Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Not Join the Age of PUG Raiding?

Fedaykin, a longtime commenter on this blog, makes an interesting suggestion on my post about patch 3.1 from yesterday.
This is really the age of PUG raiding, so given your interest in content and upgrading your gear, you should look into them. Some are bound fail, but the content is pretty easy right now.

It's interesting, and perhaps especially relevant for me this morning, as Anub'arak finally coughed up the [Rod of the Fallen Monarch] I've been chasing. This marks the final item on any heroic 5-man drop table that would see immediate use in my spell hit set (which is now entirely ilvl 200 blues and purples).

Other folks' damage meters have recorded me in the 1900+ DPS range (presuming my elemental lives, AI and Molten Armor but no consumables) using a Frost-based Frostfire spec that the devs acknowledge is not competitive, so I should be able to deliver at least 2.5K-3K raid buffed DPS in a cookie cutter frostfire spec. That should be more than enough to get me into the many pugs that form up on my server. So, why NOT do PUG raids?

The Pain
As I've experienced, PUG members, occasionally including myself in all fairness, can do some pretty stupid things. This isn't any more or less true for raids, except that the content is slightly harder. I have no idea how successful the pug 10- and 25- man raids are on my server, but I'll guess that they fall into one of two categories:

- Can't get it together to kill even a single boss, disbanding with a repair bill (and possibly a week-long raid lockout)
- Overgear the instance and zerg down every boss on 1-2 tries using strats that most of the group already knows.

The former would be painful, but the latter might paradoxically be just as disappointing for me.

The Challenge?
I used to be a 40-man raider once upon a time. When my old guild, the Phoenix Syndicate of Hyjal, fell apart, I left the game to go spend some time in Middle Earth. When I came back, I didn't know precisely WHAT I wanted to do, but I knew that I didn't like what raiding did to my real life schedule. However, where was the challenge in the game, if I'd already topped out on reputations and solo content?

For me, the answer was gear. How close to the top of the line could I get on my own terms? In TBC, the answer was closer than I would have thought. Through battleground PVP, and those possibly over-powered BOP Tailoring epics, my mage would not have needed almost anything in Tier 4 raiding. Meanwhile, I was able to take a Pally alt I'd never even bothered to get to level 60 before the expansion and get him enough gear to qualify as an uncrushable raid tank (with the minor caveat that I'd never tanked anything bigger than an outdoor group quest boss before) without setting foot in an instance.

Now let's say that I managed to join that perfect dream of a 25-man Naxx Pug. Within an evening, the place lies dead (again) at our feet, 20+ emblems of valor (which I'm otherwise earning at a rate of 2 per week from Archavon) in my pockets, and maybe a few /random rolls for the very best drops currently in the game. That should be a triumph - suddenly I'd be standing at the top of the hill. But would I really feel that I had accomplished something?

In that kind of situation, I wouldn't really even have time to learn 15 fights in an evening. I'd just be doing my best to follow directions from the people who'd been there before. Perhaps, if I did it repeatedly, I'd eventually be able to learn the zone and be one of the people carrying the next generation of new PUG raiders. And sure, I wouldn't have gotten that group invite if I hadn't done the work that I have done to date.

But would it really feel like an accomplishment? Or just like the game that I used to play, of trying to make the best of the content that I can do on my schedule, was a waste of time? Why hope that one day there might be a daily with a chance at solo emblems of heroism when I could be mowing down Naxx for 20?

Striking a better balance between difficulty and reward
The ironic thing about my Azjol-Nerub run from last night is that it wasn't the smoothest run ever. The dungeon in question has about three trash pulls to go with its three bosses, and can be steamrolled through in about half an hour by a good (read: overgeared) group. Last night's wasn't one of those runs - it took us three attempts to kill the first boss, two to beat the second, and something like 5 to kill the final boss. The irony being that this "bad" PUG experience would actually have been a great day in 40-man raiding; I remember spending whole nights repeatedly wiping while we worked on the pull for some encounters.

Perhaps the content in Naxx-10 is actually at a point where pugging it will be more like a 5-man run that actually has to work for the loot than a 40-man wipe fest. Or perhaps the solution is for me to try and find time for some guild raids, so that at least I can view the time/gold spent on the attempt as a social event and a contribution to the guild community.

(The downside there is that the guild really doesn't seem to need more DPS available most nights. We're in that weird middle ground that happens to guilds our size where we don't have enough tanks and healers for a second Naxx RaidID, but we have to leave a lot of DPS on standby when we're only running one. Our raid leader is doing a great job with it - /wave Anni if you're reading this - it's just a quirk of having the main raid in the expansion be a 10-man dungeon with a week-long save state. I'm not sure it would actually be fair or responsible of me to ask to be included in the rotation for a random night every other week when it means that other players who can actually commit to a more reasonable schedule would be left on standby.)

Either way, I'm not quite ready to jump into the Age of PUG Raiding just yet. Ah well, at least I have other things I'm working on, and vague plans/hopes for the badges I'll be earning in the mean time.


Anonymous said...

You make a good point that zerging through Naxx25 one-shotting every boss with a PUG (which is exactly what I did last week) doesn't carry with it the sense of accomplishment that struggling a bit before succeeding does.

To give some reference, the first Naxx25 PUG I ran with, pretty early on in Wrath, needed several shots at most of the bosses. I'm not sure how many we one-shotted, if any. I think this was the server first PUG of Naxx25. I know we wiped on Patchwerk and Grobbulus several times, especially Patchwerk.

The second PUG I ran with was much smoother, but wiped two or three times on Thaddius before downing him, and then clearing the rest of the instance.

So even in a successful PUG, there's often that middle ground between total fail and auto-pilot loot pinata.

Two more notes: A lot of the better PUGs are led by the same person on the same day every week, and often advertised in the individual realm forums (the only official forums I'll look at). Many of them are "hosted" by guilds that are not quite big enough to do their own 25s. Runs like that, with a core of strong raiders from one guild, tend to be fairly successful.

Give it a shot some night when you have a kitchen pass and some time on your hands - if nothing else, you can write about it here! :)


Race said...

I wish the 25 man version was actually harder than 10 man. Make it 'Heroic'

But Blizzard has decided to cater to the casual which is there buisness decision to make. I'd rather see a compromise, where 25 man raids started off tuned much harder and then when the next tier of raid was released they would get nerfed, so the less serious players could still experience them and the more serious raiders would still have a challenge.

Green Armadillo said...

@Fed: Heh, you know, I've never really thought of the blog as a downside guarantee - if what I'm doing now sucks, at least I'll get a post out of it. Guess there's a bright side to everything. :)

@Race: That way is the route they've always gone in the past, and ironically they may be going the opposite direction this time - the mana regen nerfs in the patch could DECREASE accessibility as the content leaves the cutting edge.

In my view, the issue begins and ends with the fact that there's only one full-fledged raid in the expansion. The problem with starting very hard and nerfing later is that you've already slammed people who can't make the cut into the wall and had them quit raiding. It appears that this is what happened in TBC, and that's probably why Blizzard reversed course nearly 100% for the current expansion. What they needed to do was have Naxx in its current form AND a real raid for real raiding heroics ready for launch. Instead, it's looking like they'll need at least 4 months post launch, and that's a long time to leave the more "heroic" (dedicated, etc) crowd hanging.

Daria said...

I see your point totally about PUG raids and I wouldn't want to do them either.

It is satisfying to down bosses with your guild for the first time.
I think your idea of trying to get into your guild's rotation would be a good one.

Raiding is so much different now from the 40-man days, which I used to do as well but got burned out on it. You can spend 3-4 hours of one evening and get a lot of gear drops for that effort.

But I also agree that 25-mans as they stand now are a little too easy, in fact I find them to be easier than the 10-man versions, because people can screw up and you can still pull it out.

Anonymous said...

I expect to see each raiding tier increasing in difficulty. They've said Ulduar will be harder; I expect that Icecrown may be practically impossible to PUG.

I'm cool with that. In the meantime, I think Blizzard started off the right way - instead of smacking people down the first time they try to raid, they are providing the oppotunity to experience success, which reinforces to new raiders that it's a fun and viable activity.

One question that interests me: Tier 4 had 3 raids - Kara, Gruul's, Mag's. Tier 5 had two - TK and SSC. Tier 6 had two - Hyjal and Black Temple. And then there was Sunwell. Oh hey, I forgot about ZA in there as well.

Is there any way that Wrath is going to have as much raid content as BC did? I would say that what we have now is basically equivalent to T4, and most of it is recycled - the rest are all one-boss raids.

We've heard of Ulduar and Icecrown, but what else can we expect? SSC+TK+MH+BT+ZA+SP = 6 fully-featured, multi-boss raids after Tier 4. Right now we're hearing about 2 beyond Tier 7.

Maybe they are planning more? Or maybe they have funnelled some of their people into the next expansion already, to try and get them out on a more regular basis, ala the 1 per year they say they'd like? Food for thought...


Green Armadillo said...

@Daria: Yeah, I've heard the margin of error criticism of current 25-mans from a number of places. Guess we'll have to wait and see how that pans out going forward.

@Fed: First, it's worth noting that there are a total of 10 bosses in SSC and TK. Ulduar has been described as "huge", I thought I heard a similar number of bosses to Naxx, which would make tier 8 as large or larger than tier 5, just all in one zone instead of two. Likewise, Hyjal and Sunwell collectively added up to 11 bosses, while BT offered 9. If Icecrown equals the Black Temple, that only leaves 11ish 25 man bosses unaccounted for.

The missing link is mystery patch 3.2. At Blizzcon last year, Blizzard said that they're planning three content patches, 3.1 has Ulduar, 3.3 has Icecrown (unless it has to be delayed to kill time for the next expansion, they want Arthas to be the final boss of Wrath), and they weren't willing to say anything about 3.2.

I'm pretty sure that they know what they're doing, but aren't talking because mentioning it that far back would spoil some upcoming plotline. Some people think that the Ulduar arc will lead to Uldum in Tanaris, but somehow I suspect that they'll want to provide a change of scenery, rather than more Titan architecture. The Wiki Article also has a quote that it won't be in this expansion.

My best guess is that 3.2 will foreshadow the next expansion somehow. One obvious angle would be to have a raid (and subsequent expansion) that follows the aftermath of the war among the dragonflights. Expansion number three isn't going to have a villian that needs no introduction like Illidan or Arthas, because we've killed all the marquis Warcraft III villians. Having it be the focus of a major patch in Wrath would help set the stage. If I'm right, that means they're holding info on 3.2 until they're ready to formally announce the name of the third expansion.