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Officers QuartersFeb 22, 2017 3:00 pm CT

Officers’ Quarters: Legion and raider morale

krosus fires a beam

Back in December, I told raid leaders not to blame themselves for poor raid attendance. I talked about the many ways that Blizzard has intentionally made organized raiding as optional as possible for the average player. This is a good thing in many ways. Speaking as a long-time raider, I can say without a doubt that it takes a certain type of person to enjoy a raiding environment and to excel in it. Raiding is not for everybody.

But in that column I failed to address a key issue in Legion that has had a chilling effect on players’ desire to raid and their morale while doing so: an inability to compete. Both of the root causes of this issue have recently been addressed by Blizzard — legendaries and Artifact Power.

Let’s look at both of them one by one, and then try to figure out what raid leaders can do about it.

Legendary frustration

The problem with legendaries in Legion has been discussed repeatedly since the expansion launched: there’s no control over which legendaries you obtain, there’s no way to obtain them directly, and they have a massive effect on your performance in raids. Blizzard has taken steps to address the legendary problem. They have been ramping up the drop rate, as Ornyx stated last week. In patch 7.1.5, Blizzard adjusted legendaries to even out their power levels and make the overall performance impact of a single legendary less severe.

But the problem persists. When you go to look at your performance ranking for a certain encounter on a combat log site, figuring out where you stand against other players has become incredibly complicated. Is a below-average result due to not having the right legendaries, not maxing out your 20% bonus AP investment, or just not performing up to par? In every prior expansion, you could tell fairly accurately based on rankings against players with your same average ilvl whether you were performing well against a certain boss. Now, you look at log rankings and you have to dig extremely deep to figure out where you really stand. It’s very difficult to gauge.

Personally, I miss having that metric. I can’t figure out anymore where I stand for my spec, and that bothers me. Do I need to change my rotation or my talent setup for that boss, or do I just need to wait until I get the “right” legendaries? Because I have no control over which legendaries I get and when, it feels like I have no real control over my overall performance. I have an artificial cap that makes me unable to compete with players of a similar ilvl, until I get lucky. I don’t claim to be a raider who can hit 90% every encounter, but I like to know when I’m maximizing my output and when I could do better. I feel like Legion has taken away my ability to do that. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way, and it’s something that raid leaders should be aware of when reviewing rankings.

Artifact Power: The infinite grind

According to the recent post by Watcher, the final 20-point traits in our Artifacts currently account for approximately a full tier of gear. That is kind of crazy. Blizzard admits this was a mistake. Their answer is to make those final traits even more difficult to acquire by applying the same exponential scaling to them that the rest of our Artifact traits had. What on Azeroth are they thinking?

Watcher says this decision was made “to reduce the power gap.” I don’t think it will. I believe it will just make the people at the higher end work that much harder. For the people at the lower end, with less time to play, they’ll feel even more like they’re at the bottom of an unclimbable mountain. Anyone who switched specs or switched mains during Legion is even more behind. Artifact Knowledge served as a limiting mechanism for the hardcore grinders during the initial months of Legion, but now it’s a limiting mechanism for everyone who switched classes during the expansion.

light's wrath

Again I’ll give my personal perspective here as an example. With Valor points, I felt that as long as I capped out my Valor every week, I wasn’t falling behind. Since Artifact Power has no such cap, my limits on play time directly affect my performance. Other players in my raid have maxed out their Artifact Traits, and I haven’t. (I switched mains in Legion, which made the problem worse, but I also don’t have the same availability to play the game overall.) I see the result of that on the meters after every boss fight.

I’m not the type of ultracompetitive player who has to top the meters. To me it’s way more important that we beat the boss and we all had fun doing so. But I also believe that DPS raiders can and should push each other to do better through friendly competition. So I want to feel like I have a chance to compete with the other raiders on my team. That if I really push my performance, that if I execute my rotation and handle encounter mechanics extremely well, I will have a top spot on the meters. But I can’t compete against fully traited Artifacts, even though we’re all getting the same gear, because I’m statistically a full tier behind.

Unlike legendaries, I can directly control my fate with Artifact Power. If I grind out enough AP now, I can catch up. But when patch 7.2 launches with new Traits, I’ll quickly fall behind again.

Pressure and guilt

Many raid leaders push their raiders to run Mythic+ dungeons for more chances at legendaries and to max out their Artifacts with AP. In a vacuum, raid leaders should push their raiders to do these things. It directly affects their team’s overall performance every raid night.

But these are additional pressures that didn’t exist prior to Legion. They have made me question whether I have the time in my life to be a progression raider. More and more I’m realizing that answer is no. I wish that weren’t the case. I miss the days of earning my Valor for the week and feeling like I had done my utmost for the raid team. I haven’t had that feeling at any point in Legion. Every raid I feel like I’m letting the team down, that I should have done more.

Given what I hear from other raiders throughout the community, many players feel like I do. Blizzard is slowly realizing that Legion‘s design is having a chilling effect on raiding beyond what they intended. I don’t believe their announced course of action will fix this issue — quite the opposite, actually. What can raid leaders and officers do in the meantime to help their raid’s morale?

The most important thing is to be mindful of how performance and gear actually affects progression. Let’s take Krosus for example, which is a good measuring stick of raid performance. This encounter is both a raw DPS check and raw healing check. If you’re wiping with everyone alive at the end of the fight because DPS was lacking and Krosus destroys the final piece of ground, then clearly your raid needs either better gear, with more AP, or better rotational performance. But if you’re wiping because you’re wasting time killing too many unnecessary adds, then that’s an awareness issue.

Likewise, if your healers can’t keep up with damage in the final round of Slams and Orbs, then maybe grinding more AP will fix the problem. But if they can’t do so because they’re out of mana from people mishandling Orbs earlier, then which legendaries the healers have probably isn’t the reason you can’t progress.

As long as the raw performance is good enough, then raid leaders should be content with their raiders’ gear and AP progression. Don’t guilt your players into spending more time in the game than they can afford to. For many raiders, that creates a lot of bad feelings.

Better gear and fully traited Artifacts can overcome some mechanical mistakes, but at the end of the day, you still need to minimize errors in order to progress. A lesser-geared raid full of heads-up players with great situational awareness will always come out ahead of a raid with tricked-out Artifacts who tunnel the boss or stand in bad. Ideally you want both great players and maxed-out gear but — unlike in past expansions — that’s a nearly impossible standard for many raiders in Legion.

Whew! If anyone thinks I’m wrong about these issues after my very long discourse here, I welcome discussion below.

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