3.3: The Fall of the Lich King… So Far

3.3 has been out for over a week. It’s time I gave my thoughts on the patch, so far.

Be warned: Spoilers ahead!

The Looking for Dungeon System

The looking for dungeon pane.The new dungeon system (which I call “LFD,” because of the /lfd command), is quite good. When people in your guild have lost interest in running heroics, or when they are saved to the dungeons you need, you can easily use this system to get a group, instead of trolling trade or the LFG channel as before. While it can take several minutes for a pure DPSer to find a group, if you’re a tank or a healer, it is typically instant. This trend may vary, however, as it adheres to supply and demand.

Obviously, there are some annoyances you’ll come across. But that’s going to happen whenever you’re dealing with people, regardless of the system. These minor thorns are insignificant when you consider the fact that most groups using the LFD system are successful. I’ve only had two extremely poor experiences, thus far; one was a Halls of Reflection, and the other was an Old Kingdom. We still finished, but not until after rotating of a couple players.

In general, the system is awesome. You get two frost badges for the first random heroic you do. And two triumph badges for subsequent random heroics. It’s a great way to establish your gear, and to gear up alts. I also find myself far less bored during downtime, which is a huge plus, considering Lunacy is no longer raiding hardcore and I’ve gone casual myself. If I don’t have a whole lot of time, I can log in, look for a dungeon, run it quickly, get my badges, and log off.

The Frozen Halls (the New 5-Mans)

The new five-man dungeons are some of the best Blizzard has produced thus far. The lore is rather rich. The artwork is superb. And most of the encounters are interesting. They are also somewhat challenging on heroic, but not overly complex nor impossible.

I do have my criticisms; however, they are minor.

I think Bronjahm, the Godfather of Souls, goes too far in terms of Blizzard’s humorous intentions. I get it; he’s supposed to be a representation of James Brown. But “godfather” is not the right title for someone who is supposed to oversee the separation and grinding of people’s souls. The music that plays while you’re fighting him makes me /palmface. And the sounds he makes while fighting him are ridiculous. I understand WoW has always had elements of humor, and I usually appreciate them, but there has to at least be a small amount of believability somewhere. Obviously I mean “believability” in the context of a fantastical storyline that has serious elements. For example, you wouldn’t see Arthas wearing a pink tabard just because it’s funny.

Also, the Forge of Souls doesn’t have an in-game explanation as to its purpose. You can guess, however, given the dungeon’s title. So perhaps it’s not needed. The Halls of Reflection is the linchpin of the dungeon trio’s lore, anyway. And the Pit of Saron also has some great lore development. But at least a little background concerning the Forge could have been included in the actual game. All they had to do was add one sentence to the introductions given by Jaina and Sylvannas. “Here, you will face two of the Lich King’s lieutenants, those who grind and devour souls of the innocent and righteous. Be wary, heroes!” Instead, you have to read the patch development notes to get an idea of what it’s all about. And you’ll probably have to read a manga and a book later on. But I like the Devourer of Souls. And Jaina’s presence. And the artwork involved. So I’m not disappointed.

There are a couple other issues, including the obligatory one about the add phases of the first encounter in Halls of Reflection. But, overall, the dungeons are great! The Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection (HoR) have some awesome lore development (particularly HoR). The art direction is fantastic. Most of the music meets my approval. And the last encounter in the Halls of Reflection is great all-around, completing the all-around satisfaction of clearing all three.

If you want to get an idea of what the dungeons have to offer in terms of lore, just watch Kinaesthesia’s video (be warned, it contains lots of spoilers).

Quel’Delar Questline

I had the opportunity of doing the Quel’Delar questline. I’m a little mixed on this one. Overall, the questline is very good. But the quality of presentation is somewhat mixed. There are a couple instances of voice acting, but there are parts without voiceovers that warrant the practice (particularly the scene at the Sunwell). For what it’s worth, I really love the fact that they’ve actually gone and changed (or, rather, phased) parts of the game to match the progressing lore. Seeing the Sunwell with blood elf leaders and pilgrims surrounding it was quite different from seeing it before and after doing Kil’jaeden.

This is a step in the right direction for quests in general. More of this and the questing game will achieve a higher level of enjoyability.

Icecrown Citadel (the Raid)

I’ve had the chance of running the 10-man version of Icecrown Citadel (ICC), thus far. I probably won’t be running the 25-man until after the holidays, however.

The Art, Graphics and Music

I’m impressed with the art and music of ICC, thus far. Blizzard has begun using terrain blending with this patch, and you can really see the difference it makes when employed. An example of this is the blending between the citadel’s floor and the ice that comprises the spire Arthas ascended at the end of The Frozen Throne.

The Spire in Icecrown.

I do note Icecrown uses spell effects that cause my computer to come to a crawl, even when I turn particle effects all the way down. These are included in the mist that comes off the spire, and the mist that hangs around the floor leading up to the first boss. After I leave these areas, I’m fine. Before then, however, my FPS tends to drop into the single digits. This is perhaps unique only to those of us who’ve been slow to upgrade our 7 series GeForce cards, however, so I’ll just have to cave and finally buy one (the downside of being a poor student).

The music in ICC is good, but not as good as past entries from WoW’s soundtrack. The highlight, so far, has been the music that plays during the gunship battle. But given what I’ve heard from the MPQ files, I’m not sure I expect anything that lives up to the music from Black Temple, Grizzly Hills, or Storm Peaks. To be fair, however, those three zones would be difficult to outdo.

The Lore (so Far)

The lore for ICC seems as though it will outdo its predecessors. Lord Marrowgar and Lady Deathwhisper could perhaps have used a tad more fleshing out, but they’re not major characters, so I guess that’s okay. The opening dialog that occurs while you’re clearing the first trash packs is quite good. It’ll be interesting to see how the twist involving Bolvar plays out. As a player, your investment in the story is heightened by the fact that Arthas plays a large role in the world outside the dungeon, as well.

The scene that occurs after you defeat Deathbringer Saurfang is amazing, especially considering Blizzard actually created animations to portray what is going on in the scene. That the older Saurfang actually lifts up the body of his son and carries it off makes it a whole lot more interesting. In the past, Blizzard would have just despawned the body or had Saurfang cast a spell causing the younger’s spirit to ascend to that great orc encampment in the sky. The development efforts involved in this scene makes it much more touching.

Saurfang Carrying the Younger

The Encounters (so Far)

I can’t say I was a huge fan of the 10-man version of Marrowgar before they changed the damage he did to the tanks. Without a paladin to heal both tanks with beacon, it was a bit rough at times. But that’s more of a class balancing issue than anything else. Disregarding that issue, it’s a simple, but interesting fight. It does recycle some mechanics, notably from Supremus and Leotheras, but that’s okay given that it’s the first boss in the dungeon. I can see this encounter potentially being devestating to tanks on heroic.

Lady Deathwhisper reminds me of Akama, in a sense. You have a stationary target (like the channelers on Akama) and then adds that spawn periodically (some casters, some melee). The adds here are a bit more complicated, however. Some can only be DPSed by casters. Some reflect spells. Once you get through the first phase, you have a phase that goes downhill from there. It’s difficult to tell how this would play out on heroic.

I really love the gunship battle. Absolutely, positively. From rocket packing in bear form while people set up, to actually doing the encounter, it’s all-around great. Even if it is amazingly easy on normal mode, it’s still great fun! My only complaint is the fact that using the rockey pack shifts you out of moonkin and tree form. Everytime you rocket over, you have to re-shift. Which sucks, because using the rocket pack also does damage, making it a useful component to DPS when you’re going form add to add.

In terms of encounter design, I generally like Deathbringer Saurfang. However, it strikes me as the type of encounter that will work very much like Teron Gorefiend, in the sense that you want to stack as much DPS as possible to minimize how chaotic the damage becomes. The faster you kill him, the less damage Saurfang does, the less healing is needed. So might as well just stack 1 healer (so long as they can handle it), 2 tanks, and 7 DPS. I can imagine guilds doing this in the future on normal mode with nothing but enhance shamans healing with instant chain heals. Another awkward thing about the encounter is the fact that melee are somewhat of a liability on DPSing the adds that spawn. It’s fine on 25-man, but on 10-man, you’re not always guaranteed to have three or even two ranged DPSers.

I can’t really get a decent feel for the encounters until I see the entire instance. Encounters are always a hit-and-miss affair. Some are great. Some are poor. Some are okay. So far, my impression is that we have two okay encounters, one great one, and one encounter that is good (but with minor issues).

Gating

Someone asked me in a comment from my previous entry what I thought about gating within dungeons. Gating is the concept that only certain wings of an instance will be open upon the dungeon’s initial release, while others unlock over time. This concept was originally introduced in Sunwell Plateau (SWP), and also found its place in ToC.

Gating

Personally, I’m not at all a fan of the system. I would rather play a dungeon from start to finish, while my sense of wonderment and interest in the dungeon as a whole is at its peak. The same goes for any material from other media. I would rather play an RPG in one week, rather than in fragments over a few months. A movie is far more engrossing if I don’t take breaks every 15 minutes to answer the phone, get a drink, make some dinner, etc. And a book is easier to follow if I’m not putting it down for a week before I pick it up again.

Gating hinders your ability to experience content while it’s still fresh. And so I dislike it. I realize it heightens competition, by giving others a chance to catch up, but if someone wants the take the extra time to move forward after they kill a boss, I say let them. It cheapens other parts of the gameplay experience, otherwise. And, for the most part, the truly skilled guilds will catch up to those who put in the extra time anyway. This happened on Proudmoore with the normal version of Yogg-Saron, where a guild got to him first by raiding 7 days a week, but then placed 11th on their Yogg kill after people burnt out.

So long as the story is meant to play out from the beginning of the dungeon to its end, it should be open from its beginning to its end. We shouldn’t cheapen content in the name of competition or even “getting it out there.” We can use achievements or other mechanics for that (see my previous entry for examples).

Limited Attempts

I already had my rant about limited attempts in my previous entry. I don’t really need to retread what I think about the concept. But to summarize for people who don’t want to read: I think it’s terrible.

Loot

I’m actually a fan of the way loot works in T10 content. T9 was awkward, because waiting for a token to drop before buying T9 was far more efficient than buying the 232 gear and upgrading to 245. With T10, you’re required to buy the lower version before you can purchase the upgrades, ensuring that going for the intermediate upgrade is not detrimental to your badge expenditure. This system is more logical.

As far how the loot is designed, I’m a bit mixed. Restoration druids still have the issue where haste is useless past the cap (except in the rare situation where rapid rejuvenation is a huge boon), and crit is useful only for nourish and regrowth (once you drop 4PT9). Our 4PT10 is really strange. On a basic level, it’s not as good as 4PT9, because it’s not likely to be controlled in regards to who it jumps to. But the extra stats on T10 will likely push it slightly over if you’re looking purely at HPS numbers. In 10-mans, however, I’m thinking T9 might still be better, due simply to the fact that T10 will be overwriting rejuvenations in situations where you’re spamming it.

Moonkin-wise, I’m very happy.

Overall

Get rid of gating and limited attempts, and I think ICC could be the best raid instance Blizzard has yet produced. So far, in terms of lore, art and music, it’s already there. But gameplay-wise, it’s left to be seen where it stands amongst the likes of (in my opinion) Sunwell, TK and heroic Ulduar.

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Post-3.0.2 Analysis

This past week was rather interesting, to say the least. Last Tuesday, 3.0.2 was introduced. It is the precursor patch to Wrath that introduces most of the expansion’s talents and mechanics in preparation for its release.

My guild and I spent Tuesday downloading the patch and fixing our mods. We also endured lag, server crashes and restarts.

On Wednesday, a small group of us cleared Karazhan before our Sunwell raid. It took us a total of 50 minutes.

  • Attumen seemed like a trash mob.
  • Moroes died before his first vanish.
  • Maiden died before her first repentance.
  • Our tank was the target of little red riding hood and just tanked Big Bad Wolf through it.
  • Curator died well before his first evocate.
  • Illhoof died during the first weakness.
  • Aran lasted something like a minute.
  • Netherspite died during the first beam phase.
  • Prince died so fast he didn’t even enfeeble the raid once.

Out of all the encounters in Karazhan, chess took the longest. Following this, we had our typical Wednesday Sunwell. Well, typical in that we usually start it on Wednesday. Not so typical in that we cleared it in three hours total.

  • We defeated Kalecgos during the first portal rotation.
  • Brutallus died in less than three minutes.
  • Felmyst died right after her first flight phase.
  • We wiped to the Twins twice. Once because someone fell off the balcony, and once because a hunter botched the MD because they weren’t used to having a shorter range. Then we aced it.
  • I think we had two waves of humanoids on M’uru. The tanks were never in danger of dying during phase one. And we killed Entropius before heroism dropped.
  • We also one-shot Kil’jaeden with ease, though we almost botched it when our melee brought Kil’jaeden down close to the next phase before the warlock adds from the 85% phase were dead.

We followed our Sunwell clear with the first three bosses of Black Temple. We then called the raid an hour early, so people could get an early night.

On Thursday, we finished up Black Temple. We also killed Al’ar, Kael’thas and Vashj and again called it an early night. Some interesting notes:

  • We killed Shahraz without shadow resistance.
  • Illidan never once reached his demon phase. We brought him down to 30% with five seconds to go on the first timer. This reset the timer, and we brought him down to zero before the second.

In any case, we cleared all of Sunwell, Black Temple, the two most difficult T5 bosses, and Al’ar in a total of about seven hours. We could have done it faster if we hadn’t approached the raids in a relaxed manner.

Were the Nerfs Too Much?

I’m not going to view 3.0.2 in a negative light. At some point, guilds stuck indefinitely on content need the be thrown bones shaped like dead bosses and epics. And to have micromanaged the changes on each encounter of TBC would have taken too many resources away from development of upcoming content.

I am quite positive there are guilds disappointed about how easy M’uru or Kil’jaeden are now post-patch. Especially if they were close to killing either of them pre-nerf. On my own server, Risen was in line to become the third guild to defeat Kil’jaeden. Parn, Risen’s leader, posted this in the progression thread after this post-nerf kill:

Risen downs Kil’jaeden.

Patch came 1 week too early. Sorry about the cheapened victory, guys. But we would have gotten him regardless.

Thanks everyone for every effort they have made.

My own guild had the same thing happen to us with Gruul. We had him down to 5% pre-nerf and we were certain of his death the very next week. This would have made us the only guild on our server to kill him legitimately pre-nerf (Ruined killed a bugged version). But then they nerfed him and we came back and one-shot him during what was supposed to be our warm-up attempt. It was an anti-climactic end to the hard work, consumables and gold we had thrown at the encounter.

However, for all the disappointment, it would not have been worth it to micromanage the changes to raiding. With only a month left in TBC’s lifecycle, it would have been a mistake to push 3.0.2 back a couple weeks for the sake of making the encounters easier, but still challenging. Especially considering those encounters will become obsolete at Wrath‘s release.

It’s Too Difficult to Predict What’s to Come Using 3.0.2

I originally stated that I thought Blizzard would do well to prolong the introduction of 3.0 for the sake of benchmarking class performance in raids and PvP. However, I ended up changing my mind just before Blizzcon for these reasons:

  1. Encounter difficulty was going to change with new concepts and mechanics in place.
  2. The encounters weren’t designed with the new talents in mind.
  3. We are missing ten talent points and new abilities that we will have at level 80.

Tack on the additional nerfs to raiding that Blizzard introduced, and there’s very little point in using 3.0.2 as an environment in which to test a class’s viability. And the same could be said for arena. Without an official ladder going on, a lot of people are using this opportunity to simply test new abilities and specs. But optimal team composition and specs for level 80 will not become evident until Wrath‘s first season.

I Hope 3.0.2 is Not a Precursor to 25-Man Raid Difficulty in Wrath

One of my colleagues, Matticus, had this to say about the current ease of 25-man raiding on live:

Don’t assume that things will be this easy at level 80, because it’s not going to be. You get yourselves new bosses, new mechanics, and new challenges to toy with.

To some degree, he is correct. Malygos is not nearly as easy as raiding in 3.0.2 is currently. However, conventional wisdom and statements made by the developers leave me to disagree on a level more subtle. Afterall, the developers did say they thought Sunwell was too hard during Blizzcon’s raids and dungeons panel. So I’m not about to assume that the 25-man version of Icecrown Citadel will be as difficult as the Sunwell.

Having worked my way through Sunwell well before 3.0.2, and killing M’uru before his first nerf, I have a keen understanding of just how difficult raiding can be. And while, yes, slogging through that content was at times frustrating, I am retrospectively appreciative of just how difficult both M’uru and Kil’jaeden were to defeat. As I said some time ago, downing them provided two of the most satisfying gaming experiences I’ve ever had since picking up an Atari controller when I was three.

So I personally worry I will never have that experience again in WoW. In fact, I would be upset if the 25-man version of Icecrown only stood at the difficulty level of Black Temple. Afterall, one of the very reasons I thought 10-man versions of every raid dungeon were being introduced was to provide an alternative, more accessible form of the content people might find too difficult in a 25-man setting. Getting stuck at the 25-man level will result in a lower impact on morale when people can simply form up a solid 10-man raid and experience that same content in an easier and more accessible environment.

My Advice for Guilds Clearing or Deep into Sunwell Pre-3.0.2: Tighten Your Recruitment Standards

If you were clearing Sunwell level pre-3.0.2, I would say you shouldn’t use the time to recruit new people unless they come from an extremely solid and verifiable raid background.

As it stands, it is currently too difficult to trial someone in the difficult aspects of raiding you will see re-introduced come Wrath.

  • For Sunwell-clearing guilds, Felmyst won’t last more than one ground phase on a perfect attempt, meaning you will have limited opportunities to use the encapsulate as a situational awareness check.
  • Sacrolash dies so quickly, there will be a low chance for your new DPS recruits to be the target of conflag on the Eredar Twins.
  • Since bosses have had their melee damage reduced so dramatically, you won’t have ample opportunities to challenge your healer recruits.
  • Furthermore, because bosses hit so weakly, you can’t challenge your tanks to accurately time their cooldowns to mitigate awkward damage bursts.
  • Also, for tanks, positioning plays less of an important role when you don’t have to worry too much about avoiding gravity balls on M’uru, or creating an optimal pattern of flame patches on phase two of Illidan.

That said, if people coming from top guilds are applying and their skill level is already verifiable, it might be worth it to take a chance on them now. However, if this is not the case, I would advise taking a pass on them until you can incorporate them into level 80 raiding.

O 3.0, Where Art Thou?

I understand Blizzard shouldn’t rush the release of a patch as complex and game changing as 3.0. There are still many elements of the expansion’s design that have yet to be fully considered and refined. But the release 3.0 is impending, this much we know given Eyonix’s statement from over a week ago.

With the release of Wrath of the Lich King approaching, we wanted to provide you with some important information. In preparation for the expansion, we will be issuing a new content patch in the coming weeks. Much like the patch made available shortly before The Burning Crusade’s release, this content patch is designed to bridge current game content with that of the expansion and will contain some exciting changes and additions.

Doom and Gloom?

There are people in the WoW community who believe 3.0’s release spells doom and gloom for the remainder of The Burning Crusade, especially raiding. And certainly the precedent set by 2.0.1 would suggest people are likely to give up on TBC raiding to bide their time, just as they did for vanilla WoW when 2.0.1 was released. However, people are overlooking one obvious condition that existed at the time of the TBC content patch’s release: it was the holiday season, and TBC was scheduled to come out merely two weeks after the season’s end.

Every guild I’ve been in has never been able to raid during the latter half of December. Last year, my guild didn’t raid at all from December 16th to January 1st. The release of 2.0.1 in December of 2006 merely aggravated the annual problem. By the time most people had returned from vacation, there was only two weeks remaining before TBC was scheduled to hit the shelves. Tack on the facts that a flat honor PvP gear system was an entirely new concept, providing means for people to easily obtain items better than even some of their PvE gear, and that guilds needed to downsize with changing end-game raid sizes, it’s no surprise many guilds decided to simply halt raiding altogether.

I think people fail to realize 3.0 has the potential to be released under very different conditions than 2.0.1. The concept of honor and arena-based gear is no longer fresh. Most of the people looking to obtain gear from PvP have already achieved their goals. 3.0 could potentially be released before the holiday season, as well. If 3.0 goes live in early October, and Wrath is slated for release in early December, I guarantee some people will return to test the new talents in both raid and PvP environments for a little while. People won’t have to worry about Christmas or finals, so why shouldn’t they return? And why shouldn’t they return if 3.0 may provide the tools to better succeed in raiding content they haven’t successfully cleared?

An early release of 3.0 would be highly beneficial to the game. Certainly, it could possibly create a few major short-term problems, but it would be a small price to pay for thoroughly testing the changes and creating an expansion that has more polish and stability than TBC. Why? Because I don’t think the Wrath beta or the PTR will provide Blizzard with the fully-developed perspective needed to accurately assess the possible consequences of the changes they’re making. Especially when it comes to the viability of certain specs and classes in raids.

3.0 Should Be a Prolonged Bridge to Wrath

Well there will be raid beta testing in the Beta, but don’t forget the upcoming PTR will allow even more testing prior to changes being made live. I do 25 and 10 man raids myself and believe me I know full well what the changes will mean for a Holy Priest. But until players are able to test them in a raid environment, then it really is only theorycraft; which is of course still valuable and often very accurate.

So said Wryxian on WoW’s European forums.

Anyone who’s played through WoW’s three betas and muddled around on the PTR’s knows the fallacy in this statement. Using the beta and PTR phases as the only forms of testing doesn’t always produce a patch that is entirely polished and stable. Certainly, it worked well for Sunwell. But consider the time and conditions of Sunwell’s testing phase. Illidan was first killed in June of 2007. Being relatively easy, Black Temple had been put comfortably on farm status for several months by hundreds of guilds.

When 2.4 hit the PTR in February, my own guild had been clearing BT for four months, bringing down the weekly time we spent on it to merely one night. And we did this as a guild that didn’t even place in the top 100 for Illidan kills in the U.S. So there were literally over a hundred guilds in the U.S. alone hungry for new content to conquer, and many of them took advantage of 2.4 on the PTR to satiate their appetites by testing the Sunwell. Guilds like Vis Maior exemplified this desire masterfully.

The situation now is much different, however. My guild only just defeated Kil’jaeden less than a month ago. We don’t have Sunwell comfortably on farm. And it takes us most of the week to clear it. Furthermore, the gear requirement for Sunwell is much tighter than it was during the days of Black Temple and Hyjal. So using previous instances to supplement gear for skilled recruits puts a further dent in some guilds’ schedules. Certainly, there are guilds out there who do clear Sunwell in merely a day or two, but these are mostly the top guilds in the world. So it is a far fewer number of guilds now in a situation similar to one that existed when 2.4 hit the PTR.

I also feel people will be far less inclined to test raiding on the PTR when there will be no new instances introduced in 3.0. I know I won’t even bother, even though I did test the Sunwell.

Also consider that many people don’t have their entire guilds on the beta right now. Even if they do, I doubt they have enough people leveled to 80. There’s a good amount of people from my guild on the beta, but I am the only person who has come close to 80 (and I stopped at 79 because I wanted to wait for Storm Peaks to reopen). Another member is quickly making his way there, but so did others before they stopped altogether. And while I realize premades were just made available on the beta, they are decked in PvP gear, which will give people only a limited view of the possibilities of some specs and classes in raids.

That’s not to say I don’t think there won’t be any raid testing done in Wrath’s beta. I think a few guilds will at least try to form a loose alliance to attempt some of the raiding content. I know if I had the time I’d possibly join a pick-up raid just to see what’s up. But I don’t see the extent of testing going any further than it did during TBC’s beta. I imagine most of the 10-man version of Naxxramas will be cleared, but I expect only the first boss or two of each wing in the 25-man version to receive any attention from beta testers.

It is for this reason I believe Blizzard needs to use the live version of 3.0 as a prolonged bridge to Wrath, providing opportunity to further recognize the problems that might be less obvious during the beta and PTR testing phases. I also hope Blizzard aims to release it some time in early or mid-October, well before people become inundated with finals and the impending rush of the holiday season. Had 2.0.1 been released well before the holidays, or had TBC’s release been pushed back slightly, some discrepancies in talent and game design would have perhaps been noticed before TBC’s release. Not all, of course, but enough such that TBC would have been more well-rounded at release.

That said, they shouldn’t rush its release if they aren’t confident in the changes they’ve implemented for the beta and the PTR.

3.0’s Possible Effects on Raiding in TBC

There’s no doubt the patching of 3.0 on live servers before Wrath’s release would have both positive and negative effects on the remainder of raiding in TBC.

How Can 3.0 Help Raiding in the Short Term?

As it currently stands, the end of Sunwell has been a rather daunting obstacle for most guilds’ ability to “win the game,” or rather to clear TBC’s raid content before it’s “over.” And many guilds that have already defeated the content are looking for a fresh approach that could change the way they farm it. Just take a look at the ratios of prior boss success to each new boss kill:

  • 1.4:1 for Kalecgos to Brutallus.
  • 1.5:1 for Brutallus to Felmyst.
  • 1.3:1 for Felmyst to Twins.
  • 2.4:1 for Twins to M’uru.
  • 2.8:1 for M’uru to Kil’jaeden.

Notice the ratios are roughly similar for the first three comparisons. Then, suddenly, the ratios spike for the final two. This suggests guilds have likely fallen apart or hit walls at both M’uru and Kil’jaeden. My own guild hit a wall temporarily on Kil’jaeden, even though we did swimmingly on M’uru. And the the exact opposite happened for the number two guild on my server, which hit a wall on M’uru and then took Kil’jaeden down with ease.

With this in mind, I think another bone needs to be thrown to people still raiding. My guild killed M’uru way back in early June, placing 40th in the U.S. And despite the fact that M’uru received a huge nerf after this, still only 221 U.S. guilds have killed him (as of writing this article). So 85 days have passed since our kill, meaning only two or so U.S. guilds kill him each day.

Personally, I think there are a lot of tools 3.0 could bring that would prove beneficial to defeating the later boss encounters. I’d love to be able to pick up flourish, gift of the earthmother, genesis, and living seed. Flourish alone would be awesome for when the raid collapses in a clump during Kil’jaeden, just to cite one example of how 3.0 could benefit the raid.

In terms of pure DPS potential, there should be an overall boost. Even if some classes worry they won’t measure up to others, most should still be receiving talents and new abilities that increase their DPS. Even though Blizzard is attempting to make certain buffs redundant, meaning battle shout and blessing of might wouldn’t stack with each other, the fact that many buffs will become raid-wide, where previously they had been group-exclusive, should counter the problem. So too should new buffing talents.

Furthermore, some specs and classes that were previously “weak” in some situations will undergo a general increase in viability. So guilds will also have more tools to create optimal raid compositions with higher regularity.

How Can 3.0 Be a Detriment to Raiding in the Short Term?

There are some mechanic changes that are a little concerning for TBC raiding that 3.0 would bring. As one example, some of the tools used for tanking by specific classes will be revamped entirely. Warriors will now have a shield block that lasts only 10 seconds on a one-minute cooldown. As anyone who has done Illidan knows, this means shear will need to be changed. Since the ability needs to be countered by blocking, dodging or parrying it, and the cooldown on the warrior ability that ensures this as possible is currently higher than the cooldown on shear, warriors would be unable to tank Illidan reliably. This would leave the job to protection paladins if shear were to go unchanged.

That said, Blizzard has stated they are cognizant of the problems 3.0 could create for existing encounters. Bornakk said as much in a response to people’s concerns about shear:

Changes can be made to encounters if we feel they are necessary to allow the fight to work right. That said, the release of the patch isn’t tomorrow, it’s sometime in the coming weeks, so you still have time to work on the raids. Good luck on Illidan.

Personally, however, I worry Blizzard will miss at least a few needed changes, making some encounters temporarily impossible or extremely difficult until they are hotfixed.

But it’s the more subtle and sweeping changes that worry me most. The adjustments to threat and threat generation particularly come to mind in this regard. For one, blessing of salvation will no longer produce a flat 30% reduction in threat generated. Instead, most threat reduction will come from using reactive abilities targeted on individual people, reducing their current threat by a small percentage with each use (on top of existing reactive abilities). Of course, some of the disparity could be well-countered by providing tools to tanks that increase their basic threat generation. However, I know warriors will require strength to really see a substantial boost in their threat scaling, and currently their tanking gear has virtually none.

So while DPS generally receives a boost, I worry people will reach the threat ceiling easily in TBC, which would render the increase to DPS moot.

The heightened restriction on the use of drums and potions could also introduce new problems. As it stands, many classes rely on chain-chugging potions and using drums to improve their performance. But a raid-wide vampiric touch, new class specs providing mana regeneration, and general improvements to talents and abilities could counter these problems. Then again, the inability to downrank creates another mana problem. So Blizzard would certainly be taking a risk introducing these new concepts to existing content.

How Could 3.0 Be Beneficial in the Long Term?

Regardless of the detriments 3.0 could bring to TBC raiding, I think the benefits are too good to overlook. Despite the fact that there will be a difference of ten talent points, ten levels, and gear, releasing 3.0 at least a couple months before TBC’s “demise” will at least provide Blizzard some context to use for further development and polish of Wrath. And I believe this is important to better ensure a smooth release of Wrath.

That Said, Don’t Rush It

Even writing about the importance of testing Wrath concepts by using the live version of 3.0, I don’t want Blizzard to rush the patch. Obviously, I want the company to fully consider where it wants to take the game generally with Wrath before its concepts are dumped on our heads. So, although I’d love to see 3.0 on live servers by mid-October, I wouldn’t if it was unfinished and buggy, with concepts that have only been preliminarily evaluated.

We’ll see what happens, I guess.