Last April I wrote a post with the title "Can crowd control really make a comeback?" in which I basically argued that I didn't think this was possible, considering many of the changes that Blizzard had made to class mechanics since BC. I promptly forgot about this again when reports from the Cataclysm beta all agreed that yes, crowd control would absolutely be necessary in the new heroics, but on the whole I felt that this was not a bad thing to be wrong about anyway.
However, now that I'm actually playing Cataclysm myself, I'm afraid that I might not have been wrong after all.
I ran my first heroic about ten days ago, with a guild group. We got heroic Grim Batol and those who had attempted it before groaned in unison the moment the loading screen came up (we had queued for a random). We wiped quite a few times and some people suggested that we should just requeue for something else, but I excitedly pushed for us to continue. In the end we didn't complete the instance as we were always just a smidgeon off the dps check on the last boss and it was late.
Still, I had a blast. I had only just passed the built-in gear check for heroics and ran oom on every boss, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. We wiped on trash as people struggled to co-ordinate their crowd control and it didn't faze me. I was so happy that hard heroics as I knew them were back, and I realised that it wasn't just because of the challenge itself - I liked that the difficulty paced the run, giving you time to look around, to take in the scenery and the mobs, and to simply chat with the rest of the party. The fun thing about crowd control is that it really requires people to trust each other and to work together. (You wait until I initiate the CC-pull, but then I rely on you to pick up the mobs that are coming for me now.) Wrath heroics didn't exactly require no tanking, no healing or no dps to get through, but generally everyone was a lot less reliant on the rest of the group. Losing one or more party members for some reason was largely meaningless, as dps was totally replaceable and tanks could survive whole pulls without healing. That doesn't really make for enjoyable group play in my mind.
Anyway, I figured that Blizzard had been successful in their endeavour to make crowd control relevant again and that I'd get to enjoy more runs like that first heroic Grim Batol. Only a few days after that run however - I had received a couple of upgrades since then, but still only had a few heroic items - I ran heroic Shadowfang Keep with our newest tank and he just barrelled right through the place with no crowd control whatsoever. I had to drink after nearly every single trash pull and did hint that constantly having to wait for the healer was a negative side effect of not using CC - at which point the tank apologised but nonetheless continued to ignore our crowd control options for the rest of that run.
And yet... we were totally fine. We only had two wipes on the first boss while we had a pug dps in the group that did about 3k dps and hadn't even trained his interrupt ability according to his own words. Once we booted that guy it was smooth sailing from there, except for me constantly being out of mana.
That same tank also took on Beauty in heroic Blackrock Caverns with all three of her pups even though we had enough CC in the party to take two of them out of the fight. As an added "bonus" one of our dpsers disconnected shortly after the pull so we lost more than a quarter of our damage output. I still don't quite know how I managed to heal through that fight with no deaths, but I did. And while I did feel a little proud afterwards, especially as I had been told only a few days before about how this boss was utterly impossible without crowd control, I also felt kind of sad. I really didn't expect people to give up on CC three days after I had just rediscovered its joys.
Unfortunately, looking back at the old post of mine that I linked at the start, what I'm seeing here is exactly what I predicted would happen: due to the new healing system being designed around mostly using small and efficient heals, individual mobs generally don't hit very hard, so the tank can tank them all without dying before the healer can get a cast off. Some of them have disruptive AoE abilities, but with everyone's health pools being large enough to nearly rival the tank's, a party can often live even through that with only minimal healing. Aggro isn't an issue either, especially as being hit by a whole pull at once builds up vengeance stacks more quickly.
Does the healer have to use all her most expensive spells and burn through an entire mana bar for each trash pull? Yes, but it's possible, and the only reason to do it any differently would be to be nice to the healer. The tank, who is often the one leading the group, certainly has little motivation to use CC most of the time - as mentioned above, faster and higher vengeance stacks help his threat and damage output, and WOTLK generally taught tanks that damage dealers are morons and that the only way to control a pull is for the tank to have aggro on everything. Why should he entrust any mobs to some random huntard to trap? I was in a normal Vortex Pinnacle run yesterday where the tank actually yelled at one of the damage dealers for daring to mark a CC target for himself. He's the tank and he controls the pull! Yeeeahhh...
Last night my random heroic for the day ended up being Lost City of the Tol'vir. At one point we accidentally aggroed two groups - and much to my astonishment we once again lived through it, with nobody even coming close to dying. There were delighted exclamations of how we could clearly do larger pulls "WOTLK style" from all sides and I just felt my heart sink. Never mind crowd control and groups working together... if tanks and dps can go back to just AoE-spamming their way through large pulls I feel like the whole revamp of the healing system has been pretty pointless. I mean, I fully expected this kind of thing to happen eventually, maybe after the second tier of raiding, but not with the expansion less than a month old and before I'd even killed a single raid boss.
Holy Paladin columnist at Blizzard Watch!
5 hours ago