Stacking ICC Buff – Success or Failure?

Assuming Blizzard doesn’t suddenly deviate from their four week schedule, the ICC raid buff – Strength of WrynnHellscream’s Warsong – is set to increase this coming raid reset on Tuesday, from the current 15% up to 20%. As such, I figure it’s as good a time as any to share my thoughts on the subject.

There’s really nothing to debate about the intent of the aura – it was, without doubt, meant to replace the previous model where, through a patch or hotfix, they would nerf content a couple months after its introduction by lowering the difficulty of each individual encounter through various fight-specific means, which was in turn meant to result in the raid content being experienced by a larger audience.

And there’s no doubt that it has been successful in that regard. Simply look at the below chart, courtesy of Wowprogress, with shoddy Paint work done by yours truly:

One can clearly see the effect each incremental raising of the buff had on the overall trajectory of progress. Every time kills begin to taper off – shown by the lines becoming less linear (straight) and more logarithmic (curved) – the buff comes along, providing an immediate little leap to the number of kills,  followed by an increase in linearity, until it begins to curve out and it all happens again.

Compare this to the previous system, which looked something like this:

Instead of several little bumps, you had one sudden leap, and instead of all encounters being (near) equally affected at the exact same time, you had the magnitude of the jump and the date at which it occured varying boss by boss.

An improvement?

That’s debatable, and hence this post.

Everything positive about the buff has an equally notable downside:

  • When the buff is increased is known. It happens like clockwork, every 4 resets. Nice and reliable.
    • Downside: Lowers motivation and causes apathy for many. Why push for a kill tonight, when tomorrow it will be that much easier? For others, it still has the same effect, but for the opposite reason; what if we try our hardest tonight, but fail? The buff comes regardless, and then it just seems like we’re no better than dozens of others noobs who killed it Tuesday. Not knowing when the nerf was going to come kept people equally motivated (or demotivated, as the case may be) regardless.
  • All encounters get affected. No exceptions.
    • Downside: Normal Gunship gets affected just as much as heroic Lich King. Many encounters just don’t need to be touched, and although the fact that they are isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s certainly an unnecessary one.
    • Downside: Relatedly, what happens if you want the buff for the easy fights (just to get them out of the way quicker), but not for the challenging ones (to actually preserve the challenge)? You can’t pick and choose.
  • The buff is a buff, as opposed to a nerf.
    • Downside: Not all classes are affected equally. Some (Unholy DKs, for example) don’t actually get the full 5% due to certain abilities (Gargoyle) not benefiting, while others (Holy Paladins) get more than the 5% due to certain abilities (Glyph of Holy Light) double dipping. This is ignoring the fact that it took months for pets/shields to be affected at all, a huge omission.
    • Downside: It makes tracking your individual progress difficult. I don’t know about others, but I like to see myself do better and better each week. I like to know that due to becoming better geared, or more accustomed to a fight, or just more ‘skilled’, I’m able to push out higher dps. With the buff, I can do everything in the exact same manner and, hey, free dps increase! It negates one’s hard work by making it more difficult to see the actual rewards of that work.
    • Downside: This might not matter to many, but the form of incremental buffing kills WMO/WoL records. Anything you do now is invalidated in <4 weeks, because the top 20 are that sensitive where a 5% buff is tantamount to a reset of the charts. Petty and irrelevant to most? Maybe, but annoying nonetheless!
  • The buff is an arbitrary number balanced around… what?
    • Downside: 30% as the cap? Why not 25%? Why not 35%? The previous system had specific nerfs, which meant things were done exactly as Blizzard thought necessary. No more, no less.  Having a specific and seemingly random number leads to content being “overnerfed” or “undernerfed”. Some fights don’t need the full thirty, while others may need more than that. Just choosing that number out of a hat will have unintended consequences.

I could probably go on, but it’s getting late.

Suffice is to say; personally, I’m not a fan of the “buff instead of nerf” system, and sincerely hope that it (along with attempts!) are gone for good come Cataclysm. It makes it hard to motivate a raid, it trivializes already trivial encounters, it makes it exceedingly difficult to visualize personal progression, it doesn’t benefit everyone equal, and the fact that it’s a random number means that it will likely have unknown consequences (in the aforementioned means, no doubt).

And, of course, I can’t say I’m without a personal reason: As many know, I’m currently taking a break from raiding. What happens when I decide to go back into it, and I possibly have to apply to a new guild? How do they objectively evaluate parses from months ago, when the buff was quite lower? It’s unlikely they’re going to dig up their own from back then, even if they can, and thus it makes it understandably difficult for them to judge.

At any rate, just my two cents!

6 Responses to Stacking ICC Buff – Success or Failure?

  1. Insolence says:

    Personally I think they should leave it as is. It helps the casuals get somewhere, but if they keep going all you’ll need is Naxx T7 Gear to do ICC, that’s just dumb. They’ve already ruined it enough with Icewell Radiance and Limited Attempts we don’t need a stronger buff.

  2. Ftwlorelol says:

    Oh god, could not agree more on the WMO/WOL issue. Not to mention that with so many RNG bosses like Marrowgar’s spikes and LK’s valkyrs it can be a real pain to redo a good attempt in those new 4 resets,

    But regardless, I’m actually writing this wondering about the Gargoyle mention.

    Under Buffs Gained it would seem it does gets the buff -even though I’m unsure where the 20% uptime comes from. Help me out if I’m missing something here.

    Keep up the good work ;>

    • Consider says:

      The 20% uptime is coming from WoL trying to average it out over the fight’s duration, not the garg’s duration. Or such would be my guess, judging by the numbers.

      But, yeah, you’re certainly right about the gargoyle benefiting. Must have been fixed along with actual pets, and I simply missed it. Good, good. A+ for Blizzard.

  3. Rhaevos says:

    Meh, I don’t mind the buff so much. Even with 30% buff, many of these encounters are pretty hard to just plow through. Especially BLood Queen, Sindragosa and Lich King. A bite rotation, ice blocks, and defile especially are hard cock blocks to get through and take more than a simple damage, health, healing buff to beat.

    The buff won’t really let terrible pugs get through fights that are more about execution than gear, but it does help guilds that are trying, but are just missing that small amount to push through.

    A great example of an encounter that people outgear, but fail at is Lady Vashj is SSC. I did a pug there a few months ago, but we wiped because 90% of the raid didn’t know how to handle the cores and adds. Despite severly outgearing the instance, the mechanics of the fight are a huge cockblock to most people. Same with Kael’Thas, if you don’t know how to use the legendaries, he can still wipe a raid easily.

  4. blingen says:

    If I were a blizzard raid developer, I would be much happier with the progression graph in Icecrown than Ulduar. A lot of the issues you mention are things which affect only the most hardcore raiders–apathy, loss of relevance for historical damage logs, etc. I’ll tell you this, at one point in burning crusade, if they hadn’t eased up forcing you to kill Kael and Vashj before being able to do Hyjal, my guild would have disbanded due to banging our heads against those bosses for weeks and months.

    Your points are valid, but they’re only relevant to the top 1% of raiding guilds. Most people are not in amazing guilds, and some only pug. This is, from Blizzard’s perspective, the best way to maximize player satisfaction and keep people subscribing. They know their top 1% of raiders will stick around anyways, right?

    My guild is ‘casual’, about #10-11 on our server but we’ve got 8/12 ICC 25 hard modes down, and we probably couldn’t have killed Lich King without this buff (we downed him at the first day of 15%)…so I’m definitely a beneficiary of this mechanic.

  5. Paul says:

    We’re now well past the 30% buff, and only 14% of tracked guilds have downed LK 25 normal. If the devs’ goal was to get everyone to finish the story, they failed utterly. Even if you consider LK 10 adequate for that purpose, the completion percentage is still not all that good (about 40%).

    What the devs failed to consider is that it gets easier and easier to stop raiding as you near the end of the expansion, since doing so excludes you from less and less remaining content. And yet, they made the final raid (ignoring RS) the hardest in the expansion. Of course people are going to lose motivation and stop raiding. And I’m not talking about the better guilds — mediocre or bad guilds are falling apart left and right.

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