Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Raiding thoughts at the end of TBC

My guild is doing a farewell tour of Burning Crusade raid dungeons, including places we haven't been to yet. So I had the opportunity to visit the Black Temple for the first time. We killed 4 bosses, each on the first try, of which the third and fourth boss were "guild firsts". The third boss, Shade of Akama, was so easy after the recent nerf that he dropped dead before we had really started. The fourth boss was a bit harder, but we managed very well, and he dropped a robe for my priest. So now I'm running around in a fancy BT robe, which wasn't a huge upgrade for me, but looks a lot nicer.

I wonder why exactly Blizzard made raiding so much easier, so late in TBC. Just to give everyone the chance to see the places he couldn't visit before? I'm all for accessible raiding, but isn't it a bit late for this? Furthermore, while I think that Karazhan 3.0 is about as difficult as a starting raid dungeon should be, Black Temple 3.0 is too easy for a end raid dungeon. If raid dungeons had been this way all the time in TBC, most guilds would have finished Black Temple and then Sunwell Plateau long ago. Guilds generally shouldn't be able to one-shot a new boss the first time they see him. I'm not saying that wiping 10 times is fun, but wiping once or twice before learning the encounter heightens the achievement of finally beating the boss.

This close to WotLK I obviously wasn't raiding for the gear. It was nice that I could get that robe because nobody else wanted it, but in this case it wasn't gear that was needed to advance further. Gear will be more important when Wrath of the Lich King raiding starts. What worries me a bit is that in our raid we had 5 priests and 7 mages, and due to the changes of spellpower we all needed the exactly same gear. I'll be competing for gear with every other priest, mage, or warlock, because there isn't anything like "cloth healing gear" any more. I hope Blizzard considered that when itemizing those new raid dungeons.

The hardcore raiders often talk of raids being all about "skill checks", or even "idiot checks". But if every guild suddenly gets much further in the raid circuit after the nerf, it proves that much of the raid difficulty is strictly numerical. The bosses all still have all of their abilities, they just have 30% less health. So if guild which couldn't kill them before now can kill them, it is hard to argue that these guilds suddenly acquired a lot more skill, or that they were "idiots" before to not be able to kill that boss. One good example for a pure gear check is the first boss in Black Temple, who hits the whole raid for 8,500 damage. If you don't have 8,500 health, there is nothing you could do, you simply need the gear with the stamina that gives you enough health to survive. Of course there are other cases where you can compensate lack of gear by playing better. But I haven't seen any encounter yet which can't be made trivially easy by being much overgeared.

And as outleveling and outgearing a raid dungeon makes it trivially easy, this is also why the proposal to train raiding in raid dungeons 10 levels below you can't possibly work. That is why the initial raid dungeon has to be easy enough to train average player in raiding, without completely frustrating them. I certainly don't expect to clean out Naxxramas on the first try, wearing still green quest armor. But a casual raiding guild with people in blue gear should at least be able to down some bosses after a few tries, gear up by that, and then slowly advance further. Later raid dungeons can then be harder, and I don't mind if the last raid dungeon in WotLK will be as hard as Sunwell Plateau before the nerf. There should be raid content that is challenging for many different types of players, not only casual or only hardcore. The important thing is to get people into raiding in the first place, even for those who won't be able to raid several nights per week, so that they can develop from there. We'll soon see whether Wrath of the Lich King manages that trick.

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