The great race began at midnight, then barreled on into Tuesday morning. Camping spawns, blitzing from zone to zone, barely reading quest text. All in the hope to be 85 as soon as possible. Of course, it isn’t just getting to 85, it’s all about the epics. Those lovely purple items that make a character so powerful and makes them truly feel like a Hero. This means getting what gear is available and running dungeons until the player’s eyes bleed. In true Blizzard fashion, dungeons come in two flavors, Regular and Heroic. Heroics drop better gear and points which can be exchanged for gear.
In Wrath, many players complained that Blizzard went too far into the “welfare” epics. Implying that by having an epic item drop off the last boss of a heroic instance, allowing players to buy epics with badges dropped from heroics, and having “major patch” dungeons drop the mid level of epic, they had made epics less awesome and amazing.
First off, the belief that something in the game is “rare” or “special” is a fallacy. Nothing is difficult to get, provided sufficient time and persistence. Want all ICC 25 gear? Join a guild that has ICC 25 on farm and show up every run. Want Kingslayer? It was sold on many servers for less than 10k gold. Also rarity in this game is completely relative. Take the Celestial Steed and Rivendare’s Deathcharger for instance. The Celestial Steed is obtained from the Blizzard Pet store for $25. Rivendare’s Deathcharger is a notoriously low drop rate mount from Stratholm. The average number of Stratholm runs to get the mount is 100. Most players give up after about 20, especially since it is not a guaranteed drop after 100 runs. Pinecone of Echo Isles will point to his 242 runs to acquire this mount as proof of the vileness of the RNG. (Random Number Generator.) Logic dictates that the Celestial Steed then would be more common, thus less rare than the Deathcharger’s Reins. Over the entirety of the game, this is likely true.
However, the player base is split across four regions, hundreds of servers, and two factions. So in reality, the rarity of something in relation to a player is really only drawing from a few thousand players at most. In Booze Hounds, of Echo Isles, the Celestial Steed was dubbed “too expensive” for many of the adult players with children. To that end, only 4 of the guild members had the purchasable mount. In contrast, many of these same players were completely willing to spend downtime in the game farming Stratholm, and as a result there were no less than 8 of Rivendare’s coveted mount. In this small sample the Celestial Steed was more rare than the Deathcharger, despite the ease of acquiring it. In the end, when playing WoW, it doesn’t matter what the entirety of the game has, it matters what you, as a player has and the people you play with (generally your guild). The rarity is relative. Was Kingslayer rare? Not in BH, where nearly everyone, including a few alts had the title.
Now, having explained this odd view of rarity, back to the epics.
In Cataclysm, Blizzard returned to the “older” way of thinking. Epics no longer drop in Dungeons, Heroic or otherwise. Epics can no longer be purchased with badges (though likely this will change when the second raid tier is implemented). And Heroics are… frustratingly difficult. The key word is frustrating. Something can be difficult or challenging, but not be frustrating. In the Lich King fight, Defiles made the battle difficult, as the players have to spread out at just the right time, in the proper fashion to prevent chaining the effect. A challenge, with 10 people, but if the effect did chain, everyone knew why. It was obvious.
Heroic Deadmines presents a boss, Admiral Ripsnarl, who spawns adds after he reaches 75% health. These adds have 60k health and must be killed within a few seconds or they double in size and health. If they double 3 times, they explode, wiping the group. Logically, the dps roles all turn and burn these adds down as quickly as possible. When attempting this with my dungeon group we repeatedly failed miserably. In an attempt to understand what was happening, I looked at the various people in our group. Every single member was over the 329 item level required to queue for heroics. Most members were even up in the 340 item level range, in addition to 3 people having the achievement for Cataclysmic Superiority, meaning all of their gear is the blue level to start this expansion. We were a full guild group, with vent, and understood the mechanics of the fight, but it was very clearly beyond our ability. It’s possible we needed more burst dps (with 2 warlocks, we were in the killing things slowly but surely) but hasn’t Blizzard’s motto been “Bring the Player not the Class”? Our tank was well geared, even gemmed and enchanted. Our healer was well geared and healing efficiently. All our dps was doing 10k+. It felt absurd that we couldn’t take this boss down.
The frustration of this fight ruined the night. There was no explanation for why we failed. Everyone was geared at the level the game said we should be. Everyone was playing efficiently, avoiding damage, and fulling their role. This lead me to one conclusion. Either the gear requirements were “off” or the boss was. The boss needed a nerf, or the item level required to queue for the dungeon needed to be higher. With a well coordinated group, on vent, well balanced, we should have been able to succeed with minimal wipes. According to Wowhead, Ripsnarl is a gear check. Does your group have the gear needed to succeed. Blizzard said yes, the boss said no. The inconsistency needs to be addressed.
I don’t think heroics should be easy, I do think they need to be doable, with an understanding of why you fail. I do think that the gear required needs to be clear. In Wrath, a stair stepped gear requirement for harder instances was implemented and understood. Perhaps they need to revisit it for Cataclysm. The worst part was, when someone pointed out that we were wiping more than we had in Heroic Raids in Wrath. And even so, we weren’t fighting for Epics, we were fighting for blues… The group almost immediately fell apart due to the morale dive bomb. Say what you will about Wrath welfare epics… At least the game was fun and I didn’t go to bed more bummed than when I started playing that night.