Ghostcrawler Does Not Owe You a Pony

Last week Ghostcrawler released an article entitled “Wow, Dungeons are Hard!” in which he outlined some of the complaints players have made about the steep learning curve of the Cataclysm dungeon content, and outlining the fact that it was very much on purpose.  I found the article a very well thought out and well written discussion piece about what the folks over at blizzard were thinking about the way dungeons should fit into the entire gaming process.  I expected that this would have helped to quiet some of the discussion over whether or not these zones needed a nerf, however it seems to have caused the opposite effect.  There seems to be a large conflagration of posts both on the wow forums and around the wow blogosphere about that the dungeons are in fact too hard.

A Privilege Not a Right

One of the sticking points I have as I read through these complaints is the general sense of entitlement that the community has developed over the years.  The ability to run heroics, and the ability to raid for that matter is a privilege not a right.  Getting to the point where you can reliably contribute requires a bit of dedication and work from the player.  it should require that the player spend time gearing up, and preparing for the fights.

I guess I just find it odd that folks generally have a problem with that.  I am a very serious about gearing my characters, and make checklists of the various items I need from each of the dungeons.  It is just something I have done since the beginning of wow, and has helped me keep things organized.  I feel a big part of my job in this game, especially as a tank, is to be as well geared as possible so I am the least drag on my fellow players as possible.  I’ve even developed little OCDs about this, to the point that I cannot log for the night without upgrades being enchanted and gemmed.

However it seems to many players the art of gearing, is a chore they would rather not do.  In wrath we would limp into certain heroics straight from quested greens, and I assume that is the expectation that players have had as we entered cataclysm.  When I saw that there were strict limits on the dungeon queuing I applauded them, as I have always been well over the whatever the specific number was.  However as my guild leveled I noticed a number of players lagging behind, and barely keeping up with this cutoff point.  As we neared 85 each and ever player had this 329 number in their heads, as soon as they found out that was the magic number that unlocked heroics in the dungeon tool.

329 is Not a Magic Number

The biggest problem I am seeing is the fact that the target number of 329 seems to be a resting place and “good enough” for most players.  As though they pushed to that number and then are somehow done.  Truth be told this figure is way too low to be effective in heroics on a wide scale.  If you are walking in there as a tank at that level you will be struggling.  I think I was probably 332 or so, when I finally walked into my first heroic.  I had been waiting for one of my healer friends to finish leveling, and at that point it was very much an eye opening experience.

What the 329 number reminds me of is the way heroics worked in Burning Crusade.  If you remember back to that era, in order to get into a heroic you had to gain revered with the specific faction that controlled that dungeon hub.  So in order to run heroic Steamvaults, you had to run enough normal dungeons to be able to grind up your faction with the Cenarion Expedition and purchase the Reservoir Key

This quickly became a pain in the ass, since as a guild you had to coordinate getting all your players to revered faction.  However, as a result running enough dungeons to get to revered generally meant you had fairly decent level 70 dungeon gear when you were done.  However due to the complaints of the community, this faction requirement was lowered to honored.

You could get to honored with almost all of the factions in question through simply running quest chains in the same region.  The big issue at hand became the fact that having the heroic key, became a sense of entitlement.  I functionally CAN run heroics, therefore I SHOULD BE ABLE to run heroics.  The pug community on my server went completely to pot, as it was flooded with players completely unprepared and ungeared to be doing the heroic dungeons.

Raise the Bar

Setting the requirement for running heroics in Cataclysm at 329 is much like starting off the expansion with the bar set down to the honored requirement.  Just from doing quests in twilight highlands and Uldum, it is extremely easy to reach a ilevel of 329.  The problem being, without getting those critical upgrades from normal mode level 85 instances, you are completely unprepared for the step up that heroics are.  A much more realistic number would have been 333-340, meaning that the player would have at least had to have spent some time running normal mode instances and raising their factions enough to start getting those 346 faction rewards.

If the heroic requirement would have been set to a higher requirement, the normal dungeon running would have several effects.  The most obvious is of course with better gear, comes better stats, and more ability to dish out whatever it is your class/spec combo does.  The normal mode dungeons are for the most part 90% the same as the heroic mode dungeons, with the boss fights being the big difference.  The more time a player spends in these dungeons, the more they understand about how each of the various trash mobs reacts and how the normal abilities of the bosses function.  With this firm understanding, moving to heroics becomes a much more iterative step.

So my only suggestion for making things more smoothly is to make it HARDER for players to zone into heroics.  This is likely to be an even less popular opinion than that of the heroic dungeon difficulty being just fine as it is.  However, if players are not willing to do the work on their own in order to ensure they are able to be effective group members, then the only way to make sure things move smoothly is to ensure that the requirement for the heroics is higher.  If you come into a heroic with the bare minimum you are guaranteeing that the rest of the party will have to carry you through the instance in order for it to be successful.

The big problem with raising the cap, is that it is VERY easy to bring a character who is 329 along with a group of players who are in the 350s.  We often do this as a guild, grab a geared tank and healer, and at least 1 geared dps in order to help out players with less than stellar gear.  Raising the cap would lock this practice out.  The only way I can see to bypass this problem, and still keep the players out who have no business being in heroics would be to evaluate a party when queuing based on the average score of the group.  In this case, 3 players that are 350 geared, dragging along 2 players that are 329 would evaluate out to an average party gear score of 341.

The Master Plan

I honestly feel like Blizzard has realized exactly what the various decision they made during the wrath cycle have cost the community.  As I said earlier, it has built a very entitled player base that leveled through an era of easy epics.  When I was gearing my shaman, I had him fully outfitted in epics and and ready to participate in ICC10 only 4 days after dinging 80.  Run the right instances, get a little luck, and it felt you were handed epics on a platter.  An environment with no risk and constant reward is simply not sustainable.

So in turn they’ve turned the virtual screws to our characters, making us fight hard to earn those 346 level items.  The ramp up in difficulty between normal and heroic is like stepping off a cliff if you are not prepared for it.  However, if you go into the dungeon with your brains and a balanced group it is very much accomplishable.  We are having to relearn the community how to play the game as a whole.

As I have said before, Wrath caused us to get soft as players.  The easy train was fun while it lasted, but now it is time to buckle down and work for it.  Wouldn’t you rather feel like you had earned your gear, and had to fight your way through a dungeon rather than steamrolling it and getting free loot?  I found the roflstomp era of dungeon running to be boring and completely without skill.  Now we as players are getting to stretch those muscles we have let atrophy for so long, and honestly for me at least it feels good.

I think with this expansion, Blizzard is trying to retrain it’s community and make them better players.  I applaud that they have the courage to do so, and not simply kowtow to the complaints.  Only time will see if they stick by this new mission. For the sake of the game and its future I hope they do.  While Wolfshead Online called Cataclysm the worst expansion of MMO History, I think its more a matter of this is the most ambitious.  They set out not only to change their game world, but at the same time their gaming community.

I hope for the sake of WoW they Succeed

Heirlooms and JP: A Random Complaint

It has been just shy of a month since the release of Cataclysm, and I have already reached that stage where Justice Points are now completely meaningless on my current main, Belgrave.  I’ve run up an additional character to 85, my shaman, and he is nearing the point of being fully heroic geared as well.  So as a result, rather than race changing my druid Loamis, I rerolled a brand new baby worgen Belgarou.

Papa Needs his Medicine

F5A1205B808F4FE5C0DC80CDBF5638EF I am a fairly lazy person, so if there is a way to level a character faster without the hassle of constantly swapping gear then by all means I am going to do it that way.  So obviously my first thought was… grab some heirlooms.  I had a set of shoulders, chest, and trinket over on my 70 dwarf rogue, so I stripped them off for the time being. 

Being melee centric, the most important heirloom to me has always been the weapon.  Always having a weapon with the stats of a blue at your level is the most game changing item you can get for a character.  While a feral druid doesn’t rely on their weapon nearly as much as traditional melee, it was still something I definitely wanted to lock down.  Even in the brand new Worgen starter zone, and repopulated night elf zones the starter weapons have generally been crap.  So I quickly browsed out to wowhead to find out how many of those JP daddy warbucks (Belgrave), would have to spend on the new member of the tribe.


wtf Yeah, I know that is not the most intelligible heading but that is exactly what I felt.  I really had not paid attention to heirloom prices since the swap from a tier based token economy to the new point based one.  Needless to say I was completely shocked at the insane price gouging going on to get your alts some gear.  Primarily when contrasted with the price of heroic level blues (346) it is just truly insane.  Let me give you some examples of the prices.

Heroic Level Blues (346)

  • Offhand Item / Shield – 950 JP
  • Neck – 1250 JP
  • Gloves – 1650 JP
  • Belt – 1650 JP
  • Shoulders – 1650 JP
  • Chest – 2200 JP
  • Helm – 2200 JP
  • Legs – 2200 JP

Heirloom Items (1-80 Range)

  • Shoulders – 2175 JP
  • Chest – 2175 JP
  • One Handed Weapons – 2175 JP
  • Trinket – 2725 JP
  • Two Handed Weapon – 3500 JP

Seeing the disconnect? I think you do.  The cheapest heirlooms (that cap out at level 80 mind you) are just 25 JP cheaper than the most expensive heroic level blues.  So we are supposed to be paying way more per item than we pay for the gear that allows our characters to raid?  I realize, that I said at the beginning of this post that my justice points are meaningless at this point, and as one of the most geared tanks in my guild I will be running the hell out of instances for a long long while to assist in gearing everyone else.

However, not everyone will be having that dilemma.  We have a good number of players in our guild that are not near as focused on gearing up a “main” first, and as a result spend a good deal of time playing around on lower level alts.  While I am not expecting blizzard to hand us heirlooms in a silver envelope in the mailbox, I just think the pricing currently is way out of line.

Fear for the Future

47746-bigthumbnail One of the things I really enjoyed during the wrath era is the fact that as the life span of the expansion extended, it became easier to catch players up enough to be useful in raids.  With a few weeks worth of work, you could take a green level 80 and get them enough gear to be able to survive in Icecrown.  I’ve enjoyed the fact that upgrades so far have been hard to come by, and require actual work to get, however I am starting to feel the echo of burning crusade.

During the burning crusade era, with the various gating mechanics (attunements), and difficulty to gear up, it became very difficult to replace vacancies in your raid.  We for example are a group of mostly 30 somethings, with families, and jobs, and real life that sometimes intervenes in our game time.  As a result sometimes a player has to leave the active raid through no real fault of their own. 

During the Burning Crusade era, once we moved past tier 4 content, this was a massive tragedy as it meant we either had to step back and spend time running lower level raid content or try and steal a member of another raid that was already at our gear level.  Due to these problems, the raid climate on my server was very back biting and vicious.  Every raid leader was forced to steal from others to survive and keep the home fires burning.  Wrath thankfully made it much easier to find a player with a good attitude, but lacking gear and catch them up enough to start contributing to the whole.

Enough Beating Around the Bush

coyote-bush1 My big fear is that as blizzard decommissions the 359 gear, and moves on to the next tier that based on the current heroic blue prices, the justice point cost will be astronomically high.  We will be right back to Burning Crusade, an expansion where I ran Karazhan every Sunday for literally 2 years just to get players enough gear to begin raiding.  The gearing grind is fun to do once, but not much fun when you have to keep dragging your friends through it.  I came out of the Burning Crusade era very bitter about all the things I had to do on a regular basis just to keep raiding functional.

I Really Hope Blizzard Knows What They are Doing

Fear and Loathing in Heroics

It has been nearly a month since the release of cataclysm, and one thing is certain… we aren’t in Kansas anymore.  Long gone is the wrath era of brute forcing instances with easy AOE tanking.  Long gone is the era of healers being able to spam the tank through anything.  What is left in its wake is a series of instances that require actual forethought and planning to complete them successfully.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a real reluctance in my guild at least, to run heroics.  There is a certain amount of fear surrounding them, so this has created a divide between the haves and have-nots.  There is a group of stubborn individuals that have waded waist deep in the heroic madness and as a result have come out extremely well geared replacing every slot with heroic level items or at best epics.

The other group of players, has timidly stuck their feet in the water only to get them chopped off.  During the wrath era we as a player base were used to steamrolling content without really trying.  Instead we have returned to the burning crusade style of dungeon running, where even in great gear you can wipe quickly if you don’t keep focused.  I come to tell you all there is hope, so long as you approach these instances with patience and understanding that you will be wiping, you can walk away with upgrades and more importantly experience.

Forming the Party

Back in June of 2009, I created a series of blog posts that I titled Groupcraft 101.  It covered the key skills needed to successfully form groups, and for the most part everything I said then applies today.  However during the wrath era, crowd control was an unneeded hindrance to generating threat on multiple targets.  So as a result we pushed hard through the instances, tanking them by the seat of our pants.  Today, party balance is more important than it ever was.

Get the Tank and Healer First

The key to forming a group fast is to lock down your tank and healer roles first.  Generally speaking as a tank, I have a good working relationship with all the guild healers and many of the server community ones.  As a result it becomes trivial for me to find a healer willing to run an instance.  As a DPS however you need to keep lists of both tanks and healers. 

What I find works best is to message the healers and tanks directly.  In general, your tanks and healers stay busy the majority of the time.  I know personally I am unlikely to notice a request in open guild chat or chat channels.  When I am not tanking an instance, I am furiously working on dailies.  As a result it tends to work best to message the tanks and healers directly.

Get Balanced DPS

Now that you have your tank and healer, its time to move onto picking out some dps.  In general once you have the core of your group locked down, picking up a few dps goes quickly.  There are definitely some things you need to think about while forming your party.  Firstly try and make as balanced a group as possible.

Pointers for a Balanced Group
  • Choose a good mixture of both ranged and melee
  • Make sure you have at least 2 forms of crowd control
  • Try and choose 3 different classes for your dps
  • Try and choose a mix of plate, mail, leather and cloth classes to limit loot contention
  • Make sure you state what you are expecting out of the players up front

Know your Crowd Control

Now that you have a well balanced group formed it is important that you understand what each of the classes brings to the table.  In wrath, our dps were essentially big dumb cannons and all that we really cared about was how much raw damage they could push.  In cataclysm, a player needs to be able to master all of the abilities of their class.  Interrupts need to be applied often, enrage effects need to be tranquilized and most importantly all of the crowd control methods need to be mastered.  Here is a quick rundown of various classes and what kinds of crowd control they can bring to the table.


  • Chains of Ice – While not a solid form of crowd control, can be used to help kite mobs for the party.  Kiting a hard hitting mob has become a very viable way to help break up the damage being dealt to the tank.


  • Entangling Roots – Rooting melee mobs is a very effective way of locking something down.  Breaks unpredictably, so druid will need to watch it and be prepared to reapply.
  • Hibernate – Very effective way of keeping a beast or dragonkin locked down for 40 seconds.
  • Cyclone – Locks target down for 6 seconds, mana intensive and needs to be reapplied often.  Very susceptible to diminishing returns.


  • Freezing Trap – One of the most versatile means of locking down a target, with the right talents a hunter can even keep two targets trapped at once.
  • Wyvern Sting – Puts target to sleep for 30 seconds, however the cool down is 1 minute.  Good to use as a CC for when something breaks unexpectedly.


  • Polymorph – The traditional pinnacle of crowd control.  Stable, can be reapplied quickly, and works on both beasts and humanoids.
  • Frost Nova – Freezes all targets near caster for 8 seconds.  Not stable CC, but great for stopping incoming damage in a pinch.
  • Ring of Frost – Improved version of frost nova, places target on ground and freezes everything in it for 10 seconds.  Again handy for stopping damage from unexpected adds and giving time for more stable cc to be applied.


  • Repentance – Retribution paladins can lock down demons, dragonkin, giants, humanoids and undead for 1 minute.  Negative is that the cool down is also 1 minute, so it cannot be reapplied early to keep a target locked down.
  • Hammer of Justice – Stuns target for 6 seconds.  Great for stopping incoming damage and buying time to lock the target down with another form of crowd control.
  • Turn Evil – Fears a demon or undead for up to 20 seconds.  Not the most stable crowd control but great in a pinch, and in areas without large number of adds.  Remember using this one alot on the Moroes fight in Karazhan.


  • Shackle Undead – definitive undead crowd control.  Shackles a target for 50 seconds, can be repplied early to keep a mob locked down for longer.
  • Mind Control – For dps priest, this is a great way to keep the most annoying mob in the pack locked down. Lasts up to 30 seconds, cannot be reapplied early so a stun or similar short term CC might be needed to allow priest to reacquire.
  • Psychic Scream – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds.  Great way to get targets off of the priest temporarily, or scatter unexpected adds long enough to allow dps to finish off a current target.
  • Psychic Horror – Causes target to tremble in fear for 3 seconds, and disarms them for 10 seconds.  Another short term crowd control.


  • Sap – Incapacitates a beast, demon, dragonkin or humanoid for 1 minute.  Negative is that it cannot be reapplied.
  • Blind – Incapacitates a target for 10 seconds.  Great short term crowd control.
  • Gouge – Incapacitates a target for 4 seconds.  Another good short term stun.
  • Kidney Shot – Stuns a target for up to 6 seconds (dependant on combo points).
  • Cheap Shot – Stuns a target for 4 seconds.  Not extremely useful as it is an opener from stealth, but if desperate to buy the party a few seconds of time this paired with a vanish can help separate a pack.


  • Bind Elemental – New to Cataclysm, works like Shackle Undead but for Elementals. Binds target elemental for 50 seconds, can be reapplied early.
  • Hex – The Sturdy "sheep".  Transforms target Humanoid or Beast into a frog for 1 minute.  45 second cool down so if you are careful you can reapply early.  Fairly resistant to occasional AOE damage.
  • Earthbind Totem – Falls into the same category as chains of frost, useful for slowing mobs while kiting.


  • Fear – When glyphed this because a great crowd control.  Causes target to be feared in place for 20 seconds.
  • Enslave Demon – Controls a demon for up to 5 minutes.  Great way to remove a mob from the pack and turn it into a pet.
  • Banish – Banishes a Demon or Elemental for up to 30 seconds.
  • Death Coil – Fears target for 3 seconds, great way to temporarily reduce damage to the party.
  • Seduction – Succubus is able to seduce a target humanoid for 30 seconds.


  • Intimidating Shout – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds.  Short term crowd control.
  • Intercept – Charges to target and stuns them for 3 seconds.  Short term crowd control/interrupt.
  • Hamstring – Slows target movement by 50%, useful for letting a warrior kite a mob away.

Sheep the Moon

Now that you are comfortable with all the possible crowd control options at your disposal, it is time to think about how you plan on marking the targets.  Its important to set up a scheme, and assign certain players certain symbols.  I’ve been in groups that randomly mark targets with no real semblance of order.  The problem with this is that each pull you end up having to explain what the targets mean, which slows down the run.

If you choose a stable symbology, it allows you to mark the targets quickly, and the crowd control to know immediately which target they should focus on.  For example, I always mark sheep or hex with the moon and I always use square for the trap.  This allows players in the guild to have an understanding of how I will always mark the targets.

Equally as important as is to agree on some method of pulling.  When on ventrilo I usually give my CC a countdown of “pulling in 3, 2, 1”.  When running with a hunter, since trapping takes some setup time, we often agree CC on hunter trap.  Regardless of what you choose, it is important to explain to your party what methodology you plan on using, and stick to it from pull to pull.

Pass the Prozac

With all of the above taken care of we move on to the final and most important thing to a successful heroic.  Stay calm, be patient, and understand that more than likely you will be wiping more than once during the course of your heroic.  My first time in Stonecore, we wiped 3-4 times per boss while we were getting used to it, and I still considered it a very successful run.  So long as everyone stays calm and focused on the fights you will recover quickly from any mishaps and keep progressing forward.

Cataclysm has been a return to the core fundamentals of instancing, and with it there have been alot of growing pains especially for those who never spent time wiping in burning crusade heroics.  Truth be told, wrath was an extremely easy expansion, and as a whole it made even us veteran players soft.  There is alot of things we all will have to unlearn and or relearn.  I know personally I have to stay in contact with my healer and watch my cool downs anytime unexpected bursts of damage come in, or the healer runs into mana shortages.  Likewise the DPS needs to do everything they can to reduce the damage they are potentially taking, and stay in communication with the group as a whole to make sure crowd control targets are covered and kept locked down.

So long as your group is able to keep a level head, and is willing to constantly keep adapting and learning you will quickly get used to the ramped up difficulty.  Last night I gathered a group of guild members and managed to run 3 heroics in a row with only one wipe due to a bad pull.  Each of us have been running heroics on a daily basis, and as a result we are used to the ebb and flow of the instances, and now know which mobs to crowd control, which to kill first, and which to try and avoid.  Before long your own groups will move as smoothly, and your gear score will improve with the influx of new heroic items.

Stay Calm, Be Patient, and Stay Focused on the Objectives