The Paragon Fallacy

‘Given enough raiding hours per week, any guild is comparable to Paragon’.

A few weeks ago there was a conversation in our guild’s chatbox that basically amounted to this. I’m not sure if the guildie who posted it meant it literally (I’m betting on hyperbole here), but I do think it’s a common line of thinking among raiders that if they could only raid a couple more hours, the group would be far more progressed.

There’s obviously some truth to this. More hours a week means more attempts so it’s more likely you’ll get a kill, and then you can work on the next boss earlier and you’ll get more attempts on that boss per week so you’ll kill it faster and so on and so forth. It’s certainly a pleasant thought. At an average of eight pulls per hour and ten pulls to kill a boss, you’re looking at almost an extra kill per week!

Except this fantasy fails to take into account several factors. For one, the faster you get to a certain boss, the less geared you will be for it, pushing the number of attempts required for a kill upward. Plus, the deeper you go into a tier, the more it’ll take you to do a clear up to the boss you’re working on and the harder the fights become (ostensibly, though I suspect this is only universally true when you’re doing heroics and you can pick the order, and not even then if you pick wrong), meaning your average number of pulls needed to get a kill will also go up because of that and the number of pulls you’ll get per week to work on progression will start to decrease. I’m not saying the effect of added raid time would be completely negated, but it would definitely be mitigated. And while you may be Paragon in your head, you’d realistically only be few bosses ahead of where you are currently (I guess it should be noted that if you’re working on the latter heroics on a limited schedule, you may very well be comparable to Paragon, and this generic you is not really addressing the very specific you).

But I don’t have a problem with this argument because of its inaccuracy; I have a problem with it because it becomes a mental crutch that hampers progression. There’s nothing wrong with being a little optimistic when it comes to your own skill (no one wants you to sink into a pit of despair because you’ll never be as good as a raider in a top ten guild), but this sort of thinking can lead to people forgetting that they still can improve themselves. That the skill gap between a guild far more progressed than their own is very much real, and that work can be put into shortening that gap.

I know it’s very tempting to fall into this sort of thinking (I’ve been guilty of it more than once, myself), because the time we raid is often the one thing that is out of our control (beyond just switching guilds, but even then, our own time constraints might not allow it). No one likes to think that a lack of progression is their fault, or the fault of their teammates (in the majority of cases; I’m operating under the assumption that we all like the people we raid with). Except that it always is, because we could always be doing better, we could always be working on improving something. It’s just a matter of how much effort you’re willing to put in, and how much you care about your guild’s progression.

(Sidenote: this post could very well be called ‘the Method fallacy’. I picked Paragon because it was the guild that got mentioned in the conversation. Really, just choose your favourite high-end guild.)

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Mythic!

So, much to my suprise, and after worrying quite a bit, I’m actually rather excited about Mythic raiding. Not only did my raid team pleasantly surprise me by pretty much uniformly agreeing to the idea that we’d have to go 20-man, but the upcoming change has led to a series of discussions on the structure of the guild. Honestly, I think if we can pull this right, it will be incredibly beneficial in making us more efficient a team so we can push a little harder come progression time, which makes me all kinds of happy and excited.

Of course, one of the proposed changes involves role leads. And I think I might’ve sort of volunteered to help out as healing lead, which makes me incredibly nervous. It’s not that I don’t think I’d be a good fit. I mean, I know I have the knowledge to do it. I spend probably entirely more than I should reading up on other healing classes’ mechanics, so working out assignments and rotations shouldn’t be too much of an issue.  I’m slightly more concerned when it comes to the interpersonal aspect of it. I find being firm with people quite hard, and I tend to be paranoid about hurting other people’s feelings. Still, I really want to help and if this is the way I can, I’ll definitely give it a try. Plus, this gives me an excuse to set up a healing channel for the guild, which I’ve been wanting to do since day one.

Beyond how this affects our guild, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this might affect the healing game. Blizzard devs made a point to mention some of the more niche abilities and how they could go back to designing mechanics around these abilities now that you’re more or less guaranteed at least a member of each class in a Mythic raid, and this makes me hopeful that they’ll go back a bit on their homogenisation of the healing classes. While I think it was definitely necessary at the time, I miss having proper assignments. Obviously, it’s a delicate balance, since they still have to make every healer viable in Normal and Heroic in just about every comp without making the encounters trivial to heal if you’ve got every class available to you, but I’m optimistic that it could be pulled off.

And I’m simply excited to get to meet more people. 😀

The Lagging Strand

I’ve been having lag issues recently, and it terrifies me. Now, I’m fairly used to having stupid internet; for the first eight months or so of Mists, my internet decided to stop working once every few weeks. Usually, it happened just as I was beginning to think the problem had been fixed for good. Often, it would not only span a raid night or two, it actually went out right before raid, so that I couldn’t properly warn my raid team at the time. On the nights when I did have internet, I would often have quite a bit of lag. This wouldn’t be too awful (as long as lag is constant, it’s pretty easy to learn to deal and heal with it), though I did often need to move preemptively out of one-shot mechanics, lest I got smashed into itty bits before my screen realised it was happening.

I’m not sure how my raid team put up with me. In restrospect, I probably should’ve just quit. It wasn’t fair to them, but the hope that it would be the last time -that my ISP had really, actually fixed something that time- and how much I loved raiding with them, just got the better of me.

The problem did eventually get fixed, when me and a neighbour reported our internet going out on the same day, and the ISP finally figured out there was something broken somewhere. It was magical, suddenly sitting at 100ms no matter what content I was running. I realised that I didn’t actually suck at Iron Qon’s whirlwinds as much as I thought I did (though they’re still pretty far from being something I excel at), and that 200ms really did make that much of a difference. I stopped dying to Durumu’s beam, and to the smoke (since the only way to survive the beam when I was lagging was to run well ahead of it into the purple; if I miscalculated, I was pretty much dead). I was able to jump onto platforms on Ji’kun, knowing that my character would actually jump when I hit spacebar instead of just running off the ledge. Life was good.

But, recently, it started again. And it wasn’t the fun kind of lag, where everything is just happening 0.3 seconds after for you. It was the sucky kind of lag where everything’s slightly laggy for a couple of minutes and then your screen suddenly freezes for four seconds and you’re frantically spamming your ‘q’ key on the tank hoping that that Penance will actually go off before he dies. On Garrosh, which is where we’re at now, it’s particularly bad. The tanks take so much damage from adds that clutch heals are pretty important, and that’s the kind that is hardest to provide when you’re lagging. Predictable damage, I can handle just fine; I just need to be more proactive. But there’s nothing more frustrating than watching someone’s health slowly drop, knowing that casting a life saving shield on them is within your power, but only if your connection allows it.

Unsurprisingly, beyond how personally frustrating it is, it’s not very good for progression. I feel like I can claim at least 30% of the responsibility for not having yet killed Garrosh. I actually volunteered to sit out this week, partially because I needed to study, but mostly because I was terrified that the lag would flare up again and screw up our Garrosh kill. As they say, though, the world is not a wish granting factory, and our mage had to work and was late on our progression day, so I had to heal for about half the raid night. It was not pretty. And it was wasted time.

Thankfully, I’m pretty sure it’s not my internet this time around, since just turning off my computer for tennish minutes managed to fix it last week (after my horrible night ended with a painful DC that, thankfully, coincided with the arrival of our lovely mage). I’m pretty sure it’s an overheating problem, so I’m going to try and keep my computer turned off for a while before raid (I have the awful habit of keeping it on sleep mode), and hopefully it will resolve itself. But even if I have to do something like replace the fans or the computer or whatever it may be, at least I have a modicum of control over fixing the problem and that makes me feel a little bit better.

The Peculiar Plight of the Middle of the Road 10-Man

With this weekend’s Blizzcon we’ve learned lots of things about the upcoming expansion and while I’m mostly (so many orcs make me unhappy) really excited, there is one aspect of Warlords of Draenor that worries me: raid sizes. I suspect I’m not alone in this, heroic 25-man raid teams must be quite annoyed at having the difficult decision of which players to drop and heroic 10-man raiders must be looking with dread at the recruiting on steroids (or merging) that will allow them to continue raiding at their preferred level.

My guild falls into neither of these categories. Yes, we are a ten man and we do habitually raid heroic level content at the end of the tier. The problem is, it’s only at the end of the tier. Which means, unlike every other guild who is strictly a heroic raiding guild or a normal raiding guild, we have to figure out how much we value heroic raiding and whether it’s worth the effort of recruiting ten more players. And the big problem is we’re probably not all going to agree. I mean, I know which side of the fence I’m on. I spend mostly all the tier hoping we will get to do some heroic progression and it’s the most enjoyable content for me. I hate doing farm content and if WoD suddenly means two or more months of doing the same thing over and over again with no new challenge to look forward to, I will likely go insane.

But, then, I’m also not an officer. The onus of finding a solution that will allow us to do this heroic (mythic; one day I will get used to the term!) content will not fall on me. We’re a tiny guild. We have a bench of one. Of the people who are active on a regular basis, 100% of them are raiders. Of the people who poke their heads in occasionally, 90% of them are former raiders that had to quit for one reason or the other. If all of them came back, we’d still need to recruit seven to ten players to ensure having enough people to be able to do heroic content, not to mention a bench big enough to sustain that roster. It’s going to take quite a bit of effort, and if our GM decides it’s not really worth it, I could easily see why.

I also am not particularly averse to 25-man raiding, but I know a few of our members raid 10 man because they like it. Not everyone’s computer can take large raids. I know because mine barely does (one of the reasons I have not really actively pursued 25-man raiding before now).

There’s also the fact that the difficulty of tiers varies greatly. Tier 14, my guild was racing the patch to get their (alas, I was not yet a part of the team by this point) Sha kill. They got it on the last week and mustered just one heroic kill. With ToT, we had about three months to work on heroics. This tier? It’s looking around the same, perhaps a bit more, depending on when Blizz releases the new expansion. If every tier looked like tier 14, then we’d be able to happily remain normal raiders, but there’s no way to know.

Mostly, I’m just crossing my fingers that making this decision won’t turn into a drama bomb.

On ‘Flex’ Raiding and Being Forced to Do Things

I came across this post today and it made me want to write a (tangential) response to it. I’ve been wanting to discuss the issue of certain aspects of the game feeling mandatory to raiders since the start of the expansion, but I never did get around to it. Luckily for me, the announcement of ‘Flex’ raids just made this discussion relevant again. So here’s my take.

Firstly, I should say that I’m precisely the sort of person who grinds LFR and valor caps every week. I’m not a super high-end raider. My current guild just downed Lei Shen this week, and this is probably the most progressive guild I’ve ever been a part of. Regardless of this, PvE progression has always been one of my personal goals while playing this game. By saying this, I mean I want to progress as much as I can within certain constraints I’ve come to accept limit my potential overall progression (things like the time I’m willing to raid, my own skill, the sort of people I want to raid with, etc.) This is why I do dailies at the beginning of patches, and run the LFR version of Horridon every week to see if I can get a half-decent trinket. I know if more gear translates to me putting out more healing, my guild has a better chance of success on every attempt and that, in my mind, means faster progression.

One of the points Rossi made in the article I linked is that guilds that enforce a ‘run all the LFRs, all the weeks!’ policy are mistaking gear as a substitute for skill. I disagree. I mean, obviously, gear is no substitute for skill. It doesn’t matter how many ilvls you have on your character sheet if you can’t get out of that sand trap. But I find this a simplistic argument precisely because gear has no bearing on skill. You’re not comparing higher skilled, crappily geared you with unskilled, heroically geared you; you’re comparing your perfomance at the same level of skill with slightly more gear. And more gear does translate into more output, which can be a deciding factor when getting new kills.

I’m going to give you a small example of why this argument makes no sense to me. I have a friend whom I raided with at the end of Cata. He is an amazing priest, much better than me. Yet, he never enchanted his gear. He still did better than me on meters, but he would’ve been an overall better asset to the raid if he’d gotten off his butt and gotten his gear enchanted, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. (I understand that LFR and ‘flex’ aren’t comparable to enchants given that it takes a minute to enchant your stuff, which is why I was much more frustrated with him than I’ve ever been with someone who would not run LFR.) Sure, enchants are not a substitute for skill, but they’re a nice addition to it. And so it goes with extra gear. And, sure, it’s debatable how much you getting a single piece of gear will impact the overall performance of your raid, but if everyone in your group makes a point to accelerate their own gear progression it will make an impact eventually.

On the other hand, you could certainly make the argument that the time spent doing LFRs, dailies and ‘flex’ raids would be better spent working on your skill. I agree, to a point. I find that, after a certain point, skill is something that improves very slowly and with plenty of practise. After all, just because I know that I should be keeping my rapture on cooldown, doesn’t mean that I’m very good at doing it in actual raids. The most I can do is look at my rapture gains and how many shields I used in a fight and try to do better next time. Theoretical knowledge does not translate to practical skill. There are obviously things you can do to improve your practical skill. Funnily enough, LFR is one of them. I use it occasionally to practise my DPS’ing or mechanics I’m doing poorly at (*waves at Iron Qon’s whirlwinds and Blade Lord’s whirlwinds and all whirlwindy mechanics in general*). It’s not very good for practising healing, but there you go.

But is the impact worth the time invested?

Honestly, I think that’s for every guild and raider to decide. I think I’ve seen it make a difference, but it’s nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

So, yes, I acknowledge it’s a choice.

The thing about choices, though, is that some times one of the options is so unpleasant or unthinkable, it doesn’t really feel like a choice. This is the real reason people feel forced to do it. They know no one is holding a gun to their head. They might find running the same raid three times in a week about as pleasant as scooping their own eyes with a spoon, but letting their guilds or themselves down is the equivalent of having to eat them as well.

What people want when they ask Blizz to stop ‘forcing’ unpleasant activities on them is for Blizzard to not give them the choice, and -in my opinion- this is a perfectly valid thing to want. There’s also the matter that sometimes people faced with a choice that’s tough -either because they don’t like either option, or because they’re both awesome- will just refuse to make it. And in WoW, there’s a very simple way of doing that: just don’t log in.

What about Blizzard, though? Why should Blizzard baby us and make sure we don’t overwhelm ourselves?

In an ideal world, they wouldn’t have to. The problem is they are a company, and giving us the choice might drive people who feel compelled to do something they hate (for any reason) away. This is not good business, unless giving us the choice in the first place makes up for it.

In the case of both ‘flex’ raids and ‘LFR’, I think they’re absolutely worth it. I think it fulfills a need for a portion of the population that is bigger than the people who will be  negatively affected by it.

Personally, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when we get ‘flex’ raids. I’m not sure if I’m going to run them in addition to LFR or instead of LFR. I can’t really say until I know how hard they will be and how long they will take. What I can say is that the main reason I’m glad they don’t share a lockout is it’ll let me experience something close to a current content raid with some of my former, off-server guildies, with a lot less pressure than actually levelling an alt and raiding with them also would involve.