On Raiding Disappointment: An Open Letter to Blizzard

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure - Peter Marshall

Dear Blizzard,

As a subscriber who came to World of Warcraft with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Cataclysm represented my first true opportunity to get in on the ground floor of new content. For the first time I felt as if I wasn't lagging behind everyone else and was finally experiencing content the way it was meant to be experienced. I greeted the new expansion with a lot of anticipation and enthusiasm.

Cataclysm introduced many controversial changes, many of which were not received terribly enthusiastically by the community. I, on the other hand (being an avid Kool-Aid drinker), was thrilled with a lot of the changes, and incredibly excited to see the new content, experience the new levelling experience and, most importantly, to progress through the new raids. I understood the need to make the game more accessible, and supported the changes.

In fact, I was very frustrated with a lot of the complaining and the griping coming from the WoW community. Back in March I wrote a post critizing the community for having a "Doom and Gloom" outlook on the current state of the game, saying that people come and go, but the game itself was in a good place.

This week, you proved me wrong, Blizzard. I now feel compelled to add my voice to the chorous of the discontented.

Lord Rhyolith: Call me Admiral McROFLStompyPants

And it's because this week saw the introduction of significant nerfs to the Firelands bosses, crippling each boss - in both normal and heroic modes - anywhere from 15 to 25 percent in damage done and health, as well as simplifying several of the more difficult mechanics. This was done in an unprecedentedly brief time period since the raid was released.

Regardless of what your intention is, the significance of this change is instantly and universally understood by your player base: If you didn't clear Firelands before this nerf, you failed. Here are your free charity epics.

This is the exact same message that was sent regarding Tier 11 when Tier 12 came out. Didn't clear it before? No problem, let me hold your hand and walk you through it. Don't worry, the Internet Dragons are toothless now, so you won't get hurt. Just try to stay awake, okay?

At least back then we had a new, full-difficulty raid tier to busy ourselves with. Reducing the difficulty on previous tier content in order to allow more people to see it makes sense, at least. And it worked; raids were able to go back into Tier 11 and cut through the bosses like a they were barely there, and mechanics that were previously raid killers became irrelevant.

These changes to the current tier are completely inexplicable and inexcusable. They go too far, much too soon.

I mean, it's not as if people were complaining that the Firelands bosses were too hard. Quite the reverse, really; early on a lot of people were complaining that Firelands was decidedly too easy and that Raid Teams were blowing through it far too quickly. And it wasn't just the elite raiding guilds that were expressing this opinion, either.

Our raid team, for instance, is not at the cutting edge of progression. We are never likely to compete for a Realm First but neither are we at the bottom end of progression. We are probably the poster children of your average raiders; a casually-oriented guild that raids 6-8 hours a week. We expect to tackle the encounters, learn them and defeat them as they were originally designed.

Why aren't you giving us the time to do this?

My guild and I have been raiding Firelands from the day it was released. We were a new guild then, still gelling as a team, but we went in and got things done. Some of the encounters were really challenging and tested us; we wiped more than a few times on some of these bosses, which made downing them that much sweeter. I don't cheer out loud - causing my wife to give me strange looks - when we down an easy encounter. No, that is saved for when we overcome a significant obstacle that has stood in our path blocking our progression like an obstinate traffic cop. I like cheering, Blizzard, but where are the obstacles?

Wednesday night we went through Firelands after the nerfs and did six bosses. The difference in the level of difficulty is painfully obvious. It's actually invasive. Bosses that previously required precise play, good communication and teamwork even at good gear levels are now simplistic and easy. Lord Rhyolith, for example, lasted less than 10 seconds into Phase 2. I didn't even have time to get into position before he died. The burn phases of Shannox and Beth'tilac, which were previously heavy-damage phases that required the use of healer and tank cooldowns as well as skillful play to get through, are similarly laughable. As a healer, it seemed like Health Bars barely moved in those phases.

There is no thrill or enjoyment in beating up crippled children, Blizzard, and that's what you've turned these raid bosses into. You might as well give Fandral Staghelm a wool cap and a cane and rename him Tiny Tim. I actually felt sorry for Rageface the other night because he died so quickly, and his whole purpose for living - to Rage on Faces - was no more painful than a puppy dog licking ice cream off your toes. It does not qualify as something to be concerned about any longer. PETA will be hearing about this.

I think that in the pursuit of the noble goal of making the game more accessible to a larger variety of people a large chunk of the challenge of World of Warcraft has been removed. Many aspects of the game have fallen victim to this, with the endgame being the most notable and most damning, but even levelling is now so quick and painless that there is no sense of danger left in the game. Even without heirlooms, enemies fall over dead with little more than a mere glance, and there is a distinct lack of worry that something is actually dangerous. Low level dungeons are, even with poor gear, ridiculously easy, which is especially obvious when the vast majority of boss fights last under 30 seconds.

In fact, there is so little challenge left in WoW that your players are taking it upon themselves to make the game more difficult. Your very intelligent and creative players are coming up with things like the WoW Ironman Challenge and the Naked Dungeon Challenge just so that they have something to do that doesn't involve one-shotting the poor denizens of Dun Morogh on yet another overpowered Alt.

Thomas Paine said, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value", and I think that is a lesson that has been forgotten. There is a benefit to difficulties, a benefit of failure. Overcoming adversity is how people learn and improve, and it's how fierce emotional attachments are created. Raiders who raided Molten Core don't look back on the gear that they got with such love and devotion because getting it was easy, but rather because the blood, sweat and sheer red-hot effort that they expended to get it has branded it into their souls.

I think it's time to put the challenge back into the World.


I understand that balancing the many different types of players and trying to make everyone happy is a difficult, if not impossible task. I can't think of a more thankless job that trying to please eleven million people, all of whom want something different, and at the same time trying to feed the corporate overlord's insatiable lust for profits.

I know that there are quite a number of people who are happy with these changes to the raids because it gives them a chance to finally see the content. But I think that there is a difference between seeing the content and experiencing the content.  The idea of merely seeing the content reminds me of a tourist: Someone who comes to visit and see the sights, but wants to have a good, relaxing time and not really get their hands dirty. While experiencing the content implies slogging through the worst that the raid can throw at you and working through the inevitable failures and hardships. These are two very different types of players who want two completely different types of gaming experiences.

However, nerfing current content when there is no alternative, higher-end content available means turning everyone into the Tourist.

I know that Patch 4.3 is brings us the Raid Finder tool and a new difficulty level that caters to the Tourists, PUGers and people who just want to see the content but are, for whatever reason, unable to raid at the normal difficulty levels. I'm sure it's your hope that this elmininates the need for nerfs such as these, and I'm optimistic that it will work very well. But that doesn't change the fact that in this patch, on this raid, you took away my challenge.

We're going into Firelands to kill Ragnaros for the first time this week. Last week it was an exciting prospect, now it's just something to do on a Sunday. Oh, we'll get the achievement, but the accomplishment has been made lesser. Like Roger Maris, I will forever have an asterisk next to my 7/7 achievement.


Dwarven Battle Medic and Dissatisfied Raider.

Ragnaros: Still tough, but 25% less satisfying.



This Week In Raiding: The Next Logical Step?

The last couple of weeks have been very exciting for Mountain Top progression. Two lockouts ago we got Alysrazor down for the first time in what can only be described as another "Click" moment. This week marked the first time that we killed all five Firelands bosses that we've downed so far, plus Heroic Halfus in a single night, leaving us a full raid night to work on Majordomo Fandral Staghelm.

I'm pleased to say that, for the first time this tier, Mountain Top took down a progression boss on the first night of attempts. I had heard that the Staghelm encounter was relatively easy, but that the transitions were quite tricky. I think that most of our raid group went into the fight not really expecting a kill, but hoping for some good, solid progress on learning the fight.

It really surprised me, then, when in the midst of a promising pull that was about to turn into a wipe, I look down at the good Majordomo's health and see it sitting at 5%. I was completely gobsmacked. At that point it really felt as if we had really just started working on it, and yet the bastard was already practically dead? For me, that was the moment of emotional elation, and the point that I knew it was only a matter of time before we get our kill. The actual event itself was an anticlimax in comparison.

All that remains.

With the death of the Majordomo, Mountain Top is 6/7 and has the end of this tier in sight - at least in the normal modes. This brings up the question: Once a casual guild is 7/7, what's next?

Do we progress into Heroic Modes? Even at this stage in T12, we've only ever attempted Heroic Halfus (the easiest of the T11 Heroic bosses).

Or, do we continue doing regular modes, farming for gear and then bringing in Alts (of which there are plenty in our guild) and less experienced raiders so that they can get geared up?

I think that for a hardcore raiding guild, this question is so easy that it's not even asked. Heroic modes are not just an option, they're the entire point. I have always imagined that for guilds like these, regular modes are merely an inconvenience; a tedious chore that needs to be completed as quickly as possible so that they can get to the real fights.

For a more casual guild, on the other hand, the idea of Heroic Modes gets much more complicated. Questions need to be asked and the Raid Leadership needs to take a critical look at the raid team. Is the team dedicated enough to put in the extra work that Heroic Modes will bring? Will morale hold while relearning a boss that everyone knows can be beaten easily with just the flip of a switch? Does the raid team have enough gear to even make Heroic Modes feasible? At what point do you make the switch? And probably most importantly, Does the Raid Team even want to do Heroic Modes?

For myself, I think that I would like to see this group tackle something really challenging. I'm very impressed with the quality of people that we have in our Raid Team and how far we've managed to come in a relatively short time - despite the many challenges we've faced. We've had to deal with hurricanes, two different medical emergencies, scheduling conflicts, gear drama, raid spot drama and a host of other things that make organizing each raid an epic adventure all on its own. And yet we've managed to make it this far.

I think that we've got enough talent on the roster to make a very good showing on the Heroic Modes if we could get everyone - including myself - committed to working their butts off to sharpen our play.

What I'm afraid of though, is that the desire to do heroic modes - to continue on past 7/7 normal - just isn't there.

I think what happens in a lot of casual guilds is that once the final boss of the instance lies dead at the guild's feet and the rush of emotion dissipates, the idea that "we're done" sets in. Why bother going back once we've already downed the end boss? Oh, the raids continue, but some people take a break, while others start bringing in Alts to get those characters geared up. Raiding continues, but progression stops.

And that's okay, too. Heroic modes aren't for every guild or for every player. If desire and commitment to move forward isn't there, attempting heroic modes isn't going to accomplish anything other than frustrating everybody.

There are many ways to fail at raiding, but there is only one way to succeed: The entire team has to share the same goal, and be willing to put in the blood and sweat needed to make it happen. And this isn't just about raiding, this is true of life in general.


At the beginning of Cataclysm, I set myself the goal of finishing the normal modes of each tier while they were still current. I missed out on accomplishing that in Tier 11, but it seems almost certain that my guild and I will succeed in Tier 12.

If Mountain Top does decide to move on to the Heroic Modes, I will be the first one to sign up and will give it every ounce of dedication I have. But I think that if we do simply stall at 7/7 and get no further, I will be satisfied with a job well done. For me, at least, it will be a first and an accomplished goal that I can be proud of.

But I would very much like to test myself against the really hard fights that this game has to offer. I think that doing those fights would make me a better player. Odd as it may sound, I really love working on a new and difficult fight, and there is no sweeter moment than the successful kill after weeks of hard disappointment. I really want to experience that feeling knowing that I'm working on the hardest content in the game.

The real trouble with normal modes is that, no matter how sweet the taste of victory is, there is always the niggling doubt in my head that knows I am working on second tier content. It's like sitting at the kids table at Christmas; you're there and eating the same food, but the experience is lesser.

I would like, just once, to sit at the adults table in WoW. To get the full experience. To look back at a Raiding Tier and say to myself, "Yeah, I've done that shit".

But if I were to look realistically at my ability to dedicate time and effort to working on Heroic Modes, I wonder if I would pass my own criteria for a Heroic Mode raider? Can I dedicate the time, or rather, will the wife and Dwarfling allow me to dedicate the time to be successful? Do I honestly have the skills to be valuable to a Heroic Mode raiding team? Never having tried, I can honestly say I don't know.

But damn, I really want to try.


Guest Post: Ode to Healers

Nymphy is an arcane mage in the US guild Eff the Ineffable and co-writer for the blog D/E the Tank. She has wandered over here to Fannon's healing blog to set him straight about a couple things by volunteering to write about the most important job in a group/raid: DPS! Err...healing. Yeah, healing.

In Which Team Heals and the Healer Tyranny Receive Their Due

First off, DOWN WITH HEALER TYRANNY!!! They think they are so special just because they can battle rez and bubble and have healing circles that sparkle and make pretty leaves and flowers bloom on the floor. Bah! That ain't special! I will go one more step and say that healers are my worst enemy! Ever since I joined Eff the Ineffable I hardly get to visit my beauteous Spirit Healer anymore! My time is consumed with trying to find more and more creative ways to die because those stupid healers persist in keeping my health above zero. Why, the mere thought of it is... wait? What? You mean this is supposed to be a healer appreciation post? Oh. Right. Ahem. That was for a different post. On to the real post then.

For most of my WoW career I have played a ranged DPS; mainly, a mage. I have dabbled with a healer on and off but always return to what I know best: Raining sweet arcane destruction down on my enemies. I have regarded the species known as healer with a mixture of awe and resentment. Awe because they seem to effortlessly keep groups of up to 40 people alive with just a click of a mouse button. Now I realize a 40 man group would have more than one healer, but the principle is the same. Resentment because they stand in the back clicking away just like me, but everyone values them SO much more than the DPS. In some of the guilds I was in (names are not mentioned to protect the not so innocent) healers were outright favored for gear and raid spots. It seemed so unfair! I thought for sure that healers had the easiest job ever. Just stand in the back and play whack-a-mole with healbot or grid or whatever fancy-pants add on they were using that week, but everyone acted like they were SO special.

It is rather like being picked last in gym class when you are a DPS trying to find a raid group. So I decided that I wasn’t going to stand for this anymore, and started leveling a discipline priest. I was going to sprout wings and join the exalted ranks of the appreciated! I was going to be a valued member of every dungeon or raid group!

Ilona: Level 58 Discipline Priest
Although now that my priest, Ilona, is up to level 58, I realize that maybe, just maybe, they don’t have it quite so easy. In my priest's cloth shoes I realized that healers have a horrible, thankless job. The blame for wipes is on their shoulders alone, unless of course the group blames the tank. Their presence and the fact that they are keeping you alive is taken for granted. The attitude of "Oh we can pull ALL the things because we got a healer" is prevalent, especially at the lower-to-mid levels. It seems that the healer is responsible for making sure EVERYONE ELSE gets to feel invincible. ESPECIALLY those mages! Oh, how they stand in the back and spam arcane blast at ANYTHING but what the tank is targeting. Then there’s always some huntard with his pet who decides he can tank too, so I have to pay attention to HIS health as well as the tank's! Don’t even get me started on the ones who want their pets healed. And whatever happened to MOVING OUT OF A WHIRLWIND?!? Every class of melee DPS under the sun just stands there and eats it, and then they whine to me when I can’t heal ALL the things because of the stupid things they’re doing. I’ve had enough! I’m going back to my mage. I’ll go take the longer queue times because the Outland Dungeons are about to start for Ilona, and I’m already having nightmares about dungeons full of DK’s, their sheer stupidity, their death-gripping in every direction. Oh, it makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

There is a saying that says that you can never truly understand another person’s experiences unless you walk across the Barrens in their slippers. For me, I found that to be very true. Playing a healer isn’t just clicking some buttons on an add-on. It is stressful and a huge amount of responsibility. If healers are favored, they deserve to be! I will happily go back and play my mage and from now on give them my utmost respect and gratitude. I don’t know how they shoulder that load and keep their freaking sanity through leveling AND raiding! Go Team Heals! This mage will forever be your personal cheerleader!


Now Appearing on The Double O Podcast...

Last Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure to appear on The Double O Podcast. The lovely and talented hosts, Ophelie and Oestrus interviewed me, along with Ceraphus, Hydrawr and StineErino on the subject of balancing the two highly incompatible roles of being a Parent and a Gamer.

I gotta admit, I was really nervous before we started recording. Having never done a Podcast, or been interviewed for anything other than a job before, I wasn't sure how I was going to respond. I was really worried that I would stammer and ramble and not make a whole lot of sense. But the two gorgeous Ladies of the Spherical Letter made me feel right at home as soon as we started and the recording went very smoothly. I had a lot of fun doing it.

Oestrus asked me a very interesting and thought provoking question during our chat, and even though I was expecting the question I don't think the answer that I gave was as deep or as thorough as I would have liked. She asked me how my identity as a blogger changed as I became known as the Dwarfling's father rather than as a player. Listen to the podcast for the answer I gave, but I think that is a topic that I want to explore in a little more depth with a proper Battle Medic post at some point.

As well, in the Podcast I mention a post that I wrote just before the Dwarfling was born, Coping with Limited Play Time and Lofty Goals that you can read here.

Check out the latest episode at The Double O Podcast website, or download it on iTunes like I did. I'll be listening to it on my drive home tonight. I've got my fingers crossed that I don't sound like a dork.

Daddy, you aren't seriously killing Internet Dragons instead of
playing with me, are you?

Did you at least get some loot that I can chew on?