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Shifting Perspectives: The unbearable suckhood of pugging

Every week (usually), WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, we soothe everyone's ego by telling them it's not their fault (while secretly thinking it's everyone's fault).

I apologize for the recent absence, guys. While I would like to say it had something to do with battling hordes of evil minions from some morally questionable wizard with an abundant set of apostrophes in his name, the truth of the matter is that I've just been crushed by work. It didn't help that I started a Shifting edition on gearing a restoration druid at level 85 and thought, "Hey! Wouldn't it be nice to include all the gear available to druids from Cataclysm quests on up, à la Emmerald's old gear list, so that people know exactly where they stand in relation to upgrades?"

Some 1,600 words later, I am pleased to report that I am almost to the end of the shoulder slot.

Yeah. You're gonna have to give me another week or two on that ... unless you're planning to go naked from the shoulders down. If you do, send pics.

Anyway, it hasn't escaped my attention that the forums more or less exploded once people started getting into heroics. One contingent claims that Cataclysm heroics are too difficult and need to be nerfed. Another insists that everyone claiming that heroics are too difficult is a bad player with bad gear and bad talent choices and bad glyphs and they should feel bad. Personally, I've seen enough of both the dungeon finder and guild groups as a tank and healer to arrive at my own conclusion:

People on both sides of this argument are equally correct.

Or, if you're in a judgmental sort of mood today, they're equally full of it.


I was expecting this kind of disagreement coming off Wrath of the Lich King, in which a quintet of epileptic monkeys on speed could've AoEed down the average heroic and still had energy left for a Sarth-3D zerg. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present you with a series of three morality plays concerning the first week or so in Cataclysm, and what we can learn from these tragic events:

Scene One

A Throne of the Tides dungeon finder group.

Allie: ... So this is the skull; I'll root the melee mob over here. Shammy, can you Hex this dude? Mage, can you sheep the healer? I've marked her with the moon.
Shaman: No problem.
Mage: (silence)
Allie: (foolishly assumes that silence implies consent) LOS pulling.

The entire group minus the Hexed and rooted mob aggros. Allie, who is line-of-sighting behind a wall, watches the pull go to hell as the group opens fire on the skull. The ranged mobs stop dead in their tracks, the melee aggro the group due to DoTs and AoE, and the unsheeped healer mob keeps healing the others to full.

Allie: (Feral Charge) (Challenging Roar) (cooldown cooldown cooldown)
Allie: Mage, if you could sheep the next moon, that'd be great; it's just gonna keep healing, otherwise.
Mage: No.
Allie: Jigga-what?
Mage: Just tank this s%&t, you don't need to CC here.

I encountered several point-blank refusals to CC in normal dungeons (and one or two in heroics the first few times around). On the one hand, I can understand where the impulse springs from, because CC in normal dungeons and even heroics in Wrath of the Lich King was largely an exercise in pointlessness about two months into the expansion.

On the other hand ... these pulls aren't designed to be AoE-tanked at current levels of gear. Healing efficiency (to the extent that it currently exists) isn't designed around healing a tank with lots of mobs beating on her. If you're not CCing in heroics or even the larger pulls in normal dungeons, you should reasonably expect to have a difficult time on trash. This is unavoidable if you have the bad luck to land a group with few CC options for a given dungeon (fury warrior, frost death knight, and mage DPS in heroic Vortex Pinnacle -- have fun with that!). It's equally unavoidable if you're in a group that refuses to make use of the CC options it has.

Apart from that, the art of the "line of sight" pull seems to have disappeared these days, even though Cataclysm dungeons make it significantly easier to do. Bears -- still the only tank without a ranged silence (thanks, arena!) -- are more likely to deal with botched pulls resulting from DPS' inability to keep it in their pants. If you're tanking, warn players in advance when you'll be using line of sight to force a mob pack into tankable range. Not that this will necessarily make a difference to the quality of the pull that'll result, but at least you've got it in writing.

When the "It's your fault" camp is right When you're the person refusing to crowd control, or you decide to reenact the Battle of the Bulge on a mob pack before it actually reaches the tank.

When the "Heroics suck" camp is right When you're healing or tanking through someone else's refusal to crowd control, or the DPS has been drinking too much paint thinner to realize that L2P Garrosh is not Dear Abby.

Scene Two

The final boss, Erudax, in heroic Grim Batol. The group has run back after a wipe.

Allie: Okay, that was a good attempt, but we need to switch DPS to the adds a lot faster. They spawn straight after Shadow Gale, so be prepared to run. Ready?
Rogue: r
Priest: r
Warlock: r
Ret paladin: r
Allie: (pulls)
Warlock: (keeps DPSing Erudax after Shadow Gale)
Rest of group: Adds?
Warlock: (keeps DPSing Erudax)
Rest of group: Adds? Hello? Bueller?
Allie: Goddammit.

Allie Feral Charges one of the adds and helps to DPS it down, because she is awesome. The group wipes on the next add phase.

Warlock: (posts damage meters showing himself at the top)
Allie: (hunts around for the aspirin bottle located somewhere around the laundry bin)

If you're not playing to the demands of an encounter and you don't outgear it, the designers intend for you to wipe. Let me repeat that for anyone unaccustomed to the days of The Burning Crusade heroics:

You are intended to wipe on content when the group doesn't play well and gear doesn't allow it to ignore fight mechanics.

Problem is, this may or may not have much to do with how well you're playing as an individual, and someone getting groups through the dungeon finder will usually have a distorted sense of an encounter's actual difficulty. I've fallen into this trap on both the Wrath and Cataclysm betas, simply because I've rarely played with a full guild or premade group.

A lot of good tanking is about the stuff that doesn't happen to the group, because competent tanks anticipate problems. Good DPS belongs to this category in a more unheralded capacity. Good DPS is about the add that dies before it heals the boss, the interrupt that saves the group from a wipe, and knowing fight conditions well enough to finish it before the healer runs OOM.

When the "It's your fault" camp is right When you're the person not switching targets when necessary, or if you're playing in a full guild group and you're still wiping endlessly on an encounter. Either you're massively undergeared, or something about your strategy isn't working.

When the "Heroics suck" camp is right DPS quality through the dungeon finder could be politely described as inconsistent, and there's really not much you can do about this. To that end, forum complaints about the difficulty of Cataclysm heroic content are actually accurate about how hard these places are with the average PUG.

Scene Three

A heroic Stonecore dungeon finder group.

Tank: Everyone ready?
Allie: Sure. Are you going to mark the p-
Tank: (pulls)
Allie: (to herself at the computer) This will end in tears. Probably mine.
Nobody: (interrupts the Stonecore Earthshaper)
Stonecore Earthshaper: Whoo! AoE! Heal through this, sucka!
Stonecore Berserker: Sweet, I can Spinning Slash through the melee and tank and NO ONE WILL MOVE OUT OF IT.
Allie: (heals like crazy and goes OOM).
Pull: (finally dies for some unaccountable reason)
Tank: (runs to the next pull)
Allie: Mana!
Tank: Are you going to have to drink after every pull? This place is going to take ages if you do.
Allie: TREE SMASH.

I tend to run with an excellent enhancement shaman in my guild groups, and not having him along on dungeon finder runs has given me an inkling of how much damage is being prevented by this one guy's Wind Shear. Take the Stonecore Earthshaper mobs mentioned above. This is a deceptively low-damage mob present in all of the initial Stonecore pulls, but if he gets a Force of Earth cast off, the healing requirements for the pull will skyrocket once he starts Dust Storming the group. Dust Storm can't be interrupted and does an average of 3,000 damage per second to all nearby players (and Blizzard seems to have a very liberal interpretation of "nearby" -- I've been unable to outrange it so far) for 6 seconds.

Figure 18,000 damage to five players for a total of 90,000 damage, and double it if the group's foolish enough to leave the mob alive long enough to do it twice. Healing 90,000 damage on five people as a resto druid in pre-heroic blues could be as much as half of your mana pool, subject to crits and Omen of Clarity procs. Let's not forget that this responsibility arrives at a time when you're already tasked with healing the tank, random charges from Stonecore Berserkers, and any Spinning Slash bleeds present on the tank and melee DPS.

These pulls are supposed to be hard, but they're not supposed to be that hard. In a guild group, my buddy the shaman locks the Earthshaper down. In that heroic Stonecore I healed, nobody did -- and a group's failure to interrupt any number of ridiculously high-damage abilities in 85 heroics will chew through your mana at the speed of light. Blizzard nerfed healing efficiency, but the larger share of issues here will nearly always be caused by a group that doesn't think to prevent damage.

When the "It's your fault" camp is right If people are actually using CC and interrupts are going out on a regular basis -- in other words, if people are actually playing like they're supposed to -- the amount of incoming damage slows to a rate generally healable with efficient spells. You are absolutely able to keep tanks and DPS alive with Lifebloom, Nourish, Rejuvenation, Swiftmend, and Omen procs for bigger spells if the group is playing well.

When the "Heroics suck" camp is right When was the last time that pugged DPS interrupted anything?

To anyone saying heroics are too hard

Don't worry. It's okay. These dungeons are really not that bad with a competent group. They're challenging, but they're not impossible, and in the meantime, you should just look for ways to improve whatever you're already doing. Not because you're going to save the next terrible PUG on your own -- that's really not possible right now -- but for your own sake. The point of difficult content in an MMORPG is that it's fun to do with people you like and trust.

To anyone saying heroics are easy

Not everyone has an amazing guild to fall back on, and being at the mercy of a legion of uncaring, glue-sniffing, nose-picking, vote-kicking puggers would be enough to drive anyone to drink. Have a heart, and be excellent to each other.

What race should you choose for your druid? What happened to Tree of Life? How can you get started as a bear or cat in Cataclysm? Shifting Perspectives has the answers!

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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