A trend that has been taking over WoW since its creation is optimization and efficiency. We want to find an optimal talent build, optimized reforging, and optimal gear. We want to find the most efficient gearing path to get us through our raids as efficiently as possible. In the early days of WoW, this was an ongoing process. Now, with online tools, optimizing is just a few clicks away.
How much does the game benefit or suffer from this?
This tendency toward optimization has been adopted throughout WoW by Blizzard. They call it “quality of life” improvements, and they are changes put in to make the game play more smoothly and with fewer frustrations. Some are awesome, but others can oversimplify the game and (in the minds of some) de-emphasize things that once made the game fun.
What does this have to do with trash (the title of the post)?
This all came to mind when I was reading some other blog posts about trash mobs in raids. The posts in question had complained about trash pulls in MoP raids. That got me reminiscing. Skipping past raiding in vanilla WoW, which everyone agrees was over-the-top, I used to enjoy trash pulls. As time has gone one, it seems like a lot of people would prefer to get rid of trash. That, to me, is just another aspect of the optimization trend. Trash doesn’t drop epics or get you an achievement, so any time spent on trash is time not spent on progression and therefore it is undesirable. Blizzard has followed these desires by changing trash in raids over time.
Karazhan trash was really fun and challenging. The way the respawn rate on the ghosts before Attumen pushed you to pull quickly. The mix of elites and non-elites in the packs of dancers before Moroes. The ghosts that could almost one-shot a careless tank in the hallways outside Nightbane’s area. The pairs of trash mobs that were immune to CC and would freeze the tank in the hall before Opera. Exploding ghosts. Mana drains. Sometimes a trash pull took as much strategy as a boss fight. Those were great. However, they did take a long time. You couldn’t just nuke them down the way trash is usually done now. This was in the tail end of the age when raiding was still though of as something for the elite players, although Karazhan did a lot to overcome that mindset.
Later BC raids had a lot of trash (not counting the shorter Gruul and Magtheridon raids), often very challenging and time consuming. Upper tier raids like Black Temple, Hyjal Summit, and Sunwell were generally only for dedicated raiders, though, and time-intensive trash was considered just an unpleasant part of the raiding process.
Wrath of the Lich King
The raiding model changed a lot during Wrath of the Lich King. This is when Blizzard took steps to make raiding accessible to all.
Trash in Naxxramas (v.2, in WotLK) was not terribly challenging, although early in the gearing process it could slow you down. It wasn’t so hard that it was a roadblock, but it took some time and pulls had to be planned. There was less of it than in Karazhan, and some of the trash packs had unique abilities (I hated the Dark-Touched Warrior in the construct quarter). It almost seems like the trash was there in quantity similar to prior raids, but undertuned to make it less of an obstacle.
Ulduar – considered by some to be the best raid Blizzard has ever made – had much smaller amounts of trash. Most trash pulls between bosses were short (except before Freya). They introduced unique mechanics like the vehicle combat before Flame Leviathan. Typically, though, there were only 2-3 trash pulls between each boss encounter. This is less than Naxxramas had and much less than the BC raids. Ulduar’s boss fights are memorable, but most of the trash is not.
This push for efficiency came to a head in WotLK’s Trial of the Crusader raid, which was all bosses, no trash. Not only was this a total departure from previous raid models, it also fit very poorly into the storyline (in the middle of a war with the Lich King’s army, lets have a tournament!). It was received very poorly overall. So there is a point where too little trash bothers us.
Icecrown Citadel moved back toward Ulduar’s model – a couple of trash packs between each boss. One aspect I liked about trash in ICC’s was that it sometimes helped prepare you for the boss’ abilities. In some cases, the trash mobs before a boss would have abilities that mirrored those the boss would use. This is the concept that Blizzard seemed to like.
Bastion of Twilight had some interesting trash. There were a few pitfalls for the unwary if you took them lightly. That was fun. There were some areas where the trash was plentiful – at the start of the raid and before Twilight Council and even before Cho’gall. Most of it was just AoE nuking, though. In contrast, Blackwing Descent had almost no trash, but Blizzard pulled it off better than they had in previous raids with little trash.
Firelands followed the Bastion of Twilight model, where there were lots of trash pulls, but they were not terribly difficult. This frustrated some people. I remember a lot of complaints about all the trash pulls before you could even engage the first boss of the raid.
Cataclysm eventually introduced the Raid Finder, which (in my opinion) was the death knell for interesting trash. Since you never know what type of player you’re going to get in the random group, the developers can’t expect a raid to have coordination, concentrated dps, or viable crowd control. Thus, raid trash is now dull and uninteresting. [As an aside. the trend away from CC had already happened in 5-mans due to the Dungeon Finder.]
In Dragon Soul, the groups before Morchok were just group AoE. The tentacles before Zon’ozz were easy. The only trash that carried any kind of unique challenge in DS were the slime packs before Yor’sahj and, for groups with low dps, the dragonlings before Ultraxion. On top of that, after Ultraxion, there was no trash at all between Ultraxion, Warmaster Blackhorn, Spine, and Madness.
Mists of Pandaria
I’ve only personally done Mogu’shan Vaults and the first boss of Heart of Fear. MSV trash seems almost like an afterthought. The AoE trash packs before Stone Guard, the packs of trolls before Gara’jal, then the groups before Spirit Kings are all non-events, there to be nuked down. Only the last pulls before Elegon have any risk to them. They seem to be there just because they are expected, not because there is any development behind the trash encounters.
My personal opinion is that I liked the trash in Karazhan and in ICC. The Karazhan trash was interesting and varied. I’d rather do that than nameless mass AOE trash. In ICC the trash mobs were not as plentiful but had a definite connection to the boss that followed them. At times they seemed like part of the story.
What do you like? The extensive, challenging trash in Karazhan and BC raids? The plentiful but easy trash in Bastion and Firelands? The non-existent trash in Trial of the Crusader?