Over before it even began

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.


  1. You know what that means, don't you? If Blizz really wants CC back in the game long term, they'll have to buff the Heroics or nerf the classes again.

    If it's just a fakeout on Blizz's part, then they'll start losing people to boredom before all the first set of raids are cleared. Blizz has to tread carefully on this, because if they don't do something, the asshatery in instances will only get worse.

  2. Yeah, it's over already. No CC, chain pull, go go go. I don't even bother drinking. We stop for caster DPS more than me, these days.

    I have mixed feelings about it. Half hour heroics are nice on raid nights, but, wow, we sure outgeared the five mans quickly (without even having to raid to do it!). I enjoyed the feeling of teamwork and group effort that CC inspired, and I doubt that is coming back, now.

  3. There's a huge difference between the interesting TBC heroics and the boring ones we got for Cata. In TBC the trash mobs often had secondary effects which made it impossible to tank to much of them because you couldn't "tank" their secondary abilities.

    - Stun with a resulting aggro loss.
    - Random Aggro
    - Random Aggro DOTs
    - Manaburn which immediately OOMs your healer resulting in a wipe.
    - Kicks and knockbacks/knockdowns
    - silence
    - disarm
    - multiple ranged mobs without a terrain for a LOS pull

    In Cata the trash mobs have a ton of hp and if you tank many of them it requires your healer to use inefficient heals. Hello? How boring can it get? You won't be able to bring back CC by math... Trash needs to be a challenge and threat and not just a minor inconvenience between bosses!

    Besides that... with my warlock I can't compete with tank DPS on trash on a 3 or 4 pull. Blizzard nerfed my AE spells (they did that with all DD chars) but didn't nerf the AE dmg of tanks.

  4. @Kring-- Well, after having perused the PTR for 4.06, looks like the solution is to nerf healing.

  5. A few posts ago you said the path to gearing up seemed especially grindy, but now it seems you can just blitz heroics in 30 minutes. Is this a case of "be careful for what you wish for"?

  6. I think CC is still required in your average group - but a lot of it will depend on the mentality of your tank/healer. Say you're a new(ish) tank and you do a run where the healer can muscle you through a bad pull or 5. In your next run, you'll assume the same thing, though maybe your healer there can't (or won't). I know I let people die all the time when they fail to pay attention. Yes, I see your HP falling, but it's more mana efficient to rez you.

  7. @Kring: I actually think they managed to make trash with some pretty interesting abilities in the Cata heroics, the problem from my point of view is just that because the mobs don't hit as hard, the disruption doesn't actually matter as much. For example we did that first pull in heroic Stonecore without CC, I got feared, then stunned, then charged - but the tank was still fine after me being out of commission for several seconds. Likewise even if the tank loses aggro, a clothie can take more than a few hits these days. It makes the pull messy and does increase the risk that your healer will run oom before all the mobs are dead - but if that's the only risk, it's actually not that dangerous.

    @Anonymous: I did make a follow-up comment to that post, saying that it seemed like the game was out to prove me wrong right after I wrote it, as I got five upgrades in one night right after I posted. Still, wanting to be geared enough to try the entry raids doesn't equal wanting to be able to steamroll the heroic five-mans. I see no reason why one has to immediately lead to the other.

    @Adgamorix: Oh yes, I have no doubt that I'm a bit ahead of the "average group" with this experience, but if we're outgearing things this quickly than the average pug will likely feel it too in a few weeks time, and I do think that's way too early. Especially as many people were only just (re-)learning how to crowd control in the first place. If it becomes obsolete again so quickly then it's never going to stick.

  8. I've been complaining about this myself - already there are so many groups that feel heroics have become easy enough to drop all the CC again. yeah that's nice, but the person that has to work the most because of this, is the healer. and we don't even get asked whether we're okay with less CC being put up.
    most players dont realize that abandoning CC in places like SFK for example, is no speed up to the run: it only means there are longer breaks in between pulls, because the healer is emptying his manabar 3 times quicker.


  9. As Kring points out, unless mobs do something worse than damage, we'll always be able to outgear them and therefore, CC.

    @Anonymous: Grinding and trivial repetition tend to go hand in hand.

  10. For my money, there are two particular issues here. One is that gear is exponential now. When I did my first successful heroic on 16 Dec I think I had iLvl 330. Now I am well into the 350s with all the rep epics, crafted epics, and an epic PvP weap. I have 20% more health and a big chunk more dodge and armor. I'm a monster of a tank compared to the tank of 3 weeks ago. I've gained over 2 tiers of effectiveness.

    The second issue for me is that tanks are simply too good. I vividly remember tanking HC SH in TBC as a bear. The truth is, Swipe had a frontal cone, I had no way of creating aggro on 5 mobs save AoE tab lacerating, and bear dps then sucked anyway. And if things went wrong, I had nothing I could do. TODAY, I have been raised to pala levels of AoE tanking effectiveness, with a full set of warrior cooldowns (SI, Barkskin. frenzied regen) and DPS on par with... well, the DPS. All tanks have been given the full arsenal that previously was separated amongst the tanks.

    On top of that, I'm just a far, far better player than I was then.

    Still, I take some comfort that even if the trash isnt very exciting, the bosses are still decent. Take BRC, the beams boss is kinda fun, the Steelbender boss is a genuine challenge for the tank to do well, beauty is boring I admit (but still takes some movement), and the last boss is fun. I can't remember the bosses of HC HoS being that involved even when they were fresh. The same with HC Deadmines, there's a lot of innovation in there too for a reused instance. But I must admit, I have zero desire to chain run heroics.

    On the other hand, I never liked doing that anyway! Bring on the raids.

  11. @Boxer: I talked about the "tanks being too powerful" problem in the old post I linked at the beginning of this entry. We used to need CC because the tanks had neither the aggro generating capabilities nor the survivability to tank more than three mobs or so at a time. I just don't think there's any going back to that kind of play.

    I agree though that the bosses are pretty good. Deadmines is the only heroic I haven't done yet so I can't comment, but there are several where the bosses have considerably more and harder mechanics that you need to pay attention to than anything had in WOTLK.

  12. One of my tanks in TBC was a paladin and he had the aggro generating capabilities and the survivability. Actually, survivability back then was way better for a block tank in heroics as you were invulnerable to trash.

    But still I appreciated CC in some heroics like Mana-Tombs, Sethekk, Magisters' Terrace because not even a paladin could tank random aggro nor fear. :)

  13. @shintar :) aha, I'm on a terribad connection so not clicking through on hyperlinks atm (tooooo long to load anything! and wow is barely playable), so sorry for missing your link on tanks being OP. Sometimes I wonder how LFD would have been in Vanilla when you only really had warrior tanks and a few VERY stubborn ferals with Warden (I was one of those although I was only allowed and able to tank up to scholo and strat etc, raids were off the agenda as we had a full set of v capable warr tanks). Queues of an hour perhaps?

  14. In vanilla you waited longer than an hour for a group. But the shortage were healers, not tanks, at lease on my server. We just were more patient. And it didn't matter that much as it took you 15 min to travel to the instance afterward and then you had to wait 15 min more for some idiot to start travel too (there were no port stones) and then the instance itself took quite some time. :-)

    At least, and that's my problem with heroics today, you were guaranteed to succeed with a PuG.