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Firelands Nerfs: This One Goes to 11

September 22, 2011

Like it or not, the Big Blizzard Bat o’ Nerfs descended this week, hitting Ragnaros and the rest of his ilk square between the eyes.  The Firelands nerfs are here, and they are brutal.

“Normal difficulty

•    Shannox, Beth’tilac, Rhyolith – health and damage reduced by 15%.
•    Other bosses – health and damage reduced by 25%.
•    All adds’ health and damage have been reduced in the same proportions as bosses.”

It’s really difficult for me to argue against Blizzard nerfing the Firelands content, or against any nerf that is going to allow more guilds to see content that they’ve been struggling with since the patch released.  Given the limited and imprecise ways we as players have to measure guild progression, it’s impossible to make any general statement about percentages of raiding teams who were either stuck at 6/7 normal, or 1/7 heroic.  Everything we’ve heard from Blizzard certainly made it sound as if this was the case for a lot more guilds than made them comfortable.  My guild’s 25 man, which has long been the red-headed stepchild of our raiding week, met little success in Firelands up until now with only 3/7 bosses down.  The 10 man finally killed Ragnaros last Monday, and then again on Thursday, but killing a boss after nearly 150 failed attempts isn’t exactly my definition of fun.

No, I wasn't kidding.

I love progression raiding because I love problem solving.  I like figuring out what’s at the bottom of an encounter that we need to get right or do differently in order to win.  Our Firelands raiding experience has been plagued by rotating roster issues that made it nearly impossible to get any solid work done on the second intermission and meteor phase on Ragnaros.  Some of our attendance problems were from the normal summer doldrums, others from general burnout.  These were not ideal conditions to work on an end boss, but we did finally get him, and we were in before the nerf.

We had high hopes walking into Firelands on Tuesday’s 25 man raid, knowing that we would probably have a chance to get a lot more of our raiders to down Alysrazor for the first time.  Even before that, I got my first taste of just how huge the nerfs were.  On Beth’tilac, I generally either solo heal upstairs with the tank and a bunch of our melee, or I get one other healer to go up with me.  Tuesday night I had a second healer, and a tank who nearly lagged out as soon as he got upstairs.  Since we were waiting for the tank to call that he was up, the melee didn’t go up straight away and we ended up only knocking off about 3% of her health in that first upstairs phase.  Because of that setback, we only had Beth down to about 90% of her health when she came downstairs – something that would normally have caused a wipe.  Except … it didn’t.  We one-shot her and healing wasn’t even all that much worse because of the extra stacks of Frenzy we had to deal with.

Ryolith was another  pushover.  We had half of our DPS pile standing in front of the boss before his final phase – a screw up that would have cost us a kill in the past.  But the boss’ health was already so low going into that phase that it lasted maybe 20 seconds anyway.  And we did finally get our Alysrazor kill for the 25 man, even with 4 people dying to the (slowed!) tornadoes on their first pass, and another 8 or so biting the dust on the second.

Again, I wanted these nerfs.  I wasn’t one of the many players crying, “Too soon!”  I don’t have a problem with nerfing current content before a new tier comes out if it’s apparent that not enough people are getting to see the fights.  I do, however, wish that we had some level of control over how we choose to experience the content.  More importantly, I wish we’d seen the nerfs as a gradual step-down rather than a flat out 15-25% damage reduction.  I expected the nerfs to come gradually when I read the initial announcement about them, but perhaps I misunderstood.

There may have been plenty of things Blizzard did wrong in the ICC raiding tier, but the one thing they absolutely got right was how to gradually make a raid instance accessible to more and more people.  The Strength of Wyrnn and Hellscream’s Warsong buffs in ICC gave players a buff that gave them 5-30% additional health, damage done, and healing done.  The buff increased over the months that ICC was the current tier, and raiders could choose to opt-out of it by talking to their faction leader at the beginning of the instance.

I didn’t realize at the time what a good idea this was.  By buffing everything players do, rather than nerfing what the bosses and trash mobs do, Blizzard found a way to create a lot less headaches for themselves.  It’s much simpler to just increase players’ effectiveness than it is to go through every boss encounter, figure out which bits are tripping up raid groups, and then finding a way to change that mechanic.  On top of that, giving players a way to negate the buff if they so chose meant that Blizzard could appease even the people who wanted to experience the original difficulty level of the raid.

For me, the best part of the Firelands nerf is that they hopefully herald a quick turnaround for patch 4.3 when it hits the PTR.  Though I’m enjoying myself a lot in-game right now, it’s not because I like much at all about our current raiding tier.  Firelands has easily been my least favorite raid so far, both in terms of aesthetics and boss mechanics.  Miles upon miles of yellows, reds, and neverending fire lose their visual appeal pretty quickly, and everything I’ve seen about the coming patch has me incredibly excited to see the new content.  In the meantime, I’ll take the nerfs as an opportunity to gear my army of alts.

What did you experience as you first saw the nerfs this week?  Too much?  Just right?  Something else?


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