The Efficacy Shift: Another Fundamental Change in WoW’s Raiding
I’ve done a lot of thinking about WoW raiding, about what works and what doesn’t, and about raid design. There’s been a lot of discussion out there about the fundamental changes that have affected WoW raiding, and while I’ve agreed with many of the premises, I’ve never really felt any of them was enough. “The Dance” was a term used to describe one particular complaint about WoW raiding: that bosses weren’t about performing well any more, just about learning the mechanics and “dancing” around them to avoid killing yourself.
I’ve received both a lot of support in my unhappiness about my raiding situation and a lot of criticism. Some has been quite pointed – and often accurate. However, one thing always irked me about a lot of the advice I got; people would often tell me to join a better guild. Yes, thank you, that’s obvious. Clearly I have reasons to stay where I am.
All of this leads into my realization about a fundamental change in WoW raiding, one that I think’s been overlooked by a lot of better players. In entry-level raiding, players have a ton of personal responsibility but little actual efficacy. Efficacy is something I talk about a lot here; it’s the idea that what you do matters. It’s the #1 determiner of job satisfaction, and very important in family dynamics. I’ve written about it in regards to guild dynamics, too, but I don’t think I’ve made the jump to raiding until recently. After my Sunday debacle where my guild was incapable of downing even one boss, it struck me that no matter how good any of us were, the one tank was so bad that we never could succeed. That means that in WoW raiding, competent raiders have less efficacy than incompetent ones.
In older raids, larger raids, for example, one person was important, but not crucial. A few bosses, Baron Geddon, for example, could make one person’s incompetence a problem for everyone, but often, losing only one person didn’t guarantee a wipe. However, since Cata, at least – and maybe since Wrath – losing one person from a 10 man raid made it very likely there would be a wipe, especially among entry-level raiders. This runs counter to logical progression; entry level raiding should allow for stronger players to compensate for weaker players until the entry-level weak players better learn their role. Excellent players should have greater efficacy than new players. This is true for dps in most cases, but not for “dance” boss mechanics, which compound the problem.
I believe I’ve become so dissatisfied not because I don’t like the mechanics, but because I feel like if 9 people do well and 1 does poorly, that shouldn’t cause wipe after wipe. In older raids it didn’t; it meant everyone else had to haul ass to make the boss go down, but I can remember many instances of Prince in Kara or Fel Reaver in TK where someone died but everyone else pulled together and got through it. Hell, I remember a Solarian kill where we’d lost most of the tanks but were able to compensate with some ingenious healing, dps, and kiting to get her down. You’d never find that nowadays, at least not in entry-level 10 man raids.
So entry level raiders can only be successful if every single one of them is perfectly successful throughout the whole fight. If you have one weak link, the whole team fails. I’m not sure how I feel about that from a mechanical standpoint or a narrative standpoint. Mechanically, it’s illogical to punish 9 people for 1 person’s mistakes. Poor players should never have more efficacy than strong players, and really, should have less. Narratively, the story of 9 people overcoming the obstacle of their 10th is certainly more satisfying than the story of 9 people being dragged down by their 10th.
So that’s my thoughts on another aspect of the fundamental changes to WoW’s raiding over the years: the efficacy shift. Working harder to overcome a mistake used to be rewarded in the past; strong players had at least equal and often greater efficacy than weak players. Now, a weak player’s efficacy is so great they can ruin it for 9 other strong players.
It seems to be an insurmountable obstacle for just-geared characters. Yet the better your gear, the more you’ve raided, the less perfect you have to be. The more experience you have, the less is expected of you. It just doesn’t make sense.
Stubborn (and back to work!)