thought they would. Things tend to disappear rather quickly.

I stayed in the Twilight Realm, but from what I heard over Vent, the Physical Realm is the trivial portion of the encounter.

On hard mode with the adds and additional damage/void zones, it will likely be the more complicated half of the raid. The disappointing thing about normal mode, sadly, was that we only got one upgrade (Caster DPS trinket). The other pieces were given to offspecs/side grades. We’ve spent a lot of time farming hard mode ICC, so that is expected, but it seems like we could have used this boss maybe 2 months ago whenever we were plodding along still with some 251 gear.

My question is: Why not have encounters in all of the Wyrmrest portals? Both Sartharion and Halion were incredibly enjoyable experiences top to bottom. It would end up being a set of 1 encounter dungeons that would form a pseudo-full instance. There were a lot of breaks in content throughout Wrath of the Lich King, adding fights for the Green (with Ulduar?), Blue(with ToC?), and Bronze (with ICC?) flights would have been really cool.

All in all, we notched another boss kill in about 6 attempts. By ICC standards it ranks on the low end of difficult fights, but nothing I didn’t expect. In the next couple resets I hope to get into hard mode (10 man and possibly 25) to see what’s in store to snag some i284s.

Bottom-Line: Very fun and engaging encounter, but lacks a real danger factor once you’ve seen how tame some of the mechanics really are. A nice punctuation mark on a successful expansion.

*Yet Another Dragon Fight


4.0 Raiding Scene Taking Shape

18 June, 2010

Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it.

The last week has been a torrent of information. Since the initial announcement of shared resets between 10 and 25 man raiding. Initially it looked as if Blizzard may as well just decide to stop offering a 25 man option altogether. As Sunday the 13th faded into Monday, that outcome was looking more and more likely.

What we’ve learned

The Blues have revealed, through a strong dialog on the forums, several more details regarding raiding in Cataclysm. At the same time, I have even MORE questions than the last time.

Legendaries

These will be available in both modes. That makes me balk a little and cock my head ever-so-slightly to the side. Legendaries are the only weapon in the game wielded by all 25 raiders. One person is giving the honor of carrying it, much like the flag in front of a regiment.

Giving an item like this to a 10 player raid seems wrong, but if we’re changing the style of raiding to 10s OR 25s then it is only fair. However, they didn’t yet comment on the speed one would be able to complete a legendary in 10 vs a 25. The speed to complete might not be enough for me if it isn’t a staggering difference.

All players want a legendary item for obvious reasons: power. If the first legendary of Cataclysm is, as surmised from Blizzcon, a caster legendary, then the competition for it will be pretty fierce. In an average 25 man raid, we carry in approximately 8 or 9 caster DPS. In a 10 man raid, you will have at most 3. For the players on the low end of that 8 or 9 from the 25 man, the incentive to try their hand at a 10 man will be much greater.

Drop Disparity

As I understand it, we’ll see it play out like this:

  • All gear is the same
  • Normal Modes: Same items per player (possible slightly higher items per player in 25), more emblems from 25 man
  • Hard Modes: Higher items per player in 25 man, more emblems from 25 man

It is here where the questions just start popping up like crazy for me. There is a point in every raiding tier where the gear on your raiders eclipses the possible number of droppable upgrades. When we’re talking about players in the categories such as spellpower leather, plate, and mail. Further, those classes are going to be encouraged to stay within their armor class through stat distribution (strength vs. agility) and even talents.

After you reach that point, you’re doing a few of the remaining encounters/achievements and basically farming for a rarely dropped trinket or weapon that is desired among many. What DKP systems determine isn’t who gets gear, but who gets the gear first. If you boil it down over the course of a tier, it might work out that it determines who gets those rare items and who doesn’t, but that’s a rare occasion.

Is getting “gear saturated” more quickly really an advantage? In terms of progression (both raid and individual), you may move faster by being in a 25 man, but at the end of the tier everyone will probably at the same point. Do people really raid to see if they can get their tier shoulders one week before another person?

The gear competition in a 10 man, even if it’s a lower item-per-player ratio, is extremely low compared to a 25 man, particularly in the realm of caster DPS.

Emblems

Saying that 25 mans get more of these is little more than hand-waving currently. In my last post on the subject, I asked that 25 man raiders get the ability to cap their Valor points without doing 5 mans. It appears that will be the case.

Until we see how much an item costs (both for honor and valor) in relation to income, we can’t really determine who has the advantage in this category.

Achievements and Guild Perks

Switching from a talent system to a perks system is better. No choices, no specs, just earn the perks and use them. It takes another load off the guild leadership, some of which include many friends/family members.

Guild reputation is something that I’m not real pleased with. Now that achievements will include data on who was there to complete them, I assume that those that are present for a first kill will receive credit towards guild leveling in the form of reputation. Wait a second…there were four players waiting on the bench for every attempt. Two of those were just switched out on the last couple attempts before the kill because we wanted to add more healing.

Do they get nothing?

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Cataclysm Raiding Manifesto

20 April, 2010

“Death can take me if I can’t be free. I am not like you, I’m a dying breed!”-Five Finger Death Punch

It’s hard to remember back to the time when there were no achievements in raids. We’re coming up on nearly two full years of raiding with those little 10pt boxes flashing on our screen after (or even during) boss fights.

The playing field for the whole game changed with those little boxes. Now, we are no longer raiding for perfection, we’re raiding to check off boxes on a list of things we need to get done. The necessity of being able to easily repeat a boss fight is now distilled down to one encounter: Lich King Heroic. A raid group needs to complete the heroic mode versions of Professor Putricide, Blood Queen Lana’thel, and Sindragosa to move on and use their remaining attempts to work on the pinnacle challenge of WotLK.

So it affects about 200 guilds. Cool.

The problem that this creates, in conjunction with Strength of Wrynn, is that gear is no longer a factor in progression. It certainly provides an edge to those that collect it and min/max their kits to squeeze out every last drop of DPS, but it isn’t required to progress nearly as much as it used to.

This has moved most of the hardcore raiding community off of the race track and onto a go-kart track. Someone might win the race, but it’s only about the ride and not the result. The choice we make to raid in a hard core environment and compete with other guilds is watered down, and has little in the way of actual competitive measurement.

After the jump my thoughts on Cataclysm, raiding, and moving back to a raiding system that melds the traditional with the contemporary.

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HHM: Lord Moralegar – Turning Raiding Momentum In Your Favor

15 April, 2010

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.–Vince Lombardi

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, Recruitmentface

It’s been some time since my last entry on this topic due to a lot of progress, other interesting topics to write on, and the one first of two events this year that make this post actually possible to carve out. Also, this post is likely going to cover much of what I intended for Stratagosa, so we’ll count this as a “council boss” for Hidden Hard Modes ;).

Morale and confidence within a raid are strange animals. In one moment you can effortlessly defeat anything placed in front of you, and with one wipe at a low percent you’re struggling wipe after wipe, for seemingly no reason. There’s a reason that I’m constantly comparing what we do in game to those that skate and hoop in front of thousands: the mentality is similar

Seasons

In PvP there are defined arena seasons, but those are relatively abstract compared to an actual sports season. Raiding actually follows a more stringent schedule and time frame when compared to the typical NHL or NBA season. In a typical week, they’ll play 3 to 4 games. For Raiders, we’re getting up and heading into an instance the same amount.

Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The mental and physical toughness that it takes to be a professional athlete is so far above what a raider in WoW exerts it might as well be on Jupiter. That being said, in a typical raiding cycle (approximately 7 months) you’re suiting up to play 112 times with probably 70 of those nights being actual progression.

Handling that kind of grind is not easy. There will be off nights and weeks, times when you don’t really get anything done. Is the sky falling every time you wipe 10 times on a boss you’ve killed a half dozen times? Is it time to kick people or disband the guild if a bad raid night turns into a streak of bad nights? Of course not.

Bouncing Back

In hockey this phenomenon is referred to as “tilting the ice.” During a game or a season it might seem like one team is completely outmatched. No matter what they do or how many penalties the other team gets, they just can’t get anything going. It actually looks like someone picked up one end of the rink so that one team is playing downhill. When a game is in the balance, the tilt can go either way at any time. A quick streak of goals can send a team into a downward spiral, bleeding momentum.

Momentum when fighting through a raid instance is just as important. An easy one shot on a boss carries over to the next boss (and so far). Wipes happen just like goals agsinst happen. Expecting to go an entire season without being scored on is ridiculous. Especially on harder content, you need to expect that some bad things will happen or someone will make a mistake and you won’t be able to recover. That’s fine. You just recover, re-buff and pull again.

The wipes that really throw you off kilter are the “back breakers.” You just had a couple solid attempts where a tank DC’d or some dice rolls lined up the wrong way. Everyone is still pretty confident, but this time a melee loses his head and gets his group killed early in the fight. Ugh, killer. We played perfectly and wiped, we played poorly and wiped, how the hell are we going to beat this?

It’s time to bounce back.

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