I've struggled some with posting, mostly because I'm still not sure how to react to the Lifebloom nerf. It's pretty clear that it will be a major change to Druid healing in raids, if it goes through. On one hand, we've had a well-defined niche for a long time now, so I'm not sure how it will land to move to something different. On the other hand, rolling 3+ sets of Lifebloom gets to be both stressful and boring. Lag in particular starts to be a real pain in the butt, and forces earlier LB refreshing.
On the gripping hand, 3.1 is still on the PTR and subject to a lot of change. So no point in worrying about it a lot yet. I think I'll go ahead with the Raid Heals chapter anyway, since that's not going to be a Lifebloom-centric thing anyway.
As we contemplate this (on the Tree of Woe), we can consider some other changes that are incoming. One that I wanted to mention a bit is the upcoming addition of the [Emblem of Conquest]. Basically this adds a new tier to the boss emblem system, as follows:
- Emblem of Heroism: heroic 5-man dungeons and normal (10-man) Naxx/OS/Arch/EoE; gives iLvl 200 items
- Emblem of Valor: heroic (25-man) Naxx/OS/Arch/EoE and normal (10-man) Ulduar; gives iLvl 213 items
- Emblem of Conquest: heroic (25-man) Ulduar; gives iLvl 226 items
In short, I think this change is going to render them obsolete. There will be little desire to run heroics any more. Even the daily Heroic is a lot of work for the gold reward involved; the only advantage it really provides extra badges.
In Burning Crusade, there was a lot of desire to run heroic 5-mans, because you could get some great gear with Badges of Justice. Gear started out at iLvl 110 and kept adding up to iLvl 146. There were almost 250 different items you could buy for your badges. The [Grovewalker's Leggings] I eventually bought cost 100 badges, and were close to the best healing Druid legs in the game.
The result was a lot of incentive to run heroic 5-man instances. Raiders would do this in their off time, while more casual players had incentive to keep going back too. Even the most maxxed-out raider would still get value from a few badges; if nothing else, more high-quality badge gear would show up with the next patch.
This led to mixing players in some good ways. It provided rewards for the raiders who helped out others. You could PUG a heroic and find high-level raiders mixed with newer or more casual players. It gave raiders some variety too. Meanwhile, casual players could gear up well enough to prepare for raiding, if they wanted to, through running 5-man content. If nothing else, they knew they always had more and better gear to get to at some point.
In WotLK, it's different. The tier system means that the gear available for any given badge is limited. I already don't have much that I can get with EoH that's useful, except for PvP gear, and I'm not all that dedicated. What's more, with this system, I'll never get better gear for those EoH. They're going to stagnate, just like the few leftover BoJ I still have.
That's me. What about casual players? They'll soon lose any motivation to play 5-man content too. Why bother? They can't get any better gear. The best chance to upgrade will be to run daily quests and build up gold, with the hope of buying high-level Bind on Equip gear that the raiders — eventually — put up for auction.
I firmly believe that the 5-man game is key for a majority of players. It's vastly easier to get 5 players together together than 10, let alone 25. Start with you and a friend, and you're 40% of the way to a 5-man group. Try that for 10-mans and you'll still need 8 more players, including at least a tank and/or a couple healers. Besides that, there are 12 5-man instances available in WotLK. That's a lot of good content, and it would be nice to have some reason for running it.
I worry that this direction is going to turn off a lot of more casual players, and open wider gaps between the 'casuals' and 'hardcore'. And I throw those quotes in for a reason. Many of those 'casual' players are quite skilled and very good at what they do; they just don't have the time or inclination to work at raiding, either because of the time commitment, the detailed organization involved, or the drama that can come with high-pressure content.
There's nothing wrong with giving better gear to the raiders; that's as it should be. But there's nothing wrong with helping the more casual players move along that same path, even if it's at a reduced pace. In the end, they also need to have something to look forward to.