Guess which feature of 3.3 had me the most excited? Not Icecrown Citadel (a gated raid instance launched at the start of the holiday season?), not hasted Devouring Plague and Vampiric Touch. The new cross-battlegroup Dungeon Finder matching system.
Since yesterday I’ve been queuing them pretty much non stop. Some on my Shaman, because my Priest was swallowed whole by the glitchy new dungeons in Icecrown for hours on end and couldn’t be retrieved.
I don’t know if I really have any conclusions about the system just yet. But I do think it’s like going from an organised Battleground premade into well, the normal bg queue. Lessons learned so far:
- Anonymity makes me act like a jerk (usually I hide how impatient I am)
- Even though you get ported to the instance you’ll spend more time waiting for your teammates than you should have to
- If you queue as a hybrid say goodbye to DPSing cause it’s never gonna happen
- Participants probably won’t meet entry level heroic requirements in gear
- Participants won’t meet entry level common sense requirements either, forget about skill
- The less said by your party members, the better the run will be
- Groups are either terrible, or fantastic (see image above), there is no middle ground
- You will end up in the one or two dungeons that you goddamn hate
- The Party Leader will be forced to confess mid way that they actually know nothing about the instance
- Each person’s role is branded into their portrait (and into VuhDo, I should add) so you’ll know what’s what when you arrive
- Not all Heroics are equally difficult
- If you’re an Enchanter be prepared to create Shards and Crystals against your will
- You can only win gear of the highest armor type that you can equip
- You can’t trade with party members from another server so don’t get caught without water!
- Replacing a lost party member is a breeze, even if you are half way through
- (Unofficial rule) All tanks are Paladins
*Update* I can’t believe I didn’t think to include these:
17. One DPS will always be a Death Knight
18. Your group will be diverse. Two Mages in 1 party? Highly unlikely. My Priest has never been grouped with a Shadow priest. And the one time I refused to check “Healer” the healer picked wasn’t a Priest either. My Shaman healer has never been grouped with an Ele or Enhance Shaman.
When I used to form a heroic group, the old fashioned way, I used to go about it in one of two ways. Sign myself up as a healer and scout out a tank (preferably from a guild of good reputation) or talk a guild tank/healer duo into coming with me. I didn’t care if DPS in the party did 2k. I didn’t care if they’d never done that instance before. I didn’t much care if the tank wasn’t in 25 man raiding gear. I thought I was pretty open minded.
The new Dungeon Finder is a heck of a lot more random than that. And perhaps it’s just because everyone wants to try out the new system but even I was dismayed by the two extremes: excellent group, or dismal group. I thought that in a group of 5 you’d get a nice cross-section of the different gear and skill levels of all players ready for heroics. Instead what I found was that a lot of people who wouldn’t be invited to a heroic showed up anyway.
Xata – The Nexus
Let me explain my very first experience. Cassandri was AWOL – she didn’t even have a location on the login screen – after we ran into some pretty heavy duty bugs in our first ICC Heroic (not sure which one, the one on the left of the Summoning Stone maybe) so I logged into Xata. Now Xata hasn’t gotten a new piece of gear since the day that Ulduar was released. And she’s got quite a few rares still equipped. And I’m pretty rusty. I waited about 2 minutes before being prompted that I had been assigned to heal a dungeon.
I hit the confirmation button… Culling of Stratholm loading screen. We arrive and I’m a bit concerned that the Paladin tank has the same health as the DPS warrior, but I let it go. Just as we finished the 5 crates quest I was prompted to join the queue and choose my role. Again. And Again. After doing this about 5 times our whole group is ported to the Nexus.
Good, The Nexus, easy way to start. The run goes ok, but the leader seems to be very lost. We do the bosses in the wrong order. The Warlock in the party seems incapable of avoiding cleave and whirlwind damage. But they leave and are replaced by a Hunter. And when we requeued to replace that missing member it was so convenient to just wait for them to run to us. Nobody had to summon. Nobody had to explain that we were 2 bosses in already.
But I didn’t have any water on me (I’ve been ruthless about her bag space in preparation for a server transfer) and nobody could give me any. That sucked. I probably could have ported out of the dungeon to buy some and just port straight back in. But at the time it was just easier to heal less, and huddle closer to my Mana Spring Totem.
The real problem with the group was that the overall DPS was just awful. No, it’s not okay that you only do 900 DPS (I thought Death Knights were meant to be easy?). It’s even worse when the other 2 DPS are doing 1.5k.
The Hunter’s pet caused havok as we shortcutted by jumping off the platform on the way to Anomalus – any qualified “Party Leader” should have seen that problem before it happened but as I typed “dimiss pet!” it was too late. At least I stuck around to keep him alive while we fought the pack – the rest of the group were long gone.
Oh yeah, thank god for Frost Resistance Totem. When you have terrible DPS Keristrasza takes a really really long time to die. And even with all the changes to MP5 I just don’t have the mana pool to go on all that long.
Cassandri – The Oculus
I was able to retrieve Cassandri after my Nexus run and wound up in, you guessed it, a half completed Oculus.
“What drake do you need me to take?”
Ended up with a long argument between the party members. The party leader ended up saying:
“I think we lost a DPS drake”
Not a good sign. Confidence, please! Let me get this cleared up:
“Do you have 2 Emerald? It’s much easier to complete with 2″
Sigh. Another leader who has no idea what they want their party to actually do. I take an Emerald drake. We 4 man the Arcane Nova-y boss because someone’s friend had to AFK and because it’s someone’s friend the rest of us can’t vote and succeed at kicking him from the group. The fifth member of the group shows up as we get to Ley-Guardian Eregos.
Ok, for any readers who just aren’t really sure of this fight or this place, but is determined to get the Party Leader reward anyway, this is basic, basic strategy to win:
- 1 player takes a Ruby (red/tanking) Drake. Ruby drakes are the only drake that can AOE kill the Whelps – and Whelps will spawn pretty damn quick
- 2 players take an Amber (orange/dps) Drake. Amber drakes have the Time Stop ability which stuns the boss + whelps on command. 2 Amber drakes can alternate to freeze the boss when he enrages periodically throughout the fight.
- 2 players take an Emerald (green/healing) Drake. Emerald drakes leech life off the boss back to themselves, but can also funnel their health into another party member, healing them up. Because the Emerald player will lose a lot of life healing others, then need to swap back to hitting the boss to regain life, it’s really easy to alternate between 2 Emerald drakes so the healing is more constant.
I’ve done nearly all the Heroic achievements in Oculus which means we experimented with all kinds of weird setups, including none of one type of drake (actually if you’re playing with friends 5 Amber is incredibly successful – but you need to precisely time your Time Stops in succession). The combination above is the winner for a PuG. Trust me.
Anyway we die horribly to Whelp overload. Oh right. Nobody took a Ruby drake.
“Is there a reason we don’t have a Ruby drake?” I ask.
We return, this time with the combination I described above, and killed him nice and quick. You see, it doesn’t matter how much they nerf Oculus, people will still suck at it because either:
- (a) They don’t know what they’re doing, but won’t confess
- (b) They can’t coordinate
- (c) Nobody is assertive enough to tell them what to do
At least I only came in half way I suppose. I wonder if their previous healer really did “disconnect” or if it was a rage quit.
Cassandri – Gundrak
This time around the random dungeon was Gundrak. Which I actually like, as an instance. The party was silent. The tank and DPS were all reasonably well geared and without much ado got right down to chain pulling and doing their jobs.
The snake wrap boss was first, and was surprising difficult to heal (I don’t quite understand how you’re meant to deal with the snake wraps, but I don’t remember it being as difficult as it was). The rest of the run went on practically without a hitch! A lot of poison, such is absolutely awful as a healer I can tell you, but I was paired with a knowledgable Ele Shaman and Paladin tank this time who covered some of the cleansing.
Then for no apparently reason I was struck with a pretty damn awful bout of lag at Eck. I hate saying it, but I felt I had to explain:
“I’m lagging really bad, can we just wait a few minutes?”
I guess the tank was as skeptical of players citing lag as an excuse as much as I am because he replied with:
“You heal pretty convincingly for someone who has lag”
“Flash Heal spam. Thank god it worked”
We make our way to the last boss. Every time I enter combat my screen freezes. Then speeds to catch up. Then I’m stuck casting a spell for 10 seconds. I just spam my buttons (my cooldowns keep ticking, how weird is that?) hoping that they’ll get through. I suspect that the reason we survived the last boss was a combination of the Shaman’s Chain Heals and the tank’s Hand of Protection when I was impaled.
But they were very nice about it. Actually the entire run restored my faith in PuGs everywhere and this new system.
Xata – Trial of the Champion
Before returning to another round of punishment I actually successfully used the Dungeon Finder to find a Heroic group for Halls of Reflection (by choosing a Specific Dungeon). Unfortunately half way through the first boss we all disconnected and Cassandri went AWOL again and couldn’t be retrieved.
Back to Xata. I couldn’t be more dissapointed than seeing the Argent Tournament Colosseum loading screen flash up. I hate this place. I hate this instance. I actually dislike it even more than Oculus. Jousting sucks. And it’s really hard to heal. Remember how I said Xata didn’t have very good gear? Well I don’t think she was quite ready for Trial of the Champion. I prepared for the inevitable wipe and prepared to desert my first heroic of the day.
Surprisingly, I’m grouped with a pretty decent group of players. That’s the only way we got through it. I healed my little heart out, but I’ve never taken the Shaman to ToC5 before. My DBM (I just got the latest version for ICC and it has warnings for ToC5 apparently!) is screaming at me to Dispel Renew and Dispel this and Run Away. I’m practically talking to my computer:
“Hello? I’m here as a Shaman, not a Priest? I don’t have Dispel Magic”
So I ignore the warnings and go back to non-stop healing trying to keep the party alive. Then during the Paletress trash pulls it all goes haywire. One DPS dies really quickly and suddenly we have 2 groups of mobs and monks, not just 1. Then all the mobs are on me. I’m running towards the tank, but it’s too late, I die. I watch for a few seconds and the tank seems to have them again, so I used Reincarnation and was able (just! no mana) to get through all the mobs without offically wiping.
To make matters worse, I get blamed (politely) for the wipe:
“You’re meant to dispel that btw Xata”
I felt like yelling “What are you talking about?! I’m NOT PLAYING MY PRIEST” but I held back the urge, the group had been nice so far, and start thinking instead.
“Was I meant to drop Tremor Totem? Does that work?”
I don’t even remember there being a Fear. Or a Mind Control (I think that’s actually what happened, but I can’t be sure). But fortunately it didn’t happen again. I dropped Tremor Totem for the rest of the trash just in case. I also didn’t point out that as a Paladin the tank could have helped too.
The actual boss fight wasn’t too bad and once I got used to ignoring Deadly Boss Mods’s announcements to *Dispel Renew* we got through it with no deaths. Chain Heal, I love you. In hindsight, I’m sure I’m meant to substitute the DBM terminology of Dispel for Purge, but I just totally forgot about Purge. DBM is overrated.
The DPS was great so killing the Black Knight wasn’t as bad as I expected it would be. And I Chain Healed my way through without too much pain. I was so happy that we got through it when the first item (and a major upgrade for me), a spellpower piece, dropped that I dearly wanted. Trouble was, it was cloth.
“Ok if I take those cloth boots?”
By then everyone, including the Mage, had chosen Disenchant about the same time I discovered that I couldn’t actually hit the “Need” option – it was disabled. So the boots got sharded. What a waste. At least I know I can heal that instance on my Shaman now.
Cassandri – Halls of Lightning
Not much to say about this one. I was grouped with a fantastic over geared group of players (who said nothing of course) and a tank that knew how to keep a good pace, and push the group to take on as many mobs as we could comfortably handle. I spent the second half of the run on the phone and even paying half attention to what was going on my screen we breezed through the place.
I actually forgot about this run altogether until I spotted a screen capture on my desktop (above).
Cassandri – Draktharon Keep
Draktharon Keep has to be one of the easiest Heroics in the game. Well it should be. Not for this group. This was the only Heroic that I deserted during the entire day. That’s how bad it was.
The Party Leader, a warlock, confesses immediately “actually I’ve never been here before” and passes Leader to the tank. We start pulling.
And I watch in awe as:
- (a) the DPS pulls agro from the tank
- (b) the tank doesn’t attempt to retrieve the mobs running rampant and tanks 1 target
- (c) everyone, except me, stands still in the black voids
“Don’t stand in the black holes, pls” I type, thinking perhaps they just don’t know the 1st rule of PVE play.
No improvement. It’s actually really hard to keep healing my way to the first boss. I have to Fade constantly because I keep pulling threat. The Mage and kitty Druid are each tanking a mob. I’m actually grateful that I don’t have Recount set up, because I suspect that they DPS is very very slow. Just before the first boss the tank says he has to AFK “for a while” because his daughter is crying.
Now, I’m sympathetic, but in the space of time that it’s taken us to start, buff and clear to the first boss, 15 – 20 minutes, I’d have expected us to have finished the entire instance. At the rate we’re going I’m never going to leave this place. I start to wonder how mean it would be to leave when there’s a baby crying somewhere out there. The other party members are making “you’re such a good father” comments in party chat so I definitely can’t vote to kick him and hope to win support.
He’s back within 10 minutes and we kill the first boss. Up the stairs into the first spider pull. I shield the tank before the pull. He pulls a spider or 3, I shield the Mage when they pull threat and get attacked by a spider… a couple spiders run off into the corner and spawn more… I get aggro on 6 spiders. I’m doing more tanking that the goddamn tank! For shielding twice! The spiders eventually wear me down, perhaps I should have hit Pain Suppression, but I just didn’t see the point. The tank didn’t pick them off me that’s for sure. He was happily chasing one that ran off into the dark. We wipe.
I run back and zone in and call it quits:
“I’m sorry but I think this run is going to take more time than I have tonight. Good luck you’ll get a new healer soon enough” and ported out of the dungeon and left party before I saw a response.
I hate being the fussy group member who drops the party after the very first wipe. But honestly, if you can’t tank, don’t say that you can when you’re asked to define your role. If it had been a group from Barthilas I think I would have been nicer. Or I would have tried to help more, but I just didn’t think this group was going to succeed no matter what I said. They weren’t ready for Heroics, they should have been honing their craft in Normals first where losing threat on all but 1 mob in a pack isn’t going to kill the healer.
Back for More
So I had some good groups, and some bad ones, and nothing in between. When I play Cassandri I’m scared to be queued for one of the new Heroics because I know that I’ll be chosen to Heal. And the new Heroics aren’t a walk in the park, especially not at this time while everyone stumbles through unsure of the best strategy to minimise damage.
Xata is even worse – there’s just no way her gear is good enough (Naxx, Tier 7 isn’t the base standard anymore) to do the new Heroics as DPS or as Restoration.
But I’m still going to queue the Random Heroic. I just hope that I get lucky: good group and good instance.