Impossible odds and imbalance?

I am sure most of you already know, but Method successfully downed Kil’jaeden to claim Mythic World First for Tomb of Sargeras. They did it after 653 wipes, which follows their 400+ wipefest for Fallen Avatar. I don’t know the record for these kinds of things, but I am suspecting that over a thousand wipes for the last 2 bosses is in itself a World First title. Whether you think a pursuit like this is a good use of one’s time or not, you have to be a little bit in awe of the commitment and sheer stubbornness it takes to accomplish it. I am not a big fan of Method, but there is no doubt that hearty congratulations are in order.

So the number of wipes is pretty mind-boggling and causing not a few comments in the WoW blogosphere. The other thing causing comments is the composition of the 20-man Mythic team. Among some of the noteworthy items: 5 druids, 5 rogues, 3 hunters. Classes absent were mages, monks of any flavor, death knights, and demon hunters. Two of the druids were Balance spec, and all of the hunters were MM. The melee DPS consisted entirely of rogues and two warriors.

As you might suspect, there is a river of speculation as to The Future of The Game based solely on this one event. Much of it is overblown, of course, but I do think there are a few valuable insights we can derive from it — at least from the little we know of the actual tactics so far.

For one thing, it strikes me that 653 wipes is way more than these elite players need in order to learn a fight. We are talking about people who live and breathe this game, who have genius-level reaction times, who have almost uncanny “raid sense”, who have raided together so much that they know each other’s reactions as well as their own, and who have been preparing for this fight since at least the early PTR days of 7.2.5.

For a team like this to wipe 653 times tells me that the fight is essentially unwinnable, but that there is a small random chance every mechanic will work out to the team’s benefit. If the team can put together a flawless performance when that happens, they can beat the boss. It is not about being world-class good, it is about being world-class good every single time, so that when favorable RNG finally happens, the boss goes down.

This takes nothing away from Method — it is no small feat to achieve consistent performance perfection. But I do think it takes away from Blizz’s tier design, because it renders ludicrous the baseline assumption that raids allow players to progress as a character and as a team. To beat this boss, Method on average had to outgear the loot — average gear level over 933 for a raid that awards 930 level gear. And let’s be honest, any kind of team esprit or group learning occurred long before the ultimate win.

Eventually, Mythic ToS will be nerfed, and it will be attainable by non-World First kinds of guilds, the ones that are hard-core raiding guilds (think realm-first levels) but not necessarily the ones who dedicate their entire waking existence to it for weeks at a time. It might even be nerfed enough so that a few of the early bosses become beatable by guilds such as mine — after we greatly overgear it. I don’t know what that says about raid difficulty levels, but I think it is safe to say we have gone beyond the LFR-Normal-Heroic-Mythic model. It’s almost as if we now have two levels of the four-level model — one version early in a patch and another sinmpler version later in the patch. And it definitely says that Blizz is more concerned with hyping World-First competitions than it is with setting a difficult but attainable goal for regular raiding guilds. (They’ll fix that shortfall after they have milked the hype…) Also, possibly, that they have signed on to RNG as a viable raid mechanic.

As to the other notable aspect of Method’s victory — team composition — I am not sure what to make of it. We will learn more of the reasoning behind it once we can see a video, and as Method speaks more freely about it. I do not think it should be news to anyone that Blizz has completely abandoned the “Bring the player not the class” philosophy, nor should it come as a surprise that the current state of class imbalance has given us superstars and losers in the class/spec lottery.

What gives me pause is how much of this philosophy and actual state of affairs will filter down to the majority of raid teams, and what effect it might have on player perceptions of “winner” and “loser” classes/specs. Certainly guild teams such as mine that raid for fun not profit will remain largely unchanged, especially since they rarely run Mythic level and are thus not bound into a strict 20 players. I suppose some realm-first guilds may decide to reorganize their rosters, but that will not affect a lot of players.

We have seen backlashes before, mainly in pugs, when certain classes/specs are deemed inferior, even if the perceived inferiority is only for certain fights under certain circumstances. Such backlashes can result in unhappiness among players, and unhappy players tend to switch specs to be the flavor of the month, to just quit the game, or to gripe loudly in forums and other communications venues, demanding their now-unpopular class/spec be buffed enough to be “competitive”.

I expect to see an uptick in the number of Balance druids, rogues, and MM hunters in the next few weeks, simply as a result of Method’s raid roster for the KJ kill. It is not logical, but it almost certainly will happen. I also expect there to be some amount of unfair discrimination against a few classes for pugs — possibly some against non-bear tanks, mistweaver healers and tanks, maybe BM hunters. And some of the forums will undoubtedly light up with demands for buffs — pretty much the same forums as the classes omitted from Method’s roster. (There are already buffs in the works for some of these classes, so Blizz may get off easy on them.)

But I still think it way too early to make any sweeping inferences about class balance based just on Method’s team roster for this kill. It was a special circumstance, a fact that will almost certainly elude many people. On the other hand, I do think it is appropriate to think about the stunning number of wipes involved, and what that might say about Blizz’s current approach to raid development.


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.

11 Responses to Impossible odds and imbalance?

  1. Marathal says:

    I think the raid is probably a bit overtuned at the moment. Last tier my guild got through Normal fairly quickly as they overgearef it, and heroic they progressed at a fair pace. They did manage to get through Normal ToS due to all decked out in Heroic Nighthold, but Heroic is a wall. They are 2-3 into it so far and looking to which to sit out. And that is an issue to me. It should never be a case of sitting out players or stacking classes to progress.

    • Fiannor says:

      Totally agree. Our team, too, got through NH normal very quickly and while we did not waltz through heroic, we got through it without much trauma. We are 6/9 on heroic ToS, but it has been a struggle, and last Thursday we hit an absolute wall on Maiden. And Kil’jaeden is still challenging for us on normal — we never one-shot him — so I expect absent some down-tuning he could end up being very frustrating for us. However, we are laid back enough that I do not foresee stacking classes at the expense of sitting some just because of their class. At least, not yet.

  2. Alunaria says:

    Very glad I came across your site here, Fiannor – you write in ways I really like; and pick subjects I think (too) little about – thank you for the insight.

    I seem to have read somewhere, that Method might sometimes change gear and spec before logging out, to keep the combination of specs “hidden” from the rest – did I get that part all wrong?

    653 wipes does sound like an awful lot, as you say – and the aspect of RNG you bring; it would be somewhat demotivating for me as a raider.

    Fascinating read, thank you, I find it quite interesting to think of, how a World First Kill can have such an impact throughout the community.

    • Marathal says:

      I have to wonder also if a lot of the total is subtle things like what happens if we pull the boss to different points in the room, gauging heroism on the pull vs different phases. Placement of healers and ranged too. I suspect too that the total May include the PTR testing also. 1000 wipes on two bosses seems like a lot more time than can be done in the amount of time they did, along with re-farming select heroic bosses for gear upgrades to certain classes. Or any farming of earlier Mythic bosses.

      • Fiannor says:

        Yes, for sure, even the most subtle changes in positioning, split-second timing, etc. must have a big effect on success or failure at that level. In thinking about it, I suppose what an elite raider thinks of as “precise execution” is what a grunt raider like me thinks of as “good luck”. So at the very top performance levels, those things are controllable even though they really aren’t at lower levels. What is not controllable at any level is the randomness of fight mechanics — things like where the big Armageddon meteor lands, that requires special measures to soak. But I think you are right — a team can practice contingencies for almost any combination of events, and success depends on almost pixel-level precision execution for every one of the 20 members every time. A very difficult task.

        I hadn’t thought about including the PTR phase in the wipe count, but all the comments including Method’s, indicate the PTR was not included. Still, I suppose it might be the case. I do think that many wipes in just a week is possible, though, recalling that Method requires their raiders to commit to 12-15 hours a day during world first progression. That includes all the prep such as gearing up 5+ alts, doing split runs for the mains, etc. But I am under the impression that during the final push, the 12-15 hours is pretty much all boss tries.

        I know my own team can easily wipe 8-10 times an hour on a boss. And if the failure point comes early, or if the fight is short, or if we are disciplined about deliberately wiping quickly when the RL calls for it, we can wipe even more times in an hour. I think it took 5-6 days (guessing here, I did not look it up) for Method to down the last boss, so the math certainly supports that many wipes over that period of intense effort.

      • Marathal says:

        All I can say is as a guild leader, glad I’m not paying that repair bill.

    • Fiannor says:

      @Alunaria. Yeah, I think I have read that, too, about switching gear and spec before logging out. No idea if it is true or just a community myth. It might make some sense while the progression race is on, not sure how useful it is after they have won — although some might think it fun to screw with the community. 😉

      But when I think about it, it seems like it would take a determined effort on the part of the team to pull it off. You can affect your armory presentation by switching talents and specs and gear before logging off, but only for each character. So, for example, if someone knows the names of the team roster, they can check the armory for each one and see the stats at logoff for them. But no matter what changes were made prior to logoff, the character’s class does not change. To hide the class makeup of the roster, you would have to actually switch out the roster prior to logoff and switch it back before raid time. Not hard to do — just a matter of kicks and invites — but it is another step. And as far as I know, that still does not erase the record of which characters killed which bosses.

      So if you know for sure the names of the characters on Method’s roster — even the bench — you can keep track of who killed which boss, unless there is an exception to the standard kill record for world first guilds. From that, no matter how they might change gear and spec before logging off, you know the class composition of the team for that fight. The key, I think, is knowing the names on the roster. To get around this, the only remedy for Method would be to change character names frequently, or to keep their roster completely secret.

      Interesting thought problem — thanks for the comment that set it off.

      • Alunaria says:

        Yeah, that makes sense, you are probably right about that. Was going to say, what the point of it would be, after they have “won the race”, but perhaps there is status in being the “only one at the top” for xx amount of weeks. /shrugs!

        Sure, I’m glad I could contribute 🙂

        I sadly have no time to dedicate to raiding in game anymore; but it sure seems quite imbalanced “up there” in Legion. But I imagine it gets harder and harder to actually “finetune” all classes to be identical, when it comes to output, mobility and counter-attack possiblities the further we progress, and the more spells/variety/complex ways of playing we “achieve”.

  3. Thuggs says:

    I think there is a lot more to the number “653” then the raw number. I was a heroic, (now mythic) raider in both MOP and WOD. One of the biggest differences between these world/server first teams are their insane efficiency of action. Most casual raiders don’t understand how demanding this aspect of their gameplay is. When a wipe is called, its a race to die for every single person. Then there is the race back to the boss and to eat and buff, all with the same all out haste as you’d have in the fight. Then add to the fact that they already know the fight, they know what needs to be done by each stage or time in a pull. The moment they see they aren’t where they want to be, WIPE! Then the mad dash to set back up and pull again. Sure some of these pulls might be long 8+ minutes into the fight, but the majority is just what I stated. The lead/leads have a plan, the moment they see the plan is off track. WIPE.

    One world first wipe is not the same as a casual wipe. I have easily seen teams like this get 4-5 pulls for every one pull of more casual teams. Definitely factor that in when evaluating the number “653”.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, excellent point. I am laughing to myself because I was in the process of making a similar one in a reply to a comment above when your comment got posted. Most casual raid teams really stink at deliberate wipes, and they waste a lot of time because of it. I know even in my own raid team, it is annoying when a wipe is called for and there is always that one guy that seems to want to strut his ego by being the last one to die. Such behavior would simply not be tolerated on an elite team.

      • Thuggs says:

        Yes. Yes, they can be. More importantly, I think most casual raiders can’t even conceive of how demanding those and efficient those actions are. And the time in between things like, actually dying, running back, bio breaks, or the allowance of RL interruptions. Then buffing, and calling for buffs that are missing or reminding ppl you have to eat, or ppl asking for food or flasks or some other such consumable they need. Some teams spend more time doing this stuff then actually fighting the boss. Its a pretty stark difference.

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