Once again I spent part of an idle night running a few heroics, nothing major but kindof random instances that provide the most badges. However for several of these we had no healer, instead we had a group setup with a tank, a single pure dps and three hybrids. Thankfully we managed to convince one of the Druids to heal as a Boomkin (and there is a significant gear overlap so its not as stupid as asking a Protection Paladin to heal). We lost a few people on the run due to stupid mistakes like standing in AoE (though with a specced healer people typically move less so losing people isn't rare here), and bosses were based more on dps throughput and damage prevention (we hit an enrage on the third boss of Ahnkahet, as people moved out of the AoE though the off-healer kept me up easily). Strangely this worries me.
I won't say that I am badly geared, doing so would be a lie since I have pretty much the best in slot gear pre-raid (thats another topic), however the aim of the Heroics in WotLK seems to have changed. In TBC the progression was typically:
Dungeon -> Heroic -> Early Raid -> Hard Heroics -> Late Raid
This seemed to work admirably, however in WotLK it seems that every level 80 immediately runs heroics, whether this is due to the experience or simply the fact that we are used to it (level 70 for a long time, so setting things to "normal" is unusual). This spoilt a lot of the game for me, I would have liked to have been forced through the level 80 normal dungeons to reach a gear stage to tank the heroics, and to see a gradual progression through them, perhaps an order such as:
Utgarde Keep (3)
Drak'theron Keep (4)
The Oculus (4)
Azjol Nerub (3)
Gun Drak (5)
Ahnkahet, the Old Kingdom (5)
Halls of Stone (4)
Halls of Lightning (3)
Utgarde Pinnacle (4)
Violet Hold (3)
I remember Heroic Black Morass in pre-T4 gear, and being honest it was hard, especially to AoE tank, you typically took along a DPS to deal with the adds. Instead Violet hold presents no major difficulties. I think perhaps the real problem is finding the trick on each boss that makes it easy, and every boss has a trick now. There are very few spank or be spanked fights, the Oculus for example can have all of its bosses 2 manned. Without the feeling of working up, and the rate at which badges can now be acquired there seems to be major problems for Blizzard.
The first problem is the division of 10 man and 25 man badges, this seems like an ok plan at first, until you realise that later content will be based from the differences in gear levels (1-2 tiers difference between 10 and 25 man versions), and the difficulty in acquiring gear. I left a raiding guild recently because I had a disagreement with the officers over loot and the distribution based on favouritism principle (the solution of "X has done a lot for the guild" is not in my mind a valid loot principle in anyway since you need 10 or 25 people there to make a raid set at the right gear / experience level). Now instead of having a gear progression my gear path stops 2 weeks into the game, thats it, no more. At the rate that badges can be acquired (~43 Heroics, +2 daily + 10 mans if you do them) you are looking at being able to acquire all of the heroic badge gear for a spec inside a week, in close to T6 gear the fastest Shattered Halls Heroic runs I heard off / did sat around 22 minutes, in contrast the fastest 5 badge Heroic in WotLK being Gundrak can be done in under 13 minutes in pre-raid gear.
By dividing the loot, rather than simply placing a "rate multiplier" on badges we see that there is no progression path, without going to 10 man raids, or 25 man there is no progression even through crafted gear. By unifying the looting system and bringing more tier gear into the badge path (or equivalent gear like the 2.3/2.4 badge gear) you would see more of a progression path. Simply place a large multilier on the 25 man type badge gear to allow people to move towards a goal (and yes this means non-raiders get raid gear, but frankly who cares, its a step along the path, and its only for a single set per spec rather than all the boss specific drops). Taking a tanking example we have:
Heroic Medal of Valor - 84 dodge, use grants 3xx dodge rating for 20s (40 badges)
This is being compared to Moroes Lucky pocket watch still, and classed as not as good equivalently (as the benefit is spread over 20s rather than 10 it doesn't alter the stat as much making it less of an oh sht button). To give raiders the equivalent we might see:
Third War Valor Medal - 84 dodge, use grans 700 dodge rating for 10s (drops from 25 man raid boss)
To the average player, the latter is likely a downgrade for running heroics or enjoying the game because in a single healer situation you cannot ensure that the 10s the latter buys you will make you survive, to a raider 10s is a lifetime (thats 4 Holy Lights from a Paladin, hitting for 6k+ each easily). The difference is now that you can offer progression to people, and survive the gearing process. As with TBC I can forsee a point in the future where we reach a stage with guilds in T9 content starving due to the lack of well geared T8 content raiders as happened to BT/MH guilds from the attunements to SSC and TK, by limiting the personal gear progression (through tenacity, skill or luck) we artificially limit the progression of others.
Applying the Arena equivalent ratings to gear won't work easily, in fact its probably silly. What they can do though is add crafted gear that requires an achievement to use (attunement's in disguise), or indeed rep / tokens to work, this can be complimented by stupidly large badge counts to get the top items, a raider might get a T9 chest for 15 kills of a boss (barring them actually dropping the gear), a heroic runner might need 100 heroics to get it (~350 badges for the chest). Again the rate of these can be controlled, such that items are not available for purchase until the instance is well cleared, in effect a reverse gate process on Sunwell. This means your top end guilds cannot simply badge gear people to abuse an instance, they must clear it 100 times or whatever on the server (across multiple guilds) to open up the war effort.
Flowing down gear isn't bad, but limiting the progression path for non-raiders 2 weeks into the game is not a good way to go, I might be a hardcore casual player right now, but it doesn't mean that other's won't hit the same issue in time. It has been said before, the rate of progress doesn't matter as long as you can see the path and go along it, arena ratings on gear restricted people heavily as to what they could get, it stopped the path, limiting gear and stopping full epic "badge" players is just as bad and will likely come up for most people at some point.