Sunday, September 19, 2010

Northrend Dungeonmaster Revisited

With Cataclysm fast approaching, I'm working on my pre-expansion "bucket list" - things that won't be possible (or at least won't mean as much) whenever the expansion finally arrives.  Over the weekend, I crossed off one of the major goals, attaining the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement on my Horde warrior alt.  I finished this achievement on my main over a year and a half ago, and times have changed significantly.
  • Back in the days before the dungeon finder, I ended up leveling to 80 without ever finding a group for most of the expansion's dungeons - for a decent number of them, I earned my first clear on heroic mode.  My warrior, on the other hand, finished the dungeon tour with half a bubble of exp to go before hitting level 79, having cleared each zone as the mobs became level-appropriate targets (generally a level or two behind the dungeon finder's minimum requirements, which are a bit generous). 

  • The new system also awards two of the soon-to-be-defunct emblems of triumph for completing your first random non-heroic dungeon of the day.  This netted me 32 emblems and over 100 stone keeper shards, a decent head start on level 80 gear (and/or heirlooms for Horde alts). 

  • Many players were tremendously overgeared for the content, leaving it extremely easy.  In some cases, I'd see multiple level 80's with 5K gearscores (the PUG community threshold for the game's final raid instance, not entry level single group content).  The final dungeon run I finished for the achievement was "healed" by a Feral Druid with a gearscore in the mid-6000's who would occasionally pop out of cat form to throw a renew on the tank. 
In principle, this system provided me with a valuable opportunity to get experience with group content prior to the game's level cap.  In practice, though, I'm not sure that I've been taught especially good behavior.  Some tanks were able to hold aggro even if I ran in and hit Bladestorm on the pull.  Some healers were able to keep me up even if I did manage to get one or more mobs' attention.  This is poor form, but so is coming in behind the tank on the DPS meter in the eyes of many PUGs. 

Blizzard is promising increased difficulty in the dungeons of Cataclysm, but it will be very interesting to see whether and how they are able to deliver.  The difference in item levels between the gear my warrior will have in hand as a freshly dinged 80 and top end raid loot is literally over 100.   If Cataclysm actually does deliver significant increased difficulty, undergeared PUGS may be painful or even impossible in the early days of the expansion. 

The good news is that Blizzard has managed to actually convince me to spend a significant amount of my time while logged into an MMO in actual groups with actual other players.  In terms of both exp and loot, 5-man content is significantly more rewarding than solo quests (ironic given that other, more group-focused games fall short of this bar).  The question is whether they will end up regretting the way in which they got there. 


Carson 63000 said...

You were running these on normal mode, and still getting multiple groupmates with 5-6k gearscore?

Did they try to queue for a heroic and click on the wrong button?

Green Armadillo said...

I think the overgeared folks are generally tanking or healing to help guildmates' DPS alts clear the queue faster. There are relatively few tanks and healers to go around, so maybe it pays to have friends.

Also, what are you going to do with a 5K+ gearscore when it isn't raid night? Spending 75% of your "healing" time in cat form may be the most novel thing you have going.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, the heirlooms are Bind-on-Account....and can be mailed across faction lines....before you buy some heirlooms you already have.

Green Armadillo said...

@anon: Yeah, my warrior lives on another server. I could, in principle, pay for a character transfer to send over a mule with some heirlooms (and then have to pay again if I ever wanted them back). In any case, the honor conversion on stone keeper shards is low enough that I don't see any reason not to cash those in for heirlooms.

Anonymous said...

Make sure you keep in mind that WotLK heirlooms won't work past 80. Cata heirlooms will, but there will be an awkward patch for your alts there.