Giving up the illusionPosted: March 18, 2013
There’s something empowering about World of Warcraft. There’s something empowering about being on a 5/8 H Dragon Soul team.
There’s also something empowering about being a small part of the hunter blogging community; and indeed, about playing a hunter. It basically just rocks, which feels great, which makes the game fun for me.
However, I think that being a part of that 5/8 H DS team, and being there as a hunter, fostered false impressions that I have of myself as a player and as a hunter.
Playing a hunter is a unique experience. As a hunter, I can do anything, and handle anything, if I know what I’m doing and approach it with a plan, or at least with proper preparation. But this post isn’t about the hunter class and its greatness.
This post is about me and the illusion of greatness that I have about myself, and about how I’m not really all that great. Nobody else thinks I’m great – I’m sure my guild sees me as a good player, moderately skilled and mostly effective. But not awesome.
And my ideas of awesomeness are severely tempered by massive doses of self-doubt, which are in turn fueled and exacerbated by failure.
However, part of what makes many great games so good is that they make you feel awesome.
I remember when I first played a death knight. They were overpowered when Wrath came out, and I was absolutely crushing stuff when I went to Outland on that toon. Whereas my paladin, my other plate-wearing toon at the time, felt squishy but viable, the DK was AWESOME. “Death Grip, demolish, repeat!” is what I felt like when I played that long-since deleted toon. DKs were soon brought back down to earth, power-wise, and when I went back to try him later on, the overpowered nature had been diminished, and, having tasted that awesomeness, I found myself no longer interested in him. I recently made a new DK, and, being a much better WoW player now than I was two expansions ago, I’m having a lot of fun with him. He doesn’t need to be super OP for me now. But I’ll never forget the awesomeness that was…
At any rate, OP or not, each class is designed to be great. We’re considered heroes to the NPC-folks in game, and over the years we’ve taken care of problems ranging from repelling bandits to finding lost pets, to the destructions of the Lich King and Deathwing. We’re heroes, and we can do things in WoW that are pure fantasy in scope.
The short history of Mushan
When I started Mushan in summer 2010, it had been months since the Lich King fell to the combined might of Tirion Fordring and our old guild team. At the start of Cataclysm, I was a hunter that wanted to raid, but had nowhere to go. I had one or two raiding options that I knew of, guild-wise, but neither option was a pleasant one. So I missed Tier 11, other than a couple of experiences as a pug, in its entirety. I was late coming to Firelands, but managed to join up with Nos Consensio (and several old friends!) in time to get guild first kills on (at least) Alysrazor, Domo, and Ragnaros. That was a lot of fun, and Ragnaros was a particularly enjoyable fight for me as a hunter. However, real-life issues soon trumped WoW life for me, and I took what amounted to about a five month break from raiding, missing out on normal-mode Dragon Soul.
I started raiding again when Nos was 1/8 H DS, and we proceeded to progress through four more bosses over the next couple of months before giving up for the summer, which I believe I’ve documented here at Mushan, Etc. It was the first time that I’d ever really demonstrated that I could play at a heroic mode level while content was current.
But then again, as countless people have commented dismissively elsewhere on the interweb, Dragon Soul was a faceroll, right?
In this, the most “dumbed-down” (right, naysayers?) version of WoW, I am struggling the most; or at least, more than I have since Naxx, which is where I went through my intro to raiding and the ensuing growing pains.
There are several factors that go into those struggles, including team personnel changes and the fact that there haven’t been nerfs on current content, like there were in ICC and Firelands and DS.
And, in truth, I don’t know that our current team is necessarily struggling any more than our old team did in ToC, where I don’t remember killing Juraxxus by the end of the second week. Maybe I’m wrong… maybe I’m not. So it’s not like I’ve never struggled like this in raids before. And Horridon is still not an easy boss for players/teams at my skill level.
But here’s the thing: after the success that was our team in heroic Dragon Soul – even knowing at the time that it was an easy tier relative to most of the previous ones – the success was real enough. I owned it. And I came to expect it, I think; like I had reached the next level of raiding and had nowhere to go but up.
This… despite the warning signs: easy tier would not be repeated, some pretty good people left the team, we are a casual guild, teammates didn’t all race to a raid-ready state at the same pace, etc.
Now, in the second raid tier of MoP, I still have those expectations ingrained in me. I still expect that I’m going to play well, that the team is still going to make significant, palpable progress most weeks. And it’s not happening. Certainly, we’ve had our good weeks, and we’ve had our bad. We finished the last tier 9/16, which is something. It’s not was much as I wanted, but we definitely progressed.
What has disappointed me the most, however, is that I feel that I am not playing at the level I need to play in order to really help the team. This, in spite of the fact that I might possibly be playing at a higher level personally than I ever have.
A few months ago, “too many buttons” was a hot issue in the hunter community. At the time, I chipped in my two cents, which was that I didn’t mind the massive amount of buttons because I liked the “active” playstyle that the hunter required. I felt the same way about my warrior tank, although I began to feel that prot warriors suffered from “button-itis” even more than hunters. However, as time has passed, I’ve begun to see the wisdom of arguments by Grumpy Elf and Frostheim and others a little more clearly: how having too many buttons dilutes the value of our most valuable shots.
I feel less powerful as a hunter right now. As SV, it seems particularly bad, because, while I feel like I’m prioritizing my abilities correctly, I’m not executing them perfectly, and I don’t know if I ever will, and I don’t know if, at my level, it even matters. With the priority system, certain shots don’t line up correctly a lot of the time. I try to optimize Black Arrow so that it’s applied on CD, keep Serpent Sting up, use Glaive Toss and Explosive Shot on CD, utilize my long CDs to give me the largest advantage, and so on.
But fights like Horridon expose some of the weaknesses of the spec that are hidden by the more obvious strengths (traps/kiting, movement, Serpent Spread/AoE, overall “damage-meter-ness,” etc.). In particular, burst-on-demand (along with interrupting) is somewhat difficult, in my opinion. In a fight where the priority is to burn down several different types of adds, with different size health pools and different types of abilities that can harm the raid team, I feel that I am struggling to contribute like I want to.
I know that this is not a problem that hunters alone have, but in some ways it feels like the “take your time to slow-cook a bunch of DPS ingredients into a delicious, high-damage chili” SV recipe isn’t very optimal when your goals switch around rapidly from “burn/interrupt the baselisk” to “burn the wastewalker” to “burn the second wastewalker” to “burn/interrupt the dinomancer” to “burn the rest of the adds, including the remaining 1.5 wastewalkers and two-three baselisks and the other dudes.” If LnL procs, well that’s nice. But a LnL won’t burn down any of those adds, and it’s not always a reliable proc anyway, because the OT is moving the adds away from Sand Traps, so Explosive Trap might be a wasted BA CD, but Black Arrow on the wrong add could be half of a wasted CD if it dies quickly, so I could put it on Horridon, but it would be nice to have BA on your focus target because that’s more damage on that target…
Thrill of the Hunt helps, because if it’s up and LnL procs you can do some decent damage to a target with Explosive Shots and Arcanes (or the occasional Multi-Shot). But if they don’t proc in a particular situation, it’s like a small burst followed by relatively weak DoTs, a Cobra Shot or two, and so on. Even with Ice Trap down and CDs like Rapid Fire and Lynx Rush in use, I feel frustrated by those adds, given the limited time available between spawns.
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So anyway, that’s just an example of one of the frustrating things about playing that I’ve been dealing with. I’m wracking my brain and scouring the internet for ways to improve my contribution on this fight. Kheldul (at Hunter-DPS) has a great post with strategies for hunters on Horridon, and I ate that up late last week (thanks a ton, man!!). Watched a lot of videos for possible raid strategy tweaks. I’ve been pretty aggressive about gearing, given my limited options, in order to give myself the best chance of putting out some heavy damage on this fight.
And we did well as a team last night, improving enough to get to the third door once or twice (whereas last week we almost always died on the first). Definite progress on a tough fight, and I’m proud of my team.
But I am definitely feeling the “Mushan, dude, you are not awesome” feelings. I’m feeling somewhat limited by both my class and my level of skill. I certainly don’t feel like a hero.
Maybe I’m being too closed-minded, and every other class is struggling with my struggles as well, and finding ways to overcome them. If that’s true, then that’s even more evidence that I’m not doing my job correctly.
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Being a small part of the hunter blogging community, as I mentioned before, contributes to this. While empowering on some levels, it also adds a bit to my disappointment because I came to the blogosphere’s (and by that, I mean you, the reader’s) knowledge as a hunter working on heroic content.
Well, I am not at that level, folks. And that makes me feel sheepish, and I hope that none of my readers thinks that I am some awesome hunter, because I’m not. I want to be, but I’m not. And while it was never my intention, if someone thinks I used to be awesome, the truth is that I’ve generally always been a passably good hunter (since I started Mushan), and I continue to improve – and I’m way better than I was in 2011! – but my level of play is not what you may have thought it was.
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To close, I don’t feel awesome about my play right now, and I’m not sure what to do about it except to keep doing the things I do (practice and research) to improve my contribution to the guild’s efforts. This doesn’t by any stretch mean that I am thinking of changing toons – although watching the damage our Frost mage can do to the adds is fun – because there is no class I could play as well as this one. And even if I could, there is no toon that I have that is anywhere close to as geared as Mushan. But that doesn’t matter: I’m a hunter, so class is a non-issue.
It just means that I am struggling with feelings of frustration with my own personal limitations. The illusion of awesomeness within me needs to fade soon, because I’m tired of feeling like I am under-performing and being disappointed with it. The reality is, I am where I am, both self and situation, and, while that doesn’t mean that I can’t/won’t strive to improve, I need to curb my expectations. Yes, we succeeded at easier content. It was easier, pure and simple. This is the real, no-nerf, no-cakewalk WoW world we are dealing with, and I can’t expect to make the same progress that I did at that time.
Hopefully some parts of this post made sense to someone.
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Thanks for reading this really long post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!