Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On Current 10s Difficulty

Rahana at Blueberry Totem inspired this next post. So, it's half a reply to Rahana, and half my own rambling on the general topic.

10 man raiding: then and now.

Watching the shift in opinions regarding the difficulty of ten-man content is rather amusing for a former 10-strict guild to watch. As one of the few (and I mean literally, 3) guilds in the world to have gotten a 10-strict kill on HLK in WotLK, the end boss of the expansion, Vortex has watched with some smug delight as other guilds flocked to the 10-man format out of an assumption that it would be easier, only to find it far more difficult than they had expected and watching as 25-man guilds progressed more quickly.

Could 10s have been easier in this expansion? Possibly, depending on the tuning of the bosses.

The vast majority of raiders (and I'm talking those that probably never read this blog or followed ten-strict guilds) had it stuck in their heads that 10s were easy, and had no concept of the relative difficulty. In WotLK they had higher iLevel gear, and that mana and stamina and through-put matter. They had larger raiding rosters to pull from, cherry-picking their compositions for the harder fights. They had less room to spread out, but AoE heals weren't 40 yards in range so even 10's had to cluster up and stick together to a decent extent. The easier aspect came on the management front as there were fewer people to herd in 10s, though recruitment was a PitA.

Now, there are still fewer cats to herd in Cata 10s, but normalization of difficulty levels has ironically been in favor of 25s. I have to wonder if it's intentional, in an effort to keep 25mans viable. This doesn't really bother me: 10-strict was a very difficult format, and I am proud to say my guild is stubborn enough to tackle anything Blizz throws at us, though we may not necessarily be the first to down the content. So the concept that 25s are easier difficulty doesn't really phase me except out of some irony, in the form of "told you so" to those who doubted the difficulty of tens.

The difficulty currently lays as such:
  • Composition. In spite of buff and class homogenization, there is a definite disparity in what is "needed" for a raid to excel through the current content, favoring certain mixes of classes and a LOT of interrupts. Going to Cho'Gall without a hunter? Good luck. One of your interrupters out for the evening? Scramble for Nefarian. No warrior? Add-tanking in multiple fights will be entertaining, if hell. Two resto druids out of 3 healers?, your hots won't tick up fast enough to counter a lot of raid-heal mechanics and your cooldowns don't come up fast enough, have fun wiping. No resistance aura? HAHAHAA. On a related note, I feel bad for rogues. They are the only class my guild has looked at and said "we just really don't need one."
  • Loot Drops. Most 10m guilds I have talked with or read about have complained about never seeing certain drops. For Vortex, it is the trash-drop wand and the leather caster bracers. Out of two pieces and 10 players, there is less chance of it being something useful than with 25s. Guilds will shard the same drops off a boss week after week, the two drops always seeming to land on the same pieces. If something useful drops, there's a chance the person that needs it either isn't present that day or got rotated out due to compositional issues: something for the guild to plan around, certainly, but I have seen it happen often enough to remember. I will complain less about having only seen the feral bracers/boots/staff once or twice, as it means our mainspec feral has gotten them, but looking at blues in my offspec set is getting tiresome. Granted, I find it amusing that some of my feral upgrades have been straight jumps from blues to heroic-mode epics. It would be nice if the 'randomness' of the drops was twisted to rotate through the item table a bit more reliably, ensuring a more even spread of gear: some randomness is fine, but a bit more variety is also appreciated. Loot matters in progression. The drops can easily determine the rankings: an upgrade for a raider is worth more to the next boss kill than a shard.
  • Recruitment. There are more guilds, plainly speaking. It makes looking for a guild harder, as there are more to sift through. It makes advertising for your own guild harder, as you have to shine out from the swarm. There are a lot of excellent guilds, but there are also many that a recruit may find is crumbling as soon as they join. The guild/raid leader may have expected things to be easier than they are, and are struggling to make things work. Raiders may be disillusioned by progression or loot drops, or even the lack of community as a 10-man guild is smaller than the large communities they knew in WotLK or further back. The 10m guild loosing one player--and it is bound to happen--can leave you short on raid nights, and often you may loose multiple at the same time for various reasons. A death spiral if you can't fill those spots.
  • Hybrid requirements. This is the ultimate reason why we've not considered a rogue, as melee is generally being given the middle finger by boss mechanics: any melee we do get are all hybrids that will swap either to tank or heal on a given fight (cat/bear, unholy/blood, and ret/holy are our melee dps, excluding our two main tanks. Oh, and this crazy girl who is resto/bear and sometimes moonlights as a cat). With a smaller team, flexibility is very important, and that makes hybrids quite necessary. A healer/healer spec is less flexible than a healer/dps dualspec. On top of being able to spec for it, there is also the issue of knowing how to play it: someone who is used to healing is not going to have the UI and reflexes for reliable interrupts, in most cases (I am a prime example of that on H-Halfus when they had me tanking the fight as offspec!). Where a larger guild can support players who stick to one single role, a 10m requires most of its players to fluctuate between roles as hybrids, and this shows in recruitment.
Am I happy with raiding as it currently stands? Well, I am having fun with it, and I am certainly still playing. I love my guild, and I love playing my class. There are certain fights that I wish they will retune or reconsider the mechanics of (H-Chim as a resto druid) but hey, there are changes coming down the pipe for my class that will make it more bareable. Relative difficulty of content against 25s doesn't factor into my enjoyment of my own format; I wouldn't've been playing 10-strict through the entirity of WotLK if that were the case.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Watch us Wipe...

As a reminder, my guild's warlock runs a video stream of our raids! We are currently working on H-Maloriak and are hoping to kill him for the first time this evening. The stream has a chat bar that I periodically join in on :)

Aside, we are recruiting specifically a holy/ret pally or a resto/dps shammy to join our roster.

Raid times:
7:30-11:30 EST, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh hai?

It happens to all of us at some points: our focus shifts away to other things, our time gets consumed with other activities, and things we used to do regularly fall by the wayside. Awkwardly, that has happened to me with all things WoW. I am still raiding and have no intention to stop, but my time outside has been eaten up by external activities. Nothing bad, nothing huge and life-altering, but simply is.

Just to reassure, I have no intention of stopping blogging. For those that don't already, I suggest using an rss-feed reader like Google Reader to keep up with updates :)

General Rambly Life Update:

My regret, though, is that it has put a halt to any amount of art I used to do. Once upon a time, I would make real paintings and colored-pencil sketches. I even did medieval scrollwork, though I used acrylics (I like Celtic knotwork, and silver paint is fun). As I got into photoshop, I started doing full digital paintings, though I never got anywhere near the level of the "super digital artists" like Meerkat or Sarah Ellerton, both of whom I admire for their skill and dedication--both of them inspired me at times.

Of course, you all know me for the stick figures I have posted on this blog: the rough and easy quick doodles that serve to illustrate important aspects of boss fights. That's most of what my art has amounted to in recent years, though I have spent time with larger art projects, like creating removable "stained glass" windows ~5' x 5' tall out of tissue paper and plastic dropcloth.


I idly wish I could get back into digital painting, maybe one day be able to match the skill of those who inspire me, but that's a time commitment I just don't have the time for. For now, I need to take one step at a time and at least provide some stick figs for all of you :)

WoW Stuff:

I'm enjoying raiding on my druid, still. While the daily quests have gotten dull and repetitive--irritating, really, for a mainspec healer, spending time raiding with my guild is what keeps me interested in the game. I will admit, though, to a certain hatred of heroic Chimaeron.

- Heroic Chim rant -

Chim is one of those gear-and-skill-check fights on heroic. Communication and very strict job assignments are required. For a tank, it's all about communication and cooldown timing. For a dps, it's a snooze-fest except to dps as hard as possible and group up periodically, aside a single dps-tank who has to fill an out-of-the-box taunting role and sometimes deal with popping survival cooldowns.

For a healer... it is an intense fight that requires complete focus and quick reaction times. But you can't rely on your usual reaction of "fill the bar, they're low health" or you'll go OoM: the healers have to train themselves to AVOID that reaction and rely purely on low-health debuffs. It's all in decision and assignments and making sure each healer does their job and can trust that the others will do their job, while at the same time keeping an eye out on boss timers and making that snap decision of "massacre inc, there are two with low-health, I need to help them now" and have pre-arranged with the other healer as to which person you will heal (by party and by top-to-bottom vs bottom-to-top).

Entire nights of this will leave a healer's brain the consistency of porridge. I'm not talking about that thick glop, either: I mean the kind where you accidentally poured in too much water and it's beginning to more resemble stew or even soup. It reached a point where running into the room, I would see Chimaeron snoozing there with his little green z's and my mind would fill with loathing, loathing for the pixels before me. Pyrecraw didn't help, pre-stack-nerf when we all had to rotate LoS to drop the flame buffet stacks, and that was just trash. I preferred playing with Nefarian and wiping to tailwhip+electrocute combos to dealing with H-Chim.

Now, my guild did kill H-Chim last night. I wasn't there, but my guildies got it. I haven't heard what loot dropped, but I am hoping and hoping it was a pair of uber-bracers for my fellow resto druid Herc (the guild's new healer recruit, who slipped in in spite of our hope to get a shammy or pally simply because he is so awesome). We have never seen a pair of epic leather bracers drop off of Chim so we've both still been rocking blues all this time.

- Bear, rawr? -

On a feral side, they have had me tank H-Halfus for a few kills. Me, in my mostly-blues tank kit. I had to completely remap some of my bear keys to allow for a quicker interrupt reactivity, and I had to huge-ify (yes, I claim that's a legitimate word) my quartz target cast bars to be able to make sure I didn't miss the casts that I needed to interrupt. I am currently running around specced as a healer primary, bear secondary, which as you can imagine makes dailies 'interesting.' It was a change of pace that I enjoyed, though. I have yet to tank a 5-man in the expansion, yet I have helped tank 10-man heroic raid bosses. Ha. Go me. I even managed to keep aggro off of our insane DPS. Scawwy bear-kae, rawr!

Yay, Puppy!

FLUFFY! She is about 75lbs (or more) and still likes to climb in laps. She spends lunchtime laid out across the couch, mostly in my husband's lap and sticking her paws and nose in my lap while we eat; being able to go home for an hour lunchbreak is a wonderful thing. She and I like going for walks around the local college campus, where she has been getting better about not trying to yank my arm off or digging through the landscaping to find all of the food the students like to leave laying around.

The leash-training and behavior training have been a weekly challenge as she is true to her breed: stubborn and independant, but with lots of positive reinforcement and treats, she is coming along well. I have taken to training her on a few sledding commands for left/right (haw/gee), though I am using an archery-range command of "hold" to get her to stop and freeze given that I want her responding to that command when she hears it around that range.

She enjoys campus more than our local neighborhood, as she gets to see lots of people, and many college students love seeing a friendly fluffy dog they can cuddle with.

I'm just waiting for the moment I try to give a raid direction in vent and say "gee" or "haw." It is bound to happen. -_-;

So, that's a quick update for those of you who have been worrying. I have been plotting for more stick-figure guides, just need to get around to doing them.