Category Archives: Observations

MoP – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I know we’ve likely still got 6 months to go before Warlords of Draenor is released and Mists of Pandaria is officially over, but honestly, the end feels overdue already. I thought this would be a good time to look back at the expansion and think about what aspects were great and which ones were not so good.

The Good

1. Pandaria is beautiful. The zones are varied and interesting. From the wildlife to the landscapes, everything looked good. The final cut scene in Jade Forest took my breath away the first time I saw it, and opening up the gates to the gorgeous Vale of Eternal Blossoms for the first time was one of my favourite moments from any expansion.

2. Challenge modes. I loved doing challenge modes the first time around. Small group content that was actually challenging? Amazing. These were a whole lot of fun. I will say though, I found they lost their luster a bit after I got  my first set of golds. Maybe it was because healing them on my Druid was more challenging than dpsing on my Hunter. Maybe because by the time I got around to them on my Hunter the people I was running with had already done them so many times, and there were countless CM guides and videos out so the problem-solving aspect was gone. Either way, when these became less challenging, I found them less rewarding. But they were amazing the first time around.

3. Different types of solo content. MoP added a lot of things that people
could do to occupy themselves. Proving grounds were a nice challenge, the individual parts of the legendary quest line were unique, pet battles (more the collection aspect really) gave me a lot to do, even farms provided me with something to do for a little while. There was also Brawler’s Guild, rare hunting, and many treasures to find.

4. Raid content, for the most part, was good. There were a lot of different,  interesting bosses. The devs played with some new mechanics and gimmicks (some successful, some not). I found tier to be 14 the strongest raid tier (even though it didn’t last long enough), buts tiers 15 and 16 had their shining spots as well.

The Bad

1. The grind. MoP had a lot of grindy components – dailies, rep, valor, coins, lesser charms. That kind of thing is never really enjoyable. However, I’m putting this in the ‘bad’ category instead of ‘ugly’ because it wasn’t that huge a deal. I know many raiders claim they were forced to do everything all the time, but I’m not one of them. I didn’t want to do Golden Lotus dailies when MoP launched, so I didn’t. I lived. My raid killed bosses. Besides, by the time you farmed the rep and the valor to get that revered for that chest or ring you wanted, one would drop for you in raid the very next day – that’s how it works.

2. Legendary Cloaks. How do you make a legendary item feel anything but legendary? Give it to everyone. Then give it to all of their alts. Besides feeling completely unspecial, making the legendary so ubiquitous also meant that if you wanted to raid occasionally on an alt (especially as a dps) you basically needed the legendary to be at all viable. If you didn’t want to grind through item collection, rep and valor, you pretty much had to resign yourself to the fact that your output would suck. I did find that 90% of the legendary questline was enjoyable – but only once.

3. All the things that made guild/raid administration so much harder than it needed to be.

  • Some raid encounters (heroic Ji-Kun, Dark Animus, Spoils of Pandaria) required spreadsheets in order to organize everyone. It went so far beyond “assign x healer to use a cooldown, y dps to interrupt this mob, and group z to stand here” it was ridiculous. The 9 different mobs in the Paragons of the Klaxxi encounter have a total of roughly 40 different abilities. I killed those guys a dozen times on normal and never actually understood what was going on.
  • Things like Thunderforged/Warforged gear and the ability for raiders to coin loot made loot systems more difficult to deal with.
  • Six different ilvls of loot in a tier and four different raid difficulties.
  • Raid comp requirements varied wildly from fight to fight. Some fights heavily favoured comps with lots of rogues and hunters, some were better with many warlocks (most of them, really). Heroic Thok required 8 healers. Garrosh – 3 or 4. What are those other 5 healers supposed to do? 
  • All of the raid meta achievements that had multiple requirements (like Megaera, Lei Shen, Dark Animus trash) made getting people their metas in raid complicated and repetitive. I didn’t even get mine in ToT, and I’m the GM who rarely missed a raid :(

The Ugly

1. Spending a year in the last tier of content. I know, I’m a broken record on this, but it’s awful piled on top of more awful because it’s the 3rd time it’s happened. People are bored and it’s a problem.

2. Healing became a game of cooldowns and button mashing. During the first tier of the expansion, healing was interesting. Mana mattered, I used most of the spells in my spellbook. As time went on this changed and healing turned into spam all the AoE/smart heals all the time. Very dull. Healing was also made less interesting my the amount of non-healer raid cooldowns available. With 3 offpsec HTTs, a few DAs, a boomkin to Tranq and a Warrior or two to do all the things they do, the way to defeat harder encounters usually involved dropping healers. I thought I’d be a healer forever, but the progression of healing in MoP managed to drive me into a dps role.

3. Lag and disconnects. There were a few things in the game that caused some awful lag, especially in 25s. Things like smart heals and Stampede were blamed, though they apparently got fixed. Lag stuck my raid most fiercely on Lei Shen and Siegecrafter, and we lost more than a few raid nights to it, as the game was basically unplayable for some people. It’s one thing to not kill a boss because people couldn’t perform adequately, it’s another to not kill it because half your raid has so much lag they can’t move out of spell effects fast enough.


 

Those are the highs and lows that stand out for me in MoP. What parts of the expansion did you love or hate?

Healthy Gameplay

A new Dev Watercooler went up today and it addressed a topic near and dear to my heart, healing. Specifically, it told us some of the changes we can expect to see to the healing game in Warlords of Draenor.

The first topic brought up is about health and resilience. It’s mainly related to PVP, so I don’t really care. I do think beginning the Watercooler with this was a mistake, as it open it up to cries of “Waaah, PVE healing is being nerfed because of PVP” and “you’re making healing too hard!”

Airplane 2 - Jerk off

Here’s the problem with that argument. It’s stupid. Okay, I’ll explain more. Nerfs (and buffs) relate to class and game balance. If you overhaul all of healing – reduce effectiveness of spells for each class/spec, add cast times, try to make each healer think and plan more – no one is getting nerfed. As a Resto Druid, I’m not any worse off than the Resto Shaman who’s seeing the exact same types of changes to their spells. People may not trust Blizzard to fix things correctly, but are they going to completely break the PVE game so no healer is capable of keeping their group/raid alive? No. They’re not.

Let’s move on to the changes that are being discussed.

Healer throughput will be toned down relative to the size of player health pools

…healers are able to refill health bars so fast that we have to make damage more and more “bursty” in order to challenge them. Ideally, we want players to spend some time below full health without having healers feel like the players they’re responsible for are in danger of dying at any moment. We also think that healer gameplay would be more varied, interesting, and skillful if your allies spent more time between 0% and 100%, rather than just getting damaged quickly to low health, forcing the healer to then scramble to get them back to 100% as quickly as possible.

To me, this sounds fantastic. I know it’s something that was tried before, but I’m glad Blizzard is giving it another shot. Hopefully it works this time. Health bars do get filled way too fast, and people spend way too much time at 100% health. Healing has turned into a very twitchy game, a contest of who can get those heals out first. As a Druid, the idea of people not being at full health very often is fantastic. I don’t want my Rejuvenation to be 60% overheal anymore, I’d love for it to do more effective healing. As a healer in general, I also really like this. I don’t want to play whack-a-mole. I want healing to require some thought and planning. If a tank dies, I don’t want it to be because I missed the 1 GCD that I could have healed her in between damage ticks. I’d rather it be because for the last 5 or 10 seconds I didn’t prioritize or anticipate damage correctly, and I got too far behind to save them.

Additionally, we’re toning down the power of absorbs in general. When they get too strong, absorption effects are often used in place of direct healing instead of as a way to supplement it.

Obviously absorbs create huge balance problems. It’s nice that this is acknowledged, but we didn’t get much detail about how this will be fixed.

We also took a look at healing spells that were passive or auto-targeted (so-called “smart” heals). We want healers to care about who they’re targeting and which heals they’re using, because that makes healer gameplay more interactive and fun. To that end, we’re reducing the healing of many passive and auto-targeted heals, and making smart heals a little less smart. Smart heals will now randomly pick any injured target within range instead of always picking the most injured target. Priority will still be given to players over pets, of course.

I’m a bit torn on this. I think smart heals are a huge problem. However, I’m not sure that making them dumber is the answer. I’d rather see less smart heals overall and have the ones left be less efficient. On the other hand, having my Wild Growth target a person at 70% health instead of the person at 30% health will force me to use some targeted heals on them, which I think we need to do more of.

Another of our goals for healing in this expansion is to strike a better balance between single-target and multi-target healing spells. We’ve taken a close look at the mana efficiency of our multi-target heals, and in many cases, we’re reducing their efficiency, usually by reducing the amount they heal. Sometimes, but more rarely, raising their mana cost was a better decision. We want players to use multi-target heals, but they should only be better than their single-target equivalents when they heal more than two players without any overhealing.

On the surface, this sounds good. However, thinking more about it, I see a problem. Earlier in the post they mentioned that they don’t want players to be sitting at 100% health so often. If that’s the case, multi-target heals should usually be hitting two or more players without overhealing, meaning they’re usually better than their single-target equivalents, meaning there’s really no decision to be made. I think that efficiency/mana costs will need to be adjusted even more if this has any chance of working.

Finally, we’re removing the low-throughput, low-mana-cost heals like Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave, because we think that while they do add complexity, they don’t truly add depth to healing gameplay.

Excellent.

…we’ve increased base mana regen a great deal at early gear levels, while having it scale up less at later gear levels.

In theory, this should mean that we can’t spend our mana willy-nilly in the last tier of the xpac. As long as they don’t add in things like the legendary meta-gem to ruin it.

Less instant cast heals

Over time, healers have gained a bigger and bigger arsenal of heals that they can cast while on the move, which removes the inherent cost that movement is intended to have for them, while also limiting players’ ability to counter healing in PvP.

Now this change does actually seem to be mainly about PVP. But, I think for many of the spells they mention getting a cast time (Wild Growth, Uplift, Word of Glory, Light of Dawn, Cascade, Divine Star, Halo) a side effect will be that these smart/multi-target heals are even less efficient, and encourage people to think before they use them. I do have a couple concerns with the spells they’re giving a cast time to though. Giving Prayer of Mending a cast time seems unnecessarily punitive, as does giving a cast time to Wild Growth, a HoT. If they do this, I think WG needs a small instant heal component like RJ does, otherwise it takes too long after you decide to cast it for it to start ticking.


Overall, I’m impressed with the information they released and really hope that everything works out. I think a few of the points need some more thought in order to accomplish the stated goal, but I’m hopeful.

I think a major overhaul is just what the healing game needs. Right now it’s about as engaging as swatting flies. Make mana matter, force us to make choices, let us use our whole toolkit without 1 or 2 spells making up the most of our healing. If they can pull it off, healing should be fun again.

The 80% of comments whinging on the watercooler post really boil down to this:

We fear change

Button Bloat – Hunters

I talked about what abilities I thought could be eliminated from the Resto Druid kit last week, and now it’s time to talk hunters.

As I looked through my spellbook for all three specs last night, it struck me that I was fine with the hunter’s basic rotational abilities. I wouldn’t get rid of any of the basic 7-8 shots used by each spec. There are not too many. If anything, some new shot or mechanic could be added to spice things up a little bit. Where hunters feel bloated is in our cooldowns and situational abilities.

There are a whole bunch of abilities that could be removed or streamlined to make hunters feel more fluid, and possibly make room for other, more interesting abilities.

Aspects
These used to be a lot more interesting back when we had Aspect of Nature and Aspect of the Viper. We needed to make a meaningful choice for what aspect we were in and would often switch a few times during fights. Now there really is no choice and these abilities seem unnecessary.

Aspect of the Hawk/Ironhawk should be passive, or just removed. There’s really no reason we should ever have to reapply it. Right now it only serves as an annoyance to have to make sure to put it back on after switching specs. 

Aspect of the Cheetah/Pack we could probably live without. Having a whole aspect bar just for these two things seems silly, if AotH is removed. Perhaps we could get an ability like Stampeding Roar as a replacement. That would actually be really nice, even without a root/snare break.

Traps
Trap use has gone down a lot since previous expansions and they’re clunky to use compared to other abilities. The only real positive traps have is being able to place them before a pull, but even that only gives a marginal increase in damage.

As far as a I know, Survival is really the only spec that gets any use out of Explosive Trap. In order to be worthwhile, there needs to be a certain number of enemies and they need to stay still within the area of effect. I’d be more than happy to have this taken away.

Likewise, Snake Trap has very little use in PVE. I remember there used to be some cool uses for it, when snakes could be targeted by boss abilities and save your raid some damage, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.

The PVP implications of this might be too big, but I’d also love to see Freezing Trap and Ice Trap combined into a single ability. The first hostile mob to hit the trap would be frozen. If the trap gets broken, or the mob is immune, the Ice Trap effect would show up.

Trap Launcher should be removed and made baseline.

Cooldowns
Rapid Fire and Focus Fire are very similar abilities which increase haste and I see no reason for both to exist. One could be removed, or they could be combined into one. The pet haste effect from Rabid could also be combined into this.

Other Spells
This one may be a bit more controversial, but I’d love to never be asked to Misdirect again. With all the changes to tank threat and ranged taunts, it really shouldn’t be necessary (and whatever happened to “wait 3 seconds before you attack the boss?”). Of course, MD is most useful in directing stray/spawning mobs to the tank, but our ability to do this marginal at best. As BM especially, my misdirect can’t out-threat much of anything. 

Hunter’s Mark seems unnecessary at this point. We don’t really even need to cast it anymore since its application is baked into basic shots. The tracking component is useful for PVP, but I’d rather it become a situational spell used for the tracking and have the damage buff component removed.

Flavour
These spells don’t impact much and the only reason to keep them would be nostalgia.

I can’t remember the last time I used Beast Lore. Since pets have been normalized, and don’t need to be fed, there’s not much point.

I didn’t even remember hunters had Eagle Eye until I was browsing through my spell book. I wouldn’t miss it.


Well, that’s 13 abilities I think could safely be removed from Hunters. That’s a lot. It seems that there are a lot of opportunities to streamline our toolkit. 

What do you think? What Hunter abilities would you like to see removed? Are there any you wouldn’t want to lose?

Ashunera has written another well-thought out piece about ability bloat, and wants to know what 5 abilities you’d prune from your class. You should check it out.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Patch 5.4 and Siege of Orgrimmar was released on September 10, 2013. We’ve been in there for 4 months so far but to me it feels more like 4 years.

This week we learned that there is another PVP season planned during Mists. This means we’re likely looking at another 6 months in Siege of Orgrimmar before Warlord of Draenor comes out. At least. Blizzard does a lot of things well, but pacing their raid content releases is not one of them.

The most recent three expansions have had a pretty distinct pattern when it came to time spent in a tier vs. number of encounters available in that tier. The first tier goes quick. There are a lot of encounters, but the tier isn’t current for that long. In the middle tier, the ratio of encounters:time goes down – the tier stays current for roughly the same amount of time (give or take a month), but there are less bosses to fight. In the final tier of an expansion that encounter:time ratio drops even more. We get more bosses than the middle tier, but the tier drags on for 10-12 months while we wait for the next expansion to be released.

Wrath of the Lich King
Tier 7  (5 months, 18 encounters – 3.6 encounters/month)
Tier 8  (3.5 months, 23 encounters 6.6 encounters/month)
Tier 9  (4 months, 11 encounters – 2.75 encounters/month)
Tier 10 (1 year, 26 encounters – 2.2 encounters/month)  

Cataclysm
Tier 11 (6.5 months, 25 encounters – 3.8 encounters/month)
Tier 12 (5 months, 14 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)
Tier 13 (10 months, 16 encounters – 1.6 encounters/month)

Mists of Pandaria
Tier 14 (5 months, 32 encounters – 6.4 encounters/month)
Tier 15 (6 months, 25 encounters – 4.2 encounters/month)
Tier 16 (10 months?, 28 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)

Tier 8 (Ulduar) in Wrath of the Lich King is an outlier in this – an example of creating a tier that was amazing in both quality and quantity, but then pushing it to the background with another tier extremely quickly. WotLK is also a bit of an anomaly in that it was the only time in any expansion (or original WoW) that we got 4 raid tiers.

The question is…why the hell do they keep doing this?

I can understand some front-loading of content. When a new expansion comes out, having a ton of new content is going to help convince people to purchase it. But they need to spread the content out better. Here’s what my generally mindset looks like as expansions proceed:

Game is released
“Oh my god, there’s so much to do! Level! Get rep! Get enough gear to start raiding! Try to check out the new features that were introduced.”

First raid tier ends
“I wish it had lasted longer! I’m sure my raid could have defeated a couple more raid bosses if we had an extra month, and there’s still so much other stuff to do.”

Second raid tier ends
“I feel good about this tier. We had a decent amount of time to progress, and I’m ready for a change of scenery.”

Six months into the final raid tier
“Is this tier ever going to end? Can we hear some news about when the next expansion is coming? Pleeeease.”

Eight to twelve months into the final raid tier
“I’m so bored, we killed everything months ago and playing has been a huge waste of my life for the last few months. Fuck this fucking game, I hate it.”

They need to learn to hold something back. Maybe instead of having 3 raid instances at the start of the xapc, only put out 2 and save one for the last tier. I know I’m not the only one who gets bored doing the same, single raid for almost a year.

Mists of Pandaria also had the least amount of raid zones. In Burning Crusade we had 8 different raids – Karazhan, Magtheridon’s Lair, Gruul’s Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Hyjal, Black temple and Sunwell. Some of these only had one or two bosses, but 8 raids make for a tremendous amount of variety in scenery, lore and types of bosses encountered. It makes things much more interesting. In Wrath of the Lich King there were 9 different raids. In Cataclysm we had only 6 raid zones. In Mists? Only 5, and 3 of them were squished into the first 5 months. This made for a lot of monotony over the next 10 months.

Is providing varied, interesting raid zones becoming less of a priority?  It seems that in Warlords, a lot of attention is being paid to allowing people to raid in 700 different ways (LFR, normal, heroic, flex, cross-realm, mythic). How much attention will be paid to the variety and amount of raid zones themselves?

After the original release and four expansions, will Blizzard ever learn how to not suck at timing their raid content releases?

Hearthstone and Sportsmanship

I’ve been playing a fair amount of Hearthstone lately. This is the first trading/collectible card game I’ve ever played. It is a game that is played against real people, however, aside from playing your hand, you have very limited interaction. You can’t talk to your opponent directly. There are 6 emotes you can use or you can Squelch (which I just learned means mute) your opponent. You can also concede the match.

Though interaction with your opponent is very limited, the way you play the game can have an immense effect on how they perceive you and how much they enjoy the match. With no direct communication, we often have to guess or assume our opponent’s motivations. Since the emotes are so vague, they can be interpreted in many different ways. When someone thanks you after you play a card are they being friendly or smarmy? When they say good game after completely destroying you do they mean it, or are they rubbing it in? When they keep using threaten are they being a jackass or just trying to RP Garrosh?

I first realized that sportsmanship in Hearthstone was a contentious issue a while ago on Twitter. I had expressed my irritation about how some people have you beat, but then proceed to play every card they can before striking the killing blow. To me, this is a frustrating waste of my time, in addition to being a real dick move. It’s bad enough I’ve lost, but now I have to watch you fluff your minions before making the final move?

Get on with it, motherfucker.

Get on with it, motherfucker.

A number of people shared my sentiment about putting people out of their misery quickly, but I was quite surprised by the number of people who disagreed. Their argument was that people get enjoyment out of the game in different ways. Whereas I like to quickly move on to the next match if it’s clear I’m about to win/lose, some people might find it fun to build up a minion as much as possible and deal 20 damage to win when only 3 damage is needed. If I didn’t want to wait, they argued, I could just concede.

Conceding is something my opinion has changed on over time. At first, I never did it. I’d rather be taken out by someone else than do it myself. Also, there’s always a small chance your opponent will screw up and you can turn things around. I do it more often now though, as my patience wanes.

As I’ve been getting more into Hearthstone and doing some reading to improve my game, I’ve been seeing that there are even more disputed issues when it comes to sportsmanship. This thread on Hearthhead introduced a few issues that I found surprising.

First, there was the idea that some people might prefer their opponent wait one round before finishing them off even if they can clearly win this round. If someone could clearly win the match in this round and they ended their turn without doing so, I would assume: they made a mistake; they’re dumb, or; they’re an overconfident asshole who wants to waste my time. I personally don’t understand how anyone would be appreciative of being “let to play another round” before getting beat.

The biggest area of contention in the thread was how people felt about conceding. Opinions on that run the gamut. Some feel that not letting your opponent make the killing blow by conceding was poor sportsmanship. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some think it’s rude if the person doesn’t concede if they know they’ve lost.

A Twitter discussion about conceding in Hearthstone

 My thoughts on people conceding are somewhere in the middle. If I’m winning and my opponent concedes, I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with them finishing the game. Mostly I just like to win, I don’t care how it happens.

This did get me thinking about my own play habits and how they could be interpreted by others. I consider myself a good sport. Actually that’s a lie. I’m a terribly sore loser, but no one can hear what I’m saying in Hearthstone, so it’s kind of irrelevant. I am very polite to strangers though and when I play I try to make the game a pleasant experience for everyone. However, going through that thread on Hearthhead makes me realize that some of the things I do (or, more likely, don’t do) might be considered rude by others.

May way's not very sportsmanlike...

My way’s not very sportsmanlike…

For one thing, I almost never use emotes. I find them vague and pointless. I just want to play cards, not socialize, so I usually don’t return peoples Greetings or Well Playeds unless I’m in a really good mood. I’m not trying to be a jerk, I just think emotes are an unnecessary part of the game.

Similarly, I’m sure I consider many things irritating or rude when that is not the intention of my opponent. Things that particularly bother me:

  • Drawing the game out unnecessarily (whether they’re winning or losing).
  • Overuse of emotes. You don’t need to use one after every turn.
  • Emoting Well Played when in fact I played a terrible game.
  • Other people winning :P

What do you think makes a Hearthstone player a good or bad sport?

Warcraft Logs

I’m a big fan of WoW stats and analyzing logs, as you can probably tell by how often I write about the topic.

Recently, a new site for WoW combat log analysis was introduced – Warcraft Logs! Developed by Kihra, Warcraft Logs looks like an amazing supplement to, and eventual successor to World of Logs. It just entered open alpha this week, so there are some bugs and features that haven’t been implemented yet, but it’s looking good so far.

I’m pretty excited about this new site. The WoL devs have mostly been just keeping the lights on for the last year or so. Big bugs get fixed (eventually), but there haven’t been any new features implemented or improvements in a long time. Warcraft Logs seems set on giving raiders a better analysis resource.

Warcraft Logs overviewThe logs are pretty sleek looking. The overview page gives you the basic information – damage done, healing done, damage taken by ability. You can very easily constrain the time range to look at a specific part of the fight by clicking and dragging to select a time frame on the top chart.

Warcraft Logs Damage Done

The Damage Done panel is similar to WoL, but has some nice improvements. If you look at Damage Done by Ability, the chart at the top very nicely maps out when and how much damage each ability is doing. Mousing over the ability name will show you the breakdown of how much damage each target took from that ability. Clicking on the ability will graph out uptimes. Mousing over the blue bar will break down hits, crits, and ticks. And, my absolute favourite feature on the Warcraft Logs damage screen – pets abilities are included on the same page as the player! No more having to look at your pet(s) and yourself separately – all the abilities are in one place.

Warcraft Logs - Buffs and Debuffs

The Buffs and Debuffs screen isn’t the most user friendly right now, but it is going to be redesigned soon™.

Warcraft Logs Deaths

The Deaths page is simple and easy to use. In addition to a graph of the player’s health level, it includes the log entries of all damage and healing taken since the last time the player was overhealed. Along the left side, where you can see all deaths there are a few neat features, like the icons for the last 3 sources of damage are shown. I believe the time in brackets is supposed to indicate the time between the last heal received and the death, though it doesn’t look entirely accurate right now. Improvements planned for this view include showing survival cooldowns by default.

Warcraft Logs Resources

One feature of Warcraft Logs I’m stoked for is the Resources pane. Unfortunately, resources were removed from the combatlog so this panel isn’t working at the moment, but the Blues have said they would be added back soon. When that happens, the resources pane will let you see mana/energy/focus/rage levels of players throughout the fight. This is particularly interesting for healers.

It’s really easy to create or join a guild using Warcraft logs, and you’re allowed to belong to more than one guild on a single account, which is nice. There’s also a Personal Logs option so you can log LFR or Flex or target dummy practice without cluttering up your guild’s page.

There are a few important features that are not available yet, but are planned. For me, the most important of these are an expression editor and a rankings system. Lack of these things is the main thing that will keep my raid running both WoL and WL for the time being. After all, rankings are half the fun. Once these, and the other planned features are implemented, Warcraft Logs will be an amazing resource. It’s already well on its way there.

Once Warcraft Logs gets past the alpha stage, I’ll likely write up a proper guide on how to use it to analyse logs. In the meantime, you should give it a try for your next raid.

Throne of Thunder Retrospective

Yesterday I read Beru’s Tier 15 Resto-spective, and I thought I may as well break my blogging silence and write my own. I’m not going to talk so much about specific bosses or healing, but more about mechanics I enjoyed (or hated) like I did last tier.

The Raid Instance

I’m not a story person, but I did enjoy how the raid instance this tier had a lot of content tied in with it. Isle of Thunder gave backstory around Throne of Thunder and made it seem much more a part of the rest of the game than the raids from the previous tier.

However, I wasn’t too crazy about the 4 section design (a decision which seemed to cater to LFR more than anything else). I found the 1st and 4th sections cohesive, while the middle 2 sort of came out of nowhere and seemed to have nothing to do with Lei Shen or the rest of the raid.

Some parts of the raid were visually interesting and a lot of the bosses were enjoyable. I’d rate Tier 15 about the same as Tier 11. Not nearly as enjoyable for me as Tier 6 (the ultimate in raid content), but better than a lot of tiers.

Healing

Healing as a resto Druid this tier was touch and go. There were fights that made me feel completely ineffective as anything but a dispel-bot (Heroic Horridon), and fights that made me feel like a superhero (Heroic Tortos). To be honest, I enjoyed healing in this tier more before we got buffed. I liked being able to ignore Mushrooms in 90% of situations because they were awful. The 25-man changes to Hymn/Tranq/Revival/HTT made raid bosses even more of a cooldown-stacking game. Healing was a lot more challenging (and therefore fun) before everyone got buffed and we were allowed to upgrade our gear again.

Mechanics

Good things

  • Having other things to do. Example: Horridon’s pink dinos, Twins’ constellation drawing. I think I’m in the minority when I say I liked the dino mechanic. Mostly I just enjoy having something extra to do during some encounters. Managing healing, dispelling and knocking that dino back felt like a juggling act, which I found interesting.
  • Pick your poison bosses. Example: Megaera, Council, Lei Shen. I like council-type fights that let each raid group choose how they’d like to tackle the fight. On Megaera, you could never kill the Poison head so you wouldn’t have to deal with the AoE damage, but have to deal with increased damage from the other heads. Or you could cycle through killing each head so damage was more uniform. Giving players some control over how the fight works makes things more engaging.
  • Novelty. Example: Tortos’ crystal shells. The addition of this one mechanic made Heroic Tortos completely different than normal, especially from a healing perspective (and made it the only fight where my HoTs weren’t 50%+ overheal). It’s a mechanic I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Keep the new things coming.
  • Meaningful dispels. Example: Megaera’s Cinders. These dispels required thought and awareness about the position of the person with the debuff. You didn’t want to dispel someone and have a flame patch drop in melee or on a group of people, but you also didn’t want to leave the debuff up so long that it would kill the person it was on. I also liked that this debuff required action on both the part of the dispeller and dispellee.
  • Awareness checks. Example: Durumu. I really like Durumu’s maze. Sometimes it was a pain to see, but it really did test people’s ability to not stand in the bad. I also really liked the Light Spectrum phase. Having the beams targeting random people and the fog positioning showing up briefly really showed who was paying attention.
  • Group challenges. Example: Ji-Kun nests, Lei Shen transition quadrants. I like when the raid gets separated into smaller task forces. It’s fun to learn to work with a sub-set of your raid to accomplish something in a fight.

Things that need to go away

  • Awful trash. Example: Horridon’s bridge trash, Ji’Kun’s trash. Really, why put people through this? I think it took my raid longer to get through Horridon’s bridge trash than it did to kill Horridon for the first time. This is not the way things should work. Since trash very infrequently has rewards, it should not be so much of a pain in the ass.
  • Mechanics where 1 person can blow up your entire raid. Example: Jin’Rokh’s Ionization. Seriously. This isn’t fun. Not for the person who accidentally kills everyone or anyone else. These mechanics are not conducive to happy raids.
  • Mindless, mass debuffs. Example: Horridon. Dispelling can be an interesting job that requires thought and planning (see above). Or, like on Horridon, it can be an annoyance. Having magics, poisons, diseases and curses going out on large amounts of people at quick intervals is not fun. Dispelling like this just seems like busy work.
  • Fights that require spreadsheets to plan a strategy for. Example: Heroic Ji-Kun, Heroic Dark Animus. Seriously, fights like these make me feel bad for 25-man raid leaders everywhere. Complexity can make fights interesting, but when it involves knowing at exactly what second of the fight every nest activates and which of 10 possible places a guardian will spawn, or assigning all 25 raiders a specific place to stand in a room, it gets to be too much.
  • Fussy positioning. Example: Dark Animus. One person stands a step too far to the right or left on the pull and it’s a wipe. Most wipes on this fight happen right at the beginning, almost always due to positioning or an add running away and it’s more frustrating than challenging.
  • Stay x yards apart. Example: Ji’Kun, Primordius, Iron Qon, Twin Consorts, Lei Shen. This isn’t a bad mechanic, it’s just an overused way to challenge the ranged and healers. And it sucks a lot more for 25s than 10s.

What did you think of Tier 15? What were your most and least favourite things about it?