Question: When is a Nerf not a Nerf?
Answer: When it's a buff.
Tamarind wrote a while ago about about an attempt to 3-man Blood Furnace with three squishy DPSers which ultimately failed because the guy playing the mage kept bitching about how it had been "nerfed".
Except of course it hadn't. It's just that the game was now balanced for Ulduar, which meant that all of us had access to powers that were well beyond anything characters of our level would have had back in the BC days.
It is a peculiar ... well ... peculiarity of the WoW-playing mindset that so few people actually notice this. Whenever a boss gets its damage cut or its health decreased, people cry from the rooftops that the game is being nerfed for the casuals. Whenever a class gets its mitigation buffed or its DPS improved, people cheer and say that it's about damned time (or complain that their own class needs buffing *as well*). Very few people seem to notice that these changes amount to the exact same thing.
I've been thinking recently about the "difficulty" of Northrend instances. A lot of people say that Wrath Heroics are too easy. I don't think that's actually the problem. I think the problem is that Wrath player characters are too powerful.
As about ten bajillion other people have said before me, Northrend instances all boil down to AoE, rinse, repeat. This isn't a problem in and of itself, but it's not like you're using AoE because it's the *only* way to deal with a situation (like you have a dozen mobs attacking you and you need to burn them all down right the fuck now or you're dead) you're using AoE because it gets you through pulls very slightly faster and makes your DPS numbers very slightly bigger.
Basically you're using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but the problem is that once you've given somebody a sledgehammer, you can never make them use a nutcracker again. Once the DPS has access to powerful, reliable AoE attacks, and once tanks have access to powerful, reliable AoE threat, and once healers have access to powerful, reliable AoE heals, there is absolutely no reason to take trash pulls seriously, because "spam AoE" is not only the *easiest* strategy it's also the *best* strategy.
Just making the instances "harder" - in the sense of increasing the health and damage of the mobs - won't fix the problem. Northrend instances are already "hard" - at least in the sense that the mobs in them have loads of health and do lots of damage. The problem is that they're hard in a completely uninteresting way.
Take, for example, Skarvald and Dalronn in Utgarde Keep. Skarvald has a random charge that hits for about 8K on cloth, Dalronn has effectively no aggro table, instead firing Shadow Bolts at random members of the party. What this basically means is that your party is taking a bunch of random damage that you can't do anything about and either you're high enough level and sufficiently well geared to heal through it, or you aren't. Apart from the most basic strategic decisions (kill the wizard first) there's nothing else to the fight. The tank does his best to get the two untankable bosses standing in one place, and you shower them with your AoE spam until they die, doing your best to make sure the caster cops it first. There's nothing to pay attention to, nothing to interrupt, you can just either heal through it or you can't, you can kill them quickly enough or you can't. There's nothing you can do better, there's nothing you can do differently, you just spam your attacks until the bastards drop.
Whether what you're cracking a nut or smashing down a wall, you're still just swinging a hammer.
The problem is that high-level WoW characters have access to too many blunt instruments. Crowd Control is only necessary if you don't have the ability to kill five mobs as quickly as one. Kill orders are only necessary if you're limited to targeting one enemy at a time, and if the enemies have usefully different abilities that can actually make a difference in a fight. You don't have to sheep the healers if you can kill everything before they can get a spell off. You don't have to move out of fire if there's so much AoE healing coming in that your health isn't going below 90% anyway. You don't have to worry about aggro if everything is just getting nuked.
Making dungeons "harder" isn't the answer, there have to be limits on what the player characters can do. Otherwise they'll just go away, level or gear up a bit and then AoE everything into the ground like before.