LFR – the Couch to 5K approach

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about LFR and raiding (particularly since patch 6.2.3 was announced). The point is often made that LFR is not real raiding, it’s too easy with no mechanics worth talking about, people are in there just to get loot that they don’t really deserve (since it’s all too easy) and people in there don’t try at all/don’t need to try (in fact the little sausages are probably tabbed out watching Netflix). It’s also said that because it’s so watered down & easy it does not either (a)prepare anyone for proper raiding nor (b)encourage people to try out proper raiding. Therefore Blizzard have failed in all their intentions. Shame on you Blizzard.

I want to challenge some of these points. I admit that what I’m saying here is from my own personal perspective and my arguments will not apply to everyone. However, I suspect they will apply to more people than just me and I think it’s a perspective worth exploring.

First: the “too watered down/no real mechanics” argument:-

For me this doesn’t feel true. There are sufficient mechanics in LFR for my abilities.

For example -in Highmaul Kargath has a Chain Hurl ability that will move one tank, one healer & three DPS to the stands. If you don’t know about it & you are the one picked it’s going to be disconcerting to say the least (I’ve not experienced it yet but that kind of thing always throws me – literally in this case) and you need to know what to do (basically just kill things and survive!).  There is also his Berserker Rush ability which can do huge amount of damage if not tanked correctly (according to Wowhead in LFR Kargath should be tanked in, or near, an active Flame Pillar).

Similarly in Blast Furnace  Phase 1 there are Heat Regulators to destroy. While (according to Wowhead) in LFR only 5 bombs are needed to destroy each one you still need to know what to do with the button should it appear on your screen.

And finally Iron Reaver. The guide on Wowhead for the Normal level encounter provides paragraph after paragraph of information on dealing with mechanics that include Barrage (the advice is not to try and out range but instead run to the sides), Pounding (during which you should use raid cooldowns & move in close to the boss to avoid Immolation patches that are being pushed away) & Blitz (which you should avoid by watching Iron Reavers’s feet). In the LFR section it says, “There are no mechanical differences in the Looking For Raid difficulty of this fight. Players should still focus on survivability”. Helpful! So unless things have changed since Wowhead was last updated this means there are mechanics in the LFR version of Iron Reaver- indeed the same mechanics as in Normal, but without any of the proper raid team benefits of good communications and strategy (& I say this sadly as I died in the LFR Iron Reaver encounter- clearly mishandled Barrage, Pounding & Blitz and never noticed her feet).

I accept that Iron Reaver is not typical & that in most cases the mechanics in LFR are more like the first two examples –  nowhere near the level of the normal raiding. But nevertheless there are mechanics. There is stuff to avoid, disperse and use cooldowns on. It is not stand in one place & hurl your spells.  And these mechanics can feel more difficult to deal with because they are being dealt with by a group of random strangers.  Of course your LFR group could be filled with overgeared raiders who can pretty much blitz through everything. But these pros are not in every LFR & arguably while they might speed up each phase of a fight, you are still likely to experience most of the mechanics in each phase & and these – for me anyway – mean I must give the encounter my total attention. Even concentrating so hard I ground my teeth to dust I died in the Iron Reaver encounter and I’ve felt totally frazzled in the others. This may say more about my ability than LFR but I can’t be on my own here (surely –  please say there are others like me!). One reason LFR exists is so that people like me (with less ability than others) have a chance to experience some raid content at a level I/they can deal with. I would say LFR gives me that.

As a side note: this doesn’t mean other people are not coasting on the back of the more experienced/better geared raiders who are running LFR. This probably explains all the raging and arguing. The pros get angry with all the poor abilities/presumed lack of effort on show. They have done this at a harder level – why can’t the rest of us get it? Are we all AFK (no we are not – but some might be). But in any case none of this is specifically an LFR problem – it’s a people problem. People could choose not to coast & people could choose not to get angry. Everyone could choose to  give 100% effort and help/guide where they can. That people don’t is a sad indictment of people. But not necessarily a sad indictment of LFR.

2. Onto the gear argument – people run it just for gear & don’t put any effort in and don’t deserve the gear.  I’ve run Highmaul a number of times in one week just to get more experience with the encounters and to practice healing.  I know I might be atypical here (again) but surely I’m not the only one doing this. I want the practice. And while I know I’m healing LFR & not a Normal Raid, for me there are still numerous challenges – raid boxes to look at and understand, an addon to get used to, mouseovers to practice etc.  So LFR offers more benefits than mere loot  – LFR gives me a place to practice abilities I can’t practice when I quest alone. And while I know there are always 5 mans I don’t feel confident enough for them yet – one mess up on my part could cause a wipe & I’m not ready for that.

3. The final argument – LFR does not prepare anyone for raiding nor does it encourage anyone to raid.  Again for me having completed a few LFRs as a healer I am now curious enough to read up on the normal raid equivalents to find out how the mechanics differ. So eg I read about what you need to do if you are on the Chain Hurl team in the Kargath encounter and I consider what it might be like to be a healer on a Normal Raid dealing with this. If it was a team of like minded folk (i.e. nice, supportive & friendly) and there was time to plan out the approach, agree the strategy & also agree that heads can stay firmly on necks if there is  a wipe, would I be interested in trying? I find myself thinking yes maybe I would like to try this out.  I am interested. I might do it. So Blizzard perhaps chalk me up as a partial success (only partial mind – I still have to be brave enough to do it). Again LFR is (for me) working as intended.

Indeed the only bit of LFR that definitely isn’t working for me is the Tourist Mode idea – ie LFR as a way to let casuals see the end of the story. In LFR  I am normally concentrating so hard at what I’m doing that I do not take in any of the story & barely notice any part of my surroundings. And when there’s a cut scene I escape out of it so that I’m not left behind. I really do think that story completion should happen elsewhere. I take in far more of the story when I’m questing alone.

But back to LFR. Is it real raiding ? Umm no – not if you only class raiding as what you get in a Normal Plus raid.  But who cares? Is this not semantics? Would everyone feel better if it wasn’t called Looking for Raid but was instead something else – Looking for Fun perhaps (although that could be embarrassingly misconstrued!)? Perhaps Looking for Practice which would at least convey the idea that this could be approached as a form of training – not training for being in a raid team per se (since you’re not going to get the raid team communication/strategy side in LFR), but more a type of Proving Grounds for using skills/abilities within a larger group setting (I mean all those people on the screen – takes some getting used to) and  for dealing with mechanics that give a flavour or the type of thing you will get in a raid. LFR could be seen as a way to start flexing muscles that do not get flexed on solo quests or on 5 mans. Perhaps LFR is the raiding equivalent of a Couch to 5K running programme, with Normal Plus raids being the 10K, Half Marathon & Marathon equivalent. It could be said that LFR, like a good Couch to 5K running programme gets you out there doing something different and flexing muscles that haven’t been flexed before (or in years). But like training for a marathon, normal raiding is a whole different ballgame that demands a different level of commitment, dedication and focus.

In summary: I would argue that with the right frame of mind & intention LFR can be an experience that makes someone at least curious enough about proper raiding to think about what it would mean to join a proper raid team. I know this because it has happened to me. Would I be thinking about all this had I not tried LFR? No. And that for me is why LFR is worth doing and worth keeping. It’s got me off the couch.




12 thoughts on “LFR – the Couch to 5K approach

  1. I’m working on preparing a character or two to try LFR as a precursor to raiding. I see it as practice too. I’m not going in till I have the right item level, and have watched the videos, read the guides, and in I go.
    I haven’t any expectations of a perfect group or run. I just never see the afk players people talk about, in dungeons I’ve run. Who knows, maybe people aren’t reacting as quickly as some would like. A woman (I’m assuming) in a dungeon last night said she wasn’t quite up to speed because “her nails were drying”. You just don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the screen, do you?
    Before the avalanche of people pop in and say “just say no to lowly LFR, get on bended knee and get in a Real Raiding Guild!” I say, let me see via LFR if raiding is fun and worthwhile, then maybe.
    It sounds like you’re doing very well, and have the right attitude and outlook.

    1. I think it’s good to read the guides & watch the videos first although I still find once I’m in there I get a sort of screen blindness & I can’t make sense of anything that’s going on! And yes who knows what people are doing the other side of the screen. All I know is that I’m concentrating very very hard!! Good luck in your LFRs!

  2. LFR is honestly what you make of it, for the most part. Knowing is half the battle, and almost all the cases you call out are things that you would discuss as a raid, or at the very least expected to have researched a bit. Then, in your normal run, everyone expects more than a few screw ups as people turn theory into practice. In fact, expect to wipe way more in Normal because he bar is so much higher.

    But as you suggest, ideally your raid would have their heads screwed on correctly and learn from mistakes, look at wipes and think what did we do right or well, what needs to change, what can be done better?

    LFR is honestly such a different environment from an established raid group that it’s hard to compare the two directly. Mostly because of the random player component. There’s no built camaraderie, there’s little impetus to step up your game (unless you actively want to, like yourself!), and that lack of continuity means that you have a group of people potentially learning the encounter every time. There’s a lot to be said about struggling with a boss, and then a few weeks later roflstomping the boss with your raid as a way to measure progress.

    Maybe your warrior DPS pulls by accident all the time. Maybe your healers like to discuss their strategy behind closed whispers. Maybe the gnome DK tank is always complaining about not being able to move fast enough. Maybe the Paladin likes to Hand of Protection the melee to put them into timeout. Maybe the priest likes to life grip the shaman who always darts ahead down the hallway. Maybe you have running jokes. Maybe you have a rough week and the raid leader needs to bark at you to wake up, but maybe you have a great week where you’re on fire and you down two new bosses that week and cheering with your friends is awesome.

    All of the above doesn’t exist in LFR. That, to me, is the biggest reason why LFR is a poor substitute for raiding. And that truly changes how raiding feels. It’s not just about seeing content and downing bosses. Raiding is a lot like organized sports. It’s about doing it as a team, as friends or at least a group of people you respect as teammates. LFR is like the random game that springs up at the park on occasion. Fun, sure, but feels very different from a rec league you might play in with the same group of people each week. Versus the professional teams (ie: Mythic). Very different reasons for raiding, very different environments.

    By all means, play in LFR. Use that to get a handle on the flow of fights, learn a few new mechanics (even try doing Normal mechanics even if you can technically ignore half of them in LFR, it still is decent practice IMHO). Learn more about your class. Push your heaing and/or DPS meters. But frankly, jumping to Normal will still take further practice and adjustment, because it *is* different. Mechanically different, but even more importantly, it feels different socially.

    But to those that pooh-pooh LFR as totally useless? Well, they’re wrong. Don’t listen to them. Everything has its use, just not to everyone, that’s all.

    1. I think the social camaraderie side you describe definitely sounds the best thing about proper raiding and as you say it is the very thing most lacking from LFR. The small amount I did a few years back (Cataclysm) gave me a real feeling of being part of a team and I do miss that. I agree with you say – LFR is what you make of it, and I accept not everyone goes in thinking about it the way I do (a place to practice skills I don’t otherwise get a chance to practice).

  3. Talarian is spot on for the difference between LFR and raiding.
    I’d say that if you want a taste of raiding, you’ll get more of it trying with a group of friends a mythic or challenge-mode 5-man instance, ideally something which ALL of you are not familiar with and that will require talking and collaborating to complete.
    Ah, and wipes. Raiding is all about wipes. Many many wipes 🙂

    1. I’ve done some 10 man raiding back in Cataclysm & I enjoyed the camaraderie. There were, as you say, many many wipes but it was a lot of fun. Right now I want to practice my own spells/abilities in the context of a large group but the idea of doing that with a proper raid team is something I am thinking about.

    1. Oops, misclicked and posted early.

      Is LFR real raiding? No, but so what? Is it fun? Yeah, usually. Is the gear it awards fair for the effort invested? Yeah, probably. LFR is perfectly adequate as a practice tool. Yes, many of the mechanics are watered down to the point that they are irrelevant, but what that means to you is largely a matter of perspective. What you get out of it is what you put into it. Think of it like bowling with bumpers in the gutters. Sure, the bumpers will prevent a gutter-ball, but it won’t bowl the strike for you. There’s still plenty of reason to try your best and no reason at all to intentionally chuck the ball against the bumpers just to watch it bounce.

      Take the Kargath encounter example you used. Failing the Berserker Rush mechanic is easily healable in LFR, and a guaranteed death in Normal+, but that doesn’t mean you should *expect* the healers to heal you through it. If your goal is to learn the mechanics, you can certainly practice it, moving behind a pillar when selected by the boss. If you succeed, the boss will stop the attack just like in Normal. The benefit of LFR is that, if you fail, you didn’t necessarily kill yourself or anyone else, and are free to continue to practice the rest of the mechanics.

      I’ve always been a big fan of multiple levels of content. If you think about it, Raids and Dungeons are designed in much the same way, and though it may not be easily recognizable as such, is no different than the old “difficulty selection” menu you encountered on console games dating back as far as the original Nintendo (NES). The game has Easy (LFR), Normal (Normal), Hard (Heroic), and Elite (Mythic) modes for raids, and the same is true for Dungeons (Normal, Heroic, Mythic, and Challenge modes, respectively).

      There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to content, so I wish people would stop acting like there is.

      1. Yes you’re right – if I want to go in LFR & practice handling certain mechanics (rather than ignoring them even if that’s an option) then why not. And yes difficulty settings have always been a “thing” in games & I’ve pretty much always opted for the easier level – at least when trying something new. I don’t fully understand the wider issues about LFR and the damage it is doing (or so it is said) to proper raiding. I’m not up on the side of things as I don’t raid & don’t view this game from that perspective. I’m just doing this & that in WoW & enjoying it. Simple I know.

      2. The theory behind the “LFR is hurting ‘real’ raiding” argument is that everyone who does LFR and is satisfied with it would have instead done Normal and been satisfied with it if only LFR had not been an option. As you can see, that theory isn’t too strongly based in a little thing I like to call ‘reality.’

        There are plenty of people who would sooner skip raiding altogether than jump straight into raiding at Normal. The two are quite different, not just in terms of the content (more damage, more mechanics, etc.), but also what is expected of you. As the difficulty level goes up (towards Mythic) so do the social and game-play expectations your teammates will have for you. Normal raiders generally want you to have flasks, potions, and voice communication. Normal raiders generally expect you to have prepared in advance by watching videos or reading guides.

        LFR serves a valid purpose. Anyone who tries LFR and is happy with only that would not be happy in a Normal mode. Anyone who tries LFR and gets curious about Normal modes are at least better prepared than they would be if LFR had not been an option. You’ve seen the fight, you know the basics of the mechanics and if there are new ones, you’re learning 1 or 2 new mechanics instead of 5 or 6. LFR is a very good thing for raiding in general. Some of our normal raid team members use it for practice on an individual basis to help them figure out how to handle tricky mechanics.

        I hate to generalize, but I’ve only ever seen people try to make that argument in order to be elitist and tear down other people. The funniest thing is, the attitude is held almost entirely by people who have exactly zero room to be making elitist arguments. It’s almost always the people who play the game to feel special or important instead of the ones who play to have fun.

      3. Oops, I forgot to mention the other side of that argument, in that LFR “trains” people that mechanics can or should be skipped by making them non-threatening enough that they could potentially be failed without killing anyone. That, of course, is also poppycock. It’s not training you to do that, it’s allowing you practice in a safer environment. When MLB teams throw batting practice they don’t have their ace on the mound hurling his best stuff. LFR is the same concept. You’re only training yourself in bad habits if you allow yourself to be. Trust me when I say that any bad habits you have from LFR modes get broken very quickly when playing in that same manner on Normal mode means that you (or your whole raid) dies.

      4. It does seem that the whole value of LFR depends on what the individual puts into it. I’m sure there are those who use it for an easy ride but equally those who try hard when they’re there & enjoy it for its own sake (ie not because they think it makes them a real raider). And you are right – there are plenty of people who would sooner skip raiding altogether than do Normal. Those of them who do use LFR (because it’s there to be used) might only ever do that. And if LFR went they’d do something else in game – but not raiding. And that’s fair enough.

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