While I am still quite disappointed with the state of druid healing, I thought I’d take a bit of a break on my continuing evaluation on the state of resto druids to talk about something else today. Progression. (Don’t worry, I do have a two week follow up coming this week and I will get back to it, I just need to talk about other things for a bit). I’ve had a few people ask me how we decided to approach progression this tier, so I thought I’d go ahead and give a few thoughts on our decisions with regards to progression as a guild for this unwieldy first tier in the expansion.
However, before I get to that, I thought I’d spend a few sentences talking about something else that is related in a tertiary fashion and has been on my mind: the T14 gating.
When the gating was announced, I remember being very excited about it because the amount of content being released as T14 was staggering in the number of encounters presented, and subsequently overwhelming. I still like that there was gating for it, but it the execution of this particular gating was a little…clunky. Which, in turn, means that I didn’t care for how this content was gated. What ultimately happened was that when Mogu’shan Vaults was released there was a large period of time before the next zone was released. This meant that your above average guild was able to clear the zone, and then subsequently work on a few heroics while waiting for the new content. However, when the new content released, you stopped your heroic progression push to clear the new normal mode zones – and then two weeks later had another new zone to tackle. And then, only after that, would your progression push be back to heroics.
The problem I had with this was that the long period of gating with the first raid disjointed what is normal progression, that is to say that most people would push all of their normal mode content and then start heroics once that was cleared. And I’d wager a fair bet that most heroics are tuned with the expectation of having gear from all three of the zones. This meant that everything with progression was just thrown off by the awkward way that the content was presented. In hindsight, I wish that the gating was more fluid and smooth or that heroic content was approached differently. Should Blizzard opt to gate content this way again, I hope that they make that decision from the outset of the development of the content so that progression isn’t quite as disjointed.
Planning for T14 Progression
Ok, so now that is out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about how we decided to attack T14 progression.
When discussing progression it is important to first evaluate and identify what is important to you as a guild. While these things will likely differ for each raid team, identifying them is going to be key to deciding what progression path fits your needs best. In that regard, there are a few things that are important to us as a guild, one of which is killing content in a twenty-five man format. We are first, and foremost, a twenty-five man guild and so all of our decisions were made with that in mind. The second thing that it’s always important to keep in mind when it comes to any discussion regarding progression is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, when we plan our progression path we always try to look at what is going to be best for our raid team in the long term.
With those things in mind we made the decision, regardless of the disjointed feel of the released content, to progress just as we would have done should all of the content had been released at the same time. That is to say that we put an emphasis on clearing everything on normal before moving back to work on heroics. The thought behind this is that the normal mode bosses offer both gear upgrades and set bonuses that will ease our long term progression goals, and that those things are far too valuable to give up. However, this wasn’t without some dissent amongst some members of our raid team, as it did mean that short term progression (at least as far as heroics were concerned) was halted.
But we stuck to our guns, and continued to push our way through the new normal mode content as a twenty-five man raid team and clear our farmed content each week. The end result for us was a good number of our raid team received upgraded weapons, tier pieces and gear upgrades. But on top of that, our raid also has (and will continue to have) weeks of normal mode experiences with encounters before we return to them on heroic. Offering the opportunity to work out any kinks in strategy, or person struggles with mechanics (hello tornados of doom – my personal bane), as well as letting us start to integrate some different strategies on normal that we may want to change for heroics. All in all these are good things for the 32 boss marathon that is T14 progression.
And this past raid week proved that, for our raid team and our goals, this was a good approach for progression. We went into Heart of Fear and found that we moved through it fairly quickly, with two nights in the week to spare (we did add one additional raid day each week that a new zone released so that we had a little extra time during that week for learning the new content and clearing farm content). With the extra time we went into the last heroic we had worked on, Gara’jal. Prior to the new zones releasing, we were hitting the enrage timer regularly – and subsequently found on our visit this week that it only took a couple of pulls to refresh the fight in our minds, and with the new gear we easily met the enrage timer, even with a couple of undergeared trials in the raid. Surprised that we now had a second night for progression on a new boss, we decided to tackle Heroic Elegon. We again found that with the gear we took the time to acquire through following normal mode progression, we were able to navigate the encounter with a small learning curve and also snag a kill this week.
Needless to say that in running the marathon we found hitting these checkpoints a huge success and were very happy with the progress our raid saw. As you may guess, I am hugely pleased with the success of the progression path that we have chosen to follow as a guild.
As such, for anyone that has asked me how we were approaching progression in this somewhat disjointed tier, my advice – based on my experiences – has been to take the time to clear through the normal mode zones first, just as you would have if all three zones had opened simultaneously. The gear and experience that you receive from taking that step is invaluable and will only act as additional tools to help you during the long push through progression.
The second piece of advice that I would offer is to remember that, outside of very few members of the raiding community, progression truly is a marathon. Close WoWProgress, close GuildOx – and ultimately make a decision on progression that will help your team have the stamina to push through the final five miles of the race and meet your goals.
In closing, I would be remiss not to show my age a little bit (and my excitement at our progress the past few weeks) by stating that I love it when a plan comes together.
I hope this was helpful, and wish the best of luck to everyone as they work through their progression push!