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Rambling raid

We raided again last night. And despite all attempts to mess things up, we were actually successful. Four bosses in 3 hours, with several breaks to replace people, long-winded explanations of things which happened quite differently – not a bad record.

Ok – this is Ulduar, we are speaking of, not ICC. Still – we had an inexperienced raid leader (me), a couple of people who were new to Ulduar. Perhaps even someone new to Raiding – i actually am not sure. We also had Mrs. Squish for tank. So, all that said, it still was a success. We had fun, we one-shot the golf caddy with 2 towers up (not a mean feat considering some had not caused it to fall apart ever before), and generally had far fewer deaths than i had feared with our setup.

Once it was all over (all too quickly, if you ask me), we sat back and looked at what we did / had. And one thing dawned on me.

Pulling in a highly overgeared tank (controlled by a very experienced and generally nice player, mind you) actually led us to the first trash wipe. Not that i want to blame the tank for it. But it did make me ponder. So i had a closer look at what happened afterwards. And i noticed a few things which happen if you have people like that in the raid

  • things get easier – no surprise, considering how things scale with equipment
  • deaths are more likely  – this was a surprise to me, but it is sort of easily explained.
    • Assuming the higher gear is on a  dps, chances are they will rip aggro from the poor tank. (Mrs. Squish.. remember ? Squishy, with an eye only for defense (to reach the cap) and just enough threat to keep a few baying hounds on her).
    • Assuming the higher gear is on a tank, chances are they will run in thinking “we can SO do this”, only to find out that the healers have trouble keeping the tank up, and the dps cannot quite follow-up. (Having the tank top the dps list is not necessarily good, you know)
    • Assuming the higher gear is on a healer, there is a significant risk of someone saying “I can SO soloheal this” (snottidyn anyone ?). And suddenly, the raid takes damage left, right and center. It is then that the healer may find out that sometimes you can fail at healing with an almost a full mana bar.
  • Tactics become less important. Many things can just be powered through with enough health / mana. Sometimes, some of the squishier people do not make it alive, but the raid itself prevails.
  • There are a few more ‘oh shit’ moments, but there are less ‘oh shit’ wipes.

Don’t get me wrong – i do  not want to point fingers at anyone. But i am challenging some of my own thoughts about how  going to a lower end raid instance could actually teach people about raiding. And i am wondering if it is right.

There is little doubt in my mind – during the explanations for the golf caddy, some people sat back yawning, thinking “let’s do this already, all these words are sort of pointless.. we know the drill”. And yes, they did know the drill. And most likely, they were right – given the setup, we probably would have made it without that many words. But we would have had a few people staring at their screen, wondering what the hell was going on, and also what hit them. But for me, those explanations were vital. On the one hand because they (hopefully) gave the new people a few pointers what to do and what not to do, and on the other hand because I needed to explain them.

Right.. that probably did not make sense for most people. So, allow me to mention something, which may (or just not) be known. I run these raids for three reasons.

  1. seeing  Ulduar – all of it. Including the bosses which usually are left out when taking a dive towards the (previously acclaimed) ultimate evil at the bottom.
  2. learning to lead raids. And believe me, it takes a lot of learning.
  3. introducing people to raiding.

So, doing those explanations is just as much for me, as it is for people who have not done a specific fight.

Now – that was the rambling part. And now (even more than before putting all this down) i am wondering if i am not missing a point. Yes, i can introduce people to raiding this way. There are quite a few things done differently when you are paired up with 9 or 24 others. But considering that we can (and actually did) muscle through complicated encounters by simply ignoring certain aspect which would take the raid and spread it on the ground in a thin film were it not so blatantly overgeared, it seems questionable if the introduction is that good.

On that note – it was still a lot of fun. Which proves, sometimes events with dubious qualities can provide a high amount of amusement.


the lost challenge

Good afternoon everyone.

This is a post for the new category of “what did not fit into the comment box”. It is (like the upcoming posts in this category) triggered by things found in various other blogs which have me tempted to write lengthy comments which few people will read.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk on how Blizzard is nerfing the lower tier content to become easier. Take, for example, this post on some plans to streamline current Wrath heroics. (or this more satirical version, which unfortunately may yet become reality). It points to a constant theme: Existing content will be made easier, and less time consuming to complete. And most comments have been less than happy with these plans. Alternatively, you can take a look here, for a bit more in depth view on what is/has been done.

There is a recurring theme to this. Blizzard is lowering requirements for people to get ready to experience the current tier’s content. And they are doing it on a larger scale than before. It has been the case with most raid instances that once the next tier content was out, access to and requirement for the existing content was lowered (Karazhan, Molten Core or Blackwing Lair anyone ?). But while running through older content was once a requirement to gear up, this has now become neglectable. People no longer need to fight through Ulduar (or force themselves to endure TotC) to obtain what is needed to enter Icecrown Citadel. No, they can now get 98% ready by simply running these “streamlined” heroic instances. And they do this. And while they do this, complaints about “irritating mechanics” and “stupid encounters” pop up in the official forums.

Some of us (that is the people who have fought our way up the “difficult” path when some of the now nerfed content was actually shiny and new) feel that the game is being dumbed down. And i would agree to this. Making things easier does usually give this impression. But if i look at the current content, the challenges are still there. And there, Blizzard seems intent on bringing challenging encounters for people to fight through. So is it really the plan to simply make the game easier ? Somehow, i doubt it.

Yes, Blizzard is making it easier to reach a level where people can experience the current content. And in a way, this is successful and needed. It was not so long ago when i read a post in a blog (sorry, i no longer have the link) where someone complained that their alt was forced to “experience Northrend content without being able to fly past” simply because cold weather flying was not available before lvl 78. Now, this limitation has been lifted somewhat, but people still need to have one character who obtained the book the normal way before just buying their way out. Isn’t this also making things easier ?

I have my very own view on this. And to a large degree, it is based on my experience trying to level up just weeks after Burning Crusade was released. It was.. strange. I would not say it was difficult – it really was not. It was more difficult than it is now, and definately more time consuming. But it was not really a challenge – with one notable exception.

Getting a normal instance run through Razorfen Kaul, Uldaman, Maraudon or Zul’Farrak was next to impossible. Even accessible and comparably fun (and easily accessible) places like the Scarlet Monastery cathedral required hours of waiting for a group to be found. And more often than not, someone in the group would get bored and call in one of their lvl 70 friends to boost the group through. By the time i was ready for places like Dire Maul, Scholomance, Stratholme or Blackrock Depth and Spire, i had already given up on experiencing “the challenge™” in the old world. So, in all honesty, i did not learn to play my character well before hitting the outland instances. And even there, it was more like breezing through with the help of some high level firepower than trying to do things right.

Now with Wrath of the Lich King out, with 10 more levels, and a whole new bag of instances and heroic instances to hone your skills, things have gotten even worse with that regard – which in the end leaves Blizzard with huge areas of the game which are used by a small percentage of the playerbase. Nowadays, you can actually do a /who insert_name_of_non_wrath_instance_here and be hit with less than 50 names. And if you select the right instance name, you will most likely find.. none. Like the day i was working through Dire Maul for my own achievement. Every once in a while i would check who else was there, only to find that my poor paladin was the only character on the server to be stuck in Dire Maul.

Why is that so ? Or rather, why is it so now, while it was different when the server was younger ? Apparently, most people want to experience the game where it is fresh and new – and that, truth to be told – can only be done with a character at level 80 with a certain minimum gear requirement. So most people will try to reach that state – as fast as humanly possible. And while doing that, most people will try to circumvent whatever is percieved to slow down the path.

Why is it that even after the nerf, 9 out of 10 times when Occulus is the random dungeon, the group will find themselves one member short ? Why is it that more and more groups choose to not fight certain bosses, despite them loosing badges over it ? In my eyes, it is simply because in the end, they feel it is more beneficial to just race on past that content, in order to reach the shiny goal of being lvl 80 and entering Icecrown Citadel.

So, in all honesty, what Blizzard is doing (or intending to do) is what the majority of their subscribers want – if they are willing to admit it or not. I would bet that some who posted their disdain on the discussed heroic changes will actually come to appreciate them when they want to quickly get an alt up to the raiding requirements.

If we look ahead towards Cataclysm, which undoubtedly will bring new levels, and new challenges, we will see that more of the old places will be either removed (see the old naxxramas, which i would have loved to see before it flew off to Northrend), reworked (see Onyxia), or simply forgotten.

Does that mean the challenges which Ercles is mourning have passed ? No. They are still there. They may not be the same challenges as people remember, but they still exist. And it is up to us to find them. Each and every one of us who complains that things have gotten just that much easier. Noone forces us to take the easy path. It is still possible to gather a group of friends and hit Zul’Farrak to experience the stairs event anew. And it will be just as challenging, if you choose your friends well.

In the end, there are a few things which i consider sad.

Streamlining content will cause people with less skill run into challenges which are meant for people who know what they are doing. They will have a much steeper learning curve than would be necessary, if the current heroic instances had retained their difficulty. That is, if they had not chosen to pass them by anyhow.

Streamlining content causes people to miss out on some fantastic quest lines and story arcs, and as odd as it sounds, it makes the game just so much more difficult for the genuine new players. Not because the game itself is more difficult, but because it is even less likely to find characters which share both the level bracket and the leveling speed. Which makes people loose out on the fun the lower 70 levels can offer, if you share them with people who progress at a similar pace.

So – i challenge you. All of you. I challenge you to find your own challenges in the old content. And to complete them. Alone, or preferably with friends. The challenge is not lost. You just need to remember that it is where you find it.

– oh.. and of course, i would not mind to read about it, too.


Healing is..

Tam’s recent post over at Righteous Orbs sort of made me think. Is healing easy / easier than dps ? Is it more fun, more stress, or just.. more ?

Ercles commented that for him, healing is more stressful, while dps (until you have mechanics of an encounter hard wired into your brain) is more challenging. And in a way, i am inclined to believe him. There is a certain “do not mess it up or it will all go to hell” quality about healing, and most boss fights are over once one or two healers are down, while they can still be won with one or two dps down. But perhaps that is seeing things too simple ?

Looking through the web, i came across quite a few posts which claimed this or that being easier or better. (one recent example can be found here) Finding a consensus on this seems not that easy, and as the last poster commented (oh, not this again) it seems to be a point which is difficult to agree on.

So, i actually want to stay away from trying to claim one to be harder than the other. In my eyes, it is a lot about how you like to play your game. So, for some people, it is easier to tank things, while for others it is easier to keep things alive, while the third group prefers to make things dead. Preference in the end.

Let us look back at what Tamarind wrote :

… DPS Get Bad Press. There’s too much talk about interchangeable DPS, or stupid DPS, or DPS just not being as important or necessary as tanks and healers. Bullshit. In that fight, I stood at the back in my sissy room and cast flash heal and prayer of mending (everybody was generally too spread out for AoE heals to be very effective) and that was it. A monkey could have done it, assuming you programmed my flash heal button to give him a banana, or an orgasm, every time he cast it. The DPS, by contrast, were changing targets, running around, controlling adds, co-ordinating attacks on the shield …

While he is probably very right in stating that raid healing in that encounter is like a very simplistic single target “whack-a-mole” game with a limited need for location awareness (“do not stand in the green stuff – ever”), i personally do not see this as a negative comment, and i definately do not read it as “Healing is Facerolling”, as DwRedux commented on it. Different encounters have different levels of complexity for different people, and this one specific one seems to be a dps challenge.

So, healing is not facerolling. But what is it ? It is an evil whack-a-mole. At least on that, most healers seem to agree. And for me, quite a bit of fun comes into it when you actually realize that sometimes you can predict the right mole to show up, and whack it just before the had is up, so to speak. That makes it

  • different from dps, as you actually can (and probably should) try to anticipate what will happen, and act against it
  • easier than dps, because in the end, your array of targets varies little, and there are just two main distractions. (staying in range of the moles, and not staying in whatever stuff you should move out of)
  • Fun.

So, for me (and yes, this is a purely personal preference, and should not be seen as any kind of global statement), healing is primarily a lot of fun. A bit more fun that dps (which i have tried, too)

But, going back to what i mentioned above, healing is also more stressful. Mostly, (and again Ercles mentioned that, but allow me to repeat it) because of the risks.  There usually are fewer healers than dps. So, losing one has a bigger impact on overall performance than losing a dps. Losing a tank is worse (undeniably), but different from the tanks and dps, it is the job of the healers NOT to lose anyone. So, in a simplistic world, people could say losing any raid member means the healers were not quite good enough.

Before everyone jumps on this – i know that anyone can actively ensure that their character will not make it to the end of the fight alive. And in some fights, it is impossible to keep all the moles whacked. But the truth still is – if a healer misses too many moles, the game is over before the bad guy (or lady, as in this case) has been taken down.

And that is the responsibility of all healers. Be it raid or tank healing, the main game is “do not miss too many moles or the game is over”. Raid healers have more moles, and might loose a few permanently in a fight. Tank healers usually have just one mole, and may never fully lose that, but might miss a few bonks if they recover well enough.

That is unique to healing. Dps and Tank mechanics change in their own way between encounters, but for healing, the major chain (aside of global effects) is the “mole dynamics”. Of course, there are more and less interesting encounters out there.

I peronally like Saurfang’s moles. Lazy start, very regular mole appearance, followed by a frantic finale. Also, i am looking forward to one of the yet not seen encounters, where there is actually a mole which needs to be hammered down before all the other small moles have been lost.

So.. where is my bottom line ?

Unsurprisingly, healing is

  • fun
    • sometimes stressful
      • mole-heavy
        • resource management
          • and of course



Raiding the Lead

Or was it leading the raid ? I am not sure really. Last night I tried to do it for real for the first time. No, those two short excursions into Naxxramas hardly count, as I had other people around to explain the tactics, make the decisions and keep people together.

But this time, I did it all. Or well.. as well as I could. And it went.. well.. not tooo bad. I heard few screams on vent, saw little in complaints in the chat, so overall, it was a not too shabby result.

Ulduar - 2 Tiers down in content, still a lot of fun.

Ulduar was the desired target. For various reasons, we chose to use an existing Instance ID, meaning that we could bypass Flame Leviathan and Ignis in favor of hitting Razorscale, XT, Kologarn and the Assembly of Iron. Despite having new people around, and despite most of the fights being a tad more chaotic than expected, we did end up one-shotting the first three, and ran out of time on the Assembly of Iron. I want to thank everyone in the raid for a wonderful evening, and for sticking with me despite the rocky start and the slow path through the trash.

What I have to say is – Raid leading is fun. It is also more stressful than I thought. Still, since I did not get yelled at on the first attempts, more are bound to follow.



Breaking it

Yes, this is yet another rant about the idiocies of the sanity tap. And i still have a lot of trouble understanding it. But lets start in the beginning.

We did attempt another pug recently (we being me and 2 guildies), and after not too long a wait we saw the oculus loading screen. And when the instance finally loaded, the tank had (who is surprised) gone. That is only mindly surprising. After all, Oculus seems to be the one instance which completely breaks the pug tool.

So, we waited. Not awfully long, and we had a dk tank. And i thought this might actually work out, until the first pull. He proceeded to ask ‘rdy?’, and when one out of four said ‘y’ he ran off and pulled. Note – the one saying ‘y’ was not the healer. And there were no buffs passed out. Granted, if you are sufficiently overgeared, buffs make little difference, but it would still have been an interesting concept to wait for the healer before diving into the fray.

Oh well. We lived. After all, we were (with one possible exception) overgeared for this place.

So everything goes smoothly until we hit the spot where drakes are chosen. The choices were rather obvious. Random dk tank took a red drake. Random shadow priest took an amber drake. We did let them know that one of us was new to this, and needed a little help to get along, but i have my suspicions if any of them read that. So, we ended up giving “new guildie” an amber drake, and a 2 line introduction into how to use it, and took 2 greens ourselves. In the meantime, tank and priest had vanished into the blue, i.e. flown off to somewhere, and again we were left to scramble after. And of course with the expected result. I mean, oculus is a confusing instance, if you have an idea where to go. It is madness if you are there for the first time. So, our amber drake took a dive.

While sitting on a platform to wait for the lost one to return, the dk and priest proceeded to nag about ‘gogogo’ and ‘rdy’ and such. Again, we let them know that our missing friend may need a little guidance, and that their healer was currently busy providing that. Did that stop them from pulling ? Of course not. You might have thought they didnt even read it.

Things went on in the same way. The next 2 bosses were downed with more than the needed trouble, and of course without the (requested) time to explain the mechanics to our new friend. And as expected, she took a nap again in both cases. Not that this had any effect on our pugged tag team.

By the time the big drake was the target, things had not really improved. Again, there was no time for explanation, noone sort of bothered to mention what to do and how to do it, so the first attempt was a wipe. A quick wipe. And the guy with the red drake mumbled about ‘heal me heal me i cant do this without heals’. That the healer may not be ready, because there were explanations done never seemed to have to occurred to him.

Unfortunately, we also ended up bugged, and i got resurrected to the top platform, but still lost my drake summoning thing. After mentioning that a few times in group chat, there still were several comments of “everyone on drake” and “paladin, why no drake” and such. Fortunately, this is not really an issue, as an icc ready healer (yours truly) can keep the drakes alive with normal heals just fine.

Still, there was another wipe, for 2 reasons. Reason 1 – the healer got aggro. This does not happen if the tank does things right in this encounter. Reason 2 – people did not fly away. So, in the first shift, the healer died (and the rest followed)

At this point, noone should be surprised that the tag team left with “fuk tis, newb groop”.

We at least were not. But we did go on with our three drakes. Granted, we swapped to 1 red one amber one green, but 3 attempts later, we had ironed out the kinks, and eregos went down like an overgrown chicken.

What is the moral of this ?

a) Oculus breaks the lfg tool. Too many people see the loading screen and run.

b) Oculus breaks the bad pug. Too many people just try to faceroll their way through, and latest at Eregos, this fails

c) if you want to successfully do it, get 2 trusted friends, and ignore the rest. Granted, to get up to the big bird, you do need a tank and a healer, and 3 reasonably decent dps will help, but in the end, that part can be facerolled. And for the non-faceroll part of the encounter, just ignore the extras, pick a red, amber, green combo, and take the chicken down.



Why the rush

There.. the old year is.. well, old. And gone, by now. And the new year is here, together with a brand new decade. Many will hope for a decade which is better than the last, but i have to admit that i am rather pleased with how the last decade turned out. Yes, there were a few downsides, but overall, it went ok.

(This explicitly excludes the guy from the airport who must have used enough Eau de Cologne to cover an elephant in rosy scent – you, sir – stink. And it was not just the smell.. it was more the burning sensation in my eyes. Sitting beside you was a punishment i would rather not visit on anyone with a sense of smell.)

Swapping from the olFireworksd to the new decade went without a hitch too. For the first time in decades (sorry, i just could not let that pass) i even had snow for new years eve, although i sort of ensured that would be the case by traveling to a place where snow is.. well.. common. Still, here are two impressions from last night, which both sort of capture the feeling. The right one is outside the house – the road up to the village, while the left one is from where we stared at rockets being shot up. If the pictures make it seem as if it was cold – it was.. and it was not. Well.. just about -10 degrees.

But.. back to what this blog is about – WoW, healing, and decency.

There, i must admit that i have been

  • slacking at blogging.
  • trying the sanity tap (i.e the LfG tool)
  • pushing my warlock (no, there will not be to 80

Doing that, i have to ask – Why the rush ?

Yes, i can understand that running heroics is more exhilarating when you do it fast. And i agree – you really learn to do your things right if you survive. And of course, completing Halls of Lightning in under 14 minutes should be worth an achievement (Blizzard, i hope you are NOT listening). But honestly.. once the last boss is dead, and your team is at least partially alive, why the hell do you have to run off to do whatever you want to do next before everyone has their body back.

I may be old fashioned in this, and it may be the DPS who kept yanking aggro and forcing you to heal him who is having yet another out of body experience, but hey – they were YOUR team. Without them, you would still be standing at the entrance, staring the dwarves in the face and wondering “how the heck am i going to get through here alive, with my “sissy robe” for armor, and my bad breath for my most formidable weapon ?

So, Healers out there.. why the rush running off at the end of an instance without sparing 20 seconds to resurrect those who did not make it ? Tell me.. i would really want to know.

For me, that is indecent. So no, you will not see me do that. And if you do, rest assured you will have

  • managed to annoy me greatly before
  • gotten a whisper letting you know that i would rather have you stay dead
  • be welcome on my (short) list of people i will never PuG with again.



Surprises from the Sanity Tap

Right – this was definately a surprise. I did take a sip from the sanity tap, expecting the usual mix of running, being yelled at, and so on. Truth to be told, it did start like that.

HoL was the poison of choice. The first hurdle was the instance server dance. It took a few rounds, but then that particular enemy was defeated :). From then on, things didn’t go too badly. Clean pulls, no deaths, first boss down like a charm.. and then.. no more tank.

Who knows if he felt under-healed, or over-geared, or just was bored. He was gone.

This was where the first surprise hit. The four remaining just kept going through the trash towards the second boss.. or rather… the boss lady. By then, a new tank was found, who was a newly risen tank with assorted blues and without being defcapped.

And this is where the second surprise hit – he was not thrown out. Nor was he underperforming. He simply tanked her. Granted, it required more than just decent healing, but in the end, that wasn’t much of an issue.

After that, on we went, and the tank did what tanks do best – run ahead. And of course he died. But lo and behold – he simply said “well ,that was the first death in 8 heroics” and laughed it off. The by far better tank ready bear in the group let him have the pleasure of tanking, and the rest of the run actually went off without a hitch.

I guess this time i had one of the more sane moments. And a decent group. Yohoo..