Tanking LFR: Where did we go wrong?

We’ve all felt that way, huh? You stroll into an LFR run, thinking you won’t have much trouble obtaining something useful. Maybe you can get that trinket you’ve been after. Maybe you can just grab that 250 VP and be out the door. But as soon as the pull happens, you realize that all you’re going to get here is a very large, steaming dose of nerdrage, with frustration sprinkled on top. That other tank (despite his ilevel) has no idea what he or she is doing, aggro is a mess, and despite your efforts to correct things, the encounter is a disaster.

How did this happen? Whose fault is it? Is it the rest of us in the tanking community? Would we rather rage at the noobs who stand in the way of our pugging success than teach folks after this long? Do we blame Blizzard because five-mans don’t prepare tanks for raiding? Blizzard apologists say that LFR is for introducing players to raiding in general, so expecting raid-hardened tanks is crazy. However, as we all know, it’s never more obvious when someone makes a mistake as when a tank fails. People die, and they die fast. I should know; I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years. Ask anyone in my guild. In fact, last night I spaced out and forgot to use a cooldown on Ultraxion normal. I died. It was very embarrassing.

As you look at Dragon Soul, most of the tank goof-ups don’t really happen right away. I’ve never seen an LFR group fail on Morchok, what with the Crush Armor debuff being rather mild on this difficulty. Unless your pug tanks are horribly cheesing the ilevel requirement by using intellect plate or some weird PvP items, they can normally handle this fight just fine. Folks seem to get the tank-swap-then-run-out system. Warlord Zon’ozz doesn’t require much of the single tank, except for maybe a CD for Psychic Drain now and then.

You can have problems starting at Yor’sahj the Unsleeping. This not only requires tanks to pick up adds during dark phases, but they have to trade a much more virulent debuff in Void Bolt. [Disclaimer: I have taken up to 10 stacks of this on my bear, but I significantly outgear the average LFR tank.] I’ve seen some tanks run off chasing the targeted globule and forget to taunt back when the boss receives his buff. Other times they just zone out, and my healer has to save a barely geared tank after they eat five or more stacks. Not every tank with the minimum ilevel of 372 can survive that, obviously, and if they’re already zoning out they’re not going to use a cooldown appropriately either. Hagara the Stormbinder doesn’t really eat tanks unless they don’t: a) strafe out of Focused Assault; b) pop a significant CD if they choose to stay in; or c) lose track of Ice Wave. [Disclaimer No. 2: I didn’t know you could strafe out of Focused Assault either, at first.]

Of course, the most infamous instance of tank fail comes on Ultraxion, the Super Bowl of “Can You Hit This Button?” And that’s not even mentioning the special tank treat of Fading Light. It isn’t so bad to put a one-shot mechanic like Fading Light on the fifth boss of the instance, but I guess word spreads slowly via YouTube and various forums about how it works. I say this because at least 50 percent of tanks don’t know how the mechanic works in action, causing them to die and an “innocent” DPS to get aggro and eat floor. I would mention Hour of Twilight, but that damage on LFR is kind of a joke and won’t kill the average tank. This all causes much raging in raid chat.

Warmaster Blackhorn and Spine and Madness of Deathwing don’t have very difficult tank mechanics, per se, but you do have to pay attention. The only big errors I’ve seen on these three encounters are not picking up elites fast enough on Lootship; failing to gather bloods and position the Hideous Amalgamation correctly on Spine; and knowing when to use CDs on Madness.

With all this said, when The Great Derp happens in LFR, where do we look for change? Who do we blame?

A rather upset European player asked Blizzard this:

Now one would ask, why do you do it then? Well, I want to raid. I do not hate LFR, I think its wonderful idea, but my oppinion is that it is created for apes. New target audience for Blizzard? Monkies, Gorillas, Chimps… you know em all. Because when I do LFR I feel like it is made not for human players or has humanity sank that low?

A Blue from Europe responds:

We actively encourage feedback on things such as the LFR, because we want to make it fun for everyone. Fun isn’t wiping over and over because you have people in the group who are new to the raiding environment, or perhaps aren’t up to speed on the latest tactics as you might expect from someone attending, say, an organised guild run. As we’ve said on numerous occasions, this is why we’ve designed LFR to be easier than normal raids, to enable a range of players — including less-experienced people or those with less-powerful gear — to see the content and gear up a little before perhaps trying it on normal, then later possibly heroic difficulty.

So if LFR is supposed to be the lowest rung of raiding — meant for people who are “new to the raiding environment” — then how do we as players or Blizzard get tanks ready for it? There aren’t any five-man dungeons that would prepare someone for, say, the Heroic Will mechanic on Ultraxion or where to position Amalgamations. Most people I know personally watched YouTube videos of the fights, but there’s one problem with that: LFR mechanics are slightly different. On Yor’sahj, for example, it’s better on LFR to kill the yellow slime, whereas people often choose the green on normal difficulty. That doesn’t necessarily apply to tanks directly, but people often look to us to call things out and know what’s happening. And it’s always our job to know when to use CDs accordingly.

You don’t really learn any of those things by leveling, either. Faster leveling and BoA gear have made low-level dungeons a horrible joke. If a DPS pulls off you, it’s really no big deal. And honestly, most tanks do top DPS anyway. If someone goes from 1-85 never stepping in a raid, then I honestly don’t see how they will learn raid mechanics. And even if they do pop into, say, Karazhan or Icecrown Citadel along the way, you can bet they will have some of their level-capped buddies tagging along and trivializing the encounters.

My guild learned LFR by doing it. But we did it first without pugs. Obviously the hate-chat is a lot less vicious in that environment, and people are more forgiving of mistakes (sometimes!). We all of course hope that everyone else reads as much as they can about these encounters, no matter what role they have. There are, indeed, tons of resources out there, from the official Tanking forums, to specific class forums and unofficial bibles like The Inconspicuous Bear. I try to learn everything I can from tanks who are far, far better than I am. Then I can pass on that information to others.

I’ve vowed in 2012 to try to be a more patient person, more of a teacher than a finger-pointer. I’m working on it. It’s not easy. You will never see most of the people you teach ever again. I guess you just have to hope that TankBot will use the information and use it well. I am sure Arielle and Reesi, TheIncBear’s leads, are tired of me pestering them with my billions of bear questions.

But is all of this pointless? Are we expecting too much here? If LFR isn’t a “real” raid, then should we really be expecting “real” play? Is it right to get mad at someone in ilevel 380 gear when they completely flub up a core mechanic? People most certainly do get mad about that, and LFR doesn’t check for the achievement except as a gate for the last four bosses.

Does this mean it’s far too easy to get to ilevel 372 without learning basic mechanics about your role and class first? Or is that all on the player? How much time should a player put into developing his or her character for a “fake” raid? We’d like to think that TankBot is guiding a character through LFR on his or her way to normal and heroic raids, but who knows?

Let me know what you think!

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3 Responses to Tanking LFR: Where did we go wrong?

  1. Kalmia says:

    I think Blizzard has put themselves in an awkward predicament. They want to make the game easier and more accessible for casual players. The type of player who is never going to watch a youtube video or read a class guide. That’s a smart goal for a company who wants to make lots of money. However, they also need to keep the more serious players engaged with challenging fights and mechanics or else they’ll get bored and quit playing (and that’s less money for Blizz!) Blizzard also doesn’t want to “waste” development time and money on content that is, for whatever reason, inaccessible for some players. I’m sure we all know the reasons behind this, so I won’t go into it.

    How does Blizzard create content that is challenging to the serious players, but accessible to the casual players? They need to take all of those external resources that the serious players use and put them someplace where the casuals will find (and hopefully use) them: in the game itself. There is where the awkwardness comes in, because Blizzard is still in the process of developing these in-game resources. The leveling experience doesn’t properly prepare players for level cap content or effectively teach them class mechanics. The dungeon journal is a good start, but again only if people actually read it. Ultimately, Blizzard can’t force people to learn how to play their class effectively or how to execute fight mechanics properly; they can only provide the means to learn. I think it’s pretty clear that the tools that are currently available are woefully underutilized, but that is not something under Blizzard’s control.

    Now for a bit of my own opinions!

    While I understand the business reasoning behind the simplification and accessibility process the game has gone through, I think it has been a detriment to the player experience, both serious and casual. Serious players got to experience challenging bosses and had access to content and gear that allowed them to be identified at a glance as players proficient in their class. Casual players had (and this is what I believe is truly missing from today’s incarnation of the game) a reason to get better. The only thing stopping a casual player from becoming a serious player was themselves. While this is still true today, there’s no longer anything to motivate casual players to become serious players. They can still see all the content. They can still obtain all the gear. So why should they bother trying to improve if what they’re doing now is working just fine for them? Before, if someone wanted that cool looking gear or to see that epic boss fight, they had to become a serious enough player that a raiding guild would take them. Now they can queue for LFR in unenchanted, ungemmed gear that is wholly unsuited for their class/role and still get what is, for them, the same experience.

    And that is why something as simple as push the button at the right time to not die on Ultraxion is so difficult for some people.

  2. Berdache says:

    You also need to be aware of the madness that is LFR Tuesdays (Mondays in the States). Its LFR but most everyone is playing their third alt so not only does a portion of the raid not know what its doing (or how to play its class properly) but also there are a swath of under geared characters and fewer well geared ones balancing it out.

  3. wrwer says:

    worthless rant no information

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