After reaching level 90, I ran heroic after heroic obsessively in order to scrape the ilevel needed to enter the Raid Finder. After a few drops and the generosity of a guild leatherworker, I cheerfully queued as a tank for Vaults, and then went off to do dailies, figuring that the wait might be a little longer than normal given the popularity of new raid content, but it probably wouldn't be too bad.
30 minutes later, I shrugged and thought to myself, "Well, everybody's running LFR now."
52 minutes later, it occurred to me while yanking pink turnips out of the ground that I had been a little overoptimistic about wait times. Oh well. The farm wasn't going to tend itself.
An hour and 20 minutes later, I tabbed out of the game to check the forums, wondering if others were complaining about queue times, or if I'd just had a stroke of really bad luck.
Nope. Wait times for tanks through LFR, as a legion of enraged forum posters screamed, were through the roof at the beginning of the expansion. Right now, it seems like DPS players are getting the lion's share of agony. Rather than wait it out, many -- perhaps most -- tank players chose to exploit a loophole that allowed them to get a raid more quickly on a less easily-filled role.
The how and why of the current system
For anyone who might be new to WoW, queuing for the Raid Finder asks you to pick which roles you're willing to perform in a raid. Once an available raid has selected you for a particular role and you're ported to the instance, you're then given a chance at gear whenever you defeat a boss. Tanks are only eligible for tank loot: DPSers are only eligible for DPS loot: Healers are only eligible for healing loot. There's some overlap in drops between the three roles, but not to the extent that you could feasibly gear an offspec.
Blizzard settled on the current system after a huge number of complaints concerning loot distribution in the first version of LFR from patch 4.3. At that point, loot distribution was closer to that of a conventional raid, albeit with bonuses granted to players rolling on gear for their particular spec. However, it was pretty easy for players to get screwed out of drops by guild groups who joined LFR and then rolled on everything in order to hoard loot for themselves, or even by vigilantes who, fed up with what they saw as low performance or rudeness by other players, rolled on everything and then distributed whatever they got to whomever they saw as the most deserving.
When Mists of Pandaria hit, the Raid Finder was a a predictably popular feature, but it wasn't one that was equally convenient for all players. While tanks have long enjoyed quick queue times for the 5-man Dungeon Finder, the Raid Finder was a different beast. Only two tanks are required for LFR's 25-man raids compared to 6 healers and 17 DPS players, and tanks often had very lengthy waits as a result.
The solution, as so many players pointed out, was to tell the system you weren't tanking. Sign up as a healer or DPS, get a raid much faster than you would otherwise, and do the fights while still specced as a tank. No matter how poorly you healed or DPSed, the system would give you loot based on your tank spec when the boss died.
Not a bad deal ... unless you cared about doing a really crappy job in LFR.
Or unless others in the raid were doing the same thing, which they probably were.
Beating the system at the cost of the raid
The problem with accepting one role while specced for another is you probably won't be doing it very well. To a certain extent, that's okay for LFR -- no one's under any illusion that it's supposed to be difficult content -- but it's definitely more of a problem for certain roles.
- Fake tanks: You'd have to be suicidal to try this. I have actually never seen a fake tank in LFR before (although I'm sure it's happened somewhere). Given the responsibility of the role and the gear requirements, I doubt it's an attractive option just to get a raid.
- Fake healers: Healers have traditionally had the shortest waiting period to get LFR raids, but players who aren't actually specced to be healers are probably going to get people killed. Even in full healing kit, you'll run OOM quickly, lack access to crucial skills, and simply heal much less, period. On tougher fights with higher raid damage, you may not be able to keep yourself alive, much less anyone else.
- Fake DPS: This is probably the most attractive of the three options. Low DPS is pretty routine in LFR even for players specced and geared for the role.
Not that it matters. Queue times for DPS players in patch 5.2 content aren't much better, if they're better at all. The Grumpy Elf had a recent post on this, and I think had an accurate point in that healing LFR might well be more stressful than healing normal content, and that this may account for the lack of healers in the queue.
So I put it to you, readers: Is gaming the LFR system unethical? Should it be considered cheating? Or is it only a bad thing if you're actively endangering the raid's ability to complete the encounter?