I'll be honest, I was very skeptical of the newly introduced Looking For Raid (LFR) tool before it was launched. and had immediately tagged it Looking For Retard because of the dumbed down version of fights that was promised (threatend?) by Blizzard. 2 weeks on I've now actually experienced the LFR version of Dragon Soul, and now feel a bit more qualified to offer some real feedback on it.
The boss fights in a Raid Finder raid are simplified and nerfed relative to the normal difficulty. Often the bosses have less health. Usually the damage done by various boss abilities is reduced. Specific mechanics where a single incompetent or lagged person can wipe the raid are usually removed.
An LFR run is a gentle introduction to the bosses, and can be educational for a player who is still learning the fight. However when you transition to normal bosses, expect to get your butt kicked while you adjust to the un-nerfed damage and mechanics.
Unfortunately, this isn't an official Blizzard statement as I was unable to find one, but knowing this, we all knew it wasn't going to be a great challenge to those players that are raiders.
A third difficulty level is what many players have begged for for far too long and I personally welcome that and the fact that it was deemed to be an easy mode is a good sign as it gives me hope for the difficulty of normal mode not being scaled down to Firelands nerfed level.
Firstly lets cover some of the advertised advantages of the new LFR difficulty levels:
- It lets those time challenged players see the content that Blizzard spend thousands of man hours developing that has previously been for approximately 10% of the player base (pre Wrath that figure was much lower).
- It gives raid groups the chance to have a look at the encounters to get a feel for encounters before they try the normal modes;
- It allows players to catch up on gear disparity when joining a new guild that is already partly decked out in 397 gear;
- It gives guilds that can't get 25 people together to raid a chance to pug some randoms;
For my money the only point that is true here is the first one, and for that large portion of the player base it is truly awesome and Blizzard should be congratulated for giving them an in to the content.
As for the second point, the fights have been sterilized to the point that you almost have to try hard to wipe on most encounters. As an example the ball bouncing on Warlord Zon'ozz can be done by 1 person and if you ignore the ball and just zerg the boss (as most times happens in the LFR runs I have done) he dies with no penalty to the raid other than no damage buff. So while you can get a look at the fights the long term learning simply isn't there.
With regard to gearing up, it is a great way of adding to the gear gaining each week, if you're lucky with drops. If you're unlucky it can just be more frustration at not getting loot (as has happened to a friend) but at least it increases the opportunity. While the loot system is very good it offers no fairness and it would be possible to run it every week and see every item of loot you want drop and be unlucky to lose out every time. As unlike if you're running with the same group every week your odds increase as other people will not need to /roll against you here the rule seems need if you can need regardless. This needs to be fixed someway but I really don't see how Blizzard could do it and remain fair to all rollers.
If a guild can't get enough for 25 man raiding and really want to resort to the LFR instead of breaking up into one or two 10 man groups as a way of learning to work together if you're down to 20-24 I guess there is mileage there as at least you have a way of gearing up the group a bit quicker. However, the way the LFR tool works means you have to bring in randoms to fill the empty spots before you can get in and these people can spoil the experience even then. A trick I did see employed on my server though was to pay people to join the group and then leave once inside the dungeon and then the raid leader simply did not re-queue to fill the missing spots.
Moving on now to the commonly quoted problems with LFR difficulty:
- It is too easy;
- There is too little organisation;
- It is only 25 man;
- Tanks getting long queues;
- 372 iLevel requirement;
I agree that now it is too easy but long term I'm not so sure. The thing is that the current occupants of LFR are the raiders that have been running Firelands on normal and heroic modes and are quite skilled in the class they bring as well as being massively over-geared for the content. Give it a few weeks and alts that have geared up in the new dungeons, the old 378 valor gear (that is now available for Justice Points) as well as the new 397 valor gear and I'm sure that the difficulty level will appear higher. So before QQing about how easy it is on your main try running it on that alt you've hardly played and just scrapes in with having some PVP gear in your bags while your equipped iLevel is below the 372 requirement and getting 24 people doing the same. That said, I did expect a bit of a challenge on the last 2 Deathwing encounters and I think I maybe wiped on him 3 times so far which proves its not that hard and that is a bit disappointing.
One of my personal pet peeves is the lack of organisation not so much between the players themselves but with how the groups are laid out. Priests have 2 group heals that can be cast regularly Circle of Healing hits the 5 or 6 people most needy within a certain range of the target regardless of group. Prayer of Healing is a dinosaur leftover from a previous era of Warcraft as it hits only those people in the same group as your target and I believe it is unique in the respect that it is group only, but to be fair if it was a smart heal it would be overpowered and would either have a long cooldown or a huge mana cost. In a guild raid I like to get ranged and melee groups to increase the chances of my Prayer of Healing hitting 5 people in a group in the LFR I don't get that luxury. Asking the assigned RL gets zero response and even if I was promoted the way the zerg stays permanently in combat means you can swwitch groups around. Therefore I'd like to see Blizzard put the 2 tanks in one group along with other melee classes, put healers in one group and keep all ranged in groups together. Of course with 6 healers 1 healer will need to slot into a ranged group and unless Blizzard balance melee and ranged to be 8 melee and 9 ranged for raids I accept some groups will be imperfect but at least most groups will be together.
Another annoyance for me is that it only runs at 25 man, I run 10 man raids and occasionally lack a full group due to no shows or a lack of interest on a given night, I'd like to be able to use the LFR to pug a body or two to fill the gaps in my 10 man raid to go normal difficulty raiding, which I cannot do. Its 25 man /yawn mode or cancel the run. Another annoyance of 25 man raiding is that my Frames Per Second (FPS) drops to crawl in Dragon Soul 25 man (DS25). In ICC25 raids I got a constant 30 FPS (which is what I throttle WOW to) in DS25 I get 8FPS which as a healer is pretty much unplayable and makes my output rubbish. 10 man perfectly fine so why is it so bad in the LFR?
Tanks getting long queues, I know you DPS folks are thinking /cheer about time they felt our pain. But those tanks are simply queuing up as DPS. Those tanks are then getting priority on DPS loot and building up DPS sets faster than their tanking sets. And guess what folks, they enjoy it, and now our 5 man and 10 man groups are going to suffer an even bigger shortage of tanks. Give us the option of 10 man LFR at least please, I'll take a queue for it.
And finally the 372 iLevel requirement. Much has been said around the Interwebs about this being too high. Personally I think it is too low. Gearing up to 372 is easy the new 5 mans drop 378 gear exclusively (OK world Bind on Equip (BOE) drops excepted) the 1st time you run them they give you 378 gear as quest rewards, you can buy 378 gear with Justice Points. Getting your alts decked out in the Hour of Twilight (HoT) 5 mans is easy and fast (2 dungeons per hour in a bad group). Even allowing for bad luck on drops you can get to 372 in four hours play time if you are able to enter and even if you're below the 353 gear requirement getting there is quick now with so many BoEs of 359-378 being less than 5000 gold on most servers and the old heroics being stupidly easy your route to the HoT dungeons is a short one. A faster way to Justice Points is to do PVP and trade in your Honor Points for Justice Points For a quick gear up guide, see Gevlon's post here.
All told it really isn't too bad and certainly not the Looking For Retard I imagined (yet). The current difficulty is a bit easy but I'm sure will get a bit harder as gear levels and skills of those running through it drop. It does have flaws and I really hope they fix them soon because what could be a fantastic tool is currently only getting an OK rating from me right now.