Breaking bad habits
As Cataclysm draws nearer and nearer, Blizzard has been releasing information about projected class and game mechanic changes, one class at a time. Everybody should have theirs within a few days of me posting this…except paladins, who for some reason, have to bubblehearth until April 16. Warriors haven’t gotten ours yet got ours about three minutes after I initially hit “Publish”, dammit, but we, along with beartanks, did get some very pertinent (and interesting) information regarding rage and on-next-swing mechanic changes. I’m not going to go digging into huge detail on those just yet–instead I’ll just refer you to Matthew Rossi’s wow.com article on the changes, and save my comments for later after the full warrior preview is released.
But still, reading those changes got me thinking about a few things…not so much nuts-and-bolts warrior and tanking things, but more general things about Cataclysm and what happens when we finally get to the 80-to-85 grind and new content. And an incident this morning crystallized those thoughts into this blog post.
This morning, I got up at zero-dark-thirty because, with the weather the way it’s been in North Carolina this week, it’s the only time that our sunroom-converted-into-computer-room is actually tolerably cool. I got on Linedan and ran a heroic (perfectly unexceptional, smooth Forge of Souls) and then switched over to Illithanis to do her daily heroic–she’s very close to being able to get the frost badge belt so I wanted to make sure I got hers in today.
After the obligatory 11-minute wait, what should appear but the Gundrak splash screen. And then it happened. Before I could run a quarter of the way down the ramp (I run down the ramp instead of jump, because, y’know, I have a freaking pet), the healy shaman is screaming at the warrior tank “rush gogogogogo.” And so he did. He ran into Sladran’s room and pulled all three patrolling three-snake groups before I could even get down to the doorway.
Nine and a half minutes later, we were standing over the end boss’s corpse. In that time, nobody died, nobody said a word, nobody ever stopped, and my DPS sucked because the fights were half over before I could even get there and start firing…and forget about Misdirects, who had time? I didn’t get a chance to loot half my mobs, and they didn’t wait for me to dismiss my pet before the two shortcut jump-downs everybody does after the Colossus and Moorabi. It wasn’t a bad group, truth be told. We got the job done, got our two Frost and three Triumph badges and our shards, and moved on. But it got me to thinking…
Thinking about the bad habits that we’ve picked up in Wrath of the Lich King, especially how we run our random heroics that are all the rage these days. Think about it. How do your groups do heroics? Probably the same way just about everybody else’s do. Foot-to-the-floor, balls-to-the-wall speed runs. The first pull probably happens so fast, the tank leaves skid marks behind like a muscle car peeling out. From there on, it’s a mad dash through the instance like the hounds of Hell themselves are nipping at your feet, quite possibly punctuated by shouts of “gogogogogo” from random party members if the tank dares to take a second to actually, y’know, loot something to cover his repair bill.
Pulls are generally done by the tank: (a) charging into the center of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (b) running into the middle of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (c) death-gripping one member of the group to him, then meeting the rest of the group halfway and spamming every AOE move he’s got, assuming the DPS hasn’t already scattered the rest of the pack to the four winds. Most of the time, the damage is all AoE…Volley, Seed of Corruption, Blizzard, Flamestrike, Whirlwind, Cleave, Thunderstorm (grumble), insert your favorite hits-lots-of-targets button here. Cooldowns are blown every time they’re up. Meters are linked after not just boss fights, but some trash pulls as well. If the tank loses agro while the mage has popped two trinkets and started firing Blizzards 0.6 seconds after entering combat, then it’s obviously the tank’s fault. Polymorphs, Hexes, and Frost Traps, on the rare occasion they’re seen, are usually followed by “oops, wrong button.” Healers can often be seen sneakily dropping Holy Novas and Smites in between casting heals, to avoid falling asleep at the keyboard.
Yep, kids, let’s face it…a lot of us overgear the content. A lot. There’s only so many times that we can run Violet Hold or Gundrak before we get bored and just want to get it the hell over with, not spending one single extra second in the place because we’ve got four other alts to do random heroics on as well. I get that. We do it for the badges, not the challenge or the mob loot. It’s all about speed and efficiency. And that’s all well and good.
So what happens when, after 6+ months of speed-grinding heroics, Cataclysm drops on our heads and we head back into instances that we don’t overgear?
We saw a bit of that when the ICC five-mans came out, particularly Halls of Reflection (Pit of Saron and Forge of Souls to a lesser extent). Those three are a good bit tougher than the older WotLK five-mans. HoR is the only instance now where I see crowd control used at all (the rare priest shackle, usually). Those instances gave people fits for a few weeks until even the densest PUG idiot figured out that, hey, line-of-sighting the Falric/Marwyn trash spawns actually works! And it’s OK to shackle and polymorph and frost-trap stuff, really it is!
Cataclysm has the potential to be Halls of Reflection times a lot. Why? Because we don’t know what sort of things Blizzard is going to do in terms of tank threat. Right now, even warriors can generally put out enough AoE threat to handle tough multiple pulls like, say, HoR–that is, assuming the party focuses targets correctly. What happens if we can’t? What happens if things slide back to a more Burning Crusade-like level where some or all tank classes don’t have the massive Velcro AoE threat that they do now…and yes, fancylads, I’m looking squarely at you. What happens if the “AoE it all down” paradigm we’ve been learning since Naxx-freaking-ramas suddenly goes right out the window and we’re back to the TBC days of “kill order is skull, X, square, sheep the moon, trap the circle, shackle the star?” Will people be able to adapt?
Personally, I would love to see crowd control make something of a comeback, but it’s a risky strategy. Because when you do that, you start laying restrictions down on group composition. I’d like to see something more than “burn it” as strategy, but I also don’t want to return to “well, I’d love to do Shattered Halls, but all we can find is a warrior tank and no mages for sheeping, so we can’t.”
The “AoE is all down” strategy may be here to stay, I’m not sure. If it is, then we’ll have to see what the changes bring for the various tank classes in Cataclysm to see if we can keep pace with DPS threat. But while I never want to go back to the TBC days of skipping Outland heroics because they were just too damn difficult for this average warrior to tank, part of me secretly yearns to have to do a little bit more than Charge, Thunderclap, Revenge, and Cleave-spam…and make the nine-and-a-half minute brute-force “RUSH GOGOGOGO” instance a thing of the past, at least for a little while.