Secret Design of WoW PvE: Solo Difficulty vs Group Difficulty

The series: [Intro­duc­tion, and a call for com­ments, Solo Dif­fi­cul­ty vs Group Dif­fi­cul­ty, PvE vs PvP, Vari­ety vs Spe­cial­iza­tion, Solo Per­former vs Group Util­i­ty, Your role in a PvE raid]

Your abil­i­ty to solo par­tial­ly deter­mines the expe­ri­ence you’ll have in groups. If you have an easy time in the lev­el­ing game, you are going to have a more dif­fi­cult expe­ri­ence in the endgame/group game. The fol­low­ing list goes from easy-to-solo to hard-to-solo.

  • Hunters are the eas­i­est class to lev­el while play­ing the solo lev­el­ing game, no mat­ter what spec. Pet plus ranged dam­age is just simple.
  • War­locks are sec­ond. Again, a pet class. (I might be wrong on this. Some­day I have to fill in my knowl­edge gap regard­ing warlocks)
  • Rogues and mages are third. Lots of dam­age is easy grinding.
  • Then shamans and druids, because of the damage/healing hybrid nature.
  • Until final­ly you get down to class­es that are hard­er to solo, like pal­adins, priests, and warriors.

Now, I’m not say­ing that pal­adins are hard to solo. All of WoW solo con­tent is easy with every class. It’s just that lev­el­ing a pal­ly is hard­er than lev­el­ing a hunter or a war­lock. Of course, it’s pos­si­ble to build a “hard to solo” class like a pal­ly in such a way that when matched against a poor­ly-played war­lock that the pal­ly would come out ahead. Play­er skill counts for a lot, and that’s true of all the com­par­isons to come. But giv­en two equal play­ers, there’s no way to cor­rect­ly spec and play a priest so that they’ll solo as fast or as eas­i­ly as a cor­rect­ly spec’ed and played mage.

So why does this mat­ter? Well, class­es that are eas­i­er to lev­el have that bal­ance come out some­where. Some­where inside their deci­sion tree, and this is just an exam­ple, Bliz­zard said “hunters will not have an easy time in raids because they lev­el so easily”.

Now, indi­vid­ual hunters can be great in raids, just as great and use­ful as oth­er class­es. But your typ­i­cal ful­ly-lev­eled hunter nev­er had to build a good skill set that a play­er needs to be a good raider. Four parts pet attack but­ton, four parts Autoshot, one part Mend Pet. Sprin­kle Arcane Shot and Mul­ti­shot to taste. Let sim­mer for /played. Voila, max level!

Bliz­zard decid­ed that hunters would have to work hard­er (shot rota­tions based on hid­den cast times, non-obvi­ous math, and spread­sheet-only deriva­tions regard­ing weapon choic­es and haste) to do com­pa­ra­ble per­for­mance as oth­er class­es in their role (dam­age). If it were easy for a hunter to be com­pet­i­tive in raids, nobody would ever play any­thing but hunter! They would rule both inside and out­side groups.

Now, the solo game does­n’t just come to a screech­ing halt when you hit L70. There are dailies, rep­u­ta­tion grinds, craft­ing that requires plen­ty of hard-to-find mate­ri­als… in fact, much of this is very help­ful to gen­er­ate the resources to give you an edge in per­for­mance while par­tic­i­pat­ing in the end game. How­ev­er, the playstyle of all this con­tent is exact­ly like the solo/levelling game. So for the pur­pos­es of this dis­cus­sion, it’s the same.

When farm­ing motes for pri­mals, every­one groans when the hunter arrives. Nobody has it eas­i­er. You don’t find many RMT-farm­ing priests, war­riors, or paladins.

On the flip side, the frus­tra­tion that pal­lies, priests, and war­riors feel while lev­el­ing and play­ing the solo game is more than made up for in their group play. Tank­ing and heal­ing shines in groups, and this is the big pay­out.

More Words!

3 thoughts on “Secret Design of WoW PvE: Solo Difficulty vs Group Difficulty”

  1. I’m arguably biased, but I’d say that war­locks are as easy (if not more) to solo as a hunter.

    You can heal your­self, while using the same spell to kill the mob. You can heal your pet. If you’re low on mana, you can use your pet to get more mana (spec depen­dent), oth­er­wise, you can suck your own life away to get mana, then take life from the mob with the mana you just gained. If things get too tough you can fear-kite a mob to death (except undead. And cer­tain immune to fear mobs. Bliz­zard obvi­ous­ly hates war­locks.). Your pet can become an invul­ner­a­ble shield. You can make your own health potions that are on a dif­fer­ent timer than oth­er health potions. You can res­ur­rect yourself. 

    <3 War­lock.

  2. There are var­i­ous quib­bles to be had over the class rank­ings. For exam­ple, I’m lev­el­ing a Fury war­rior now and, through lev­el 45 any­way, it seems to burn through mobs as quick­ly as the “pure” dps class­es I’ve played. I’d also note that you’re describ­ing lev­el­ing speed; one might argue that the Pal­adin is “easy” to lev­el due to the uncom­pli­cat­ed playstyle (push seal, turn on auto-attach, watch TV) and extreme abil­i­ty to sur­vive mishaps/solo tough quests. 

    That said, I strong­ly dis­agree that Bliz­zard inten­tion­al­ly made class­es bad at groups in order to bal­ance their solo-abil­i­ty. They’ve invest­ed far too much time in each class for it to make sense for them to delib­er­ate­ly sab­o­tage one or more of them in (raid) groups in order to pun­ish them for being easy to level. 

    In my view, the spe­cial­iza­tion issue you dis­cuss in part 4 is actu­al­ly what accounts for what you’re observ­ing here. When solo­ing, you need to be able to both deal and receive/avoid/heal dam­age, cause there’s no one else to do it for you. Sure enough, your top four class­es have good DPS AND some means of sur­vival (hunters/locks let their pets tank, while mages/rogues burst things down from range/stealth before they take much dam­age). In a group, play­ers only need to do one or the oth­er, so it’s fine that your tanks and heal­ers aren’t putting out dam­age but a prob­lem that your hunter’s pet can’t mean­ing­ful­ly tank any­thing. Still, that’s a quirk of raid design, rather than the devs being out to get cer­tain classes.

  3. @GA:

    Yes, I’m dis­cussing lev­el­ing speed as ease. I have a pre­vi­ous endgame pal­adin, I know that it’s easy, but it’s very slow. Luck­i­ly I chose pal­ly first and did­n’t start with, say, a mage.

    I did­n’t say that Bliz­zard made some class­es bad at groups or are out to get some class­es. I said that some class­es are hard­er to be good at group­ing. All class­es, when played well, can find a role in the endgame. Some class­es have a hard­er time build­ing the skills to get that role than others.

    And we’re in agree­ment that this is just one piece and not the whole bal­ance pie.

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