Big nerf bat time

Yesterday, Blizz announced some pretty significant nerfs to Hellfire Citadel LFR and Normal modes. Nerfs of this magnitude typically — at least for the last couple of expansions — are done at the “I’m so over it” point of an expansion.  (Although, for WoD, one could argue that if that’s the case, the nerfs should have occurred somewhere around early January of this year….Okay, sorry, that is the end of my snarkiness for the day.) All the paid professional players and wannabes have done their thing and can now relax in an expansion retirement mode, sitting on their achievement porch and complaining about how the game has gone to hell in a hand basket by catering to the filthy casuals. (Well, maybe not quite done with the snarkiness….)

Interestingly, the most recent round of nerfs breaks with what had become a standard template. That is, starting back at the end of Mists, when the raid structure went to the LFR-Normal-Heroic sequence we have now, there was no difference in the mechanics of those levels. They were all exactly the same fights, just different in how often things procc’ed, how hard various spells hit, etc. If you understood the LFR version, there was nothing new to learn for Normal or Heroic, beyond the fact that mistakes were far more costly. (Mythic was always different, not talking about that here.)

But the nerfs announced yesterday actually remove certain mechanics from LFR and Normal modes. I don’t really know what to make of that, it probably is not a big thing. For LFR mode, it seems obvious that the sheer number of mechanics for many fights is often overwhelming for a group of strangers to deal with. I am astonished that Kilrogg, for example, is still a huge challenge for many LFR groups. I was healing a group last night that got to 3 stacks on him, mainly because most of the DPS could not cope with the combination of the movement mechanics and prioritizing the large number of constantly spawning adds. After a couple of minutes they always just gave up, stood in bad stuff, and hammered away at the boss. As a group, they seemed incapable of grasping more than a couple of basic mechanics.

For Normal mode, I wonder if the nature of these nerfs has to do with Blizz’s continuing — and largely unresolved — problem throughout this expansion with scaling the boss fights. I know nothing about raid dev tech, but it apparently was easier to just remove some things from fights than fix the scaling problem.

Actually, by nerfing LFR and Normal modes at the same time and in essentially the same way, Blizz might be returning to the original idea behind the current raid group structure. When it was first introduced, Normal mode was the new name for what had previously been flex mode. Flex was touted as the “friends and family” raid, easier than what was then Normal, harder than LFR, and scaled for almost any size group. But although those features seemed to be in place for Highmaul, they have been largely missing from BRF and HFC. I hope they are returning to the original concept, because it made sense to me — progression raid teams should, in my opinion, be focused on Heroic, not Normal.

The other omen many Blizz augurs are reading from the nerf action is that a PTR is imminent for the pre-Legion major event and class changes. I am not so sure about that. Honestly, it seems unlikely that we will get such a PTR until after Blizzcon, but of course I could be wrong. Blizz certainly knows how the player base interprets its every move and sadly is not above playing with that fact to stem player dissatisfaction for a few weeks. Of course, this whole kabuki dance could be avoided if Blizz actually communicated with the player base about the reasons for their actions, but we have come to see that they disdain such communication.

For the most part, I am glad to see the announced nerfs, but would it have killed Blizz to accompany them with a short explanation of why they are doing them now? We can guess, of course, and we will, but I for one would be happier with just a short explanation, so people like me will not be forced to engage in what may be worthless — and wildly untrue — speculation.

Personal note: I will be taking a long weekend starting tomorrow, attending an artist conference. If you are on the East Coast, keep safe if Hurricane Joachim veers your direction. See you Monday, assuming our power is not knocked out by the storms.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

3 Responses to Big nerf bat time

  1. I would like to know if this nerf is an admission of bad design that we, in Normal, have be suffering through. It has taken forever to learn that a ten man raid simply can not do the mechanics (like Killrogg — too many players disappear).
    It’s an ugly nerf that infers that the Normal raiders were not good enough and needed help when, I feel, it was over-turned and too hard for a raid team like mine: Family and Friends looking for fun.

    • Grumsta says:

      I think Blizz are looking at the fights where most wipes occur, and where most Guilds have their last raid night together before disbanding and never returning.

      The scaling in HFC is beyond dire: fights which are tough with 12-13 players suddenly become trivial with 17-18 players. Blizz have finally acted. Or over-reacted. Time will tell which.

      The design approach of making most guilds start on Normal until Mannoroth and then switching to Heroic until they were capable of downing Archie always looked barmy to me. I hope we don’t see that again.

      I also strongly suspect that Blizz want more guilds with Archie on farm so that the Legendary ring upgrades are more widely available, to give longer life to the raiding end-game.

      There were clearly some fights in need of tuning, but this round of nerfs frankly looks desperate, an attempt to stem a flowing tide. I’ll be intrigued to see how it works in practice. I’d prefer to see mechanics retained but either made less fatal (or at least only fatal to the person who screwed up, not cause an insta-wipe), or timers extended/adds slowed to give people more time to react. However that probably requires dev time they can’t commit, and it’s hard to argue against putting resources into Legion over WoD.

      I have (astonishingly) been invited to join my new guild’s Heroic progression raid team from next week. I’m still worried it was an admin error as I only have two tier-set pieces and one decent trinket, but it means I could be running both normal and heroic on the same character on different nights. It’ll be interesting to see the differences first hand.

      As long as I get Archie down on Normal I’ll be happy. If I manage it on Heroic I will be beyond ecstatic.

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