The return of the Naxxramas power run … ?
I wrote in a previous post that the upcoming Emblem of Conquest change will make the endgame even more accessible than it already is, in part by allowing casual raiders to remain competitive, and in part by reducing barriers to entry for new raiders.
While this will certainly be true for guilds, like mine, that will choose an undergeared but committed applicant with a good attitude over a geared-to-the-tusks raider (Horde blog, remember? ;)) with the manners of a rabid furbolg, I suspect it could have the opposite effect on the PuG community.
I predict that the renewed interest in Emblem-farming that is almost certain to follow patch 3.2 will lead to a resurgance of “power runs”: trade channel PuGs with high minimum requirements (such as Ulduar gear, hardmode achievements or inflated DPS thresholds), intent on brute-forcing stale content in a short amount of time. We saw this towards the end of The Burning Crusade, when Sunwell badge gear made Karazhan an attractive alternative to running laps in Shat, and again in those long months between the WotLK release and 3.1, when there was simply nothing else to do.
In both eras, new or undergeared players who were barred froms these power runs complained bitterly about what they perceived as artificial, or player-imposed, barriers to entry. At the same time that Blizzard was striving to make raid content more accessible, it seemed, the hardcore elite were conspiring to make it less so.
The most common complaint was levied at the inherent Catch 22: in order to run Naxx, you almost had to have gear from Naxx (or be willing to buy your way into guild-sponsored, auction-style raids in which loot was literally sold to the highest bidder). The more-casual accused the less-casual of being ridiculous, while the less-casual belittled the the more-casual for expecting to be carried … and much unpleasantness ensued.
Not surprisingly for someone who considers herself firmly middle of the road, I empathize with both sides.
On one hand, I can almost guarantee that if I were to organize a Naxx PuG today, I would only invite players I knew personally or who had previous clears under their T8-crafted belts. It isn’t about being elitist or hardcore or just plain mean; it’s about having already logged more hours than I care to count learning Naxx and then farming it into the ground with my guild. If I ever wipe on Grand Widow Faerlina again, it will be too soon.
So, no, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong — and certainly nothing high-handed or immoral — about with setting a goal (“A full clear in two hours with no wipes,” for example), and recruiting players accordingly.
On the other paw, (sorry!, shifted into Ghost Wolf to scratch an ear!), I can sympathize with those who are just now leveling to 80 and looking to catapult themselves into endgame raiding. Getting shut out of one trade channel PuG after another — not because your gear is inadequate for the content, but because you don’t yet outgear it — can be a frustrating and thoroughly demoralizing experience.
And then there are the gray areas, such as the new alts of raid-experienced players who may not have an achievement to link but know a particular instance inside out. My main is Of the Nightfall, but my warlock alt can’t join a VoA PuG because she doesn’t have the Emalon achievement (or a single Emblem of Conquest!) to her name.
In general, I think the best way to avoid the frustration and unpleasantness associated with PuGs — especially as power runs become increasingly prevalent — is simply to resolve to run content with comparably geared players. This is just common sense to me. Ten or 25 brand new level 80’s in quest blues and a smattering of leftover Tier 6 can clear Naxxramas. They won’t do so as quickly or as smoothly as an Ulduar-geared group, but they aren’t meant to. The advent of patch 3.2 won’t change this, and may even prove to be equal parts blessing and curse for those looking to break into the raiding scene for the first time.
The Emblem of Conquest change will make the current content more accessible, but it won’t completely obliterate linear progression. Nor will it eliminate player-imposed barriers. On the contrary, it will encourage them by making old content profitable for progression guilds and raiders — in other words, for those players who are most likely to set the bar high.
I’m sure reactions will be heated and varied — if not now, then a month or two from now when the Crusader’s Coliseum is considered endgame and Ulduar is the new Naxxramas.