Monday, October 19, 2009

Boss design and buffing

Since the early days of MC, high end progression guilds have been pushing the limit on what buffs they can bring to any given raid encounter. From world buffs to rare foods - the amount of preparation that would go into a single raid night (for those that were serious) was enormous. When I was tanking Broodlord in BWL I had to pull all the stops just to break into the 10k+ range - and we were not even close to being ready for Patchwerk.

Whipper root tubers, boar's lungs, flasks, potions, and elixirs - add all this to the Ony and ZG buffs - and you were maybe ready to push the cutting edge content. Heck, we needed most of this to push year old content.

In the early days of BC, none of this had really changed. You would still run a full elixir/flask rotation, and - and this is really the most important - you'd have to stack your groups. Spriests were placed as needed, shamans were stuck in appropriate groups to max out Bloodlust and totems. Certain classes were excluded/brought simply based on synergy of buffs.

This had a greater impact than just what was required farming wise, or group wise, to raid. It set the requirements that bosses be designed assuming you had all these buffs. This is one of the reasons why the elixir/flask system changed in BC, and why we started seeing a homogoniztion of buffs going into Wrath. By limiting the effective stacking of buffs, bosses could be tuned down slightly - with the hopes that we wouldn't need 5 shaman in every raid.

Enter the Lich King

When Wrath hit, raid compostion became decididly easier to configure. Buffs were shared across multiple classes, replenishment was given to three different classes (now 5), and we were left with very few class specific buffs. Designers could realistically expect that any 10 man group would have a spell hit debuff, some type of AP buff, replenishment, etc. Ghostcrawler has said more than once that they expect every raid (not every 5 man) to have the replenishment buff available. I think this may actually be one of the small reasons behind buffing Frost mage DPS - as who plays frost in a raid?

Up until 3.2, the only buffs that were class exclusive (that really mattered) were Blessing of Kings, Mark of the Wild, Prayer of Fortitude, and Bloodlust. Some sort of cross class buff (i.e. Fel Hunter gave Int and Spirit) were available for every other major buff. In 3.2, Blizzard added in consumables that gave a slightly less powerful version of this buff - meaning you are no longer required to have a druid just for MotW. Granted these buffs aren't 'as' strong - but they are a baseline.

What this means for raiders

For the hardcore, this won't matter one single bit, but for the casual raider who thought this was a boon - it's really not.

Blizzard can now design every single boss with the following assumptions.

  • Your tanks will be flasked with stoneblood since only one flask is required.
  • Everyone will have +8% to stats from Drums of the Forgotten Kings
  • +37 stats, 750 armor, and +54 to all resistances from Drums of the Wild
  • +165 Sta from Runescroll of Fortitude
  • +80 AP, +46 SP, +40 Sta from Fish Feast
  • Replenishment
  • Mojo/Wyrm/Wrath flasks for your DPS
All of these buffs are relitively easy to farm, and fairly cheap (besides the possible exception of the flasks) to buy. Unless your 10 man team runs Shamans only for healing (doable, but not something I'd want to try), you will probably use fewer of the consumables. It also means that your single Paladin can use Wis/Might on the raid, as the 2% loss from BoK is less than an 8% BoK + BoM/BoW.

As of this writing, the only buffs which is now limited to a single class (raid wide buff that is) is Bloodlust/Heroism. Rumor has it that another class may be getting this buff - but it's unconfirmed right now.

So why bother?

This begs the question, why bother with putting the buffs in the game? If Blizzard makes the buffs relitively baseline, then what is the point of even making them available at all? Every boss will hit just a touch harder, since they assume that the above buffs will be on the tank (approx. 1561 HP from buffs alone, not counting baseline stam), and that the DPS and healers will have the increased throughput.

Now obviously the hardcore guilds will have the buffed versions of these spells, and they'll be sure to have Bloodlust - but they'll also be going after the hard mode bosses. These baselines will be included in all boss designs from the start. Fortunately, they are all supplemental buffs (outsided of flasks and well fed), designed to help with situations where a specific class is not available.

In short, it will make the content more accessable, but it means that there will be an added onus of responsibility on the casual raider to ensure that these consumable buffs are available in their raid.

I hesitate to guess what Cataclysm will hold in store for us in the way of raid buffs and personal comsumables. Following the line of homoginization, we may very well see the world change to a buff free zone - where each class merely brings their DPS/Tank/Heal abilities.

Then again, it will be WoW 2.0 - we could be in for a world of change.


  1. I'd guess it's because buffs are kind of fun.

    That's right, I said it. I enjoy having my Mage cast Arcane Brilliance (or Dalaran Brilliance, now) on the raid and making everyone's toons just a little smarter. I like managing Blessings on my Paladin.

    The idea is that when you put a bunch of players together, they're more powerful than they would be seperately. Group buffs are a way of implementing that.

  2. Blizzard really, really needs to give blust to another class. It's kind of silly that such a make-or-break ability is limited to only Shamans. I know they say they tune content for 10man assuming you don't have it, and assuming you do in 25, but in either it is my experience that progression is leaps and bounds easier with a bluster.

  3. I don't think Blust is make/break - at least not for the 'normal' mode encounters. I think for Hard/Heroic - sure, Blust can make your kill happen - but I also think that if you're in there trying those, you're smart enough to get a shaman.


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