Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Call To Arms: Will This Ever Benefit Healers?

An interesting development tonight was enough to bring me out of hiding right away again!  Blizzard has finally announced an attempt to fix the ridiculously long DPS queues in heroic dungeons at maximum level.  Playing nothing but healers, I personally never have a queue of more than 12-13 minutes, but some DPS I know have reported waiting up to 45-50 minutes or worse.  And they also suffer from rage-quitting tanks that make them drop group and wait for a long time once more.  Just when it seemed like this was just the way it was going to be, Patch 4.1 will now include a new feature called Call to Arms Tanks and Healers. Here's the important part of the announcement:

In patch 4.1 we'll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the "Call to Arms: Tanks" icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you'll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you'll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Cockatiel, and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magister's Terrace, and Deathcharger's Reins from Stratholme.

Did you see that...rare mounts only available from dungeons will now rarely drop when your role is needed in the Looking For Group queues!  The gold and gems and such are nice, but the cross-faction pets and the rare dungeon mounts are the real story here.  Blizzard has found something that is not terribly easy or even possible to get, and something that DPS players will not cry too much foul on missing out on.  But the real question is, as much as Blizzard says this applies to healers and tanks, will this ever pop for healers on your realm?

In the entire lifetime of the Looking For Group system (now pushing 2 years old), I have received an instant queue 3 times.  The wait sometimes is relatively short and lasts 2-4 minutes, but there are always fewer tanks in the queue. Will that change with extra benefits offered potentially to both healers and tanks?  I highly doubt it.  The sheer fact of the matter is that playing a tank is a huge responsibility and takes a lot of skill.  Jumping into tanking at the heroics level is not a recipe for success and even these rewards may not be enough if other players are not patient and courteous with new tanks.  Not to completely sell into the internet anonymity jerk theory, but patience is a virtue lacking in LFG and that will not change, thereby running more potential tanks away.  At the same time more healer hybrids will queue up as well and will still outnumber tanks.  If there were 2 healer slots in a group to every tank, this Call to Arms may work for healers.  But on most realms, expect this to be as empty a promise for healers as it is for DPS.  Cross your fingers folks, let's hope this works for the DPS sake.

Here's a sinister thought: will this make the LFG system even worse than before because of a high influx of poor tanks and healers?  It's common knowledge in Cataclysm that success in LFG is far less certain than just putting together a group in trade chat or in your guild.  Bad tanks and healers will likely become better with practice, but the problem of low quality groups may be exacerbated by this change as an unintended side effect.  Once again, healers keep your fingers crossed.

Congratulations tank classes on your new bounty.  Perhaps someday it will be shared with the other type of group members taking on added responsibility in a dungeon run.

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