Friday, December 11, 2015

The Things Warlords Did Right: Non-Linear Raids

With all the bad things people can say about warlords it is very easy to forgot about some of things that the expansion did well.  You can complain about no dailies, no reason to do dungeons after release which valor and it associated gear could have cured early on, no flight at release, ashran not living up to what some people expected and I could go on and on with more, very reasonable, complaints we have heard.  Because of things like those ones I mentioned it is a fairly safe assumption warlords is near the bottom of more than a fair amount of peoples lists, but that does not mean that warlords did not do a few things right.

In the third of a series of posts addressing the things they did right, and only those things, I want to take a look at the boss progression in raids, which in my opinion, was done fairly well this expansion.

Warlords made their raid progression design better this expansion in my opinion.

There might be a lot of things we can pick apart with raids like the fact smaller groups still have a much harder time than larger ones or if you are from the school of thought that believes 20 man only mythic destroyed the average guild but this is not about either of those things or other things that we might find questionable about their raid design.  It is about the one thing I think, hands down, was done well for raiding in warlords, and that is non-linear progression.

Right from the start we were given options about how we would tackle the raids.  After the first boss in highmaul we saw that this raid offered us options, once that you could choose how to progress.  Was your group a powerful damage dealing group but not always the best as special duty detail and avoiding the avoidable?  Go for the Butcher.  Was your group top notch with special duties, then perhaps Brackenspore might be a better way to progresses.  Maybe your group was excellent at avoiding damage but not so much with huge numbers or spot on special duties, than maybe Tectus ha your name written all over him.

Sure you would need to beat all the bosses eventually, but with options like this it allowed your group to play to their strengths and get some gear from the bosses that played to their strengths.  My group was always good at throwing up some large numbers so butcher was a breeze for us, no problem at all, while my friends group which was more a mechanics based group went after tectus first.  They had not problem with him but lots of trouble with butcher while we were the other way around, it took us more than a couple of wipes to down tectus but butcher was a one shot even early on.

A design like that made for an excellent way for each group to design their own progression path.  When the second raid came out blizzard did something they rarely do.  They kept rolling with a good idea.  Usually the best ideas get thrown to the side and forgotten about, think ulduar raid design for a prime example of that.  But blizzard kept up with the choose your own progression path.

While my guild went to Gruul first because we are a DPS heavy group, when we started downing bosses on a regular basis we decided that going to the Hans and Franz wing first was the better idea.  The three bosses in that wing, at least for our make up, were the easiest over all, on top of that, that wing offered 2 chances at tier pieces.  Other groups might have went the beast lord wing first while still others might have done the Gruul one.  For us, as blast furnace was really giving us trouble, even with Gruul and Oregorger being easy, we always saved that for last.

The wings worked well in that sense as people could go with whichever one fits their groups strengths, or they worked so that a starting guild could pick off the first boss of each wing just to get some easy ones out of the way to get more gear for the second bosses of each wing.  It was, in a word, a very solid design.

To add to the wing design and choose who you wish to kill was the quests they added that once you killed the end boss of each wing 4 times in any particular difficulty you could, if you so decided, go directly to the last boss in that difficulty.  This effectively meant that you had full choice in the raid, shoot for the wing you wanted to do, or just go in and kick the big baddies butt and leave.  You decide for your own guilds progression.  Play for kills, play for progression, or play for just going after the bosses that had the loot your group needed to move forward another day.  It gave you choices.

When Hellfire came out you might have thought those options were gone, and to some extent they did seem lesser, but they were not gone.  The first two bosses were the first two bosses, there was nothing you could do about that, but you did have a minor choice after that.  Go to the super super easy Hellfire Loot Council, or the slightly harder but still entry level  Kormrock depending on your groups strengths and weaknesses.

Keeping with the quest to move further design they had in blackrock they added a quest for Gorefiend were if you killed him 4 times you can just warp past him to the upper level.  Although he worked as the old school gate, and a quite difficult one for some groups, where you needed to kill boss A to get to boss B it wasn't just that.   Once you killed him enough you could warp past him as I said, but it also was not an A to B thing, it was kill A to get to B, C, D or E.  Another choice in how you wanted to progress.

You could go to the "this is what addons were made for" Iskar, or to Socrethar and his Mr Roboto so we could kill him for the 4th time, or was it 5th, or you could go to the Fel Lord Zakuun and save Grom when we really should have been killing Grom too, or you could have went to the hardest of the four in Xhul.  You could easily play to the strengths of your group.

Once you picked and choose your way around the upper citadel there was one more boss to kill before moving forward and start working on your second quest boss.  One were if you killed it 4 times you could jump right too him, not past him like Gorefiend but too him.  Either way it gave you yet another way to choose what you wanted to do when you came in to raid.

Do you just want to go to the end and kill the last 2?  Do you want to do the beginning and gear some people up on alts or maybe get those pieces you still have not been lucky enough to see drop (looking at you blademaster)?  Do you want to do the upper and get those bosses you probably have killed the least, maybe a pet to sell from Iskar, or a tier piece from Soc or Zhul, or a trinket in my case from Tyrant?  It is all your choice, you could choose your own progression.

There are a lot of things I could nit pick about when it comes to raiding like the things I mentioned at the start or the random upgrades from warforged or gem slotted gear, but I can never complain about the very good job they did giving us options for our raiding progression this expansion.  Each and every raid had options.  Maybe you liked them, maybe you didn't, but I personally believe this was a step in the right direction for raid design and I really do hope they keep up with it.


  1. You stress that part of the strength of this raid design is the options available and ability for the raid to make decisions that take advantage of their strengths. I think this is spot on, but I think there is a bit more as to why this design was "awesomesauce."

    Where did all the talk of a "wall" boss go? Out the window, that's where. With the linear design of ToT and SoO in MoP (need more abbreviations...), there were bosses that became a brick wall. Raids cleared up to said boss, found they didn't have the dps, mechanical execution, or the right comp to successfully complete the encounter. Suddenly, the team is faced with a choice. You can wipe repeatedly and hard, often knowing your chances of success are slim at best, or you can stop raiding for that week. What an absolutely demoralizing choice to be faced with, but this design choices functions like a pressure valve.

    How many times were you struggling on a boss and making little progress, and the lead suddenly says, "Ok guys and gals. We are done here and going to go over a wing and take down a different boss." No longer, is a raid team forced to bash their heads against an intractable boss again and again until reset. That, more than anything else, I believe gave enough slack that the drastic increase in person responsibility didn't completely blow up teams (though some have not survived or are struggling to survive in that environment). I honestly believe, without this flexible raid design with options and alternate paths, casual raiding would be on life support, not just in the ER like it is now.

    1. Gorefiend is still a wall in HFC and while my guild was lucky enough to 1 shot it the first time we saw it on heroic, how many guilds can say that? And we did not one shot it the second time we killed it, took about 5 tries, we just got lucky. It is, in my opinion, the second hardest boss in the raid on heroic. BF was a wall in BRF as well, but if you did all the wings, at least it was the second to last boss, so it makes some sense. But I agree with where you are going with that train of thought.

      Casual raiding is nearly dead on most servers now it seems. My guild has been on life support all expansion and we were near the top for the last 2 expansions before it. We can not recruit and even when we recruit it is always like starting over and we get nowhere. Raiding is is bad shape right now I personally believe but that has as much to do with losing over 1/2 the subs as the decisions they made.

    2. My casual team did that all through BRF. Get a few attempts on the new boss, and if it doesn't go well, back to the farm bosses so people have a chance at upgrades before we are done for the week. Night and day from the Horridon experience.

    3. It was great to have options this expansion. Horridon was the worst thing to ever happen to raiding. Putting the second hardest boss in the entire raid, that required specific classes to do it, as the second boss of a raid was a horrible idea.

      Took my guild months to get past horridon. Took us three lock out after him to finish the rest of the raid including 1 shots the first time seeing the on half the bosses.

  2. Agreed that Gorefiend was still a wall (although moreso on Mythic, I think, a lot of serious guilds, old guilds just stopped raiding at mythic gorefiend). My group was a normal/heroic only group and that suited me fine (I don't think 100 wipes on one boss is fun. Just not my idea of a good way to spend month of my time).

    My beef with raiding this xpac is that they think it is ok to only give you 2 raid tiers for the most expensive expansion ever and then make you sit on your hands for more than a year.

    The flexibility was nice, and this particular design also let you clear most of the trash before raid with a partial group so that when 9pm hit you were ready to do bosses. I really appreciated that part. I've never thought that trash brought much fun to raiding.

    1. Well I can't say I have tried him on mythic, I have a hard enough time finding 20 warm bodies, never the less 20 I would want to take into mythic, but I have heard horror stories with him.

      There were lots of other little things that were good, like being able to clear all the thrash on the three wings in BRF as you mentioned while waiting to fill up, that was nice.

  3. Agreed, great part of the raids this expansion. Unfortunately the difficulty of normal seemed a step above flex from last expansion. My raid team was easily carrying people through SoO flex, but WoD normal required good raiders and so farewell to friends and family raids...

    1. Normal this expansion was on par with normal last expansion. The problems is normal of last expansion is now called heroic. So effectively normal was heroic difficulty not flex. So I agree, it was really over tuned for friends and family guilds and even more poorly tuned for small groups.

  4. I think Blackrock Foundry really added a good bit to the sense that you were accomplishing something when you killed bosses. If you'd already killed Kromog that week, the spikes on the way down to the Blast Furnace wing were gone. If you'd already killed Blast Furnace, the grate in the room leading to Operator Thogar and Iron Maidens wouldn't burn you anymore. This made it feel like you were actually shutting down the Foundry as you went, and I thought it added a cool bit of flavor to the raid.

    I agree with all of your points about non-linear raiding in WoD. One thing I do hope they fix is the trash in the LFR version. If you did a full clear of BRF LFR, you ended up clearing the trash in the opening room 3 times and receiving exactly zero loot for doing it. I hope they modify this for future raids so you don't have to clear the same trash more than once in LFR.

    I agree with the previous poster that normal seems overtuned in WoD. If you are a friends-and-family guild, or you are a casual guild with a "progress without leaving interested raiders behind" mentality, you're probably going to hit your wall at Gorefiend or somewhere in upper citadel. Normal seems like the bridge to heroic for serious raiders, not progression for a casual friends-and-family group.

    1. Good point about those, it was cool the way they were connected. I remember the first time someone asked why the spikes were not there and I said because we killed that guy already this week. Great point.

      The trash in BRF LFR was done like that on purpose I am sure. But I agree with you, it should have not all be there for every one. It was annoying that if you did the three wings you needed to clear the same trash 3 times. Should have had the left pack for the left one, the right pack for the right one and the side pack and the big roamer for the back right. Or something like that.

      Normal was way harder than friends and family, it was more "friends and family who happen to be at least slightly skilled gamers to begin with" level.

  5. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    From my readings online, raiding in WoD was the one thing most agreed that Blizzard got right about the expansion. Yet even so, it seemed to me a lot of folks still found room to complain. For some there were to many types of raids, all still referencing the same material over and over. For others flex provided far less flexibility than they had hoped for. And opposite that, was the hard number of 20 for Mythic raiding, a goal that was hard for many 10 man guilds to meet.

    The multiplicity of raid types is billed as a selling point, something for everyone (in theory). In practice, it has been less than a perfect division, with LFR a joke to raiders, normal to easy, heroic oft to hard, and mythic impossible to garner the needed 20. The break points of the flex system for normal and heroic also seemed to cause pain for raid leaders, i.e. having to tell a player they were benched because the DPS they would bring would not cover the extra needed for their presence past a certain number of raiders.

    All in all, from the writings of the raiders and raid leaders, I would deem the World of Warcraft raid system much less than perfect. The actual raids in WoD seemed to be pleasingly designed but the system behind the raids not so much.

    1. The raids themselves will not go down as the "best" or "brightest" even if there were some stand out fights, but it was the design of them that was good.

      Flex has done more to hurt raiding than it did to help it. Absolutely.

      Over all raiding was horrible this expansion, the worst it has ever been. But the raid design was really good.