Reimagining “Heroics”

It has been more than a month now since the new Looking for Dungeon (LFD) tool was unleashed upon the WoW-playing masses, queues were joined, badges were plentiful, Devs looked upon the world and saw that it was good. Then came the whines:

“Tanks pull too fast!”
“Tanks don’t pull fast enough!”
“You can’t tank heroics with only 30k unbuffed life! /kick”
“Why don’t you mark?”
“Why are you marking?”
“Can we skip some bosses?”
“Can we do all the bosses?”
“OMGWTF Oculus!? REALLY!? /quit”
“Why don’t you people talk? I hate silent stormtroopers of death”
“Why are you people talking? I’m not here to make friends.”
“Aww man, I got a bear/warrior tank /cry”
“How the hell are you only doing 600 DPS!?!?”
“I hate bosses that take 2 minutes to kill instead of 20s because they go immune!”
“I hate trash!”
“Nerf this!”
“Nerf that!”

“OMGWTF Oculus!? AGAIN!? REALLY!? /quit”

There have been lots of discussions about dungeons since the beginning of Wrath so I’m not going to linger too long here, but suffice to say, for the context of this post we shall assume the following assertions are true:
1) Heroics are not as difficult (relatively) in Wrath as they were in Burning Crusade.
2) Crowd Control has fallen by the wayside in favor of massive AoE tanking.
3) Dungeons tuned for iLvl187 gear are being run by people in iLvl232 and better.
4) Blizzard is making as much as possible accessible to as many as possible.
5) People have become more and more impatient as Blizzard has catered to them.

Now, for my usual disclaimer, I did not even hit 60 until Wrath came out. I never ran an outland dungeon until after I had been in Nax a few times. I never raided in Burning Crusade. My Outland Dungeon Hero and Outland Raider achievements were all post-3.1. When it comes to what life was like tanking in BC, I have no idea about anything, I’m only going on anecdotal evidence provided by people with whom I have spoken.

I’ve already spoken at length of my desire to speed through heroics as quickly as possible and I get irritated from an Emblems per Minute perspective if the run takes longer than 15 minutes so I can instantly queue for a new dungeon as soon as my debuff wears off. Yes, I am a tank. Don’t hate me because you need me (except you don’t) hate Blizzard because they made it that way. But I can also understand where the old fogies, telling me to get off their heroic lawns, are coming from. For something named “heroics” these are pretty damn bland. That having been said, I’m going to take a quick trip down memory lane.
I actually used to die to Loken (on regular) and King Dred was sorta hard once upon a time I guess. Xevoz in the Violet Hold used to kinda suck because kiting is hard when you’re a new tank. I used to wipe on the trash gauntlet before the first boss in AN a long time ago before I knew what I was doing (I used to get hit with Anub’arak’s Pound too, but that’s another story). The snake boss in Gundrak killed me more than a few times because someone got wrapped (this was the first time I had ever heard the words “DPS Race” said). Old Kingdom’s trash used to be really hard for me (but again, I didn’t know about interrupting Empowered Shadowbolt, cleansing poison, or using Holy Wrath to stun them all and laugh). King Ymiron used to kill me all the damn time while I was trying to farm his sword, and don’t even get me started on that Skadii mofo… I’m not sure if I ever thought anything about the Nexus was hard. I went into Nax before Halls of Stone, but Sjonnir killed me a few times, and I still hate that Tribunal event (but only because it takes 5 minutes and there is literally no way to speed it up, which is terrible for impatient people like me). I don’t remember ever feeling that Culling of Stratholme was very hard for any particular reason. The Oculus definitely used to be difficult back when I didn’t know what I was doing, and sometimes we’d still wipe because someone didn’t really understand the drake mechanics. So there it is, my shame is laid bare… once upon a time I was a fresh 80, fighting for the defense cap in store-bought blues and some crafted gear with 20k unbuffed life and no idea how to play my class. Now I’m a tank who is one Anub’arak 25H kill away from Tribute to Insanity 25.
Lots of people have expressed their disappointment in the lack of necessary CC in order to complete Wrath heroics. Blessing of Kings recently did two articles about it which got me thinking… what if heroics were hard. What if heroics required heroic playing to complete? I realize at this point in the content patch we are far more likely to out-gear the hell out of the place on one, if not several, alts, but I’m speaking strictly from a methodology standpoint, not a practical one. Right now people are used to 15 minute heroic speed runs (20-30 if you can’t carry a few people quite as quickly) and they want to get in as fast as possible, get finished as fast as possible, get their emblems and shard everything that drops in the dungeons because after 5 more speed runs, they’ll have some tier9, bypassing t6, 7, and 8 in the process. People in Black Temple / Sunwell / Hyjal gear were able to keep all their gear from 70 to 80 and go into nax25 and still struggled to upgrade a few pieces. Now, as I understand it, this ended up happening with Badges of Justice at the end of Burning Crusade totally rebalancing the system, but still, in practice almost everything was untauntable, packs came in groups of 5+, and they stunned or disoriented the tank often or just ignored agro outright, and all that is BEFORE overzealous dps opening the pull with their Howitzer ability.
I still lose AoE agro sometimes to certain classes on pulls of larger than 3, like warriors opening with bladestorm, ret paladins opening with divine storm and seal of command in the same second, and mages/dks/warlocks, who AoE the pack before I’ve even closed the distance. But these days, righteous defense is right there and works every time, I have FOUR cleaves as a paladin if I’m specced right (Seal of Command (melee), Shield of Righteousness (SoCom), Hammer of the Righteous, Avenger’s Shield, and then there is consecrate which is target-less [but damage capped at 10 targets] to keep them all) in comparison to my warrior tank who has Thunderclap for snap agro but then depends on Cleave being on a “next melee swing” CD and a long CD on Shockwave, and of course the warrior-696 of devastate-tab-devistate-tab-ad infinitum until either thunderclap or shockwave is off CD. But ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is, I never mark targets, I never call for CC, and most times if I lose agro it’s because DPS picked a different target to single-down than I did in between Blizzards, Rains of Fire, and Hurricane, and the mob usually dies in short order or I taunt it back immediately and forget about it because no one is ever really in any danger.
So what if people were in danger? What if everything was immune to taunt? I know I’d be pissed out of my mind. Every pull would be like heroic faction champs, and I would not be having any fun whatsoever. I like to tank, and a tank that doesn’t get to tank anything because of an unorthodox agro table and taunt immunities would ruin my gameplay experience. What if everything had a “75%+ immunity to AoE damage” like the faction champions or Saurfang’s Blood Beasts? My consecrate wouldn’t hold much AoE threat anymore. What if packs came in groups of 10-12, not 3-5? Can’t kill them all at once, difficulty holding threat on targets 4 through 12, with the rebalancing of the entire game coming in Cataclysm where my 70% avoidance against targets my level becomes 25% getting hit 12 times for 2000 will be significant even if I have 60k health. What about giving enemies forms of CC? I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be silenced so I can’t use any abilities to generate threat, or feared so I’m getting hit with 100% of melee attacks in the damn back, or stunned which works the same way, or mind controlled so I not only lose agro on everything but I start attacking party members as well. Is that too much “PvP in my PvE?” But it would require heroic play.
This kind of gearshift between 15m throw-away dungeons and “5 man raids” will likely never occur because Blizzard wants to continue to solidify the accessibility, and some people are just never going to be good enough players to complete certain difficult PvE encounters nevermind have the wherewithal to instantly adjust to random PvP tactics. If The model changed from speed heroics, a “very little challenge for moderate rewards”, to something like “this heroic will take 2 hours and will test your group comp and individual skill, but you will be rewarded equivalently to the 6 heroics you could have run in this same amount of time” would you want to make that switch as a player? Would you be willing to not gather up 6 or 7 packs in H UK or H Gundrak and completing the instance in 15 minutes for 7 badges in exchange for a 2 hour pre-nerf antechamber of Ulduar25 for 42 badges and some loot you might want to at least mouse-over before you hit the Disenchant button as fast as you could? I realize what I have essentially said is, do you want to raid, not run heroics. But even in raids these days, I’m overgeared for Icecrown25 and I LoS pull as much of Marrowgar and Deathwhisper’s trash as I can get away with and we AoE the shit out of it and move on because it doesn’t require more of us. The Crimson Halls trash tried to do this, creating Leutenants that chain-stun tanks for 6s at a time so we can’t round up monsters and keep threat. The lichees “lich slap” people for heavy damage as well. But, even with these things, we just gather and aoe anyway…
Do people actually WANT challenging trash to return? Do people WANT to have to CC things and kill things in specific orders? Rohan made a great suggestion about making interdependent trash where one monster would basically buff another’s monsters abilities into raid-wiping so you had to CC at least one of them while you killed the other, but it definitely would feel contrived. It also, especially in a 5man setting, demands a little too much in the way of “group comp” to bring certain abilities and buffs. What if you and 4 friends wanted to run a heroic but it was a Paladin tank, Warrior DPS, Hunter DPS, Priest DPS, and a Paladin healer and there was a 12 pack of mobs where it required at least 4 be locked out until another 4 could be killed, the group (and pretty much any group without 2 mages and a rogue) would have no real chance of long-term CC on a large number of mobs, never mind being able to do damage at the same time.
These situations might be great from a challenge perspective, but if gear becomes irrelevant in a survivability and speed sense (even with 100k health you still need to CC 4 casters or you’ll get blown up because they are designed to do 50k each hence the necessity of CC), are you really going to want to grind something like that? I run one heroic a day for my frost badges on 3 characters. I tolerate it because I only need to do it once, and at worst it will take 15m per character, even if I get Oculus or the Halls of Stone (HoL with bad DPS takes the longest of any dungeon for me). But above all, it comes down to one thing: target audience. I consider myself an above average skill player. I play with other above average players. People whose blogs I read are above average skill players. People who whine the most seem to be above average skill players. So, when you think about it, it really just comes down to scalable difficulty. To a top-end progression raider, it is going to be very difficult for Blizzard to balance tiered content that keeps people like that interested while at the same time being accessible to FIFTY PERCENT OF THEIR CUSTOMERS who are average or below. Of couse, Rohan says it better than I could so you should check their post out.
So from a personal perspective, I’d welcome more challenge in the game if the rewards were equivalent. But really, all I’ve said is that I want 5man dungeons to become 5man raids, and that is not something appropriate for new 80s and average or lower players who are paying for that content too. I suppose you could make the case that “heroics” could become equivalent to “hard modes” in raids, so only people who could do raiding hard modes (reasonably) would be able to consistently complete heroic dungeons and let the normal difficulty reward what we currently consider pre-raid “heroic” loot and have 2 entirely different progression paths, but that’s what got Blizzard into trouble this expansion pack forcing them to reinstitute Sunwell Radience. We all play this game for fun, and while to some, face-smashing a heroic dungeon in 10 minutes is not fun since you’re only there to fulfill your responsibility as a progression raider by getting as many frost badges as you can, I have to admit, sometimes I just don’t want to exert any real effort, and rolling over a heroic, especially demotivated by a “have to for badges” lessens the sting a little.

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