Cataclysm has brought with it a huge step up in 5 man instance difficult, and in my opinion this is not a bad thing after all we all know that the WotLK heroics had become face-roll instances with the tank charging off at full speed the DPS simply AoEing everything down and the healer dozing off with the excitement. My experiences in Cataclysm so far have revealed that Blizzard have ramped up the difficulty of the heroics, and the normals though to a lesser extent, and made the fights far more tactical. no longer can the tank just charge in, no longer can the DPS just stand there and spam their rotation or AoE spells. The boss encounters have become much more tactical also requiring much more awareness from all party members, damage from other sources other than simply the boss appears to have become a large factor, and avoiding damage appears to far far more important than letting the healer heal through it.
As a paladin healer newly dinged to 85 and a few days normal grinding to get my average iLevel up to the magic 329 so that I could enter dungeons I was anxious to say the least about what awaited me in heroic instances, especially as I'd had some bad healing experiences while doing random normals with massive amounts of group wide damage and what I can only put down to the "WotLK tanking mentality". Paladins are still weak when it comes to healing group wide damage, while Blizzard have given us 2 AoE heals Holy Radiance
and Light of Dawn
. The former being gimped by a huge mana cost and diminishing return after 8 yards distance from the pally and taking 10 seconds to tick to completion makes this spell damn useless in high group damage situation (eg. first boss in SFK where tank/dps interrupt the heal immediately after the strangle, have you ever tried to heal 5 people from 1HP as a paladin that has had their best spell (FoL) made obsolete). The second AoE spell we have is gimped also, though to be honest I do like it's animation cast effect
, you have to have the group stood in front of you for the frontal cone effect, which most of the time is useless as the ranged DPS always seem to spread themselves to the four corners of the wind (which is also a positioning nightmare for Holy Radiance
resulting in the paladin running about like a headless chicken), also the spell is absolutely worthless to cast unless you have full holly power and even then it's healing output is less than satisfactory, about the only good thing it has going for it is the "smart" heal aspect of the spell.
So knowing all this, and feeling less than confident with my abillites to keep groups alive in the level 85 heriocs, off I went and joined the random queue.
After two or three failed heroics (SFK - First boss fail, GB,HoO - Trash fail before any bosses) I gave up on random queuing for heroics, and I was nano-meters away from throwing the towel in and saying "this is just not for me" and turning my return to cataclysm into simply a quick visit. I hated it, I hated what had been done to holy palladins, I hated the fact the tanks thought CC wasn't necessary, I hated the fact the DPS refused to try any damage avoidance and I loathed the fact I couldn't heal anything for toffee. In a cloud of misery I pottered around Azeroth for a while randoming in normals for reputation and some minor gear upgrades not really knowing what to do next. I was then persuaded into a guild heroic run or two and my little thunder cloud was diminished a little, so as a guild group (mainly) off we went to try some heroics, things went much better and we actually made progress and started to complete instances (yay for Guild Achievements). Don't get me wrong, we made progress not because I magically learned how to heal (I still can't) but because we employed tactics, positioning, CC and common sense when approaching the fights and our hard work payed off, as a guild we have no completed three heroic instances and made progress in others. Though I'm still less than happy with my healing abilities and I suspect I may have to retire Waramataig as a healer so that the guild can find a suitable rading/heroic team to move forward with, this was nailed home for me last night in a disasterous attempt at the first boss in Stonecore HC (I now officially hate worms, infact I might just take up fishing so I can stick sharp things in them).
The ramp up in difficulty in the HCs is a much needed thing in Cataclysm and I'm glad to see it, even if it has highlighted my less then adequate abilities to perform my currently chosen role, but not one to give up immediately I'll struggle on for a few more days to see if any progress can be made, though to be honest I'm less than confident.
The bar has been raised and I'm not sure I can reach it anymore...