The recent release of patch notes detailing the 4.2 updates to 359 raids has seen a huge outcry. It has been so vocal that it has pushed me into the WoW blog scene. I want to express my support for these changes and argue that they are an appropriate and logical move on behalf of Blizzard.
I think what is important is to look at the content model which Blizzard is aiming for with the release of 4.2. I believe the important distinction here is between preparatory content and current content. We saw this through Wrath and it was explicitly stated several times in the time leading up to Cataclysm. The most obvious expression of this model is the Justice Point/Valor Point system. The idea for Cataclysm has always been to use JP (preparatory) content to get ready for VP (current) content.
Let’s have a look at a timeline:
|Patch||Preparatory Content||Current Content|
1I do consider 353 dungeons current content. They require skill to complete and 140 VP per run is significant.
2More on 372 as current content later.
Now that we have a model for considering content, let’s have a look at what it means for the recently released notes. As you can see, these nerfs affect only preparatory content and, significantly, not the current content, including 372 raids. Blizzard is implementing a system under which only current content need be difficult to any real degree. The purpose of the preparatory content, at whatever level, is not to challenge anyone so much as it is to gear up quickly and efficiently for current content.
The decay of current content has always been a factor, as is referenced by Bashiok here. Blizzard is merely streamlining the process by which a newcomer to the raiding scene arrives at current content. Rather than progressing tier by tier as in the Burning Crusade model (lamented by TotalBiscuit here) only two tiers are relevant at a given time, preparatory and current. Many people play MMOs for the endgame, I know I do. Blizzard is defining endgame as “current content” rather than “multi-tiered, max-level raiding.”
This redefinition does have the potential to shorten the endgame. This is essentially TotalBiscuit’s argument when he says that Blizzard is moving towards a “single dungeon per tier” model. The counter-point to this statement is that 372 raids aren’t being touched. T11 raids are in fact still current, but only in the heroic format, which was always intended to be the difficult version. To argue that the entire raid is obsolete is simply ignoring the design intent behind the normal/heroic toggle.
One can claim that a second time running “the same content [...] with minor bells and whistles added to it, regardless of how challenging it actually is” isn’t good design. I think this comes at it from the wrong perspective. 372 simply allows T11 raids to remain relevant longer. The 359 version has been moved to preparatory and guilds that want more than 7 bosses a week of current content should really be looking at 372. There remains an outstanding question: Will 372 raids continue to reward VP in 4.2. I would suggest that they should, but we will see what Blizzard does.
A relevant question is whether the population is ready for this shift. Looking at the numbers from WoWProgress, yes they are. We can see that full 2/3 of the raiding population is 9/12 which corresponds to killing all but the end bosses. With 50% of guilds killing Cho’gall, it is fair to say that at this point, the average raider has at least begun to work on those final three. That seems a good time to move on. If we see 4.2 within the next month or two, Mr. Average J. Raider will be just finishing up, probably trying to get in that pre-nerf Nef kill. And he is without question one tough dragon so I think it fair that that be a non-given.
Looking at the full spectrum of both 359 and 372, you actually see a fairly smooth curve. There are some distinct groupings which are of interest. TotalBiscuit describes “absolutely massive drops” but doesn’t seem to understand the order of progression. He compares the kill rates of Cho’gall 359 (50%) and Halfus 372 (28%), ignoring that most guilds go from Cho’gall to Al’akir (37%) to Nefarian (30%) to Halfus (28%) which is actually a quite subtle decline. The jump to Chimaeron (18%) is much more significant but still not the largest. The truly “very very large drop” of current content is Ascendant Council (66%) to Cho’gall (50%).
Having demonstrated that current content is not in fact being shortened so much as shifted, I would like to discuss the other main argument against the 4.2 nerfs. I have read time and again that WoW is “catering to the bads” or the like. The question is: who will these changes affect?
1. Bads. Yes, that 1/3 of raiding guilds who have started (killed Magmaw) but not finished (killed Cho’gall and working on Al’Akir/Nef) the 359 raids will get a boost through the end. These are the players potentially labeled “bads.” What do they get from the change? Full clears of raids we have all been running for months, a title, and a guild mount. The standard argument of “why do you care?” applies. Top guilds will be in Firelands on day 1 anyway and will have new shiny epics with which to polish their e-peen. And again, this is no different from heroic Lich King kills after Cataclysm hit except for the time frame.
2. New players and alts. 20% hits to hp and damage bring 359 raids nearly in line with 346 dungeons. DPS requirements will drop for around 13,000 to 10,000 which is nearly achievable in quest gear. 359 raiding will now be a viable alternative to 346 dungeons when gearing up immediately after hitting 85. This is in line with the model proposed above and I believe the true aim of these changes.
I believe the problem was the statement by Nethaera that “These changes will allow players, groups, and guilds who have yet to experience the content in Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight, and Throne of the the Four Winds an opportunity to do so.” This is not, I believe, the intended goal of the changes. The statement unnecessarily fostered the idea of “catering to bads.” The current model is a good one and there’s no need to hide it.
To be frank, who cares if the “bads” clear 359? They’ll get it eventually regardless, and this change will be nice for any newly 85 toons. The current content remains difficult, as it should, and the ease of preparatory content keeps the ramp up time for new players/toons to a minimum which is laudable. Bring on the nerfs!