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An ex-raid leader, gamer extraordinaire.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vanilla Raids Retrospective

Okay, so I gave you the choice. This is going to be a long post. Now I don't enjoy rant posts and will refrain myself from doing them. And this is not a rant post. This is just to dispel the illusion that;

Once upon a time, when Azeroth was young, when the grass was green and developers were still sane, God said "Let there be Raids" and lo behold, there was raids, and there was much joy...

Yeah, no.

People want to know about Vanilla raids? Okay, I'll bite. I will be as objective (however satiric at times) as I can be, and you decide whether or not raids sucked back then.

You see a lot of intelligent people discussing over ElitistJerks over usage of debuffs on bosses. Like how Rogues should use Deadly Poison and Rupture, and when a Fury warrior should stance-dance to apply Rend.

Yeah, you didn't get to do that in Vanilla. Why? Because bosses could have only 8 debuffs. Anything else would overwrite the old ones. This meant only a few debuffs (Sunder, Demo Shout, Warlock Curses, Ignite, sometimes Vampiric Embrace & SWP) would be applied in a given raid. Affliction? Na, there was only Demo or Destruction Warlocks in raids. No Serpent Sting for Hunters.

Now, some folks said "Dude, we've got all these classes applying debuffs and dots, but they can't do so in raids. We gotta solve this riddle!" and thankfully, after that, Only-8-Debuffs deal was fixed.

It was raised to 16.
Observant readers will remark I've only mentioned 6 DPS classes/specs for above example. Let's look at the raid-viable classes and specs of the time:

Fury Warrior, Rogues, Hunters, Mages, Warlocks, Shadow Priests, Protection Warriors, Paladins, Shamans, Druids, Holy Priests.

Yes -hybrid classes were healers. That's it. No Chicken DPS shenanigans, no face-roll Retri paladins. Feral druids could tank in UBRS if they had some tailored gear, but I never raided with one, nor have I heard about it. We had one Shadow Priest in our guild, and we took pride in being open minded about them.

As "Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-None" Druids, their set items were completely balanced around healing, but there were some whacked up armor pieces with Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Spirit thrown around them.

I've heard there were some Paladins who would Tank in MC (I was a Horde, I really don't know much about them). But looking at their set pieces, it's clear they were the healbots they are now. But only... More strong. No, seriously. Their set pieces gave Strength. With Heal/Damage (There wasn't Spell Power back then, only +Damage OR +Heal/Damage, and if an armor had +12 heal, it had +3 damage. Don't ask me why they even bothered to add damage portion).

Shamans were healers. They would occasionally bring "LOLWFCRIT" to PvP, but they were hardly raid viable. Never had a DPS shaman in our guild.
It seriously deserves a bullet of its own. Let's take a look at copy/paste from Wowwiki:
After killing 42 Drakonids, no more will spawn (you still have to kill all the others that are up), and Nefarian lands on the balcony in Dragon Form. This is the beginning of Phase 2 of the encounter. Before landing he will cast an AoE (ignores LoS) Shadow Flame on the entire raid. 
What's Shadow Flame, you ask? Oh yeah, it kills you. Not in a funny "Yes, he's down!" way a-la Lich King. It kills you, and you die. So what's the catch?

On yeah, you needed Onyxia Scale Cloaks. It's made with Leatherworking. You need 1 Scale of Onyxia. A skinner loots that off her. You can only get 1-4 Scales per kill.

On the upside, she reset every three days, as opposed to seven- can I get a bat-swing animation here?

If you got 2,5 Scales per kill on average, you needed to kill her 16 times to gear up 40 players. That's about two months of farming. But since most 40M raid guild ran a rooster of somewhere between 50-60 members, you had to farm a bit more than that. And of course, you needed to give them to your Tanks to be able to tank some of the bosses in BWL, since most of them had frontal Shadow Flame attacks. And they would join another guild as soon as they got their Cloak.

All in all, it was a LOT of Onyxia farming, and a lot of deep breaths...

Oh and, that wasn't the only reason you had to kill Onyxia. You know why?
I wasn't even going to mention how you needed Flask AND Elixirs, Bandages, Sharpening Stones, Pots (You could use multiples in fights, and you were expected to), Foods, etc...

You know the silly old buffs you get when you turn in Onyxia's head? Yeah, you had to have them for Naxxramas. And Hakkar's heart. Ad infinitum. (I think there was a Green Dragon that also gave a buff, but I might be wrong here).

Also, there were some items, usually quest items and such that give stat boosts outside of the above items. I remember most of them coming from Felwood, details are fuzzy. Anyway, you had to stack on those as well.

Can you imagine our guild's fraustration when we figured out we needed Onyxia's head AND Hakkar's Heart reward shouts to progress in Naxxramas?

Fun times.
I'm guessing the Veterans told you about "Wait for five sunders before DPSing" that we followed in the old days. Boy, oh boy, that was only top of the icing. Wait for five sunders, sure, that's easy enough. But let me tell you the reality of threat management:

Most bosses were immune to Taunt. You're probably thinking, "Oh, it's like General Vezax. Cool." Well except, that's only half the story. Many boss fights also required tank-swapping.

Yes, you heard me right. Tank swapping without Taunts.

You didn't only have to stay below the Main-Tank, but usually below the second tank as well... Sometimes this list being 4 Tanks. Are you with me still? Good. Let's talk about threat now.

Back in the days, all tanks were Warriors. Period. As I said, some guilds gave a shot at Paladin tanks (Which were unavailable to the Horde at the moment), and Bears were... Well, let's say they weren't that good. If you have ever played a Warrior, you know how their damage works. The more damage they deal, more rage they build, and thus the more damage they deal. In the case of Tanks, the more damage they took, the more rage they build, and thus the more damage they deal.

Now imagine a Warrior OT, strictly in Tank gear, that's not being hit at all. The guy swaps to a 2H and starts building threat. Now, you were required to stay below that guy's threat.

I wrote before how I don't think Tanks are doing a super marvelous job nowadays as far as difficulty of the content is concerned. That's not how it was in Vanilla. Being a Tank was... Being Masochistic-al. Tanks nowadays complain that their biggest problem is DPSers yelling "gogogogo". A tank would have to bring enough threat to the table as to keep the DPSers safe, low enough to make it easier for second tank to catch and put up with the every other crap they're dealing with nowadays. And the threat between people were so close, two crits from a fire mage could just wipe the raid. Ranged DPSers would often chill, bandage up, /dance to get rid of their threat.

And yes, Rogues did use Feint, if you must ask.
Healers' Mana:
They ran out of it.

Usually, there were healing rotations that was put in effect. People would stop casting and let other healers take over, and enjoy the spirit mana generation after 5-seconds-rule. It was perfectly normal to have wipes that, everything was smooth, no one was dead, but healers were OOM. "Good job guys, nice try, go in a safe corner and get ready to wipe."

Fortunately though, Druids were required to spec into Innervate (It was a talent) and give it to their priests. And... that's about the usefulness of Druids in raids. They would go back to rogue form and stealth for the rest of the fight.
Killing Bosses:
So why did people (myself included) do all this shit if it was as bad as I make it sound to be? Well, for a variety of reasons. Being together with 40 other people was something epic in-itself. Epics/best PvP items came from these places as well, so that was another incentive for some people. But all in all, the process was such a challenge, its target-audience (People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, no really, if you raided Naxx at 60 at least a little successfully, you must to have OCD) took bitter pleasure from the masochism.

That, and we didn't really know there was/could be an alternative. That was the game we played.

I can say that, two things happened since Vanilla raid days. Raids became more fun, while boss-kills became less satisfying. Boss kills weren't about loot, weren't about anything but boss-kill. I heard such despicable vulgar blasphemies from 39 other white, basement-dwelling punk kids after our Nefarian kill that the most badass Gangsta-Rapper brothers would turn around and cover their ears. That's 40 nerd kids all ready to satisfy Rihanna's quest for a 'big enough'.

So what I feel about it all? I did enjoy some aspects of 40M raids. Namely, the epic feeling, the amount of work people were willing to put out and the solidarity. Boss kills were satisfying, and when a guild cleared a raid instance for the first time, people made topics about it instead of adding another bulletin to the "Realm PvE Progress" bore-thread.

But I disagree with the elitist nostalgia of insane players that that insanity was a good thing. It wasn't, it was catering to a small audience that were min-maxing beyond the healthy scope. And just because they insane and are willing to find out every little exploit (legit ones, ofc) in the game and use them doesn't entitle them to the beautiful content that Blizzard works so hard to put out.

And it's not like there's no challenge left to raiding now. For people who want to feel that epic boss killing moment again, they can go complete Firefighter, Alone in the Darkness, LK 25M HM. If you want insanity, it's there. Those fights are insane. Go do them, and stop pestering about how old days were beautiful and how gold used to be purple.


  1. I don't think I'd ever go as far as to say that Vanilla raids were awesome. Yes, there was a certain epic feel to being 40 people fighting against the odds, and you have to do a lot more to get things done right. (It's not like you see rogues feint anymore.. tbh I sometimes wonder if even hunters replaced their feign death key).

    But at the same time, I think raiding being more accessible to everyone is not necessarily a bad thing. While we don't have the same threat issues, healers running out of mana and all that - I like some of the mechanics that have entered boss fights since vanilla. A lot of the vanilla fights were generally just tank and spank with maybe a bit of run out of xxx. (Not all, but most.)

    While maybe not more difficult, I think the new fights are pretty neat at times with things like being transferred into Frostmourne at the LK fight - or the portals on Yogg-Saron.

    The difficulty these days isn't in the healers running out of mana, dps over-aggroing.. but rather in people learning to not stand in fire and whatever other tactics are there to be learned.

    The only thing I miss about vanilla (cause I'm too lazy to miss the long grinds, and the waiting to get the Onyxia cloak etc etc) is the dedication that it felt like raiders had. While I can understand people wanting to be casual - I miss people putting in enough effort to show up on time for raids and show up for the raids that are scheduled.

    But I've touched on that a lot before on previous comments :) On the whole - I think raiding is moving in the right direction as compared to vanilla and I have no desire to go back to limited debuffs, healers going oom way too quick or rogues using feint as part of their dps rotation.

  2. It wasn't certainly like I didn't have fun with the Vanilla raiding, I certainly did. But as you said, while overall progress was much harder, content itself was mind staggeringly dull (Until Naxx... I have to admit, original Naaxx design was one of the pinnacles of WoW raid design, even if it had a good deal of "Oh-ha seriously, they can't expect us to-oh, my..." moments).

    For example, most of the boss fights in MC or BWL, I can't remember them on top of my head except a few, 'cause they were all pretty much the same.

    Agreed on the dedication as we've chatted about many times before.

    I understand old-school raiders looking back and enjoying their accomplishments -I certainly do- but to reminiscing the good old times? Wanting to get back to Vanilla? Nah. No way mi amigo.

  3. Hello, first time commenter, I discovered your blog via Spinkville's post and enjoyed the few of your posts I read.

    I'm a WotLK raider. I discovered the game at the end of the BC era and dinged 70 two days after patch 3.0. So I never actually raided before WotLK. But I already knew that raiding was what I wanted to do in this game.

    Since I hit 80, I've been dedicated to raid. And I really love what they did with raiding in WotLK. The only exception was maybe ToC, because the instance is so ugly and boring and running it 4 times a week was awful. I love the fact that I was able to see the all content of this expansion, with several characters, healing and dpsing.

    I never understood old players when they talk about how awesome Vanilla raids were, when they say : "you couldn't do this and that, it was the good old days." What good was in something you could not do... And when hearing this, I feel belittle by them, even though we've been through Firefighter or weeks and weeks of failing at Tribute to Insanity together. That's hurting. It's not my fault if I began playing later.

    So thank you, because your point of view was really enlightening.

  4. Don't let them get to you.

    I suggest you go three-men MC, BWL, maybe AQ40 (But it's kind of difficult for 3 people who don't know the tactics, be prepared to wipe a few times). Their attunements are easy enough for a level 80 that it'd take just a few more minutes down Blackrock Mountain.

    Take a look at the boss abilities, the encounters, and try to translate them to 40M at Level 60. You can easily see how trivial and primal most encounters were, back when Blizzard thought "More mobs!" and "A lot of stuff to dispel!" was difficult. The encounters were way, way primitive. The only "difficulty" of them was, as I've pointed out, "Design mistakes" that limited people from fulfilling their roles.

    So no, you're not a "worse/ player" because you didn't play in Vanilla.

  5. My experience with Vanilla raids is somewhat limited. I started playing just as Naxx was coming out and didn't progress further than MC and AQ20. But I completely agree: Vanilla raiding was not all that. I do have some fond memories, particularly of the 20-mans, but they are mostly due to the atmoshpere of the raids. As a resto druid in vanilla, my main job was to spam rank 4 Healing Touch. And that was about it. HoTs from multiple druids didn't even stack. I also remember farming lower level instances to get resist gear. Level 50 blues being better than the raid gear you had worked for was a real kick in the teeth. Raiding has come a long way.

    However, I do still pine for the BC raiding days. I feel that BC fights had just the right amount of difficulty (with a few notable exceptions. Vashj. Grr.) I liked the sense of progression you got in BC. I also loved that there was usually more than one raid instance to work on at a time (SSC/TK, MH/BT) rather than one large one, and I'm glad they are bringing that back in Cataclysm.

  6. ^+1 for BC-style raiding. ZG and MC were the extent of my raiding experience in vanilla, but I did raid up to MH (no BT, unfortunately) in BC and I really enjoyed the progression that was offered. DKS, I read your article about attunements and I must say that I agree 100%. There was none of this skipping raids crap. You couldn't go T5 content without gearing up in Karazhan first, and even gearing up for Karazhan took a fair amount of time gathering crafted items and praying for heroic drops in a time when a heroic mode was something much more than just an AoE faceroll. It's this accessibility (or illusion of accessibility) that made me quit the game with WotLK, and has me praying that Cataclysm will be more akin to TBC.

  7. The feint thing is actually kind of interesting. Rogues were terrifying gods of dps thanks to the fact that they had the only threat dump that didn't interrupt your dps.

    Also, the fact that they used energy, which never ran out, used to be thing.

    Of course, the downside is that, as melee, you were useless in half the fights and your death was completely unavoidable in the other half.

    Fish swim. Birds Fly. Rogues Die.

  8. What, no mention of mindcontrolling the UBRS warlock mobs to buff the whole raid with fire resistance before attempting Ragnaros? And even more annoying to get, the Felwood Songflower's buff.

  9. It was just a few I could remember. I remember them being plenty, just don't really feel like remembering all the little bits of pain. q:

  10. I think a lot of people exaggerate. MCing mobs for buffs? Needing buffs from turn ins to advance in progression? That wasn't a necessity, sure all bits help, but you could progress without that.

    Sure farming resist gear in Maraudon wasn't a blast but farming those Felwood consumables (from the plants) which you mentioned wasn't that bad, have a night of farming while enjoying some laughs on Teamspeak with your fellow guildies.

    The portals on Yogg Saron where a bit like the tentacle that ate you on C'thun. From an encounter design pov I think AQ40 wasn't that "tank and spank" at all.

    It required more effort and the designers didn't have as much experience as they do nowadays but it certainly wasn't all that horrible as people make it out to be. It's not impossible to have fun while farming some stuff.

    As mentioned before, raids felt a lot more epic due to the size of the raid, and the atmosphere was generally better among raiders. That's what largely contribute to the success of Vanilla raiding imo.

    (Raided everything from Molten Core upto halfway Naxx60.)