The last time I did an officers' patch perspective, the numbers were reversed (2.3). In that column, I talked about mage tables, spell damage being added to healing gear, and the Horde finally getting Fear Ward. It was October of 2007. Yep, a lot has changed in the past two years of WoW!
Patch 3.2 isn't yet up on the PTRs, but it's never too early to anticipate issues or plan for future success. Here are a few interesting changes to the game that might have an impact on guilds as we head into the late summer.
1 Raid, 4 Lockout Timers: That's right, the Crusaders' Coliseum will have four different versions with four different lockouts. The kneejerk reaction to this bit of news on the official forums (is there any other kind?) was generally not one of celebration. The most common complaint was, "Great. Now I have to farm the same five bosses four times a week."
Many players would balk at the thought of "have to" in this context. After all, just because you can, doesn't mean it's mandatory. But in hardcore guilds, the drive to be competitive (and keep your raid slot) can lead you down some strange roads. In some guilds, it is expected that you attend every scheduled raid you can. Some players are getting burned out just at the idea of running the same content four times in a single week.
I urge all guild leaders to keep this burnout factor in mind when you set up your weekly raiding schedules, particularly if you have strict attendance policies. The first couple of weeks won't be so bad, since all the bosses won't be unlocked yet. But as the new raid gets longer and longer as bosses are unlocked, it will start eating up bigger and bigger chunks of your week.
We don't know much about this raid yet, since it's not available for testing. It could be a very quick run, even with five bosses. If all the encounters happen in the same place (as they would be expected to in a coliseum setting), and with very little or no trash, it could be a 60-minute run when it's on farm. However, the fact that this raid zone will provide a new tier set and a new set of emblems leads me to believe that it will be more involved than most people are imagining it right now.
The New Emblem System: Yes, it's true. As of 3.2, even the most unskilled noob can farm their way to Tier 8 -- and eventually Tier 9 -- gear. Many raiders didn't like the system that allowed players to acquire Tier 6-equivalent gear back in TBC. Those same people certainly don't like that Ulduar-grade emblems are going to flow like purple water from every 5-man dungeon and cobbled-together Naxx PUG in the game. Have no doubt about it: If your guild raids primarily for loot and status, morale is going to suffer.
Times like this will bring to light a player's motivation to raid. Guilds where the officers make sure their raids are not just effective, but fun, will come away from this change without much of a dent in their roster. Guilds where fun comes in second place to loot may run into problems. I would not be surprised to see loot-driven raiders quit the game over this decision. It's definitely a good time to weigh your priorities.
The good news for guilds, and our increasingly tight raiding schedules, is that making these emblems so readily available means that players (and alts) who lag behind your core raiders can gear up at a quicker pace. Moreover, they can do so, if necessary, without raiding at all. Of course, they won't be as effectively geared as they could be, since only so many slots are available. But at least they won't need half a dozen trips through Naxx just so they aren't dead weight in an Ulduar farming run.
It is also good news for guilds who have had to beg, threaten, or trick your members into helping to farm the old Tier 7 raids or a few Heroic dungeons. This new system will give nearly all your members a reason to run Wrath's launch content again. Players at all gear levels will benefit.
Squire Ding: Last week, Blizzard announced that the squire pets obtainable from an Argent Tournament quest line could be upgraded to allow access to your bank, a mailbox, or a vendor once every eight hours.
Encourage your raiders, particularly your absent-minded ones, to upgrade their squires. Doing so should help cut down on those annoying trips back to town for forgotten resist gear, food, etc. Supposedly, the service will only be available to the person who controls the squire, so the more people that have one of these handy pets, the less such errands will cut into your raid time.
In theory, you could also keep a cache of enchanting materials, gems, and other item enhancements on hand to pimp your players' hard-earned upgrades in mid-raid. If you want to get really crazy, you could keep a stash of glyphs and customize an entire raid's worth of toons for individual encounters. Of course, these scenarios assume that your access to the bank or mailbox is limited only by time, and not by the amount of items you can withdraw. We'll know more once the PTR goes live.
Level 80 Epic Gems: Building on the rare-drop, fishing-daily gems from 3.1, a full suite of epic gems will become craftable in 3.2. I'm sure there will be many, many epic gem cuts to learn. Make sure your jewelcrafters coordinate so that all the most useful cuts are available as soon as possible.