Wrath Heroics, a history
Wrath of the Lich King shipped with 12 dungeons, level 70 ones for the starting Northrend adventurer such as the Nexus and Utgarde Keep, all the way up to ones for the freshly minted 80 like Occulus, Utgarde Pinnacle and Halls of Lightning. Players who reached 80 were pleased to find Heroic mode dungeons available for all 12, all at a broadly similar skill level, as promised by Blizzard. What rather took most of us by surprise was the fact that these heroics were far more doable than level 70 ones. There appeared to be no full raiding gear requirement for tackling these – this was a new kind of Heroic, one designed explicitly to help gear up people for the raids, with medium challenge and maximum PuGability. A few examples of heroics that provided some difficulty: Halls of Lightning, with its tricky whirlwinding trash, its fears and CCs, and a final Boss that blew up anyone with less than 20k health. Old Kingdom was the downfall of the relaxed group, with interrupts, voidzones, and again a tricky last boss. Culling of Stratholme, with its constant flow of Zombies, the motivation of the Mount at the end of a succesful timed run, and the overall toughness of the place was enough to make a lesser skilled group cry.
However. This was at the start of the expansion. I have fond memories of gathering gear from those Heroics; I must have run all of them at least five times. I gathered knowledge of the little things that catch people out, the mobs that do the nastier moves, and a definite route through each and every place. (This was a wonderful knowledge base on which to start Tanking, which I had as my offspec from late Ulduar to early ICC.) I think the main thing was this: You had to pay attention. People died if not.
With Patch 3.1.0, Maps were introduced to Dungeons. This, whilst not technically a buff, a nerf, or an adjustment to difficulty, certainly made the way round instances clear for people with brains larger than a grape. You could even see where your party members were, and where each Boss was. Patch 3.1.1 stopped us from nuking those annoying portals in the Nexus before pulling the group, something everyone was doing to avoid the hassle of the mini mobs that spawned and invariably pestered the healer. Patch 3.1.2 was a godsend for those still struggling in PuGs of Morons: Players can no longer become saved to an instance when they aren’t in the instance during a boss kill. I trust I don’t have to draw you a picture of the nefarious things players can dream up to do to other players, up to and including inviting them for a fully cleared HoL and getting them saved without ever stepping foot inside. Of course, in these enlightened days of Random Dungeon Tool, no-one need worry. At the end of this Patch, most peoples interest in heroics was tailing off. A lot of people still ran the Daily heroic, but many preferred the weekly clears of Ulduar and Naxxramas for their Badge supplies. After all, in full Ulduar gear, who needs more Emblems of Heroism?
The Call of the Crusade Patch, ie 3.2.0, brought Heroics back with a bang, along with a new heroic in Trial of the Champion, dropping all Epics, Badges and Champion Seals. Heroics were dropping Emblems of Conquest! Suddenly, every Orc and his wolf was wanting Heroics again. Two piece t8? Yes please! You got batches of people chain running heroics, until it was rare not to see someone sporting their t8 Helm or Chest. This also was the start of the tweaks to the Oculus instance, a long and perculiar tale. In the Nexus, the Oculus and the Eye of Eternity, Drakes used by players in these instances started to scale in health and damage according to the rider’s average item level. A bit of a useless gift really, because after all that, Oculus was still the one people weren’t prepared to PuG. And with good reason – the last boss, which required you to use your Drake’s 4 buttons against a massive barely moving object, seemed to stump every single player out there. Even the supposedly intelligent ones.
3.3.0 brought with it the Lich King 5 mans, a mini wing of Icecrown Citadel, and massive chunk of Warcrafting Lore meant as a prologue to the story running through ICC 10/25. But this was not the biggest Heroics change in this patch. This patch was the one that introduced the infamous Random Dungeon Tool. Blizzard implemented a way of assembling a group and instantly starting it in a way that cut out all that tedious whispering people, flying to dungeons, summoning at stones, where’s the godamn entrance I’ve been here 50 times, and so on. It was beautiful. It also gave rise to a new wave of Douchebaggery that I’ve not seen before or since, but you gotta take the good with the bad. I can’t seem to find the evidence to back this up, but I believe it was the patch that introduced Triumph Emblems dropping from everywhere, as Conquest was in 3.2.0. This patch also saw a new wave of Oculus improvements. Allow us to take a look:
- Azure Ring Guardians aggro distance changed from 50 to 40 yards.
- Many bosses and creatures have had their total health reduced.
- Several bosses and creatures have had cooldowns on specific abilities increased, effect durations reduced, and damage on some of these abilities reduced.
- Ring-Lord Conjurers and Sorceresses now hang out in packs of 4 instead of packs of 5.
- Vehicle scaling on the drakes based on the rider’s item level has been increased to make them more powerful.
All in all, corrections designed to stop people dropping group. Did it? No, of course not. I don’t think people would stay even if Ley-Guardian Eregos was the only mob in the place. For dropping groups was a relatively new concept that had blossomed with the Random Dungeon Tool. When grouping with players on your realm, if someone AFKed an instance, refused to tank the last boss because the Mage was annoying him, or something similar, he’d be called out as a Tard. He might even be labelled on the Realm forums as a Tard. You might warn your guildies of this Tard, and he may never group with another Pro Player again! However, without any consequences for being an arse in a 5 man group, some people took every joy (and still do) in making things harder for others. Whether it’s the tank dropping out of your Daily Drak’tharon Keep and dropping you into a 20 minute queue, or that DPS who pulls Ionar just after the healer and tank went off to make a coffee, or that healer who insists heroics are so faceroll he’s gonna dps, despite the number of people dying each pull. It mostly boils down to idiocy and impatience. The two I’s. However, saying ‘Aha, that’s the two I’s syndrome,’ people might get confused.
Anyway, now that people are doing more Heroics than they were previously doing Dailies, Blizzard decide to slap them into shape. People are now vastly outgearing them. Fights like the Nexus’s Anomalus, who used to Bubble and create a rift that needed to be destroyed to lift that invulnerability, were causing frustration. Why, the players raged, do we have to wait for that glowing bastard to put up a new rift each time! Every other boss goes down in 20 seconds! This fight takes some patience, and I don’t %^&ing have any! And lo, Blizzard answered. A plethora of changes were smattered across the board, from the removal of that inconvenient patrol to the reducing of a boss’s triggered abilities to Brann Bronzebeard running to the Tribunal of the Ages encounter instead of the leisurely walk he previously enjoyed.
In a hotfix on January 5th, Blizzard changed the Oculus again. Not content with removing half of the already smackable content, they tried motivating more people to stay. Here is the quote from the time:
“To encourage players not to shy away from the many invigorating adventures to be had in The Oculus, we will apply a change to enhance the rewards players are provided when selected for this dungeon via the Random Heroic option in the Dungeon Finder. Once Ley-Guardian Eregos is defeated, one loot bag per character will be provided in his chest in addition to the current rewards. Each loot bag will offer players rare gems, two additional Emblems of Triumph, and a chance of being rewarded the [Reins of the Blue Drake]. These fine treasures could be yours should you honor your fellow party members by besting the challenges contained within The Oculus! Keep in mind, however, that these extra loot bags will only be awarded to each party member if Oculus is selected by the Dungeon Finder when players choose the Random Heroic option. In light of this change, the [Reins of the Azure Drake] will have a chance of dropping in both 10- and 25-player versions of The Eye of Eternity.”
Now, people still leave it. I’m not one of them. I’ll stick at the start of that instance until I have a full willing group. Even if that group is absolutley choc-a-block of morons. Because at the end of the day, I can generally keep the group alive through thick and thin, and the drake generated by my gear is nearly enough to Solo Eregos now. And I have a chance at a mount, gems and two more Badges at the end. It’s sad what they had to do to that place, but in the end, it didn’t fit in with the speedy faceroll that people came to expect.
This patch that I’m currently writing from, 3.3.3, allowed the skipping of the 8 minute long Roleplay that took place at the start (Inspiring the Zal, Then and Now shot above. Yes, he’s a ginger human.) I’m slightly saddened by this change, for however many times that Roleplay bored my ears off, I’m not likely to hear it again. I might go back their in Cataclysm and set it off to hear it one more time. You may ask, why Zal, in this long post on heroics of yours, what’s your favourite heroic? And I’d reply, somewhat quietly, Culling of Stratholme. For all it’s long, twisty annoyingness, it still holds a place in my heart as the first heroic that gave me a challenge, the place that dropped the mount that set me off on my 100 mounts adventure, and the place where I can look like an Action Man for a while.
The only official line we have on Cataclysm’s heroic palette is ‘At launch, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will ship with eight 5-man dungeons and two heroic versions of old-world dungeons.’ We know the latter are Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep. I’d hope that when we hit 85, those 8 5-man dungeons will be avaliable on Heroic mode too. We’ll just have to wait and see how they do things this time around.
PS. A while back, a good Hunter friend of mine was boosting me in the modern burny version of Stratholme on my warrior. He won many Zal points for putting on a Human disguise, running down the appropriate street and /yelling ‘At last, some good luck. Market Row has not caught fire yet.’