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I first heard about Blizzard’s decision to not release any new 5-man dungeons this expansion from The Grumpy Elf, and confirmed from this post on MMO-Champion. The interview itself is written in Foreigner, so I will just have to take the translation at face value.

On many levels, Blizzard’s decision makes sense. The revamped ZA and ZG heroics in Cataclysm were (true to title) a disaster, reducing entire tiers of content down to all trolls, all the time. New 5-mans were handled a bit better back in Wrath when integrated into the normal rotation, but even then you could experience wild swings in difficulty depending on whether you got Gundrak or Halls of Reflection (shudder).

Had Blizzard released new 5-mans in Mists, it could have shaken out in only two ways. One: the dungeon(s) still dropped 463 gear, at which point it would be largely irrelevant to everyone. Or, two: it released 476 or higher gear, and now nobody wants to run the obsoleted dungeons again (assuming they wanted to in the first place). And besides, in a world with LFR, there is little reason to double-down on raid catch-up mechanisms, right?

On the other hand… does this not strike anyone as profoundly lazy?

Let it sink in. There will be no new dungeons in 5.3, nor 5.4, nor a potential 5.5. There will be hundreds more garbage daily quests in which the writers don’t even bother papering over the naked time-sinking, of course. Will anyone still be doing Shieldwall dailies in 5.3? Or even in this patch, for that matter? Is all that “content” being obsoleted worse than a 5-man? There are a lot of in-game cinematics and lore going on in Krasarang Wilds, after all. It strikes me as odd that your dailies change from patch to patch, but the daily dungeons never will.

Then, I start thinking about the existence of 5-man dungeons to begin with. Why have them at all? Scenarios offer 50 Valor now (compared to 80 from LFG). And, most importantly, offer DPS players an instant queue. If LFR has replaced heroic dungeons as a raid catch-up mechanism, have Scenarios not usurped dungeons by the same token? The only thing holding Scenarios back is the asinine reward mechanism in the form of a random-stat blue item from the box (when it isn’t empty). Seriously, I got a 2H agility axe yesterday. Neither druids nor monks can use axes, so it amounts to wand with strength on it.

Maybe they're bringing back 2H Enhance Shaman?

Maybe they’re bringing back 2H Enhance Shaman?

Simply migrate all heroic dungeon gear to the random Scenario box, bump the Valor a bit, and now you never have to fashion another 5-man again.

Indeed, from the same interview I referenced before, this paraphrasing emerged:

More scenarios are coming in future patches. We may see very challenging three player scenarios with pretty good rewards.

Speaking of Strength wands, my thoughts then drifted to tank gear. Why should it exist? Blizzard came oh so very close to obsoleting all tanking gear this expansion, probably by accident. Indeed, up until the 5.2 changes, Dodge and Parry were the two worst stats for a Protection paladin. The two worst! For a tank! Since it seems “active mitigation” is here to stay, why not simply go all the way? Critical Strike rating is the only thing that marks something as being “for DPS only,” and it is a simple enough thing to add a passive to tanks where critical hits procs a Dodge buff or something. While there might be an increased competition for gear between tanks and DPS… oh wait, individual loot. Problem solved. And if necessary, Blizzard could keep the gem/enchanting situation the same, so that a tank in full DPS gear could gem for Stamina or whatever to differentiate himself/herself.

I am not trying to craft a reductio ad absurdum here. I am just asking what the actual point of 5-man content is supposed to be under this new “build some once and done” paradigm. Are they necessary for anything anymore? “Practice for raiding?” I don’t know if anyone would agree that they have such an effect, if they ever did. Group content is handled by Scenarios or daily island hellholes stuffed with overlapping elite mobs. Dungeons are almost quaint these days, vestigial relics propped up only by their rewards. If Scenarios offed 80 Valor, would anyone run dungeons? What if the box at the end dropped spec-appropriate gear from the dungeons?

This is how close we are: mere inches. The slightest of nudges, and we could be upon unknown soil. And, perhaps, not even notice a difference.

Everything But the Dance Studio

Once you get that knee-jerk reaction out of your system, the design announcements currently going on at BlizzCon are pretty interesting.

Yeah, Pandas. They really did it. I owe someone $20. But what about the rest?

Monk Reactions

  • Every race but goblin and worgen… interesting.
    • Does this mean new animations for all those older races?
  • GG tank balance, once again. Historically, Blizzard has never balanced tanks correctly, ever.
  • “No auto attack! Devs want you to have this street fighter feel where you punch a lot.”
    • /facepalm
    • Seriously, that won’t work. Blizzard has spent years increasing the passive damage of every melee class because front-loading them in actual attacks leads to 3.0-era Ret paladins murdering everyone.
    • Nevermind how Blizzard specifically changed Heroic Strike and other on-next-attack abilities to be more normal abilities specifically because warriors were getting carpal tunnel. Now they want Street Fighter?

Okay, fine:

Panda Reactions

  • /facepalm
  • Those racials suck. Nothing like how blown away I was at Goblin/Worgen racials.
  • Wonder about what their racial mount will be…
  • All that aside, I’m one of “those guys” whose overall opinion on the race will be determined by how the females look. My paladin is a draenei female despite it being the worst race in the game simply because I like the look, for example.
  • After the disappointing direction of Worgen females, I fully expect to be similarly disappointed here.

Talent Tree Revamp Reaction

  • Change is scary!
  • Actually, this sounds fine.
  • These choices are actually interesting. Some of them will be extremely difficult.
  • Here are some examples of good ones:

Those are some interesting choices. The rogue spread boggles my mind with the possibilities, for example. Shadow Focus would presumably let you Sap, use Tricks of the Trade, and so on without any Energy cost. Meanwhile, Nightstalker would also be useful in a more general sense. Subterfuge seems bonkers to me. Can you imagine? You’re healing some dude from the bushes, and all of a sudden you get a Garrote, Eviscerate, and Mutilated before you even see where it came from. And I have to assume that Stealth breaks immediately if you start capping a flag or whatever, otherwise… very OP.

And look at the tanking spreads:

Those… are actually pretty crazy choices. The “obvious” paladin tank choice would be Ardent Defender, but I have never thought it was a compelling button to push every since it was redesigned from its (admittedly OP) passive ability – it was essentially Divine Protection v2, now with triple the cooldown. Now I have choices! Sacred Shield as a Prot tank looks really juicy even with the 60 second internal cooldown, for example. And if I were questing or facerolling through obsolete heroics, Blessed Life would let me unleash some burst DPS with all that extra guaranteed Holy Power.

Here is an example of what NOT to do though:

Yes, I noticed that Repentance technically has no cooldown and is essentially a paladin polymorph. Yes, I also noticed that “Fist of Justice” (lol) is a 6-second stun on a 30-second cooldown, ala early Wrath. Choosing between those two will be absurdly difficult… unless you are Ret paladin, in which case you are just fucked. Holy paladins never could get Repentance, so a “default” HoJ at half its normal cooldown is pure bonus, nevermind the strategic implications of trading it for a spammable CC on a different DR from normal CCs. Similarly, Prot paladins experience pure bonus. Ret paladins though? They lose either their stun or their incapacitate (e.g. their only “gap-closer”), and lose even the lame-ass snare capacity they had previously. More demoralizing is that the mere continued existence of Seal of Justice means there won’t be a snare for Ret paladins for yet another expansion.

There are probably other class examples of options actually being taken away in this revamp, but the Ret one jumped off the page and cock-slapped me. Anyway, back to talent impressions:

  • Apparently Blizzard wants you to be able to change talents at any time, ala glyphs.
  • Some of those talents are obviously dungeon talents, obviously PvP, etc. Not sure how that eliminates cookie-cutter builds.
  • Perhaps a secondary effect of having more difficulty levels in dungeons/raids is that cookie-cutter builds would be less relevant.
  • Actually, no, cookie-cutter builds will always be relevant. See: rise of GearScore in late Wrath despite high GearScore being 100% irrelevant to the actual difficulty.

Dungeon/Raid/Scenario Reactions

  • “Heroic dungeons [in this expansion] will largely be tuned to be about as difficult as they were in Wrath of the Lich King, allowing players to fairly quickly down bosses in PUGs and hit their Valor Point caps.”
    • Told you so.
      • Okay, technically I predicted Firelands would be easier, which didn’t happen. Not my fault Blizzard is so damn slow.
  • Scenarios sound interesting. The lack of a trinity requirement is pretty novel, WoW-wise.
  • Hopefully Scenarios will be a frequently-updated feature, since it doesn’t technically need lore or even bosses to support it.
  • Dungeon Challenges, eh? Good luck.
  • Christ, they put Challenges in the LFD feature?! Are they insane?
    • Okay, it only matches you up with other people flagging themselves as Challenge. Not quite as crazy.
    • Actually, completing a successful gold metal Challenge run entirely via LFD should be a tier higher than doing it in a premade group, don’t you think?
  • I think Challenges are a pretty interesting feature, but what’s more interesting is how they “normalize” the gear. Seems pretty dangerous for a MMO to even tangentially introduce a feature that makes gear progression irrelevant.
  • After all, if they can make gear irrelevant there, why not make it irrelevant everywhere?
    • Other than the obvious “it removes replay value.”
  • “We are currently not planning to have 90 normal dungeons in MoP.” Ballsy. Or lazy, depending.
  • That seems like a clear signal to solo to cap, then group.
  • Or continue soloing forever, by getting VP from questing.

Misc Reactions

  • Pet Battling = Path of the Titans, Dance Studio. I predict vaporware.
  • Then again… they did play the panda card so who knows anymore?
    • “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [screaming] You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
  • If Pet Battling is real, $10 says the store pets are more powerful than normal pets.
  • “Pets will be account wide.” Really? Huh. Then I guess the BoE Disco Cub isn’t such a rip-off than it was before.
    • You know there will be pissed-off people who bought more than one to have on multiple characters.
  • “The plan is to get people back into the world, instead of having players roam around Stormwind and Orgrimmar all the time once they reach max level.”
  • And yet no real concrete plans on how they expect to accomplish that.
  • Hell, Scenarios and LFR and Challenges all push people back into instances.
  • Maybe daily quests with VP will get people outdoors, but that certainly isn’t much of “out in the world.”
  • Interesting how there was no mention of new Wintergrasp/Tol Barad-esque zone.

In any case, that about sums it up for now. While a lot of these things sound interesting, Path of the Titans sounded interest too. Time will only tell how many (if any) of these features actually make it to live servers.