7 Things a Raid Leader Needs to Succeed

A raid leader’s job is terribly important when you look at World of Warcraft. The raid leader is, at least symbolically, the reason your raid team succeeds or fails.

Thus, the success of your raid team relies on the success of your raid leader. Probably.

Gathered from my own experiences, here, then, are seven things that most (all?) raid leaders need.

1) The desire, vision, energy and time to lead a group of individuals through raid instances. Seems a little obvious, I know, but if you’re missing any of these things, you will fail. If you’re not giving it your all, if you’re not doing everything you can to improve your raid team, you will almost certainly fail.

This means reading strats, tweaking strats, examining logs, explaining what happened on various attempts and fixing the issues that didn’t allow you to get the boss down. Perhaps it will be in the wee hours of the morning, perhaps it will be during your lunch break at work, maybe it’ll be while you’re supposed to be paying attention in class… It needs to be done. If you’re not ready to put in the time and energy, if you don’t have the desire or vision to drag people through, kicking and screaming as they go, then you probably don’t want to be a raid leader.

2) A great support system, both in and out of the game. If your guild isn’t supporting you, you won’t have a chance. Your guild officers need to work with you to build the team. Your officers are a huge part of the team and if you don’t have officers who are willing to work with you, who are willing to help research things or to help talk to people or to help organize people within the raids themselves, forget it.

You also need to be able to vent about your frustrations outside of the game, to someone who doesn’t really know all these people you’re dealing with. It can be a friend, a partner, a sibling, anyone, but the farther removed they are from the game, the better. It’s theraputic to vent.

3) A good understanding of the raid group. Look, you can only work with what you’ve got. If you have a resto shaman who never does anything apart from chain healing the melee, short of replacing them, you have to deal with them. That might mean just assigning them to stand there and heal the melee. Similarly, your group might be collectively terrible at encounters where you have to move (spreading out, collapsing, etc). You have to adjust for this. Change assignments, change requirements, change the strategy so that you give your team (your team) the best chance of success.

4) A good understanding of the game’s mechanics and past encounters. What helped me tremendously as a raid leader was finding similarities between different fights. So when I was fighting, I don’t know, Ultraxion in Dragon Soul, it was a lot like fighting Patchwerk in Naxxramas, with just the extra button push for Heroic Will. Being aware of how council-type fights work is a huge bonus. Understanding that jumping out of fire is generally a bad plan can be useful. Knowing the various cooldowns available to your team’s classes is key.

5) The tools for the job. By this, I mean something like Raid Buff Status, which is amazing to see who’s buffed, who’s not, who’s eaten or flasked, who’s not and the like. I also mean making sure you’re logging your fights, through a combat log parser such as (my preferred) Warcraft Logs. Definitely spend some time going through your logs. Analysis is key to improvement. (What are some of your favourite raid leader addons and tools? Comment below!)

6) The ability to let someone know that they’re just not cutting it. This is one of the harder parts of the job, but sometimes, you have to tell that resto shaman that they need to do more or risk being replaced. There’s no need to be personal about it, although it will almost certainly be taken that way, but rely on facts and be kind. You never know when someone will redouble their efforts because you let them know that even though they’re not doing the job right now, you believe in them. Give them a reasonable deadline to show improvement and if they improve, let them know how impressed you are. If they haven’t improved, at least you gave them a shot.

7) Raid team members to lead. Face it, without a raid team, you’re just another know-it-all in LFR who has no one listening to them. Always treat your members with respect, always emphasize that the team as a whole comes before individuals and know that you are just a few /gquits away from being That Guy ordering people around in LFR. What makes you a leader is that you are leading your team. Your team. Treat them well. Even that resto shaman.

Hope that was helpful! Share with me your suggestions for various addons and such a raid leader might want to use. Tell me a story about That Resto Shaman who insists on just healing melee with chain heal. What are some of your favourite raid encounters and why?

Old Habits Die Hard

With the news that Patch 5.4.8 would bring with it the ability to add two more upgrades (4 ilvls each) to 5.4 gear, I laughed to myself. Why? Well, because there are several instances of Blizzard saying they won’t nerf Siege of Orgrimmar (at least not in the blanket-nerf sense of the word). The most recent one was just a month ago, back in April.

And yet, they’re adding up to 8 more ilvls to every piece of SoO gear, every piece of Timeless Isle gear, every piece of SoO crafted gear… Granted, as Watcher states, it’s “nothing” compared to a zone-wide 30% aura:

But Valor upgrades are still a nerf. I went through that in this old post of mine from last September (wow, was I ever off on the timing of the expansion…) and I still maintain my opinion that it’s a nerf. That said, I am also still a fan of the fact that the onus is on the player to make their raids easier.

Anyhow, I laughed to myself at all of this and was, once again, pleased that I’m not raiding in any serious capacity at all.

That said, I had the intention to cap Valor so I could walk into 5.4.8 with 1000 or 2000 VP and upgrade the crap out of what I’m wearing. I figured we still had a week or two.

And then we were told on Monday that, OH HEY, PATCH DAY TOMORROW.

Wanna know how much Valor I had earned in the last, oh, two weeks?

Five.

That’s right. Five Valor. I did one quest for 5 Valor or something. That’s it.

So, forgetting for a while that I am no longer a progression raider, I got online and did my 200 VP Epoch Stone quest on Timeless Isle. In so doing, I also earned 50 VP from killing 20 elites on Timeless Isle.

Total VP: 255.

This was substantially less than 1000.

So I did the unthinkable. I queued up for the first couple of wings of Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. Late on a Monday night.

Wing 2 popped for me.

By some miracle, we didn’t wipe on Galakras, despite there being ZERO tower group organization.

Both tanks left shortly after that mess. And then we got some extremely talented players who were, and let’s be fair to them, total douchecanoes. One of them was the tank, the other was a DPS warrior. Both were very well-geared and knew their stuff, but oh my God. The language. The foul, foul, FOUL language, full of slurs and pejoratives!

I was going to leave, but I didn’t. I’d already put in 30 minutes of waiting for the queue, plus 20 minutes on Galakras, plus another 10 of waiting for two new tanks to show up.

Someone ninja-pulled on Iron Juggernaut and we wiped. Then we actually had a good pull and killed that. Killed Dark Shaman. Then wiped on Nazgrim because people still apparently don’t know how to kill adds… Finally got Nazgrim down, adding 90 VP to my pathetic collection, bringing me to 345 total. (Also, no Secrets through those bosses.)

My other queue popped for the first wing and I was going to take it, except I was still annoyed and I was tired and…

… and I’m not a raider.

It’s as though a lightbulb went off. Who the eff cares if I don’t max out my VP? I certainly didn’t care until faced with the fact that I could do more stuff with my VP today. Guess what? I haven’t even fully upgraded most of the gear that I’m wearing. (Part of this is because I want to get better gear before upgrading.) So, really, what the heck is the point in trying desperately to cap to get to 1000 VP before servers go down? There’s no one relying on me to “do my part”, there’s nothing driving me to do it, except my own expectations.

I declined the queue and thought about this.

Even though I haven’t raided seriously (as in, not LFR) since the end of Dragon Soul, I am still wired to try to maximize my potential. It took a lot of effort in the first place to stop VP capping even when I didn’t want to any longer. For so long, it’s just been part of my WoW life to do unpleasant tasks “because I have to!”

But I don’t “have to” any longer. (And true, strictly speaking, I never “had to”, but I felt I had a responsibility to my raid teams to do whatever I could.)

It’s going to take some time to adjust to this whole “I can do whatever I want” thing. Breaking such a long-standing old habit is definitely not as easy as one might think. Even now, I’m filled with residual “dammit, why didn’t I cap VP for three weeks prior to today?!” thoughts and I even have a bit of guilt resulting from it.

You’d think that not having played for ~17 months would have cured that right quick, but no. It’s as though my “decompression” from being a raider was just on pause until I got back into the game and NOW I’m dealing with what it’s like to not be a raider.

It’s still so very, very strange.

Thought I’d share. :)

Introducing the GUILD PACKAGE!

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that, starting today, a new version of my Kick-Ass Raider guide is available. It’s the GUILD PACKAGE! That’s right, if you’re a guild master or a raid leader (or perhaps just a generous person), you can purchase unlimited copies of my Raider guide for your own raid team.

For a limited time, $37 (regular price is $47) gets you virtually unlimited copies of my guide for your raid team members. It’s the EPIC version of the guide, too, not just the basic, rare guide. That means that if you want to get four copies for people, that’s already cheaper than buying four of the $9.99 Epic guides. That also means that if you have 30 people on your roster, for example, and you get this package, you’re paying just $1.23 per guide for all of your teammates. If you’ve got 12 people on your team, that’s just about $3.08 per guide. That’s cheaper than a cup of coffee at Starbucks! ;)

Okay, so it’s not truly unlimited in that it’s really meant for a single raid team, but if you’re the GM of a huge guild with a dozen teams or something, email me at kurn (at) kurn (dot) info and we’ll work something out!

All the details can be found here:

http://kurn.info/raiderguild.html

PLUS, the first 10 people to use this discount code get 15% off. The code is LEEROYJENKINS. (This promotional code is only good for this guild package.)

Looking for something free? No problem. Sign up for my free announcement list (very low volume, no spam!) and get a free copy of the rare version of Module 1 of my Kick-Ass GM Guide! Additionally, I expect to start work on my next project, the Kick-Ass Raid Leader Guide, in May, with sneak peeks showing up sometime in June, so sign up for the mailing list anyway to be notified when this stuff comes out!

Finally, remember that I’m writing the Guild Leadership column over at SentryTotem.com! I’ve got a new column up roughly twice a week at the moment, so be sure to check that out, not just for my stuff, but for all the other quality content on the site. :)

Happy Monday, people!

(PS: This post comes to you from The Storm Peaks where I sit, waiting, ever-patiently. Or, you know, not patiently at all.)

So You Just Boosted to 90…

Like many other people, you just pre-ordered the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft and that means you get an instant 90 boost. While you might have some idea of how to play the class and spec you boosted, maybe you don’t. Maybe you boosted a brand-new character that you just created.

Once you boost to 90, you may be tempted to jump into group content right away. You are technically able to queue for, uh, anything, I think, except for the Siege of Orgrimmar LFRs.

I beg of you to do a few things before you queue up for anything. Please. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

Do a Bit of Reading

For every class and spec, there are various guides for you on the Internet that are very simple and quick to read, so that you have a clue as to how to play your brand-new 90. Here are a couple of places to go:

Take note of what your rotations/ability priorities are for your chosen spec and place those abilities on your action bar in the rough order in which they’re prioritized.

Time to go Shopping/Questing/Reforging

If you have other characters on the same server and faction as your boosted character, awesome. Buy your recommended glyphs (as per the guides above!) and apply the glyphs to the boosted character.

If you don’t have spare gold and you’re finding that 150g goes pretty quickly, or you don’t have other characters on that server or faction, don’t worry. You probably also don’t have any professions. That’s okay. You should start out by questing. You should be at the Timeless Isle and there are some quests you can do there for gold. There are also dailies you can do over back in the Vale of the Eternal Blossoms (Golden Lotus, etc). Doing these quests is a great way to acclimate yourself to your new character and earn money, which you can then use to improve your character by buying things like glyphs or enchants for newer, better gear that you’ll come across on Timeless Isle.

You’ll also want to reforge your gear a bit, at least if you’re DPS, in order to hit 15% hit (for casters) or 7.5% expertise/7.5% hit (for melee and hunters). You can use AskMrRobot or the ReforgeLite addon to help you reach your hit caps. Don’t worry too much about reforging until you get some better gear, but please make sure that you’re hit-capped. Please. :)

Professions

You probably don’t have any professions. Here’s where you can make a bit of cash. I would recommend picking up herbalism or mining as a profession and pick a secondary profession that’s a good match for it. For example, if you pick up herbalism, this funds the alchemy and inscription professions, whereas mining funds jewelcrafting, blacksmithing and engineering. My personal preferences are herbalism/alchemy and mining/jewelcrafting, but don’t discount tailoring and enchanting as possibilities.

Don’t worry about levelling the professions to max, especially the crafting profession. You can herb and mine in Pandaria even with a very low skill level, so concentrate on that and then sell the herbs or ore that you’ve gathered. You may want to check your local auction house to see how much various ores (Ghost Iron Ore, for example) and herbs (Green Tea Leaf, for example) sell for before you even choose which to pick up.

Professions aren’t strictly necessary, but if you want to be able to make some gold to help fund your continuing boosted adventures, having a gathering profession (particularly if you’re on a new server without a lot of friends or resources) will go a long way to helping you to maintain your character.

A Bit More Reading

Once you’ve glyphed yourself up and you feel like you’re somewhat comfortable on your new character, go ahead and do a bit of reading about whatever instance you want to queue up for. Icy Veins has guides for all of the fights out there, so take a quick look so you have an idea of what to expect. And so that you don’t fall through the floor on Elegon…

Once you’ve done that, you should be able to go in and perform at a somewhat acceptable level for various LFR-difficulty raids.

Why Bother?

Here’s the deal: this stuff matters because if you waltz into group content without knowing the first thing about your class or spec, you’ve just made everything that much more difficult for your entire group — which includes you, by the way. The fights, even the LFR ones, are designed to have a minimum amount of damage or healing done, or for a tank to get a certain number of stacks of a debuff or what-have-you. Can a group get through if they have some strong performers to make up for those who are a drag on the group? Yes. However, the entire community will be better served if the boosted players who are participating in the group content have half a clue as to what to do. If you want better runs, faster runs, more successful runs that don’t end in complete failure, you have to take responsibility as a member of the community.

Expecting boosted 90s, even those of experienced players, to be amazing at group content is kind of silly. But what’s not silly is asking them to know the basics for their new characters and taking a bit of time to get hit-capped and have decent glyphs. It’s not silly to ask them to take a quick look at the various boss encounters. It’s not silly to expect these basic things from people, even if they had no idea on how to play a class beforehand.

The WoW community is a large one, with millions of players around the world. If you, as a boosted character, can help make one run that much smoother, just by virtue of knowing how to play your new character at a basic level, by having an idea on how to kill a boss (or not drop to your death on Elegon) or by knowing enough to reforge to make sure you’re hit-capped, then you are a boon to the community. If, on the other hand, you, as a boosted character, are a drag on the runs you queue up for, where you literally auto-attack or don’t use your pet or don’t even have a clue as to which abilities your spec ought to use, then you are part of the reason the game has become less enjoyable for a sizable portion of the population.

Take the time to learn a bit before you queue up. Take the time to reforge and glyph. Practice your skills. That’s how we can all work to improve the overall WoW community together, even if it’s done one character at a time.

LFR Tales: Mogu'shan Vaults 1 & 2

Early in the morning on Tuesday, December 24th, 2013, I took advantage of a seven-day free trial for World of Warcraft that was in my Referrals and Rewards section of my Battle.Net account. My unofficial goal for myself was to gear myself up and go check out the raid content (LFR versions at any rate). I wanted to see each boss once, with a specific focus on wanting to see Garrosh defeated, because I’ve hated that dude since the Faction Champions fight back in Trial of the (Grand) Crusader.

By Tuesday afternoon, I’d gotten a couple of pieces of gear from the Timeless Isle. Those pieces brought my ilvl up from ~458 past ~463, so I was then able to queue for Mogu’shan Vaults.

I will preface this by saying that I did absolutely no research for MSV LFRs. None whatsoever. I knew bits and pieces about the fights (I knew about Elegon’s platform, for example) but I went in pretty blind, which is not typical of me. I like to be 100% prepared and ready to go. I just couldn’t make myself go through raid strats for entry-level raids, though. At worst, I figured I could read a quick guide if there were issues during the instance.

To be clear, I don’t recommend going in blind. It added a certain degree of panic to which I am not accustomed…

Anyhow, we walk into MSV and clear trash and then, all of a sudden, we kill a boss.

What?

Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t realize The Stone Guard was actually a boss fight. I thought it was slightly more difficult trash. No ready-check, no pause, nothing from the raid group to indicate it was a boss fight. I didn’t use a single cooldown.

So that was my experience with LFR Stone Guard. The fight lasted 2:36.

On to Feng the Accursed.

To be honest, even reading a description of this boss, I don’t have much recollection as to which boss this actually is! I do remember getting Wildfire Spark once and running away from people because, hey, if you’re stacked up and you get a debuff on you, you PROBABLY want to move away. So I did. Other than that, I just gotta say that Deadly Boss Mods is wicked for someone who doesn’t know what in the hell they’re doing. Great warnings. It’s not as though I never used DBM before or anything, but I certainly gained a new appreciation for it.

I basically treated the fight as a tank and spank with some crap on the ground. I took the third-least amount of damage from Epicenter, and when I noticed it was nature damage, I instinctively looked for Aspect of the Wild and then remembered they tossed that out (along with the pally auras). Oh, and despite not taking much fire or epicenter damage, I took a crapton of damage from Arcane Velocity. Whoopsiedoodle.

All-told, not a particularly memorable encounter.

Then it was Gara’jal the Spiritbinder.

For various reasons, I was vaguely aware that there was a secondary realm in this fight. However, I never visited it. I wasn’t banished there or anything, so… I didn’t click on a totem to go to the other realm. I also never got the Voodoo Doll thing. So I just sat back and shot at the boss. I have to admit that I quite enjoyed being the noob, for once, and neglecting to do anything of importance in a raid environment. Over the years that I raided, I did some of the tough jobs, I always knew what was going on and it was really nice to just sit back and fire arrows at a boss without too much concern for anything else.

On the other hand, my pride is somewhat damaged now because I feel silly talking about how I was “that scrub”, but hey, wait ’till you read up on my encounters in Siege. Lordy…

I logged my adventures in MSV 1 and looked at the WoL parses (although I plan to upload all my logs to Warcraft Logs to play around, soon!) and sighed heavily because I’d ranked on Feng and Gara’jal. Me. Ranking. After not playing for a year. Obviously, Gara’jal is because I didn’t actually enter the spirit world, but there’s no earthly reason that I should have ranked on Feng.

I looked at the other hunter in the raid and, to prevent public shaming I won’t link to their armory, but:

470 item level (439 equipped — no cloak! WTF?! And not just “no legendary cloak”, I’m saying NO CLOAK AT ALL.)
2 empty glyph slots (both major)
6 unenchanted items
7 empty sockets in 4 items
missing Living Steel Belt Buckle
No items have been reforged
This character doesn’t use any gems.
Hit: +4.66%
Expertise: 2.28%

There are two small positives to this guy:

a) At least he’s wearing all mail.
b) At least all the gear is agility stuff and not, say, intellect mail.

Oh. And he was Beast Mastery. Know how many times he cast Kill Command throughout the whole instance? Five times. And they all missed because he’s nowhere near hit or expertise capped. And yes. He was in for all three bosses.

On the bright side, even after a year of not playing, I was not as bad as that guy. (It’s a personal point of pride for me to be hit-capped and now, I guess, expertise-capped, even though I hate expertise and I’m sort of glad those two stats are vanishing in Warlords of Draenor.)

Anyway, moving on, that was on Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t play much, if at all, on Christmas Day, but spent some time playing on Boxing Day (Thursday, the 26th). Among my adventures, I did the back-half of Mogu’shan Vaults.

I should note, at this point, that there were no wipes in my first-half. It was remarkably smooth. Not exactly the case with the back-half… But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Spirit Kings

I think Spirit Kings went pretty well. I avoided damage from Flanking Orders, Massive Attacks and Annihilate. Only took two hits of Volley. (I miss Volley…) While Flanking Orders was kind of fun to run around (Disengage is amazing), there wasn’t a lot to this fight. Sure, more abilities retained means more chaos, but none of it was really chaotic to begin with. Again, I know that this is LFR we’re talking about, so I shouldn’t be so cocky, but honestly, this was kind of a yawner. A six-minute yawner.

Elegon

Thus commenced the wipes. And, by the way, Ellegon is the name of a dragon in the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg. I loved the hell out of those books and it’s hard to imagine that Elegon is not an homage to Ellegon.

Anyhow, the wipes started here. Not surprisingly, we wiped the first time because a bunch of people fell in the hole. I have to say that I’m really pleased to see that there’s an actual spell that kills you (Obliteration) as opposed to “fall damage”. Good job, Blizz! Makes diagnosing wipes a lot easing.

The second time, only two people (instead of like, 10) died to falling, so we were able to get through the fight pretty easily. Kill adds/pylon things. Don’t drop to your death. I’m probably missing something (although I got the whole buff/no buff thing), but this seemed pretty simple even for an LFR fight.

Ranked pretty high for this, compared to the other fights in the last LFR, but that just makes me sad. I’m assuming that half the reason I ranked is because I didn’t plummet to my death. Sigh.

Will of the Emperor

Well, I screwed up which adds to kill first. I focused on Rage, then Strength, then Courage, just because I was flying blind. I reasoned that Rage sounded worse! Lordy. Too funny. That said, I only took two Devastating Arcs. Others took 20+. I feel okay about myself now. I’m assuming that it’s okay I focused on just one of Jan-xi and Qin-xi, since they share a health pool. It just took us one attempt to down this fight.

All told, not a particularly exciting fight from the perspective of a hunter in LFR. And I ranked again. Terrible. Undergeared, rusty hunters like myself should not rank, especially when they don’t know the fights at all.

In Conclusion

The LFR version of MSV bored me. I liked seeing the Elegon fight due to my affinity for Ellegon and that series of books, but most of the fights were boring to me. Again, I know, it’s LFR. LFR does not represent Flex, Normal or Heroic. I get it. I’m sure the fights were ten times more interesting on actual difficulty levels.

That said, none of them really left much of an impression on me. I struggled to remember which fight was which as I wrote this, so I looked them all up and went “oh, right, THAT one”. Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar fare better in my memory, I think, but much of T14 seemed meh.

Further, this summary was probably not terribly entertaining, but there are more summaries coming. In the meantime, tell me about your impressions of MSV, on any difficulty! Did you like the instance overall? What about your LFR experiences there? Anyone as bad as my fellow hunter? Share your tales of woe!

Seven Days in WoW

A week ago, I took advantage of the seven-day free trial that was tucked away in the Referral and Rewards section of my Battle.Net account and returned to the World of Warcraft for the first time in thirteen months.

What did I do? Well, I geared up my hunter pretty well, hah! I had started somewhere in the realm of ~458 as an average equipped item level (I’m not 100% sure, but I know it was below 463 and that seems about right) and finished the week with an average ilvl of 503 equipped. I replaced all my greens (!) and blues and got the Mystically Epic achievement. (I actually think that it took me longer than this during Cataclysm for Kurn to hit Cataclysmically Epic because it took me FOREVER to get a bow for Kurn in the last expansion.)

As I said in a previous post, I spent a lot of time on the Island of Free Lewts and then a lot of time queueing for various LFRs. The sort of unofficial goal I had for myself was to do all the raid content on LFR. Tier 14 went pretty well, Tier 15, not so much. I only saw half of the instance, because my priority was to see all of Siege of Orgrimmar’s content, so as soon as I hit 496, I moved on from Throne of Thunder (with every intention of going back to see the back half!) and started queueing for Siege. In two days, I did a ridiculous amount of SoO queueing and very few runs where we actually did anything. Countless groups fell apart before me, leaving me stuck and frustrated, because you can’t queue for the next segment when you haven’t gotten the achievement for the first segment. Frustrating, but understandable if you’re thinking about not letting people access the final bosses when they don’t have the first clue as to what they’re doing.

It took me two days of LFRs to get through all of Siege of Orgrimmar. My trial expired around 2:30am ET this morning (Tuesday) and do you know at what time I actually defeated Garrosh? 1:57am. CUTTING IT A BIT CLOSE, AREN’T WE, KURN? Granted, the denial of service attack that brought Battle.Net down earlier in the day didn’t help, but I only had two more LFRs to do and I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

Silly Kurn. I forgot the cardinal rule of LFR: the later in the week it is, the worse the groups probably are. I went through THREE LFRs before I got one that could do the Spoils of Pandaria fight (which, btw, seems like the stupidest fight I’ve seen thus far).

Still, I defeated Garrosh, just in time, and it was pretty satisfying, even though it was on LFR. I’ve disliked Garrosh since Faction Champs, so that was nice. ;)

I’ll talk more about raiding in another post, because I do want to talk about my experiences in each LFR I did, but I did some other stuff, too.

I did Bronze and Silver Damage Proving Grounds. I tried Gold a few times, but I’m still pretty rusty and hadn’t set up TidyPlates for mobs and such. As such, some of the AOE-heavy rounds messed me up because I was too far out for the standard nameplates to show up (hunters are a ranged class!) and there was so much crap on the ground (freezing trap, explosive trap) that I could hardly see anything in the center of the room. I also ended up trying to do it as Marksmanship so that I could have access to Silencing Shot.

This brings me to a hilarious story, which I’m sure everyone will enjoy, mostly because it’s somewhat humiliating.

When I logged in to the game, there was an empty spot on my bars. Here’s what my main action bar on Kurn looked like when I stopped playing in November of 2012.

emptyslot0
You can clearly see Silencing Shot there at number six. (Ignore that there’s nothing at the – position.)

So I logged in and… what the eff? Silencing Shot is gone.

emptyslot1
But it was there in my Marks spec. So I figured “oh, they took Silencing Shot out of talents, explaining the free talent point, and gave it to Marks and only to Marks.”

Kids, this is where reading up on class changes comes in supremely handy. At no point did I think “oh, I should go read up about Silencing Shot’s change”. Nope. Instead, there I am in guild chat, chatting with a DPS warrior raider and a hunter who was in the guild as a friend rank. And the following conversation occurs:

Me: I miss Readiness. And Silencing Shot. (Wasn’t Silencing Shot a talent available to everyone at some point?)
Warrior: It was.
Me: That explains why my 6 button on my bars is empty.
Warrior: All hunters got was Counter Shot which functions as an interrupt which is all I cared about really.

I paused. My jaw dropped. I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I opened up my spellbook for the first time all week and found an entry for something called Counter Shot.

Me: Holy shit.
Hunter: I didn’t know Counter Shot existed until 3 days ago
Me: Guess who just learned about Counter Shot.
Me: haha
Hunter: lololol
Warrior: Marks just gets Silencing Shot, something something balance specs in pvp something something

Worst of all, I had this conversation on Monday afternoon. I’d been playing for six days without opening my spellbook or questioning the lack of an interrupt (barring Scattershot and Intimidation, neither of which are ACTUAL interrupts, but disorients and stuns that will function as an interrupt).

Yup. I’m that good, ladies and gentlemen. /facepalm

I don’t really even have a reasonable explanation for it, either, which is even more upsetting. Maybe if I’d stayed Survival for Gold Proving Grounds and used Counter Shot, it would have worked better. (Serpent Spread is lovely.) Anyhow. Gold Proving Grounds didn’t happen but I learned about Counter Shot, so my overall knowledge has improved, which is the important thing. I just wish it had been improved a week ago instead of yesterday.

I also wish I’d known about it before deciding to tackle the last of my Glorious! rare spawns. What with everyone out on Timeless Isle or otherwise absent from much of Pandaria, I had very little trouble finding the various spawns that had eluded me during the last time I’d played. The trouble was this one panda mob in Townlong Steppes, Yul Wildpaw, whose Spinning Crane Kick kept killing my pet while his Healing Mists was doing a sick amount of healing to him. With a 24s cooldown on Silencing Shot (I was Marks for this, remember), I was using Intimidation and Scattershot as other ways to interrupt the mob, so the goal was to burst down the mob before my pet died from Spinning Crane Kick. This did not happen, even using my turtle and his shell shield thingy and even his Last Stand. My turtle died often and the platform he’s on is just a bit small for my tastes in terms of kiting, but I finally got him down  with a bit of a kite at the end. Then the last mob I was missing from Jade Forest spawned for me and so I got…

glorious

Yay! I’m not sure why I feel so good about that one. Maybe it was that it was about 3/4 done before I quit last year, I don’t know. But that felt pretty good. :)

What else did I do… Honestly, a lot of reforging, regemming, re-enchanting. Spent a ton of gold, like, 15,000 or so, and made virtually nothing. I’m okay with that, too. That’s what my 222,000 gold was for.

Apart from that, I chatted a bit with guildies, new and old, though I didn’t get a chance to say hi to everyone (hi, Apoth!) and generally winged my way through LFRs.

Anyway, all told, it was a satisfying visit, but I’m not resubscribing until closer to the expansion. Once I do that, I want to level Madrana to 90 and get her a bit of gear and such to see if I can pull off some kind of 6.0 guide for holy paladins. To this day, my most popular page on my blog has been my 4.0 guide, followed by my pre-T11 gear list, followed by my 5.0 guide. We’ll see if I can manage to get something for 6.0 going, but that’s going to take time and research pre-6.0 launch. And, aside from dinging Madrana 90, there’s not a whole lot for me to do (well, back-half of ToT, I suppose), so I’m going to put that off for at least a couple of months and we’ll see where we’re at when Blizzard announces more about Warlords of Draenor. :)

More posts to come about my experience in the raids, but in the meantime, happy new year to everyone! Here’s wishing that the very best of 2013 is the worst of 2014. :)

Two Types of Raiding Fatigue

I was chatting with one of my guildies this morning while I was unfortunately awake because my asthma was bothering me. (Sidenote: I was sitting in Storm Peaks, while tabbed out and working on my Kick-Ass Raider’s guide when NPCScan went off and scared the bejeezus out of me. I flailed around like a moron and couldn’t find the mob. Thankfully, it was just Vyragosa. Had it been the Time-Lost Proto Drake, I would have lost out by several minutes. I found Vyragosa’s corpse three minutes later, after flying around like a moron. Also, I blame Shawn’s latest post for why I was sitting the Storm Peaks in the first place. And if you’re not reading Shawn’s blog, you ought to be!)

Anyhow, where was I? Right. Chatting with a guildie.

We were talking a bit about the complexity of bosses in Mists of Pandaria and Merk was telling me about how some heroic 25-man fights have required spreadsheets for boss assignments. I’d heard about increasing levels of complexity, but spreadsheets? Yikes.

This is when Merk and I talked about how there are two types of challenging boss fights: the ones that challenge you on the field, in the moment, and the ones that challenge the raid leader (or team) offline in an administrative sense.

Rhyolith in Firelands challenged you on the field. You could do some pre-planning, sure, but the volcano thingies popping up meant that someone had to direct Rhyolith on to them and that not only changed regularly, but those spawns changed on every single pull. There’s no organizing that. That’s chaos that you have to deal with in the game.

Normal-mode Majordomo Staghelm, on the other hand, was a pretty simple fight to execute, but was nightmarish to organize. Here. Have a look at actual cooldown assignments for a raid of ours in September of 2011.

domocds

S1/S2/S3/S4 was Scorpion Phase 1, 2, 3 and 4, while C1/2/3/4 stood for Cat Phase 1, 2, 3 and 4. The numbers beneath those notations were for how many stacks of Adrenaline (in Scorpion) the boss had before we dispersed and the numbers under the C1 notations were for how many leaps before we stacked up again.

All six of our healers had multiple times in which to use their cooldowns, such as Tranquility, Aura Mastery, Spirit Link Totem and Power Word: Barrier, plus our tank healers for the fight also had specific times to use tank cooldowns such as Hand of Sacrifice and Pain Suppression.

In a word, this was tiresome.

Rhyolith was tiresome in his own way, because of the nature of the fight (hitting legs to steer? REALLY?), but normal-mode Majordomo Staghelm was tiresome from an administrative perspective.

The question is, of course, what kind of interesting and new boss fights can you have without resorting to gimmicks like Rhyolith’s steering or Zon’ozz’s bouncing? It’s not that all gimmick fights are bad, but Yor’sahj, for example, was (IMHO) an inventive fight that wasn’t really based on some new-fangled gimmick. Yor’sahj was different enough from the regular sort of add-spawning fight (adds spawn, but choose ONE to kill instead of all of them) to make it interesting, but there wasn’t a whole new resource bar, a new button to push, nothing like that.

The trouble is that fights like Lucifron and Magmadar, the first two bosses in Molten Core, would pose absolutely no challenge to raiders these days. Lucifron consisted of the boss and two adds, plus a nasty curse that you needed to dispel. Take out the adds, dispel the curses as they’re applied and kill the boss. There wasn’t even any fire on the ground!

Magmadar was a bit more challenging because you had to have hunters with Tranquilizing Shot (which was a drop off of Lucifron!) and then you had to set up a Tranq Shot rotation. It also helped to have a dwarf priest with Fear Ward (that was the dwarven priest racial, they were the only priests with Fear Ward back then!) to cast it on the tank to prevent issues with Magmadar fearing them (or, since almost all tanks were warriors, they could also stance-dance and hit Berserker Rage… which you don’t even have to stance-dance to do anymore!). There was some fire on the ground, some fearing in general, but it really hinged on the Tranq Shot. Apart from the fears and a bit of fire, it was basically a tank-and-spank. Still, though, not remotely challenging.

By contrast, Merk was telling me that Heroic Thok consists largely of a cooldown chain lasting 40 seconds to ensure the health of the raid.

Raiding has changed significantly since the early days, obviously, but rather than have gimmicks being a large part of the fight now and again, they seem to be happening more often than not.

In Tier 12, you had one major “gimmicky” fight, which was Rhyolith. Everything else was a combination of adds or buffs or debuffs. No special buttons appearing on your screen, no strange bars displaying a new resources.

Yet, as I’ve been doing LFR after LFR during my seven day free trial, I’ve been astounded at the amount of gimmicky things in use on various fights. (For this post, let’s say that gimmicks involve something unusual, like an extra UI element or a different realm or something like that.)

Immerseus: Has a corruption bar that is his actual health bar. (And this was the least gimmicky of them all, IMHO.)
Fallen Protectors: Multiple-mob fight with the extra special bonus of needing to bring them all down to 1% at about the same time. While this isn’t NEW (Mimiron comes to mind), it’s unusual enough for me to mention.
Norushen: A Corruption bar AND a secondary realm? Lordy, it’s like the worst parts of Halion and Cho’gall. (Although I actually liked the fight on LFR.)
Sha of Pride: Hey look, it’s a Pride bar.
Galakras: Honestly, all the trash made me feel like I was in Hyjal… But this wasn’t very gimmicky otherwise.
Iron Juggernaut: Not all that gimmicky on LFR, although Crawler Mines are borderline, IMHO.
Dark Shaman: Not really gimmicky. Lots of chaos, but that’s not a gimmick.
General Nazgrim: Again, not much of a gimmicky fight.

So out of eight SoO boss fights I’ve seen (on LFR), half had a gimmick that was unusual to raid fights. Half. The other half consisted of many mobs, a lot of AOE or some combination of the two. As someone who hasn’t raided seriously since… oh boy, when was it… August of 2012, I guess it was, it’s interesting to see the differences between raiding now and raiding then (and previously).

This begs the question: do gimmicky fights fatigue players? I know that they always tired me. There wasn’t an encounter I disliked more in Firelands than Rhyolith. In Dragon Soul, it was really Zon’ozz (and all his bugs) who received most of my loathing. In general, the gimmicky fights were the ones that caused me, personally, the most fatigue. I was so tired of killing Zon’ozz by the end of raiding. I killed that jackass, in LFR, normals and heroics, over two characters, a total of 58 times. That’s about 50 times too many, if you ask me. But even just looking at my main raiding character, Madrana, it was 34 times (20 heroic, 12 normal, 2 LFR) and that’s a lot for a fight where people have to bounce this dark orb thingy between themselves and then at the boss. It just got tiring.

By the same token, I killed normal Majordomo Staghelm 9 times (and probably planned out another 5ish raids where I wasn’t in for the kills) and that was tiring. I had never been happier to switch a boss to heroic because it meant I no longer had to write up these epic-length assignments. That was a really tiresome fight for me, moreso than Zon’ozz and Rhyolith.

Is this the future of raiding? Spreadsheets detailing specific assignments? Special buttons and resource bars aplenty? Twilight-esque realms, harkening back to Sartharion, Halion, Valiona & Theralion? Flying mechanics that bring back awful memories of Al’Akir?

When I think about that, going forward, I don’t really feel the desire to experience that. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been in a progression raid in forever. One of my fears, when I stopped playing, was that even if I wanted to come back, I’d feel left behind in the grand scheme of things. And I do, to an extent, but what I’m seeing now is a different problem: if people are acclimated to this gimmicky (or spreadsheety) raiding environment, have I missed the boat?

Let me rephrase that, because it’s not exactly missing the boat, but… how can I put this, exactly? Let’s try this: in the fall, after a hot and humid summer, the temperature of, say, 12 degrees Celsius (~54F) feels cold. As in you want to put on a jacket. In the spring, after a frigidly cold winter, the exact same temperature of 12C feels hot! You’re taking off your coats, walking around in shoes instead of boots and you’re generally gleeful at this fantastic weather. Why is this? It’s because you’ve been acclimated to the colder temperatures over the winter. You’re used to it being cold. So when you hit 12C in terms of temperatures going up, you’re thrilled and happy.

By missing a full expansion of raiding, have I missed the acclimation needed to enjoy raiding going forward? Is my distaste for gimmicks merely a sense of nostalgia, which I absolutely acknowledge could be the case? Do others feel like these gimmicks and spreadsheets are fun and I’m still the grumpy one thinking 12C is damn cold because I missed all of winter? In other words, would experiencing all of these fights over the course of the last year have acclimated me to what is potentially a new raiding paradigm where this is the standard? Or would I have quit by now, frustrated and fatigued?

Possibly more importantly, where is raiding heading in the future?

Lots of questions. Not a lot of answers.

What have you enjoyed (or not) about raiding in Mists of Pandaria? I’d love to hear your thoughts as we wait for answers that will inevitably come as we get more info about Warlords of Draenor.

Warlords of Draenor Reaction: Raiding

Ever since I learned what a raid even was, I wanted to raid. I went to great lengths to raid in my first real guild, Fated Heroes. Many people used Fated Heroes to level to 60 and then would bail and go to another guild to actually raid. At one point, I just flat-out asked the guild master why we weren’t raiding. Did we not want to raid?

Of course we wanted to raid, he said, but people just left as soon as they hit 60.

That’s when I started building the raiding culture of the guild. I did research on attunements, made that information available, helped people on quests leading to attunements and the like. By golly, I wanted to raid, so I was gonna raid!

Out of the seven years I played World of Warcraft, I spent six and a half of those years raiding, pretty much.

So, of course, having watched all the World of Warcraft BlizzCon panels from Friday, the biggest thing I want to discuss is, you guessed it, raiding.

Flex Takes Over, Heroic turns Mythical

There are two things I want to discuss here. The first is the flexible aspect of virtually any raid team going forward. The second is the new “mythical” raid type and size.

They’re renaming stuff and adding flexible raid sizes to things. Let’s look at how things look right now.

1) Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Introduced in Patch 4.3, the Dragon Soul, LFR raiding is a group of 25 people put into the same raid wing via queueing. It is tuned for 25 people (2 tanks, 6 healers, 17 DPS), but it’s quite low on the tuning scale because they don’t assume that 25 different people from different realms, etc, are going to have the organizational abilities that a “normal” or “heroic” raid group does.

2) Flex Raiding: This is a new format, introduced in Patch 5.4. Flex is a difficulty that is below Normal raids but above LFR. It is tuned for 10-25 people and scales appropriately depending on the people in the group.

3) Normal Raiding: This is the “standard” difficulty level and, currently, is able to be tackled by two raid sizes: 10 or 25. It does not scale dynamically like Flex Raiding. Normal raids are also required to be completed by at least one member of a raid team that wishes to tackle current heroic raids. (Example: Your raid leader must have defeated Garrosh in Normal Siege of Orgrimmar to unlock heroic Siege of Orgrimmar for your group.)

4) Heroic Raiding: This is the “difficult” level of difficulty, which is also able to be completed either on 10 or 25, and nothing in between.

That’s how things stand right now. Technically, that’s 6 different raids: LFR, Flex, 10m normal, 25m normal, 10m heroic, 25m heroic.

In 6.0 (Warlords of Draenor), this is what they want to do:

1) Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Same as LFR today, only flexible, meaning that if you’re waiting for six people to fill your LFR group after a wipe, you don’t actually need to wait — the encounter will have changed dynamically and you can just go with your 19 people.

2) Normal Raiding: This is what is currently known as “Flex” raiding, in terms of difficulty, it looks like. The size for this raid will be 10-25 people and will be flexible and dynamic. This is why they’re removing “flex” as a difficulty. Instead, they’re applying flexible raid technology to all difficulties of raiding. (Well, except one.)

3) Heroic Raiding: This is what is currently known as “normal” raiding, in terms of difficulty. Again, this raid size will be 10-25 people and will scale dynamically.

4) Mythic Raiding: Currently known as “heroic” raiding, Mythic raiding will be the “elite” raiding level. The raids will be tuned for 20 people and will not scale up or down, instead of the 25-man size raiders have been using since Burning Crusade.

To be honest, I’m still in a bit of shock.

What This Means

If your standard, 25-man heroic raid looked something like 2 tanks, 6 healers and 17 DPS, you’re now looking at something like 2 tanks, 5 healers and 13 DPS. How do I figure?

Well, you kind of need two tanks. I can’t imagine a scenario where just one tank is going to be required for everything.

6 healers divided by 25 raiders = 24%
20 raid members times 0.24 (percent) = 4.8 = 5 healers

17 DPS divided by 25 raiders = 68%
20 raid members times 0.68 (percent) = 13.6 DPS

Obviously, it’s not precise and I’m sure there will be times when you drop to 4 healers and go up to 14 DPS or maybe even drop a tank and go up another DPS, but, by and large, you’re looking at a 2/5/13 breakdown.

Many people expressed a sentiment along these lines on Twitter:

It’s an interesting problem that Blizzard is dealing with here, and they do not seem to have learned terribly much about the transition from 40-man raids to 25-man raids. Let’s look at this situation.

According to GuildOx, 77 total guilds (36 25m and 37 10m) have cleared Heroic Siege of Orgrimmar. 5612 of those have killed Heroic Immerseus, the first boss in the instance, with 831 25m and 4773 10m.

What this shows is that, after two months of the latest tier being out, over 5600 guilds are in heroic content. 831 of them have 5 people “too many” for Mythic raiding and 4773 guilds are missing 10 people off their roster to be able to do Mythic raiding. Mythic raiding, if it is actually intended to be the successor of current Heroic raiding, is going to be nightmarish for most of those 5600 guilds. Obviously, between now and launch (which is not yet announced, but my money is on June, 2014), guilds will split up, people will quit and all that jazz, but it’s clear that there’s a significant amount of people who would do Mythic raiding if it remained at the 10-man format, but they may not be able to do so at the 20-man format. And that’s JUST two months into a tier. Six months from now, those numbers will have gone up and more people will be trying heroic fights. If people want to maintain their 10-15 person roster AND challenge themselves with mythic content, uh, they can’t.

Oh my God, I’m worried about the viability of 10-man raiding. Who am I??? ;)

No, really, what I’m most concerned about is Blizzard’s statement about WoW being more fun with friends. That doesn’t work with their raiding plans for Mythic raids. It works great for people who want to do LFR, normals and heroics (in the new vernacular) but it completely falls apart for Mythic raids. Completely.

Check it out.

Say I have 32 raiders on my roster for a 25-man (present-day) heroic raiding team. Come Warlords of Draenor, I need to cut at least five, perhaps six, maybe even eight people from my roster.

If my breakdown above is pretty much on target (2 tanks, 5 healers, 13 DPS considered “standard”), then this is what I would want for a total roster:

– 2-3 tanks (2 tanks with one OS tank who is extremely comfortable either tanking or DPSing OR three tanks, all of whom can DPS if needed)
– 7 healers (or perhaps 6 healers with a solid OS healer who is extremely comfortable either healing or DPSing)
– 15-17 DPS

That’s like, 24-27 people or so on the total raiding roster in a guild that I would hypothetically be running. Too many more and swaps become a problem. Too few people and you start needing to have 95%+ attendance requirements.

So say I want to run with 3 tanks, 7 healers and 15 DPS on my roster. That’s 25. If I had 32 to start, that’s seven people to cut. How is that playing “with my friends”? I’ve just lost seven of them.

Conversely, if I’m coming from a 10m heroic raiding guild with, say, 2 tanks, 4 healers and 7 DPS, I now need to ADD at least 7, perhaps as many as 11 or 12 more people. How is that playing “with my friends” when I practically have to double my roster?

One might argue that the 25-man cast-offs may join up en masse with the 10-man guilds, but even if that happened, you’re still looking at a huge imbalance.

831 25m guilds have started heroic 25-man content today. 831 times 7 (the cast-offs, shall we say) gives us 5817 people who are potentially looking for a new home. Assume you need to add just the bare minimum of 7 people to those 4773 10m heroic raiding guilds to bring them up to 20. That’s only 831 10m guilds that are now capable of doing Mythic raids.

Know what that is? That’s crappy is what that is. In order to challenge yourself at the highest level of content, raiders are being told they must conform to the 20-man size, which screws over all current heroic raiding guilds. Even if this had just eliminated the 10s or the 25s in favour of one OR the other, at least some guilds would largely remain unaffected. However, Blizzard did not learn from their first attempt at changing raid sizes back in the Burning Crusade. Well, they did, but maybe not as much as they could have learned.

The Transition from 40-man to 25-man & 25-man to 20-man

Once upon a time, end-game raids consisted of 40 people. You had Molten Core, Onyxia’s Lair, Blackwing Lair, then the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, then Naxxramas.

The devs recognized that putting together and organizing 40 people was, well, a logistical nightmare and, as such, lowered the required number of people to 25. Except, that’s not exactly what happened, because the first entry-level raid of the expansion was Karazhan, which was a ten-man raid. Raiding guilds, and I’m talking about successful raiding guilds who had progressed into Naxxramas at level 60, were cutting half their team and then had to split up the remnants into teams of 10 for the first bit of Burning Crusade! Ridiculous.

It doesn’t appear as though Blizzard is going to do something as ridiculous as making the entry-level raid a 10-man raid, but they are making similar mistakes to their transition from 40s to 25s with their change from 25s to 20s.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I basically grew up on 20-man raids. I loved Zul’Gurub. (I didn’t like AQ20 but that was more because I hate bugs.) I like the overall idea of 20-man raids and I remember the feel of them. They felt pretty great. Not as epic as 40-man raids, but not as tiny as 10-man raids. I think 20-mans are a good size, overall.

What Blizzard did back then was they broke away from the expectations that they, themselves, had set. “Serious” raids were 40-man affairs in World of Warcraft. ZG and AQ20 were often not even completed by well-progressed guilds because there was no incentive for them to do those instances, because they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. All the serious raiders were finishing AQ40 and dipping their toes into Naxxramas at the end of the original World of Warcraft game.

With everyone knowing that raids were 40-man events, Blizzard changed everyone’s expectations and released raids that required 25 people for the majority of the expansion.

They introduced Karazhan as a 10-man, of course, but also brought in Zul’Aman as a 10-man raid later in the expansion. Then, in Wrath of the Lich King, they made 10-man versions of every raid, but they weren’t quite as “serious” as 25-man raids, because they were generally a bit easier and the reward (loot) was definitely not as powerful as the 25-man versions.

It was only in Cataclysm that both 10s and 25s were treated equally. That’s a long road for 10s, to be honest. First, they were almost non-existant barring a couple of raids in Burning Crusade, then they were accessible for each raid instance and finally, they were given equal rewards in Cataclysm. But you see how gradual it was? That’s spanning nearly four years. Four years for another raid size to gain full equality in terms of reward and even respect. (Do you respect Paragon for being the first 10m guild to kill heroic Garrosh? I do.)

But the trouble with the original drop from 40 to 25 is being replicated in the drop from 25 to 20 (and addition from 10 to 20!): it’s a rapid shift in expectations. Sure, we have something like eight or nine months to acclimate to the idea, but knowing what’s on the horizon, how are people in any heroic raiding guild going to keep motivated? 10s are going to need to scramble to recruit or even merge with other guilds, while people in 25s are going to be living in fear of getting the axe. And how screwed over must the 10s really feel after being validated just two expansions ago only to be told that, for the peak of PVE content, they need to double their rosters? Ugh.

The social repercussions of this kind of “unknown” factor is not going to be easy for people to deal with.

Fallout

What’s going to happen? Well, realistically, here’s what I think are our main possibilities:

1) 25-man heroic guilds will come through relatively well, despite social issues stemming from roster issues. The 20-man raid format will probably be a bit more popular than 25-man heroic raiding is today, perhaps another 10%-15% or so, I’d imagine.

2) 10-man heroic guilds will have a tough choice: either recruit like crazy, merge with another guild or just content themselves with the “new heroic” raids, which will probably be about the same (or slightly higher) difficulty as normal raiding is today. I do think this will bring the numbers of 10-mans down, but not so much that it’ll be really felt. Still, that’s going to suck. (Believe it or not, I really feel badly for the 10s. And I personally really hate that raid size. A lot.)

3) Everyone else will enjoy the flexibility of their raid sizes and will take advantage of them in “normal” and “heroic” raiding.

Since, according to GuildOx, nearly 22,000 guilds have killed normal-mode Immerseus, the vast majority of guilds are going to be just fine in terms of raiding the new normals and new heroics. If the new heroics are about the same level as current normals, 22,000 guilds can still go in with their flexible raid size and kick some ass.

This problem really only becomes a problem at the Mythic level of raiding. Looking at the numbers of guilds at least 1/16H compared to at least 1/16N on any size, we’re looking at about 25-26% of the raiding population that even bothers with heroics (within ~2 months of the launch of a tier — so that’ll go up, but I’m not sure how much).

So it’s not a problem that’s going to affect everyone. The flexibility of the other difficulties will be great for everyone, but the people who are, arguably, the most dedicated to the PVE end-game are getting screwed over. All the heroic raiding guilds will be experiencing a major roster change. All of them. Some will merge, some will disintegrate, some will stop raiding the content they want to be able to raid because they’re constrained by their size. All I know about this, really, is that I am super happy that I am not a guild master or guild officer right now. Good luck, people. ;)

Despite the fact I’m not in a position of authority, in the coming weeks, I’m going to be writing a free guide on how to deal with cutting people or recruiting/merging — basically, on how to manage your roster for a Mythic raiding guild. I learned a lot from the Burning Crusade change in raid size and from a lot of guilds that dropped to 10s from 25s. The important thing, for now, is to not panic. There’s still plenty of Tier 16 left, still several months left before Warlords of Draenor comes out. The best advice I can give to anyone right now is to remind your guildmates that WoD isn’t even in beta and that you’ll cross the roster bridge when you come to it, but for now, not to worry.

Heck, there’s even a chance that they’ll reconsider the single Mythic raid size because they’re not even in beta yet. (I doubt they’ll go back on that, but you never know.) If the Mythic size has you troubled, you should post on the forums (and be polite!!!) and explain why it troubles you and what repercussions you foresee it having on your guild. Get them feedback. Be nice about it. But ultimately, don’t hold your breath. The game is geared less towards the min-maxing 40-man raiders of yesterday and more towards the “raiders” of LFR these days.

More This Weekend

Sadly, Real-Life has crit me this weekend, so I’m not even able to watch BlizzCon events live. I’ll have more to talk about on Saturday evening or Sunday, including my thoughts on the Level 90 boost, my Outlands/Draenor thoughts and more.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts? How will the changes to the various raid difficulties and sizes affect you?

Nerfs in Mists of Pandaria

I was reading a great post over at Alternative Chat today, about how if you don’t love World of Warcraft, you shouldn’t play, essentially. If, for example, the game makes you angry or frustrated, it’s probably time to step away.

As I’m human, I immediately started applying what The Godmother was saying to my own experience playing World of Warcraft.

If I had to pick a single thing about Cataclysm that frustrated me, over and over again, to the point of not even wanting to play, it was the constant nerfing of current content. My rage about Firelands’ 20% nerf is extremely well-documented.

When it was announced that Dragon Soul would also receive nerfs, despite the existence of Raid Finder (LFR), I was still angry but I was more resigned. That’s when I realized that my Firelands-era rant about not wanting to play was something that was continuing into the final tier of content.

So I stopped playing. I let my sub run out in November of 2012 and promptly took six months away from just about anything to do with the game. I barely blogged, was absent on Twitter for the most part. My guides are what drew me back and what keep me interested in the state of the game, plus it’s been fun to reconnect with members of the WoW community, too.

One of my fears regarding quitting when I did has to do with nerfs. I was scared that they wouldn’t nerf anything in Mists. I knew they would be implementing Cutting Edge and Ahead of the Curve achievements (for those who would get heroic and normal clears, respectively, prior to the release of a new tier), so that indicated to me that maybe they wouldn’t nerf things that were current. This concerned me a bit because if one of the major reasons I wasn’t playing Mists of Pandaria was because of Blizzard’s recent habit of nerfing the crap out of everything, why wouldn’t I be playing if they weren’t nerfing things?

It dawned on me that Blizzard has been nerfing things, and not just after each new tier comes out (although there’s that, too — apparently the T14 raids on normal and heroic have been nerfed by 10% and Throne of Thunder has been nerfed by 20% since 5.4 was released).

Kurn, what the hell are you talking about? There weren’t any current nerfs to the content in T14 or T15.

Sorry to say it, but there were nerfs to the content. You know them as the 5.1 and 5.3 Valor Upgrades.

Admittedly, it took me a while to realize it myself and to realize why I had initially viewed the Valor Upgrades as something other than a nerf.

One of my biggest problems with the nerfs in Cataclysm was that the nerfs were to the base encounter: “The boss has 20% less health, does 20% less damage.” That’s a nerf to the encounter.

While I wasn’t altogether a fan of the ICC buff, where people did increasingly more damage and healing, at least, I reasoned, the onus was on the player to perform better with these buffs. A 30% buff still wouldn’t make up for an idiot hunter who just auto-shotted throughout the encounter and didn’t use a pet. A 30% buff (even to health) wasn’t guaranteed to keep you alive if you stood in the fire. (Obviously, it bought you time to move out of the fire, but it didn’t really save you from Heroic Sindragosa’s Frost Bombs and stuff.)

The Firelands nerfs came in after the instance had been open for four months (June 28th-September 19th = 12 weeks).

The Dragon Soul nerfs began being applied after the instance had been open for 9 weeks (November 29th-January 31st).

In the case of the Valor Upgrades, these appeared with the mid-tier patches of 5.1 and 5.3.

5.1 came out on November 27th (about 8 weeks after the expansion’s launch) and 5.3 came out on May 21st, 11 weeks after Patch 5.2 (and thus, Throne of Thunder) came out. Valor Upgrades mean that you can upgrade Epic-quality gear twice for four item levels each, using Valor Points. So the Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow from Tortos in the Throne of Thunder starts out as ilvl 522. If you upgrade it once (for 250 VP), it goes to ilvl 526. You then gain 60 agility, 89 stamina, 40 expertise, 38 hit and 216.2 ranged DPS.

If you upgrade it again, for another 250 VP, it turns into a 530 item level bow and you gain an additional 61 agility, 92 stamina, 43 expertise, 39 hit and 224.2 ranged DPS.

That’s a total increase of:

121 agility
181 stamina
83 expertise
77 hit
440.6 ranged DPS

The basic difference between one level of gear and another is about 13 item levels. The normal T16 chest for a holy paladin, for example, is Breastplate of Winged Triumph and is ilvl 553 and the heroic version is 566.

So getting an 8 item level boost is more than halfway to the next step of gear. 8 item levels is more than the difference between normal and thunder/warforged, which is 6 item levels. It’s more than the difference between heroic and heroic thunder/warforged, which is also 6 item levels.

If you upgrade the vast majority of your gear (as, I believe, is expected for most heroic raiders), if your whole raid team does that, guess what? You’ve just nerfed the instance. By about 7-8%.

One of the major problems Blizzard had with the ICC buff (as a nerfing mechanic) is that they didn’t like that people felt “less powerful” outside of the instance. It’s true — people who went merrily roflstomping their way through ICC at, say, the 30% buff, got their asses handed to them on Halion in the Ruby Sanctum.

So what they did here, and I really do have to take my hat off to them for this, is they elected to nerf things through the players. The responsibility to upgrade your gear is on YOU. The responsibility of earning enough VP to do so is on YOU. As a reward, you get to be more powerful, not just in a single raid instance, but everywhere. They only introduced this in the 5.1 and 5.3 patches, which meant that they waited until the tier was about halfway over before allowing players to nerf it by outgearing things.

Of course, these valor upgrade NPCs are still around now that 5.4 has hit. That means that you can upgrade all your shiny new LFR/Flex/Normal/Heroic gear ASAP. And since Valor Points weren’t converted to Justice Points either, well, hey. That means that a lot of people can get their upgrades going super-quickly to help them mow down the first several Siege bosses much more easily than they would have been able to otherwise.

In other words… Instead of waiting for a 5.5 patch to nerf things via Valor Upgrades, you can just start out with a nerf to the instance right off the bat.

This leaves me wondering… will they do a blanket nerf midway through the tier? Will 5.5 bring with it another nonsensical nerf? Will there even be a 5.5? Will they just nerf stuff halfway through without a mid-tier patch?

For the last four tiers in a row, Blizzard has introduced a nerf mechanic to the current raid instance while about halfway through the tier. Firelands was the 20% flat nerf. Dragon Soul was the 5% nerf, gaining every 4 weeks or so. Tier 14 was in the form of 5.1’s Valor Upgrades. Tier 15 was in the form of 5.3’s Valor Upgrades.

Does the fact that Valor Upgrades are possible in 5.4 mean that there will be no nerfs in Tier 16? Or does it mean that an even bigger nerf is looming? Well, it’s common knowledge that this is the last raid encounter of the expansion. At the change from BC to Wrath, there was a 30% nerf that went into effect for ALL RAIDS and ALL BOSSES. In the last six months of ICC, we had a stacking 5% buff-type nerf. It seems to me that the question isn’t will there be an additional nerf to Siege of Orgrimmar, it’s just what form will that additional nerf take?

Remember, we’re probably looking at Siege of Orgrimmar being the instance until June, 2014, which is when I anticipate the new expansion will drop. I would think, therefore, that a nerf effect might be applied sometime in December at the earliest and February at the latest.

I could be wrong, mind you. This is all conjecture. But another nerf mechanic in this, the last raid tier of the expansion, only seems logical when you look at how Blizzard has consistently nerfed current content (and, specifically, final tier content) over the last several years. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

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The Flexible Raiding Conundrum

Given that I’ve been writing furiously about WoW for the last month or so, it only makes sense that I’m getting back into the swing of things in terms of keeping up with new information that’s coming out, so naturally, I have things to say about Flexible Raiding.

It was announced yesterday that Flexible Raids are being developed for the next major content update. In essence, they are bringing in a new level of raiding that fits snugly between LFR and normal raids, both in terms of people required and gear received. You can queue up for LFR solo or with 24 others or any number in between and the matchmaking system will put a full group together. Flex raids will require a minimum of 10 people (and a maximum of 25) and… will not matchmake for you. You’ll be able to walk into a raid with 10, 14, 17, 23 or 25 players or any number between 10 and 25 and the difficulty will scale.

Well, this is an interesting concept, but I have to say that my first thought was “thank God I’m no longer playing, because the idea of doing LFR, Flex Raids AND normal/heroic raiding might just kill me”. I’ll get to why that was my first thought in a minute, but let’s examine some of the other issues.

Rho and I were tweeting about this last night. In the case where, for example, on 10-man you have to kill two adds and on 25-man, you have to kill three adds, at what point does the third add show up? Wouldn’t it be smart to just have one person below that level to, as Rho put it, “game the system”? Doesn’t that go against the whole inclusionary idea behind flex raids? They clearly want you to be able to walk into raids with all the people you want to bring (up to 25 people), so say the cut-off between two or three adds is 18 people. Say you have 21 people coming in to raid and you’re having trouble making sure the third add dies. Where is the incentive NOT to drop to 17 people to overpower the two adds?

Of course, they may just remove extraneous mechanics that are difficult to scale. This isn’t normal raiding, after all. I strongly suspect we’ll see the change or removal of many normal-mode mechanics in flex raids the way we do in LFR today.

Still, the auto scaling itself is an interesting conundrum. Since there’s no matchmaking provided, you need to make sure the basic group configuration works. That means you can’t zone in with 8 DPS, 2 healers and no tanks. But can you zone in with 3 tanks, 2 healers and 12 DPS? What will the baseline numbers be for a decent ratio of tanks, healers and DPS? LFR gives you two tanks, six healers and 17 DPS. Will there be requirements in flex raids for a proper ratio of tanks to healers to DPS? I imagine that there must be, because you won’t be able to get anything done with 25 DPS. The fact that Blizzard hasn’t announced what these ratios are doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It just wouldn’t make any logical sense. The way WoW works is based on the holy trinity of tanks + healers + DPS. I imagine we’ll see something like the following:

10-14 people: 2 tanks, 3 healers, 5-9 DPS

15-19 people: 2 tanks, 4 healers, 9-13 DPS

20-25 people: 2-3 tanks, 5-6 healers, 13-17 DPS

Unless they have technology that is going to look at the specs of people as they zone in and then tailor encounters to the group (which I think is not only doubtful, but laughably so, due to it being far too dynamic), there’s going to have to be breakpoints. And what’s sad about those ratios is that it’ll still almost certainly be only two tanks required. I’ve mentioned this before, back in 4.1 with the introduction of satchels for in-demand roles in LFG, but there is a serious issue with only needing two tanks for 10 and most of 25-man raid content and I don’t see flex raiding changing that at all.

Anyhow, group composition will likely be less flexible than what the initial post led us to believe. By not mentioning anything about group composition, without adding any caveats, one can easily assume that flex raids aren’t going to have any issues with group comp. That’s reinforced by this little line: “so you won’t need to worry about bringing the “wrong” person and having them win that piece of gear you’ve long been waiting for.” Of course, they’re talking about using the LFR loot system, not group composition here. My point is, there are going to have to be group composition-related restrictions and I’m interested to see what, exactly, they will look like.

And now, for something completely different: I actually like something about this flex raids thing.

I’ll let those of you who have fainted dead away in shock regain consciousness before I continue. You guys all right? Yeah? Okay, good. ;)

This is the part I like about the flex raids:

You’ll also be able to complete portions of your “Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider” raid meta- achievement in Flexible mode as well as in Normal or Heroic to earn cosmetic rewards such as an epic mount. This will allow Raid groups the opportunity to switch off nights between raids to complete achievements.

You know what that means? That likely means no more skipping heroic bosses for a reset or two in order to go back and do achievements for the meta. Of course, it means taking extra time outside of one’s raiding week, so you might not enjoy that terribly much, but if you want the meta achievement, you’ll do it. Further, if it’s guild-organized, you’ll probably be able to do it fairly painlessly. If I were organizing a guild through Glory of the Orgrimmar Raider (and let’s be clear — I’m not!), here’s what I would do:

1) Work through normal modes as usual, maybe snagging an achievement or two on repeat normal kills, depending on how easy they are to incorporate into the strategy we use to kill the bosses anyway.

2) Clear normal modes, start working on heroic modes. Repeat any easy-to-do achievements, but focus on getting the heroic kills. (Which are, incidentally, usually part of the meta achievement.)

3) Once all heroic bosses are down (or at the very least, all the heroic bosses required for the meta), do a weekend flex run once a week to clear out all the achievements people might be missing from those bosses until everyone in the raid group has their meta.

We took two weeks in Firelands to work on the meta and two weeks in Dragon Soul to work on the meta. While Dragon Soul was the end of the expansion and all the loot would literally be reset just a couple of months later, it might have been beneficial for us to have another two resets of heroic gear from Firelands. If flex raids continue beyond the Orgrimmar raid into the next expansion (assuming there is one, and I’m guessing there will be), this will be really helpful in allowing heroic raiders to NOT miss out on any gear due to having to do bosses on normal. Not wasting 1-2 lockouts will be great.

That said, it will also suck for lots of players, because the gear will be better than LFR and, presumably, will share tier bonuses with drops in LFR and drops in normal/heroic. That means that flex raids will have a great number of heroic raiders seeking elusive tier pieces. And since flex raids are on a separate lockout from LFR, it means that these same heroic raiders will still be doing LFR to get those tier pieces. And even some trinkets, I’m sure. Even if the item level on these are 20 levels below the normal Tier 16 gear, sometimes the bonuses make it worth it.

So you have a subsection of raiders who will likely be doing the same content three times a week: once on LFR, once on flex and once on normal/heroic.

Know what that reminds me of? Trial of the Crusader 10, Trial of the Crusader 25, Trial of the Grand Crusader 10 and Trial of the Grand Crusader 25 in Wrath of the Lich King. I joined a new guild when I had completed TOC25 and was shocked and appalled to see how many people in my new guild were doing all four lockouts every week. I was like “are you guys freaking crazy???” Luckily, we were only “required” to participate in the guild-run TOC25 and TOGC25, but I know people looked down on me for not maximizing my drops and stuff from TOC 10/TOGC 10.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who sees it this way.

I know that a big concern for raiders has been “min-maxing” their gear and, for some people, that’s their game. I wasn’t always diligent about capping VP, but I am that kind of person who capped VP on alts to buy BOE epics from the VP vendor to give to my raiding character. I would do Dragon Soul’s LFR to VP cap, although not necessarily to get my tier bonuses quickly.

In order to help prevent raider burnout, I see three solutions:

1) Don’t have LFR drop tier gear/gear that would be useful to heroic raiders. This removes the need for heroic raiders to even look at LFR, but then all the casual raiders will get pissy that they have no access to tier gear. (To which, frankly, I say that’s how it was in my day!)

2) Have LFR/flex tier work together for bonuses and have normal/heroic tier work together for bonuses, but none of the normal/heroic tier work for bonuses with LFR/flex tier. But the problem there is that all these non-organized raiders have 4pc bonuses while the heroic raiders who need those bonuses are sitting there with 1 or 3 pieces, weeping every week when their missing pieces don’t drop. (Seriously, one of our ret pallies in Apotheosis had 23 heroic Ultraxion kills and never got the heroic T13 chest.)

3) Get rid of tier bonuses altogether. I’m not a fan of this because, well, that’s kind of the point of tier, no? Even from Tier 0, the original dungeon sets, we had set bonuses. They were craptastic, mind you. (Why does a hunter need +200 armor? Really?) But they were there. All through every bit of raid content, the reward for getting your tier was the set bonuses, some of which were fantastic and some of which were awful, but many of them were at least desireable.

I also agree 100% with Anafielle that, for many people, capping VP/maxing their gear is not a “choice”. They see the obstacles Blizzard puts in front of them and feel compelled to go through it to better aid their team. I wasn’t as hardcore as she is and Apotheosis (4/13 HM) isn’t as hardcore as Something Wicked (10/13) is. The game has a huge, diverse player base, from those who don’t know how to cast a spell on someone else (no, really, people like that exist!) to people in Method, Paragon and Blood Legion. Anafielle is on the higher end, where something like new tier bonuses are going to be very desirable, in addition to VP capping. I would VP cap (reluctantly, but I would do so until I was done buying what I needed). Others don’t VP cap and still others have LFR as their only exposure to raiding. There’s a lot of disparity and with that comes a lot of lack of understanding in terms of how other people approach things. For raiders at certain levels, there’s no choice if you want to play at your highest capabilities and, honestly, these people need to know that Blizzard isn’t going to throw them under the bus by adding something that is ostensibly for non-heroic raiders, but in which a lot of value is found for heroic raiders. (Like, you know, tier bonuses on LFR and flex gear, not to mention trinkets with amazing procs and such, even if the base stats aren’t fantastic.)

Obviously, flex raiding doesn’t affect me personally at the moment, which is great, but I still find myself thinking about how I would use (or not use) flex raiding if I were still playing at my previous level. I would probably run it for achievements for the meta so as to not waste my real raid lockouts, but that’s probably it. I have my own limits and, as I learned way back during T9 of Wrath of the Lich King, doing two (or more) lockouts a week of the same content is too much for me. Doing three a week would probably offset any satisfaction I’d get from anything I’d gain by doing so, so that’s my personal limit. It’s also why I only have one realm first to my name, it’s why I’ve only ever cleared a single full, heroic tier of raid content. If you want the extras, the realm firsts, to be in the race for world firsts, you have to put in more time and more energy, and if Blizzard still doesn’t recognize that, after all this time, then raider burnout is going to hit hard during the Orgrimmar raid.