How do we define 'melee friendly'?

How do we define 'melee friendly' nowadays

This week, we got a special treat - Blizzard released a video with Encounter Developer Ion Hazzikostas (who is seriously my secret crush over at Blizz - my trapper keeper is full of little hearts drawn around his name), Production Director J. Allen Brack and Game Director Tom Chilton (they're dreamy too, but Ion's my fave) and it's got a cornucopia of interesting information in it for you all. However, one line of the interview, summed up by our Adam Koebel, caught my eye immediately.

They realize raids need to be more melee friendly in the future and they are working on it, but they feel that Siege of Orgrimmar is one of the most melee friendly raids in recent memory.

When I first saw this line, I chuckled bitterly to myself. Siege is melee friendly? This got me to wondering how we define melee friendly. Is it just the ability for melee players to contribute solid DPS? Because by that standard, Siege has some good fights for melee - the Fallen Protectors, Sha of Pride, Galakras and even Spoils of Pandaria are certainly fights where melee DPS can contribute a good deal of positive damage to an encounter. Phase 1 Garrosh is a place where melee with good cleave potential absolutely shines. So by that standard, a case could absolutely be made that Siege is melee friendly.

Now, in terms of melee staying alive without making the healers hate every single one of them that the raid brings to the party? Siege of Orgrimmar continues in a grand tradition of blowing up the melee. By that standard, SoO is absolutely not melee friendly.

Now, I realize that no matter what your role is, you probably hate Dark Shaman, or as I like to call it, the entire Olympics if you replaced all the events with things that will kill you if you stand in them and made a group of people do them all in one six to seven minute burst. So not really like the Olympics at all. But still, it's a hectic fight. It's absolutely a fight where melee can contribute - I've done really solid damage on that opening phase with the two shaman and their worg mounts standing together - but it's also a fight that can blow up four or five melee (in 25) in two seconds. If you get two lines of those elementals criss-crossing through the melee (which we have) then just kiss them goodbye. The only time I've ever survived this encounter was when I ran away and did nothing to the bosses for a solid 20 seconds. 20 seconds of doing nothing. Any DPS player will tell you, that's completely unacceptable, but to have even attempted to hit the bosses with the three simultaneous near-instant death abilities going off around them would have been complete suicide.

Now, if this were the only fight that enforces that kind of idle, DPSless behavior I'd chalk it up to a fight designed to inconvenience melee and move on. But then there's General Nazgrim - another fight that enforces long periods of idle (although admittedly, all DPS are inconvenienced by this, but most melee are then forced to move out of range of him entirely and wait for adds to spawn - any fight with enforced idle and target switching is most punishing on melee), Thok the Bloodthirsty (the fight where you will at best be standing around for 10 to 20 seconds doing nothing, if not actively chased by a dinosaur who seems to want to hug draenei warriors an awful lot) and Paragons of the Klaxxi, which combines a bewildering array of abilities from the nine paragons with mechanics that require some folks to soak a beam, some stacking, and some spreading out and it's all somewhat randomized (although to a degree it's based on kill order, too, so it's not purely randomized) - Thok in particular is heavily slanted towards ranged players, because they can contribute DPS during the entire fight, while melee players are effectively useless for long stretches of time. I took Storm Bolt for our Thok kills, that's how useless I felt for extended periods.

By this standard - the standard of 'you either die, or you do nothing at all' - these aren't particularly melee friendly fights. Do they tip the balance for the raid in terms of its melee friendliness? Yes, because they influence guild and raid behavior. If selecting your raid group for the night, you simply will not bring melee if you have a ranged available. Why would you? Sure, you may want to bring a few for their buffs or debuffs or because they'll have really great DPS on a few fights, but more than that? Combined with the fact that this has been going on for several expansions now, and the fact is a lot of guilds don't have all that much melee to bring in the first place - they've pared down their ranks to get through Cataclysm and haven't recruited any melee since. Even in a raid like SoO, where you can make an argument for some fights being amazing for certain melee classes, it's easier and less work for your healers to bring ranged than to risk deaths to abilities that hit harder if you're closer to them, or which can overlap on a small area especially if that area can be where the bosses are.

So what's the solution? The fights in Siege of Orgrimmar are, for the most part, some of the best designed we've seen in a while, and that's in an expansion that's pretty much hit it out of the park in terms of interesting and novel raid design. Well, for starters, no more Dark Shaman style fights, at least not on normal mode. Fights with that many insta-kill mechanics spawning right in the melee? That's ridiculous, Ion. You know I love you, but man, that fight. Fights that enforce periods of idleness can't single out the melee for the special feeling of 'I get to do nothing" - of the two fights this tier that really do this, Nazgrim is a far superior fight because at least everyone is inconvenienced. Although when Nazgrim spawns the big whirling axes, they do almost invariably target the melee. I'm just saying. There were clearly design elements of the Thok encounter intended to give melee something to do - they just don't last long enough, ultimately. Your raid benefits from letting the ranged pummel Thok while people kite him around and the melee stands there looking silly.

In some senses we're really close to a raid that doesn't penalize the players for bringing melee. I have faith in you, Ion. And a small shrine I made consisting of stills of your face from the interview. I wouldn't call Siege of Orgrimmar melee friendly yet, but I'd definitely be willing to concede it's less melee hostile.