Friday, March 14, 2008

That guy is an idiot.

I do a lot of Heroic dungeons. I always try to get in the daily and usually one or two others every day. I think the combination of Heroics, the badge reward system and the daily dungeon quests are one of the smartest things Blizzard has ever implemented.

Part of the problem in the level 60 end-game was that the number of available 5-man instances for your level was relatively small. Once I progressed past Scholomance, Blackrock Spire and Stratholme – you didn’t have much reason to revisit them. Oh occasionally I would hit the living side of Strat when I needed a new Crusader enchant or I would grind out Argent Dawn rep, but more often than not I left them alone.

Fast forward to the Level 70 end-game. When you first ding 70, there are 6 instances at your level for you to do at normal difficulty (Shadow Labs, Black Morass, Arcatraz, Botanica, Mech, Shattered Halls). It’s also not uncommon to continue to be running Steam Vaults, Durnholde and Sethhek Halls at this level. By the time you master these, you are geared well enough to begin the Heroics. Suddenly, many of the earlier instances you ran just a handful of times are relevant again on Heroic difficulty. In total, there are something like 13 different dungeons that can be done on Heroic difficulty.

And still – even when your gear surpasses that of the rewards in all the Heroics (not hard to do if you are also running Kara), the Heroics are still worth doing for the badges and the daily quest reward. All in all, it’s a good system and one that I find enjoyable.

Of course, if you do a lot of Heroics then chances are that you find yourself in the occasional PUG. If your guild is like mine, sometimes you can find one or two people to go with you. A full group of 5 guildies is rare for anything but the daily and you almost always have to pick up one or two from LFG. Other times, no one wants to go and you find yourself in a PUG with 3 or 4 from another guild.

Groups are funny. When things are going really smoothly, it can almost seem unexplainable. Particularly when the group feels a bit “undergeared” or you have a lot of off-specs running the instance with you. I’ve been on runs with a Shaman tanking and no CC other than my sap that have gone more smoothly than other more traditional setups.

And of course, we have all been in the groups where things go badly. These are the groups where “That guy is an idiot.” Of course, no one thinks they are the idiot, so the blame is inevitably being spread around evenly. That guy can’t tank. That guy can’t heal. That guy can’t control his aggro. That guy can’t get out of the way of XYZ. Sometimes you even grouped with that guy before and he seemed OK then.

Sometimes, it’s just painfully obvious what the problem is – but at other times, what makes a good group good and a bad group bad can be a complete mystery. In an odd way, this is one of the things I actual enjoy about PUGs. Oh it may be frustrating, but I also find a sort-of thrill in deducing what is making this run a bit easier or that run a bit harder.

Ironically, part of the problem lies in the continued appeal of Heroics for people who are well past it’s gear rewards. My friend dinged 70 and specced Feral on his Druid maybe a bit over a month ago. He is currently well enough geared to offtank Kara with no trouble and run most (if not all) of the Heroic instances. Put in a group of similarly geared people, he has no trouble holding aggro or soaking up damage in Heroic instances. I know this because I have ran a dozen or so with him tanking with no problems.

Last night, the daily was Slave Pens and we picked up two very well geared players. One was another Rogue in BT gear and the other was a Hunter in what must have been good gear because he was competing with the other Rogue for top DPS. I am competitive with the top of the charts in most groups and I was a distant third. Needless to say, DPS was not a problem and we burned mobs down fast.

We wiped three times.

It turns out we had too much DPS. In the eyes of the Hunter and other Rogue, my tank friend was undergeared. The Hunter in particular seemed to pull each mob off the tank in every fight. “Oh – his threat per second is underpar.” Umm. Well, no – for the level of difficulty of the dungeon his threat per second is just fine. Your threat per second is just way higher than most level 70s. To say that the run was sloppy is an understatement. If the two Rogues hadn’t been stun locking and blinding everything, I think at least one of us would have quit in frustration. And of course when we got to Quag, one of them pulled aggro during the Acid Spray and wiped us.

It’s easy to cast the blame on the Hunter and Rogue, but their position is equally understandable. If they are making reasonable attempts to control aggro and are feinting and feigning – then it’s reasonable to expect the tank can hold aggro.

I was in a similar scenario on my old alliance Rogue. I was very well geared by the time I got around to doing the Aldor/Scryer quest chain that takes you to visit Altruis in Nagrand. After killing three named mobs, he gives you a quest to go into Shadow Labs and get the Book of Fel Names off the Inciter. I grabbed a quick PUG and figured it would be a cake walk. It was a real shocker how easily I kept getting aggro. Even my white attacks alone were enough to pull off aggro and I was contributing more than 50% of the group DPS. I found myself waiting until mobs were damaged around 70% before I would attack in order to hold back enough to allow the tank to do his job. Luckily, mobs in Shadow Labs don’t one shot you and I was able to adjust. Still, I imagine that the tank and healer were cursing my name at times.

Had I gone in with an equally geared tank, we would have moved through the content faster and I wouldn’t have needed to hold back my aggro much (if at all). With normal instances, the mismatch I described rarely happens. In Heroics however, gear levels are often mismatched due to the nature of the rewards that are available. The irony is that the key is to have a really well geared tank, but that tanks are the hardest group member to find.

The point here is that sometimes, there is no idiot. We’d all like someone to blame, but sometimes it is just the group composition itself that creates the problem.

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