Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The lost art of CC - and what it really means

So this post is in part response to a post over at 2FPS regarding this post from the developer Twitter session.

Q: Crowd control is all but dead in raids. Is that something you plan on bringing back?
A: Like say… with the Faction Champions encounter in ToC? ;]

Now many folks around the blogsphere might disagree with that comment, and in part - I suppose - they may be right. I think they are forgetting the fundamental concept of CC though.

Quite simply CC is keeping person A from accomplishing B by doing C. Weather this is through chain sheeping, off-tanking, kiting, or interrupting - it's all CC. Now you can argue the semantics of this all you want - but the long and the short of it stays the same. Keep the Bad Person from doing the Bad Touch on the Good Guys.

Vanilla WoW

Vanilla WoW had quite a few encounters designed around CC - especially boss fights in MC. From off tanking adds, to keeping Domo's minions controlled, there was plenty of CC to go around. BWL had its fair share as well, with the kiting of elves, tanking of goblins, and stunning of draconids. I'm not quite sure how much CC was in in Naxx or AQ40, but I do remember using a lot of sheep in ZG (and maybe AQ20).

Even the five mans had their fair share of CC opportunities, especially when you consider that UBRS was a 15 man raid, and Scholo/Strat were 10 man runs. The instances were huge, and time consuming - and good CC could save the day and prevent lengthy run backs. Pulls were carefully calculated - and a missed sap could spell disaster.

The Burning Crusade

Enter BC - the king of CC intensive expansions. Every dungeon, from Ramparts to The Arcatraz, had a slew of CC heavy encounters. Paladin tanking rose to unprecedented heights as they were able to ignore CC requirements due to their impressive AoE tanking abilities. Entering Shadow Labs or the Shattered Halls without the necessary CC was a sure recipe for disaster - to say nothing of heroic instances.

Heroic dungeons were instances to be feared. You didn't enter them without a crack team, and I'm fairly certain I cleared Kara before I finally mastered every instance on heroic mode. Magister's Terrace was the prime example of thise, and cries of "LF Mage H MGT" were all too common on my server. Shamans were completely shunned for their lack of any CC (LOL @ Earthbind Totem), and warlocks were suddenly scrambling to rediscover their seduce macros.

Raids were no different, from using traps and shackles on the way to Attunemen, controlling Morose's friends, or keeping the random Opera encounter under control - groups were tested to keep the adds out of the hair of the healers and DPS. Mages became tanks in Gruul's lair, and more CC was needed than you can shake a stick at in SSC and TKE. Missing a single CC on Keal'Thas trash would generally wipe the raid, and LOS pulls were the order of the day.

This trend continued all the way through the Sunwell, where trash became so tough that you had to stack Bloodlust just to get through it.

And then, it happened. Kil'jaeden was defeated, order was restored, and Maiev's desire for revenge was finally sated.

Then we heard the call to fight the Lich King.

Wrath of the Lich King

Here the story of CC changes. Every tank had an AoE threat generating ability, as well as an AoE taunt. Death Knights could pull with a Death and Decay dropped right on their mobs, druids had 360 degree swipe, and even the warrior's Thunder Clap was buffed (though still not unlimited!). The need for CC was tossed out the window, and level 70s straight from Outlands could compete in the instances.

Volley and Fan of Knives were so powerful that hunters and rogues passed mages in AoE DPS. Gear fell from the heavens, and crafted epics were the standard for all entry into Naxxarammas. Naxx continued the AoE extravaganza, with few mobs that were controllable beyond a shackle - or maybe an ice trap. This trend would carry on into the Eye of Eternity (just a boss), the Obsidion Sanctum, and the Vault of Archavon. High DPS was stressed, and no CC was to be found.

Unlike BC, Heroic dungeons were mocked for thier simplicity. CC was again ignored in favor of AoE tanking everything - substituiting high DPS and strong healing for any type of strategy or tactic. Speed runs were seen much sooner than in BC, and high DPS was given a stronger value than party utility.

Ulduar introduced some CC back into the raiding light, with several dangerous packs in the instance. While overgeared groups can blow through them now, at their release they were admirable foes that had to be carefully controlled. XT's trash was at one time considered tougher than XT himself. Vezacks trash broke more than one raid group's spirit, and can still be devestating to overgeared groups if not handled correctly. Even some off the boss fights requried CC - though it was generally in the form of an off tank.

When the Trial of the Crusader came out, there was a cheer (at least in our camp) at the announcement of zero trash. Five bosses, no trash, easy peasy right? Well, maybe not. While most bosses are some variant of a tank and spank, the Faction Champions fight is the pinnacle of CC fights in my opion.

Now don't get me wrong - I hate PvP in my PvE as much as the next guy - but this fight has it all. The need for snap healing, quick thinking, and rapid adjustments to a situation. With PvP style cleansing and diminishing returns, you can no longer simply sit on a target to remove them from the fight. Instead you have to coordinate different types of CC, make decisions on when it's smarter to CC or to DPS, and use a set of skills that may have been extremely rusty in many raiders.

Weather you're the prot warrior locking down a healer, a warlock chain fearing different mobs, or a hunter who is kiting out melee DPS - all of these are forms of CC that take a whole different level of awareness than simply chain sheeping or trapping a target.

What the 'opposition' says

Many will claim that these fights, from FC to Ulduar trash, do not constitute real CC. They lament the need for CC in heroics and five mans, and clamor to bring back the dungeons of old.

To them I say - you have missed the point.

This is not your father's Warcraft

While I'm sure that this phrase will be lost on many, the point of it is that Wrath is not Vanilla WoW, or BC. These games, while sharing the same parent title of World of Warcraft, are different games entirely. Someone who left the game in 1.1 would be hard pressed to recognize the classes for what they are today. Mechanics have changed, skills have changed, and player abilities have changed.

Epics are available for everyone, and the days of grinding Baron Strat for your Tier 0 legs are gone. For better or worse (and this decision is entirely up to you), the game has changed - and I think for the better.

Once you embrace the change to the definition of Crowd Control, and accept that your abillity to occupy a single target indefinately is no longer needed, I think you'll get along much better in WoW. Look for the CC challenges that you can find on your own. Explore ranged tanking, or rogue tanking - find your challenges within the game.

Because sheeping something for an entire fight is just a pain in the arse.


  1. I agree with everything you said except the bit about the faction champs.

    I don't dispute that you have to use CC in that fight and smart application of CC can really make a difference in the outcome. The pvp-esque nature of it all however simply makes the whole thing awkward.

    It feels like the short-acting durations with diminishing returns combined with raid-boss sized health pools just marginalize the individual skill in using most kinds of CC.

    Yeah its a different game and I still like playing it but certain aspects that I used to really like don't exist anymore and I don't see anything wrong with not being quite as impressed with the modern approach to things.

  2. Grr - angry at Blogspot.

    I don't consider keeping a focus target CC'd for an entire fight any more (in fact it may be less) skillful than the person who can snap a sheep off (regardless of its duration) on a target to interrupt a spell or when it decides to focus on a healer or squishy target.

    Like it or not - it's the world we play in at the moment. I think IC will bring back some forms of CC, but I'd hate to be forced to bring a mage or hunter simply because I 'had' to CC something.

  3. I never finished heroic Durnholde Keep :\

  4. I'm definitely not advocating a return to the "LF3 Mages for MgT" times by any means. There can be plenty of situations where crowd control is called for that don't necessarily require a specific class's brand of cc.

    Hitting a counterspell on cooldown to interrupt one heal or attack simply doesn't show more skill than being able to consistently and completely lock an enemy down for an extended period of time to me.

  5. Two points:

    Firstly, I still insist that you're defining "CC" too broadly. If you're defining "off tanking" as a form of Crowd Control you might as well go the whole hog and throw tanking in there as well, or healing (preventing the mob from killing the target by healing the target fulfils all your criteria). To my mind CC is specifically about keeping enemies out of the fight *entirely*. It doesn't include off-tanking, because they still do damage to the OT, it doesn't include interrupts because that only stops casting for a few seconds. This isn't a question of what's good or bad gameplay, it's a question of what's a useful definition of "Crowd Control".

    Secondly: as I think I said over at 2fps, for me the thing about CC has nothing to do with "skill" at least as you define it, and has everything to do with *strategy*. It's about winning or losing being based on how you *approach* the fight, not on what do do *in* it.

  6. So is grabbing the adds on KT not a form of Crowd Control? To me, all things (even a fight like FC) is strategic decisions. Do I use my Arcane Torrent for mana, or do I save it for the Warlock who is Hellfireing the melee?

    I can see your point, and I agree with it to some degree - however I think it's what you do "in" the fight. Be it chain trapping, sheeping, picking up adds to OT, or what have you.

    The goal is to kill boss A before either the raid dies, or you run out of time. Sometimes this means killing adds before they can pile up and overwhelm you (Tidewalker, Anub'arak), and sometimes it means just controlling them until you can get to them (Moroes), or holding them indefinitely (KT).


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