Sunday, September 15, 2013

Proving Grounds

Until 5.4, I never realized just how much I resented the way Mists of Pandaria was turning out. I play a healer, and it just seemed like so much of Mists was healer-unfriendly. There was all this neat new content and game modes, and I had to switch to Ret to do most of it.  Brawlers' Guild, dailies, scenarios, Battlefield Barrens.

On top of that, it was so hard to gear up my offset, which made doing all this new content even more painful. The loot system in LFR makes you focus on your main spec, so you can't pick up scraps like in a regular raid. All the reputation gear used to cost gold in previous expansions, so I could have bought both main and offset. But now it cost Valor, a much scarcer currency, so all my Valor had to be dedicated to my main set.

Let's put it this way: I entered 5.4 with two i437 green trinkets in my Ret set. And that mishmash was still better than Holy for soloing.

But 5.4 has introduced Proving Grounds, and they are amazingly fun for healers!

My first attempt went pretty badly. Went through Bronze, but wiped out on Silver 5. Then I realized I was healing like an idiot, and decided to play properly. This time I beat Silver, and then wiped out on Gold 5. I spent the next couple of attempts refining strategy, and got up to Gold 9. That's where I stopped for the night.

I really enjoy it. It's not exactly like raid healing, but it is very PvE healing with a little more responsibility for the healer. You want to add a little more damage, stun a little bit, maybe even try to interrupt. As a paladin, you need to use your cooldowns, including Sacrifice.

The thing is that even if Proving Grounds don't teach you to raid heal, they teach you to heal, and to adapt your techniques to different damage patterns (damn rabbit bleed!). If you can do that, learning to raid heal is not all that difficult.

The NPCs are pretty funny, and play just badly enough to make it interesting. They miss some interrupts, don't stack, and stand in the fire. The comments on the healer threads are amusing. Some of the priests were complaining that if they Lifegrip the hunter out of the fire, sometimes he'll manage to Disengage back into it.

I've noticed some interesting conversations on whether guilds should require Proving Grounds for their raiders. I think that requiring Gold is excessive for a normal/Flex guild, but any decent player should be able to handle Silver. Requiring a Proving Grounds achievement is still better than requiring gear or raid achievements. I would break down the levels like so:

Bronze - for people completely new to healing. After this you should be able to do normal dungeons and LFR.
Silver - If you can do Silver, you're ready for Flex or normal
Gold - If you can do Gold, you're ready to try Heroic content
Endless 30 - Probably good enough to hang with the Royalty crowd

I think Proving Grounds is an excellent feature. I hope it encourages more people to try out the group-centric roles of tank and healer. Before Proving Grounds, you had to learn how tank or heal by getting tossed into real situations with other players. While there's something to be said for learning through trial by fire, a lot of people did their best to avoid that harrowing experience.


Moanique said...

You mentioned that LFR forces you to focus on your main spec for loot. This is no longer correct.

Starting with 5.3 there's an option in the player menu (or right click on your portrait) that allows you to specify a Loot Specialization. So when running LFR you can set the flag to your offspec and if you win anything it will be something appropriate to that spec. It's something that was buzzed about a bit but a lot of people don't know about it still.

Rohan said...

Right, gearing up the offset became a bit easier in 5.3. But you still have to be finished with your main set before you can start with your offset, or go boss by boss.

And to be honest, by 5.3, I was not playing enough to make switching loot specs worthwhile.

Zahia said...

This is exactly how I feel about all this MoP content : not interesting if you're a healer !

Anyway, don't know if you noticed, but your gear is normalized at ilvl 463, so you may want to build a special set for gold or endless if you're missing spirit or want certain haste cap. Also, legendaries don't work here, so having another cloak and helm (so that you can have a metagem) may be useful.

I noticed that during during my first Gold attempt : I only had 5k spirit, and using flash heals often like I do in raids didn't seems quite as viable^^

Redbeard said...

I never paid much attention to the Proving Grounds, mainly because I was playing a pure DPS class for this expac.

I don't suppose the Proving Grounds are for anything other than Mists level toons? It would seem to me that the Proving Grounds would be most useful to help teach new low level toons to tank and heal, not strictly max-level toons.

rimecat said...

Redbeard - Level 90 only, with the standard Blizz statement that if it works well they will think about doing lower-level versions.

Having done tanking through Silver (they start to take a bit of time) this is great training for a PuG; if something can be done to annoy you the NPC is sure to take that option. Good fun though, I can laugh at the NPC where a person would bother me.

Cygnia said...

The hunter stands in the fire and the mage gripes about doing your role better.


Jameslikesgames said...

Might give proving grounds a try then! Do you know if the tank section is as useful?

I have never been a tank before and want to try it out, but the amount of grief tanks get in lfr makes me want to practice ALOT before I try. So anything that could help me learn would be useful!

Redbeard said...

@rimecat-- That's a big mistake making it L90 only. If you're new to the game --and yes, it does happen-- that would suck to get training in tanking and/or healing only when you get to max level, after you've gotten into a lot of bad habits.

This is Blizz trying to solve a specific problem --tanking/healing for LFR-- and failing to appreciate the bigger picture.

Balkoth said...

"This is Blizz trying to solve a specific problem --tanking/healing for LFR-- and failing to appreciate the bigger picture."

I don't think that's the problem they're trying to solve. I think they're trying to solve a problem where you hit max level and suddenly healing and tanking actually MATTERS.

Not sure why you think it was created for LFR - if anything it's more likely it was brought about by Flex and Normal.

Redbeard said...

@Balkoth-- I think the concept that it's only at max level that healing/tanking matters is part of the problem that WoW faces today. There's tons of content out there in WoW, yet the perception that the lower level content is merely faceroll material persists.

Tanking and healing do matter at lower levels for instance runners. I've lost track of how many wipes I've been involved with in Gnomer or BRD over the past few years because of poor tanking and/or healing. But the thing is, there's no other way to learn at low levels.

As for the immediate need that Blizz is trying to fix, normal and flex raids are primarily guild driven events, so any need for heals/tanks arises from a guild need for same. Guilds may complain about the lack of healers and/or tanks, but they also have application processes and advertisements for new members. Which takes less time: interviewing and "hiring" an experienced tank, or having one of their number train to be a tank? If you want to down normal level content, that gap of "learning tanking" to "experienced tank" is pretty huge, and something the Proving Grounds alone won't fix.

LFR, however, has displaced 5-mans as the primary gearing up tool for normal raiding, and as such you are a slave to the queue. Few tanks/heals mean long wait times for LFR, and so the Proving Grounds is a method of addressing this need. LFR is more forgiving and the boss fights less stressful, and consequently the training you get at the Proving Grounds is more useful when applied to LFR than normal/flex raids.

Still, the long term problem of getting new people into WoW isn't going away, and a concept like the Proving Grounds would be invaluable for those new players (or players wanting to start with a new alt) to learn how to tank or heal.

Talarian said...

Never ascribe to malice what can easily be explained by incompetence. Or to turn that quote around, perhaps they just implemented Proving Grounds based on what they're competent at right now.

They're good at creating and balancing scaled content at L90 right now because they had already done so for Challenge Mode, but they haven't done it yet for lower levels to any appreciable degree (though the tech exists, like heirlooms and battlegrounds, though they haven't done a lot of low-level tweaking to balance any of that).

I think it is more likely they created the feature at level 90 because it was the easiest way to develop and implement the first run of the feature, rather than having aimed it at the LFR crowd.

Also, if you haven't tried it yet, Gold is definitely beyond the average LFR player. Hell, Silver is probably too much for them, so aimed at LFR players? I highly doubt it.

Infamy.Deferred said...

Proving grounds at lower levels would require compiling an "expected power level / performance capability" for every class, spec and level - a large pile of work they might not want to have to re-do if they're planning an item squish.

Redbeard said...

@Infamy-- They have to do that if they want to have any chance at balancing out the leveling process. I'd argue that every time they overhaul classes they have to do that sort of work, and they perform such overhauls with seeming regularity.

@Talarian-- I think you just proved my point. If the quality of people in LFR is so bad that it makes the old Wrath ICC and Cata Zul 5-mans look like a paragon of warm fuzzies, then the Proving Grounds will get them at least decent in LFR by doing Bronze and attempting Silver. The fact that they added abilities beyond Bronze means that the utility will stretch even up through the highest levels of raiding. But for most people, zero -> Bronze is the biggest jump, and will improve the quality of LFR immensely.

Asmiroth said...

Maybe my coding background is kicking in, but a scaleable proving grounds, given the skill differentiators over all the levels and classes sounds like a nightmare to implement.

Taking the Monk as an example, he has no AE attacks until 46, no interrupt until 32, no ranged attack until 54, no effective defense until 26, no "I'm gonna die" until 36, and heals are at 32 and 42.

Every class is different and there's no arbitrary level number that says you can DPS here, Tank here or Heal here.

That being said, maybe there's a dummy Bronze mode they can put in every 10 levels that scales until you hit 90 and the real challenge starts. More of a "get your feet wet" type of thing.