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Filed under: Raiding

Siege of Orgrimmar and the waiting game

I've played World of Warcraft for the entire history of the game, since about a month after launch (my wife actually played in beta, and she's the one who got me into WoW in the first place) and I've raided for pretty much the entire time - I took a few months off after The Burning Crusade dropped, and had to catch up in BC raids. Since that time, though, I've raided - I was in my server's most progressed guild in Wrath, switched servers but ended up in the same situation in Cataclysm, and have settled down to a still well progressed but less aggressive heroic raid in Mists of Pandaria, cruising at 10/14H and working on Thok. We have one pally, so Thok's a bit of a gigantic cinderblock wall, but we're still plugging away.

Being that I've been raiding so long, I sometimes see patterns. There's one I saw in BC, and repeated in Wrath and Cataclysm - the end of expansion lull. Once we get into the last tier of content, there's a surge of interest and everyone leaps to get in there and work on it... and that lasts a couple of months. After that, however, interest starts to wane. Players get burned out, stop playing, need to be replaced. Each player who needs to be replaced causes tension as the guild slows down due to the losses. Recruitment means bringing in people with less gear, less experience, and even if you manage to get a player with both the gear and the experience, it doesn't always mean they know how you do things. I was once recruited, after my Horde guild had killed all of Heroic Dragon Soul, by an Alliance guild that was on Spine. I took the jump because I wanted to play Alliance again - and even though I was geared as well or better than they were, I still had to relearn the fights based on their strats, and make suggestions based on my own experience that meant delays as they learned these new ideas.

This can lead to a feedback loop - players burn out, leave, this stresses the guild, more players get burned out. It's always present in raiding - churn is inevitable, recruitment must be continuous - but the promise of future content to come creates a counter pressure. You don't just raid to see the current content, you do it to be ready to get into the guts of the new stuff when it drops. But when you get into the last tier of raiding, there is no new content to keep you interested. And so, when that last raid tier takes months and months - sometimes, as in the case of ICC in Wrath, over a year - it becomes very difficult to keep guilds focused on progressing through it. Talking on twitter about all this after reading multiple posts on the issue, I started thinking about how it works out.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Cross-realm raiding now enabled on all servers

Raiders, rejoice -- a new cross-realm raiding feature has now been implemented. In a blue post by Rygarius, it was announced that cross-realm raiding via BattleTag and RealID has been enabled not just for Flex mode, but for Normal and Heroic mode raiding on all servers. These cross-realm raids will be allowed to get the Reins of the Kor'kron War Wolf and all titles associated with the Siege of Orgrimmar, none of which were previously allowed on Flex or LFR difficulty.

Rygarius
We've recently implemented an often requested feature to enable cross-realm raiding for Siege of Orgrimmar. Cross-realm BattleTag™ and Real ID friends can now raid together and take the fight to Garrosh on Normal or Heroic difficulty. Players will be able to earn greater rewards such as Reins of the Kor'kron War Wolf or the title of Conqueror/Liberator of Orgrimmar; both of which aren't available to be earned within Flexible or Raid Finder difficulty.

This change is currently live.


If your cross-realm Flex group has been doing well and defeating Garrosh, now might just be the time to step into Normal mode, test the waters against the forces of Hellscream on a higher difficulty, and reap all the rewards for doing so. Good luck!

Edit: Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has stepped into the thread in question to clarify a few points. Read on after the break.

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Filed under: News items, Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

What will raiding be like in Warlords?

When discussing how the changes coming in Warlords of Draenor will affect raiding, we're of course looking at an incomplete picture. We don't know what new spells and abilities might come, we just know to an extent what won't be there - abilities like Skull Banner will be gone, as well many CC abilities, and healing will be greatly changed - casting on the move will also see a significant decrease. What we therefore need to consider is that raiding itself will have to change to embody these changing philosophies. It would be a disaster to alter class abilities and leave raids designed around the same high damage, high mobility kit we see in modern raiding.

But what will raid design entail? Well, I'm not a raid designer. If I was, I'd be super busy designing some raids. What I am is a guy who raids a lot, so I can give you my perspective as a dude who has seen every fight in the game at this point. What are we in for in Warlords, based on what Blizzard has said is changing, and what they intend to try and do?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Level 60 vanilla guild 5-mans Razorgore

Yes, we know -- level 90s can solo Blackwing Lair's first boss, Razorgore, with ease, but we still think it's an impressive feat for five at-level players. The guild Molten Core Veterans is focused on vanilla-era raiding, with no death knights or monks; no characters above level 60; and no gear or enchants over level 60, either. With the mechanics of the fight -- more about managing adds than damaging the boss -- Razorgore may be one of the only vanilla fights that can be done with such a small at-level group. The next boss, Vaelestraz, takes a lot more DPS to down -- and so a lot more players.

As someone who fought through learning this fight during vanilla, I salute these guys. For all that vanilla raids have gotten easier over the years -- and power creep has even hit players trying their hardest to get the vanilla WoW experience -- the Razorgore fight isn't easy to master.

Filed under: Raiding

Why did we have to squish stats?

The item squish is a hotly debated topic on the forums. That's not really surprising. It's a pretty big change. Any time you're talking about any sort of reduction to character power (which, it must be restated, the item squish isn't, but it can appear to be) people get nervous. Part of the problem is calling it an item squish at all. It's not merely that, however - the squish is taking place across the board, to monsters and NPC's and encounters as well as our gear. And it's happening in a broad way, relative to the expansion endgame spikes of level's 60, 70, 80, 85 and 90. It's not a surprise that endgame play tends to introduce gear of escalating power, nor is it a surprise that as the next expansion comes out, we tend to see a gradual increase in mob health and damage and gear so that by the max level cap of said expansion, everyone's essentially shed most if not all of their endgame gear from the last expansion only to see a new cycle of gear escalation.

This isn't really in dispute. However, looking at the chart above, you can see that the steepness of the player power gain was getting ever sharper, and the projected 90 to 100 jump magnified the already high 80 to 85 and 85 to 90 curves. Why did gear start expanding in power so much more dramatically after level 80? Why were both the level 85 and level 90 endgames such steep climbs in power at endgame?

Let's take a look all the way back to Wrath of the Lich King to answer that question.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor: Flex scaling to 30 "still on the table"

I'm one of those people who hates leaving people on the bench. I hate it when I have to step out myself, hut I hate it even more when someone else sits for me - it just irritates me. So I'm very interested in this tweet from Ion "Watcher" Hazzkostas. When asked if the idea of flexible raiding going up to 30 people, he responded:

This makes me very excited, especially with the change to Mythic raiding (20 man total cap) meaning that some current 25 man groups are going to have to bench players once they make the step into Mythic - I do, however, hope a little downward flexibility is also introduced at some point to allow 10 player raids to progress when that one key player is unavailable.

I'd like to see this change actually get implemented - here's hoping we get it by Warlords of Draenor release.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

The case for catch-up loot

I talked a while back about catch-up dungeons. Now, we'll talk about the more basic issue - why have 'catch up' mechanisms at all? Why have gear that exists so you can skip content? Recently Celestalon responded to this question on twitter and his answers are very, very interesting to me.
This idea of playerbase consolidation reminds me, as it always does whenever anyone brings it up, of the old days of Vanilla and BC raiding. That's how you can tell I'm crazy old - everything reminds me of something that happened years ago. But in this case it's apt. Back in Vanilla, there basically weren't any catch-up mechanisms. If you wanted to join a raiding guild that was clearing Blackwing Lair, if you hadn't set foot in Molten Core yet, you probably simply weren't getting in, and if you did, you'd likely end up being dragged through several MC and Onyxia runs (assuming you didn't have to get attuned) to get you caught up on gear. Often guilds didn't really want to do that, so if they didn't, you were basically out of luck. The 20 man raids Zul'Gurub and AQ20 served as stopgaps, with gear that could help, but it wasn't enough in many cases.

BC improved this to a degree. There were still attunements for a while, but guilds could at least rely on the Badge of Justice mechanic and get newer players geared up faster. I actually took some time off playing WoW after Vanilla ended and didn't start raiding in BC until my then-guild was working on the Tier 5 raids (Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern) and so, in order to get ready to join them, I ran a ton of Karazhan and heroic dungeons and bought tanking gear off of the Justice vendors - I ended up still having to tank in Zul'Aman with a green tanking ring and belt and a bunch of dungeon blues on, but at least I had some gear by that point.

Since those days, we've seen various mechanisms (Wrath and Cataclysm's patch five mans, Mists with justice and honor gear and the Timeless Isle) to allow players to get caught up to current content. And to my mind, while I'm not always on board with the specific way it's implemented, it's the best change imaginable for a variety of reasons.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding

German guild Casuals 5-mans Garrosh Hellscream

German guild Casuals, who killed Garrosh on 10-man heroic back in early December, putting them in the western top 80 guilds, have taken the expansion's end boss on in normal difficulty with a team of five, and won. Even more remarkably, given recent history, none of them was a blood DK.

The kill is filmed from the perspective of a DK, though, frost DPS Cize, and shows the entire kill from start to eventual finish. What's surprising is that they don't seem to hit the apparent enrage timer, with the fight lasting 14 minutes and 27 seconds. Their team was Cize, ilvl 576, as well as Lyzian, a prot paladin (572), Vayce, a discipline priest (575), Vranis, a fire mage (569) and Depression, a combat rogue (573). The armory is having some issues which are preventing me from seeing the characters today.

The kill took them 30 attempts, and the logs can be found on World of Logs.

[Thanks for the tip, fate47!]

Filed under: Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

Simplify point-based currencies in Warlords

We've covered in the past how the best way to gear for PvP is to grind justice points, and I have recently experienced this - since I wanted to get some pieces of Season 14 for transmog (and to do some PvP on the side, since I like running random BG's) I spent the past couple of days capping honor so that I could pick up several pieces as soon as possible. This led to running dungeons for justice points. Lots of dungeons. And this led me to realize that justice points themselves have a lot of uses - picking up older gear to catch up, converting to honor for PvP gear - but they feel strange and antiquated.

There's literally two ways to get them in the current endgame - run scenarios or dungeons - and they only upgrade blue dungeon gear, so their use as an upgrade currency is fairly limited. While you can in fact also buy them with honor, that would have been self defeating in my case.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

You're bad at WoW, and so am I

Blizzard Community Manager Lore recently posted a brief reply in an excellent thread, which brought up a topic I've wanted to address for some time: how it's OK to suck sometimes. While I'm not going to copy his two posts here, he talks about arenas, discussing how, when he and his team lose, he looks back and tries to work out where things went wrong, and what he could have done to help. He also discusses the merits of doing things like recording matches, to replay and examine what went wrong.

While the option of recording your WoW play may not be open to everyone, self-examination is. And it's something we can all afford to do. None of us ever play perfectly, we are not robots. But the key to becoming better is to admit that, to see our failings, and to improve upon them.

Sometimes it's you

Sometimes it is. Sometimes you'll lose an arena or wipe in a raid because of someone else's error -- your tanks messed up the switching, or the person who had a debuff failed to perform correctly. Even in those situations, it's good to think back and wonder whether your performance was optimal. Sure, you weren't the reason why your team wiped or lost, but what more could you have done to perform well on your own personal scale?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding

Tanks, healers, and the most dangerous LFR bosses

Recently I wrote a small article wondering whether the fabled Monday night Raid Finder festival of ugly death was just an urban legend. Opinions in the comment section were mixed, so I wanted to do a little ingame research to figure out whether the conventional wisdom was right and Mondays are an unusually deadly day for LFR runs.

While I'm nowhere close to being done with that little project, my first venture into the numbers in Siege of Orgrimmar and the Raid Finder did turn up some interesting results with my characters. The deadliest Raid Finder boss of tier 16 was not who I thought it was, the safest Raid Finder boss was really not who I thought it was, and there are some eye-raising numbers on the fights where a well-geared tank or healer was disproportionately likely to swing the odds in the raid's favor.

Also, the Gates of Retribution wing sucks. But you knew that already.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

Patch 5.4.7: Targeted nerfs to Garrosh on 10-man Heroic

Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has made a characteristically excellent post on the US forums, detailing targeted nerfs to Garrosh on 10-man Heroic difficulty. Watcher's full post is, as ever, after the break, but the main details are as follows.

There were several encounter mechanics where the numbers scaling for 10-man meant that the difficulty was higher than in 25-man. Watcher particularly notes the interaction between Malice clumps and Iron Star triggering. In 25-man, the Malice groups, a total of six players, were never large enough to trigger the Iron Star, when they inevitably overlapped with Bombardment in the fourth Malice. On 10-player heroic, the Malice clump size of three in total would also trigger an Iron Star in the fourth Malice. Now, in 10 Heroic, the Iron Star trigger clump size is four, bringing it in line with 25 Heroic.

Additionally, Garrosh's health is reduced by around 5%, and Minion of Y'Sharrj health is reduced by 10%. DPS checks for 10 Heroic were causing guilds to try to single-heal the fight, and 25 Heroic players are able to kite the adds while 10 Heroic guilds don't have the spare manpower. These changes show the process Watcher has discussed in the past, specific targeted nerfs, and will bring the two sizes in line. Hit the break for his full post.

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Filed under: Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

Warlords of Draenor: Raids will be non-linear wherever possible

Lead Encounter Designer Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas has taken to Twitter to discuss the developers' plans for raid linearity in Warlords of Draenor:

We can see the map for Blackrock Foundry above, and understand what Watcher means with regard to the ICC-esque layout. The circular room at the top is likely to be the room you're looking to unlock by completing wings. And a Firelands-ish layout has much the same effect on raiders. While the world first progression guilds will dislike it, as they thrive on assessing who's behind and who's ahead in the race, they're a tiny percentage of the total raiding playerbase. For the rest of us, it's incredibly frustrating to get stuck on a boss, for whatever reason, and feel like there's nothing you can do but repeatedly throw yourselves at that same encounter.

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Filed under: Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

Mobility and disparity

We know that change is coming to cast on the move. Let's talk about it, and why I think it's necessary.

Casters want melee mobility reduced in PvP so that they can turret down melee. Melee want caster mobility in PvP reduced so they can avoid being kited. Ranged want cast on the move mechanics to remain in PvE because without them, they have to stop casting when fights force movement. Melee want those mechanics gone because they're part of why ranged are brought to raids over melee - melee can't DPS on the move nearly as effectively, between having to stay in range of bosses and having a positional requirement ranged don't have. If the boss drops fire on himself, the ranged don't care, but the melee have to either stop DPS or die.

We know some or all of these things are going to be addressed in Warlords. The perennial fight between ranged and melee in PvP (ranged want to stay the heck out of melee range, melee desperately need to get into that range) and the constant tug of war that is raiding (where balancing between ranged and melee tends to always favor ramged - most raids bring twice as many ranged players if at all possible) will be affected by the expansion's sweeping changes. To quote CM Lore's twitter feed:

So let's look at one proposed change and discuss how it will affect the game, namely, the trimming down of cast on the move mechanics.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Raiding, Warlords of Draenor

The dangers of Monday night LFR

After my guild finished raid on Monday, we voted to do the fourth wing of Siege of Orgrimmar in flex for another shot at Garrosh's heirlooms. Before queuing for flex, people took a break to let their dogs out, get something to drink, or jump on alts to do their farming. My fellow tank hopped to his alt warrior and wondered aloud over the wisdom of doing an LFR on him later that night. "Don't do it," was the universal consensus. "Monday night LFR is just asking for trouble. The only winning move is not to play."

That got me thinking about the weirder aspects of the game's culture, in which a single day and a raid lockout divides an alleged nightmare (Raid Finder on Mondays) from a safe bet (Raid Finder on Tuesdays). The usual story is that people run their better-geared mains through Raid Finder soon after the weekly lockout finishes, but come Sunday and Monday they're running their less-geared alts, and usually on classes with which they're less familiar. There's got to be more to it than this, but it's a narrative that most players are probably aware of by now.

Out of morbid curiosity, I've occasionally taken my main or alt shaman through Sunday and Monday LFRs but can't say I've noticed a massive difference. There are definitely more times late in the week where I've zoned into a squabbling raid with a two-stack of Determination, but most runs are fairly uneventful. However, one player's experiences are rarely representative, and your own gear and experience play a role as well. A well-geared toon, especially if it's a tank or healer, is at least marginally more likely to contribute a successful raid, and vice versa.

I'm tempted to do a series of LFRs and measure overall raid DPS and number of deaths by day. I'm genuinely curious whether the conventional wisdom is right, and late-week Raid Finders are more likely to encounter trouble than their early-week counterparts.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

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