I’m going to be honest with you; I hate the heroic mode toggle in raids. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do heroic modes, nor does it mean I think current raid content shouldn’t be more difficult than current normal modes. It simply means that I don’t enjoy doing the same fight with another twist or two plus everything hitting harder and having more health.

Beru linked to Borsk’s post about the end of his guild’s raiding. A sad thing, to be sure. It’s never easy to throw in the towel and it’s often something that has huge emotional repercussions for all those involved, so my sympathies go out to him. His post, however, is wonderful and he discusses a lot of different things. What really hit me is this, though, which resonated with me greatly:

I look back on TBC fondly because it was the last time when finishing the instance meant finishing the instance.

WORD. He went on to say “From Ulduar on through Firelands the heroic modes felt like a nuisance. While Rhyolith felt like a boss that needed put in his place, Heroic Rhyolith felt like “hey asshole, I’ve already killed you once, just give me my loot.”” Total agreement here.

So let’s discuss my disdain for heroic modes of any kind (for yes, it extends to dungeons as well). It dates back to the introduction of heroic dungeons back in the Burning Crusade. “Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed when I learned that I would “have” to do things like Hellfire Ramparts again at level 70. As a healer, the heroic dungeons of the day were pretty rough, at least to begin with. Heroic Black Morass? God help us all with the running around and the being oom and such. Shattered Halls? Deadly without a prot paladin to adequately AOE all the mobs so the poor healer wouldn’t draw healing aggro.

And even when I WAS geared, I couldn’t properly heal Magister’s Terrace. Without Beacon, with Holy Shock being a terrible option to use, most times, no Word of Glory or Light of Dawn or Holy Radiance… I mean, I was sitting there in mostly T5 gear and I couldn’t properly heal through the Kael encounter on NORMAL, much less heroic.

I disliked this model so much that I basically refused to do them. To this day, my paladin is still not exalted with the Sha’tar. I did what was needed of me for attunements and such, but people would laugh at others in guild if they were silly enough to say “Kurn, wanna heal a heroic??”

Wrath came around and regular dungeons were stupidly easy. I remember being on my hunter in Gundrak and trying to trap mobs like the pro that I am and tanks laughing at me.

So heroic dungeons in Wrath were tolerable, especially late in the expansion when everyone could faceroll them. To me, they felt like normals should have, shortly after launch. Their difficulty, even the “hard” ones, like Heroic Halls of Lightening and, later, Heroic Halls of Reflection, weren’t so terribly bad. (Not to say pugging them was always a walk in the park.)

And then they introduced raid hard modes with Ulduar.

I liked it, to an extent. On the one hand, they gave us more challenges and more dynamic fights to extend our playtime in there because it’s cheaper than making a brand new raid. Same trash, same maps, just different boss mechanics depending on various factors.

I was okay with this. I loved how to trigger the hard modes. XT hardmode was an excellent example. If you didn’t have the DPS to kill the heart, you’d never have to worry about switching it on accidentally. Flame Leviathan, while being able to choose a variety of difficulties, was awful because it stemmed from talking to one of two dudes and then bringing down or ignoring various towers. By contrast, how great was it to know that if you accidentally hit the big red button in Mimiron’s room, that your raid was probably about to die hideously?

I also really liked the Iron Council switch — couldn’t be simpler. Kill Steelbreaker last and that’s your hard mode. Similarly, Freya’s hardmode meant not killing her adds in the room. The switch was very simple on some fights and more obscure or complicated on others. And the levels of difficulty were really interesting from a tuning perspective.

Then Trial of the Crusader/Grand Crusader arrived with its four separate lockouts and a simple menu button to toggle it on or off. Simple, yes. Boring? Absolutely. It doesn’t help that the raid itself was mind-numbing. It taught me to appreciate trash, that’s for sure.

Again, I can’t fault them for the change because I am positive people gave a lot of feedback about how someone screwed up the triggering of heroic mode (or not) and such in Ulduar. Shoot, I probably did. When the weekly raids were introduced and people were exposed to the fights for the first time, I was like “Oh nooooooooo,” when I pugged into a Flame Leviathan where someone had talked to the wrong NPC and OH HEY, we’re doing FOUR TOWER Flame Leviathan!

So while it was easy to make the switches, it was also really easy to screw it up.

Then they realized that the four lockouts was just insane, thankfully, so they brought it back to one lockout per raid size (and now, in Cata, it’s just one lockout, period) with the heroic toggle in the menu.

And through it all, I’m still wondering why the hell we’re “forced” to go through each instance twice.

Now this doesn’t mean I don’t do heroic modes. I went 4/5 25m in TOGC. I went 11/12 25m HM with two guilds in ICC. I have my 25m ICC drake and my Glory of the Icecrown Raider 25. I went 7/13 25m HM with Apotheosis in Tier 11.

Why do I do it if I hate them so much?

In part, it’s because it’s THERE. I’m a competitive person and if there’s something to DO, I’m going to want to do it, whether or not I like the idea of it.

In part, it’s because the step up in terms of gear is great and necessary for when you embark on the next tier of content. Face it, if you’re decked out in 372s instead of 359s, you’re going to have a much easier time in Firelands to collect your 378s. And when you’re decked out in 391s, you’ll have an easier time in the next tier compared to the people in 378s. Those 13 item levels may not seem like much, but that’s the difference between heroic blues and Tier 11 gear. It makes a difference on your mana pool, your healing done, damage done, your sustained efforts.

So I do them because I know that my guild will be stronger for the next tier or the next fight or whatever. Logically, I can see that heroics fill a needed step in the gear progression.

I also do it because that’s just how progression works these days and, though I dislike how it works right now, I’m in that system and I want to progress. I want the heroic kills under my belt because they’re in the game. But I promise you, I would be a thousand times happier to kill Ragnaros, as we did last week, and know that we were now ready for the next boss in a new instance. That’s what happened in Vanilla — people cleared Molten Core a few times then moved to Blackwing Lair, then moved to The Temple of Anh’Qiraj, then to Naxxramas. It was a very linear progression.

It was even mostly linear in Burning Crusade.

You started in Karazhan and started to collect gear and some Tier 4. And once you were geared enough, you could join a 25-man team and — wait.

I feel the need to express how RIDICULOUS it was to start raiding content with 10-man groups and then move to 25-man raids. It was excruciating for us to gear everyone up for Gruul and Magtheridon and, as such, I can’t stand Karazhan any more. Which is a shame. I quite liked it, at the time. For a little while, anyway.

So, right, you went to Kara and then, to keep raiding, had to go to 25-man raids, where you would do Gruul’s Lair and Magtheridon’s Lair.

Once done, you’d move into Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern, consisting of a total of 10 bosses in the two instances. And once Kael and Vashj were dead, they were dead! None of this heroic crap.

Then on to Mount Hyjal and Black Temple and, eventually, Sunwell.

Borsk is right — finishing a raid instance back then meant something. Now it just means that the grind starts all over again, only things hit harder and have more health.

This is not remotely interesting to me.

The reasons for heroic modes are understandable, however. You have all this time and these resources being poured into raiding content and, if the raids are too hard (BWL? AQ40? Naxx?), only a small portion of the game’s population will ever see the raids. This is a huge concern of Blizzard’s and I can understand that. At the same time, they understand that there is a difference between a raid group that raids 30 hours a week and one that raids 9 hours a week and one that raids 4 hours a week. How to make everyone happy and make sure the ones who raid more seriously don’t get bored? Make optional hard modes for those who are organized and skilled enough to do those difficulty levels!

I can understand it.

I still don’t like it.

To me, it’s not remotely engaging gameplay. Triggering them? A flick of a switch instead of a game mechanic. Watching my tanks get absolutely crushed by the bosses who now hit 2701 times harder while having 300% more health? Not looking forward to it. Heroics have, to me, always felt “tacked on”. I imagine that the designers had a discussion like this about Heroic Sindragosa design:

“Okay, so Ice Bombs should just instantly kill anyone they hit on heroic? We’re agreed on that?”

“Yeah, yeah, anyone who can’t dodge those things deserves to die. What’s next?”

“Hm, good question. Probably should do something with Unchained Magic, right? Maybe it spreads to others if you’re in range of them?”

“Tempting, but… I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right. Sindragosa should be brutal. Think more brutal.”

“DUDE. I’ve got it. Are you ready to have your mind blown?”

“Hah, let’s hear it.”

“Unchained Magic BLOWS OTHER PEOPLE UP on heroic mode!!!”

“Oh MAN, that’s the best idea EVER!”

“Wait, wait. She should also PARRY THRASH.”

“YES! ON BOTH DIFFICULTIES!”

“YES!”

Jackasses. That’s not fun. I loved the Heroic Putricide encounter but not because it was heroic — I liked the mechanics of the plague. THAT was fun and engaging. Unchained Magic and parries? Brutal mechanics. I’m not asking for things to be particularly easy or unforgiving. I’m asking for heroic modes to be less about “boss and everything about the encounter hits harder and has more health” and more about things like the Unbound Plague.

It seems to me that it’s just so rare for there to be fun and engaging mechanics in heroic content. It’s usually just brutally harsh stuff.

Maloriak was engaging because of the new phase. Chimaeron was not. It was just more tank damage. Magmaw wasn’t, it was just more fire and more adds. Atramedes wasn’t, it was, hey, more annoying adds and less gongs. Omnotron was Nefarian fiddling with things and in the 30ish pulls we did on it, it didn’t feel engaging. It felt annoying. Nefarian seemed like it would be more engaging, but I can’t attest to that personally.

In Bastion, Halfus was downright easy on normal so heroic actually felt like you’d accomplished something. The dragons were interesting because of the addition of the twilight realm. THAT was a good heroic mode. Conclave was annoying on normal and on heroic, IMHO, so out of the 7 T11 heroic modes I completed (and attempted an 8th), I liked precisely two of the heroic modes: Halfus, because it wasn’t boring any longer, and Valiona & Theralion, because it was a new mechanic that wasn’t *just* more adds.

And my streak continues. I have a bad habit, since heroic modes have been introduced, of not killing the end-bosses on heroic. I went 4/5 in TOGC, 11/12 in ICC, then 7/13. And now I am 7/7 normal 25-man mode in Firelands and we’re looking at heroic Shannox and all I really want to do is say “screw you, I defeated Rag, give me a new instance.”

Heroics are easy for the designers. Just a few variables to change, a couple of new animations and a couple of new spells and that’s it. Are they challenging for us raiders? Sure. Do they accomplish Blizzard’s desire to have lots of people see their raid content? Yup. Do heroics give us an option to toggle the harder difficulties, allowing more people to see the normal modes without the more serious raiders going crazy farming the same crap for a year? Yes.

I still hate them and I do them because that’s what’s expected of me and because, by golly, I CAN do them. I try to view them as new fights and I get psyched to get them down, but it’s not the same as clearing an older instance. The pure elation I felt when we got Lady Vashj down for the first time or when Archimonde died, none of the experiences these days are comparable to that. My reaction, instead of “YAY, WE DID IT!!!” is usually “Oh thank God, it’s over,” and then I slump in my chair in relief.

So a big thank you to Borsk for helping me to pinpoint what I don’t like about heroic modes and why, even all these years later, the Burning Crusade raid content still leaves me all warm and fuzzy.

[I]t was the last time when finishing the instance meant finishing the instance.