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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 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.

8 responses

  1. Scripts

    It would be nice to have a few instances that are TBC and a few instances that are LK. IE: HoR versus Forge versus Pit. HoR is the “new” magister’s terrace. Its the instance no one likes if you have a fail group in there. Its usually at least 1 wipe on trash, if its a pug, and sometimes 2 or 3.

    It would be nice to see instances like Nexus/UK were once you were in the 1st or 2nd tier of raid gear, they were easy to blow through, while instances where you couldn’t get into the regular mode unitl 77/78 (HoL/HoS/CoS/Occ) still required some work until you are (now) 3 tiers in from expansion start.

    I could see Heroic Wailing Caverns being interesting, as well as Shadowfang Keep. IDK, we’ll see.

    April 8, 2010 at 12:40

  2. One possibility is scalable heroics, wherein the levels are adjusted based upon the group’s gear score. The more overgeared you are, the more powerful the trash and bosses. To take an example from current content, if your PuG is tricked out with T10.5 gear, you get a badder, nastier Loken in HoL than a group that’s only got T9 gear at best.

    As for using the raid markers, about 1/4 of the time I’ll see them used in heroics. When you remove the last three (FoS, PoS, and HoR), that ratio is a bit worse, like 1/6. It’s a shame, particularly for a relatively new player like myself, because I value planning and strategy more than just bull rushing through things.

    April 8, 2010 at 14:25

  3. Trap is Blue Square, not the circle – jeez, who do you run with??

    Completely agree with you about bad habits. This is going to sound like a grumpy old man, but it’s quite scary to think of a lot of people who never had to plan each pull carefully, from special abilities to cc to positioning. While I don’t want a return to original Scholomance/Stratholme, and I can certainly do without the 4 hours it took me to reach the first boss in Old Hillsbrad Heroic the first time I zoned in, I’m hearing more and more requests like yours – something of a mix of some AoE pulls, with some pulls where you need to be more careful.

    I recently had to tell a group in HoR that, no, we cannot get through it if you insist on AoEing everything down, we need to actually cut incoming damage by killing some of the mobs quickly. The fact that they even conceived of AoE there really gave me the shivers.

    April 8, 2010 at 15:25

    • Trap is Blue Square, not the circle – jeez, who do you run with??


      I would actually be very happy to see enounters that actually took more than ZERG NAO OMGZ to get through. I was just thinking yesterday that it’s a good thing I’ve never been asked to trap… I’m out of practice because I never get to! Perhaps it’s “lame” of me to think so, but I think that classes with crowd controlling abilities should be able to use them – otherwise, what’s the point?

      (Would my new baby shaman love to hex something and have frogs hopping all over the place? HELL YES!)

      April 8, 2010 at 16:37

  4. I think one factor that might help is the fact that the new level cap will be 85, unless Blizz is going to scale all the new heroics to be equally more difficult rather than following their current pattern of having the lower level instances (ie: UK, Nexus) be easier to get through than the higher level instance heroics (ie: HoR). It will be interesting to see. I know I personally don’t pug if I can help it, so hopefully I’ll at least get to see the new heroics with my guild first.

    April 8, 2010 at 16:07

  5. For the first runs through the new dungeons, I suspect we’ll have our usual mix of groups. We didn’t handle Wrath Heroics (or regular dungeons) with such abandon when we first hit them. I remember the first few times I tried to heal the panzer cow in Culling.

    April 8, 2010 at 16:44

  6. Benjamin

    My lil warrior is probably going to hit 80 today or tomorrow and I cringe at the fact that I won’t be able to tank instances with such speed.
    Should be higher buttttt I leveled a prot pally and that was basically me consecrating and texting my gf….

    April 8, 2010 at 16:48

  7. gotta agree with benjamin. Warrior tanking seems the hardest to me. I also have a pally tank and doing conscecrate and almost holding all agroo has made me really soft with my other tanks. Need to step it up!

    September 30, 2010 at 21:42

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