Frost mages and the vector of Legion

A vector is an object that has both a magnitude and a direction. Geometrically, we can picture a vector as a directed line segment, whose length is the magnitude of the vector and with an arrow indicating the direction. The direction of the vector is from its tail to its head.

A vector

Courtesy of mathinsight.org

For humans, time is an ephemeral vector. We are tied to its direction — always forward, never backward or stationary. And if time itself has an unimaginably immense magnitude, our own human magnitudes are infinitesimally small in comparison — occupying less space along the vector than a grain of sand along a million-mile journey. One of the consequences of this state is that we have a beginning and an end, and the space between those two points is what we experience as change.

This cosmic insight applies not only to we humans, but also to everything we create — civilizations and empires and governments and automobiles and socks and computer games. Even though humans are bound to the vector of time, we have the ability to stand outside it in a sense, to look down on a piece of it, study our creations, and see where they began and how they changed and ultimately how they ended, because we have memory and we have developed the ability to chronicle and thus preserve aggregated memories.

Which — finally! — brings me to the subject of today’s post. It certainly is not news to any of my readers that we are at the end of the Legion expansion, and something that happened over the weekend caused me to contemplate the magnitude of its vector within the game.

First, the event(s). As there is not much more that interests me about my main hunter just now, I have been dabbling with my alts, concentrating on one or another of them for several days at a time, then moving on to a different one. This weekend I was focusing on my mage. I initially leveled her (a void elf) as Arcane (a mistake, btw) and that was the first spec for which I obtained an artifact and got it to level 75. Then I did the same for Fire, because I really think that is a fun spec. Unfortunately, in Legion Fire is not especially powerful, so — just to round things out — I started the same process for Frost. Currently my artifact level is 72 on that spec, so I have a small ways to go to get to what I consider max level for any alt artifact.

Before I go on, let me point out that while I have become minimally proficient as a mage, I am nowhere close to being good, or even above average. Prior to this weekend, the best I could eke out in front of a target dummy as a Frost mage — no movement and no food or other consumable buffs — was about 700-800k sustained dps. All you excellent mages out there are free to laugh your butts off over this, especially when I tell you my ilevel was around 930. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway, the point is, I am pretty bad as a Frost mage.

But over the course of this weekend I finally got 4 pieces of t21 normal gear (I do not have any t20), along with two of the top three legendaries for Frost mages (Shard of the Exodar ring and Shattered Fragments of Sindragosa helm). Once I made a talent change to accommodate the helm, there was an instantaneous sea change in my damage numbers. Simply by adding these 6 pieces of gear (which only changed my overall ilevel by about 3 levels) my sustained target dummy dps doubled — well over 1.5m dps for  several 8-minute sessions. (I did a few to mitigate any possible fantastic good luck with the heavy proc-fishing one has to do with Frost mages.)

Did I suddenly become twice as proficient? In my dreams! No, it was just gear.

To me, this experience pretty well encapsulates some of the worst aspects of Legion, design changes that I fear we have not seen the last of:

  • Using gear (trinkets, tier, and legendaries) to correct class/spec play style and potency design flaws, instead of correcting basic balance problems.
  • Using RNG as the sole determiner of which players will be awarded these crucial gap-fillers for their spec.
    • Taunting players with the idea that there is “bad luck” insurance that kicks in if you just keep grinding raids and dungeons and emissary quests for enough weeks. But this does NOT have anything to do with getting the “good” legendaries and such, only with getting one — which may in fact suck, causing you and your bad luck to start all over again in hopes of getting the one that fixes your lousy rotation.
  • The extreme reliance on secondary stats to bring a spec’s abilities to anything close to their potential, and the twin crime of making those stats completely random for loot drops.

These design decisions, more than any other factors in my opinion, are what created the “never-ending grind” many felt in Legion. The overriding importance of gear — including the artifact weapon — combined with the RNG aspect and geometric increases in AP for the artifact — made much of Legion an exercise in soul-sucking drudgery.  Players looking to meet their regular end game goals — especially if those goals included becoming a contributing member of a raid team — found that Blizz had suddenly moved the goal posts and in fact kept moving them as the expansion progressed.

In effect, Blizz was altering the normal change vector by moving the magnitude with the expansion rather than letting the player move along a fixed magnitude and thus see what they had come to expect as “progress”.

Blizz seems unable or unwilling to learn the meta-lessons from their mistakes, preferring to learn only the specific ones. If players complained about artifacts being too grindy in Legion, for example, Blizz eliminates artifacts in BfA but simply breaks their effect up among several small artifact-like pieces. The never-ending grind is still there. If players objected to class-fixing legendary bonuses, Blizz eliminated those kinds of legendaries in BfA but moved the class bandaids to bonus traits in Azerite armor. When players complained about having to run dailies and weeklies in Mists of Pandaria in order to not feel as if they were falling behind, Blizz changed the name to world quests in Legion and kept them as a requirement for earning AP and gear in order to be eligible for other group activities. When players complained bitterly about garrisons in WoD, Blizz changed the name to class halls in Legion.

Before I get deluged with hate mail, all of this is not to say there were not some excellent innovations in Legion — and I will likely have a post on what I think those were before BfA goes live. In general I think Legion was a decent expansion. But I am troubled by what I see as Blizz’s move to a design philosophy that seems to deliberately create winner and loser classes and specs, along with a system that rewards luck more than any other factor for player potential. And I continue to be disappointed in Blizz’s seeming inability to truly move on from what even they admit were mistakes — they seem anchored to the design concepts and more eager to camouflage them than to correct them.

Alt raiding

Last night our guild did an alt run of Heroic Antorus the Burning Throne. We have been running normal for alt runs, but several people have got their “main alts” to a level where that is not really challenging any more. We set an ilevel requirement of 920 and ended up with something like 15 people. We made it as far as Kin’garoth fairly easily, but wiped repeatedly on him and called it for the night. That boss is really a DPS check (how fast you can down the adds) for the remainder of the raid, a sort of gateway to the hardest final bosses. But all in all it was a fun night, and we got further than I expected.

From a personal standpoint, I did get two tier upgrades on my druid — yay! But my healing was not much more than adequate, and it was only afterwards that I discovered a huge mistake in my keybind setup. Not necessary to go into details, but the result was that what I thought was my keybind for Nature’s Cure was in fact a dupe of my keybind for combat rez. Oops. No wonder I ended up with no debuff dispels on Imonar…. And that pretty much explains why the other two healers were hollering theirs were on cooldown, and for me to cast mine. I kept saying mine was also on cool down, because when I hit the key nothing happened (of course), so I just assumed that was the case. Not one of my finer moments. 🤭 Still, I am learning better techniques for conserving mana and for anticipating damage cycles, so I suppose it was a net learning experience. (Just don’t tell my GM about my faux pas!)

We will still do our Friday night normal alt raids, and at this point I am considering signing my void elf mage up for those, as there really is not anything loot-wise I need from normal for my druid. And heaven knows, I can use the practice on my mage. I expect the first couple of times I will embarrass myself with disgustingly low damage numbers, but hopefully I will improve in fairly short order. I know the DPS fights, it’s just a matter of figuring out how best to do my mage-y stuff for each one.

In truth, I am a tad conflicted about these alt raids. On the one hand, I almost invariably have fun doing them, and I enjoy figuring out how different classes need to interact in the fights. In the long run, I think it makes me a better raider because it gives me a broader perspective and ultimately better raid sense. On the other hand, I am kind of burned out on raiding, and going back to a 2-night per week “schedule” is a bit daunting, especially the heroic runs because I am still really stressed when I heal. But on the third (?) hand, we have four months left yet until BfA, so it is good to have a fun guild-sponsored way to really explore the advantages and disadvantages of my various alt classes and specs.

Plus, there is always alcohol to lessen the healing stress or to add to the Friday night party atmosphere. (🤫) And there is no “requirement” to participate in alt runs, like there is during the regular progression season. Sign up or don’t, whatever you want.

Okay, I talked myself into it.

Now maybe I should figure out which other alts I would like to run through the normal raids. It might be a good way to get an idea of another spec I might want to main in BfA since BM hunters continue to look like a lousy bet.

Yes, I know, I am probably deluding myself with talk of maining another spec in BfA, but I am trying to humor myself. Even given the terrible state of BM hunters now and likely for the entire new expansion, truth be told I am not sure I would ever be able to give up a hunter main. What is more likely is that I will kick dirt and grumble to myself and end up selecting either MM or SV for BfA. Okay, maybe not SV, as I really, really hate that it is melee, plus I am still stinging over the shabby way Blizz yanked this spec out from under me in WoD. Never say never, but I am still of the opinion that it will be a cold damn day in hell when I do melee SV except as a lark. Yes, I am obstinate. (Please feel free to taunt me with this statement if I end up going SV in the next expansion…)

Maybe I will buck the trend and try to do MM, even in raids, with a pet. From what I am reading so far, I doubt doing so will yield worse numbers than BM will. Except for Blizz skewing the numbers to strongly encourage MM hunters to go petless, the spec does seem like it will be engaging to play in BfA, especially with the changes that give it more mobility, along with active focus regeneration, and some decent procs. So far, MM is my  Plan B for BfA (a decent BM being Plan A, but this is looking more and more unlikely). But that does not mean I am not working on Plan C and even Plan D.

Hmmm, another idea for fun with alt runs — switch hunter specs and run as MM or even *shudder* SV….. Just as alts, mind you, not as a real hunter! Plus, I have all the legendaries for both specs.

Definitely worth considering.

In a slump

Last night we ran through Heroic Antorus, clearing it in under 3 hours. It’s fair to say we now have it on farm, although I am not sure what anyone is really farming for any more. Before we finished Argus, the RL mentioned maybe if we had time we might take a run at Mythic Garothi. That, of course, was the signal for several people to immediately drop group and log off the minute we finished Argus. It is true we are not a mythic raiding guild, but we are certainly capable of finishing off a couple of the earlier bosses on that level every tier. I find it challenging and fun, because there really is no pressure to do any sort of heavy progression — we get as far as we can get, and when it gets too punishing we stop. Unfortunately, we do not have 19 other people who feel the same way, so even though we had 22 finish last night’s raid with an hour left in our usual raid time, at least 10 bailed immediately.

About the only thing I am still interested in getting from the raid are my final two tokens to finish upgrading my hunter Pantheon trinket. We have had only one legendary version drop from Argus, in what amounts to maybe 300 kills (20 people average, maybe total of 15 normal/heroic kills), and honestly I don’t see it as much of an improvement for me once I get mine to ilevel 1000. I am not even sure how useful the raid-wide proc is for us, as some people who have the specialized trinket for healing or dps or whatnot do not wear theirs during raid because their other trinkets sim higher for them. So I guess we could be getting more frequent procs if more people wore theirs, but that doesn’t happen.

Overall, I think the whole Pantheon trinket mechanism is poorly conceived. It seems like it was designed solely for high end raiding guilds, and even then the fact that there is zero control over the proc just blows. If a team really works to get their raiders the trinkets and upgrades, they should absolutely be able to control when to trigger the buff. Then again, possibly Blizz knew that this raid tier was going to be pretty mediocre, and doling out trinket upgrades was all they could think of to keep a few guilds going back.

My own performance in our raids seems to be regressing, and I am in kind of a funk about it. I don’t run a damage meter during actual raids, but I do look at my logs afterwards to see where I can improve. Everyone can have an off night, of course, but I have been having an off night now for about 3 weeks. My damage numbers (both totals and dps) are just not improving.

I am not so self-serving as to put it off on gear. I have a relatively high ilevel (around 962 equipped). I really cannot use that as an excuse. However, I am struggling with secondary stats — just cannot get seem to amass the crit I need for my zoo build. I have equipped the highest-crit items I have, and I gem and enchant for it, but it remains pretty pitiful. Meanwhile, my mastery soars to well over 100%, and I end up with what seems like far too much versatility. With so much mastery, I tried a Dire Frenzy build for a while, but there was little improvement that I could see, and it was a dead boring rotation, so I switched back.

The insanely high impact secondary stats have on each spec, combined with the randomness of their presence in gear, is in my opinion one of the worst things Blizz has foisted on us. (And don’t even get me started on gear specialized for a certain spec, such as tier gear, having large amounts of what is arguably the worst possible stat for that spec.) I almost hate getting new gear these days, because it is impossible to tell at a glance whether or not it will be an upgrade, or if it might become an upgrade with a different talent build or different legendaries or different sets of tier gear.

Still, I can’t chalk up my poor performance to gear. That is a cop out.

One thing, I think, is that BM hunters, with our mobility, do  well early in a new raid tier. But as the tier goes on, other damage dealers — melee, casters, and even MM hunters — learn the fights and learn where they can stand and when to move to optimize their performance. But other than mashing buttons more efficiently, BM hunters have nothing really to optimize, so even if we don’t actually get worse, everyone else is getting better.

It is true that excellent BM hunters can compete with the best damage dealers. We have one in our guild, and I am in awe of her amazing performance in nearly every fight. (Even so, she is rarely if ever the top damage dealer.) I, however, am only slightly above average even on my best days, and I think that average BM hunters fare rather badly in Legion. Worse than, say, average affliction warlocks or average almost any other class/spec.

(However, none of that is an excuse for doing things like accidentally disengaging off the Kin’garoth platform during a fight. Twice. Or for getting trapped in fire on the far side of the Aggramar platform. That was just inattention and stupidity last night, and I am embarrassed about it.)

Legion is the first expansion where I have not gotten better as the expansion went on. Better gear, higher proficiency with my rotation, more familiarity with the boss fights, more attention to mechanics — no matter how hard I work on those things, and I do work on them — I am losing ground. It is demoralizing.

So, yeah, I am in a definite slump. Whether it is strictly a personal one or one engineered by Blizz’s inability to scale and balance BM hunters, it just feels bad.

Gear and math

It’s been a nice relaxing couple of weeks in my WoW world. In my guild, we all took a break from what was becoming a very dull Nighthold raid circuit, and I seized the opportunity to work on a couple of alts — my balance druid and my destruction warlock. I find I enjoy playing them both, but the lock possibly a tad bit more than the druid. I still find the boomkin tedious for its long casts, but it gets better with better gear stacked for haste.

Both alts are hovering very close to ilvl 900 or a bit under, and the one thing that amazes me is how much better they are simply by virtue of having better gear. Trust me, in the last two weeks I have not suddenly become vastly more proficient on either one, but the difference in damage for both is pretty astounding. The only change has been upgraded gear. In some ways this is fun, because gear is relatively easy to get, even without subjecting yourself to LFR or mythic dungeons. But in other ways is seems kind of cheesy and not quite right. I guess it is an inevitable result of Blizz stepping away from the “bring the player not the class” philosophy — class/spec mechanics and gear seem to count for more and more these days. Nobody likes to blame gear for poor performance (well, okay, maybe some people like to), but that excuse is actually becoming more and more reasonable as Legion goes on.

I was thinking about this as I started last night to prepare my main hunter for resumption of raiding Tuesday when Tomb of Sargeras opens. Patch 7.2.5 brought some changes to BM hunters, and in spite of giving us a baseline 2-charge Dire Beast/Dire Frenzy, it is looking like overall we are in a worse place damage-wise than we were for Nighthold. Seems like Blizz just could not stand to have BM hunters close to the top, had to take away more than they gave. There will still be some class tweaks coming along in hotfixes, but honestly I am not holding my breath that any of them will include buffs for BM hunters.

At least two sites I read regularly have openly stated that MM is clearly — and by quite a ways — top of the hunter heap. From the IcyVeins BM hunter guide:

Now that 7.2.5 has released, we can say with reasonable confidence and assuming no major changes, that Marksmanship will be the optimal raiding spec going into Tomb of Sargeras, mostly due to the potency of its new set bonuses.

Beast Mastery remains a solid choice, though rather than being very competitive and sometimes even better at single-target than Marksmanship in ideal situations, it is now fair to say that its potential output is less than Marksmanship in nearly all situations.

And even the redoubtable Bendak, in his most recent BM post about Patch 7.2.5, is brutally realistic about BM, stating it will likely fall out not only in the middle of the damage pack, but likely in the lower middle at that.

Whatever. I am a hunter in WoW, that is who I am. And since Blizz has seen fit to destroy the essence of my vision of “hunterness” in MM and SV specs, I really have no choice but to continue playing BM. Numbers have never meant that much to me anyway, so what seems to be a sudden plunge from lower-top to lower-middle position is not a calamity. Some class/spec has to be in that position, it is the nature of rankings. Still, I will be interested to see what the actual numbers spread is when the ToS results start to become available. If the spread between top and bottom is large, then Blizz will have once again failed in its never-ending attempt to “balance” the class/spec mess they themselves caused.

My alt gear-centric push over the last couple of weeks also served to reinforce to me the utter insanity of Legion’s gear complexity. On my alts the calculus was relatively easy, since I never intend to actually raid with them: higher ilevel = good, secondary stats pretty much be damned. But when I started to weigh gear and talent combos on my main in preparation for ToS, I found myself once again despairing over the sheer mathematical enormity of the task.

It has gotten so bad that AskMrRobot is now implementing a SETI-like mass computer sharing approach to solving the gear problem for players. Mind you, modern computers already have pretty massive computing power. Certainly enough that even a middle-level server could perform general arithmetical comparisons, even for thousands of users at a time. But Blizz’s insane interdependencies of gear stats, talents, different types of raid bosses, RNG-dependent proc rates, and specialized legendary and set bonuses have gone exponentially past arithmetic calculations. To properly assess the relative value of gear, only massive computer simulations approach accuracy. One or two simulations at a time are handled (though slowly) on a home desktop computer, but if you are trying to do it for large numbers of players, you need vast computational resources, and the cheapest way to get them is to set up a distributed grid of community computers. (I applaud AMR’s ingenuity here, but honestly I would like to see a bit more detail on their app’s security setup before I open my computer to it.)

The point is, you need the power of modern computers to decide if a piece of WoW gear is actually an upgrade for you, or to decide which legendary works best with which set of talents. 

But Reforging was “too much math” for us.

🙄🙄🙄

See you after the release of ToS.

Class dismissed

As some of my regular readers may know, I have recently begun raiding again with a new guild — fun/alt HFC(N) runs, but that is a huge step forward from where I have been for the last 9-10 months. I am enjoying it a lot, and some of my raiding skills are starting to come back. However, I am disappointed in my damage numbers, not because of the numbers themselves, but because I know I am not maximizing my current gear/spec to what it could be.

I should by all rights be actively seeking to improve my MM hunter skills, but I am having a hard time convincing myself to put much work into doing so. I am angry, depressed, and –to be brutally honest — still pouting over the current as well as future changes to hunters. This state of mind is not conducive to  motivating me to improve my hunter skills.

To start with, I am angry that Blizz has made MM hunter the only really viable raiding spec in WoD. I was a SV hunter, loved the feel to it, had played it since Cata, and was good at it. Then Blizz completely destroyed it in 6.2, without so much as a by-your-leave or even a screw-you to those of us who loved the spec and had invested a lot of time in perfecting it.

Then Blizz proceeded to ignore BM as a spec, doing no further balancing for it, while at the same time buffing MM with talents as well as with the 4-piece tier set. In fact, they made the tier set a defacto requirement for a smooth MM rotation. Without the 4-piece, MM is a clumsy, clunky, annoying spec to play. In my opinion, that is piss-poor and lazy design. (And no, so far I only have 2 pieces, and honestly given my horrible RNG luck I am not expecting to get the full set.)

So I am already annoyed that I am more or less forced into playing MM if I wish to raid effectively. Now add the fact that anything I learn with MM now will be useless when Legion goes live. For one thing, every hunter spec will change so drastically as to be virtually three different classes instead of variations on a single class. For another, I have absolutely zero intention of continuing to play MM in Legion. And since I stubbornly refuse to play the new melee class Blizz calls “Survival hunter”, that leaves me with Beastmastery as my only possibility.

No, spending time and effort getting good at MM right now is not appealing to me at all. Oh, I will work at it a little, because my stubborn pride is still there, but my heart is not in it. In the past, whenever I worked on improving my hunter skills, I had fun doing it — I actually enjoyed the learning process, loved seeing my skills improve. (I spent days learning how to do a forward disengage, and I loved every minute of the process.) But not now. Now it will be tedious and largely futile.

I have been devouring every tiny bit of info I can find on Legion hunter specs — especially the comments from the alpha testers — and I remain very pessimistic about the future of the class I have loved since my first day in WoW. Of course, everyone hastens to point out that it is very early in the development process, and much will change before the class changes go live. To that I say horse hockey! Yes, there will be changes to fix obvious bugs, and likely a few balance tweaks, but my reading is that there are fundamental, foundational flaws in each spec that can only be fixed by a complete rewrite of the spec. Which Blizz almost certainly will not do.

I encourage you to read the alpha tester comments yourselves to see the specifics, but in comment after comment what I see are variations on the theme of “This just feels wrong.” For example, a recurring criticism of the new BM (for me, the only hunter spec I will consider playing) is that there is no player-controlled focus generator. This removes a huge amount of player choice in shot selection — it basically puts the “rote” back into rotation. It also implies there might be a significant amount of down time, like the current combat rogue complaint.

Another baseline change is that only SV hunters will be able to trap, a change that will require a complete rethink about hunters not only by hunters themselves, but also by raid leaders. Most BM and MM hunters have spent a significant amount of time honing their trapping skills, have woven them into kiting and soloing play styles, and now they must start all over again with those. This is a another change I do not see being reversed during the development process.

And not for nothin’, but why in the hell would anyone think traps would be a good idea for melee fighters? No tank I know would stand for some melee damage dealer willy-nilly dropping slow or freezing traps in a boss scrum area. Not to mention the visual clutter it will contribute to an already over-cluttered area. The spec that really needs traps is MM, because their pets have been taken away, and a robust trapping ability would have helped them while soloing. But Blizz’s response to concerns about MM soloing? “Suck it up, other classes manage without pets.” Yes, that is true, and if I wanted to do that I would have rolled one of those classes….

There are other fundamental flaws I do not see Blizz changing, such as a perceived over-reliance on RNG for MM damage interactions. One tester pointed out a huge design flaw where in several situations Arcane Shot (which applies the new Hunters Mark debuff) takes longer to arrive at the target than the GCD, so you will not know whether HM has been applied or not by the time you have to get your next shot off. There are similarly serious design flaws in the new SV spec, but I pay little attention to them because there is no way in hell I will ever play that spec again.

The point is, even though there will be minor adjustments to hunter specs, I think we are in a WYSIWYG situation with the basic feel and play styles. BM hunters were just added to the new alpha build, so there are no real test results on that spec just yet. I expect to see some in the next couple of days, and I am holding my breath that it will seem even remotely playable.

But I am not optimistic about it. If Blizz had started out in 6.2 to deliberately obliterate the hunter class, they could not have done a better job. I fully expect to be playing another class entirely in Legion, and that makes me sad beyond belief.

 

 

 

 

What makes a boss fight fun?

After procrastinating for a few weeks, I finally queued for an Archimonde group in LFR a couple of days ago. After all the player complaints and anecdotal horror stories, I was expecting my experience to be an exercise in frustration. Imagine my surprise when I found it to actually be fun.

I was in what I imagine must have been a good (Tuesday) group. We started fresh and downed him on our third try, with very few deaths. After the first wipe, someone calmly explained a few of the mechanics, no name-calling, no personal insults or rage quits, all very grown up and polite. Of course, Blizz has nerfed the LFR version of this boss a couple of times, so that was a factor, too. But in its current form, I found the fight mechanics to be very straightforward, at least for damage dealers, and not too complex for a group of strangers to manage. My only real quibble with the fight is that once again Blizz has designed it such that the fail point comes near the end, and it is a very long fight. Too long for LFR, even for a final boss, but that is a pet peeve of mine.

Nevertheless, as I said, I thought it was fun. Which got me to thinking, what makes a boss fight fun for me? Turns out this is a hard question to answer. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of porn — “I know it when I see it ” — a “fun” boss is easy to identify when you experience it but very difficult to define in advance. Also, I am certain that — like porn — everyone’s definition varies somewhat.

What are some boss fights I thought were fun? As I only really started raiding with a regular team near the end of Wrath, I won’t go back to the fog-enshrouded of BC and before. But here is a list of my top ten boss fights (not in any particular order):

  • The Lich King (from Icecrown Citadel)
  • Theralion and Valiona (from Bastion of Twilight)
  • Alysrazor (from Firelands)
  • Ultraxion (from Dragon Soul)
  • Spine of Deathwing (from Dragon Soul)
  • Warmaster Blackhorn (from Dragon Soul)
  • Murozond (not a raid, but last boss of End Time instance in Cata)
  • Sha of Fear (from Terrace of Endless Spring)
  • Siegecrafter Blackfuse (from Siege of Orgrimmar)
  • Brackenspore (from Highmaul)

I really don’t know what it is about these fights that I like, but I know I do. One thing that I notice is that in most of them I had some sort of special raid duty — part of the price of being a hunter, lol. I always kind of liked raid duties, didn’t try to avoid them like most people do. I wonder if that particular aspect of being a hunter will be gone in Legion. Actually, it may be gone now, with the destruction of SV as a viable spec. BM hunters lose a lot of dps in any fight requiring a lot of target switching, and MM hunters really are not nearly as mobile as all hunters used to be. SV hunters were perfect for flame thrower duty in Brackenspore, you could leave your pet on the boss while you bopped around burning moss then stepped back in range for some great dps, rinse and repeat. It was fun. As was Siegecrafter, once you figured out how to jump while on the conveyor belt, and dodge the fire. Those kind of extra duties break up the monotony of long fights. Even though Garrosh was not one of my favorite bosses, I always like having Engineer duty. And I loved the extra duties I had in Ko’agh and even The Butcher.

The other thing I notice is that most of my favorite fights required a reasonable, but not excessive, amount of movement. As a hunter, I am extremely mobile compared to other damage dealers, but I like to move when I want to, for better positioning, etc. I do not enjoy constant movement just for its own sake. For example, I always did quite well on the Hanz and Franz fight in BRF, but I never really found it fun, too much required movement. Same with the trains one.

(Ultraxion is an obvious exception to everything I just listed as reasons I liked the bosses. I think he is in there because it was fun for a change to just stand still and unload everything you’ve got on a target dummy type boss. Kind of a live fire exercise for everyone!)

Last, but not least, my favorite bosses were challenging when they were current, but they did not seem impossible.

I like mechanics that are easy to understand but challenging to execute. I think the toughest set of mechanics to understand in my list were on the Lich King — not because they were so complex, but because there were so many of them, they changed every phase, and almost any one of them could kill you if not properly dealt with.

I like mechanics that are novel and creative, too. So that usually means I like bosses with new mechanics the first time they are used, but when Blizz incorporates the “new” mechanic into the next several bosses, I lose interest. Thus, I liked Siegecrafter for the conveyor belt mechanic, but I did not like that same mechanic in Hanz and Franz or the trains in BRF. I liked the whisk-you-away mechanic in Sha of Fear, but it was not nearly so much fun for me when repeated in Kargath Bladefist in Highmaul.

And some mechanics I just hate, no matter what. I could never get the hang of the maze in Durumu the Forgotten in Throne of Thunder, and so that boss would be very high up on my list of most hated fights. The mechanic was novel, I will grant you, but it was just impossible to execute for some people. (And yes, I tried every conceivable camera angle, every possible graphics setting, every hint ever posted anywhere, so please don’t write me about the one foolproof way you found to do it. I guarantee you I already tried it and it did not work for me. When a significant number of players who are not idiots cannot manage a mechanic, it is a terrible one.)

I like bosses that can be defeated with good teamwork and individual alertness, not ones that can kill you just by bad luck, for instance that target random raid members (including tanks and healers) with raid-wiping debuffs.

There is, however, a fine line between “challenging” and “almost impossible without pure luck”. My all time worst boss was Ragnaros. Our guild almost disbanded over him. I have lost count on how many wipes we had on him, but it went on for literally months, to the point where raid night became one long painful trudge with sullen guildies driven only by a rapidly diminishing sense of loyalty to a raid leader with more stubbornness than good sense. Several people did in fact leave the guild over his refusal to allow us to start the new tier until we had downed Ragnaros. When we finally did get him down, it was due to fantastic luck and came down to our one pally left alone, eking out enough damage and self heals to kill Rags just milliseconds before he himself died. I have never gone back to that boss since.

Anyway, I still don’t know if I can define what it is that makes a boss fun for me, but it certainly includes:

  • Having a specialized role to play, beyond straight DPS.
  • Enough movement to highlight hunter mobility, but not so much as to force it on me and not so much as to make all ranged casters miserable.
  • Easy to understand mechanics that require practice and alertness to execute properly.
  • More or less guaranteed success if the fight is properly executed at the level being fought. That is, the fight has zero dependence on RNG factors such as random selection of players for catastrophic debuffs, The harder the fight is, the more this last stipulation is important.

That’s it for me, I think. I would be interested to know what it is that makes a boss fight fun for you.

Ring-knockers of WoW

Unless I have the most stupendous run of bad luck in the history of the world, I should get my final legendary ring on my main today. I have the naval mission quest line completed, and I ended up last week with 32 tomes. I certainly should not have to run more than a couple of LFR bosses today to get that final tome.

I suppose I will be happy to get the ring, although truth be told I am actually kind of meh about it. I think I really only want it in order to be admitted to “the club”, not because I am excited about its potential for damage boosting. Only one other damage dealer on our raid team has the ring, so until now he has pretty much used it whenever he wanted to. Now, of course, we will have to coordinate its use if we want to get the max buff. This could be kind of challenging, since both of us are ranged, and ideally you want to be fairly close to each other when it is invoked, because of the last part of the proc that deals huge damage to all enemies within 20 yards of the initiating player’s location.

In fact, the whole intricate timing and positioning thing seems too complex for any but the most elite raid teams to coordinate optimally. For damage dealers, not only do you have to be very precise in your positioning, but you also should try to ensure most players are at a place in their rotations where they can get the most benefit from the proc. This of course is impossible. Which means the ring by design is poorly optimized. Worse, its impending use may cause some players to change up their normal rotations — thereby losing significant DPS — in anticipation of saving even their minor cool downs for the ring proc.

Group use mechanic aside, the proc seems to me to be poorly designed. Ideally, you would save its use for a boss, probably for when you decide to use Hero/Time Warp/ etc. So for 15 seconds all ring-wearers have their individual damage buffed up, but then after the 15 seconds that 20-yard AoE thing kicks in. It just seems like there will frequently be no one but the boss to hit at that point, or if there are a bunch of adds most likely the off tank will have them positioned away from the boss. I’m sure some of you who have used the ring in raid settings have better insight than I do on this, but it just seems like a lot of the proc will frequently be completely wasted.

The legendary ring seems to line up with the mood of this entire expansion, best summed up for me as “Ugh.” I did like the idea that you got incremental versions of the ring as you progressed through the quest line, but other than that the whole legendary has been extremely lackluster in WoD.

I think maybe another telling point about the boringness of the ring is that I almost never see Raid Finder groups requiring it as a condition of acceptance. High gear levels, previous boss kills, minimum DPS — yes, but ring? No one seems to care. Maybe that will change as more people get it, but I think there is a pretty good chance it won’t.

So, yeah, I will probably get my ring today, but no, I am not especially excited about it.

(And the “ring-knocker” term in the title of this post is a reference to a derogatory characterization of West Point graduates in the Army — that they get good leadership positions solely by ostentatiously knocking their rings on the table, not by being competent. Almost never true, but an enduring stereotype nonetheless.)