I’ve been reading through the reactions to the upcoming 4.2 nerf. Lot of talk about how people are relieved that it’s coming, and seemingly a lot of guilt about how people feel they aren’t performing.

Then there are some of the comments.

What the fuck.

There’s some talk about how “nerfing stuff makes it too easy” and “it’s not like the old days”.

You mean the old days like MC? Where bosses have fewer mechanics and abilities than an average mob in grim batol, much less raid trash? Or BWD, which was more of the same with more damage and trash? Or AQ40, which was BWD with occasional insta-wipe conditions? If you presented an updated (in terms of hp and damage) version of those raids to players at the moment, they’d laugh you out of business.

There’s a lot of talk about BC being the golden age of raiding. From what I’ve seen of BC raids, they’re extremely irritating even at the level cap due to their mechanics. However, their complexity still isn’t up to the level of Cata, or even (heresy!) most of ICC.

Let’s break the idea of difficulty down a little. Difficulty comes in three flavours:

  • Complexity. This determines how many actions and factors the raid will have to react to. Complexity has steadily ramped up from vanilla. Ragnaros in MC had around 7 mechanics to deal with. In FL he has over 40, with more in heroic. No nerfs have ever touched this aspect, and it’s why some groups still fail in nerfed t11 raids.
  • Forgivability. Some mechanics have harsher penalties than others. Not gonging Atramedes’ Searing Flames is a wipe. Running through his discs just makes your healers very unhappy up to the moment where you suffer a critical existence failure. Some aspects of this were nerfed in t11, but most weren’t.
  • Numerical. Base damage and hp of the enemy. This is where the big news happens. It’s also the easiest form of difficulty to counter.

Old content can largely be facerolled because we have absolute superiority in at least one category – the last. However, even that superiority evaporates if the players don’t account for the other two attributes.

Let’s talk about the players’ side for a minute. There are a number of different aspects that make a good player:

  • Engagement. The biggest problem that players doing current or nerfed content will have deals with whether they’re interested. None of the other aspects matter without this… losing engagement is where raiders stop showing up or stop performing because “it’s only t11” or “we’re doing Rag for the 8th week in a row, I couldn’t care less”.
  • Effort. This ties in with the point above. The most technically competent player in the world isn’t going to be any use unless they actually buckle down and apply that skill.
  • Competency. Everyone has a skill cap. This can be increased, but innate ability always counts. This can vary vastly between encounters and roles. The best way to deal with deficiencies in this area is to work on…
  • Experience. With Cata, blizzard focussed a lot of their effort on new players and new alts. Most of the blogs I’ve read sort of take this for granted, and that’s what gets me really annoyed. If you’ve done something a million times, if you’ve seen it done a thousand times, if you’ve got experience that you can apply… everything is a little bit easier. It’s harder to measure, because some people learn better than others, but it has more effect than some people assume.
  • Gear. Yes, it matters. No, not as much as some people think, but it’s still the easiest way to counter type 3 difficulty*.
  • Co-ordination. This is less of a personal and more of a group issue, but a player who can co-ordinate well with others will always be more of an asset than a hero player who doesn’t.

Now, here’s the thing. Those encounters being nerfed? They wouldn’t be the same fights without complexity. There’s no good way to remove a mechanic and expect the fight to work the same way. So Blizzard’s doing what they can, and concentrating on numeric fixes. This inherently affects the forgivability of some mechanics. However, the point is that the mechanics are going to stay the same. If you want it different, that’s what heroic is for.

Heroic raiding shouldn’t be for everyone, indeed, but when non-heroic modes are hard enough that a lot of guilds are stalling out on them, doing the same 3 bosses every week**, you’re not looking at content – you’re looking at a reason to leave, because it’s not your game.

Tier 11 was nerfed less quickly, but tier 11 also had more content. Especially now, when people are tearing their eyes out at the thought of seeing the loading screen for ZA/ZG for the millionth time, Blizzard needs people to be able to see as much content as they can. If that means faster nerfs, then fine. In a tier with fewer bosses, where people are gearing slower on points and on drops, and where burning out is very real and very present? Go right ahead! For the love of heaven, anything not to feel like it’s the same brick wall every week.

The raid finder sounds like it should alleviate some of this, partly because the “real” raids wouldn’t need to be nerfed as fast if it provides an easier experience and partly because it’d provide a training ground for less experienced raiders, especially the guys who don’t get much of a chance to get off the bench. Until that’s out, though, I really do think that it’s justifiable to nerf at this stage, “hardcore” players be damned.


* not the best way. that’s more often looking into rotation and priority, especially while moving, and trying to understand your talent tree rather than just lumping points in.

** as my former guild does.


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