I’ll apologize for this up front. This is going to be long. This is going to be angry. This is going to be ranty. This is also heavily my opinion and how this will affect me, personally. Don’t be offended if I don’t mention your raid group or your raid size or if I do and I’m mildly disparaging. I am not happy and that’s going to come out here. So I apologize now. This also puts a delay on my response to my own “Is Warcraft a Game?” post and my post about evaluating healers and my post about Paladin feedback.

My first thought upon reading about the upcoming nerfs to Firelands content was “What the FUCK?!” In fact, you can hear that thought in Episode 33 of Blessing of Frost. Note that this post gets angrier, so either click through or move along.

Why was my original thought “What the FUCK?!”, you may be wondering. (Or you may not. I’m going to tell you anyway.)

What Blizzard is doing right now is completely unprecedented. They have never nerfed current raid content in the manner they are doing now, which, by their own admission, is akin to what they did to Tier 11 when 4.2 came out.

What was the scale of those nerfs? Well, looking at the patch notes, most boss health pools were reduced by 20% and most of their damage was reduced by a similar amount.

So they’re applying that level of nerfs to normal Firelands content as well as heroic content.

I call bullshit.

But Kurn, you say, don’t you hate heroic modes ANYWAY?

Yes. I do. But I run a progression 25-man raiding guild. What do we do when we clear regular modes? We start in on heroic modes. I think it’s ridiculous that our reward for clearing it is to be doing it again on a more difficult level, in essence, but that’s what people *do* when they clear content. The next challenge is heroics, so it’s time to do them when you feel you’re up to the challenge and can physically make the switch from normal to heroic, which typically means you’ve downed Ragnaros on normal, when it comes to Firelands content.

So what’s the big deal? They’re nerfing things, that’s good. That means more people can see the content and can progress further.

Again, I call bullshit. Why is it a good thing? I said on the podcast this week “no, more people do NOT need to see the content”. I say this as someone who has gone 11/12 25m hard modes in ICC and as someone who never cleared Molten Core with her guild in Vanilla. The excitement of working on Molten Core with my guild, even while people were in AQ40 and Naxxramas, was amazing. 40 people (well, okay, 35 or less, most nights!) working together in concert to kill bosses was awesome! And when I killed Lucifron, I killed him at about the same level of difficulty as someone a year earlier. It meant something to me to be killing a boss who was essentially the same difficulty he was previously. It was the first step in moving towards AQ40 and Naxx. I knew there was a LOT of work ahead of me, but, by golly, if I could kill Lucifron, I could eventually move on to Magmadar and Gehennas and Garr and Shazzrah and Sulfuron and Golemagg and Majordomo Executus and Ragnaros! And THEN it was on to Blackwing Lair!

Was I disappointed that I didn’t clear Molten Core or kill Onyxia with my guild before Burning Crusade came out?

Yup. I definitely was. It’s still one of my biggest regrets about Vanilla. However, it motivated me to do BETTER in Burning Crusade. That’s why, when my new raid group essentially fell apart in late April/early May of 2007, I turned to Majik and others I used to raid with in Vanilla and was like “yeah, so… want to form a new guild?”. That’s where Apotheosis came from. Our “mission statement”, if you will, was to clear through Black Temple together (as, at the time, no one knew Sunwell would come out).

In order to look at the nerfs now, in the proper context, I feel that we must look at them alongside the other nerfs we’ve witnessed. Obviously, this is all coming from my perspective, and so I feel that to truly make my points, I need to talk a bit about my history.

Apotheosis only formed on June 1st, 2007. We started late, we were already behind other guilds and we only got into Gruul’s Lair that September. We got to 4/5 Hyjal and 5/9 BT before the 3.0 patch (and accompanying 30% boss nerfs) hit. We pushed through and got Archimonde (he was going to die that next week, nerf or not!) and got through Illidan. Our original plan, to clear through Black Temple together, had been accomplished. Does it matter that we were doing content a year after other top guilds had? Nope. We pushed through. We persevered. We kicked some ass together. And, until that 30% nerf, the vast majority of those fights were the same as they had been when the top-end guilds had gone through them. Knowing that we had completed what those other guilds had completed felt great. Going through content as it was meant to be gone through is an amazing feeling. I mean, we’re talking doing Magtheridon when you still needed 10 box-clickers. We’re talking about downing Vashj and Kael and getting Hand of A’dal titles.

The nerfs that came with 3.0 were upsetting on the one hand, but on the other hand, our goal to clear Black Temple together before the next expansion was suddenly much more accessible. And so we made the best of it and pushed through and BY GOLLY, WE KILLED ILLIDAN. (With one of our DPS tanking, one of our tanks healing and all kinds of other shenanigans.)

It meant something to us, but only because we were up against a hard deadline of when Wrath of the Lich King was going to hit. It was either take the buffs at that point and continue to get through the raiding content we had left to us… or call it an expansion. We didn’t quit, we pushed through and we succeeded at our goal, albeit a nerfed goal. (Seriously, we one-shot Reliquary when the buff when into effect after wiping on it for a couple of raid nights prior to it.)

Wrath didn’t start well for Apotheosis with huge attendance issues and then poor recruitment and then, eventually, the end of 25-man raiding for us on March 1st, 2009.

I hopped around a few guilds and ended up in a talented guild on Proudmoore, where my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid was the healing lead. The problem with the guild is that it was a horribly toxic environment. It was much more “hardcore” than I’d ever imagined and after a bit of struggling to adapt, I got to be a much better player, I got through content much more quickly and in the wee hours of the morning of May 25th, I got my Glory of the Icecrown Raider 25 achievement. The ICC buff was at 15% and after maintenance that day (after our raid), went up to 20%.

Though my raid leader never turned off the buff, those encounters were difficult as hell, even with the buff. Heroic Deathwhisper, Heroic Putricide and Heroic Sindragosa were all crazy even with the buff. I fought them again when I moved to Choice and had the 30% buff and they were STILL incredibly finicky encounters. Heroic Sindragosa was positively unforgiving. If you blew someone up with your Unchained Magic, if you accidentally iceblocked someone, if you didn’t line of sight the frost bombs, either you were dead or chances were half your raid group was dead. And yet, I completed that fight at both the 15% difficulty and the 30% difficulty.

But the ICC buff ramped up slowly. The first 5% buff was on March 2nd, the 10% buff came out on March 30th, the 15% on April 27th, the 20% on May 25th, the 25% on June 22nd and finally, July 20th brought with it the 30% buff.

Not only that, but buffing the output of players is NOT the same thing as nerfing the boss health pools and their damage done.

For one thing, the bosses remained the same, more or less. The only difference was how the players reacted with the new buffs. You’d still kill your raid if you cast with Unchained Magic in the middle of the raid, or you’d kill yourself if you took the Unbound Plague while you still had the debuff on. The mechanics were the same. They were still more or less unforgiving. The buffs bought you a bit more time in terms of healing that damage or mitigating that damage and the fights were usually shorter by virtue of increased DPS.

But in a buff situation like the ICC buff, the onus is on the players to step it up. In order to make use of the buff, you still had to play intelligently. You still had to make sure to keep your tank up as a holy paladin and make sure you had the other tank beaconed and make sure Sacred Shield was up… all of these things were increased and made easier by the buff, but you still had to DO all the little things right in order to make sure the buff was being used to its full extent.

Someone who was doing absurdly low DPS because of a bad rotation/priority system or poor choices in gems, glyphs, enchants and gear would see a DPS increase in ICC with the buff. But the buff couldn’t fix stupid. If I had under 700 haste or so in ICC so that my GCD was not 1s, I was stupid and no amount of ICC buff could help me to regain all the time lost on GCDs that were over a second in length, and it would eventually catch up to me and oops, my tank would die.

When you nerf the boss’ health, you don’t leave anything to chance. You don’t increase players’ DPS or HPS output, you just flat-out make the encounter easier. Less damage is required and the fights will likely end more quickly. But none of that is due to the players’ efforts. That’s 100% a design decision that makes the fight easier by requiring 20% less damage done to the boss. That doesn’t even take into consideration any nerfs to the damage output of the bosses.

So Tier 11 was nerfed in the way that boss health and damage was reduced and challenging mechanics were made considerably easier. I spent a night in Tier 11 after the nerf on Kurn. And it made me SO sad to see these encounters were just “roflstompable” with a group that knew the fights already. Like, so sad. I don’t DO old content. I don’t find it challenging to do, say, T11 when I’m in T12 gear. I don’t find it challenging to do retro raids. I don’t find it fun in any way, shape or form. As I said on the podcast this week, content is like a puzzle. And once I’ve solved the puzzle (beaten the encounter), I’m on to the next. I don’t like to go back and see that you can just throw a brute-force solution at the puzzle. It ruins the experience for me.

But I’m not in Tier 11 content. When Firelands came out, we went to Firelands. So the T11 nerf doesn’t normally bug me in my day-to-day raiding, because I’m in T12.

With this recent announcement to nerf Tier 12 while people are still in it, I feel as though it’s a very inelegant solution to the perceived problem that more people need to see the raid content. I have very little interest in nerfed content. In my opinion, people are leaving WoW for a variety of reasons, but this? This would be my reason.

I’m not leaving now. I may not leave for quite some time. But I’m seriously considering leaving after Cataclysm. Through Cata, I have an obligation to my guild. I am the GM and I owe it to everyone to keep things going and to continue raiding. If this nerfing of current content doesn’t stop, there is absolutely no point in my continuing to play. I can’t imagine Blizzard WANTS to drive away someone like me. I’m a guild leader, a raider, I have multiple max-level toons, I have a blog dedicated to the game and I act as a resource for a particular class/spec. I would say that I am someone that Blizzard should WANT to keep playing. Guess what? Dumbing down the game IS NOT THE FUCKING ANSWER. I enjoy CHALLENGE, I enjoy working on stuff, I LIKE wipe-nights in raids! I am that person who will bash her head against an encounter until the content is no longer relevant. And that’s when I’ll stop. A 20% nerf to current content on both normal AND heroic? Overboard. Ridiculously so. It makes it so that this content is no longer relevant to me. The one thing that will keep me going in is for my guild. I reformed my guild so that we could go in and kill Deathwing together and I am going to do that. But anything beyond that? No. Not if this shit keeps up.

I just don’t see the purpose of a 20% across-the-board nerf. It’s so absolutely dumb, even if they ramp it up slowly, as some people are claiming the devs meant. It creates an even larger gap between raiders in that content. Jasyla was saying that they should fix the problem areas. Certainly they know how many people eat Fiery Tornadoes on Alysrazor. Is that the major issue? If so, nerf the tornadoes. It’s like Majik said on this week’s Blessing of Frost, it’s as though they’re taking a machete to the situation instead of a scalpel.

It’s a Slap in the Face!

Back when I started playing, every nerf or buff was met with “it’s a slap in the face”. It’s something that people use ironically now, or at least jokingly. I’m sort of using it half-seriously and half in jest.

You have, as I see it, five major groups of people who are affected by this nerf.

1) Guilds who have already cleared heroic Firelands (133 or so total in the world). Their reaction is probably something along the lines of “goddamn casuals. I’m so glad we got Rag before the nerfs.” (Note: I am not one of those raiders. That is my guess. :P)

2) Guilds who are more than halfway through heroic Firelands (2000-3000 in the world). Their reaction is probably something along the lines of “WTF?! We have one week to see the rest of the content at this difficulty? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

3) Guilds who are just starting heroic Firelands (like mine — ~5000-10000 guilds). I imagine this is where the split really comes up and some are probably just as outraged as I am and some are all “YEAH! More progression, all RIGHT!”

4) Guilds who are still working through normal modes who, I would imagine, are both pleased that they’ll get to kill Rag, but probably upset at the nerf as well.

5) Guilds who are not in Firelands yet, who will be able to make the transition from T11 to T12 more quickly than anticipated. I’m not sure how they’ll feel about this, not at all.

The thing is, the nerfing of content tells groups 2, 3, 4 and 5 “Hey! You weren’t good/organized/experienced/talented enough to get through content as we intended it. But because we don’t want to drive you away, here, have a 20% nerf so you CAN get through the content! Purples are all that matter, right?”

The nerf completely discredits groups 2-5 and their ability to do things on their own. It negates our ability to feel as though we deserved the kills we’ll be getting. It artificially inflates the number of guilds and raiders who achieve various things in Firelands. It takes away our choice to make that leap to heroic content and progress there, which is the only place we CAN go for more challenges once normal mode is done, because hey! There’s no new tier of content yet! 4.3 isn’t even out on the PTRs. We’re looking at November at the earliest for the next tier of content, I would say.

So I’m going to be in a nerfed Firelands for the next 2+ months? How the fuck am I supposed to stay motivated to go through nerfed content when the element I care about most, the problem-solving aspect, sounds as though it’s pretty much negated? I mean, have you BEEN to Tier 11? Have you SEEN what they’ve done to it? If it’s remotely similar in T12, then how the fuck am I supposed to keep my 30ish guildmates motivated to keep going in, night after night, when at least some of them have a similar mindset to me?

And it IS going to be that similar! By their own admission:

In general, we plan to reduce health and damage of all raid bosses in both normal and Heroic Firelands by around the same percentage we brought difficulty down for the original Cataclysm raids when Rage of the Firelands (patch 4.2) was released.

This is, in my opinion, a horrible decision, a bad design choice, a terrible way to try to increase raid accessibility. If you think you tuned things too hard, admit it and make small changes to fix it, Blizzard. Or buff the players gradually, the way ICC worked, along with the option of leaving that buff OFF. Put the onus on the players! A lot of us like to be challenged! What is happening next week is pretty much the worst thing I can imagine them doing to the raiding game. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It’s as though they researched the best way to piss me off and then acted on it. I can’t think of a single thing that is more insulting or more offensive to me with regards to raiding. And yet, next week, here come the nerfs.

I’m a responsible person and I have a duty to my guild and to my guildies, many of whom I’m rather fond of. As such, I’m in this until 5.0 comes out or the expansion comes out, depending on what Apotheosis is up to.

But after that?

If this bullshit continues, I am out of here.

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