Bling vs Zing

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bling: There has been a lot of talk lately about gear levels, what drops where, and wish lists a mile long. Understandably, we all want better gear, and it goes to follow that better gear will improve our respective characters. However, once the applicable caps have been met (ie. Defense, Hit, etc.) the improvements from gear are incremental at best, and met with diminishing returns at worst (ie. Over-stacking of stats above the caps).

Zing: Players have done incredible and innovative things in the face of gear challenges. Ensidia (Top European Raid Guild) was clearing Naxx 25 as soon as their first 20 players hit 80… in their lvl70 epics. A US guild cleared Ulduar 10 in all blues. A hunter pet (Bubbles the Gorilla) tanked Hodir 25. How do we reconcile apparent gearing requirements with the above mentioned feats?

True, the players involved in these exploits are not the average. They represent a slice of the top tier of players, have worked together for long periods of time, and are intimately familiar with the mechanics of raiding, and most of the particular fights they chose to tackle. Besides their access to something most of us don’t have; Time (and all the benefits that come with it, ie. Gold, rep, mats, etc.), very little separates them from the average raider. How then, are they so “good”?

Communication, and Knowledge. Svenn has beat communication to death in previous posts, so will instead focus on knowledge. There are different levels of “knowing” your game. On one level is the theory-crafting of stats, rotations, etc. There is much to be gained through critical analysis of those components of a given class’s role. Most of the work has been done for the casual raider through sites like Elitist Jerks. There are, however, pitfalls to these “cookie cutter” specs/rotations. While they are advocated by the “experts” (with the math to back it up) as the way to maximize a toon’s performance through DPS/Heal throughput, they can lead to tunnel vision.

Another level of knowledge is easier to gain, yet more difficult to apply. That is, knowing all of your class’s abilities and where they can fit into a raid. In this day of power-leveling and BG experience, of Xp bonuses through Heirloom Items and level granting, of an overall improvement in the leveling experience; players arrive at 80 with new toons and no idea of what they can really do. They slap together the approved spec/glyph combo and go on their merry way, and do fine- that is to say what is expected of them… as long as nothing unexpected happens.

The easy part of this “equation” is to open the spell book tab and reread the tool tip for every single ability. There will be many abilities that are not a part of any “min/max” rotation. There are multiple reasons why they will not find their way into any standardized rotation; they are utility abilities that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the maximization of your particular class role, and as such get discarded as a waste. This leads to the not so easy part of the “equation”, how those abilities can lend themselves to success for the raid.

To understand this interplay you must overlay these abilities with a particular encounter and determine if and where any of them can apply. This is not easy to accomplish on the fly. If the mechanics of the fight are know a lot of this work can be accomplished ahead of time. However to maximize the use of these abilities “on the fly”, or in reaction to an unforeseen situation (bad pull, positioning, etc.) there must be an in-depth knowledge of these “utility moves”. Even veteran players can benefit from going back through the old spell book every once in awhile to review some of their little used abilities, see what changes have occurred over the patches, and see if they can’t find some utility for them in the content they are currently running.

In the immortal words of G.I. Joe, “Now you know. And knowing is half the battle!”


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