Of Battered Hilts, missing off-hands and the role of 10-man raiding

15 December 2009 § Leave a comment

Patch 3.3 has been out for a week, and I think it’s safe to say it’s been a resounding succes. The new dungeons are fantastic, mixing some nice lore, great art, fun fights, and good loot – and in the case of Halls of Reflection Heroic, also a fair bit of challenge.

The Dungeon Finder tool is great: queues for dungeons go from negligible if you have a tank in your group to still acceptable if you are a dps. You do find the occasional asshattery (needing on the Frozen Orb in the end is the typical example), and whenever Oculus is the random dungeon I always have people leaving the group (why? It’s been nerfed to hell and back, you can basically sleepwalk through it) – but this changes nothing about the greatness of the system and the fact everyone seems to be doing Heroics, these days. I still need to try the tool out for lower levels, but I hold some high hopes for it still. Because of the Dungeon Finder and the new dungeons I’m actually dusting off some alts I hadn’t used in a long while and gearing them up, relearning how to play them, etc – so bravo, Blizzard.

Icecrown Citadel is a bit more of a mixed bag. I like the fights, and I certainly like the art and atmosphere of the place. As I said in my last post, I would have liked a bit more challenge – which I’m possibly going to find in Heroic but I’ll have to wait months before knowing for sure. And yes, I’m sorry, I’m still grumbling about that, because I cannot believe that Blizzard would get the “select your own difficulty level” thing so right in Ulduar, and so wrong in ToC and Icecrown.

There is however one thing that Blizzard did that left me scratching my head – so of course I’m going to vent about it here. Last Thursday, I went through the new Heroics for the first time on Tsark – and a Battered Hilt dropped. We all rolled, and I won it (which is fairly uncharacteristic: Tsark normally loses most such rolls, unlike some other of my alts – but I digress). So, giddy with excitement, I started up the new questlines, going from one place to another and collecting all the saronite, and the hammer, and forging the weapon, and getting into Sunwell. The questline is really fantastic, and reinforces my idea that crafting your own weapons, or armor, by collecting many different pieces and moving from one place to the next, is really one of the things I like the most in this game (and makes me pine once more for the lack of legendaries in 10-man, but anyway). I finish up the questline, and get my Hammer of Purified Flame. I knew that was an upgrade over my lllumination, so (still giggling to myself and excited), I equipped it – and realised my offhand was really a bit lacklustre. See, I’ve had the Illumination staff for a while now, and before that I was lucky enough to have the Icecore Staff, which dropped on our very first kill of Hodir oh-so-long-ago. So, the only offhand I kept in my bank was an Igniter Rod, which means something about 2-3 tiers behind current content.

That already surprised me, because I’m normally careful to keep my offhand up-to-date even when I’m using a two-hander. I wouldn’t take it over someone who would actually use it straight up, but if there’s one thing that 4+years of raiding have taught me is to stock all sort of alternative gear in your bank – because it’s bound to stop dropping the minute you need it. But hey, we could just have been unlucky and not got any good offhand to drop, right? I jumped onto wowhead, and checked what was available in ToC10/ICC10 – and I got my surprise.


That’s two full tiers of raid instances where Blizzard has decided to put NO offhand at all. Worse actually – they put two offhands, but they both have hit rating, which is a bit of a wasted stat for a healer. Now, in the same two tiers of instances, the 25-man raiders get THREE offhands for healers – and one more with hit! I don’t want to blow this out of proportion: I am now trying to get the offhand from Halls of Reflection, and I can try to get also the one from Onyxia. They are ilvl 232, so will be one-two tiers below top expansion gear (which will be ilvl 258 for me, Heroic 10-man ICC), but I’m sure that’s not going to hold me back. However, it does underline two points for me.

The first is that the mechanism for assigning loot to the various bosses is mysterious and (in my humble opinion) in need of fixing.I know of raiders who would prefer to focus on 25-man who had to farm Razorscale 10 for the Eye of the Broodmother. The paladin tank in my raid was complaining about the Ulduar10 gear being badly itemised for his tank – and had to resort to going to 25-man to gear up. Offhands for priests have been conspicuously missing in not one, but two consecutive tiers of raiding. The proposal I made for re-distributing loot along different lines would partially solve this – but really, this shouldn’t be needed. I’m surprised that the game developers haven’t seen these holes in the loot tables – and I suspect there may be other considerations at play, which I don’t know and cannot guess.

The second, and more general point, is that Blizzard still hasn’t decided what 10-man raiding should be. Is it something to do on a non-raiding night? You get 10 people together with your friends list, and just hit whatever instance is the current one, and get some gear. Is it something for casuals? People who really don’t want to spend a lot of time wiping to bosses, because this is a game: they just want to relax, chat with friends, get some purple pixels. Or, is it a full progression path? A way for people who prefer playing with tighter groups, who enjoy multi-tasking more to experience some endgame challenges and problemsolving.

Clearly, what I would like to see is the development of this latter option. I don’t want to deny the casuals their raids – but to me, that’s what normal modes are for. Normal modes are fantastic to gear up alts, and to literally get 10-people together at the last minute and hit an instance, and relax for a while. For all the fault of Trial of the Crusader, it was nice to be able to bring alts through it without having to be prepared and super-geared (and I admit that the shortness of Trial of the Crusader helped too: even a group of alts wiping a few times would get through the place in a couple of hours).

Right now, 10-man hardmodes are somehow stuck-in-the-middle. They are beyond the reach of a casual group, who doesn’t want to invest the time needed to master them. However, they still don’t offer a full progression path to “hardcore raiders” (assuming I want to call myself that): there are still slots that you need to fill with 25-man gear, and you still cannot get the excitement that comes from creating legendary weapons. All the same, you still see achievements that seem to encourage you to use 10-man as an exclusive path.

My guess is that Blizzard is still unsure about how to treat 10-man raiding. That’s (of course) quite alright – in primis because 10-man raiding is new, and so Blizz developers are still experimenting with it a lot. Although 10-mans started in BC, they were little more than stepping stones (Karazhan) or catch-up raids (Zul’Aman) then, and certainly not a full-fledged progression path. Wrath fleshed out the concept a bit more, but I think the developers have not yet had the courage to go full speed on it, and let 10-man stand on their own two feet. I would love to know more about their process, and whether we are going to see the 10-man concept develop further for Cataclysm. Part of it, of course, depends on how many players are currently “hardcore 10man” raiders – this is data that Blizz could easily have, for example checking how many players have a fair amount of hardmode 10-man achievements but little or no 25-man (most people I know will go along to a 25-man, and so have the “instance completed” achievements, but little more). I would love to have some developer input on this, but I’m really not sure about how to grab their attention (and this is hardly something that I can condense down to a 2-line question to submit to the developers…).

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