And if everyone’s special…

There are no level 90 regular dungeons.

The Mists of Pandaria heroic dungeons are easier than the Cataclysm heroic dungeons.* Once we made that decision, we thought that having two versions of the level 90 dungeons (normal and heroic) didn’t make sense because they would be very similar in difficulty and offer similar loot. We thought about calling them something besides “heroic,” since heroic tends to mean hard to a lot of players, but we also needed to call them something, because some dungeons like Temple of the Jade Serpent have a lower-level and a level 90 version. We thought about calling them “level 90 versions” but figured “heroic” required less explanation. (We also could have dispensed with lower level dungeons, or made lower level versions of the level 90 dungeons, but we felt like both solutions were just to make the nomenclature of “heroic” more clear, which seemed like bad reasons.)

TLDR: Some Mists of Pandaria dungeons have lower level and level 90 versions. Others just have level 90 versions. In both cases, the level 90 versions are called “heroic.”

* – If you like very difficult dungeons, Challenge Modes are targeted at you.


I have to admit, I had a pretty strong reaction to this announcement last week. Effectively, there are no “heroic” dungeons in Mists, outside of Challenge Modes. While it remains to be seen just how difficult “Level 90 aka heroic” dungeons are, I assume that they’ll be at the level of difficulty of Cata normal dungeons. That is to say, not difficult in the least after achieving a modicum of gear.

Oh, but if you want difficult dungeons – just do challenge modes!

Blizzard must still be smarting from the Cata heroic dungeon debacle at the beginning of the expansion pack. They promised more challenging dungeons and delivered — only to watch a large portion of the playerbase recoil in anger and frustration. I have previously admitted to being one of the few people who enjoyed the challenge of the early heroics, but I understand what happened. I watched people avoid dungeons outside of close groups of friends and experienced the frustration of many pugs.

What went wrong? Didn’t we want harder dungeons? I remember the cry to a return of the “BC era” heroics. So, why did the Cataclysm heroic model fail so spectacularly and alienate so many players — to the point that Blizzard is effectively removing “heroics” from the game in Mists?

I think there were two major issues with the Cata heroic model, evocative of Blizzard’s misunderstanding of the role of heroics in their game. We’re not in BC, anymore, after all.

1) The dungeon culture has changed.  Back in BC, people didn’t spam heroics via LFD for gear and justice badges/points. You did your daily heroic (hopefully it was Mechanar) and that was usually it unless guildies were doing quests. Most of the gear needed for raiding was obtainable through normal dungeons, dailies, and crafting.  In Wrath, however, obtaining the last tier of gear through points/badges became an entry-level requirement for raiding and LFD’s easy access to groups made “farming heroics” a new end-game activity. In BC, my shaman did ONE heroic before starting raiding. That would be impossible to imagine today.

2) Rewards not in line with challenge. The BC era heroics, while giving high quality blue rewards akin to Cata, also offered a number of epic and “unique” items that were valuable even to raiders — gems, trinkets, etc. The epic quality drops were on par with Karazhan raid drops, similar to the Wrath model of the epic drops from the final boss being in line with Naxx 10-man raid drops. Cata removed that “big” reward from the heroic dungeons. You only got 346 blues for them, no matter what (unless you got a BOE epic drop), a whole 13 ilvls lower than the raiding tier.  So, not only were the dungeons as frustrating as BC era heroics, they didn’t reward nearly as good loot.

As originally designed, heroics were meant to be the end-game for small group players, offering high challenge and high reward. It was an alternative to raiding, not a stepping-stone to raiding.

I rather liked heroics in that role and was never fond of the dumbing-down they took in Wrath – so I welcomed the return to the higher difficulty level. That failed, obviously, for the reasons specified above — which I completely understand and agree with. I get that no one liked the Cata heroics before they were nerfed.

So, why my “strong reaction”? It’s mostly a semantic thing. Why the heck do we have to call them heroic if they’re no longer, well, heroic? Can’t we just call them 90 normals and be done with it? Because more people understand the term “heroic” — or is it because to take “heroics”, both in spirit and in name, out of the game would be bad PR? Everyone wants to be that “heroic” dungeon runner; no one wants to be the “normal” dungeon runner.

But if everyone’s special, then no one is at all…

Posted on June 19, 2012, in WoW. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I agree, and think this is yet another case of Blizzard finding the extremes before finding the middle ground. Were heroics frustrating for me at the start of Cata? Oh yes; it always takes me awhile to regain my footing in a new expac anyway, and the browbeating we took in those dungeons didn’t help (Grim Batol was my bane, if you recall). But going through all of that for some lame gear that really didn’t feel like it helped in raiding….didn’t help.

    Especially before Raid Finder when Heroics were “endgame” for some players. I guess with LFR now, that “stepping stone” of heroics makes more sense for some people, and Mists promises more endgame stuff to do besides grinding dungeons.

    I do think Blizzard failed on the whole “making epics epic again” promotion from early Cata as well, but that’s another issue, even if somewhat related to dungeon and quest rewards.

    • Yep. I think that we’re never going to get back to the BC/Vanilla heroics/epics that they were trying to pursue at the beginning of Cata (as I said, the game is different now) – but now they’re going to the opposite extreme. I understand it’s difficult to find a middle-ground, but calling easier dungeons heroic doesn’t make their life any less complicated.

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