In ICC they rolled out a progressive 30% buff to player HP and DPS/HPS. While this buff would enable you to possible progress past a boss that you previously had been unable to defeat, it didn't make the content LOLSTOMP. As Kurn pointed out in her blog, you could still wipe your raid with a badly placed plague or unchained magic explosion. Of course you could tell Hellscream to go climb a tree and turn the buff off, but the buff was still there.
It seems like this isn't going to be an optional nerf to Firelands, and personally, I'm glad. IMO giving the ability to turn a buff on/off just leads to a whole other level of drama and bullshit in your guild. What gets me is some of the overwhelmingly violent objections to this nerf.
Well here's my excessive support
First, let's establish one standard/fact/baseline. Either normal raids are the standard, and heroics are "something extra for the hardcore", or heroics are the standard and normal modes are something you have to progress past to get to the real content. Doesn't matter which one you decide you're for, because Blizzard has already stated what it is that they want.
Normal raids are the content, heroic modes are the extra content for those that want to work at it.
Not everyone is supposed to clear heroic content (supposedly) and I guarantee you that this nerf won't suddenly boost a guild from 1/7 to 7/7. No a chance in hell. If you can't move out of Rag's hammer now, you're going to still die to it at 20% less damage in the future. Even if this nerf is a straight flat 20% reduction to ALL damage done in the encounter, you're still going to have to learn the mechanics.
Tied in with this though is the boost to guilds who run sub-optimal raids. I'm talking about guilds that don't stack to get every buff, don't swap out main-spec DPS for that 3rd healer and instead have them going OS DPS - or still three heal. Guilds that still have members who need the boost of extra healing, because they bring members who can't figure out how to do the Alysrazor tornado dance.
This is not Vanilla
I tell a lot of stories about "back in the day", but you know what? That's what they are. Stories. Like my dad telling a story about getting beat in school for using profanity. For better or worse, schools don't work that way any more. The same thing with WoW. This is not the WoW of yesteryear. I spent many, many, painful nights trying to force my way through BWL and AQ40. In BC I moved from guild to guild trying to find one that met my timezones and was actually progressing - imagine if we'd had these nerfs back then!
In Wrath, when the group that finally formed
joined up, it was with the goal to a) never miss content again and b) strive for server firsts. We did that through Ulduar, ToC, and ICC (I'm still pissed Tirion is on my statue). By the time Cata came out, our lives and goals had changed. By the release of T12, we'd pretty much moved on to other guilds and games. In fact my deepest regret in the disbanding of TI was that Monger and I didn't get to finish out T12 just 2 healing everything.
What I'm trying to say here, is that the average raider isn't interested in wiping 400 times to get a boss kill. If we're honest with ourselves, the majority of the player base probably wasn't interested in that back in Vanilla either. If they were, we'd have seen a lot more guilds getting into Naxx, instead of the 2 or 3 per server that we really had. Instead we saw guilds breaking at the entrance to BWL, never mind the Twin Emps. We went from being able to let a full 1/3 of the raid sleep through MC, to needing everyone to pay attention in the start of BWL, and AQ40 jumped the difficulty right through the roof.
Where the wheels came off
By accident or design, Blizzard has designed a game of instant gratification, and they are now forced to keep up that premise. There are any number of places to point at and say "This here, this is what killed it", there's no single point of failure here. Heroics dungeons in Wrath were easy at the start (with very few exceptions like Loken), and by the time Ulduar was out they were pretty laughable. By the end of the content they were horrifically easy - a 180 degree shift from heroics in BC.
Achievements were introduced to give you that feeling of "I did it", when really all you did was hit level 10. Whoop dee fucking doo. Hey you bought a mount at level 20! Here's an achievement to let the world know you managed to mount a pony and ride it around the yard without falling off. You bought bank tabs - YAY! With this type of instant atta-boys being tossed out, is it any wonder that content is being nerfed early?
As much as I love the LFD tool, this was another change that helped push us to this point. Now I absolutely LOVE the LFD. For all the mouth breathing, drool sucking, keyboard turning, foul mouthed racist asshats that we get to deal with - we get the occasional great run. More importantly, I don't have to sit in Dalaran/Shatt/Org/where-the-fuck-ever spamming "LF x for ABC run - PST". Now I can keep farming, let the LFD pick me a group, and be whisked away to my run. Hell, I don't even have to know where the damn dungeon is. In, out, and on my way.
At the start of Cataclysm Blizzard tried to bring things back to the BC days. Dungeons were difficult, heroics were absolutely brutal, and the cry for nerfs was heard round the world faster than you could say "Told you so". In my experience the average player can't be bothered to wipe once or twice, much less take 18 seconds to either admit they have no clue what the fight is about, or to explain it without calling them a useless fucktard. Oh noes, the tank doesn't have the fight memorized and isn't in gear 2 tiers above the current content, and the DPS is doing 9k DPS - GTFO and L2P NOOB.
And that ladies and gentlemen, has led us to where we are today.
The idea that we should have it all
Somewhere along the lines, it was decided that everyone should be able to access all the content in the game with a moderate amount of effort. Designing spectacular raids that 1% of the player base will see just doesn't make financial sense, so we got the heroic version of raids. Heroics were supposed to be the pinnacle of the end game. Yeah, you can beat Arthas, but can you beat him on super+ hard mode with x% more badstuff? This was genius in theory, because it let all the "I'm just interested in seeing the content" players actually "see the content, and it gives the Paragons and Stars of the world something to race for in world firsts.
Now what happened though is that the average raider got it in their crazy mind that heroic content should be for everyone. You might link this issue to gear, or prestige, or epeen - but either way, it happened. I personally think this is crap, because the average player isn't willing to do what it takes to actually accomplish the heroic content. They want the kill, but they don't want to have to force Jimmy the Bad, or the Horrible Wife to sit out. They don't want to be forced to grind VP on multiple toons, carry the "perfect' professions, or grind out Archaeology until their eyes bleed because the BiS trinket or weapon comes from that instead of raiding.
Making sacrifices and hard calls
While that style of play isn't wrong, it's wrong to think that they should have access to all the heroic content. I wanted to kill Sinestra in T11, but I wasn't willing to do what it took to get there. I didn't want to play in a guild with more than 10 people - so we had to run with the players we had. We didn't want to raid more than six or maybe eight hours a week - so we did what we could as we could. We didn't want to extend lockouts, farm guild levels, or any of the other things that we might have done to get us to 13/13. Instead we hit 5/13, said that's enough, and took some time off till T12.
And this is what it boils down to. I think it's awesome that my current guild is 1/7-HM, is really close on a few others, and all while keeping a good roster of players that rotates. We dont' stack buffs effectively, we don't sub out or swap players, and we rotate everyone throughout the week. I love it, and I respect that the leadership has stuck to their guns on these topics. We're either going to get it our way, or we're not.
I approve, and I respect it. I also have to say that expecting to be able to go 7/7-HM while doing that may be a little much.
What I'd rather see
Personally I'd rather see Heroics left alone, and nerfs to the regular mode. I'm OK with the possibility that I may never see Ragnaros walk outside of a YouTube video. I'd love to do it, I'd love to see us pull it off without any nerfs even. I'm also secure enough in my epeen that I'll still take a nerfed kill. Hell, I'd still do Sinestra if I get the chance.
I don't want to see an option to leave the buff on or off, and I do agree that increasing player DPS and HPS/Stam is very different than just nerfing the HP and DPS of a boss. At the end though, it's still a nerf. I don't think this is going to "kill WoW", and I don't think this is a last ditch effort of anything. What I do think is that we're about six weeks away from Blizzcon, where we should be seeing announcements for the next expansion. I'd like to think they're just playing 4.3 close to the vest, but that's probably not the case either. We'll probably start seeing some raid information trickling out soon, especially since we're getting Tier previews now.
In the end, this isn't Vanilla, this isn't BC, hell it ain't even Wrath. It's year seven (eight?) of a MMOs life, and things are bound to change. You can't walk uphill both ways to school, with no shoes, in the winter, and without a coat even forever you know. Eventually you're going to get some shoes, maybe a bike, and hell - maybe move to someplace warm. They're nerfs, they're here, and I don't think it's a bad thing.