Last night I decided to give PUG raids a chance once again, and on a whim volunteered for a VoA 25 run.
Let’s just say that, while I have seen the 2nd and 3rd bosses before, I haven’t done VoA since they added the Ice boss, and I’d only done the Fire and Lightning a few times. Possibly not even on my main, either.
In fact, thinking back on it, I think I’ve only done the Fire boss twice before; once on my Paladin on Horde side with the Zug Initiative, and once on my Hunter on Alliance in a PUG, winning some nice PvP boots that I’m still wearing.
I had studied before, and knew the tactics for all the bosses except Ice. I’d never intended to do VoA again, so I hadn’t bothered studying that one. Oh why look, an unprepared Bear. /win
I went as a Tree, and not only did I get to heal, I even bullied poor Dechion to come with me to heal as well. Misery loves company, and if I’m going to screw up, best to have witnesses, right?
It’s more fun that way.
Since I hadn’t studied in advance, a hurried query in guild chat followed as we ran in. “Hey, Occulus… wtf do we do on the Ice boss, dude?”
We were then given the following advice;
“Stay away from the Orbs.”
“Heal the tanks.”
Ooookay. We can do that. I think. Thanks for the tip.
It was a lot of fun. It did take a while to get the group together, people kept dropping in and out, and as far as I can see it was because people felt that the group was not forming fast enough to suit them. Which, let me tell you, when you drop group because you’re missing two people out of 25 after 3 minutes, it sure does speed up getting the group formed. Idiots.
We got the group full up, summoned or teleported in, marked the two main tanks (I love that, I really do), buffed up and ran to do the new boss first.
All things considered, it went very well, although I quickly saw what Occulus meant about watching the Orbs. The damn things spawn and swirl all over the place, and if they touch you it hurts. I have no idea if they had to be DPSed down or if they despawn on their own after a set time, because nobody… NOBODY mentioned doing any particular strategy at any time, for any boss. If you didn’t know how to do things going in, there was zero guidance along the way.
So, all I really know is, Orbs spawned and did lots of group damage that we healed through, and then vanished after a while. It’s kinda hectic in a 25, and I just don’t know without researching if they despawned on their own or not.
After that boss fell, one person instantly left group. Guess he only wanted a piece of loot from the Ice boss, and had no interest in sticking around to like, I dunno, finish the run. That’s one to feed to the ignore list, and thank you very much.
We then continued on to Archavon, short 1, cleared that and went back and did Lightning. Lost another player after Lightning, a healer, and did the Fire boss with 23.
It amazes me how many people dinged boss kill Achievements all the way, even on Archavon, and yet there were no wipes, and no discussion about tactics at all.
I’ll admit, I was healing with all the skill I was capable of, and a lot of people getting stuck in Lightning Ring and in Fire and stuff got very low in health before we brought them back up, but we never wiped, and had very few actual deaths. I think we had four healers, and Dechion and I were two of them, so that always feels good.
Cassie walked in towards the end of the run, and of course almost everything that dropped was Paladin plate, so she was crying a little inside for her Pally.
That led us to talk a little bit about this whole raiding thing, and PUGging versus guild runs, and how things are now compared to how they used to be.
I think I’ve been pretty clear in the past year or so that I ain’t a regular PUG kinda person. Unlike most people I know, I haven’t done PUG raids as a regular thing in a long, long time. Not real raids. I have tried to do the weekly Raid boss on my Druid, when I think of it though.
When Cassie and I talk about raiding, and doing them as PUGs, the conversation usually turns to the last time we actually enjoyed PUGging a raid.
That’s right. Karazhan.
There was this beautiful window of time where a lot of people had leveled and geared from Heroics, gotten some decent Badge gear, but the last load of uber-leet Badge gear costing beeellions and beeellions of Badges had NOT been released yet on the Isle of Pretentious Blood Elves.
It felt like a magical time.
We’d left our big guild that wanted to do serious raids, and there was just the two of us on our own, with our alt guild nametag over our heads. Karazhan was the only 10 person Raid in the game, and it was very, very long with tons of bosses. There was lots in there to do.
Karazhan was the stopping place for many casual guilds that wanted to raid, but didn’t want to merge into large guilds and deal with potential drama just to hit 25s. If you wanted to raid and didn’t have 25 people to field, Karazhan was the place.
For Cassie and I, it really was a magical time to PUG. We both loved the length of Kara, we loved the way the fights required people at our gear level to use all our abilities and to CC and move and play well and use tactics in order to succeed. It was lots of fun to be with a group of other people all at our same level, because raiders never went back to Kara.
We were also very fortunate that, most of the time, when someone was advertising that they needed a few more for Kara, they were really great people that just happened to be short one or two guildies at that moment, like Essence of Grandeur.
We got to join PUG raids as a couple, and do really interesting and challenging content at the time, with what were in effect entire guilds of skilled people. Not really a true PUG at all, when you think of it.
Looking back, it’s really a shame how things turned out.
When the uber-leet Badge loot was released, suddenly all the raiders wanted fast Badges again, and lots of them. So Karazhan got swamped by people that had insane levels of 25 man raider gear, raiders that wanted to run Karazhan, and who were in guilds that weren’t going to organize Kara in the middle of their progressive raiding schedule.
These people were in a rush to get done because they weren’t there for fun or to see the place or enjoy being with friends. They didn’t want loot from there. They just wanted Badges, and they didn’t respect the level of content OR the other people who were in there at the appropriate level.
These people also wanted to gear their alts up to join their raiding guilds, their raiding guilds weren’t organizing lower-level raids, and so they raided on their mains, and pugged Kara to gear up from the uber-leet Badge gear. And they broght with them their high end raider attitude.
Welcome to brute forcing content, speed pulls or nothing, trash talking, and e-peen waving. And of trying to brute force content on undergeared alts.
It really did ruin that as a raid for both of us, at least for the brief period before Wrath was released. And with Wrath, the whole game changed.
I personally thought that adding both 10 and 25 person versions of all raids would make everything all better. The raiders could move on, and never want to go flood the lower level raids again. The days of e-peen waving leet raiders PUGging with strangers and being asshats were over. Why PUG when you can run with your guild in all these actual raids?
What I didn’t anticipate was the Badge/Emblem system going live with such highly desired rewards, and there being small raids like Sarth and VoA that would be so conducive to PUG farming for quick Emblems.
The model we have is still what we had at the end of Burning Crusade. High end content for raiders to focus on in their official guild scheduling, and lower end content that provides Emblems for gear that high-end raiders will still want, and that will drive them to try and PUG the “lower” difficulty content to farm Emblems fast with their OP uber-leet gear.
Raiders are not encouraged to move on to one level of content, one level of challenge, push forward together with their guild, and stay there.
With Frost Emblems from both daily Heroics and from the Weekly raid boss from lower level raids, and with Triumph Emblem gear being so good to fill in spots like Trinkets and Rings, raiders in their uber-leet gear are encouraged to go, and I hate to phrase it this way but that’s how a lot of these people act, “slumming” in the lower level content. To run content they vastly overpower, content they don’t want any gear from, and content their guild has no interest in running together as a group.
So the raiders are still encouraged by the system to PUG with strangers.
And the raiders, ever and again, seem to act like they feel that they’re running content that is beneath them, with strangers that are beneath them, and they want to get done and get out as fast as they can with their Emblems.
I will say that the only thing about the entire situation I mind, what really bothers me, is simply how it brings up-and-coming players trying to do content at the appropriate level, trying to learn how to play and learn how to deal with different mechanics, face to face with people that are vastly overgeared, have no respect for them, and teach them nothing but bad habits and how to brute force content, and who actively discourage any other way of doing things because it would take too much of the raider’s precious time to even discuss.
I am thinking about it a lot, but aside from bitching, pissing and moaning about it, I really don’t see a viable solution. Cataclysm is coming, and Blizzard really wants more players to have the opportunity to see Icecrown Citadel before it turns into what vanilla Naxx 25 did; a place that only a handful of folks got to see before an expansion made it obsolete.
Without a method that is easily understood for gathering gear upgrades that leap you past older, time consuming content, or increase how many upgrades you can get over a limited span of time, players starting now would never have a chance.
I’ve got that Marine Corps mentality that says, before you bitch about the way things are, you better have taken the time to come up with your own idea on how things could be better. If you can’t, then shut the hell up.
I have some ideas, but frankly, I don’t know if they’d fix anything without making the overall fun of the game suffer.
Where I’d lean most, is to cut off the power of Emblem gear and drops a few ranks below the top progression content. Spread out the difficulty of the progression content (and the rewards provided) so you really do have to master the one below before moving onwards and upwards.
Instead of leaving people to have to bring alts up through older content that your current progression guild doesn’t run, one solution to that would be to have drops at your current content level be Bind on Account, so that if you as a player are already playing at one level of content, you could gear up your other toons as well from that level without going backward. That way, no matter what the drop, somebody is going to want it.
And finally, when there is Emblem gear to bring players ahead past old content, release one entire range of items, one for every slot, so that people are able to get geared and not feel they have to pug in lower levels raids to fill the same three slots every other player wants as well, and fight over those handful of drops while all the armor gets sharded.
The problem is, even with doing something like that, trying to make levels of progression feel more significant on their own and remove the urge of high end progression raiders from running with people in places they don’t want to be, it still doesn’t take into account the desire on the part of players in 10 person guilds from wanting to PUG to get their hands on 25 person content gear to make their 10 man runs easier.
See, that’s the hard thing about trying to second guess where things are now. Where we’re at now works. There may be issues with it, but it works. Would a change cause more problems than they’d fix?
Blizzard is very smart. Cataclysm is coming, and they watch all this stuff just like we do. They play as well, and I have to imagine they’re not all high end progression raiders in tight guilds, oblivious to the feel of the game and the effects of all these Emblems and PUGs on players.
Who knows what kind of flowcharts and graphs they have of player expectations and feedback, what Six Sigma analysis they may have made on the situation and it’s core variables, and what decisions they may have planned for addressing things without breaking them?
What I do know is that I was able to raid last night in a PUG and succeed, and there was loot handed out, and Emblems that were won, and there were many other raids going on as PUGs at the same time. There are PUGs at all levels, from ICC to Ulduar to Naxx and even to Sunwell and the Black Temple. If you want to run something, at any content level, there is an opportunity available. You may need to run a ton of Heroics to prepare, but the opportunity to see content at all levels is there just the same. And that’s the single biggest complaint people had coming out of Burning Crusade.
For me, though, it also doesn’t change the fact that even though those PUGs are there, and available, and can be fun to run, the attitude among a lot of players is still there as well. That they want something from lower level content to gear at the highest levels, and they act as though they are somehow lowering themselves, slumming, in order to get it.
Hmm. I feel like I should be standing on my lawn, waving a fist and screaming at some kids.