So it seems to me that one of the strongest criteria by which an expansion is judged is the “fun” of running heroic dungeons. When people pine for the days of Burning Crusade, it’s my sense that they are remembering fondly how heroic dungeons were challenging and fun.
Burning Crusade had a number of advantages in this regard. Beyond Karazhan, people were required to have the organization to create 25-man groups, and the 25-man raids beyond Gruul’s were rather challenging (as in the “one boss every few weeks” challenging rather than the “two or three bosses a week” I’m familiar with now.) The end result was that there was a sizable population, even of raiders, that simply did not have gear to overwhelm those heroics, even after later patches introduced better gear. It wasn’t until 2.4, with Magister’s Terrace (which was extremely difficult at level) and Zul’Aman that non-elite raiders began to get the gear to overwhelm the heroics. They had staying power.
Wrath began that way. Wrath, however, continued the ways of 2.4 as to getting gear, and as a result people started overwhelming the heroics as of Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader. But Blizzard kept introducing new heroics with each patch, which made them more tolerable. As of 3.3, the ICC heroics were still very challenging, at least until everyone was decked out in 25-man ICC gear.
I’m not going to talk about Cata or MoP heroics, because in all honesty I lost my taste for them. I would run them, but only as a means of getting gear for raids. They weren’t fun in themselves and if you’ve read any of my rants about the LFD system, you’ll know why.
Still, I gather that for most people the heroic five-man may well be the determinant of the quality of the game. It brings the multi-player aspect into the game, in that it requires cooperation from others, but it’s not something that requires a tremendous amount of coordination to put together. Even without LFD, it really should not be that hard to put together a group of five people to do that content.
The question for me, then, is what makes a good five man heroic? What can we look to in order to tell whether Blizzard has “gotten it”, in the sense that the heroics will last, or has just treated heroics as a hoop for raiders to jump through?
It would be very easy for me to say “they should be challenging, but not impossible.” Or “more difficult than Wrath, easier than pre-nerf Cata.” It’s an amorphous standard that doesn’t help anyone. That would be lazy.
Instead, what I’d like to think about are the mechanics of the fight. Long ago, someone (I don’t remember who) divided boss mechanics into three types:
- Those that challenged the tanks and healers;
- Those that challenged the strongest dps; and
- Those that challenged the weakest dps.
Examples abound from all sorts of different fights. A mechanic where a boss hits particularly hard at one point is the first type of challenge. A mechanic where something needs to be crowd controlled or interrupted is the second type of challenge. A mechanic where a dps is picked randomly and forced to do something to stop the group from wiping is the third.
So let’s imagine a boss in a hypothetical heroic. Let’s imagine that every thirty seconds, the boss will pick the second person on its aggro table (theoretically, the top dps), paralyze them, and put a DoT on them that will kill them in ten seconds. Either this person can be healed but the tank would die if the healer moves off of her, or the person cannot be healed at all. The mechanic is such that both of the other dps would need to shift to destroy the thing trapping that person, or that dps would die, and then subsequent applications of this mechanism would be certain to wipe the group. (This is essentially Sindragosa’s frost tomb mechanism).
That sort of mechanic requires all five people in the group to be competent. We assume the tank and healers have their own problems. The two weakest dps have to know to switch, and have to be able to do enough damage to destroy the trap. At least until gear has improved to the point where the second highest dps in the group is sufficient to break the trap, this mechanic requires the weakest dps in the group to be competent.
In my recollection, this type of mechanic is not generally used in heroic five-mans, but I could be wrong about that. Think of defile on the Lich King, infections on Rotface, buzz saws on Blackfuse, and so on. These are mechanics that the weakest people had to get right. And they are the way of ensuring that everyone in a group has to meet some minimal level of competency for the run to succeed.
That’s what I think you look for in WoD heroics, far more than anything involving numbers of mobs or health pools or the amounts bosses hit for. One assumes that the strongest dps in a group will be able to handle any practical mechanic thrown at them. It’s whether the weakest dps can, and the consequences if they can’t. Will it wipe the group? Or will the group be able to complete the boss anyway?
If it’s the former, my sense is that the WoD heroics will be remembered like Burning Crusade. That’s what I think I pine for.